Interview by: Orchee Sorker | August 2, 2022
With over 1M followers and 63.7M views on TikTok, content creator Sri (recognized as SimplyySri) sits down to talk to HAZZE MEDIA about her experiences as a South Asian creator, inspirations, representation on screen, and advice to young brown creators.
To anyone who may not know you, how would you introduce yourself?
I'm a brown girl with very big dreams who tends to overshare on the internet, but with the intention of having other women like me feel seen and heard. I do comedy. I do rants. I do story time skits with the intent of making people's experiences like mine feel seen and validated…cause sometimes we don't see that stuff on the screen.
What made you start creating content? Why were you driven to TikTok specifically? How did you get so good at comedy? Any inspirations?
Growing up, I always felt like a content creator. I grew up watching Lilly Singh and Liza Koshy when I was in middle school. So, I would pull out my iPod touch and pretend I was like a YouTuber or something. I always felt like an artist. I'm a dancer as well. I've been dancing for over a decade. Emotions and feelings are how I express myself. I started creating because it was the pandemic. It was 2020. I went to community college, so I was already home and I'm like, ‘I have all this free time on my hands and TikTok is booming.’ When I looked at the platform, I saw people like Charli D'amelio and Addison Rae. I was like these white girls are just dancing, and they have millions of followers. Let me do that. So, I started off by dancing and I was like this is not my crap. The people do not enjoy this at all. Then, I started taking a look at the brown community and seeing what was there and what was missing. I just started creating based on that…based on what I wanted to see, what felt like home to me, & what made me happy. Then, I was able to build traction and start seeing when I shared stories about my culture or like growing up with brown girl struggles. That's when I started to see my page grow. I realized there is a community for this. This community needs to see stuff like this to know they're not alone. That's what really pushed me into content creation. Now that I can do it kind of like a part-time job, it's a thing that I'm so grateful for because it didn't start out that way. I'm super lucky to have that.
I take a lot of inspiration from other artists. Something artists struggle with is not comparing themselves to another artist or creator, but to see what they are doing and ‘why is it good or why do you enjoy it?’ Like I said, I grew up watching a lot of Lilly Singh and Liza Koshy so 100% they were my inspirations, and the way they portray comedy.
I also take inspiration from my personal life. I see a lot of dumb s*** my parents and family do. I'm like, ‘how can I mix that with comedy to make all our brown trauma filled kids feel better?’ I take a lot of the personal experiences and mix that with comedy so that we can laugh at it and feel better about it.
How do you maintain consistency and balance between social media and life? Do you have a set schedule for creating content, filming, posting, etc?
Barely, it's very difficult. I'm a student by day and also a content creator by day because I hate staying up at night. It's this balance game of how much do I kind of fulfill my academic goals, but also my personal goals. So, I guess one thing I had to learn throughout my two years of content creation is there is a time and place for creating content and there's a time for enjoying your life. Enjoyable moments in your life do not need to be documented and boring moments in your life can be documented. Some of my greatest ideas come from really bad moments. It's just like finding this balance game of ‘When is it appropriate to film? When is it appropriate to create? When is it also appropriate to just let yourself breathe and be a human being?’ Because not everything needs to be shared on social media.
In the beginning of my life content creation, two years ago, I made a rule for myself to post a video every day that really helped with my artistry because these are TikTok videos. They are 15 to 60 seconds long. It's not too much work sometimes. Just to have that goal of a video a day, like helped me develop my artistry. About a year ago, I realized that just wasn't sustainable because I had too much going on in my life in other arenas, and I wanted to make quality over quantity. I reduced it to three to four times a week. I try to allow my intuition and artistry to lead me. I feel like good videos root out in moments of impulse or in the intuition of an artist. I wanna allow myself to have those feelings, but I also like to have discipline. So I make sure I'm actually creating content for my viewers.
Usually when everyone talks about representation on screen, it is referring to the Hollywood industry. However, most of the content people consume today is on social media. Do you think diversity and representation in these platforms matter? What is it like being a POC in the social media industry? Going off of that, do you think the South Asian community needs to change the way it views creative careers?
It's important because I think it allows you to dream, you know? Growing up, seeing Lilly Singh and Liza Koshy and those creators, I was like, “oh my gosh, I can be in a position like that.” Social media's not my end all be all. I wanna go beyond that. I wanna develop my artist. I wanna enter the entertainment business, but social media allows it to be a stepping stone so that I could achieve those dreams. Representation is important in this because you wanna see people like you who are either telling stories you've also experienced or just doing general things to relate. When you're a brown girl & see another brown girl, you feel something…you're like, “that's me.”
Yeah, I do think the South Asian community needs to change its views. I faced a lot of backlash from my family or not even my immediate family, but family friends about creative careers, cause it's considered unstable right. Being an artist is very vulnerable. You're talking about a lot of personal experiences. It's definitely seen in a negative light in comparison to STEM based jobs or careers. Artists have a lot to give our community. They give us a voice that allows us to feel things in a different light. I think we're getting there, but I think we still have a long way to go. Personally, for example, I also work as an intern as a product designer. I remember when family friends were advising me, “You have a social media presence. No one would wanna hire you because you share so much on the internet.” They definitely box you if you're creative or an artist vs. if you're someone who's logical and strategic and you're picking a job “that's good”.
What are your upcoming goals for yourself and your brand? Would you ever like to have a talk show of your own?
Being an artist is not always stable. I definitely would love to go full time with this or full time with my art. Until then, I'm kind of playing this balancing game of my skill sets in academia that are valued in the market and my passions that are kind of valued in the market. If I could sustain a living based on just my art, I would do it. I want to continue creating content. Someone told me this. “If you look back at a content you made like a year ago or six months ago or three months ago, and you're cringing, that's a good thing because that means you've grown.” So I still look at content I made like a while back even like a month ago and I'll be like, “Ew, what was I thinking?” That's a good thing because my artistry continues to develop. For my brand goals, it would be just to continue creating content that is valuable to the viewer so they feel more seen, heard, or give them even 30 seconds of joy.
I wanna move on to YouTube, but YouTube is like a different ball game. It's so hard with school because it requires a lot more time than TikTok blatantly said. It's a very ferocious game for sure. I go to acting classes on the weekend in the city because I really wanna get into acting and the entertainment business. That's definitely another stepping stone for me to develop writing, acting, because I wanna enter the entertainment business as more than just a content creator.
A talk show would be such an honor. That would be so cool. Yes, like that's been my entire goal. I wanna extend beyond just making videos that make me happy, but can actually impact people. To do something like a talk show or anything beyond my account would be such an immense pleasure.
What is one advice you'd like to give to South Asians, especially POC women in this industry?
Take inspiration from others. Allow yourself to feel the energy of other artists, but never compare yourself because the skill sets you bring to the table and the person you will be is so unique and powerful to the person next to you. Comparing yourself and comparing your videos, your photos, or whatever is gonna do an immense disservice to your creativity. Be inspired by everything around you, but create what feels natural and beautiful to you because ultimately that is what will get you to where you need to be in the long run.