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Cam and Mal Reyes had just $1,400.
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Cam wanted to spend all of it–on camera equipment.
Mal, who’d just married him a month earlier and was knee-deep in nursing school, was not convinced.
“We were college students,” she says. “I was working two jobs. He was working a job.” But Cam, who’d dropped out of college to take a job with a local YouTuber that paid salary and helped him learn the ins and outs of online video, “convinces me, somehow,” she says. “He was like, ‘Mallory, I know it sounds crazy, but I’m going to make it work. I’m going to make it work.'”
Cam ended up making Mal an offer: If he could get one video to go viral, would she at least consider it?
She would, she said.
The very next TikTok video he made–one where he rated her on a scale of one to 10 for things like “ability to give head scritches” and her overall level of patience with him–took off.
“Mal was like, ‘Oh, okay. Well, a viral video,'” Cam says. “From that point on, we started doing it.”
That didn’t mean they were suddenly swept up into some charmed, effortless influencer lifestyle. Growing up from one viral video is tough: they struggled to build their audience, struggled to build their income, and struggled to find a management company that was a good fit for them. But the struggle, they say–and the mutual resilience that carried them through that struggle–has been worth it. Now, just a couple years later, they’re full-time creators with over a million followers on TikTok, and recently welcomed their first child.
Check out our chat with them below.
This interview has been edited for length and clarity. Note: We spoke with Cam & Mal June 13, 2023. Their daughter was born happy and healthy three days later.
Tubefilter: Welcome! How are you guys? I know your baby is due any second.
Mal: She was due last week, so she’s pretty uncomfortable.
Tubefilter: Oh no, a week post-due?
Mal: I’ve been on and off contracting for a week.
Cam: It’s been an emotional roller coaster. Every day is different, because–You asked how we feel. I just asked Mal that question, right before we hopped on this call. She’s like, “I feel good today. I feel confident. I’m happy.” That’s good.
Tubefilter: That’s good!
Cam: Yesterday was not that story at all.
Mal: Yes, all over the place.
Mal: I’m just getting so impatient.
Tubefilter: What’s the process? Do you have an induction date if you haven’t given birth yet?
Mal: My induction date is in two days. If I don’t go into labor by then, then yes, we go in on Thursday. She’ll be here, one way or another, in a week.
Tubefilter: My best wishes for you. It’s going to go great. Let’s dive into my usual questions. I’m familiar with you guys and with your videos, but I would like to get a background from you–how you met, where you grew up, and your journey up to joining TikTok.
Cam: Sure, do you want to do it, or do you want me to do?
Mal: You can start, if you want.
Cam: I’m going to try my best to give you the short version. Basically, I was always making videos, for the longest time, I was putting videos on social media, like Instagram, and just for friends to see, but I put a lot of effort in the videos. I was editing, I was learning how to edit. It was just all with my iPhone. Everyone’s telling me, “You need to start YouTube. You need to start a YouTube.”
Never did it. Then, in college, I decided to start a YouTube channel. I think it maybe had like 900 subscribers at the peak of things. I was feeling like a baller. Sophomore year of college is after we got married, so we’ll swing back to how we met. I’ll let Mal talk about how we met. Social media-wise, this guy, this local guy, who does YouTube, was like, “Hey, if you drop out of college, I’ll pay you a full-time salary if you make all of my YouTube videos.”
I was like, “Are you kidding me?” He found me on YouTube. He found one of my videos. I was like, “Heck, yes, let’s do it. I’m down.” Much to my wife’s dismay at the time. She was like, “Oh, you’re going to drop out of college and go do this YouTube thing?” Ended up doing that for an entire year, he did pay the salary. I left at the end of that year, I was like, “Okay, I learned all these skills about social media. I want to do it for Mal and I.”
Mal was never, in the beginning, fully on board, necessarily, with social media. It’s hard to convince someone that this can turn into a full-time career when you have no followers. It’s hard.
Mal: It was totally in his personality, his realm, to do this. He was very entrepreneurial. He would have found a way, one way or another, to be his own boss. I was very much the opposite. I was on track to be a nurse. I was in pre-nursing. It was just very foreign to me. The idea of him dropping out, I was like, “Oh my god.”
Cam: I ended up telling her, I’m like, “Hey, Mal, if I can make a TikTok go really viral, then would you be down to do it? Was that some amount of proof that we can do this? She goes, “Yes, sure.” It was the first video after I said that. I filmed the video where I was, on a scale of one to 10, rating my wife as a joke. Not what she looks like, but I was talking about like head scratches, and personality stuff. That video ended up getting one and a half million views. Mal was like, “Oh, okay. Well, a viral video.” From that point on, we started doing it. I think we only had 150,000 followers on Tiktok in the first year, and then, through a long process of us just shifting and changing everything, we met people and understood more about social media and the content we want to make.
We eventually ended up where we are now. That’s the short version of the story. Do you want to talk about how we met?
Mal: Yes! We both grew up in California. I grew up in the Central Valley, small town. He grew up in Monterey. We both went to San Jose State, so we actually met freshman year of college. Cam introduced himself. He knew me through my cousin, and I had no idea who he was. My first occurrence with this man was him walking up in the cafeteria and being like, “Hi, Mallory.” I’m like, “How do you know my name? Who are you?”
Cam: Not very smooth, but it worked. We’re married. It worked.
Mal: It did work, eventually. That’s how that started, and then we were just like good friends for a solid year before we started dating.
Cam: Good friends, but we were really flirty.
Mal: We also really liked each other the whole time. There was a whole year of that, then ended up dating for a year, and then got married. Then, once we got married, that’s when things started picking up with social media, for him, specifically. I literally think, a month into marriage, he somehow convinced me, he’s like, “Mallory…” We were broke. We were so broke.
Cam: We were so broke.
Mal: We were college students. I was working two jobs. He was working a job. He’s a barista, and we’re just trying to make ends meet, right? He convinces me, somehow, to spend basically all of our savings on camera equipment. He was, “Mallory, I know it sounds crazy, but I’m going to make it work. I’m going to make it work.”
Cam: It was like $1,400, and that’s all we had, that was the most money we had, ever, really, up until that point. The ring that I proposed to Mallory with, it was passed down from her grandma and her mom. We didn’t even have money for a wedding ring. The box that I proposed to her with, because I couldn’t afford even a box to put the ring in, I made it out of styrofoam. I took a little cube of styrofoam, I cut a slit inside of it and put the ring in, and I proposed to her with that. Crazy.
Tubefilter: So you were absolutely strapped, working three jobs between the two of you. And now you’re here. When did you quit your jobs? What was that push?
Mal: That was a hot mess. Initially, he had gotten with that guy who found him on YouTube, and was like, “Hey, I’ll give you a full-time salary, if you just quit college.” He starts out with him, I’m working at the mall, I’m a barista at that point, and still going to nursing school. That happened for about a year. In that time, he was doing his YouTube thing for a bit, but we were not on social media with each other. Then he ended up having a little falling out with the guy that he was working for, and was just like, “I’m just going to go gung-ho with our social media stuff,” and had me hop along, but I was still working two jobs and in nursing school, so it was really difficult for us to navigate that. He ended up working for a plastic surgery company, of all places, for social media management and content creation.
Cam: It was part-time. I was trying to find these part-time things. I was trying to be practical, but I also have this dream and this vision of doing social media with Mal someday. I was in that weird gray area.
Mal: We’re really just trying to make ends meet. He was maybe getting six hours a week, or something, with that plastic surgery company. We thought that they were going to give him much more when he joined, and then they just didn’t. There was a period of six months where we were paycheck to paycheck.
Cam: Yes. Even worse than that. There’d be an emergency with our dog, couldn’t even afford to…We would have to borrow money from people. That year was really rough. As we continued to grow, we did eventually, I think about a year after I quit and then started doing TikTok with Mal, we ended up signing with an agency, our first management agency.
We thought, “Hey, once we’re signed with this agency, it’s going to be amazing, we’re going to make money, and not even an insane amount, but just enough to pay the bills and start to really give us a little more freedom to grow the social media.
Mal: At that point, I was fully convinced. I was like, “Oh, we’re getting signed on with a management agency, this is it, we made it.” I was like, “Okay, well, then I guess I’m dropping out of nursing school to do this with you.”
Cam: In hindsight, we sound so crazy. I know that it sounds so bad in hindsight, but in the moment, when you’re like, “Oh, we have 150,000 followers,” and the talent agency is like, “Oh yes, we’re going to pick you up, and we’re going to start making all this money.” You believe it, and you’re like, “Okay, well, this is going to be amazing.”
Mal: Yes, so I end up quitting nursing school because I just had too many things, and we couldn’t feasibly keep it up without losing our minds. I was like, “Okay, well, I’ll drop out of nursing school.” Then I ended up quitting my barista job too, at the same time, when we were signing on with that agency, just took a leap of faith, and fell off of that leap.
Cam: It was not what we thought it was going to be. I think our first…I don’t even know, I’m not allowed to talk about numbers, but we were not making a lot of money. We were making less than $1,000 a month, I can say that, between all the social media.
Tubefilter: So this agency was not good for you guys.
Cam: It wasn’t good for us. I think, I’m pretty sure they’re a good agency. I think they’re a good agency. They represent some really amazing creators. It’s just that I think for the stage that we were in, I think we expected more than what they were able to do for us, because we weren’t a family. They represent more families, that kind of thing. We were a young couple.
Mal: They were even taking a risk on us.
Cam: They were taking a risk with us.
Mal: Their contacts they had were not necessarily in line with where we were at in that stage of life.
Cam: This is where things get fun. After about, I think, five or six months with that agency, we were like, “Oh, this is just not working out. Where is this going?” We got lucky enough to meet– I don’t know if you know the Cordle Family, other people probably know who the Cordle Family are, Hunter and Devin. When we met Hunter and Devin, we had 150,000 or 200,000 followers, and they only had 20,000 followers. They were like, “Hey, we should be friends, it’d be so fun.”
I was like, “Yes, absolutely, that’d be amazing to have creative friends.” We were like, “Let’s start a group chat, and just start talking to each other.” Right after we became friends, there was a period of, I remember so vividly, because I was calling them, freaking out about it. There was a period of 14 days after we became friends, where they went from that, I think it was 20,000 or 40,000, all the way to 1.4 million followers, in just two weeks.
Tubefilter: Oh, wow.
Cam: I know. They blew up so quick. I remember the whole thing, and I was calling them like, “You guys, what is going on here? This is crazy.” They started getting all these different management agencies reaching out to them, because that’s just what happens when you blow up. They signed on with the managers that we have right now, and after about, I think it was four months…Maybe it was even less than that. Maybe it was even two months. They were like, “Hey, we’re going to recommend you to join our agency, because we see that your agency’s not really working out for you, and we’ll see what happens.” They got us in contact, we got in on a phone call with Nilou and Cameron, the managers we have right now. I remember it vividly, we were in Las Vegas on a family trip, and Mal and I are in the bottom of one of these casino things. We walked to a bathroom hallway, and we’re taking this call with them.
We know that they were totally taking a risk on us, because we had, maybe, almost 200,000 followers, but we weren’t doing anything crazy with social media. We were struggling to get views. We were unmotivated, less motivated than we were before.
Mal: Didn’t really have a solid idea of what content we were creating. We were still in that phase of experimenting with different styles, too. When we first started out, we were doing a lot of comedy skits, and stuff like that.
Cam: Yes. We were doing skits and stuff.
Mal: We knew that that’s not what we wanted to ultimately do, so we were just in a weird, weird, weird phase, when we took that call with them.
Cam: Yes. They were like, “Hey, you know what? We hear the passion that you guys have. We know that you guys have a lot of potential, we can hear it in the way you guys talk, and we want to sign on with you guys, we think this is going to be an amazing partnership for everyone involved.” They were just so encouraging and so nice. There was not one bit of like, “You guys need to prove yourselves,” or anything like that.
They were just so, so kind, from the get-go, and we were like, “Okay, this is the confidence that we needed. We needed someone to really believe in us.” At that point, we were on the decline, mentally, about it all. Not too long after that, they were able to help us turn it more into a full-time thing, and because of them helping us financially, as a business, grow, it gave us more ability and freedom to understand the content that we wanted to make.
Over the course of the past six months, we’ve just really ironed out our style, and I think we’re developing more as our creator identity, so it’s been fun.
Tubefilter: I’m really glad that you’ve found management that works for you. I’ve profiled a few other CURRENTS clients, so I’ve been talking to them for a while now.
Cam: They’re the best people in the world. They’re just so nice. I’m like a cheerleader for those guys. I don’t know, there are not enough nice things to say about them. Even little things. They’re just amazing. Love them.
Tubefilter: I did want to ask a little bit how you plan to handle things with your daughter. As I’m sure you know, putting your kids online can be dicey sometimes, and I was curious how you guys are planning to handle when you do give birth. How are you planning to handle that with your content?
Cam: Yes. This is something that we’ve talked a lot about, we are fully aware of the current state of social media, and there’s a little bit of backlash against certain people putting their kids on social media. I think that we’re not in the boat of blast our kid on social media, and the entire account becomes about the kid. We still want to be Cam & Mal, it doesn’t say anything about family. I think it says the Reyes family, maybe on Instagram, but either way, it’s Cam & Mal, we’re still a couple account.
It will be about our lives, and I think that, as much as it makes sense for the baby to be in videos, we don’t have a problem with that, I think, but we’re also not going to go cold turkey, never show the kid’s face, or anything like that. I just don’t think that that’s fully necessary. I think that there is a wise way about going about it. and I think that with a lot of discernment about the videos we’re making, I think there’s a way to do it in a responsible way.
Another thing that we’ve talked about is, if your kid is a part of social media, so this is going to be applying for us, there’s no laws and regulations about child labor, the way there is for actors and stuff, for child actors. I was like, “Hey, well, if our kid is in the videos and stuff, some amount of the proceeds, any amount of money from views, or anything like that, should go towards a kid’s college fund,” or something related to the kid having access to some fund that we don’t have access to.
That’s something that we’ve talked about too. Also, when the baby gets old enough, where she’s like, “Hey, I do not want to be in a video,” by no means will we have her, ever, in a video, if she does not want to be filmed at any given point in time.
Mal: Ultimately, we’ll be setting up our content for that, anticipating anything like that, and to not revolve it around her in any way.
Cam: She’s not going to be such a pivotal character in social media, that eventually, if she does decide she doesn’t want to be on social media, it’s not going to be a hit for the account. I guess that’s as much as we’ve deduced it, up to this point.
Mal: I think, also, it’s just going to be trial and error, this is such a new frontier that so many people just can’t really navigate yet, it’s still so fresh, with people having social media as their full-time jobs, and family content. It’s tricky waters, but ultimately, her safety is what we want to prioritize.
Cam: 100%, yes.
Mal: Over anything, we just don’t fully have a grasp on how to do that in the best way possible, but our intentions are to do it in the best way possible.
Cam: If there are any safety concerns in the future, we have no issue with pulling the plug and saying, “She’s not going to be in the videos, ever.” That’s yet to be seen, and we’re just waiting until we get there.
Tubefilter: Gotcha. It can be a touchy topic, but I feel like it’s important to talk about, and I feel like there are lots of creators who read our stuff who may be in similar situations, looking for advice. Do you have any future plans or goals for your content over the next couple of years? Though surviving the first six months of no sleep should be a top goal.
Cam: That’s going to be priority number one, is trying to not fall apart completely in the video. Do you want to talk about goals?
Mal: Yes, I can start.
Cam: Go ahead.
Mal: Cam, again, has always been super into social media, and just one way or another, he would’ve made it work, whether it was with me or without me, he would’ve made his own content. Now that we have built up this platform together, I think we want to expand it a lot more. I want to be able to create my own type of content, grow on Instagram, independently. I think Cam wants to eventually do the same thing, start his own YouTube channel. He was really into technology reviews, and stuff like that.
There’s just so many different routes that we could take, but I think over the course of the next few years, we want to individualize ourselves a little bit more and expand, like, what intrigues me and what is creative to him, and not just have it be just couple things. Again, it takes time, because we’re trying to navigate how to spread out our time, to do it well, to continue to grow with what’s going good and what’s working, and not spread ourselves too thin in that way.
We’ve just been trying to figure out what are the next stepping stones to get to that point. That’s where our head is at.
Cam: In the end of the day, we want to develop three different brands from a business perspective. Let’s say Cam & Mal is a brand, Cameron Reyes is a brand, and Mallory Reyes is a brand, that’s the eventual end goal. We also desire to have a high level of quality control amongst the content, between all three different brands. Maintaining that quality is the part that we’re going to slowly ease our way into. That’s the goal, is to eventually have three different brands.
The goal…It’s an interesting thing. Obviously, everyone would like to say they want to grow, they want to get bigger and bigger, but for us, I just have a vision of just creating better and better videos. The followers are cool. The followers, in my opinion, just continue to come with you desiring to make better videos, and desiring to create a bigger community that actually has some amount of impact.
What I don’t necessarily want to do is just feel like we’re putting out a bunch of content into the air and clogging up the airspace with vlogs that don’t necessarily have any impact. We do desire to do something that feels bigger than just making videos, and how we do that, we haven’t fully figured that out yet. That is a goal of ours, to have something that is impactful and lasts longer than just a 10-minute video, that someone watches for entertainment. That’s yet to be seen, as well. We’re trying to figure that out.
Tubefilter: Perfect. Is there anything else you wanted readers to know about you guys, anything else you wanted to talk about?
Cam: I don’t know. There’s a million and one things in my brain, but…Ifyou’re a bigger creator or a smaller creator, I just think that the most important thing is just to continue, to keep making videos, always press record, always post, because, when we were talking about that period where we were like super dirt poor, it was really rough, and to summarize an entire year of your life in just a couple sentences is really easy.
To go through a whole year of trying to make social media a full-time thing, and it’s just not working, it affects you. It affects your marriage. Being resilient is just so important. I’m so glad that we decided to keep pushing. Also, a public praise and affirmation to my wife, she was just so, so, so supportive the entire time, so supportive, even when it really didn’t make sense for her to be supportive, she totally was.
I think a lot of it, of how we’ve gotten to where we’re at is because we’ve decided, together, to keep going, and also just how supportive she’s been throughout the whole process. I feel like that’s as much as I have left to say.
Mal: Thanks, babe.
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