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It’s harder than ever to become a popular YouTuber today because so many people are trying to make it big in the industry. But it’s not impossible, as evidenced by Melody Olivera, a Bronx native whose TikTok following multiplied to 118,000 after a single viral video last April. She has since scored a campaign with Nike that featured her picture on the JDsports storefront in Times Square.
Olivera, 30, has been on social media for more than a decade but only recently became a creator. During the pandemic, her job as the office manager for Work & Co, a New York-based digital products agency, became obsolete and she returned to an old hobby — roller skating. She filled her feeds with skate content as she did with many hobbies over the years. A huge resurgence in roller skating during the pandemic also added to interest in Olivera’s content.
Today she works as a product manager in the same company, but earns part of her income through sponsorships on social media.
The Observer: When did you start making videos?
Olivera: It’s funny because when I think back on it, I’ve kind of been doing it since I’ve been online. I’ve always enjoyed documenting memories and sharing them with other people. So it’s been interesting to see how that has evolved into something that’s lucrative for people. It’s great that I’ve finally crossed over to the other side after so many years.
When did you develop a following?
It was only last year so I don’t know much about it. Roller skating really shaped my content because when I started doing it – and obviously it was very popular at the time – all the pieces of the puzzle fell into place for me. Roller skating is very popular now, so people enjoy watching this type of content.
At what point did you feel like you transitioned from someone posting something they love to do to an actual content creator who posts videos for revenue?
An artist contacted me on Instagram and asked, “Hey, can I pay you to use my song in your video?” I was really confused. I understood that people did that all the time. Recording artists pay big bucks to use their songs. So when someone asked me to – and I had such a small following at the time – I thought: Oh wow I can make money by building things I might not have or building things I use. Later, when I actually exploded on TikTok, I got a chance to work with brands that I used a lot, like Nivea. It’s not like they’re telling me what to do or how to do it, but they give me the freedom to use it in a way that’s organic to my audience. When I found that out, I thought, “Okay, I’m an influencer now.”
Has your following grown steadily or skyrocketed after a viral video or mention?
I have a viral video. I bought this pair of detachable roller skates which is obviously a very new product. They can be attached to a pair of Air Force Ones, so I made this video of me putting on my roller skates at the airport. My fan base grew from probably 200 to 118,000 because of that one video. But I was also doing what TikTok recommended to gain popularity, so I was consistently posting content three times a day before this video came out.
I saw that you recently shot a campaign as a collaboration between JD Sports and Nike. How did this start?
You actually found me on TikTok. They reached out to me and let me know that they are doing a roller skating themed campaign that caters to the Gen Z audience and focuses on women of color and roller skating – which I absolutely loved because if you roller skate and the Having seen the media, they are not usually people of color which is very interesting because they are the ones who keep the sport alive. Roller skating has always been very prevalent in the black community. So I immediately thought That’s great.
It was essentially two videos that I worked on with them for the Need It Now campaign. In addition to these two videos, they chose me and another skater for a photo shoot. Then there were 10 to 12 skaters in total who would also do TikTok and Instagram videos for them.
What was your reaction when they contacted you?
I honestly thought it was a fake. I hadn’t really worked with any brands at that point. It took me a long time to work with brands. I only got free stuff for a long time. That would have been my biggest campaign, and then of course with Nike. Who hasn’t heard of Nike? And when I found out how much they’re offering, I was like, ‘okay, that’s fake.’ And that’s when I found out how much money content creators make. I think it’s stunning.
How much were you paid?
It was three different jobs, so it wasn’t a big lump sum. I won’t say exactly how much, but it was a good amount. They put me in their Times Square storefront, so they paid me a usage fee for it.
Can you tell me about other promotional opportunities you’ve had?
My first was for the Minions movie. NBC Studios reached out to me because they wanted me to use a TikTok filter, which they released alongside the theme song for the new film. I recently did Nivea TikTok videos for lotion products and a deal with Tylenol. I’ve turned down opportunities for things like vaping because I don’t support it.
I’ve also had more interesting opportunities as a freelance entertainer going to really great events. Last year I was flown to Saudi Arabia to go skating and got paid for it.
What was that for?
One night I was invited to a private after-party in New York City for Alicia Keys’ concert at Flippers. This is a roller rink in Rockefeller Center. Her husband, Swizz Beatz, is actually a roller skater. That was in the spring. Then in October, Flippers contacted me because Swizz Beatz was opening a roller rink in Saudi Arabia. It was closing weekend and he wanted to bring some skaters over from New York City, so he picked me and some other people and flew us over there for two days.
What’s next for you?
Last year I had no idea what I was doing, what was possible for me. Now that I know how lucrative my following can be, I hope to partner with more brands and introduce more people to the history and passion of roller skating. It’s an infectious sport.
This interview was originally published in The Creators, a newsletter about the people who power the creator economy. Get it in your inbox before it’s online.