Vietnamese-American influencer Vi Luong found, through trial and error, the secret to having work/life balance. The Bay Area native stays away from social media on the weekends and treats her career as a 9-to-5 job, no working after hours. As a former workaholic and social media marketing specialist, she gained experience on both sides of the business. This allows the Chapman University graduate to better understand the ins and outs of brand deals, partnerships, and social media management. The 25-year-old’s partnership with clothing brand Aerie in 2021 landed her a spot on TikTok’s Culture Drivers List, which highlighted the top 12 best brand and creator partnerships on TikTok.
The Untitled Magazine got to chat with Vi Luong about her goal to help young Asian-Americans advocate for themselves, an upcoming move to Portland, and her love for ube flavored foods.
Tell us about your background and what your household was like growing up?
I’m a first-gen Vietnamese American, who is originally from the Bay Area! I’d say my household was pretty hectic as many first-gen households are – making a life and raising kids in an unfamiliar country is bound to be stressful. As the oldest child, I was the guinea pig for everything and as a result, my upbringing was a bit turbulent.
What was it about content creation that first drew you in?
I was always a huge social media user, even as a kid. I think it was always a good outlet for me to express my creativity and voice, especially because at home I wasn’t allowed to do those things.
You graduated from Chapman University with a B.S. in Business Administration and Management – have you found that your education has assisted you in building your brand as a content creator?
100%! I would say that because of my degree, I was able to grasp how entrepreneurship and being a business worked a little faster. I also got a lot of exposure to how big corporations worked and that helped me be able to see from the brand’s side as well as the creator’s side. Additionally, I was able to learn the basics of Business Law and Accounting which has helped significantly.
Having previously worked in Marketing and then as a Social Media Marketing Specialist what were you able to take away from your work experience to make your content stand out?
Having done both, I was able to witness firsthand how companies bottleneck themselves and focus too much on spreading themselves so thin that they lose sight of their main bread-and-butter. I try my best as a solo digital entrepreneur to stick to my main bread-and-butter which are my TikTok videos. All other platforms, tasks, etc. come 2nd or after.
What caused you to make that switch, from being behind the scenes to being the person on everyone’s screen and working on social media full time?
Opportunity, and the ability to take more control of my life and outputs. My mental health struggles also made it pretty challenging to work in a corporate setting, under other people. Plus, I get to earn an income out of being me which is pretty sweet.
You go offline every weekend, when and why did you make this decision? How do you find it affects your lifestyle?
I made this decision about 6 months ago when I felt like my social media addiction was very negatively impacting my work and personal life. Since then, my life has become so much better in the sense that I feel like I am actually living in the real world as my authentic, unique self. It has helped me discover so much about myself, mental and emotional health-wise that I wouldn’t have if I stayed mindlessly scrolling 24/7 and comparing myself to others online.
Do you feel like content creation should be treated just like any other job, 9-5 Monday – Friday? Or do you still feel like the lines become a bit blurred when your job is documenting your life?
Oh definitely. I treat it exactly like a 9-5, Monday to Friday job. The lines were very much blurred to me the first 1-2 years I was doing this, but I learned over time that they really don’t have to be. I was making excuses and mindlessly participating in hustle culture. I also choose not to make content that is centered around documenting/vlogging my life 24/7 as I recognized early on that it’s a recipe for disaster, mental boundaries and health-wise.
This might sound super hippy dippy or weird, but I judge based on my gut. If it feels weird, I don’t share it. If I feel excited about it and it doesn’t infringe on my mental health, other peoples’ boundaries, etc. I share it.
What does work-life balance mean to you?
Work-life balance means actually having a life and hobbies outside of work. As a recovering workaholic, I saw work as my identity pretty much my whole life. Balance means yes, I have to work to live and make money but no, I don’t need to work 24/7 because who do I need to prove myself to? No one. Therefore, I’m going to go do some sh*t that makes me happy and excited to live lol!
What sort of things do you like to do when you are offline?
My boyfriend and I love to go eat at new restaurants, go be out in nature, and just sit on the couch and binge Anime series. Occasionally we will also go on mini road trips. This summer, I will be spending a few offline weekends, camping with friends!
In 2021 you were included in TikTok’s Culture Drivers List, which highlighted the top 12 best brand and creator partnerships on TikTok. Tell us a little bit about how it happened and what meant to you?
I worked with Aerie back in Spring 2021, and they were selected as one of the top 12! TikTok flew me out to New York where I was able to meet the VP of Marketing for Aerie and participate in a huge press campaign with her as well as 11 other VPs and CMOs of top brands and their respective creators. It was probably one of the biggest highlights of my career, especially because this initiative was the first of its kind and used as presentation material for all brands looking to activate on TikTok. To be seen as one of the first 24 faces for what will be a huge TikTok brand-creator economy was and is such an honor.
It means very much to me that they are able to see me and believe that there is space for them and that their voices deserve to be heard. Many Vietnamese (and Asian) Americans are raised to avoid conflict, say nothing, and fade into the background. I hope that through seeing me, they have the courage to speak up and advocate for themselves.
What are some AAPPI/Asian-owned brands and products you’re loving right now?
I am really into beauty right now, and I’m loving brands like Laneige, Peripera, Tatcha, and Cocokind. As for a foodie brand, I am a big fan of Omsom – they make Asian seasoning and sauce starter packets that you add to your meats and veggies! And they cover all sorts of flavors such as Thai, Viet, Japanese, etc.
We heard that you bought a house in Portland and that you’ll be moving at the end of this year/early next year. How are you feeling about leaving California?
I have never lived anywhere outside of California, so I am both extremely nervous and excited! It is a massive change, but I feel that this move is integral to my personal growth as I am not someone who loves change.
What are you looking forward to the most when it comes to this move? Any specific content you’re excited to film in Portland?
I am looking forward to just entering a new era of my life both personally and professionally! Just 1-2 years ago, I believed it was necessary to remain in LA to thrive professionally. However, with the pandemic and nature of social media nowadays, I no longer feel that way and am excited to be surrounded by a new environment. As for specific content, I am definitely documenting what it’s like to be a first-time homeowner as well as how the move is aiding in my self-discovery journey.
Food is a big part of your life, and Portland is one of the biggest foodie cities in the U.S. Have you had the chance to explore your future town, or is that something you’re looking forward to?
Yes! Back in August 2021, my boyfriend and I visited Portland for a week and were able to get familiar with the city and its food scene. Before the trip, I had never even entertained the idea of moving to Portland but within just 7 days, I was convinced. Something that was very important to us was a big Asian food scene which we were able to easily find!
We heard that you’re a big fan of ube flavored things. What is your favorite ube flavored food/ or drink you’ve tried?
Trader Joe’s had this ube ice cream that they only stocked in store for about a month last year. My boyfriend and I probably bought about 7 tubs of it and are still pissed that they took it away.
What advice would you give to other women interested in making content creation their full-time gig?
Limit your time spent scrolling on the FYP, explore page, etc. I think the best content creators stay true to themselves and don’t let outside voices influence their content/voice. Other than that, be consistent even when times are tough, and content isn’t performing. You don’t learn by stopping!
What’s next for you? Any collaborations coming up or events you’re looking forward to this summer?
I am very excited to be attending my first VidCon later this week! Other than that, I will be spending this summer doing some traveling with friends and family and mentally gearing up for a very busy Q3 +Q4.