In this installment of a new and occasionally occurring Creators for Good series, Lina Renzina – who handles talent relations and partnerships at the Ad Council – will sit down with a creator to learn more about how they’re using their voice to make a difference. And for more on the What and Why of the series, check out the first installment right here.
Remi Cruz is a leading lifestyle content creator and entrepreneur with over 375 million views across her YouTube channels. Mostly recently, she launched the podcast Pretty Basic with her best friend Alisha Marie, and the series has been a huge success, with millions of downloads per month.
In 2018, Remi starred in the Ad Council’s Seize the Awkward campaign on suicide prevention and mental health awareness, in partnership with the JED Foundation and AFSP. She consistently uses her platform to share her overall health journey, as well as her struggles with body dysmorphia and her mental health, as an effort to raise awareness and open a conversation. Remi shared a very personal story for the campaign about a friend who was really struggling, and she was able to see that and get them help.
For this feature, we chatted about her health journey, opening up with her audience in new ways, and tips for maintaining a healthy mind.
Lina Renzina: How did you get your start creating content online?
Remi Cruz: I started creating content online with my main YouTube channel back in 2012. I was making videos while finishing up high school in my hometown, and was so inspired by other creators who were making such great content.
LR: You’ve been such an amazing ambassador for the Seize the Awkward campaign since it launched in 2018. Why is talking about mental health with your audience important to you?
RC: Talking about mental health with my audience is important to me because it’s something that has truly affected my life so much — me personally, and my close friends and family. I was given this platform, so I want to use my voice to speak up about things that matter to me and help make my audience feel less alone in situations where they often feel so isolated.
LR: You’ve also talked about your physical health journey over the last two years. How has that affected your mental health, and what is the mental transformation you’ve experienced?
RC: My physical health journey surprisingly took a toll on my mental health. I think going through such a huge transformation, while conjunctionally sharing the whole process on social media, set me up to critique and be way too hard on myself. It took me a while to understand what had changed and normalize the changes. But I can definitely say that in the end it made me a stronger, more confident person.
LR: You recently launched a new podcast (Pretty Basic) with your good friend Alisha Marie. Tell us about how that podcast was developed, and what we can hear there.
RC: Pretty Basic actually all began because Alisha and my manager saw the chemistry we shared, and wanted the whole world to see it! We were a newer friendship, so we were a little scared at the beginning to see what people would think…but are so happy that the response has been completely overwhelming. People love our chemistry, our crazy stories together, how much we open up, and best of all, I get to experience all of this with my best friend!
LR: On the podcast, you and Alisha share more personal aspects of your life than you do on your YouTube channels. How has opening up on Pretty Basic helped you become more vulnerable in other aspects of your life?
RC: PB has helped me realize things that I didn’t even know about myself. Sometimes I leave a recording, and I think, “Wow, do I really feel that way? I had no idea…” Being able to do a podcast with my best friend is so easy because we know each other so well and are never scared to talk about anything. We will start recording and completely forget microphones are even there. Things just flow and honesty comes out, and it’s been a huge change for both of us. When it’s us and our YouTube channels, it’s hard to open up to just a camera alone. But an open conversation with someone you trust is so different. PB helped me realize how much my audience actually relates to things I’m going through, and vice versa. I think it helped a lot of listeners to see we’re more than just influencers, we’re real people. Also, being open on PB and seeing the response has helped me open up more on other platforms overall!
LR: In December of last year, you were going through a difficult time and decided to take a break from vlogging. Since then, what are some ways that you’ve been able to avoid burnout at work and maintain your mental health?
RC: December was a really tough month for me. I was going through a lot in my personal life, but felt the pressure to vlog daily because I had made a commitment to my viewers. In the end, I ended up hitting my breaking point because it became too much for me to pretend like everything was okay. Through that, I learned to take a break if and whenever you need one. A lot of people think that being a YouTuber is so easy and we’re all incredibly lazy. The truth is, it takes a lot of hard work, long hours, and it can be emotionally exhausting.
Now, I make sure to make my mental health a priority, and I’m extremely lucky to have the best subscribers who understand when I need to take time for myself, and for that I am absolutely grateful.
LR: What were the barriers you had to confront to be vulnerable and open with your audience on Pretty Basic, and how did you overcome them?
RC: I think the only barrier was with myself. I wasn’t the most open with my own emotions, so just opening up in general was hard, let alone on PB. But Alisha helped me a lot through my own struggles, and I would trust that girl with my life, so I couldn’t have done it without her.
LR: How have you been able to support a friend going through a rough time?
RC: One specific time I remember was actually the story I shared through the Seize the Awkward campaign. My friend was suffering with suicidal thoughts, and I knew I had to step up and get them the help they needed.
LR: Can you share any tips for starting tough conversations with your friends?
RC: My tip would be to understand how they communicate. Not everyone communicates the same way you do, so learn the best way they would react to, accept the conversation, and start from there.
LR: What is coming up for your channel and brand in the next year, and how do you see your content evolving over the next few years?
RC: My content is always evolving. I feel so lucky that I’m able to really change up my content with whatever I’m interested in at the time. I actually just started a new series I am really excited about. I am going to begin collaborating with various athletes and trying out new sports. The first video in this series was with one of my favorites, Chloe Kim (an Olympic snowboarder), and we have some other amazing athletes lined up. As for in the next year, I’m excited to see the Pretty Basic brand grow, and to start more projects in the fitness/health world!
Lina leads Creators for Good, the Ad Council’s talent engagement program, which matches traditional and digital talent with the organization’s purpose-driven marketing initiatives. Working directly with talent, these partnerships have reached millions to drive impact surrounding such important causes as suicide prevention, breast cancer risk awareness and diversity and inclusion.
Her background in theatrical producing, marketing and talent management is a testament to her passion for the arts, authentically reaching audiences through digital storytelling. You can connect with Lina on LinkedIn.