Videos – Trying Something New

I’ve talked a few times on this blog now about how big a fan I am of Youtube. (See Sorted Food and Dulce Candy.) Well, meeting Dulce after 7 years of watching her made me realize that I had spent 7 years wishing I could do Youtube myself and being too afraid to actually do it. Like with most things in my life, I’ve had ideas that I stewed on for months or years before I finally decided this week to just put them into motion. I tried my hand at two small film projects.

The first is actually for Instagram, not Youtube. As a creative challenge to myself, I wanted to see if I could make something interesting involving dance in the span of a 15-second Instagram video. This was the result:

I’m hoping to post something like this weekly with #DanceVignettes.

The second is a (slightly) longer vlog-style video for Youtube about an afternoon Proma, Radhika, and I had in the city last week.

As you can see, I don’t even really show myself in the video, and the music I used is a standard iMovie track, but the project was more about trying my hand at editing together film clips I took in a way that’s hopefully interesting! I’m definitely more comfortable writing (in fact, it’s kind of taking all my courage to post this just now, haha), but it was fun to dip my toe into something a little different. Also, if you read my first post on this blog, “Patrick“, you’ll see that video was something I was planning on incorporating from the beginning, so it was nice to come back to it from another angle.

What new things are you trying this week? Are you a vlogger or filmmaker? Do you have any feedback on my two little projects? Let me know in the comments below!

Advertisements

“The Sweet Life” by Dulce Candy Ruiz

Some quick notes before we begin:

  1. If you haven’t yet read my post on meeting Dulce, I recommend you pop over and read it first (just click here!) and then pop back over here to read this book review 🙂
  2. Also, if you haven’t read the book, this post does technically contain spoilers, although it isn’t a story-book, and I believe it’s still completely worth reading in Dulce’s own words, even if you do read this first.
  3. There is a giveaway at the end of this post so be sure to read all the way through!

I’ve never been a fan of “self-help” books. I know that a lot of people (including some of my family members) are fans, but whenever I’ve tried to read one, I couldn’t help but have cynical, snarky thoughts pop into my head every time I read a line like “with hard work you can do anything!” or “everyone has fears”. The Sweet Life is the first one that I’ve managed to read all the way through and actually really enjoy. In fact, as I read through it, I thought I would probably like to refer back to it again in time and made notes on Post-its – something I NEVER do.

My Post-it-riddled copy of of "The Sweet Life"

My Post-it-riddled copy of of “The Sweet Life”

What made the difference for me is that The Sweet Life is not just a self-help book. It’s an autobiography. Dulce tells her life story in the pages of this book, from her joyful early childhood in Michoacán, Mexico with her parents and three sisters, to their terrifying journey across the US border, to her insecure high school years when she acted like someone she didn’t want to be, to her days learning to appreciate discipline in the US army, and finally to her journey as a beauty vlogger on Youtube. (Just typing it out makes me realize what a full life that is already!) While the book certainly has those clichés, “Success doesn’t happen overnight” (pg. 44), “If you rely on others to provide you with confidence, you’ll never learn to provide it yourself,” (pg. 121), they don’t feel like platitudes because they come only after she’s told a story from her life that illustrates it perfectly. It’s clear that she hasn’t just picked up catchy phrases and put them in a book. She’s brought together the major life lessons she’s learned from every part of her life.

I mentioned in my post about meeting Dulce that I’ve followed the trajectory of her Youtube career almost since the beginning, and that I admire that after seven years and great success she’s managed to stay so real. In The Sweet Life, Dulce talks openly about trying to compete with other youtubers, being seduced by the prospect of brand deals, and getting doses of reality from her brutally honest viewers. It showed me that being true to yourself (which first requires figuring out who you are) isn’t always easy for anyone.

One of the most poignant parts of Dulce’s book for me was when she talked about being shy. She talked about putting on a “veneer” when she met new people because “people gravitate toward outgoing, over-the-top personalities” (pg. 69). Her habit of having super-bubbly first meetings with people while shaking inside is something I can relate to completely. I really like meeting new people and learning about them – that’s why I started this blog, after all – but at the same time, it scares me. I’m always terrified of lulls in the conversation (when I’m sure whomever I’m talking to is itching to get out of my company), and as chatty as I can be, I usually like to keep the big things in my life to myself or within a very small, trusted group of friends. In fact, when meeting new people, even friends of friends, I’m usually the opposite of myself – very, very quiet. I don’t think I ever thought about this cohesively until I read Dulce’s experience of the same. She’s managed to find a balance of allowing herself time to settle into a new group of people and learning to “relax and tak[e] a bit of friendly initiative” (pg. 71) that I hope, now that I have been able to think concretely about this, I can come to myself.

I really liked the “behind-the-scenes” view of youtubing that Dulce gave. Youtubers typically haven’t talked extensively about the kind of work that goes into doing it as a career and even less about the money, perks, and business deals they receive. Youtube notoriously hasn’t allowed its partners to disclose how much money they make off of it’s ad-based revenue-share program. This culture is slowly shifting a bit with Youtube becoming more mainstream and the media becoming ever more interested. (Recently, there was a bit of drama in the Youtube world when its most popular content creator, PewDiePie, had his income revealed by a news article. You can read this article and watch his response to find out more.) Dulce writes in her book about how to build a brand that’s based on yourself (she keeps a list of every major and minor milestone so she has something to talk about whenever anyone asks), when she realized that she could make money off of Youtube (two fellow vloggers pointed it out to her), and how much she initially made. She also writes about her video creation process, the disciplied schedule she keeps for herself, and her husband Jesse’s role in the business. All of this again makes Dulce seem very real. She’s not just some lucky overnight success – if you’ve followed her on Youtube or if you read this book, you’ll be able to understand the exact journey she took and realize it’s one that really anyone can emulate if they have the same dedication.

To conclude, Dulce’s book was definitely written for her viewers. It has anecdotes she’s touched upon in videos and the writing-style is such that I could imagine her saying the words in one of her vlogs. However, I do genuinely believe that anyone with a goal to work creatively can benefit from reading this book. Her exact experiences are unique but the emotions she has felt and the lessons she has learned are relatable. No matter where you are in your career – whether you’re still wavering between pursuing your creative dreams or choosing to work somewhere “practical” or you’ve already established yourself and have amassed a large number of followers – I believe this book will be reaffirming if not helpful to you. I highly recommend you check it out!

Have you read The Sweet Life? What did you think? Do you read other “self-help” books? Let me know in the comments below!

Giveaway: I bought The Sweet Life on Amazon but was lucky enough to get a free copy when I met Dulce at her launch. So now, I thought I would share the wealth and give away a copy of the book along with a couple of Dulce’s favorite beauty products. To enter, all you have to do is follow this blog, “like” this post, and comment below letting me know your thoughts!. I will choose a winner in a week and contact you when I do! Good luck! 🙂

Youtubers & Money: If you’re interested in finding out a bit more, Shane Dawson made a video recently called “HOW MUCH MONEY DO YOUTUBERS MAKE” (strong language warning) that spells it out pretty clearly and also talks about the new app “Vessel” which has a slightly different payment system for video content.

Dulce Candy

I’ve talked about Youtube a little bit on this blog before (check out my post on Sorted Food), but I haven’t really gone into why I love it so much. I think it’s an incredible platform that’s taken its time coming into the mainstream (in fact, many would say it’s still not quite there), but has somehow, quietly, become one of most powerful messaging services in our world today. Youtubers, at their best, are real people who talk directly to real people. They show who they are, share their interests, and get conversations going.

A prime example of this is Dulce Candy Ruiz. She started on Youtube as “DulceCandy87” in 2008, fresh out of a military tour in Iraq. She was one of the first of a large population of Youtubers known as “beauty gurus”, sharing tips and tutorials on how to apply makeup, do hairstyles, and put together outfits.

Dulce Candy Ruiz

Dulce Candy Ruiz

When I first discovered her, I was fascinated by the tutorials she and other girls were putting up. I learned so much about makeup just from watching them. As time passed, I felt like I got to know them better, and in my loneliest hours in college, I came to rely on their videos almost as friends. This sounds sad, but I think it’s actually a positive thing that has helped millions of viewers over the past 8-10 years. When I was at my lowest, I was able to watch people who were working hard every day to make their dreams come true and, slowly but surely, their dreams were actually coming true.

Dulce’s newest video: The Evolution of Dulce Candy | The Sweet Life

Dulce's note in my copy of

Dulce’s note in my copy of “The Sweet Life”

Yesterday I got the opportunity to meet Dulce at the launch of her first book, The Sweet Life, at the Youtube Space NYC.

The set-up for the Youtube livestream, before it began

The set-up for the Youtube livestream, before it began

“The Sweet Life” by Dulce Candy Ruiz (yes that is her real name!)

It was incredible. It really only struck me how long I’ve been watching her when I was there. I realized that I hardly watch her videos for make up tips anymore. Instead, my viewing interests have shifted to decor, filmmaking, and vlogs. However, I’ve continued to avidly follow Dulce because, as I mentioned to her, even as her filming, presentation, and editing quality has improved drastically with time, she still comes across as completely genuine. In fact, I think in some ways she seems more real now than she did 7 years ago. She speaks honestly about her failures and mistakes and explains how she had to change her mindset to overcome the roadblocks she put in her own way. It’s a powerful message for anyone, but I think it speaks to me especially because the biggest obstacle in my life is my tendency to internalize and overanalyze doubts other people have about me. Fear is a hard thing to overcome, but Dulce is an example of someone who has worked toward overcoming it little by little, year after year, (and continues to do so) to amazing success. One of the things she said was that “you can really achieve anything you want to achieve”, which sounds like a cliché, but when I look at the trajectory of her life and think about how she got to where she is today, it’s clear that there was nothing really involved besides her hard and continuous work.

During the livestream, I got to ask Dulce what advice she would give to creative people in terms of focusing their passions. She responded that it's important to know and do what you enjoy and just keep working on improving that.

During the livestream, I got to ask Dulce what advice she would give to creative people in terms of focusing their passions. She responded that it’s important to know and do what you enjoy and just keep working on improving that.

Dulce watches

Dulce watches “The Evolution of Dulce Candy”

One of the things I love about Dulce’s book tour is that she’s paired it with a sort of “good will” mission. At each book tour stop, she’s working with a local organization to do a bit of good in the area. For example, in New York, she had an event working with kids through the Police Athletic League on Monday. (I wanted to go but had to travel for business!) Her comment on it was, “I feel like if God blesses you with something, he does it for you to give back to people.”

Another bit of thoughtfulness – providing a delicious dinner from Los Tacos No. 1! (Not pictured: an on-theme

Another bit of thoughtfulness – providing a delicious dinner from Los Tacos No. 1! (Not pictured: an on-theme “Dulce de Leche Martini”)

A sweet treat – see what I did there? ;-)

A sweet treat – see what I did there? 😉

The event sponsor, Shea Moisture, sent everyone home with a goodie bag of their Fruit Fusion Coconut Water shampoo, conditioner, and body scrub

The event sponsor, Shea Moisture, sent everyone home with a goodie bag of their Fruit Fusion Coconut Water shampoo, conditioner, and body scrub

When I got to speak to her for a few minutes, I told her how much I appreciated how real she is in her videos. I mentioned this blog and she immediately looked up from signing my book and said “oh wow! What was the inspiration for that?” I told her that a lot of it was about the things she’d talked about – overcoming fear – which in my case was connecting with new people and sharing my writing with others. She told me she’d read and follow when I sent her the link which was unexpected but so sweet. When I mentioned my blog, she could have just given the obligatory “oh send me a link” response, but instead she paused to have an actual conversation about it. That was pretty cool.

It's a very cool thing to get to talk to someone you've followed and admired for so long

It’s a very cool thing to get to talk to someone you’ve followed and admired for so long

Dulce speaks to another viewer, and a new friend I made, Liliana :)

Dulce speaks to another viewer, and a new friend I made, Liliana 🙂

I’ve started reading The Sweet Life now and it will most likely be my next “Books I Read” post (even before Go Set a Watchman) because I’m zooming through it.

Do you watch Youtube? Have you gotten a chance to meet someone you truly admire? What was that experience like for you? Let me know in the comments below! 🙂

Sorted Food

This past Sunday, Sorted Food, one of the most popular cooking channels on Youtube, hosted a meet up in Central Park. It was a grand conclusion to their #LostAndHungry tour across the US and was done in the typical Sorted fashion – lots of British banter, lots food talk, and lots of real, engaged interaction with viewers.

Me with the iconic Sorted mini-fridge!

Me with the iconic Sorted mini-fridge!

The day was supposed to start around 10 am, but Ben, Barry, Jamie, and Mike arrived around 9:30 to a handful of viewers. I was glad that I’d gotten there early too because it meant that I was able to have a conversation with Ben about their journey through the US. Ben is the actual trained chef of the group, so it was also cool to talk to him about things like a great dish versus a great dining meal and how your experience of food is so predicated on things that surround it – whether you cooked the meal or bought it, who your company is, what setting you’re in, etc.

Me with Ben Ebbrell, the chef behind Sorted Food

Me with Ben Ebbrell, the chef behind Sorted Food

“If you asked me what my favorite dishes on this trip were, I could probably list five, but if you asked me what my favorite dining experiences were I could probably also list five, but they would be an entirely different list than the first set.”

At 10 am, the guys gave (and filmed) an intro for the crowd, which had now swelled to probably about 80. We all split off into four groups (one with each member of the Sorted team) and we went off on an adventure to find food. I was in Mike’s team, and our task was to find something sweet. We were in my neck of the woods on the Upper East Side, so I immediately thought of taking the group to “O Merveilleux“, a darling little French café and pastry shop where Proma and I often like to go to work during the day. As we walked, I got to meet some of the other attendees. One lady was visiting with her husband and daughter from San Francisco and happened to be in town for the meet-up. She told me she had grown up in France and taught me the correct way to pronounce merveilleux (Proma and I always just call it “the bakery”) and recommended a pastry called chouquette from Maison Kayser. As the day went on, I also got to talk to other viewers and find out about their favorite food spots in the city. One viewer, Emily Tan, is a food photographer and gave me tips on using my new DSLR. It was cool to meet people over this random shared interest that we had all come to independently.

Once we got to our destination, Mike bought us all some macarons and gingerbread cookies to share.

Mike examining the fare at O Merveilleux

Mike and some viewers examining the fare at O Merveilleux

Mike and I showing of the macarons

Mike and I showing off the macarons

As the day went on, we went to more local spots including Two Little Red Hens (where we sampled a divine Brooklyn Blackout Cake), Orwasher’s Bakery (where we admired their display of freshly baked breads), and Maison Kayser (where I finally got to try the delicious little chouquettes).

Beautiful, mouth-watering pastries at Maison Kayser

Beautiful, mouth-watering pastries at Maison Kayser

We also stopped by Cascabel Taqueria for my favorite spicy guacamole and tostada to balance out all the sweetness and went downtown to check out the Pride parade that was happening that day.

We were only at the Pride parade briefly, but we spotted Lea DeLaria from Orange is the New Black

We were only at the Pride parade briefly, but we spotted Lea DeLaria from Orange is the New Black

Along the way, I got to talk to Mike about his experiences in the US. He talked about driving through the western part of the country and trying a proper Louisiana crawfish boil in a viewer’s home (see the video). He told me he used to be a school music and drama teacher. He said he missed a traditional British breakfast, so I recommended Jones Wood Foundry for their bangers and mash. He was planning on visiting Boston on his own after NYC so I told him to go to Quincy Market and have a real clam chowder. (The guys had tried it in San Francisco, which, to a Boston girl, really doesn’t count.) It was very cool to be able to have real conversations over a few hours with Mike, instead of just a quick hi, hug, and a selfie like I imagine most meet-and-greets are. (I’ll try to post about my experience meeting Marcus Butler soon.)

With Barry and Jamie at the end of the day

With Barry and Jamie at the end of the day

It was incredible to me how friendly and easy to talk to all the guys were. I feel like if I were in their shoes, I might be nervous about meeting and having to interact with so many unknown people at once. When I stepped back, it was odd but awesome to have someone who I essentially think of as a ‘celebrity’ I watch on a show interacting with me, in ‘my space’, just because I brought him there, like it was normal. In the moment, though, it felt completely natural. I guess that’s the magic of the Sorted mission though. It’s just good people coming together over good food. What does it matter if they know each other or not? Why can’t we just meet some strangers with a common interest and have a good time? It doesn’t and we can. Good people + good food = good time. Simple and delicious.