Get a glimpse of life behind glamorous social media highlight reels and on-screen personas.
We all see the glitz and glamour of being a celebrity or social media influencer but behind the freebies and fame, what makes the job fulfilling?
Although it may look easy, we’ve heard that it actually isn’t and requires lots of hard work, sweat and tears.
We spoke to four social media youth influencers to find out more about how the experience is like.
Unlike most influencers, Cassandra Tan, 27, holds a full-time job as a marketing coordinator for DoubleVerify’s Asia Pacific (APAC) office. As such, she uses her weekends to work on her campaigns or #OOTD photoshoots.
Despite having to sacrifice her rest time over the weekends, she enjoys the process and doesn’t mind the work.
When asked about building her following, she shared that consistency, commitment, as well as interesting and relatable content were key.
Even during the circuit breaker, Cassandra made IGTV baking videos to engage with her followers. It brings her joy to hear from them about how she’s positively impacting their lives by helping them pass the time and how much they appreciate her content.
Sharing her thoughts on misconceptions surrounding influencers, she mentioned that it’s “not just about a pretty picture”.
While the career of an influencer seems ‘easy and lucrative’, it is hardly the case. For each Instagram post, several hours are spent on researching, conceptualising and editing.
Then, there’s also the matter of dealing with unreasonable expectations from clients.
“Brands sometimes think we are okay with getting free products in return for shout-outs on Instagram,” said Cassandra when brands seemingly forget that influencers aren’t on a regular payroll.
“Receiving products alone in exchange for our efforts of creating content (hours of planning, flat-lay, etc) is just not enough. These freebies ain’t gonna pay for our meals!”
When working on a project, it can even take a week or two to complete.
After receiving the brief, she researches on the project before putting together a mood board. She then organises a plan, including the project’s timelines, locations for shoots, as well as any special props or sets that may be needed. Only after she gains the client’s approval can she then commence the shoots.
Being so heavily invested in social media can be draining, but Cassandra said she’s learned to stop comparing herself with others.
“With all the likes and fame you sometimes receive, there’s always the possibility of falling into the rabbit hole of not getting enough followers or likes, throwing you into the game of comparison,” explained the 27-year-old.
Now, Cassandra is able to compartmentalise her thoughts. She’s learned to look at the glass as half-full and focus on what she already has rather than what she does not.
With his comedic personality and skills in content creation, Dee Kosh, 32, is one of Singapore’s most recognisable faces. But he told Youth.SG that he “don’t feel like a celebrity”.
“When my grab delivery guy recognises me, I still get shocked and a bit flattered that he knows who I am,” said Dee Kosh.
Dee Kosh is far from your typical celebrity or influencer, though. He wears many hats: he’s a full-time YouTuber running his own channel, a Night Owl Cinematics (NOC) host, partner and talent and a Power98FM deejay too.
On top of that, he also manages his seven talents and takes care of his family. Surprisingly, he’s still able to carve out time to watch his favourite movies to relax.
The versatile talent attributes his success to many sleepless nights, lots of hard work and most importantly, time management. And at times when the line between work and friendship may be blurred, he says he has “learned to put aside personal feelings when it comes to work.”
Widely known for his loud exterior and honest opinions, Dee Kosh claims he used to be “more brash and abrasive and outspoken.”
He’s learned to be mindful of his words since and instead of speaking first, he assesses the situation to see if it’s worth commenting or not – or in his words, “talking with his brain”.
Dee Kosh also mentioned the difference between being a celebrity and someone who can influence others.
He said: “People can follow you [on social media] and like how you look, sing, act and that’s great! You’re famous to them for that.
“But do they respect you enough to listen to your opinions? Do you ‘influence’ them when it comes to decisions you have to make? Do people care about what you think?”
He compared celebrities from the 90s such as Tom Cruise, Julia Roberts, Al Pacino, to Oprah Winfrey to state his point.
“It’s easy for you to be a celebrity. But it was never easy to be an influencer.”
As a content creator, Dee Kosh produces a wide range of content, from laughing at cringey TikTok videos to exposing a celebrity’s wrongdoing. And he shared that his most memorable experience was “the moments of triumph” – such as the shutting down of SG Nasi Lemak, which shows that his opinions can change society for the better.
While she’s an actress in her own right, it didn’t stop her from applying to join NOC a few years back after fellow talents Aiken Chia and Dee Kosh recommended her when NOC was seeking a new pool of talents.
Having worked with the two quirky hosts before, Rachel had no qualms about her decision. Where Kin requires long hours of filming and Rachel has to study and fully understand the script, with NOC’s YouTube videos and skits, going off-script and improvisations are often encouraged and she enjoys that part of acting.
But her career wasn’t always smooth-sailing. She has received several rejections and was given false hopes numerous times. Once, she was sent a congratulatory email for being chosen, only to be told it had been sent wrongly.
“What I learned is that I cannot let rejection determine my value. More often than not, it’s just things like not the right age, race, height, look or energy. The right role will always come along if you keep working at it,” she said.
Rachel also shed a little light on the downsides of being an influential figure.
In a country as small as Singapore, having mutual friends within groups is practically inevitable and that means that rumours or gossip gets around pretty quickly, especially for celebrities or influential figures.
When that happens, it usually does more harm than good, said Rachel.
“It is so easy for information to get warped and then passed around like wildfire because of our small population,” explained Rachel, who added that it gets tiring.
Debbie Soon is a 23-year-old content creator who is married to JianHao Tan. The couple also has a baby girl named Starley.
As a full-time mother and content creator, Debbie has to prioritise and juggle various commitments. She credits her “awesome support system” – including family and friends – and her biggest pillar of support, JianHao, for helping her do so.
Her work schedule is nothing less than arbitrary. From filming YouTube videos to taking care of her child, Debbie is busy 24/7 with a new to-do list daily.
But becoming a social media influencer did not happen overnight for Debbie, who is part of Titan Digital Media that is founded and managed by her husband JianHao Tan, arguably Singapore’s top YouTuber.
Over time, Debbie’s followers would tell her that her simple IG stories were making them laugh, while others would try out the products she’d posted and share their experiences with her. That’s when she started realising the impact she was making and influence she had over her audience.
While being a content creator or social media influencer seems as easy as simply posing in front of a camera and doing product placements, that is not the case.
“A simple 10 minute video is not just 10 minutes in front of the camera, it’s a lot more than that. It starts from conceptualising, ideation, planning locations, arranging crew, scripting, editing, many rounds of vetting and finally uploading,” said the 23-year-old.
However, Debbie mentioned it’s easy to be misled and assume that social media influencer work is easier than it seems, and that if she wasn’t in this industry, she probably would not have known either.
Ironically, it was the encouragement she received from her followers that kept her going in a career. Whether it was Instagram DMs from followers or supportive messages from other mothers, Debbie realised that one of the most meaningful things to her as an influencer was her power to share her life, spread joy and inspire others.
In the end, Debbie shared some advice and said: “It’s important to use your voice for something good and understanding that you have an audience that is looking up to you. Even if it’s just sharing a joke, a funny video or spreading a message, we should always aspire to add some joy in people’s lives.”
Ultimately, every job has its ups and downs and to get the top, hard work is always required, to matter how easy a job may appear to be.
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