Photos courtesy of Cynthia Yang
The ongoing pandemic affects each of us, along with our productivity and creativity, in different ways. For Minneapolis-based photographer Cynthia Yang, boredom led to creating a TikTok account that’s racked up more than 250,000 followers—with some videos attracting more than one million likes.
“A lot of my photography skills are going into social media now, including video,” says Yang, who also has a large following on Instagram. “As my social media passions shifted from fashion to home décor and styling a space, I’ve found myself into full-fledged home inspiration and home decoration.”
We talked with Yang about what sets her apart, the passions she pursues, why she loves the TikTok platform, and her sudden fame as an influencer.
How did you get started as a photographer?
In high school, my sister let me use her DLSR and it was with me everywhere, but I didn’t think a career in the arts was possible. I studied linguistics and education in college and loved it, and I taught English as a second language. Then, I met my husband, a music composer. He helped me build up the courage to try a creative path for six months. I applied for my first photography gig, and I got it doing food photography for Uber Eats. I was shocked.
That led to a new appreciation for food, and how to make it look like a work of art, which then led to styling. I got into commercial branding, real estate, and hotels. With every gig, I acquired more appreciation for food, décor, and interiors. The common denominator was how to make things beautiful and aesthetically pleasing.
At the same time, I was running a side hustle about my fashion on Instagram. Then, we bought our first house. It’s a Cape Cod-style with a cute, intimate cottage feel about it. I suddenly felt at home.
It’s been amazing as an artist to view the house as a blank canvas, be creative with it, and change it up whenever I want to.
Where else does your inspiration come from?
I love looking at color in the landscape. My husband and I traveled to Scotland a couple years ago, and the muted greens there were different from anything I’d ever seen. I’m also inspired by natural materials and Scandinavian style. I pull inspiration from the clothes I’m attracted to. I also follow and love the celebrity interior designer Kelly Wearstler.
Why do you think you’ve attracted so many followers on TikTok?
What I love about the platform is that you don’t have to take yourself too seriously. I started making videos and sharing my passions during lockdown because I was bored. My first DIY video was a closet space for under $30, and people started messaging me wanting to do the same thing. So, I started doing more home-styling tips. People gravitate to my videos, I think, because they want to learn and be entertained.
Plus, you’re a thrifter and you post tips that are accessible and affordable.
Right. We see a lot of mansions on social media, which are beautiful in their own right, but not relatable for the average person. I love being inspired by things I find, bringing them into my space, and discovering how they fit and resonate. Also, especially now, people want to laugh. For example, I made a video where I was lip synching to a line in Beetlejuice about decorating*, and it hit nearly a million views.
How does it feel suddenly being an influencer?
The best thing is belonging to a community of people interested in the same things you are. It’s cool to be passionate about home décor and DIY projects, log onto TikTok, and have so many people asking questions. I started with fashion on Instagram about four years ago, but TikTok is totally different. It’s become bigger than I ever thought it would. Part of the fun, though, is going along with it and figuring it out with everyone else. I have fun with it every single day.
* “I will live with you in this hellhole, but I must express myself. If you don’t let me gut out this house and make it my own, I will go insane and I will take you with me.”