Can you tell me about yourself?
I am Stephanie Villa, raised in the Bay Area (California). I am now living in Los Angeles. I am a Chinese American (first generation) and I make Youtube videos.
What did you do before creating content full time?
I was in grad school for Chinese medicine and also working as a personal assistant. I then started doing Youtube videos as a hobby and then it blew up from there. I actually ended up dropping out of grad school and pursuing Youtube full time.
Being a first generation Asian American, how did your parents handle you dropping out of grad school to pursue Youtube full time?
It was very difficult for them. My parents did so much to be where I am today and to have the life I have. All I wanted was to make them proud. Obviously getting a graduate degree, doctorate, higher education is expected. They wanted it for me so it would lead to financial stability which was what my parents wanted for me. So dropping out was never an option. I don’t know any of my Asian American friends that started grad school and then dropped out. But I had been in school for over a year and a half. The grad school program was 3 years and 9 months full time. 4.5 years is typical just for a masters and I was getting deeper and deeper into it. At the same time I was getting into Youtube and spending money on school but I realized I had this other option and had to make this difficult decision to drop out of grad school.
I was waiting for my sister to be in town. The family and I were out eating Chinese food and my parents asked me what was happening for the next semester and I laid it on them. My sister was so mad, she couldn’t believe I waited until I had come home and we were in a public place. I wasn’t planning on telling them then but since my parents asked me, it all came out. It was a really rough time but I had my sister as my support system.
What made you quit your job and school to start creating content full time?
I had a small steady income coming in from Youtube, I thought if I kept building on it, I thought it could become something. To be honest, I knew that I had the option to come back for the degree I was studying for. I would have been backtracked, but I knew I could go back to school. I wanted to pursue my passion.
I was following my passion and I was getting more opportunities from my passion. I was getting travel opportunities which was one of the reasons I stopped going to school. My school said you could only miss one class, if you miss two classes you get dropped from the class. They were very intense about it. I said you know what, I was wasting money and I wanted to pursue my passion. I also quit my personal assistant job when I moved to LA and that’s when I started doing Youtube full time.
What type of content do you currently work on?
My bread and butter is beauty content but I really love and enjoy doing traveling vlogs as well as my new series SippingSista. I also do fashion videos.
One of Stephanie's beauty content:
What’s currently your favorite content you created so far?
I think my Japan vlogs is one that I actually look back on the most and my Iceland vlogs. Vlogs are typically what I go back to and watch since they’re basically video diaries. I love learning new things about different places and architecture. I was actually an architecture major for 1.5 years. I love different styles in different places and I try implementing it into my vlogs. Travel vlogs are my favorite things to film and watch.
Do you have advice for people wanting to start a Youtube channel?
My advice is don’t start a Youtube channel if you are trying to make it a career or trying to make money. That’s not really going to happen right away. If that’s your end goal, to me it kind of seems obvious because a lot of times you see people not being themselves. People want to see your personality. If you are trying to be a cookie cutter idea of what you think a Youtuber is, you are not actually being yourself. People know, so be yourself. Don’t go into it for money but go into it because it’s your passion and that you want to connect with other people and share your passions. Otherwise it won’t work for you.
Also I understand that people copy other people’s styles but my advice is that you have to find your own style and your own editing style. Don’t be afraid to look kind of foolish. My first videos, I looked so nervous and you will be super awkward on camera, you just have to go for it.
My first few videos I had to take down since the audio quality was so bad. But for the most part my early videos are still up and in those videos it’s so funny because I talked so slow. I feel like it’s how I talk in real life but on Youtube you have to speed it up.
Also if you don’t get it right on the first take, just keep going over and over again until you get it right. There’s nothing embarrassing about repetition. Sometimes I mess up my words really hard and I just have to take a deep breathe and go okay, let me get what I am trying to say clearly. There’s no shame in trying over and over again.
A lot of people try to get subscribers using giveaways and to be honest, if you are just starting out and trying to do that stuff, I recommend not wasting money on giveaways and trying to buy followers. They’re not loyal, they are just trying to grab the giveaway you have and you will probably lose 95 percent of the new subscribers. Don’t worry about this kind of thing and just keep building your content. Personally it’s different things that work for different people.
I do giveaways sometimes too, but it’s for my followers and I am aware that I’m not gaining subscribers from my giveaways. I might gain subscribers within the 2 weeks that I do a giveaway but I also know it’s going to drop off, maybe 95% to 100% when the giveaway is over. People keep track.
How did you come up with the name SoothingSista?
I came up with that name before my Youtube channel. It was for my Youtube account when I had to make a handle. I was inspired by the name of a drink I had at a cafe/bar, it was a mint chamomile drink.
If I had known that my future was going to be in Youtube, not sure I would have chosen that name but its a cool name and I love it. I just kind of think it’s silly when people ask what my Youtube channel is and I tell them it’s SoothingSista. I wish I used my name, Stephanie Villa, even though it’s kind of common sounding.
How do you gain a loyal following?
I mentioned it before but you need to be yourself. I feel like I connect with a lot of people and especially a lot of Asian Americans because I kind of understand what they are going through, especially Asian American women in this world. It’s kind of like when I was growing up I feel like I talk about this quite a bit, but growing up I only had Lucy Liu to relate to in traditional media. I think a lot of girls looking on Youtube, to see a familiar face in a way and relate to. It’s why I have such a heavy Asian American following. I have lots of different people from different backgrounds but it’s primarily Asian Americans. I think just because they feel like I am their sister and their friend. People can relate to you if you are you. When you’re yourself you can build an online community and that’s where loyalty comes from.
Where do you find the inspiration to continue to keep creating content?
When it comes to the beauty world, it’s easy, there are so many products coming out. At the same time these things can become monotonous and I understand that. It’s just making videos that makes you happy in the end. I still get happiness from doing regular videos talking about skin care since its a passion of mine. I’ve been doing it for so long you have to do other things that make you happy, such as my SippingSista series.
What are some things content creators should invest in?
I would say, you don’t want people spending so much money but the camera is a big thing. I bought my camera used and I also used that particular camera up until 6 months ago from the very beginning which was many years ago, the end of 2013.
I think you should invest your time and in learning how to edit. Just go on Youtube and watch videos for free either about iMovie or Final Cut Pro. I started on iMovie which is free, there’s going to be free editing video software so you don’t have to spend money but invest your time in learning how to edit and also lighting. Investing time is the biggest thing.
Stephanie's Filming Setup:
Who are your role models and people you look up to in this field or other fields?
I look up to my friends who are so creative and such artists in their fields. Those are the people I really look up to on Youtube and obviously my parents and sister who are super hard workers.
What are things you should and shouldn't do in this industry?
Be genuinely yourself and don’t think you are ever above anyone else ever. Just be grateful for everything you have and be nice.
Do you have advice for people wanting clear skin?
Sleep is the biggest factor for me and drinking lots of water. It’s so huge, when I was in grad school, working and trying to do Youtube, sometimes I would get 3 hours a sleep a night and my skin was bad. Also stress was a factor but sometimes you can’t help stress.
Also wash your face before bed. Since you probably were out and about all day, even if you’re in your house, your skin is being exposed. Just wash your face before bed.
I know you travel a lot, do you have general travel advice?
Don’t try to fit too much into one trip. I feel like people go to Europe for example and they’re like, lets go to Paris, London, Barcelona and Italy all in 2 weeks. You're going to spend so much time getting one place to the next, you’re not going to experience that place. In 2 weeks, maybe to go to 2 cities and spend time there and walk around and relax so you can actually experience the city. I’ve tried to jam things in one trip and I can’t even remember my experiences. I remember those times where I was just sitting in a cafe, very much at my leisure and drinking an espresso, I’m truly there. So spend more time in one place, really immerse yourself in the culture.
I traveled abroad when I was 18, that’s why I left high school early because I knew I wanted to do that. I graduated when I was 16 (graduated in 2017 but I am class of 2018). This was because our local community college was going to Florence, Italy. I knew I had to save up money and have enough credits to go. So I graduated early so I could work at Starbucks. I worked there 5 days a week while taking classes at the local community college.
While I was in Florence I was making the mistake every weekend leaving Florence and going on those weekend trips. One time we took a 12 hour bus ride to Prague and we maybe stayed in Prague for 24 hours. I honestly don’t remember much from that trip. I really regret not spending more time in Florence and experiencing the city I was living in. I realized from that experience you should go to a place and actually stay there.
What are some random facts no one knows about you?
I feel like a lot of people know this about me but I watch a lot of gaming video walkthroughs on Youtube. I don’t watch that many beauty videos.
I also listen to at least 1.5 to 2 hours of podcasts a day. I listen to ‘Up First’ on NPR, 'Daily' on NYTimes, and I’m really into murder podcasts and stuff like that such as ‘Case Files, ‘Last Podcast On The Left, and ‘My Favorite Murder’. Also a lot of other podcasts.
Thanks so much for letting me interview you Stephanie! How can people learn more about you?