TikTok chef Alejandra Tapia on her rapid rise as a food creator

We turn to some popular YouTubers to try their best Tips and Tricks to be successful and as a pioneer on the Internet to better understand the ups and downs of life.

This week we spoke to Alejandra Tapia (@nanajoe19), a TikTok chef who has amassed 6.6 million followers in just a few years.

During her 2020 quarantine, Tapia began posting videos of her cooking for family members. She told Passionfruit that content creation started as a hobby, an easy way to keep her family updated on what she’s been up to during the pandemic. To their surprise, TikTok users quickly began engaging with their content.

With a sudden and unexpected audience, Tapia began learning how to create content intended for a larger audience. With the help of her husband, they quickly learned the technical and business aspects of being a creator.

Just a few years later, she has become one of the most popular culinary artists on TikTok after cooking for celebrities like Lizzo. With a growing audience, she keeps her followers engaged by presenting her take on Mexican cuisine with an international fusion twist.

In an interview with Passionfruit, Tapia talked about how she gained her following, her journey as a creator, tips for finding the right talent management, advice for aspiring creators, her favorite content creation tools, and more.

The following interview has been edited and shortened for clarity.

I heard that you originally started posting cooking videos on Snapchat for your friends and family until your family introduced you to TikTok. How has your content evolved from the early days of TikTok to today?

My content has evolved a lot. Sometimes I look at my old videos and cringe. Sometimes when I’m going through my notifications and it’s an old video I’m like oh my god they found me and I start deleting the videos. It’s just so different because I wasn’t trying to be a content creator.

So now I’m going in with a plan. I try to make my presentation look beautiful. I’m trying to make sure it’s clear, that everything is visible. If you look at the quality from earlier, I shot from an iPhone 6, I had no idea about editing and I had no idea about light. I knew nothing.

Now I know a bit more about editing, different apps and lighting. I still record with my phone but I want to start recording with a real camera. And I want to start editing with real software instead of doing it through my phone. So it has evolved and it will continue to evolve.

Can you explain what editing equipment and lighting settings you are currently using?

When I started, I was recording from my TikTok app and didn’t even know how to move or trim clips. I struggled a lot in that area. At the moment I’m using an app called Splice. It’s the easiest for me to use.

For lighting I just use ring lights. And then I also big [Neewer] Light when I run out of daylight in my house to avoid the shadow of my hands. But that’s about it.

And then I film on my iPhone 13. That’s all I use.

What advice do you have for other cooking content creators to stand out on TikTok and other social media platforms?

The advice I always give to everyone, and I always try to stand by my own advice, is to be consistent. Sometimes the views aren’t what you expect. Sometimes you work really, really hard on a video and the views are really bad. And you kind of beat yourself up. I was like, ‘Oh my god, no, I probably did a terrible job on this video. Let me go and erase it.”

I just feel that sometimes they need to be consistent and not beat themselves up if the views aren’t always what you expect them to be. But you can create a pattern. And little by little you will start to gain momentum.

Be persistent and stay true to yourself. Be creative. Be you. When I first started making my videos, I was very insecure about my voice. Whenever I heard my voice, I thought it was the scariest thing I had ever heard in my life. I also have a very heavy accent. I was really embarrassed so I always tried to use my customer service voice when making my videos. And now I’m just thinking, why? I could have just been myself and used my own voice from the start.

How do you monetize? What monetization tips do you have for other creators?

Get a good team. I have my boss. I was doing very well on my own but was really stressed because there was so much for me negotiating brand deals, answering emails back and forth, grocery shopping and being a mom. It became way, way too much.

When I finally decided to bring my management on board, they did most of the work that comes with monetization for me. I just focused on being and being a mom. I got in too [TikTok’s] Creator funds once I had enough followers, but usually most of my monetization comes from brand deals and I need a good management team for that.

Can you tell me about the process of landing on your talent management team? What was the way there?

They start emailing you when they see you gain a following. They look on TikTok, Instagram, Facebook. They are everywhere.

I didn’t go first person. Or the second. I kept seeing emails from them and ignored them because I had heard horrible stories about management teams.

But my current manager was really persistent. He was in my emails the whole time and he was like, “Oh my god, I love your breakfast burrito. it looks so good Whenever you were willing to talk about management, let me know,” and I finally said, “Okay, dude, okay.”

I was always checking his emails and sometimes I would even ignore him and think, ‘What’s wrong with him? For example, something must be wrong” because I have heard really terrible stories about managers. After a while I gave him a chance. Because he was always there and not just asking to manage me. He would say, “Congratulations on that,” “Congratulations on that,” or “That lunch looked delicious.” So I decided to give him a chance. And honestly, I feel like it’s one of the best decisions I’ve made. He is great.

What green flags would you look for when choosing a management team?

Someone who offers you more than just money is a good sign. And if an agency is a good agency and really wants to work with you, they will look for you. Even if you ignore the messages or emails, they will come back, they will DM you and they will find a way to reach you.

Do you have Are there any resources you may have used to become a better YouTuber?

I started surrounding myself with other creators making food. We have a small community and try to help each other. I’m really good at telling who is there to help and who isn’t. If one of our views is low, everyone will say, “Well maybe you should try this or do this” to help each other. We want to see each other win, we want to strengthen each other.

Can you elaborate on the community you created? How did you find this community?

So this group is my style. Everyone has their own style. There’s ASMR cuisine, Asian cuisine, American cuisine, BBQer, all that. We have Latin cuisine in common. We all cook the same thing. Same recipes, sometimes different ingredients. This is the community I’ve stood by because we can help each other.

I know you cooked for Lizzo once. Can you talk about the biggest opportunities you’ve had with your TikTok platform and how that has impacted you?

Lizzo was probably one of my first big chances. That’s how people found out I was from the Central Valley. I was all the news. I’ve been asked by many news channels and radio stations how I did it.

Then I got my verification on TikTok, which was a huge deal. So this opportunity helped. And it introduced me to a lot of other people. I have also cooked for the Rivera family, a well known family here in the Latin American community. They are Jenni Rivera’s children, and she is like the queen of all Hispanics. I’ve met so many people and traveled to so many places.

What can followers expect in 2023? Is something new coming, on or alongside TikTok?

Yes. I tell my husband that 2023 is our year. We have many plans for TikTok. For example, I told you that I want my videos to look more professional. I want to focus on making long YouTube videos for people who need more explanation to make it really easy for them. We have that in the works. There are many surprises we have for you. 2023 is our year and I look forward to showing you what I have for everyone.

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Jaclyn Diaz

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