Having decided to give social media a try, Christi Steyn launched her TikTok channel during lockdown only to discover that her poetry and creative stories were becoming global trends.
In just one year, the content creator has amassed an audience of more than 700,000 followers on the platform, with her fanbase also growing rapidly on Instagram. Sharing spoken word pieces through her poetry reading sessions, Christi’s unique creative style continues to inspire audiences around the world.
Learn more about Christi and her latest projects in our exclusive interview below. Get her insights on creating content on social media as well as her thoughts on the important work/life balance as well as her advice for young influencers seeking to make an impact online.
Your audience has grown exponentially these past few months. How did it all come about?
Christi: Like any sane person in quarantine, I downloaded TikTok and was inspired by the creativity and talent on the app. I started doing a few of the “trends” to kill time, but I did not think anything would come of it. I forgot about it a little and continued working with brands on instagram and doing online auditions for my agency. I decided to perform some of my monologues and the Shakespearean Sonnets that I have memorized over the past few years studying theatre and cabaret. The result was quite surprising and I got a large amount of views and followers. People resonated with my material and started sending suggestions and messages of other poems and scripts. It grew from there and I started writing and reading my own poetry too.
Some of the poems blew up and went viral, I am still a little shocked by all the growth, but the community and followers that I have are pretty incredible and encouraging.
What’s your take on the work/life balance? How do you find time for yourself?
Christi: I am still struggling to find a balance, but I feel myself improving. As a creator without a 9 to 5, it can be daunting to feel like work never ends. I am always searching for new material and ideas. Once you make a viral video, it raises the bar for every video after that. Emails and messages are endless, so it’s good to have a specific time of day to check my inbox instead of refreshing every five minutes and creating anxious lists in my head.
I have to force myself into a schedule. I read 50 pages of a book every day, I go to the gym or do yoga, and I try to FaceTime my friends/family frequently. It’s truly important to take the time to create structure in your life. After we graduate college, anyone running their own business needs a self imposed regiment. It gives far more than it takes.
As a content creator, what do you find most inspiring about your work? What do you enjoy the most?
Christi: In a world that can appear terrifying, there is beauty hiding in each day, waiting for you to find it. I am moved by the power of words and how we can relate to imagery. I realised that you should not try to create a viral video, but do what moves you and what you think is beautiful. People know when you aren’t being authentic. I believe that poetry has the power to convey feelings that we did not know we had.
What would be your advice to young influencers that are looking to make an impact online?
Christi: Don’t start creating content for likes, views, or follows. Create content that you genuinely enjoy creating or something that you are interested in. Passion comes first, and when you have something that makes you sparkle, other people will see that, and they will want to be a part of that magic.
Hate also innately comes from people that project their insecurities on you. They are simply ignored. You do not need to overthink everything, believe it or not: people want to see imperfect and “real” people.
When you make mistakes; learn from them and don’t be too hard on yourself. Think about why you want to create. If the answer is merely to have followers and to be “famous” you will never feel fulfilled.
Are there any social media influencers that you look up to or would like to collaborate with in the future?
Christi: Amanda Gorman (@amandacgorman) has certainly been keeping my dreams wide awake, especially after her spectacular performance as the youngest inaugural poet. I am not sure whether or not she sees herself as an “influencer” but I would love nothing more than to collaborate with her. If there is someone who I look up to from an “aesthetic” perspective, it is definitely Zoe Isabella (@zoelaz). She has an effortless, vintage feel and writes in a very real and raw way.
What have you got planned for 2021? Any exciting projects we should be aware about?
Christi: There are so many platforms that I want to dive into. I have been asked to download my audio files on Spotify, and that can lead to the start of a podcast. I love performing poetry, but my next step is writing more of my own. There is a book in the works, and if all goes well, I will publish it in a few months. An online store is also on the horizon, with some products that I believe my audience will enjoy.
I can’t wait to go back to my family in South Africa for a few months. Home always offers the most inspiration.
What inspired you to do what you do?
Christi: My love for poetry started to bloom the first time I saw poets perform their work on YouTube. I remember watching button poetry in my bedroom until late at night. I would play them on repeat and each time the words would have the same effect on me. I would watch Sarah Kay, Phil Kaye, Doc Lubin and Brenna Twohy until I knew every line. Later, I would perform some of their poems for auditions or open showcases and people seemed to appreciate all of them.
I have an enormous love for theatre, film, poetry and books, and being able to combine all those mediums is a dream come true.
When the rain is pouring outside, or the snow is hugging the window like today, inspiration comes in as an old friend. To crank up this atmosphere, a candle is brought to life and gentle piano runs in the background of my tiny Manhattan apartment. This is how I create my happy space. It is easy to get swept away by the overwhelming amount of material that we are bombarded with every day, yet inspiration is everywhere and if you cannot find it, you must create it.
Perhaps they are one and the same.