This story was initially published in The Creators — a newsletter about the people powering the creator economy. Get it sent to your inbox.
It’s more difficult than ever to become a popular creator now because there are so many people trying to make it big in the industry. But it isn’t 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 image on the Times Square storefront of JDsports.
Olivera, 30, has been on social media for more than a decade but only became a “creator” recently. During the pandemic, her job of managing the office as Work & Co, a New York-based digital products agency, became obsolete and she revisited an old hobby—roller skating. She filled her feeds with skating content, as she did with many hobbies over the years. A huge resurgence of roller skating during the pandemic also contributed to interest in Olivera’s content.
Today, she works as a product manager at the same company but makes a portion of her income through sponsorships on social media.
The Observer: When did you start creating videos?
Olivera: It’s funny because when I think back on it, I’ve kind of been doing it like since I’ve been online. I’ve always enjoyed the process of documenting memories and sharing them for other people to see. So it’s been interesting to see how that’s evolved into something that is lucrative for people. It’s great that I finally have crossed over to the other side after so many years.
When did you develop a following?
It was just last year, so I don’t know much about this. Roller skating is really what shaped my content because once I started doing that—and obviously it was popular at the time—that’s when all the puzzle pieces came together for me. Roller skating is really popular now, so people like to watch that type of content.
At what point did you feel you were transitioning from being someone who posts something they love to do to being an actual content creator putting out videos to earn revenue?
On Instagram, an artist reached out to me and asked, “Hey, can I pay you to use my song in your video?” I was really confused. I understood people did that all the time. Record artists pay big money to use their songs. So when someone asked me to do that—and I had such a small following at the time—I thought, Oh wow, I can make money incorporating things that maybe I wouldn’t have or incorporating things that I do use. Later, once I actually blew up on TikTok, I got the chance to work with brands that I used frequently, like Nivea. It’s not like they’re telling me what to do or how to do it, but they’re giving me freedom to use it in a way that’s organic to my audience. Once I found that out, I was like “Okay, I am an influencer now.”
Did your following have a steady growth or did it shoot up after a viral video or a mention?
I got a viral video. I bought this pair of detachable roller skates, which is obviously a very novelty item. They can attach to a pair of Air Force Ones, so I made this video of me putting on my roller skates at the airport. My following grew from probably 200 to 118,000 from that one video. But I was also doing what TikTok recommended to gain popularity, so I was posting content three times a day consistently before that video happened.
I saw you recently shot a campaign as a collaboration between JD Sports and Nike. How did that get started?
They actually found me on TikTok. They reached out to me and let me know they were doing a campaign on roller skating geared towards the Gen Z audience and centering it around women of color and roller skating—which I absolutely loved because if you’ve seen roller skating and the media, it’s not typically people of color, which is very interesting because they are the ones that keep the sport alive. Roller skating has always been very prevalent in the Black community. So I immediately thought, This is amazing.
It was essentially two videos I worked on with them for the “Need It Now” campaign. In addition to those two videos, they selected me and one other skater to do a photoshoot. Then there were a total of 10 to 12 skaters that were also going to be making TikTok and Instagram videos for them.
What was your reaction when they reached out to you?
I honestly thought it was fake. I hadn’t really worked with any brands at that point. It took me a very long time to start working with brands. I was just getting free stuff for a long time. This would have been my biggest campaign, and then of course it’s with Nike. Who hasn’t heard of Nike? And when I found out how much they were offering, I was like, “Okay, this is fake.” And that’s when I learned how much money content creators are making. I think it’s mind boggling.
How much were you paid?
It was three different jobs, so it wasn’t a big lump sum. I don’t want to say exactly how much, but it was a good amount of money. They put me in their Times Square storefront, so they paid me a usage fee for that.
Can you tell me about some of the other advertising opportunities you’ve had?
My first one was for the Minions movie. NBC Studios reached out to me because they wanted me to use a TikTok filter they were putting out for the new movie along with the theme song. 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 that.
I’ve also had more interesting opportunities as a freelance entertainer going to really awesome events. Last year, I was flown to Saudi Arabia to roller skate, and I got paid for that.
What was that for?
I was invited to a private after-party in New York City for Alicia Keys’ concert one night at Flippers. It’s a roller rink in Rockefeller Center. Her husband, Swizz Beatz, is actually a roller skater. That was in Spring. Then in October, Flippers reached out to me because Swizz Beatz opened a roller rink in Saudi Arabia. It was closing weekend and he wanted to bring out some skaters from New York City, so he picked me and a few other people, and he flew us out there for two days.
What’s next for you?
Last year, I had no idea what I was doing was possible for me. Now that I know how lucrative my following can be, I’m hoping to work with more brands and expose more people to the history and passion that is roller skating. It’s a contagious sport.
This interview was originally published in The Creators, a newsletter about the people powering the creator economy. Get it in your inbox before it’s online.