Aja Dang: Blazing a personal path

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Aja Dang: Blazing a personal path

Dec 04, 2019

Our interview of Aja Dang for “The Creative Influencer” podcast is available today for download on iTunes, Spotify, and premier platforms everywhere.

Aja is a YouTube creator, known for her honest and positive lifestyle vlog and her passion for helping animals. She also co-hosts the podcast “Heavy Topics with Lightweights.”

Aja shares her journey from broadcast journalism to lifestyle “journalism” with lots of humor and fun insight along the way.


A transcript of the episode follows:

Jon Pfeiffer:  I'm joined today by Aja Dang. Welcome to the podcast.

Aja Dang:  Thank you.

Jon Pfeiffer:  You quote, work in social media? Correct?

Aja Dang:  Yes.

Jon Pfeiffer:  And you also have a podcast?

Aja Dang:  Yes.

Jon Pfeiffer:  Called?

Aja Dang:  Called Heavy Topics With Lightweights.

Jon Pfeiffer:  And you do it with a partner?

Aja Dang:  I do it with my best friend Laura.

Jon Pfeiffer:  We are recording this at about 11:10. So we don't have wine. But you have wine. You have a wine on your podcast?

Aja Dang:  Yes, we do.

Jon Pfeiffer:  How did you come up with that idea?

Aja Dang:  I don't know. I think my girlfriend and I have always wanted to do something together, because we work really well together. We went to grad school at USC. And we started off with this environmentally friendly blog called Ecoistas, and it was absolutely terrible.

Jon Pfeiffer:  Which I could not find.

Aja Dang:  Good. That's the point. We took it off. We still have our Instagram, which is hilarious, but it just didn't work. So we stopped that, but we've always wanted to do something. I told her I'm about 32 and I wanted to do something more. I wanted to kind of leave my mark on society and try to make it better. And we decided on testing out a podcast. We're kind of late to the game, but we just started it and we just wanted to talk to people, who we never would come across or just have conversations about their life.

Jon Pfeiffer:  So from the start of the idea of the podcast, until it actually dropped on July 3, how long did it take?

Aja Dang:  A year.

Jon Pfeiffer:  And then you did a countdown video 31 days to launch?

Aja Dang:  Yes.

Jon Pfeiffer:  Which was kind of fun to watch.

Aja Dang:  Was it?

Jon Pfeiffer:  Yeah. Especially having gone through the process-

Aja Dang:  The quality wasn't... I exported it wrong, but yeah, I'm glad you found it entertaining.

Jon Pfeiffer:  Yeah. Was it your idea or Laura's idea?

Aja Dang:  The idea of the name was mine, but together we kind of grew what it is today.

Jon Pfeiffer:  Here are a couple things I've gleaned so far.

Aja Dang:  Okay.

Jon Pfeiffer:  Life is better in your 30s than in your 20s.

Aja Dang:  Absolutely.

Jon Pfeiffer:  Which we'll come back to. And some of the guests you had... You had a Tantra sex couple?

Aja Dang:  Yes. That's one of our, I guess most streamed episodes actually, for obvious reasons.

Jon Pfeiffer:  And then you had a, and I may be pronouncing this wrong, but somebody who practices Reiki?

Aja Dang:  Reiki, correct. Yep.

Jon Pfeiffer:  Which is vibration therapy.

Aja Dang:  It's energy healing.

Jon Pfeiffer:  Have you had your Reiki done?

Aja Dang:  I haven't. I still want to do it. And I was kind of nervous about it. Because I just... I don't know. I guess I kind of misunderstood what it was, but having her tell us what... Francis tell us what it's all about. I still really want to do it.

Jon Pfeiffer:  After listening to it, it seemed a lot less "woo woo."

Aja Dang:  Yeah, exactly. Right! [Crosstalk 00:02:50].

Jon Pfeiffer:  I mean if Tarot could be less "woo woo"... It's like okay.

Aja Dang:  Yeah.

Jon Pfeiffer:  And then you interviewed a sex worker?

Aja Dang:  Yes.

Jon Pfeiffer:  Which was fascinating.

Aja Dang:  Yes, yes. That was actually the very first person that we knew we wanted to interview, because she's Laura's friend.

Jon Pfeiffer:  Before you did your first episode, did you do a practice episode?

Aja Dang:  We had our first episode being just talking about our history as friends, but no.

Jon Pfeiffer:  Fair enough. I'm always curious when I interview somebody who has a podcast. How do you prepare?

Aja Dang:  Well, we don't. We buy wine. And that's really about it. But we're starting to prepare more, because before, I guess the earlier episodes, it was people that we knew. So we didn't necessarily have to prepare. But now we want to talk to people, literally totally new people. So I think in September, we're actually going to be talking to a fox newscaster. And we obviously have to prepare for that. So just as of right now, nothing, but soon to be, we're going to be a little bit more professional.

Jon Pfeiffer:  Do you listen to the episode before it drops?

Aja Dang:  I edit. Yeah, I edit the episodes.

Jon Pfeiffer:  So you are the hands on editor?

Aja Dang:  Mm-hmm (affirmative). Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Jon Pfeiffer:  And after it drops, do you listen to it again?

Aja Dang:  I do. I listen to it as I edit. I listen to it before I export and then I listen to it in the car, when it's live and then that's it.

Jon Pfeiffer:  Do you have a routine about where you sit versus where Laura's sits? Do you always sit in the same spot?

Aja Dang:  It has been. We tend to be on the same side. When we have a guest, we can look at them. But yeah, I think I tend to sit on the left of her actually thinking about it.

Jon Pfeiffer:  Are you a podcast consumer?

Aja Dang:  I am. Yeah, I'm new to it. I'm very new to it.

Jon Pfeiffer:  What's your favorite podcast? Other than yours of course.

Aja Dang:  Other than mine is Crime Junkies.

Jon Pfeiffer:  I haven't heard of that one.

Aja Dang:  It's a true crime podcast.

Jon Pfeiffer:  Kind of like My Favorite Murder.

Aja Dang:  Yes, yes. I really liked them.

Jon Pfeiffer:  Okay, let's turn to social media.

Aja Dang:  Okay.

Jon Pfeiffer:  Okay. I've heard you say, several times that you hate the term influencer.

Aja Dang:  I hate it.

Jon Pfeiffer:  You prefer instead that you work in social media.

Aja Dang:  When people ask me what I do, I just say I work in social media, and if they want to dive into that more, then I'll explain to them what I do.

Jon Pfeiffer:  Do your parents understand what you do?

Aja Dang:  No. My mom watches my YouTube videos. And she's like, has a Twitter and I think an Instagram and definitely a Facebook. It's really weird, but my dad has no clue. All he knows is that sometimes he sees my pictures or sometimes his co-workers' daughters follow me, but I don't think he truly understands what's happening.

Jon Pfeiffer:  When people ask them what you do, what do they say?

Aja Dang:  That's a good question. I should actually ask them. I don't know actually.

Jon Pfeiffer:  This started for you about four years ago, the social media stuff?

Aja Dang:  I dabbled in it. I think closer to maybe seven years ago, but it didn't start to become my job. Yeah, until recently.

Jon Pfeiffer:  But it wasn't always as smooth sailing as somebody from the outside might see.

Aja Dang:  No, it never is. Even today it's still not a smooth sailing.

Jon Pfeiffer:  I heard you actually say this in an interview, that when you first started social, there was a lot of anxiety involved, just paying your bills.

Aja Dang:  Yeah. I mean, I just started making money off of social media. So I came from the broadcast television world, and I was kind of against social media. I thought it was a phase. And I realized it wasn't. I realized that on YouTube, I would have more freedom than if I was working with a network television, and that was kind of my draw to it, to start doing more of it. But yeah, I barely made money for years.

Jon Pfeiffer:  And then during this process, you were into visualization?

Aja Dang:  I was what?

Jon Pfeiffer:  In to visuals, visualization--I can't even pronounce the word. You watched the magic DVD version of The Secret.

Aja Dang:  Yeah, I used to watch that all the time. I should actually watch it again. I think, I just, I would fall asleep to it because I wanted to visualize just not living paycheck to paycheck, or just kind of figuring out what my path was. I think that was moreso what the magic was for me, was trying to figure out what I was supposed to do in life, because I was really lost for a really long time.

Jon Pfeiffer:  And now you're found.

Aja Dang:  -ish! We're getting somewhere. [Laughter]

Jon Pfeiffer:  Okay. I told you before we started that I kind of do a deep dive into each guest's social media. There [were] three things that jumped out at me.

Aja Dang:  Oh God! [Laughter]

Jon Pfeiffer:  No, I mean, Good things.

Aja Dang:  Okay, perfect.

Jon Pfeiffer:  One, you're socially conscious.

Aja Dang:  Yes.

Jon Pfeiffer:  There were tweets and retweets about animal rights, climate change.

Aja Dang:  Yeah. Twitter has become very political for me.

Jon Pfeiffer:  And then there was a tweet, that if you want to limit/ban abortion, you do that by increasing access to affordable health care/birth control and increasing wages for women.

Aja Dang:  Mm-hmm (affirmative). Yes.

Jon Pfeiffer:  You have a merchandise line, correct?

Aja Dang:  I do. Yes.

Jon Pfeiffer:  What's it called?

Aja Dang:  Well, it doesn't necessarily have a name, because every launch goes to a different organization that I'm passionate about. So my first launch was called Support Your Girls. And proceeds of that went to Planned Parenthood.

Jon Pfeiffer:  Why Planned Parenthood?

Aja Dang:  I mean, I used to go to Planned Parenthood. When I had no money and no health insurance, that's who I would go to, just for my yearly checkup. So I think that they're being unfairly demonized. And women--it's not just women, I found women, men, children all in the office, when I was there and taking away those access to health care to low income families is just... I don't understand the purpose of that. So that's why Planned Parenthood.

Jon Pfeiffer:  Then the second thing I noticed-

Aja Dang:  Yes.

Jon Pfeiffer:  You have a tweet that says you're unapologetically confident.

Aja Dang:  Yes. Wow, I need to go through my tweets.

Jon Pfeiffer:  And you have a website where one of the taglines is, become an avid fan of yourself.

Aja Dang:  Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Jon Pfeiffer:  And then, I love then another tweet, a longer tweet.

Aja Dang:  Oh God! [Laughter]

Jon Pfeiffer:  I know. "When you start worrying about what other people think about you, just remember there are people out there who hate Beyonce."

Aja Dang:  Yes, yes. Exactly.

Jon Pfeiffer:  Which leads me into my third area, that I found out about is you're kind of funny, because you said, "If you bite Beyonce, do you get her powers?"

Aja Dang:  Yeah. You can tell I'm quite obsessed with her. I have had a couple of videos done.

Jon Pfeiffer:  If you bite her, do you get her powers?

Aja Dang:  I'll let you know, if I'm ever that close to her. I think I'm getting there slowly.

Jon Pfeiffer:  How do you politely ask, "Can I bite you?"

Aja Dang:  I think what I might do, is have to go in for a cheat kiss and then see what happens there.

Jon Pfeiffer:  And then there were a couple of other funny tweets: "Kids these days will never know the struggle of yelling across the house to your sibling, to let them know their favorite show is back from a commercial break."

Aja Dang:  The struggle, man, the struggle's real. They don't know how blessed they are with the streaming.

Jon Pfeiffer:  Okay, let's shift to your background, because to understand the social, you have to understand where you're from. So you're from Hawaii?

Aja Dang:  Originally, yes, born and raised.

Jon Pfeiffer:  Born and raised, went to college where?

Aja Dang:  I went to the University of San Francisco for undergrad, and then I came to USC for grad school.

Jon Pfeiffer:  At UCF, you were a marketing major?

Aja Dang:  Yes, USF.

Jon Pfeiffer:  USF, all right, okay. Why did you pick marketing?

Aja Dang:  Dude? Honestly? I honestly think it was because of Samantha Jones from Sex in the City. Even though she was a PR person, I thought that they were the same. So there was really no rhyme or reason for me picking marketing. However, just like the last two years was when I started doing my public speaking courses and all that stuff. And then I realized that's when I wanted to kind of be on television. So marketing wasn't really what ended up happening, but it ended up guiding me to a direction.

Jon Pfeiffer:  And I had heard you say that marketing turned out to be not your favorite classes.

Aja Dang:  Yeah, no. My favorite classes were definitely the more presentation-heavy classes. So like public speaking, or I guess actually marketing. Just anything with presentation and group presentation.

Jon Pfeiffer:  Have you always been comfortable in front of a camera?

Aja Dang:  Yes. Actually, well, I used to be really shy when I was younger. And then I just... I don't know, it's just something happened.

Jon Pfeiffer:  You became un-shy.

Aja Dang:  Yeah, something happened, and I just really liked it. I mean, still to this day, I get nervous when I'm on camera or when I have to interview someone, but it's just... someone told me that, if you know that this is what you want to do, then just go into the... walk into the room knowing that this is what you want to do, and you'll be fine.

Jon Pfeiffer:  I've also heard it said that if you're not a little bit nervous, you don't have that right edge.

Aja Dang:  Okay, yeah, totally.

Jon Pfeiffer:  You don't have the right energy.

Aja Dang:  100%, Yeah.

Jon Pfeiffer:  So then, some point in your career in college, you started doing some interviews of indie bands.

Aja Dang:  Oh God, Yes.

Jon Pfeiffer:  Tell me about that.

Aja Dang:  That was when I was in San Francisco. It was, I think, maybe my last semester of college, and it was called "Yeah Live" and I interviewed indie bands in Berkeley. And it was 100% the weirdest experience I ever had. Not the bands. The bands are really dope, but my producer, I feel maybe he was homeless. I don't know how he got the job, but there was this-

Jon Pfeiffer:  Did you have to be a student to do it?

Aja Dang:  No. I don't know. I think I found them on like Craigslist, probably not the safest route to go. But yeah, it gave me a lot of experience. And it gave me the idea of my interviewing style and probably warning signs to avoid with bad producers.

Jon Pfeiffer:  How would you describe your interviewing style?

Aja Dang:  Um, "Your friend."

Jon Pfeiffer:  Just pulling it out of the-

Aja Dang:  Yeah, I find that when you find kind of commonalities, and you talk about those, then people that you want to interview tend to be more open about things that you have questions about.

Jon Pfeiffer:  And then I saw in 2011-

Aja Dang:  You went really back. You went back in the day.

Jon Pfeiffer:  There still is a YouTube video up.

Aja Dang:  Still? Oh God, what is it?

Jon Pfeiffer:  It is, you're a finalist on hometown hotties.

Aja Dang:  Oh, yes. [Laughter]

Jon Pfeiffer:  And then you take everybody to a class at USC.

Aja Dang:  Yes, that was my maxim hometown hotties. Wow! I cannot believe you found that.

Jon Pfeiffer:  I found it and watched it.

Aja Dang:  Oh My God!, That was pretty good. I edited it myself! Yeah, so I had this idea in grad school because everyone knew they wanted to work in news journals. And I was like, "That's not really my thing. But sports is cool." So I developed... thought of this sport show. It didn't have a name, but I would essentially interview athletes and they would teach me how to play their sport.

Aja Dang:  And I thought for some reason, Maxim magazine would be the greatest person--organization to do it, but I didn't know anyone there. So at the time... I don't actually know if they still have the competition, but they had a competition called Hometown Hotties, where your local girl can apply and be in the magazine. I was like, "Okay, so I'm going to apply. I'm going to make it to the top 10. I'm going to tell people about my idea. And I'm going to win and they're going to give me my idea." So I did that.

Jon Pfeiffer:  Did you win?

Aja Dang:  I didn't win.

Jon Pfeiffer:  Did they give you your idea?

Aja Dang:  They gave me my idea.

Jon Pfeiffer:  So you won?

Aja Dang:  I won in my way. It was funny because the week the finalists went to Vegas was actually when I had to do my finals week. So I was just, outside of shooting and stuff for Maxim, I was just in my hotel room studying and stuff, and they thought that made me kind of boring. But I was like, "Listen dear. I don't know what to tell you."

Jon Pfeiffer:  It is what it is.

Aja Dang:  Yeah, and they ended up giving me my show. And the YouTube video you saw was just part of the application process.

Jon Pfeiffer:  So what kind of athletes did you interview?

Aja Dang:  My first interview was with Shaq, which was really cool. He was not about the interview. He wanted to get out of there immediately, but he taught me how to play basketball. Danica Patrick was really cool, Floyd Mayweather...

Jon Pfeiffer:  Did you get a ride in a race car?

Aja Dang:  No, because what we did was we rode, what are those?

Jon Pfeiffer:  Video games? The simulators.

Aja Dang:  Yeah, yeah, we did one of those. What's his name? Andretti.

Jon Pfeiffer:  Mario Andretti.

Aja Dang:  I rode in a race car with him.

Jon Pfeiffer:  The dual, the two seater race car?

Aja Dang:  Yeah it was, I couldn't walk. I almost peed in my pants. I was like, "My god, I'm going to die." Of course, I didn't.

Jon Pfeiffer:  I watched, actually, they had an IndyCar race on yesterday, where they showed some celebrity in the car with Mario. And he couldn't talk.

Aja Dang:  Yeah. It was scary. But it was fun. But yeah, it was just any type of athlete across all various sports. It was really cool.

Jon Pfeiffer:  How long did that last?

Aja Dang:  It lasted a year, and then Maximum got bought out and they were like, "Bye!"

Jon Pfeiffer:  Then your next gig was?

Aja Dang:  My next gig was Fox Sports.

Jon Pfeiffer:  How did you like Fox Sports?

Aja Dang:  I did not like it. I did not like it, because with Maxim, we had all this freedom. It was a very small group of three people, me, cameraman and two producers, and we just vibed with each other. All of our ideas, we did together. And we just did anything. We did literally anything we wanted to. And when I went to Fox Sports-

Jon Pfeiffer:  Not so much.

Aja Dang:  Not so much. There were moments where I was actually falling asleep at work, because no one would let me do what I wanted. I was like, they wouldn't let me write anything. Any script I wrote, it was like too controversial, even though it was online, and that's what they hired me for.

Jon Pfeiffer:  Like sports?

Aja Dang:  Like to be a little bit more edgy. That's when I was like, "Okay, network is not where I want to be. So what's next?"

Jon Pfeiffer:  And next was?

Aja Dang:  Next was YouTube.

Jon Pfeiffer:  Now I saw that you first joined YouTube September 11, 2010.

Aja Dang:  Whoa, okay.

Jon Pfeiffer:  But then your first video that's still up, is September of 2011. Did you take down videos?

Aja Dang:  Was it the... No I didn't. I think, I just...

Jon Pfeiffer:  It was some early Maxim videos.

Aja Dang:  Yeah, I think I probably put it up there for the maxim videos.

Jon Pfeiffer:  And some of the first videos were male centric?

Aja Dang:  Very much. I had to appeal to my audience then.

Jon Pfeiffer:  And one of them was, how to pick up a woman.

Aja Dang:  Mm-hmm (affirmative). I did a lot of those type of videos abck in the day.

Jon Pfeiffer:  Did anybody ever use those lines on you?

Aja Dang:  I don't know. Do you remember the lines? What did I say?

Jon Pfeiffer:  I actually purposely did not watch it.

Aja Dang:  I mean, probably they came probably from experience somehow.

Jon Pfeiffer:  But then you had, staying out of the friend zone.

Aja Dang:  Yes.

Jon Pfeiffer:  And, getting your girl to watch sports.

Aja Dang:  Yes. That was a fun video.

Jon Pfeiffer:  That's a little bit like as getting your boyfriend to watch the Hallmark Channel.

Aja Dang:  Yeah, right. All about balance.

Jon Pfeiffer:  Yeah. Then you did a pivot on your channel, how did that come about?

Aja Dang:  That came about because I was in my late 20s and didn't want to be the sexy girl anymore. I kind of grew out of that phase. And I wanted to do more. Obviously, you can't live your life being the sexy girl your whole life. It was time to take a change.

Jon Pfeiffer:  Not in Los Angeles.

Aja Dang:  Yeah, no, not anywhere.

Jon Pfeiffer:  Yeah.

Aja Dang:  Yeah.

Jon Pfeiffer:  And you pivoted to what?

Aja Dang:  I pivoted to beauty. Yeah, my first pivot outside of kind of the parody videos was a makeup tutorial. A natural, easy makeup tutorial.

Jon Pfeiffer:  But you're not a real "glam" girl.

Aja Dang:  I'm not even wearing any makeup talking to you right now. Sorry. [Laughter] Yeah, I'm not. So that was also the other issue, was I pivoted to more female centric content, but that content wasn't me. So then there was another pivot to doing content that was me. And that's where we are now.

Jon Pfeiffer:  Everybody talks about YouTubers have their category.

Aja Dang:  Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Jon Pfeiffer:  But you don't really fit in a category.

Aja Dang:  No.

Jon Pfeiffer:  How would you describe your body of work?

Aja Dang:  I would say 100% Aja Dang lifestyle. Yeah, I don't have a category, and I think that was what I was struggling with when I pivoted, was everyone was like, "You need a category." So I was like, "Okay, makeup." But then, I don't do makeup. So what else can I do? That was a real struggle. I ended up just copying a whole bunch of YouTubers who were more popular than me and it just wasn't authentic. So honestly, my channel is just authentically just me.

Jon Pfeiffer:  What you do.

Aja Dang:  And then what I'm feeling that day. There's not really too much thought that goes into it..

Jon Pfeiffer:  You were doing Vlogmas In December 2017. You were feeling-

Aja Dang:  Broke?

Jon Pfeiffer:  Poor.

Aja Dang:  A constant feeling of brokenness.

Jon Pfeiffer:  You had a loan due?

Aja Dang:  Yes.

Jon Pfeiffer:  And you started talking about that.

Aja Dang:  Yeah, yeah.

Jon Pfeiffer:  Tell me more.

Aja Dang:  I've been to private school my whole life, even from kindergarten and never knew any better. So I had to take out a whole bunch of loans for undergrad and grad school and didn't understand it. And that day I had to pay it.

Jon Pfeiffer:  I haven't been told--USC costs money?

Aja Dang:  You think? [Laughter] You think? If only my parents had money to bribe people, then maybe it would have been a different story.

Jon Pfeiffer:  Which we'll come back to--I wanted to get your take on Olivia Jade.

Aja Dang:  Okay. Now?

Jon Pfeiffer:  Yeah, actually, let's do it now. Let's do it now.

Aja Dang:  I don't--I mean, I don't know anything about her, from what I've read--which you can't really believe everything you read online--she didn't want to be there. To me, maybe there's a little spoiled-ness situation there, but to be so callous about not wanting to go to one of the best schools in the country and like kind of taking that for granted, while there are hundreds of thousands of kids who would love to be in her position, is, I think, really unfortunate. I don't know. I just wouldn't want my kid watching that.

Jon Pfeiffer:  That would be my take. Yeah, that would be my take.

Aja Dang:  Yeah.

Jon Pfeiffer:  So back to-

Aja Dang:  Back to me.

Jon Pfeiffer:  Back to you, this is about you.

Aja Dang:  Yeah, right? Hello! Yeah, it was Vlogmas. So you vlog every day what you do, and what I did that day was I had to dog sit to make money and still couldn't pay my loan. So I vlogged about that and told everyone how much I owed in student loans, and then it kind of just catapulted.

Jon Pfeiffer:  Tell me about the comments that you got.

Aja Dang:  I mean, some where very supportive in the fact that, thank you, no one online is talking about this. I thought I was alone. Thank you for sharing your story. And then there were the comments of, you're an idiot. This is your fault. Why didn't you go to trade school? Why didn't you go into the military? You're dumb bitch. So it was kind of hard between those things, because especially when it comes to money, no one wants to be made to feel dumb about their money. But those comments of encouragement kind of convinced me to do more.

Jon Pfeiffer:  You should have gone to trade school?

Aja Dang:  I know, right? You should have been a plumber. I'm like, "Okay, that's not for everyone dude. I don't know what to tell you."

Jon Pfeiffer:  You don't know how to do that.

Aja Dang:  I know.

Jon Pfeiffer:  And then now, that you kept doing this...

Aja Dang:  Mm-hmm (affirmative). Every month.

Jon Pfeiffer:  Talking about your student debt?

Aja Dang:  Yep. Yep.

Jon Pfeiffer:  And you post your budget?

Aja Dang:  I post my real budget every month. Like my numbers, what I make, what I paid off, what I spent my money on every single month.

Jon Pfeiffer:  How has it been to be that public about where your money goes?

Aja Dang:  The moment I posted that original video, I immediately got a sense of confidence when it came to money, because just talking about it gives you kind of this control over it, than it would if you had ignored it. And then also being public about it makes me more responsible with what I do with my money. And obviously, the goal throughout this whole journey on YouTube is to pay off my debt. So just also being able to see people comment, like, I paid off my credit card because of you, because of your videos. It's like, okay, cool. So let's all finish this journey together.

Jon Pfeiffer:  How much has your spending changed just because you know people are going to know what you spent it on? It's like the the athletic trainer that won't eat donuts...

Aja Dang:  Right, right, right. No, I mean, my lifestyle hasn't changed that much. It's just because I just never really spend too much money on anything besides food, which is still a struggle. But now it's just, being more conscious of how much money I put towards my debt and getting out of debt. And what I'm going to do with my money in the future. So it's just being more cognizant on how much I make and how much to throw to become debt free. Yeah.

Jon Pfeiffer:  Now, where do you draw the privacy balance line? Where on the one hand, you're willing to talk about the topic that no one will talk about, which is money.

Aja Dang:  Yeah, yeah.

Jon Pfeiffer:  What about relationships?

Aja Dang:  I was really open about my relationships back in the day, and then people started asking questions that they didn't really have the right to ask. So while I'm very open about money, talking... I mean, sometimes my boyfriends are in my videos, but we definitely try to draw a line to where it doesn't get too personal. Because at the end of the day, people don't have the right to ask certain questions about personal experiences.

Jon Pfeiffer:  Is there any other area where you just draw the line?

Aja Dang:  No. [Laughter] Absolutely not.

Jon Pfeiffer:  Fair enough. Okay, I'm going to go to 73 questions a la Vogue on you.

Aja Dang:  Fun, okay!

Jon Pfeiffer:  So it's going to be real fast.

Aja Dang:  Okay.

Jon Pfeiffer:  Okay. What question do you ask to find out the most about a person?

Aja Dang:  You started off with a really tough one. I don't know. What do you ask?

Jon Pfeiffer:  Well see, I was going to throw that question back to you. Then whatever question you ask, I ask, "Tell me about yourself?" And people eventually tell you.

Aja Dang:  I mean, but how long do you have when you ask that question? I think probably it's just like, "What are you passionate about?"

Jon Pfeiffer:  What question would you most like to know the answer to?

Aja Dang:  Honestly, I live life just going with the flow, but maybe, how do we as a country work together to make it better? To make it work for the majority of people.

Jon Pfeiffer:  You'll see, these questions are all over the place.

Aja Dang:  Yeah.

Jon Pfeiffer:  We're going to go from this one to-

Aja Dang:  Two really intense questions.

Jon Pfeiffer:  Favorite food?

Aja Dang:  Sushi.

Jon Pfeiffer:  Least favorite food?

Aja Dang:  Anything spicy.

Jon Pfeiffer:  Favorite cocktail?

Aja Dang:  Anything. [Laughter] No. So wine, we do red, and my dad is a whiskey drinker. So we drink whiskey too.

Jon Pfeiffer:  Favorite whiskey?

Aja Dang:  Some kind of Japanese whiskey.

Jon Pfeiffer:  Do you collect anything?

Aja Dang:  No. I'm a minimalist. I don't like a lot of crap in my house.

Jon Pfeiffer:  If you had 30 minutes a day to do anything you wanted, what would you do?

Aja Dang:  Probably walk my dogs.

Jon Pfeiffer:  What TV channel doesn't exist and they should?

Aja Dang:  How about a super non-biased news source. I don't know how anyone would get any money from that. But that would be awesome.

Jon Pfeiffer:  It should. Favorite movie?

Aja Dang:  For a Good Time, Call is one. The Holiday and The Last Holiday.

Jon Pfeiffer:  If you could star in a movie, who would you choose as your co-star?

Aja Dang:  Who would I choose?

Jon Pfeiffer:  And it makes you realize that these Vogue questions, they had them in advance for a long time.

Aja Dang:  My god, yes. Who would I choose? Sorry, this isn't going as fast.

Jon Pfeiffer:  It's not designed to go that fast.

Aja Dang:  I would choose Rachel McAdams.

Jon Pfeiffer:  Why?

Aja Dang:  Because my boyfriend likes her.

Jon Pfeiffer:  What's your guilty pleasure?

Aja Dang:  Reality television. Oh My God. The Bachelor, I can't stand it but I can't stop watching. It's so stupid.

Jon Pfeiffer:  Someone was talking about that The Bachelor is... every woman hates men that date multiple women, but they watch The Bachelor.

Aja Dang:  Mm-hmm (affirmative). Hey, at least they're open about it. They're open and honest.

Jon Pfeiffer:  What's the one talent you wish you had?

Aja Dang:  I wish I could play an instrument.

Jon Pfeiffer:  And yet there's a guitar hanging on the wall.

Aja Dang:  That ain't mine. [Laughter] Actually I wish I could speak multiple languages. I'll take back the instrument. I want to speak multiple languages.

Jon Pfeiffer:  What's your biggest pet peeve?

Aja Dang:  People who are late?

Jon Pfeiffer:  What piece of entertainment, if you could erase it from your mind, would you want to do that so you could experience it again for the first time?

Aja Dang:  Probably watching Avengers, the last two, again.

Jon Pfeiffer:  If you could make one rule that everyone had to follow, what would it be?

Aja Dang:  Adopt animals.

Jon Pfeiffer:  And you've adopted animals?

Aja Dang:  I've adopted two and we fostered.

Jon Pfeiffer:  Tell me something that's true that almost nobody agrees with you on.

Aja Dang:  What do you mean? I'm always right. What are you talking about? [Laughter]

Jon Pfeiffer:  Okay, so I'm going to shift gears a second.

Aja Dang:  Okay.

Jon Pfeiffer:  I want to know about your job. Do you have an editorial calendar?

Aja Dang:  No. I've tried to do an editorial calendar. But honestly, like I said, I kind of just go with the flow. So there's a lot of video ideas I have on my list that still haven't been hit, because I just haven't felt the inspiration to do them.

Jon Pfeiffer:  That's true for your social, what about for the podcast? How far in advance do you guys talk about guests?

Aja Dang:  It depends. It depends on how... I mean, we definitely have kind of people who we want to interview and then it's kind of just finding those people. So I emailed someone from the NRA, who I still haven't heard back from, but yeah, we're just kind of throwing out a lot of nets.

Jon Pfeiffer:  Different topics?

Aja Dang:  Yeah, right now.

Jon Pfeiffer:  What does a typical workday look like for you?

Aja Dang:  Well, my typical day, I wake up, I work out. I walk my dogs and work out and then I shower.

Jon Pfeiffer:  What time to you get up?

Aja Dang:  Between 6:30 and 7:30, because I don't set my alarm, so it's just whenever I naturally wake up. And then I shoot in the morning. So I get ready and I shoot and I try to be done by 2:00. And then after that, if I have to edit or take pictures or whatever, then I'll do that.

Jon Pfeiffer:  For your Instagram, do you take your own pictures?

Aja Dang:  Yeah, I do.

Jon Pfeiffer:  Do you set a timer? Is that what you do?

Aja Dang:  I put it on a tripod. I have a remote for my camera and I shoot it. I wish I had money to hire a photographer, but we got loans to pay honey.

Jon Pfeiffer:  [Laughter] School loans.

Aja Dang:  Yep.

Jon Pfeiffer:  Who's the first person to encourage you to do more YouTube?

Aja Dang:  My boyfriend Brian actually, yeah.

Jon Pfeiffer:  What's the biggest challenge you face when you're creating content?

Aja Dang:  That's my---what happens or what I put on YouTube lives up to my idea of what I want in my head, which rarely happens.

Jon Pfeiffer:  What's your favorite video?

Aja Dang:  Like on YouTube, of mine?

Jon Pfeiffer:  That you have. Yours. Yeah.

Aja Dang:  I like my parody videos a lot. I think probably my No Rings parody, Ariana Grande video is one of my favorites.

Jon Pfeiffer:  How much longer does it take to do a parody video than a regular video?

Aja Dang:  It takes months. Because I write the lyrics, and then I obviously have to come up with the ideas. And it's expensive, so we have to save up money. But to me, it's really fun. I don't make money off of those videos because obviously they're copywritten, but it's just for me kind of how I release creativity.

Jon Pfeiffer:  When you post a video, can you predict the success of the video when you're posting?

Aja Dang:  Dude, if I could predict any type of success on social media, I'd be a bajillionare. It's so hard. I mean sometimes, my budget videos, I know people will watch because that's obviously something people are invested in, in myself, but some videos that I think are going to do really well don't. Some that I didn't think were going to do well, do. Or sometimes I think for me, because I am smaller quote unquote YouTuber, tags really help me. So I uploaded last year a self defense video with one of my friends, Anna Gracie and it did really poorly off the bat. No one watched it, but now it's almost at a million. So you just never know. Like the algorithms, I do not understand it.

Jon Pfeiffer:  Do you have a budget for each video?

Aja Dang:  Free, for the most part. I mean, there's my parody videos or kind of bigger production videos. Those take obviously longer to plan. So I have to set aside money for a videographer and stuff. But normally, they're obviously zero dollars.

Jon Pfeiffer:  How do you consume content?

Aja Dang:  Passively. Yeah. Twitter, Instagram and Pinterest. I kind of look through every day. YouTube, I just don't have the time to commit to that.

Jon Pfeiffer:  I have a client that gets up in the morning, turns on YouTube, and it's on all day.

Aja Dang:  Really? No, no, no.

Jon Pfeiffer:  On a big screen. Yeah.

Aja Dang:  See, I think, for me personally, a lot of YouTube content is bullshit. And I just don't align with it.

Jon Pfeiffer:  Well, I want to come back to that, because you've talked about that before.

Aja Dang:  Yeah.

Jon Pfeiffer:  The superficiality of some of the content.

Aja Dang:  Yeah, yeah.

Jon Pfeiffer:  Why do you think that is?

Aja Dang:  I think people try to do what they think will make them popular. And that's just not me and I don't like that.

Jon Pfeiffer:  But how could you predict that something is going to make you popular?

Aja Dang:  Well, I mean, you can definitely see kind of the trends that are happening. I mean, they have the trending page and then people just bite off kind of videos that other people do and, cool, but not my thing.

Jon Pfeiffer:  Do you think that social media empowers women or objectifies women?

Aja Dang:  I think it's both. I mean, obviously, you can find both if you're looking for it. But I mean, that's definitely something that I'm very conscious about when I post on social media, is I want it to be empowering. And I think I do that.

Jon Pfeiffer:  Because if you look, there's a lot of 20 year olds, 21 year olds, 22 year olds, that you wonder what they're going to think in 10 years.

Aja Dang:  Yeah, I mean, that was me. That was me in my 20s. I mean, very geared towards men. So what do men like? They like boobs and they like bikinis and lingerie. That was very much me. But I was just able to kind of pivot before I got old and saggy and I didn't have a choice.

Jon Pfeiffer:  As a 32-year-old "old" woman.

Aja Dang:  Yeah.

Jon Pfeiffer:  What's a question you wish people would stop asking you?

Aja Dang:  When am I going to get married.

Jon Pfeiffer:  I won't ask you that one. Who asks you that?

Aja Dang:  Everyone. Because I think, my boyfriend and I, we're private but we're public. He's a choreographer, and he's very big on social media. We've been dating for seven years. So it's, when are you going to get married? When are you going to have kids? And for me, it's just like, one is none of your business. It'll happen when it happens. But also, I'm just, I'm not ready. There are things in my life that I want to accomplish before I take that step. And, like, shut up.

Jon Pfeiffer:  Do you want kids, eventually, someday?

Aja Dang:  I think eventually. I think, I definitely feel like if I do have kids, I'll be an older mom. I'm not in a rush right now.

Jon Pfeiffer:  If you do have kids, would you put them in videos?

Aja Dang:  I don't know. That's a hard one. Because I definitely feel like some of the family vlogs are exploitive of their children. But I think it's just like I put my dogs in my videos, just because-

Jon Pfeiffer:  Yeah, but a dog versus a baby.

Aja Dang:  Is it the same? I mean, I don't know. I'll let you know when I get there.

Jon Pfeiffer:  You do not like to be called an influencer.

Aja Dang:  No.

Jon Pfeiffer:  Why?

Aja Dang:  Because I think that gives people a little bit more power than they have. And especially when I think of influencer, I kind of think of the Jake Pauls of the world, and I don't necessarily... I do not want to be associated with that.

Jon Pfeiffer:  Do you feel that you do have influence?

Aja Dang:  Yeah, totally.

Jon Pfeiffer:  So you're an influencer.

Aja Dang:  Yeah, I mean, but... I don't know. Can we think of a different name?

Jon Pfeiffer:  Social media person.

Aja Dang:  [Laughter] Youre a person--You're a social media person.

Jon Pfeiffer:  Have you had an "I've made it" moment?

Aja Dang:  No. No, not yet. I think once people stop mispronouncing my name, I'll be like, "I've made it!"

Jon Pfeiffer:  Aja!

Aja Dang:  You can say it, but I have a lot of people saying like... when they come up to me they're like, "Are you Heja?" They don't know. I'm like, "Yes, that's me." But also bummer.

Jon Pfeiffer:  I also found out on Twitter you do not like it when people say, "Dang."

Aja Dang:  Yeah, it's so predictable. Can we do another, something else? What else can we do? [Laughter]

Jon Pfeiffer:  We can make something else up.

Aja Dang:  Yeah, I need something else.

Jon Pfeiffer:  Tell me about the first time somebody recognized you.

Aja Dang:  I don't even remember. For me, those things aren't really memorable, because I mean, "Cool. Thanks for coming up to me." But that's not my end-all goal, is to be recognized by... everyone has always been very nice.

Jon Pfeiffer:  What advice would you have for somebody that wants to start making YouTube videos?

Aja Dang:  You're about 15 years too late, but don't be discouraged. [Laughter] I mean, I think for me, it's like, you have to set yourself apart somehow. And you also can't put pressure on yourself to succeed so quickly. I mean, because I think for me, I have less than 400000 followers on YouTube. And I've been doing this for years. And you see people who've only been on YouTube for a couple months, and they already have a million subscribers. So it's easy to kind of feel bad about yourself, that you're growing so slowly, but also, I look at it as positive because if I had grown that quickly in my 20s, I probably would be a huge dick right now. So you know.

Jon Pfeiffer:  And if you're going to build a slower your following, it is going to be more authentic because...

Aja Dang:  A Hundred Percent!

Jon Pfeiffer:  As opposed to that one-off cat videos.

Aja Dang:  Yeah, it's definitely more authentic. You grow a community of people who care about the same things that you care about.

Jon Pfeiffer:  What's the worst piece of social media advice you've received?

Aja Dang:  Post every day.

Jon Pfeiffer:  How often do you post?

Aja Dang:  Not every day. I'm like the worst social media influencer ever. I post when I want to.

Jon Pfeiffer:  Is there a regular schedule? I mean, are you like... okay.

Aja Dang:  I tried to do a regular schedule but that just put too much pressure on me. It gives me anxiety and for me social media is... well, I post something when I have something to say.

Jon Pfeiffer:  Knowing what you know now, what would you tell your younger self?

Aja Dang:  Just follow the journey. Because I think when I was younger, I definitely put a lot of pressure on myself, that I wasn't where I wanted to be, or where I thought I would be at a certain age. But we all kind of grow and grow into who are meant to be at different times. So it would be to just trust the journey. And also, people are mean to you because they're jealous of you. That's also what I would tell my younger self.

Jon Pfeiffer:  Last question. This is a gimme. Where can people find you on the internet?

Aja Dang:  You can find me on YouTube, Instagram, Twitter if you want to get political. All of that is @Ajadang, A-J-A-D-A-N-G and then my podcast is Heavy Topics With Lightweights, just on every streaming platform.

Jon Pfeiffer:  Thank you. It's been a pleasure.

Aja Dang:  Thank you. That was hard. [Laughter]

The Creative Influencer is a bi-weekly podcast where we discuss all things creative with an emphasis on Influencers. It is hosted by Jon Pfeiffer, an entertainment attorney in Santa Monica, California.  Jon interviews influencers, creatives and the professionals who work with them.

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