You may have seen him on your TikTok “For You” page or in a Lazada advertisement he made that features himself. Despite starting only in July, Arian Teo, a 20-year-old Film, Sound and Video student from Ngee Ann Polytechnic, has since produced 129 TikTok videos and garnered a total of 11 million likes. He also has over 699,000 followers on the popular video-sharing site. 

His claim to fame comes from posting bite-sized videos of creative photography and editing hacks that can be easily replicated by beginners. Featuring free and accessible editing apps, the end result often looks professional although the process to achieving it is simple.

When asked about his ideation process, he shared, “I can think of very, very random ideas and it just clicks in my brain. But of course there’s also some inspiration from other creators and movies, but I definitely still try to make it uniquely my own style.”

His content creation abilities did not come overnight. “I started with photography at around 14 years old, I was in Sec 2 back then, and I was just using a phone to take pictures,” he said. “I got inspired by a lot of my classmates because they did similar things as well. Then I realised that my pictures were not as nice as theirs because they were using a DSLR. So I invested all my money into my first camera.”

Though he only intended for photography to be a fun hobby, things took a turn when Hypebeast, a prominent news source for streetwear culture, reposted one of his photos for their “Hypebeast Out There” segment on Instagram which features landscape photos and non-hype related stuff.

Arian’s landscape photo of Chinese Gardens
Photo credit: Arian Teo

This provided a huge boost to the exposure of Arian’s Instagram photography, propelling the start of his career.

“It’s a bit of luck, actually. So one of my posts got featured by Hypebeast. And my following grew extremely fast after. Before I slept, I had 5,000 followers and the next day when I woke up I had 11,000 followers… As my portfolio and my following grew, some brands started to approach me. Now I can say that I’m doing it somewhat full-time, so it turned from a hobby into a career.” 

Since then, he has taken the opportunity to steadily grow his Instagram presence while keeping an eye out for potential opportunities and upcoming platforms. Inspired by his friend and fellow local content creator widely known as YK, Arian started his TikTok channel.

“I was quite free during the circuit breaker, so I thought okay, why not I post my content there as well? Because I already have content on Instagram, it’s just another platform. But when I started posting on TikTok, my growth was not as fast as YK, I was getting 100 followers in 2 weeks. But then I still kept posting, and the growth sort of snowballed.”

He stated that the success of his TikTok account has been his greatest achievement up to date, as it has opened up many new opportunities for him to work with big brands such as Citibank and Piaget for commercial work. Currently, he is also earning enough to sustain his lifestyle and pay for his school fees.

But Arian is not allowing his early accomplishments to go to his head. Those who have met him often describe him as modest and unpretentious. 

“People think that all content creators who have a big following are always very extroverted and outgoing, but I’m actually very reserved and introverted,” he said. 

His success does come at a cost though, as his focus on commercial work has affected his grades in school. “Because my outside world is so hectic, I have no idea what’s really going on for my academics,” he admitted.

While he feels like he could have done better in his studies, he does not have any regrets. “Everybody studies to get a job outside. Since I already have a job outside then I would definitely focus on that.”

While many others have only managed to get their 15 minutes of fame on TikTok, Arian has managed to sustain his growth and continues to thrive as a self-made content creator.
Photo credit: Arian Teo

Edited by: Winny Wint Htae
Proofread by: Anmi Chou Shigeta