The top six TikTok creators in Southeast Asia range from food lovers to fitness and health fanatics, via educators and influencers. All of them say that being creative on TikTok has made a major impact on their lives.
For all of the creators – Dimas and Vina from Indonesia, Bella from Thailand, Ivan from the Philippines, and Singaporeans Charlene and Naomi – TikTok has offered them opportunities to collaborate with fellow creatives, and chances to build global communities.
เบลล่า วิถีไทย (@bella_bell22) was happily performing in the Aphrodite Cabaret Show in Phuket before the pandemic hit, closing down the theatre and leaving her unemployed. Looking around for something to do, Bella realised that TikTok was a platform that she could work with. “I noticed that it was becoming highly popular and was a very open platform too,” explains Bella.
“At first, I was not sure what type of content to create. It clicked when I called to mind that, while in the cabaret business, I loved being photographed in traditional Thai costumes. Combined with my passion for cooking, I thought it could be a good idea to do cooking videos in traditional Thai attire.
“Using the alias Bella Wi-thee-thai (Bella Thai Way of Life), I focused my content on everyday dishes, mainly northeastern Thai food, to present the local way of life because I wanted my viewers to feel at home and recall their fond memories of those dishes. My audience consistently grew in numbers and the feedback I received was great.”
For Bella, TikTok has enabled her to do what she enjoys most, everyday, and be able to call it her job, but it also means that she can look after her loved ones too: “Working in freedom, I am able to reunite with my family and take care of the elderly at home rather than having to be away to work in Phuket like in the past.”
She is also happy that her love for her home country can be shared: “Each video I create allows me to present the beauty of Thailand, such as our local dishes, to the world in ‘Bella Wi-thee-thai’ style.”
Singaporean Charlene Chew (@charlenechew3005) says that before she took up posting on TikTok she was “living life the way that everyone expected me to” as a student with seven years of education in Australia and a love of fitness. A shocking accident saw her return to Singapore, and have to restart her life.
“I had no clue how to start a life from scratch again here – especially in my social circle. Through TikTok, I have made some really amazing friends and connections and a fellow TikTok creator that I met just a year ago is someone I consider one of my truest best friends now,” explains Charlene.
“Additionally, as an MBA student, I have also learnt so much through collaborations with companies business-wise and building amazing relationships with them, which is honestly quite a dream come true.
“None of this would have been possible without TikTok. I feel like it gave me an amazing second shot in my life after such a traumatising and life-changing injury.”
Charlene has been bravely open about showing her slow but steady recovery from her accident, in particular the scarring on her face. Despite this, she has taken every opportunity to show that trauma can be overcome, and life is more than a pretty face.
“Having a voice on TikTok, I have an audience to speak about things that I am passionate about – fitness, mindset development, beauty, how to take care of yourself in these domains, and educating people about burns recovery. That is really an honour and is something I will never take for granted.”
Dims The Meat Guy
Indonesian TikToker Dimas (@dimsthemeatguy) is one of Southeast Asia’s top creators when it comes to food and cooking. A former digital marketer who loved cooking, especially cooking meat, he never saw himself as a good public speaker, or someone who would be the face of any sort of social media account.
“It was during the pandemic that I started to record my cooking activities on TikTok. The first was a short cooking video where I shared various recipes and tutorials. Initially due to my lack of confidence, I did not appear in the first few videos, but as my videos were starting to get more views, I started making appearances in my TikTok videos to hone my public speaking skills,” Dimas explains.
That fear of public speaking has obviously now been overcome: “TikTok has definitely boosted my self-confidence whilst enhancing my creativity. Professionally, it has helped me to connect with a lot of creatives, across different verticals beyond food, cooking, and the culinary arts.
“The platform has also opened various opportunities for me to collaborate with leading brands and businesses in the food industry,” he says.
Being able to meet, and collaborate with other TikTok creators is the highlight of Dimas’ new influencer career.
“I had the opportunity to meet and collaborate with various public figures and well-known Indonesian chefs to create cooking content together. Through the exposure I’ve gained from the platform, I had the opportunity to create a special menu, in collaboration with one of the [most] famous steakhouses in Indonesia.”
Ivan de Guzman
Food, travel, technology, lifestyle … Filipino Ivan de Guzman is a man of many talents. As a content creator he is now known for his forthright product reviews and travel education information, but before the pandemic and TikTok he was focused on study and only occasionally posted on social media.
“It was only in March 2020, the beginning of the pandemic lockdown, that I discovered TikTok and decided to share my knowledge on useful websites and applications that I frequently use and visit as an IT student,” says Ivan.
“I met new people, collaborated with new brands and companies, and was featured in several Philippine publications. I had no idea that sharing my knowledge would open so many doors for me, resulting in countless opportunities that I had not expected.
“I will be eternally grateful to TikTok for being my connecting point in making my dreams a reality,” Ivan states. “Many people have approached me simply saying that they learned a lot from my videos and identified me as the ‘tech guy’ that they are relying on TikTok because of my content.”
Before she became famous on TikTok, Singaporean Naomi Neo was already a well-known blogger, writer and YouTuber; in fact it was the fans of her writing who suggested she start on YouTube. Having been a social media influencer for more than a decade, however, Naomi felt it was time for a change.
“It was starting to get challenging and boring. After being in the industry for years, things were starting to feel stagnant for me. Not just with my personal growth, but I felt robbed of my creative space,” Naomi explains.
“I felt like my followers on other platforms are very used to what they saw and followed me for so it was really difficult to switch directions or try something new. However, I am glad that when TikTok started trending, I got the chance to be more flexible with the kind of content I publish and can simply just explore what I can do on the platform for fun!”
Naomi says that being a TikTok creator has “definitely changed [her] perspective” and helped to reignite the creativity she had when she began her career.
“TikTok is a platform that allows me to have full creative control and freedom to share different types of content while providing me with the opportunity to grow as a content creator. Instead of focusing on a specific type of content – like comedy or beauty.
“I love how I can just have fun and explore different directions. I think it is definitely a platform that is switching up the social media game. I don’t agree with people saying things like, ‘I’m too old for TikTok.’ I personally think it’s an inclusive space for everyone and that is what I like about it – that everyone gets a shot.”
Modestly Naomi says she does not “count [herself as] successful”, but she does enjoy being able to build a community across the globe. “It is refreshing to be heard and seen by people from different parts of the world. It helps me gain a better perspective and motivates me to continue doing what I do.”
Vina Muliana @vmuliana is famous for her helpful career tips and tricks that cover everything from writing a good CV, to how to have a successful job interview. She uses her personal background working for a major Indonesian government-owned company, and her passion for communication is obvious.
“I graduated with a degree in Communications and worked as a journalist, before landing a position in a state-owned enterprise. With a love for storytelling and whilst browsing for inspiration on TikTok during the pandemic, I realised that young people were having difficulties finding a job and kick-starting their careers,” she explains.
Vina decided to create a series of clips sharing her own career growth tips and hacks: “Turns out, the videos were well received by the TikTok community. A lot of users commented on my videos, some asked career-related questions, while others requested topics to be discussed in my next videos.”
“I never thought that one day I would be known as a content creator and TikTok made that happen. Thanks to TikTok’s amazing power of discovery, many people and organisations have reached out to me, asking me to participate as a speaker in their events – mostly to give motivation and career-related tips.
“Many of my online friends have also successfully landed a job as a result of my career guidance and tips. I also had the chance to be interviewed by several top-tier publications, including being chosen as one of Forbes Indonesia’s ‘Forbes 30 under 30’ recipients,” says Vina.
“Being appreciated like this has encouraged me to continue creating inspiring content, as well as building a positive digital ecosystem with other creators.”
Stay across every exciting moment of the 31st Southeast Asian Games with TikTok which has just been announced as an Official Supporter. There will be a huge range of cool activities and special effects that will help you stay up-to-date with all the local athletes.
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