It’s probably safe to say TikTok has now replaced coffee as a morning pick-me-up. People open the video-sharing app almost immediately after they open their eyes from a deep slumber, even before they can stretch their arms. The scrolling and watching could last forever.
To the people behind (or in front of) the videos we’re watching, however, the day doesn’t start as relaxing. The moment they wake up after a five-hour sleep, they’re already bombarded with the many tasks that need to be done for the day. You see, a 15-second clip that just made you laugh this morning was a product of a 3-hour work, sometimes even more.
Le Nguyen Tan Tinh, or Joon, doesn’t mind the pressure and the seemingly nonstop grind that come with being a TikTok influencer. “I think I was born to do this. It’s kind of my innate passion for shooting videos of myself dancing even before TikTok became a big deal,” he says as he subtly fixes his silver fringe.
The 21-year-old TikTok star now has nearly 44,000 followers on the app, with his short dance videos and fashion videos reaching 800,000 views. One of his videos, with him teaching a waiter some dance moves inside a hotpot restaurant, gained 2.1 million views.
A member of a Saigon-based dance group that usually covers Korean pop songs, Joon’s charismatic dance moves and overall powerful presence on screen have what attracted followers to this page.
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Juggling academics and social media success
Joon is currently in his senior year as a Business Administration student. It was his parents’ wish for him to take a business degree, and while he has grown to love it, he’s always loved to pursue fashion.
But to have parents who’ve been nothing but supportive of his career as a social media influencer, Joon really has no complaints. His father even downloaded the TikTok app so he could watch all of Joon’s videos.
Mornings are usually spent on school works — he sometimes goes to the university or works on projects with classmates. Having promised his parents he won’t compromise his studies, Joon exerts double effort to complete his assignments in the mornings, as he’s usually out in the afternoon and evening shooting TikTok videos or filming a full dance cover at the Nguyen Hue Walking Boulevard.
“Being on TikTok really only started as a hobby for fun in 2022. But when my followers increased, and people started to notice me, I realized that I could make a serious career out of it. It’s not something far from what I’ve been doing already, so it was more a natural transition,” he shares.
With what seemingly was an overnight success for the Tiktok influencer, Joon has become very careful of what he posts on social media. Rising popularity means bigger responsibilities to set a good example to a mainly Gen Z audience.
“I want to have my personal branding, from what I wear to the dance covers I make and even with the brands I affiliate myself with,” he says, adding that he dreams of being on TV one day. “I’m building my personal brand for that goal. I want to get as many experiences as I can, so when it’s time for me to really shine, I’m all ready for it.”
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A jack of all trades, a master in progress
TikTok influencers usually do everything by themselves — from doing their own makeup, styling the most trendy outfits, scouting the best locations (and asking permission), conceptualizing, shooting the videos, editing, and then uploading on the app. And it doesn’t end there — additional tasks like choosing the right hashtags and engaging with followers need to be done the right way, too.
Joon considers himself a fashionista born to slay, gradually perfecting his ability to coordinate outfits that complement the videos he produces, reflecting his unique personality. A quick scan of his TikTok videos and one would see he’s a fan of denim/black jackets over sleeveless undershirts. His hair color — now silver and black — plus ear piercings and the many accessories he wears give off that “don’t mess with me” vibe, though Joon considers himself incredibly approachable.
TikTok is a one-man show. You’ve got to do everything yourself.
For his dance videos, memorizing the choreography takes only about ten minutes. “But there’s really more than that. I have to decide on where to shoot the video and check if the lighting or the background is good,” he explains. There have been multiple times when he’s been kicked out of a cafe because the owner didn’t want him to film there.
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A video clip of a 15-second dance cover is usually filmed for an hour or two, as Joon – both the dancer and the cameraman — has to switch angles and do retakes. The editing that comes after doesn’t consume so much time, he says, especially when he’s following a pre-made template.
“What I’ve learned from taking TikTok seriously is that you have to play different roles all at once, and you have to be good at each, because this is really a one-man show. You’re the star, but then you’re also the behind-the-scene crew. But it teaches you patience and pushes you to learn new skills you would otherwise take no interest in when you’re not into TikTok.”
His dedication to his craft has opened doors for Joon to work with local fashion brands. He does photoshoots and makes videos to promote the brands, which he says, is another level of work. It also led him to connect with other content creators who’ve become dear friends instead of competitors.
After a long, long day, Joon goes back to the comfort of his room, where he’s reminded to stay grounded amidst the glitz. One can never be blinded by the views and likes, he says, or else he’ll lose himself in the process.