Two years ago, Cyrene Quiamco probably wouldn’t have been able to stand in front of a group of people without breaking into a cold sweat. But today she’s flown from her home in Little Rock, Arkansas, north to Bentonville to speak in front of a group of strangers.
The shy 27-year-old has something this group of middle-aged advertising executives craves: a natural ability to reach elusive, picky, easily distracted millennials on their social media platform of choice—Snapchat.
The reason for her success is obvious within a few minutes of meeting her. Cyrene is one of those people who treat you like an old friend, they've known for years. She’s bright, bubbly, enthusiastic, a little quirky and sincerely, deeply unafraid to be herself.
It’s not surprising that her followers can’t get enough.
And the elegant beauty of it all? While Cyrene gets paid to doodle and make Snaps, she doesn’t feel like she’s working. She’s found her own particular niche on the internet, a place where she gets paid, and succeeds, by being her most natural self. It’s the type of existence we all aspire to, and Cyrene has found it.
“I like to make a living while I am actually living,” she said. “You're not really making a living if you’re not really living and being happy.”
Turtles, Triops and Little Rock Adventures
Every day or two, Cyrene stitches together a new video featuring little details of her life: her triplet turtles, Lee, Em and Aye, or the new baby Triops she’s raising in a cup of water. Sometimes she goes on adventures around her home, but much of the time Cyrene and her family just goof off around the house.
Where some online amateur artists succeed because they are singers, dancers, models or athletes, Cyrene’s gift is her unmistakable sincerity. She’s just so excited about the tiny details of her day that you can’t help but tune in for her next installment.
“I like telling people about my life,” Cyrene said. “I’m just myself and for some reason people started following me. It seems like I am just talking to one person; it hasn’t sunk in that I am talking to tens of thousands of people.”
Making Everyday worth Watching
Cyrene has a genuine understanding of the kind of fun, amateur and sometimes hokey content that succeeds on social media. “I think she makes everyday things interesting,” said Adam Gausepohl, CEO of PopShorts, the first social media advertising agency to discover Cyrene. “She'll put the effort in into making every day of her life a story, and when she works with brands, they are just tagging along for the ride almost. It's not as if she's making great stories because the brand is involved, she's creating great stories every day.”
For example, when Cyrene was hired to make a Snapchat ad for Burger King, she developed and drew an animated game. Followers had to feed Ele, an animated little animal Cyrene features in many of her Snaps, dozens of Chicken Fries while the “Chicken Dance” played. The Snap was engrossing and addictive. Most people watching probably had no idea Cyrene had been paid to feature the chicken fries. Her Snaps have been recognized by the Streamy Awards and the Shorty Awards, which both honor social media talent.
“I Snap about the things I’m interested in, so it feels easy to talk about a company,” Cyrene said.
“I need it to be quick and fast,” she said. “The ThinkPad has a built in stylus and it has a pressure-sensitive screen. I can do a quick sketch, I can erase. It is fast making that visual storyboard on my laptop and it makes it faster to go back and make changes.”
But, like any creative person, the ideas can dry up. Cyrene often turns to the11thsecond.com, a community of other Snapchat stars she created. Or sometimes she just tunes out.
As Cyrene tells the story, she never intended to be a Snapchat star. She was sitting at her corporate desk job a few years ago when she started experimenting. “It was like me just drawing pictures and then me doing selfies,” she said. Her charm caught on quickly. Her friends started talking to their friends, who then talked to their friends. Soon she was sending videos and doodles out to hundreds, then thousands of followers.
“When I had a full-time job I was away from my family all the time. I would sit in my cube and think, ‘Is this going to be me the rest of my life?’” she said. “What fuels me is that I want to live life, make money and also be with the people that matter to me.”
Cyrene is the type of person who isn’t ambitious for the sake of recognition. She just wants to do work that means something to her. She’s redefining the whole concept of ‘work’ and at the same time, also redefining the way people connect and communicate.
“Whenever I was working for someone else I was working for someone else's dream,” she added. “If I am going to put work into it, I want it to be my dream.”
Rahil Arora leads Lenovo’s Customer Stories program.