Bare with me, this is a lengthy one.
Ever since I learned how to talk, I’ve always wanted to become a famous singer. I lived about 90 percent of my childhood life watching the Disney Channel, and I remember seeing all of the Disney pioneers such as Hilary Duff and Raven Symone sing and dance on their shows. I remember thinking, “I can totally do that.” At only 8 years old, I proposed, what seemed to me, a flawless plan to my sister in the bathroom:
- I can sing. (I think)
- Get discovered
- Become famous
- Be an actress on the Disney Channel!
Of course my sister shot it down. She asked me to sing a few bars first, but after .5 seconds into my “audition,” she shot me down and said I couldn’t sing and that I wasn’t good enough. Did she completely destroy my confidence and self-esteem? Hell yeah. Was I discouraged from pursuing my dream? Not one bit.
Throughout elementary school, I’ve auditioned for tons of roles in school plays, but always landed a narrating or supporting character role. I played Narrator #3 in Goldilocks and the Three Bears and Feduciary Longdrop in The Bee Tree. Good times, good times… I didn’t mind doing small roles. Acting wasn’t really my thing, anyways. My real big break was in 5th grade when The Cheetah Girls came out on Disney Channel and man, was I obsessed. I kind of feel ashamed about it, now that I’m looking back on it. Anyways, three of my friends and I were basically the Cheetah Girls of George Washington Elementary School. We performed the choreography and songs everyday at recess. EVERY. DAMN. DAY. I’m talking morning, recess, lunch, and free time at PE. at the end of the year, we knew every song backwards and forwards. Of course we performed in the school talent show, and we were basically the main event and loving every moment in the spotlight. I honestly wish someone recorded it because we did not practice with a mirror at all…
Fast forward to about 7th grade, my mom enrolled me in voice lessons in addition to the piano lessons I’ve been taking since 1st grade (sorry, forgot to mention that!) This was my first real step into chasing after that singing dream. However, I started these lessons without the intent of using them to get famous. I just wanted to sing, honestly. It was fun. I did it for six years. This is where I got my real performance experience. My teacher liked to put on recitals and benefit concerts and it gave me a real chance to regularly be onstage in front of a live audience. There where times when I nailed a piece, and definitely times where I bombed it and blacked out. However, with each success and failure, I improved. I was exposed to choreography techniques, blocking and staging, plot, stage presence, everything. Although the environment wasn’t too strict and everything was still quite a bit makeshift, it was a great experience. I was able to meet, work with, and perform alongside The Three Tenors, Gabe Bondoc, and Christina Luna of The Luna Co. I continued to take lessons until I graduated from high school in 2012. In addition, in high school I was also regularly active in a dance production called Mission Fusion where I learned more about being on stage, choreography and creative processes, and dance!
During my sophomore year of high school, my passion for wanting to become an actress really intensified when I got a call from a recruiter from Barbizon Acting and Modeling in San Francisco. I never really heard of the company, so of course I was really excited to do this! I went in for an interview and audition for their academy, and I got in! I’m pretty sure everyone got in as long as they tried, but I remember feeling super excited doing my first cold read in front of my loving and supportive parents. I think this was the first time that they saw I really wanted to pursue something. Of course, going to an acting school was going to be overkill on my schedule with going to high school, music lessons, and extracurriculars. I didn’t care. I wanted to do this anyways. So, every Saturday, I committed over 6 hours to Barbizon Acting and Modeling school.
Barbizon definitely challenged me in a whole new away. In fact, it actually turned me away from pursuing acting as a career. The program was actually driven by criticism rather than positive feedback. I guess it worked to some degree. If you did something right, you felt really good about yourself. If you did something wrong, the teachers made sure that you felt like shit. I’m sure that destruction wasn’t their intention, but it came to a point where I did not enjoy going to class anymore. I was only going because I paid for it. Every class felt like a shark tank and that a bunch of kids and teens like me were all expected to fight each other. After my program with Barbizon was over, I went on to compete at the International Performing Arts Conference. I didn’t get to actually go to the conference because of the lack of funding and sponsorships, but I got a cool experience out of the classes. I walked my first runway, had my first few professional photo shoots in San Francisco, and met new friends who had the same dream as me. That’s the part I don’t regret.
After my chapter with Barbizon ended, I did not really do much performing after that. By this time, I was a senior in high school and I was focused on going to college and student government. I had a final performance with my vocal group which ended with me faking a really bad Italian accent and a 7-minute song in Italian. Granted, I ended up making up a lot of the words and repeating phrases, but it sounded legit to me. I also competed in a Glee singing competition hosted by Wild 94.9 and got to meet Harry Shum Jr. and Dijon Talton. I didn’t win, but it was a fun experience!
Now onto my college years, I did some performing in my first two years. I joined an A Cappella group called Isang Himig Multicultural A Cappella and performed in a large production called The Pilipino Cultural Celebration. The first two years of college were pretty slow and I felt like I needed something to do. One day I got bored and decided to start a YouTube channel. I attempted to start one back in 2008, but decided against it because my sister told me I would look stupid. I highly regret that decision.
The driving force that started my channel actually stemmed from a bet that I made with my two best friends in a Bambu chain restaurant. So, basically, I told my friends that I was thinking about starting a YouTube channel and one of my friends made a bet with me that if I started my channel, I needed to get 100 subscribers by the end of the year, or else I would owe him dinner. If I pulled it off, which I did, he would buy me dinner! Challenge accepted.
So then, I started making videos out of everything. My very first filming setup was a bunch of boxes stacked on top of each other, a DIY tripod I made out of a blue SOLO cup and my iPhone 4. What a time to be alive. I made about 20 videos using my iPhone 4. I started out by making music covers on my music channel. It was fun, but it was hard pulling off a perfect run in one take. On the music channel, I uploaded my first vlog and first beauty video. I received a lot of good feedback on both videos, and I decided that this is the direction that I wanted to take my channel in: beauty and lifestyle. I opened a new channel, originally calling it Not A Beauty Guru, but I figured that name was too long, so I shortened it to TrinaTells. I wasn’t to crazy about the channel name, but whatever. It was short and easy to remember. I started doing monthly reviews, vlogs, hauls, and random videos. It was honestly so fun. I was having the time of my life. I did not pay attention to how shitty my editing or filming technique was. I was just focusing on having the time of my life. I happily lost sleep over working on and editing videos, and pretty much in that moment, nothing mattered more. I made new YouTube friends such as RodneyRock, Adriana Renee, Youth Radar, and ThisDollLex. They were all total strangers, but we talked as if we knew each other for years.
When the summer was over, I went back to college, and I was determined to keep doing YouTube and to keep putting content out there. It was easier said than done. For a brief moment, I was excited to share my videos with friends and family, but then I remembered how much pain and embarrassment I went through in high school when I wanted to pursue nail art. People would pull up my portfolio pictures and make fun of how shitty my nail designs were. People were very toxic and critical of each other in high school, and I wasn’t really down to feel that humiliation again. Because of it, I decided to keep my YouTube life under wraps and became my own Asian Hannah Montana.
I ended up telling a few close friends about my channel, and of course they were super supportive about it, but I was still very insecure. Once junior year came to an end, during one of the last hangouts with Isang Himig, one of my friends basically outed me in front of the whole group and people started watching my videos in front of my face. Because my fear of people laughing and making jokes really got to me, I broke down and froze and cried. I’m sure my friend had really good intentions, but at the time, I was traumatized. Now that I look back on it, I’m really grateful it happened. I needed the extra push to get my content out there or else no one would have known about my channel and I would not have grown as fast as I did.
By senior year, pretty much everyone in the Filipino Student Association and my coworkers knew I had a channel. I knew people watched, but I was pleased to know that I was never put in a situation where people talked shit about my videos. In fact, people thought it was pretty cool and wanted to get involved. TrinaTells was blowing up exponentially. I went from 300 to 500 subscribers in a very short few months. I also had the pleasure of having a few content creator networks such as Freedom approach me to join their network. I also worked with Pura D’or by doing product reviews with them.
After graduation, I wanted to let go of the name TrinaTells because it kind of bothered me. It was neither cool nor catchy, so I just ditched the name and changed it to Katrina Torrijos Vlogs. Along with the name change, I decided to rebrand my channel and relaunch my blog. I wanted to take YouTube more seriously and put more energy and time into it.
So, here I am today, constantly working on my blog and videos, only taking breaks to go to my day job at Urban Outfitters. I’m currently feeling the same spark that I felt when I first started my channel, except I’ve taken more of a career and business approach to it. I did research on marketing and SEO strategies, reached out to my peers that created their own startup companies and asked for advice, branched out to YouTube and blogger support communities, and even create a network of my own called UCSC Content Creators.
I feel like I’m seriously onto something with my channel and blog. I just know that every time I work on either project, I feel like this is what I am meant to do with my life, or at least something that has to do with my career. Don’t get me wrong, it took me awhile to accept YouTube as a possible career path for me. I was in denial for a few years, thinking I was going to pursue a career in either social work, youth development, juvenile delinquency, or marketing. I could never make up my mind with what I want, and I came to realize that it’s because I had one true passion all my life: to be a performer and inspire others to pursue their passion. No matter how hard I tried to get away from that, life always pushed me into that direction. I feel like a fool only now listening to my instincts and my heart.
As of right now, I am looking into pursuing a career in talent and creative management where I would be able to work with artists and creators and direct and present opportunities to have their work showcased to the community. It’s kind of like a talent agency, but one that does not exclude based on talent level or experience. I get so much inspiration when I see people post their artwork online. I realize that it takes so much courage to do that, and I wish I had that courage when I first started my channel. I feel like if I had started sharing sooner, I would have learned more about YouTube sooner and the opportunities that would come from it.
But, I am where I am for a reason, and I can only hope that my love and passion for performing and inspiring only grows into something beautiful that I can share with everyone, on and off YouTube.
But, for now, let’s just keep hitting that play button.