Leo González: The TikTok creator and comedian making his way to stardom
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Every once in a while, the algorithm will serve me a video from a creator I didn’t know I needed to see. I typically feel inspired, seen, or entertained. After all, that’s what content is supposed to do, right?
No one has mastered the art of emoting the feeling of all three like Leo González—a comedian and content creator from Hanford, Ca. He has already caught the attention of public figures like George Lopez and Will Smith with his POV-style comedy videos and has amassed more than 2.5 million followers on TikTok and over half a million on Instagram. There is no doubt that Leo is on the fast track to becoming a star on social media platforms and beyond.
Content, Community, & Culture
Although he is now the face of his personal brand, Leo got his start behind the scenes, doing production work for a local television station. From operating the teleprompter to editing, Leo has carried the skills he learned earlier in his career on his journey to becoming a content creator.
Ironically, becoming a creator was not something that Leo sought out intentionally. While working at another TV station in Reno, Nevada, he focused on getting on-air screen time as a reporter. To show off his skills, he began posting TikTok videos, using his work experiences to inform some of his ideas. One TikTok in particular, captioned “Univision reporters always take so long,” where Leo pokes fun at the delivery style of reporters, gained him 5,000 followers in just a day. That’s when he realized he had something special.
As a reporter working on stories focused on active investigations, breaking news, and sometimes gang violence, making TikToks seemed a nice reprieve for Leo.
“TikTok didn’t come with the risk of having the type of anxiety that comes from being in a news environment,” says Leo.
Now, with his own recipe for creating viral content—a bit of imagination, a sprinkle of relatability, and a dash of influence from his culture—he has been able to build an engaged community that he always keeps top of mind.
“My first video that gained traction was one that Hispanics would understand. I knew everyone would understand the idea, but it was in Spanish”, says Leo.
With a majority Hispanic audience, Leo, who is of Mexican heritage, goes back and forth between Spanish and English content, often overlapping the two languages by creating content in Spanglish. However, he ensures that he makes content for everyone as his audience also spans across ages and racial identities. We in the industry like to call that inclusivity, and we truly love to see it.
“Meeting people in public, I realized I wanted to be intentional about not forgetting certain people,” says Leo.
That kind of mentality supports Leo’s growth as a creator. He now gains about 1,000 followers daily and has been featured in Fortune Magazine and Rolling Stone. As for how he feels about his visibility—Leo feels a sense of home. As he began connecting more with his community, he realized the power of representation.
“Before I started on TikTok, I really wanted friends; now, I feel like I have a surplus of friends. Being known by people in different places gives a feeling of safety because people are always so nice. People have come up to me and said that they feel respected because I don’t make fun of our culture or don’t play into stereotypes [of Latinos]. They’re just happy to see someone from their culture with other big names in entertainment,” says Leo.
Collabs and Brand Deals
One of those big names is fellow creator Adam Martinez, also known as Adam Ray Okay on the interwebs. Adam is most known for his character, Rosa, a sassy but relatable icon with bedazzled acrylic nails, a love for long eyelashes, and who always knows the tea (or, in this case—el chisme). For Leo, Adam is a source of inspiration.
“Adam is the reason I made a TikTok. I had been watching his videos on Twitter, and I figured there had to be more. When I saw the TikTok watermark on his videos, I decided to get one. I had no clue about TikTok, but [his videos] opened my world. I think Adam is one of the funniest people, and he is literally a trailblazer. Before him, I didn’t see any Hispanics doing POV comedy. I saw maybe three white creators on Twitter who were good, but while watching them, I never even thought of doing a POV video [myself]. On one of Adam’s earlier videos, a comment said, ‘We love Rosa because she’s the type of b*tch that will defend you in class.’ Rosa will defend the gay kid or the kid with ugly clothes. That’s the kind of acting that makes Adam so good,” says Leo.
The two creators collaborated on a project about seven months ago and still maintain a great relationship. We can definitely expect to see more collaborations with Leo and other creators like Adam in the future.
Until then, Leo is also setting his sights on global brands. He has had several partnerships with brands such as Hyundai, Wendy’s, Amazon, Hulu, Stitch Fix, and TurboTax—just to name a few. To date, his most intentional partnership was with DirecTV. Late last year, the brand joined forces with influencer and creator management company—Whalar, which also manages Leo. They built a content house in Hollywood Hills for five Latino comedy creators to develop a live-in, creative space for the creators to do what they do best—create. Leo was one of the five selected.
“DirecTV was the first to give me resources I could use to [create my content], and it wasn’t just money. They gave me a community of people who could help me with my videos. They’ve done more than other brands have historically done.”
With several brand partners on his roster and more on the way, Leo is just scratching the surface of possibilities in the creator space.
From The Desk of the Creator
From The Desk of the Creator is an ongoing series in my interviews that includes direct insights from creators on how brands, influencers, and creators can work better together.
- What advice do you have for brands wanting to partner with creators or influencers?
“Look at the model of DirecTV. I’ve been out of the content house for several months now, and they’ve still been about me and want to be a part of my growth. It was more than just a one-month campaign.”
- What advice would you give creators or influencers wanting to partner with brands?
“My first deal was for a ramen cooker, and I think I got paid 40 or 50 bucks. I think it’s good to be willing to do something like that. I tell some of my friends who are starting out—just do it, even if you’re not getting paid at first. Some companies will send you free products [in exchange for content], and with that, you are showing other companies that you’re available. You are essentially just adding yourself to the marketplace. Make sure you do a good job on that first video, too. They may or may not know that you got the product for free or that you didn’t get paid but make the video as if you got paid.
For more established creators, you don’t have to go for everything at some point. Even if [the brand or product] is something you believe in, sometimes it’s not always a good choice to pick everything. I look at my audience sometimes as my shift manager. They pay the bills.”
- What have you noticed in the content creation space that you would like to see improved?
“There was a company that had Net60 [payment terms], and that’s a long time, especially for a person who doesn’t have a job. They were pushing on 95 days of not paying me, and it was one of the biggest deals I’ve ever signed. It was to the point where I thought about doing InstaCart again.
Some companies will ask for three-day turnarounds [on content], but they want to take three weeks or three months to approve it. Now what was supposed to be Net60 turns into Net6-months. All I have to do is tell Whalar, and it’s done.”
What’s Next For Leo & Where To Find Him
Leo is a man on a mission. The primary goal for him right now is being in his bag. Soon, he plans to roll out surprise collaborations with more creators and hopes to work with the likes of Tina Fey. For now, he simply wants to continue building his community and be a source of entertainment for his fans.
If you’d like to follow Leo and see more of his content, click the links below.