After 25 hours over eight days, the time had come for Lily Hevesh to topple 15,000 dominoes. With a soft flick of her finger, Hevesh stood back and listened to her favorite sound on repeat: one domino hitting the next.
One minute and 24 seconds later, the “amazing triple spiral,” the domino artist’s maze of a masterpiece, had been destroyed — and she was delighted. Her joy was shared in the more than 114 million views since the video was published in 2016.
“For some reason, I love watching them fall,” said Hevesh. “It’s just really satisfying to hear the click-click and see it topple.”
Nearly six years later, the 22-year-old known to millions as “Hevesh5” is arguably the brightest star in the domino universe.
As one of the only women to compete professionally as a domino artist, videos of her complex designs featuring tens of thousands of pieces have gone viral for years. At more than 1 billion views and 3 million subscribers on YouTube, her artistry has led her to working with some of the biggest brands and personalities in the world — from Disney, Pixar, and Marvel to Will Smith, Katy Perry, and Jimmy Fallon. Hailed by Inc. magazine as the “queen” of domino art, Hevesh launched her own line of dominoes last year.
Hevesh’s rise as perhaps YouTube’s most influential domino artist is featured in the documentary, “Lily Topples the World.” The film, which is directed by Jeremy Workman and executive produced by Star Wars actress Kelly Marie Tran, premiered March 16 at South by Southwest’s virtual film conference.
“Lily’s journey is a bit of a coming-of-age story,” Workman told the Washington Post. “It wasn’t just this artist with this incredible success. It was also this story of a young woman who kind of found herself.”
As Hevesh’s family tells it in the film, she was abandoned as a newborn by her biological parents in China, as a result of the government’s one-child policy, before being adopted in the United States. Her mother said Hevesh was insecure and “scared” growing up in Sandown, N.H., but a day with her grandparents would change all that.
In 2008, when she was around 9 or 10, Hevesh first discovered their 28-piece set of dominoes and started playing with them. Over and over, she set them up and knocked them down, mesmerized with each click of the classic black-and-white dominoes.
“I would build dominoes on the table, and then I’d have it go on the floor and try to see where it lands so I could match up the domino line,” she said. “It was kind of a game for me to build the dominoes and design in a way that I knew it would make sense and it would work that chain reaction.”
After searching for “dominoes” on YouTube, the volume of intricate domino setups she found had Hevesh hooked. In 2009, she started her YouTube page when she was 10, quietly going against the platform’s rules prohibiting anyone younger than 13 from launching a channel.
Though “Hevesh5” — a nod to her being the fifth member of the family — initially remained anonymous, her videos were beginning to get widely shared. Her free-form style of domino design would be recognized in 2013 when Campbell’s Soup asked the 13-year-old to create a commercial for them, she said. That same year, a three-month collaboration with another domino builder called “INSANE Domino Tricks” led to her first viral video, with more than 163 million views.
“I was just doing this for fun and it kind of spiraled from there,” Hevesh said.
While fans knew the artist for the dominoes, another question was left unanswered: Who is “Hevesh5?” After 6½ years of posting anonymously, Hevesh announced in a 2015 video who she was: “Yes, I am a girl.”
Not long after releasing the triple spiral video, Hevesh decided that if she were to continue being one of only a handful of professional domino artists in the world, she’d have to leave Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute after her freshman year (she was studying mechanical engineering and product design). She felt she could do more to promote STEM by continuing a career that was already well underway (with the assistance of her father).
“I couldn’t see myself going all four years,” she said. “What am I going to do with a degree when I technically already have my dream job?”
Since then, the domino artist has crafted her designs in museums, movie sets, and even on The Tonight Show. Hevesh has also become a business: Last year, she announced a deal with toymaker Spin Master to sell H5 Domino Creations at major retailers.
And she has her sights set on breaking the world record for the largest domino build ever, constructed of 5 million dominoes and a team working up to three months to put it together.
“That would be amazing,” she said.