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One Hit Wonder

Over the course of the past month I’ve developed a love/hate relationship with TikTok. Yes, I too was one of those people who swore they would NEVER EVER get TikTok, but as a Communications major and full-time creative I eventually dove headfirst down the rabbit hole and for anyone who has TikTok you know exactly what I mean.

I first downloaded the app in early January of this year. At first I didn’t really understand it, but after posting my first video doing the ‘Wasian check’ (a trend to show off those of mixed race) and catching the attention of over 500 viewers in the matter of a couple hours made me understand how powerful this app really was.

As some of you already know, it’s always been my dream to entertain others through YouTube videos and that’s honestly why I’m even here writing to you in the form of a blog. After scrolling through TikTok and watching 15-60 second videos that had acquired hundreds of thousands of views, likes and comments in the matter of hours I was slightly annoyed. I started comparing YouTube to TikTok and asking myself why the algorithm preferred me on an app that I didn’t even want to use.

When it comes to YouTube, I find myself working around the clock to create content on the platform every week. First, you have to develop a concept, then film the content, edit the content, and lastly, promote the content on all of your social platforms to ensure it gets as much exposure as it possibly can. Since I started posting videos in September, I haven’t gained that much traction. My most viewed video is of me doing a bikini photoshoot in the snow (which got flagged, and is now ranked as 18+ content on the platform) which doesn’t surprise me in the slightest. As much as I love YouTube, I’ve found it an incredibly difficult process to get my videos viewed no matter how many times I share them on my other social platforms. 

I’ve found myself questioning if this is really what I want to do with my life. Don’t get me wrong, I LOVE YouTube and it’s always been my dream but when I’m scrolling through TikTok and see a video of someone pouring glitter into a can of paint and getting over 2 Million likes, sometimes it’s hard to keep pushing forward, especially as I get older. So, I decided to expand my brand by logging onto TikTok and posting content on the app as an experiment and to say that my short time on the platform has been like a rollercoaster ride is an understatement. 

From late January to late March I had been posting random videos on TikTok, since I don’t have a specific niche or type of content I create specifically for that app I decided to just post a bunch of different content. I hopped on a couple of trends, posted some content from some of my creative shoots, and even did a couple of dancing videos. 

I posted a video on March 14th of me and one of my closest friends, Gary Mo doing a trend that failed. But to my surprise, that was my most liked and viewed video that I had posted- gaining the attention of over 2000 people. 

  • I experimented further and thought I’d start doing a series of “forcing my brother to do TikTok’s” which would just be me dressed as a boy. I found that the videos weren’t gaining much traction, they were funny, don’t get me wrong, but they still weren’t catching the attention of others. 
  • The very last test I did was a cooking video. I cut together clips showing how to make ‘Healthy Fudgy Avocado Brownies.’ Again, the video didn’t do well, only catching the attention of about 500 people.

At this point I wasn’t sure what kind of content I wanted to pursue on TikTok, I didn’t feel super inspired with what I was producing up to this point, as most of the content I was posting was testing to see what content would do the best on the platform. 

On April 8th, I went out to an island with my brother and his girlfriend for the afternoon. I decided that I would film a couple of TikTok’s on the beach and see how they fared. And just like that, I posted a video at 4:40 pm that day and by the time I had checked in that night the video had over 10,000 views. When I woke up the next morning, the video had over 15,000 views, I didn’t think it would continue to grow but to my surprise, it did. Exponentially increasing, the video shot to over 100,000 views in the matter of days, now resting at 162.8K. From that video alone, I gained over 1,100 followers on the app in just two days. 

I’ll be honest when I say that I was completely riding on a high after that point. On April 10th I spent seven hours in my bedroom filming different TikTok’s which haven’t done nearly as well as my first big video. I’m not going to lie to you, I felt defeated. This is what happens when you care more about your views than your content. Don’t get me wrong, I was working hard to produce content for my new audience, but I was doing it primarily for the exposure I was getting, not because I wanted to. After posting a couple of hard hitting videos on TikTok, I saw my Instagram following skyrocket, as well gaining more traction on YouTube.

I didn’t know this when I first started using the app, but TikTok doesn’t allow creators to message each other unless they’re directly following each other. So as I gained more followers on TikTok, they would look at my bio and click the link that brought them to my Instagram page in order to get in contact with me. And at that point, I realized that if that many people were actively searching for more of my content on other platforms then TikTok was ultimately the best way to grow my brand. 

However, I got a little ahead of myself. After doing more research on the app, I found that the videos of people dancing get quite a lot of traction so just like that every night I was forcing myself to learn anywhere between 5-10 viral dances. Mind you, I’m NOT a dancer, I took a couple of classes when I was a kid, but it never went any further than that. I don’t feel creative copying others, but at the time I didn’t care. I was hungry for the exposure and likes, it took me three months to raise my Instagram following from 2,000 followers to 3,000, but in just three short weeks of using TikTok, my Instagram following went from 3,000 followers to 4,000. 

But here’s where the story comes to a screeching halt. 

I started experiencing every TikToker’s fear of shadowbanning. Unfortunately, TikTok is well known for filtering out content from creators simply if they don’t like it. This means that less people see your videos, which means that you aren’t getting much or any exposure. 

Although they have an extensive community guideline list, I wasn’t violating any of their terms. I was able to post videos on my account, but they weren’t getting any views which I thought was weird. Even if the videos didn’t land on the ‘For Your Page’ they would at least land on the pages of those who followed me. When the videos didn’t gain any views, I started deleting them and I began getting really frustrated. I made a second account as a backup and after looking at my main account, I realized that my content wasn’t showing up. 

So not only were my videos not getting any views, but TikTok wasn’t even posting them to the public. And from here on out, it’s basically a downwards spiral. 

Since then, I’ve had two videos removed as violations on their community guidelines, without any comments on why they were removed. I’ve found that there are days that they will let me post content and there are days where they won’t depending on what I’m wearing generally. Mind you, I’ve been fully clothed in every since video. Yes, I’ll admit there has been a lot of skin shown, but that isn’t a violation according to their guidelines.

So here I was, sweating my ass off every night practicing these dances (that I didn’t even like), taking hours out every couple of days to film the dances over and over again in different outfits, only to have them not be posted to the app. My account is still active and I post on it every couple of days, but what I’ve realized is that it’s extremely easy to get sucked into the number of views, likes and comments. 

A lot of what I was posting didn’t even make me happy, but I was doing it for exposure for my other platforms. I still don’t know my niche for Tiktok, but I’ve relaxed a bit. I don’t force myself to post anymore, or make content for the platform every couple of days. I’ve realized that I don’t want to just be a one hit wonder, I want to be remembered for my content, which is a reflection of who I am when I create. When I was on TikTok I started feeling like a puppet, tiptoeing around what the algorithm allowed me to post. I also found that I started comparing myself to other creators and getting extremely competitive about the numbers my videos were raking in which isn’t like me at all. 

I’ve learnt a lot using the app, but a lot still remains a complete mystery to me. I don’t want to use an app that makes me unhappy, so I took a break and got back to working on content for YouTube and I felt better. I always promote being one’s truest self online, and I realized that I was going completely against what I was saying because I got too wrapped up in what the app was doing for me. I started being really hard on myself when my views dropped on my other platforms and blaming myself for my lack of content on TikTok, I felt like my hands were tied as posting became harder with my shadowban. 

To wrap this all up, I will definitely continue using TikTok. I think there is a way for me to use the app and still be an original creator, mixing in a couple of dances here and there because some of them were actually a lot of fun and if you’ve ever learnt a TikTok dance you know it’s some of the best cardio you’ll ever do.

It’s best not to count the likes, but rather post for yourself and not others. 

Back on Track

Soooo, I’ve been absent for quite some time now! I told myself that I’d take some time off from my usual weekly posts to figure out the next couple of steps I’m going to take to continue to expand my brand but unfortunately, I’ve found that I’ve been continuously hitting dead ends. 

I’ve been back on Vancouver Island for almost two months now, which is more time than I spent here in all of 2019. The last time I went to a photoshoot was on the 19th of March. I remember that shoot so well, I knew it was going to be my last one in the city for a while, but as I walked off into the sunset I was confident that I’d continue to be creative whether I was in Vancouver or not.

Fast Forward to now. 

Am I still confident? I’ll be honest, it’s been tough adjusting to this new lifestyle but at the end of the day, I’m alive and healthy. For the past month I’ve been in a rut. I haven’t been productive at all and I seem to be constantly fighting with myself about what my next move is going to be.

I thought I was going to take this time to catch up on all the little details that came with building one’s brand but lately I’ve been waking up, showering and crawling back into bed binging ABC’s Modern Family. 

As a creative, I feel as if it’s my job not only to myself but to others to continuously keep our spirits up- especially right now. But who’s there to lift me up when my spirits are down? Lately, I’ve found that every social media platform I’m on has become an extremely consuming place. The truth is, it’s always been extremely consuming, I just didn’t notice it as much when I had a busier schedule. My current reality is sulking in my robe (that I haven’t washed for three days) with a handful of chocolate approaching my mouth watching other people I know be creative. And the reason why I’m addressing these embarrassing new attributes of my life is because they scare me.

I’ve mentioned it before on my blog, but to rejog your memory… last summer I was at the lowest point I’d ever been in my life. I wasn’t going to school, I didn’t have a job, I didn’t have a purpose. Everyday I would wake up and then just go back to sleep because I didn’t feel motivated to even continue with the rest of the day. I spent about 7-9 hours on social media every day drowning myself in the lives of others while I failed to live my own. Day by day, it just got worse and I started feeling extremely stuck. At this point, I wasn’t doing YouTube, and I was only taking a few modelling gigs every couple months but I knew that if I didn’t change my ways then I would never be able to achieve my dream. I was ready to completely give up on creating content, I was letting everything knock me down to my knees, and I stopped fighting for myself. 

But slowly things started to get better and the events that took place on two nights in particular turned my entire life around. After that point, I started living for myself and I haven’t looked back ever since. That was only last July, it hasn’t even been a full year and so many amazing things have happened to me in that short amount of time.

I haven’t had any thoughts about quitting creating, and I’m definitely not even close to the state I was in last year but laying in bed not being productive freaks me out. I need to keep busy in order to stay sane. Creating has always been a positive outlet for me and I’ve always wanted to use my creativity to help others. I’ve received a lot of DMs recently about people enjoying my YouTube videos, putting smiles on their faces and just giving them a laugh during this hard time. Messages like that continue to remind me why I do what I do. 

Helping others is my passion and creating is my purpose. That’s why I create, when I’m down I watch my favourite creatives on YouTube and it always makes me feel better. Seeing people genuinely happy, living their best life is sometimes the greatest kind of medication. Real, everyday people living their dreams helps encourage even the most unmotivated people to do the same. I know that without them, I wouldn’t be where I am today. And that’s why I feel like it’s my job to push myself to do the same for my audience. 

“There are dreamers and there are realists in this world. You’d think the dreamers would find the dreamers and the realists would find the realists, but more often than not the opposite is true. You see, the dreamers need the realists to keep them from soaring too close to the sun. And the realists, well without the dreamers, they might not ever get off the ground.”

  • Cameron Tucker (Modern Family, season 3, episode 9)

Challenge Accepted

This week, instead of writing to you from the comforts of my dimly lit dorm room, I’m coming to you from the confines of my childhood bedroom, only about 5.5 hours away with the Georgia Straight being the only thing separating us. Amidst this unique time, I’ve found that over the past week being adaptable is not only a huge part of our lives (yours and mine included) generally speaking, but equally huge part of being creative. To come full circle here, I need to jump through a few hoops and bounds so bare with me as I swear that I have a term worthy ending for you. 

I’m currently enrolled in an upper division Communications course that focuses primarily on sound engineering, putting a critical lens on the history and relevance of podcasts in particular. When I first read the syllabus in January- which seems like a lifetime ago, I was well aware that I’d be handing in a 5-10 minute podcast as my term project worthy of a heavty 30% contribution to my final grade in the course. 

About four weeks ago, my prof David decided (on the fly) that conducting an interview within our podcast was no longer optional, but mandatory. Given the time frame, this was prior to the University shutting down as the severity of COVID-19 ramped up. Within a week of his firm decision, five out of the thirty five of us attended our last in-person lecture and since then, all of us have been now working online to complete the course. Nearly two weeks ago now, David sent us an email to see how we were all doing on our projects. Upon opening the email, I assumed that he would be extremely lenient with our “mandatory interview” or even axxex it, but he didn’t. Instead, he wrote and I quote, “we need to be imaginative about how we respond to our situation.” With the world going into toilet paper bankruptcy, I thought that David would have  been without-a-doubt more understanding of our situation. In hindsight he was, I just couldn’t see it yet.

All during this time period, I planned on staying at the SFU campus until my scheduled move out date (April 26th), and then moving to my grandparents house for the rest of the summer. However, like many things in life, that didn’t go to plan or even remotely so.

I found myself arguing back and forth with my parents on where I’d be staying and for how long, each phone call ending without an exchange of goodbyes, but with the sound of the call being cut in one of my ears. Ideally, this virus and other viral pandemics in the past have been an occurrence that I and many others have been lucky enough to have not yet experienced in their lifetime. I’m completely guilty of underestimating this virus. Like many others, I can’t comprehend what it means for the future, not just my future or your future, but the future of the human race. It sounds extreme when I type it out, but since COVID-19 is unlike any other past pandemic, nobody is really sure what tomorrow will bring. In my mind, it was easier to think about tomorrow being a better day, but with each tomorrow things actually haven’t been getting any better. Due to its increasing severity, my parents made the final decision to bring me home to Vancouver Island. 

At the end of that phone call, my heart started rapidly beating as I saw the life I built for myself flash before my eyes. All I could think was, “How am I going to create from there?” As all of my photographers, videographers, hair and makeup artists, stylists, connections, networks, and brand deals are located in the city, I felt like I was nothing without them. Going back to the island felt like I was being exiled…banished…annexed from everything that I had built within the last year. BUT, at the same time I was having my little meltdown (trust me, I realize how ridiculous I was being), the ENTIRE population was experiencing the exact same feelings as I was. 

As my mom and I drove down the mountain onto Hastings Street- which is my most well known street thanks to the R5, I had a crystal clear view of the city. Since I was a little kid, Vancouver has always held a special place in my heart. I visited lots as my grandparents live there, always having so many things to see and do whenever I wanted, it was so unlike living in a small town. Although it’s true about what they say, “the grass is always greener on the other side,” but it was undeniable that the city offered more opportunities than that of a small town. To this day, my eyes still widen in awe as I’m greeted by the city as it’s always been a place where I’ve dreamt of living. In that moment my heart started to tremble as I realized that living in Vancouver was the one thing I had never once taken for granted, and I believe that’s why leaving hurt so unbelievably bad. We drove and drove and drove as the signs passed us, it was as if every first memory I ever experienced at those places started flashing through my mind one by one. It really put things into perspective for me as to how much I’ve come to grow and love the life that I’ve built for myself out here. My heart started pounding a little less, and it made the hurt go away. I had to remind myself that it wasn’t a goodbye forever but merely a heartfelt, “see you when I see you.”

As my journey continued back to the westend of the coastline, I checked my phone notifications. I had about 15+ missed messages from my CMNS 357 group chat about our individual podcasts- the three of them were debating whether or not they should complete the final assignment. One of them said that they were willing to nix the assignment completely taking an overall pass with 60% (due to our circumstances, this was approved by SFU as a “P” grade) as we no longer had access to a professional sonic studio, the other one was saying that we should complete our podcast for David (as he’s our homie and has been extremely good to all of us), and the last one admitted that they were too lazy to even bother with the assignment.

As I read the incoming messages I realized that my theory about the island being the reason why I lose my creative touch was just about as backwards as my classmates debating our final assignment. After that, I stopped asking myself, “why…”

“Why didn’t David excuse the interview from our term project?”

“Why did COVID-19 have to banish me back to Vancouver Island and ruin my creative streak?”

…and I started asking myself what. 

Specifically, what I was going to do, not only to produce a term-worthy podcast (with an interview) but to remind myself and my classmates that we as individuals were the only thing we needed to be creative.

In the very first lecture for this class, David said, “the podcast is one of the oldest acoustic artefacts to date, and yet still remains, and continues to grow in popularity.” He encouraged us to think outside of the box and told us that this virus was an even greater reason to go above and beyond, to show him that not only could we use the software, but we could use it in a way that told a story- a human like experience. And this is exactly the state of mind I have when I create, limits don’t exist, COVID-19 can’t and won’t stop me from being creative. Yes, It can take me out of Vancouver, it can take me away from the skyscrapers and the urban landscape, and it can take me away from my photographers, videographers, hair and makeup artists, stylists, connections, networks, and brand deals, but what it can’t do is take me away from being creative. I mean unless I actually am unfortunate enough to catch the virus… but for the purposes of this story, the only thing that can stop me from being creative is myself. 

And then the aching stopped, and I realized how happy I was to be home, with my family, and most importantly in a safe space rather than being cooped up in my dorm room for the next however long.

Creating content out of the island is something I haven’t done before (at the level I’m currently producing content at now), but I’m willing to accept the challenge. As a creative you need to be adaptable, and since my brand is myself, it shouldn’t be too hard bringing that with me unless I stop myself.

I picked up my phone and began hastily typing back to classmates. I’m glad that I could not only get them to reconsider their assignment for David (he really is a homie), but more importantly, for themselves. We don’t need access to sonic studios to create term worthy podcasts, and I don’t need Vancouver to keep creating. Instead we need to focus on telling meaningful stories that encapsulate human-like experiences that relate with our listeners, which believe me can be done with all but the very devices we hold so dear. I hold every ability to create within the palm of my hand, and so do you. 

So what’s stopping you?

Small Town Living with Uptown Dreams

As the days go by, I’m finding myself in a love-hate relationship with this self-isolation thing. On one hand, a part of me is frustrated that I’m being cooped up inside, forced to sit and relax and the other part of me is stoked that I finally get some time to catch up on the hundred and one things I’ve been putting off. I’m torn.

Prior to the world being taken over by COVID-19, I used to meet up with local photographers and creatives on a weekly basis, all while taking a full academic schedule, making time to hang out with my friends, making sure I went to the gym everyday and forcing myself to get a reasonable amount of sleep every night. I have to hand it to myself, for the first time I was actually balancing my life pretty well (the best I ever had), but now I worry that with all this free time on my hands I might not be as productive as I used to be. I’m a very scheduled person, I need tasks and directions to fully function because without those I find that I have no purpose. However, I’ve decided to look at this situation as optimistically as I possibly can.

A part of me is actually really excited to take some time off to teach myself the things that I never had time to do like, learning how to play the ukulele again or the piano, I want to get back into working on flair (practice of bartenders entertaining guests), but I also want to continue expanding my brand in the ways I never could. Primarily speaking, I want to direct my focus from Instagram and bring it towards building an audience on TikTok as well as YouTube. I also want to reach out to local brands based both in Tofino and Vancouver in order to collaborate with them in the near future. And lastly, I have massive plans for my blog! Since this has been a space that I originally built for school, I am actually quite interested in moulding it into my own little space as I’ve found some free time. Generally speaking, I’m thinking I want to redesign it entirely, keeping the same colour palette but adding more to the menu, like an advice column and content not just relating to modelling, photography and videography but rather to beauty, health and aesthetics. 

I really want to take this time to reflect on all that I’ve done but at the same time continuing to stay positive and optimistic towards the future. Ideally, I’m really trying to focus on building a true fan base and increasing my viewership based on what I stand for rather than just what I create. My main goal is to start building a community of like-minded people who not only come to see what I create, but get inspired to create themselves. 

Although I’m incredibly heartbroken that I’m no longer living in Vancouver for the time being, I’ve realized that the city didn’t give me all the tools I needed to create, I already had all the tools I needed to create, I just needed to figure that out for myself. 

Even though it’s back to small town living for me, I promise you that I’m never going to forget my uptown dreams. 

Not a Goodbye, but a See You Later

Recently, there has been a whole lot of controversy surrounding the topic of going outdoors and meeting up with friends as we’ve all been encouraged to socially distance ourselves. Up until this week, I’ve been shooting up to three times a week with different local photographers, however I’ve decided to switch up my fast paced lifestyle and start slowing it down. At first, I didn’t see much of an issue with shooting as I’m not in close contact with my photographers, but with the vast amount of time I spend on transit going to and from shoots, I decided to rethink my weekly shooting routine.

Since SFU got shut down on March Friday 13th (quite ironic if you’re the superstitious type), all of my creative projects have come to a screeching halt. As I’ve been focusing primarily on photo shoots in the past few weeks, I’ve decided that I will also be self-isolating and reverting back to working on videos as that’s something I’m able to do from the confines of my dorm room. 

I walked into my last shoot on March 19th, on the SFU Burnaby campus (one of my favourite places to shoot!). I was shooting at golden hour with Nicolas Scott (@nicolasscott_), a photographer whom I’ve worked with on numerous occasions for his clothing line, Call the Girls Co, as well as our most recent Calvin Klein studio session. We kept our distance and shot as we normally would, but as we walked around the AQ pond, I felt a sense of emptiness wash over myself. The place was absolutely dead, so much so that you could hear the drop of a pin. Although it was my last scheduled shoot, without seeing other people around me, it really made me feel as if I shouldn’t be outside, or if I was doing something wrong even though Nic and I were far more than 2 meters apart at all times.

We wrapped up just after the sun had set on the top floor of the visitors parade. We said our goodbyes and I walked off into the milky sunset making my way back to Shell House. Although I was completely bummed out to be putting a stop to my modelling career, I tried to look at the positives of all of this- that I would be able to really start growing my brand and putting more work into marketing and management as well as producing YouTube and Tik Tok videos. Walking off into the beautiful blending of colours in the sky reminded me that now was the time to think outside of the box and really take this time to reflect and think about alternative methods to create. 

This is not the end, rather it’s the beginning of a new form of creativity. I can’t wait to show you what I come up with!

VOGUE ITALIA

I thought this Monday was going to be like every other Monday, but to my surprise, it didn’t. I woke up at 8:30 am, made my way to the bathroom and when I came back to my room, I got changed for the gym. I spent about an hour in there targeting my arms, and as I was taking a break from my lat pulldowns, I got a DM from a Disney Animator and aspiring Photographer named Marc (@marcrovich), whom I’ve had the pleasure of working with before. Like most messages I get in the morning, I ignore them until at least 9 am to make sure I’ve had enough time to wake up and spend some “me-minutes” with myself.

When I came home, I immediately showered and as I began to towel dry my hair, I opened up the messages. I would have never guessed what happened and neither could Marc.

A photo we had taken together in late January was published on the Vogue Italia website! I couldn’t believe it, even asking several times over and over again sounding like a broken record, it wasn’t a joke.

As I made my way to the bus station to head to an appointment in Surrey, not only did I miss the 145, but within minutes hot tears started streaming down my face and I can assure you that it wasn’t because I missed my bus. I’m not much of a cryer, but I still couldn’t believe the news. It was starting to seem as different doors were closing in my life, other doors were starting to magically open. 

The next day, I went to lunch to catch up with a group of doom mates that I met in first year! Before I had even sat my butt down, they were shouting at me from across the way about the news. It was one of the most gratifying feelings in the world to celebrate and be celebrated by the first group of friends I made in University. They’ve seen me grow into exactly the person I’ve always wanted to become and they’ve supported me since the very beginning of me moving out here. It’s crazy to think of how many nights we spent on the 7th floor of the common room in Shadbolt House talking up until all hours of the night about where we saw ourselves three years down the road. At the time it was incomprehensible, but in current time we were all together celebrating who we were now. As we toasted to celebrate, I was so incredibly happy. Not just about the publication, but because I had people out there supporting me no matter what I decided to do. No matter how many changes I’ve undergone in the past three years, I’m still the same small town kid, but with the people I’ve met along the way, I’ve been able to build the life that I’d dreamt about three years ago in that common room.