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Meet Naomi Leanage, a UofGH alum and rising TikTok star
Never give up on your dreams. Keep persevering. It might take a lot longer than you wanted, but keep pursuing it and keep showing up.
Photo courtesy of Naomi Leanage
Near the end of 2019, Media and Communication Studies alumna Naomi Leanage uploaded her first post to the video-based social network TikTok. The 60-second clip featured Leanage shopping while providing commentary with her signature humour. In two days, the video received 600,000 views.
Leanage made it her new year’s resolution to post to the platform every day. Her content, which focuses on lifestyle, comedy, fashion and travel, resonated with viewers right away. A month into her resolution, she had her first viral video.
“It was a vlog of me getting my nails done. It was so random, but voiceover vlogs were very new to that platform, because at that point it was still a dancing app,” recalled Leanage. “It got 6 million views, and I thought, ‘Whoa, what's going on?’”
Now, less than two years later, Leanage has more than 465,000 followers and is partnering with major global brands. But her biggest accomplishment is achieving a goal she has been working towards for years: becoming a self-employed full-time content creator.
“I have no doubt this is what I was created to do and what I’m meant to be doing,” Leanage said. “My main goal is to inspire and encourage others to become their best self and live their best life.”
Discovering a new passion
Leanage’s success is a culmination of years of hard work and dedication. Prior to TikTok, she ran a lifestyle blog and popular YouTube channel. Her first passion, however, was writing.
At UofGH, Leanage completed a placement with Faze Magazine, where she grew her writing portfolio and even had the opportunity to interview the Jonas Brothers (still one of the biggest highlights of her life, Leanage said). After graduating in 2014, Leanage got a job as a copywriter.
“That unfortunately made me sick of writing when I was doing it for my 9 to 5,” Leanage explained. “But luckily, around that time I discovered the world of YouTube, and so I started to adapt my content from writing posts for my blog into creating videos for YouTube.”
“I discovered that I enjoyed creating video content way more than writing, and I had the personality for it,” she added. “I shifted my career goal. I wanted to be a full-time YouTuber and content creator.”
After leaving her copywriting job and taking time off to travel, Leanage returned to UofGH as a Liaison Officer before taking on the role of Alumni Programs Assistant. The part-time role was ideal for Leanage, who wanted to continue pursuing her dream of working for herself.
For the past six years, Leanage has helped plan events including Convocation, the Alumni Reunion and the Student-Alumni Mentorship Program. On the side, she continued to develop engaging content for her audience.
After years of growing her YouTube channel, Leanage was ready for a change.
“My channel plateaued at about 22,000 subscribers. My video views were going down, and the passion wasn't there anymore.”
Then Leanage discovered TikTok, which helped her reach new viewers and finally achieve her dream of becoming a full-time content creator. It is now her online community of choice.
“I find it's the one place where people feel comfortable to be their authentic self,” Leanage said.
A new adventure
Though it was a bittersweet decision to leave her role at UofGH, Leanage is excited to embark on her new journey. As a content creator, Leanage develops and pitches ideas to brands, as well as films and edits videos. Her time in the Media and Communication Studies program has helped prepare her for success.
“I learned a bit of everything. I know a little bit of public relations, digital communications, photography and graphic design,” Leanage said. “Now I see just how valuable that is because my job is doing all of that and working with all of those media fields.”
Equally as important was the relationships she made at UofGH.
“I was able to build these deep, authentic friendships throughout my time. Guelph-Humber, being a small school and having small class sizes, helped to foster that and stress the importance of it,” Leanage said. “As opposed to just seeing your friends in one class, you're going on this journey together.”
One of the highlights of her time was getting involved on campus. Leanage remembered feeling disconnected from UofGH in her first year.
“In second year, I learned that you just have to go for it. Get involved in any way and any opportunity you can, whether that's a work-study job or an extracurricular activity—even if it's just one thing a semester,” she said. “I think the people you meet will be the biggest takeaway that you get, in addition to education.”
As Leanage prepares for a new chapter in her life, she knows she made the right decision to never stop pursuing her passion—and she hopes to inspire others to do the same.
“Never give up on your dreams,” Leanage said. “Keep persevering. It might take a lot longer than you wanted, but keep pursuing it and keep showing up.”
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