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Alyssa Angulo, Dax Newman, Lauren Green, Andrea Miller hit TikTok big

San Diegans' unintended fame

“That’s how it all began,” explains Alyssa Angulo with an excited lilt to her voice, “I just kept posting all my old videos, trying to free up more storage space. And then it just became this thing. Now it’s my whole life — which is crazy.”
“That’s how it all began,” explains Alyssa Angulo with an excited lilt to her voice, “I just kept posting all my old videos, trying to free up more storage space. And then it just became this thing. Now it’s my whole life — which is crazy.”

Twenty-year-old Alyssa Angulo did not set out to become an influencer. Neither did 22-year-old Dax Newman. And yet, social media has afforded both of them the luxury of forgoing the traditional 9-5. “It’s kind of a funny story,” explains Angulo with a bright laugh. “I was running out of storage on my iPhone, because I had all these videos of me skating. I decided to start posting them on TikTok; that way I could still have them, but free up space on my phone. I had no intention for anyone to see my skate videos; it was for my own sake.” Angulo uploaded two of her videos to TikTok and then went to sleep. The next morning, she discovered that one of the videos had gone viral, garnering 1.5 million views.

“That’s how it all began,” explains Angulo with an excited lilt to her voice. “I just kept posting all my old videos, trying to free up more storage space. And then it just became this thing. Now it’s my whole life — which is crazy.” Thanks to that initial video’s popularity, both Alyssa’s Instagram and TikTok pages, @HippyLys, took off. With her long wavy hair, sun-kissed skin, and on-point skateboard skills, Alyssa projects an enviable beachy, laid-back, happy hippie image, and 264,000 people have found that image worth following.

As for Dax Newman — @daxnewman769 on TikTok — social media wasn’t ever really his thing. He regards himself as something of an introvert. But his awkward demeanor coupled with his striking features gives him an almost magical quality; perhaps that is why a friend convinced him to make a couple of TikToks. “I did a few silly dances and posted them,” he recalls. “Then one day I was making [pottery] and I thought, ‘Why not make a video about making my pots?’” You can almost hear the what-the-hey shrug when he says it. At the very least, he had novelty on his side. “I hadn’t seen anything like that before on TikTok.”

Newman is a skilled potter. He took an introductory pottery class in high school, and one of his teachers commented that he should make pottery for a living. That encouraged him to take it seriously. His parents bought him a wheel for his 17th birthday, and he set it up in an old backyard playhouse that he had shared with his brother during childhood. He has since dubbed it “The Pot Shed;” it’s the place where Newman started filming his now-famous TikToks.

His first effort snagged 13,000 views. That was far cry from the millions of views he has since amassed, but it seemed impressive at the time. “I was like, ‘13,000! I’m famous!’” he says with a nostalgic chuckle. Within months, he had gained over a million followers. Newman’s content consists primarily of him making pots on a wheel while explaining what he is doing in a soothing voice. It probably doesn’t hurt that he neglects to wear a shirt under his clay-colored apron. Viewers of a certain age may find themselves reminded of the famous pottery/love scene between Patrick Swayze and Demi Moore in the movie Ghost.

“Quarantine is when it started really ramping up,” he notes. “It was probably because everyone was locked at home with nothing to do. I think that [my videos] were somehow comforting to people — the ASMR aspect of them. Before that, I think I maybe had like a million. After quarantine, it jumped up to four million. It was so crazy! I’m a shy kid, so being a social media person is strange!” When Newman thinks about the number of followers he has, it often overwhelms him. “When I had my first viral video, I had an anxiety attack. I just kept thinking that all these people have seen my face. A lot of random people know who I am. It can be kind of scary.” Today, he has 5.9 million followers. His most popular video has been viewed 62 million times. Actor Will Smith’s most viewed TikTok has just 55.9 million views. That level of popularity means he can charge upwards of $10,000 for an ad on his channel.

Dax Newman’s first effort on TikTok snagged 13,000 views. That was far cry from the millions of views he has since amassed, but it seemed impressive at the time. “I was like, ‘13,000! I’m famous!” he says with a nostalgic chuckle.

But you don’t need millions followers to make money via social media. Alyssa Angulo’s TikTok following is much smaller that Newman’s, but still impressive. And influencers with a 100,000-500,00 follower range can make anywhere from $200-$5000 per ad. These days, larger, more established companies are reaching out to Angulo. She has worked with L’Oréal — a company that has featured actresses Blake Lively, Zoe Saldana, Elle Fanning, and Kate Winslet in its ads — to promote one of their fragrance collections. “It was the funniest thing,” she recounts, “because there were four other influencers there. They rolled up in super cute dresses with fully done makeup. I showed up with my skateboard and no makeup. I felt a little bit out of place, but I went with it. We met Shay Mitchell [from the television show Pretty Little Liars] because she was the face of the perfume. I made a TikTok with her and my skateboard. I thought that was so fun. That was the coolest experience that I have had so far.”


Lauren Green, whose social media handle is @LaurenSanDiego_, has a TikTok following of 70K. Her content is based primarily on food, with a little bit of travel mixed in, plus fun San Diego locations. Green, 28, has brown hair and bright green eyes, and projects an air of confidence. She comes across as something of an expert on whatever she is discussing, and she has top-notch taste. So far, she says, she has had multiple trips paid for (including rental cars) by people eager to see her document her adventures, and eaten countless free meals, all thanks to her social media presence

Green says that at first, “I was very against TikTok. Honestly, I was like, ‘It’s for the kids! I should not be on there! I am too old!’” But after seeing a friend post about her food and travel adventures in New York, she thought she might be able do something similar in San Diego. Also, her brother encouraged her to start posting. He believed it was a place where she could find success. When he died in December of 2019, “I felt like I kind of needed to do it, because he was always my number one fan. I decided, ‘Okay, I’m just going to do it and see what happens.’”

A few months later, she posted a handful of videos. When she opened up TikTok three hours later she found that one of them had 100,000 views. Her follower count soon jumped from 400 to 2000. Eventually, that one video reached 254.4K views, possibly because of a typo. “The video was of an Italian restaurant in Little Italy called Allegro. TikTok is so funny, because I feel like most people’s videos blow up because of either a mistake that they make, or something really cool that no one has seen before. Mine was a combination of the two. There are lemons on the ceiling at Allegro — they are fake, but it looks pretty. I ordered mussels for lunch, and in my post, I spelled it like arm muscles. People began commenting, ‘Omg! Muscles!’ and adding muscle arm emojis to my video. Honestly, I think that the engagement it had from people making fun of my typo, mixed with their fascination with the lemon ceiling, made that video blow up.”

Lauren Green’s followers started reaching out to her for restaurant recommendations. She started creating more and more content. Today, her most viewed TikTok has three million views.

Green’s followers started reaching out to her for restaurant recommendations. She started creating more and more content. Today, her most viewed TikTok has three million views. And recently, the Marine Room in La Jolla invited her to enjoy a meal on the house and to meet their new head chef, Mike Minor. Green muses, “It’s so funny, because I am not a food critic. I’m not a sommelier. I know that so many people who would die to meet the head chef at The Marine Room. He came out and was like, ‘I hope you liked the meal. Do you want to come back and meet the chefs?’ Everyone around was looking at me like, ‘Who the heck is this girl that gets to meet the chef and go back into the kitchen?’ My boyfriend and I went back and just waved at the staff.”


Sometimes, you don’t need the thrill of skating, the aesthetics of pottery, or the glamour of fancy food to attract attention. Consider 29-year-old Andrea Miller (@Mrs_Miller), a local middle-school math teacher with a TikTok following of 536.5K. She was invited by Lays to be part of their Superbowl ad campaign. “It was wild!” she exclaims. “I mean, I have a decent following, but not a substantial one. I told myself, ‘A bunch of people probably got invited to do this thing, it’s not that big of a deal.’ But only five creators were invited out of everybody on TikTok! Five! I still don’t know why they picked me.” As she says this, she leans forward in her seat with a baffled expression, still clearly perplexed over landing the gig.

Perhaps it’s because, despite being from California, Miller gives off a midwestern, all-American vibe that makes her seem 100% relatable. Her videos are charming and energetic. And she’s savvier than she gives herself credit for. At the beginning of the 2020 school year, her Amazon Wishlist for teacher’s supplies went viral, thanks to a TikTok video she posted implying that most of the items on the list had been purchased by her followers. “I was kind of smart about it: I collected ten boxes [of supplies] and put them all in the corner [of my classroom]. Then I said, ‘Ten hours after posting my Amazon Wishlist!’ I showed the boxes and then said, ‘Link in bio if you want to support my classroom!’ That video got four million views! People were like, ‘Oh, my gosh, TikTok bought her all these presents!’ Really, it was my parents that bought me stuff off my Wishlist. But because of that, my entire amazon Wishlist was paid for. Then I started pinning other teacher’s Wishlists in my bio, because I wasn’t going to put more things on mine. I didn’t need it. I wasn’t going to be greedy!” Andrea pauses to assess my reaction before adding, “I don’t know, maybe that’s cheating? I just knew what would do well! And it paid for all the supplies that I needed that year.”

Unlike Angulo, Newman, and Green, Miller knew what she was doing when she started posting on TikTok. She wanted her videos to go viral — and they have. Her ability to continually create relevant content keeps her followers happy, and the high volume of shares and views gets advertisers to seek her out. But she says that while the Lays experience was an epic collaboration — one that her parents still brag about — she was not paid enough for her time. The ad was re-shot four times, meaning that “it was four full days [of work]. I should have obviously thought of that [when negotiating pay], but I don’t know that kind of stuff. I am just a teacher!”

But Miller is like Newman in at least one significant way: social media stardom doesn’t mean she’s especially social. Once, she was invited to be a contestant on a singing reality TV show. They offered her one million dollars. “I actually chickened out!” she says, shaking her head, “It was a Don’t Forget the Lyrics kind of show. I have a horrible voice. I can do content in my [classroom] by myself, but when I am filming in front of anybody, I get red-faced. I can’t do it. Everyone thinks I am good at talking to people, but I get such bad anxiety. I kept telling myself, ‘For one million dollars, you can do it!’ But I couldn’t. Besides, I would have had to take a whole week off of school. That is how I convinced myself I couldn’t do it.” Such a teacher move.

Another time, “The Drew Barrymore Show emailed me. They were doing a game segment on Clueless. Alicia Silverstone was the guest. They said, ‘We saw a comment you posted about Clueless. Are you a big fan?’ I should’ve lied. I should’ve said, ‘Yes, I am a BIG Clueless fan! I will do it.’ But I told them, ‘I have only watched it two or three times. If you choose me, I’ll study up and I will probably win the competition — but I’m not [a superfan].’ They did not respond.”

Local middle-school math teacher Andrea Miller knew what she was doing when she started posting on TikTok. She wanted her videos to go viral — and they have.

But there have been more hits than misses. By now, Miller has worked with enough companies (Michaels, Honest Brand, 5 Hour Energy, National University, the list goes on) to make hiring a manager worth her while. Gary Brooks, a fellow teacher and fellow TikToker, recommended his. He takes 10 percent of her earnings, but she believes that it’s worth it, just to have someone else to do the haggling and to reach out to new potential advertisers. She’s not alone: many influencers seek managers when they reach the 250K follower mark “I get emails from people asking to be my agent all the time,” Miller says. “Some of them are asking for 45%. I think they assume teachers don’t know the business. They think they can take advantage.”


Lauren Green may have a substantially smaller following than Angulo, Newman, and Miller, but she’s still seeing plenty of benefits. There aren’t as many large paydays, but the little ones add up, thanks in part to the sort of content she posts: primarily about dining out. The most engagement-intense subject on TikTok is food, with an average rate of 15.82%. And Green’s engagement rate is even higher: 25%. She’s a micro-influencer, someone who has a social media following larger than a regular person’s but not as big as a celebrity’s — anywhere between 10,000 and 100,000. They are usually sought after to promote products that are relevant to their expertise. Explains Green, “Microinflunecers are being prioritized by companies right now. Even my own company, [Intel], is prioritizing microinfluencers because of their concentrated followings. Their followers are really interested in what they are doing.”

For each social media platform, there are engagement benchmarks that companies look for. For TikTok, the ideal rate is 5.96%. On YouTube it’s between 2.8-5.2%, and on Instagram, 1.2% Continues Green, “If your following grows, you want to keep your engagement rate in that window or above. I always have people commenting and liking and sharing and saving.” She credits the bulk of her success in this area to her experience in marketing. Her first job after college was at a marketing firm in New York City. “Because of my background, I know how to negotiate,” she says. “I know my worth, and I’ve learned to say, ‘That’s not good enough!’”

Skater Angulo, on the other hand, acknowledges that working with brands and figuring out her worth has been a continual struggle. She has a communications degree from UC Santa Barbara, but it didn’t really prepare her for the world of social media. Angulo does not reach out to any brands; they reach out to her. (She has worked with Tilly’s, Skullcandy, Steve Madden, and Thread Wallets, to name a few.) When she started, she did it in exchange for product. Then she saw brands using her images in their ad campaigns. She realized she was helping to make their ads, and that made her realize that she needed to charge them for her work. Still, she says, “It’s hard when you are this young, and you just don’t know. It’s easy to get taken advantage of. It has been a big learning experience, especially because I don’t have anyone to reach out to that has done this. I am figuring it out by myself. In the beginning, I was willing to do a lot of things for free. I didn’t know any better. When I started growing and learning, I was like, ‘Wait, no, I should be getting paid for my time and effort.’ Honestly, I am still trying to figure it all out. A lot of the time, I just throw numbers out there. It gets a little tricky. Sometimes, I’ll ask my dad, because dads know everything.”

There may not be an established tradition to look to, but Angulo does learn from her peers. Recently, she created a media kit. “I didn’t even know what a media kit was!” she admits with a laugh. “A girl I follow posted about hers. I thought it was so smart. So I started researching it, and I made my own from scratch. It took me like two hours. It makes me look more professional.”

Despite his massive following, Dax Newman has not worked with many brands. But the ones he has collaborated with are owned by billion-dollar companies: Dior, Colgate, Old Spice. “I really thought working with Dior was so cool,” he says. “I have always loved Dior! The brands “don’t pay crazy, but they pay pretty well, which then lets me not have to worry so I can focus on making [pottery].”

Today, Newman is represented by The Society Management, the same agency that reps Kendell Jenner. He has a family friend who works on Alicia Keys’ team, so when it was time to pick a manager, that friend sat in on all his interviews to ensure that he received the best representation. So far, it has worked in his favor. “I think the most exciting part of all of this was signing with my modeling agency. That is something I have always wanted to try. I have always thought that would be cool — and then it happened!”


The pressure to post content is something with which all four have struggled. Miller arrives at work two hours early to shoot her videos. In the evenings, after a long day of dealing with middle-schoolers, she edits and posts them: Dance Fridays with a coworker, Math Mondays, classroom sticker reward reviews, teacher outfit checks. “I try to post about one a day. I used to only post Monday-Friday, but if I have content I can post, I’ll post [every day]. I don’t take breaks, because I get nervous that if I stop, my [follower count] will go down. It adds to the stress and anxiety in my life, but it also gives so many rewards. I am still trying to look for the happy balance.”

Newman is more laid back about it — now. “I used to post a lot of videos, but I haven’t posted in quite a while. Every once in a while, I take a month break just to desensitize from all the madness, and then I’ll go back into and start posting a bunch of videos.” He says has given up on obsessing over his follower count. “I used to worry about that a lot. I would check every day. Something the first manager I had said to me was, ‘If they don’t want to follow you, you don’t want them following you.’ If they aren’t engaged in what I’m doing, that’s okay. It’s not their vibe. It’s all good! I don’t think it’s anything to worry about.”

But Angulo worries. She has noticed that her TikTok videos aren’t being viewed as much as they were during quarantine. She believes it’s because more people took up skateboarding at the peak of covid — it is sport whose popularity ebbs and flows. However, she has seen a steady uptick in the number of her Instagram followers, and she thinks this may have to do with the fact that it’s easier to post photos daily than it is to create videos. But her Instagram following is still just 18.6K, a fraction of her TikTok audience. “I try to do three to four posts a week on TikTok,” she says. “A lot of influencers post twice a day. How do they have the time? It’s hard for me to even get three videos a week, because not only do I have to find someone who skates to film me, I also need to perform. I mess up, and I need to retake videos. And then I have to practice at the skate park, to try to advance and learn something new to show.” It’s not enough to keep performing “the same old skate tricks.”

Angulo creates the bulk of her content over the weekend; that’s when she has access to friends who can film her. But apart from her own content, she also needs to create content for the brands that pay her. “I really have to grind out these brand deals. It makes it difficult, because most of the content I am creating is brand content. I don’t always post that on my own page. I give it to the company [that I am working with], and they post it for themselves. I am struggling, trying to create enough content. I have tried to diversify. I snowboard, so I started doing snowboarding videos. Some of those have done pretty well. One just hit a million views. That has helped open up my target audience. I also want to do clothing videos. Girls are always telling me they love my style, so I have done a few of those. But they don’t do as well as my skate videos, because that is what I am known for. I need a little bit of a new niche to carry this. I am trying to expand my horizons, but it has been hard. A lot of my videos have not been doing as well as they used to, which is frustrating. It’s one of those things where I just need to play around and keep posting.”


TikTok has a Creator fund that pays content creators who have over 10,000 followers. Once you join, TikTok pays based on a percentage of your views. But rumor has it that after you join the Creator Fund, your follower counts drop, and your videos are not seen as frequently. Says Newman: “I have joined it maybe three of four times. Immediately after, it plummets my views. They go down to maybe 20,000 people seeing my videos, and I get maybe 10 cents.” Because of this, many influencers avoid joining. Green and Angulo were also at one time part of the Creator Fund, but now they too believe it negatively affected their viewership while providing insignificant monetary rewards. Miller is still in, and estimates she makes about $200 a month from it.

Instagram, meanwhile, has a bonus program and an affiliate program for users with large followings. Both are paid, and both are invitation only. Of the four influencers, only Miller received an invite. She says, “I post probably 30 videos a month on TikTok, and then I’ll post six on Instagram and will make triple the amount of money from Instagram. No one knows how they select who is in. I have a lot of friends who have more followers than me but have never been in it. It’s very weird. In their new affiliate program, you make money by posting links. I have to post an Athletica link. They’ll pay me per link and when people use my codes.”


By the end of the year, Miller would like to reach a million followers and snag a million likes on a video. But while she likes her social media side gig, she doesn’t see herself giving up teaching anytime soon. “I have seen a lot of other teachers on TikTok quit teaching. They have been able to transfer their following into investing into them, instead of them as a teacher. I am nowhere near that point. I don’t know if I want to do that. I get bored easily. I love teaching. It’s always been my passion, and I have a Masters in it. I went to school so long for this job, and I think I am pretty good at it. Besides, I just bought a house. I have to pay my mortgage every month. The extra money I make is nice, but it’s sad that I have to do that. I wish I could just get an actual salary where I could afford to pay my bills.”

As for Green, she hopes to make more money and continue eating out for free. “Last year, I barely made any money. I have been doing this for exactly one year now, and in that first calendar year I made like $4000. This year, I have made like a couple of thousand dollars. By the end of this month, I will have made another $5000. If I keep doing this and my followers continue to grow, I can charge more. I am hoping at some point, [being an influencer] will match my salary and I’ll feel like this is consistent enough than I can quit my job.” She and her boyfriend have discussed moving to Portugal. “I think it would be really cool to partner with an apartment complex in Europe to get our housing paid for. It would basically be, ‘How to move to Europe as an American ex-pat’ or whatever. Something like that would be really cool!”

She does not want to set too many monetary goals concerning her social media gig, but she does view @laurensandiego as her brand “I think the immediate reaction people have to influencers is to think less of them. They think they are just vain and post on social media just for likes. But I think [we] are business people and entrepreneurs trying to sell [our] brand all the time. You need be creative to keep people interested. I personally think of [this] as a business venture.”

Dax Newman is switching gears and creating a pottery learning app, though it is still in the initial stages. He recently shot a bunch of tutorials that will be included in the app. There will also be an interactive aspect where he can comment and offer tips and advice to users. Users will be able to share and upload their creations with other people. “It’s still a work in progress, but it should be launching relatively soon. After that, maybe I’ll start trying to think about opening a [pottery] studio where I can try to help teach people. I would love to have a home base in San Diego. I love it here. I am obsessed with it. For a while, I really wanted to go to school in New York for art, but that is something for the future.”

As for Alyssa Angulo, she plans on taking advantage of the opportunities TikTok has given her. “I am just going to see what happens. I am at a spot in my life where I don’t really want any set plans. I want the freedom to be able to do whatever I want for a few years. I have the opportunity right now to do that. I have been looking for a van, because I want to experience the van life. Eventually I want to start my own female skateboarding line. I have always wanted my own fashion line. There are not that many female skating brands out there, especially for more girly girls like me. So that is the end goal. For right now, I just want to work on my social media, travel, have fun, and experience life. Posting on TikTok changed my whole life!” Although I cannot see her when she says this, I can tell that on the other end of the phone, Angulo is smiling.

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“That’s how it all began,” explains Alyssa Angulo with an excited lilt to her voice, “I just kept posting all my old videos, trying to free up more storage space. And then it just became this thing. Now it’s my whole life — which is crazy.”
“That’s how it all began,” explains Alyssa Angulo with an excited lilt to her voice, “I just kept posting all my old videos, trying to free up more storage space. And then it just became this thing. Now it’s my whole life — which is crazy.”

Twenty-year-old Alyssa Angulo did not set out to become an influencer. Neither did 22-year-old Dax Newman. And yet, social media has afforded both of them the luxury of forgoing the traditional 9-5. “It’s kind of a funny story,” explains Angulo with a bright laugh. “I was running out of storage on my iPhone, because I had all these videos of me skating. I decided to start posting them on TikTok; that way I could still have them, but free up space on my phone. I had no intention for anyone to see my skate videos; it was for my own sake.” Angulo uploaded two of her videos to TikTok and then went to sleep. The next morning, she discovered that one of the videos had gone viral, garnering 1.5 million views.

“That’s how it all began,” explains Angulo with an excited lilt to her voice. “I just kept posting all my old videos, trying to free up more storage space. And then it just became this thing. Now it’s my whole life — which is crazy.” Thanks to that initial video’s popularity, both Alyssa’s Instagram and TikTok pages, @HippyLys, took off. With her long wavy hair, sun-kissed skin, and on-point skateboard skills, Alyssa projects an enviable beachy, laid-back, happy hippie image, and 264,000 people have found that image worth following.

As for Dax Newman — @daxnewman769 on TikTok — social media wasn’t ever really his thing. He regards himself as something of an introvert. But his awkward demeanor coupled with his striking features gives him an almost magical quality; perhaps that is why a friend convinced him to make a couple of TikToks. “I did a few silly dances and posted them,” he recalls. “Then one day I was making [pottery] and I thought, ‘Why not make a video about making my pots?’” You can almost hear the what-the-hey shrug when he says it. At the very least, he had novelty on his side. “I hadn’t seen anything like that before on TikTok.”

Newman is a skilled potter. He took an introductory pottery class in high school, and one of his teachers commented that he should make pottery for a living. That encouraged him to take it seriously. His parents bought him a wheel for his 17th birthday, and he set it up in an old backyard playhouse that he had shared with his brother during childhood. He has since dubbed it “The Pot Shed;” it’s the place where Newman started filming his now-famous TikToks.

His first effort snagged 13,000 views. That was far cry from the millions of views he has since amassed, but it seemed impressive at the time. “I was like, ‘13,000! I’m famous!’” he says with a nostalgic chuckle. Within months, he had gained over a million followers. Newman’s content consists primarily of him making pots on a wheel while explaining what he is doing in a soothing voice. It probably doesn’t hurt that he neglects to wear a shirt under his clay-colored apron. Viewers of a certain age may find themselves reminded of the famous pottery/love scene between Patrick Swayze and Demi Moore in the movie Ghost.

“Quarantine is when it started really ramping up,” he notes. “It was probably because everyone was locked at home with nothing to do. I think that [my videos] were somehow comforting to people — the ASMR aspect of them. Before that, I think I maybe had like a million. After quarantine, it jumped up to four million. It was so crazy! I’m a shy kid, so being a social media person is strange!” When Newman thinks about the number of followers he has, it often overwhelms him. “When I had my first viral video, I had an anxiety attack. I just kept thinking that all these people have seen my face. A lot of random people know who I am. It can be kind of scary.” Today, he has 5.9 million followers. His most popular video has been viewed 62 million times. Actor Will Smith’s most viewed TikTok has just 55.9 million views. That level of popularity means he can charge upwards of $10,000 for an ad on his channel.

Dax Newman’s first effort on TikTok snagged 13,000 views. That was far cry from the millions of views he has since amassed, but it seemed impressive at the time. “I was like, ‘13,000! I’m famous!” he says with a nostalgic chuckle.

But you don’t need millions followers to make money via social media. Alyssa Angulo’s TikTok following is much smaller that Newman’s, but still impressive. And influencers with a 100,000-500,00 follower range can make anywhere from $200-$5000 per ad. These days, larger, more established companies are reaching out to Angulo. She has worked with L’Oréal — a company that has featured actresses Blake Lively, Zoe Saldana, Elle Fanning, and Kate Winslet in its ads — to promote one of their fragrance collections. “It was the funniest thing,” she recounts, “because there were four other influencers there. They rolled up in super cute dresses with fully done makeup. I showed up with my skateboard and no makeup. I felt a little bit out of place, but I went with it. We met Shay Mitchell [from the television show Pretty Little Liars] because she was the face of the perfume. I made a TikTok with her and my skateboard. I thought that was so fun. That was the coolest experience that I have had so far.”


Lauren Green, whose social media handle is @LaurenSanDiego_, has a TikTok following of 70K. Her content is based primarily on food, with a little bit of travel mixed in, plus fun San Diego locations. Green, 28, has brown hair and bright green eyes, and projects an air of confidence. She comes across as something of an expert on whatever she is discussing, and she has top-notch taste. So far, she says, she has had multiple trips paid for (including rental cars) by people eager to see her document her adventures, and eaten countless free meals, all thanks to her social media presence

Green says that at first, “I was very against TikTok. Honestly, I was like, ‘It’s for the kids! I should not be on there! I am too old!’” But after seeing a friend post about her food and travel adventures in New York, she thought she might be able do something similar in San Diego. Also, her brother encouraged her to start posting. He believed it was a place where she could find success. When he died in December of 2019, “I felt like I kind of needed to do it, because he was always my number one fan. I decided, ‘Okay, I’m just going to do it and see what happens.’”

A few months later, she posted a handful of videos. When she opened up TikTok three hours later she found that one of them had 100,000 views. Her follower count soon jumped from 400 to 2000. Eventually, that one video reached 254.4K views, possibly because of a typo. “The video was of an Italian restaurant in Little Italy called Allegro. TikTok is so funny, because I feel like most people’s videos blow up because of either a mistake that they make, or something really cool that no one has seen before. Mine was a combination of the two. There are lemons on the ceiling at Allegro — they are fake, but it looks pretty. I ordered mussels for lunch, and in my post, I spelled it like arm muscles. People began commenting, ‘Omg! Muscles!’ and adding muscle arm emojis to my video. Honestly, I think that the engagement it had from people making fun of my typo, mixed with their fascination with the lemon ceiling, made that video blow up.”

Lauren Green’s followers started reaching out to her for restaurant recommendations. She started creating more and more content. Today, her most viewed TikTok has three million views.

Green’s followers started reaching out to her for restaurant recommendations. She started creating more and more content. Today, her most viewed TikTok has three million views. And recently, the Marine Room in La Jolla invited her to enjoy a meal on the house and to meet their new head chef, Mike Minor. Green muses, “It’s so funny, because I am not a food critic. I’m not a sommelier. I know that so many people who would die to meet the head chef at The Marine Room. He came out and was like, ‘I hope you liked the meal. Do you want to come back and meet the chefs?’ Everyone around was looking at me like, ‘Who the heck is this girl that gets to meet the chef and go back into the kitchen?’ My boyfriend and I went back and just waved at the staff.”


Sometimes, you don’t need the thrill of skating, the aesthetics of pottery, or the glamour of fancy food to attract attention. Consider 29-year-old Andrea Miller (@Mrs_Miller), a local middle-school math teacher with a TikTok following of 536.5K. She was invited by Lays to be part of their Superbowl ad campaign. “It was wild!” she exclaims. “I mean, I have a decent following, but not a substantial one. I told myself, ‘A bunch of people probably got invited to do this thing, it’s not that big of a deal.’ But only five creators were invited out of everybody on TikTok! Five! I still don’t know why they picked me.” As she says this, she leans forward in her seat with a baffled expression, still clearly perplexed over landing the gig.

Perhaps it’s because, despite being from California, Miller gives off a midwestern, all-American vibe that makes her seem 100% relatable. Her videos are charming and energetic. And she’s savvier than she gives herself credit for. At the beginning of the 2020 school year, her Amazon Wishlist for teacher’s supplies went viral, thanks to a TikTok video she posted implying that most of the items on the list had been purchased by her followers. “I was kind of smart about it: I collected ten boxes [of supplies] and put them all in the corner [of my classroom]. Then I said, ‘Ten hours after posting my Amazon Wishlist!’ I showed the boxes and then said, ‘Link in bio if you want to support my classroom!’ That video got four million views! People were like, ‘Oh, my gosh, TikTok bought her all these presents!’ Really, it was my parents that bought me stuff off my Wishlist. But because of that, my entire amazon Wishlist was paid for. Then I started pinning other teacher’s Wishlists in my bio, because I wasn’t going to put more things on mine. I didn’t need it. I wasn’t going to be greedy!” Andrea pauses to assess my reaction before adding, “I don’t know, maybe that’s cheating? I just knew what would do well! And it paid for all the supplies that I needed that year.”

Unlike Angulo, Newman, and Green, Miller knew what she was doing when she started posting on TikTok. She wanted her videos to go viral — and they have. Her ability to continually create relevant content keeps her followers happy, and the high volume of shares and views gets advertisers to seek her out. But she says that while the Lays experience was an epic collaboration — one that her parents still brag about — she was not paid enough for her time. The ad was re-shot four times, meaning that “it was four full days [of work]. I should have obviously thought of that [when negotiating pay], but I don’t know that kind of stuff. I am just a teacher!”

But Miller is like Newman in at least one significant way: social media stardom doesn’t mean she’s especially social. Once, she was invited to be a contestant on a singing reality TV show. They offered her one million dollars. “I actually chickened out!” she says, shaking her head, “It was a Don’t Forget the Lyrics kind of show. I have a horrible voice. I can do content in my [classroom] by myself, but when I am filming in front of anybody, I get red-faced. I can’t do it. Everyone thinks I am good at talking to people, but I get such bad anxiety. I kept telling myself, ‘For one million dollars, you can do it!’ But I couldn’t. Besides, I would have had to take a whole week off of school. That is how I convinced myself I couldn’t do it.” Such a teacher move.

Another time, “The Drew Barrymore Show emailed me. They were doing a game segment on Clueless. Alicia Silverstone was the guest. They said, ‘We saw a comment you posted about Clueless. Are you a big fan?’ I should’ve lied. I should’ve said, ‘Yes, I am a BIG Clueless fan! I will do it.’ But I told them, ‘I have only watched it two or three times. If you choose me, I’ll study up and I will probably win the competition — but I’m not [a superfan].’ They did not respond.”

Local middle-school math teacher Andrea Miller knew what she was doing when she started posting on TikTok. She wanted her videos to go viral — and they have.

But there have been more hits than misses. By now, Miller has worked with enough companies (Michaels, Honest Brand, 5 Hour Energy, National University, the list goes on) to make hiring a manager worth her while. Gary Brooks, a fellow teacher and fellow TikToker, recommended his. He takes 10 percent of her earnings, but she believes that it’s worth it, just to have someone else to do the haggling and to reach out to new potential advertisers. She’s not alone: many influencers seek managers when they reach the 250K follower mark “I get emails from people asking to be my agent all the time,” Miller says. “Some of them are asking for 45%. I think they assume teachers don’t know the business. They think they can take advantage.”


Lauren Green may have a substantially smaller following than Angulo, Newman, and Miller, but she’s still seeing plenty of benefits. There aren’t as many large paydays, but the little ones add up, thanks in part to the sort of content she posts: primarily about dining out. The most engagement-intense subject on TikTok is food, with an average rate of 15.82%. And Green’s engagement rate is even higher: 25%. She’s a micro-influencer, someone who has a social media following larger than a regular person’s but not as big as a celebrity’s — anywhere between 10,000 and 100,000. They are usually sought after to promote products that are relevant to their expertise. Explains Green, “Microinflunecers are being prioritized by companies right now. Even my own company, [Intel], is prioritizing microinfluencers because of their concentrated followings. Their followers are really interested in what they are doing.”

For each social media platform, there are engagement benchmarks that companies look for. For TikTok, the ideal rate is 5.96%. On YouTube it’s between 2.8-5.2%, and on Instagram, 1.2% Continues Green, “If your following grows, you want to keep your engagement rate in that window or above. I always have people commenting and liking and sharing and saving.” She credits the bulk of her success in this area to her experience in marketing. Her first job after college was at a marketing firm in New York City. “Because of my background, I know how to negotiate,” she says. “I know my worth, and I’ve learned to say, ‘That’s not good enough!’”

Skater Angulo, on the other hand, acknowledges that working with brands and figuring out her worth has been a continual struggle. She has a communications degree from UC Santa Barbara, but it didn’t really prepare her for the world of social media. Angulo does not reach out to any brands; they reach out to her. (She has worked with Tilly’s, Skullcandy, Steve Madden, and Thread Wallets, to name a few.) When she started, she did it in exchange for product. Then she saw brands using her images in their ad campaigns. She realized she was helping to make their ads, and that made her realize that she needed to charge them for her work. Still, she says, “It’s hard when you are this young, and you just don’t know. It’s easy to get taken advantage of. It has been a big learning experience, especially because I don’t have anyone to reach out to that has done this. I am figuring it out by myself. In the beginning, I was willing to do a lot of things for free. I didn’t know any better. When I started growing and learning, I was like, ‘Wait, no, I should be getting paid for my time and effort.’ Honestly, I am still trying to figure it all out. A lot of the time, I just throw numbers out there. It gets a little tricky. Sometimes, I’ll ask my dad, because dads know everything.”

There may not be an established tradition to look to, but Angulo does learn from her peers. Recently, she created a media kit. “I didn’t even know what a media kit was!” she admits with a laugh. “A girl I follow posted about hers. I thought it was so smart. So I started researching it, and I made my own from scratch. It took me like two hours. It makes me look more professional.”

Despite his massive following, Dax Newman has not worked with many brands. But the ones he has collaborated with are owned by billion-dollar companies: Dior, Colgate, Old Spice. “I really thought working with Dior was so cool,” he says. “I have always loved Dior! The brands “don’t pay crazy, but they pay pretty well, which then lets me not have to worry so I can focus on making [pottery].”

Today, Newman is represented by The Society Management, the same agency that reps Kendell Jenner. He has a family friend who works on Alicia Keys’ team, so when it was time to pick a manager, that friend sat in on all his interviews to ensure that he received the best representation. So far, it has worked in his favor. “I think the most exciting part of all of this was signing with my modeling agency. That is something I have always wanted to try. I have always thought that would be cool — and then it happened!”


The pressure to post content is something with which all four have struggled. Miller arrives at work two hours early to shoot her videos. In the evenings, after a long day of dealing with middle-schoolers, she edits and posts them: Dance Fridays with a coworker, Math Mondays, classroom sticker reward reviews, teacher outfit checks. “I try to post about one a day. I used to only post Monday-Friday, but if I have content I can post, I’ll post [every day]. I don’t take breaks, because I get nervous that if I stop, my [follower count] will go down. It adds to the stress and anxiety in my life, but it also gives so many rewards. I am still trying to look for the happy balance.”

Newman is more laid back about it — now. “I used to post a lot of videos, but I haven’t posted in quite a while. Every once in a while, I take a month break just to desensitize from all the madness, and then I’ll go back into and start posting a bunch of videos.” He says has given up on obsessing over his follower count. “I used to worry about that a lot. I would check every day. Something the first manager I had said to me was, ‘If they don’t want to follow you, you don’t want them following you.’ If they aren’t engaged in what I’m doing, that’s okay. It’s not their vibe. It’s all good! I don’t think it’s anything to worry about.”

But Angulo worries. She has noticed that her TikTok videos aren’t being viewed as much as they were during quarantine. She believes it’s because more people took up skateboarding at the peak of covid — it is sport whose popularity ebbs and flows. However, she has seen a steady uptick in the number of her Instagram followers, and she thinks this may have to do with the fact that it’s easier to post photos daily than it is to create videos. But her Instagram following is still just 18.6K, a fraction of her TikTok audience. “I try to do three to four posts a week on TikTok,” she says. “A lot of influencers post twice a day. How do they have the time? It’s hard for me to even get three videos a week, because not only do I have to find someone who skates to film me, I also need to perform. I mess up, and I need to retake videos. And then I have to practice at the skate park, to try to advance and learn something new to show.” It’s not enough to keep performing “the same old skate tricks.”

Angulo creates the bulk of her content over the weekend; that’s when she has access to friends who can film her. But apart from her own content, she also needs to create content for the brands that pay her. “I really have to grind out these brand deals. It makes it difficult, because most of the content I am creating is brand content. I don’t always post that on my own page. I give it to the company [that I am working with], and they post it for themselves. I am struggling, trying to create enough content. I have tried to diversify. I snowboard, so I started doing snowboarding videos. Some of those have done pretty well. One just hit a million views. That has helped open up my target audience. I also want to do clothing videos. Girls are always telling me they love my style, so I have done a few of those. But they don’t do as well as my skate videos, because that is what I am known for. I need a little bit of a new niche to carry this. I am trying to expand my horizons, but it has been hard. A lot of my videos have not been doing as well as they used to, which is frustrating. It’s one of those things where I just need to play around and keep posting.”


TikTok has a Creator fund that pays content creators who have over 10,000 followers. Once you join, TikTok pays based on a percentage of your views. But rumor has it that after you join the Creator Fund, your follower counts drop, and your videos are not seen as frequently. Says Newman: “I have joined it maybe three of four times. Immediately after, it plummets my views. They go down to maybe 20,000 people seeing my videos, and I get maybe 10 cents.” Because of this, many influencers avoid joining. Green and Angulo were also at one time part of the Creator Fund, but now they too believe it negatively affected their viewership while providing insignificant monetary rewards. Miller is still in, and estimates she makes about $200 a month from it.

Instagram, meanwhile, has a bonus program and an affiliate program for users with large followings. Both are paid, and both are invitation only. Of the four influencers, only Miller received an invite. She says, “I post probably 30 videos a month on TikTok, and then I’ll post six on Instagram and will make triple the amount of money from Instagram. No one knows how they select who is in. I have a lot of friends who have more followers than me but have never been in it. It’s very weird. In their new affiliate program, you make money by posting links. I have to post an Athletica link. They’ll pay me per link and when people use my codes.”


By the end of the year, Miller would like to reach a million followers and snag a million likes on a video. But while she likes her social media side gig, she doesn’t see herself giving up teaching anytime soon. “I have seen a lot of other teachers on TikTok quit teaching. They have been able to transfer their following into investing into them, instead of them as a teacher. I am nowhere near that point. I don’t know if I want to do that. I get bored easily. I love teaching. It’s always been my passion, and I have a Masters in it. I went to school so long for this job, and I think I am pretty good at it. Besides, I just bought a house. I have to pay my mortgage every month. The extra money I make is nice, but it’s sad that I have to do that. I wish I could just get an actual salary where I could afford to pay my bills.”

As for Green, she hopes to make more money and continue eating out for free. “Last year, I barely made any money. I have been doing this for exactly one year now, and in that first calendar year I made like $4000. This year, I have made like a couple of thousand dollars. By the end of this month, I will have made another $5000. If I keep doing this and my followers continue to grow, I can charge more. I am hoping at some point, [being an influencer] will match my salary and I’ll feel like this is consistent enough than I can quit my job.” She and her boyfriend have discussed moving to Portugal. “I think it would be really cool to partner with an apartment complex in Europe to get our housing paid for. It would basically be, ‘How to move to Europe as an American ex-pat’ or whatever. Something like that would be really cool!”

She does not want to set too many monetary goals concerning her social media gig, but she does view @laurensandiego as her brand “I think the immediate reaction people have to influencers is to think less of them. They think they are just vain and post on social media just for likes. But I think [we] are business people and entrepreneurs trying to sell [our] brand all the time. You need be creative to keep people interested. I personally think of [this] as a business venture.”

Dax Newman is switching gears and creating a pottery learning app, though it is still in the initial stages. He recently shot a bunch of tutorials that will be included in the app. There will also be an interactive aspect where he can comment and offer tips and advice to users. Users will be able to share and upload their creations with other people. “It’s still a work in progress, but it should be launching relatively soon. After that, maybe I’ll start trying to think about opening a [pottery] studio where I can try to help teach people. I would love to have a home base in San Diego. I love it here. I am obsessed with it. For a while, I really wanted to go to school in New York for art, but that is something for the future.”

As for Alyssa Angulo, she plans on taking advantage of the opportunities TikTok has given her. “I am just going to see what happens. I am at a spot in my life where I don’t really want any set plans. I want the freedom to be able to do whatever I want for a few years. I have the opportunity right now to do that. I have been looking for a van, because I want to experience the van life. Eventually I want to start my own female skateboarding line. I have always wanted my own fashion line. There are not that many female skating brands out there, especially for more girly girls like me. So that is the end goal. For right now, I just want to work on my social media, travel, have fun, and experience life. Posting on TikTok changed my whole life!” Although I cannot see her when she says this, I can tell that on the other end of the phone, Angulo is smiling.

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