Kiwi creative Hongi Luo has paved her own way through the creative industries and is now the woman behind the campaigns that TikTok puts out into the world.
From being turned down for job after job, to moving to London and working with the likes of Camila Cabello and other superstars, here’s how Hongi Luo has made her mark…
Growing up as an immigrant kid in New Zealand, Hongi never would had expected that what she does now at 29 could have ever been feasible. After finishing her Fine Arts degree, a trip to LA gave her the glimpse into the bigger world that she never knew was there.
“I got scared and fought my way into business school (they kept rejecting me, but I wasn’t having it) and completed my masters in Marketing at the University of Sydney.”
After completing her masters, Hongi took off to Singapore to find her in feet in the creative industries there. First, as the brand manager in charge of the Uber brand for drivers in Asia Pacific. After which she went into a more creative role at renowned creative agency, Forsman & Bodenfors as part of their founding team that launched the new Singapore office.
Hongi had been in Singapore nearly three years, forging her creative path and creating her name when she decided to move to London and after several rejections landed herself a job at one of the fastest growing, viral social media platforms, TikTok.
We caught up with Hongi to find out more about her life in London and how she got to where she wanted.
On landing a job at TikTok.
“I had actually applied for so many different roles at TikTok, being rejected almost immediately for each one.
Feeling a bit deflated, I remember checking LinkedIn with a glass of wine, and seeing this new role. It was actually better suited to my experience – so I took a big sip and gave it one more go. It was that whole farce of uploading your CV and then typing out the exact content on the next page. Except this time I was powered by wine, and really took my time to expand when I had the chance, and explain in detail everything I had accomplished. It worked!”
On what her role entails.
“As a brand manager, I work on the communications and campaigns TikTok puts into the world, to bring those who don’t understand the app a little closer. Those could be big or small, but ultimately it’s my job to strategise and execute how we shape our brand.”
On why she wanted to work at TikTok.
“I’ve always had a fire in my belly about having skin in the game. I guess that’s why I’m so drawn to working with companies and brands that are building, scaling, and growing. When you join a hyper-growth business, there isn’t time to sit on your laurels, every minute counts, and you have to be a decision maker.
I joined TikTok because I truly believe TikTok is changing the way people unleash their creativity. It isn’t about being perfect or high production, it’s about being brave and putting yourself into the world. “
On working with Camila Cabello.
“At the heart of TikTok is music. So naturally we spend time celebrating artists both inside the app, and out. The project with Camila was one of the first we did with a major global artist. It was a natural match – bringing Camila’s music out of the app, but showing how people around the world are engaging so much more directly with artists.
She was incredibly generous with her time, and extremely professional. As soon as the cameras were rolling, she was on. Every mark, every note – she knew exactly what to do.”
Her advice for creating content.
“Be brave and do it! There’s no secret sauce. I am always sharing my favourite TikToks out-of-app, and they are always just someone with a joke, or an interesting idea, or a silly dog, or a hidden talent. They are people in their pyjamas at 3am, or having a laugh with their family and friends. I find it so brave – to put your creative impulse into the world, for it not to be perfectly edited or highly produced, that’s so inspiring.
Trends come and go so quickly! But also they evolve. I’ve seen a dance, which then someone covers by making their own song, which then starts trending as the sound track to a skit – honestly anything is possible with a little creativity.”
On how TikTok is different to any other platform and her favourite TikTok challenge.
“I think it’s different because it celebrates everyone. There isn’t one look, or one style, or one type of content that works. It’s about having fun, rather than showing off.
I think it’s too hard to name one favourite [challenge], because I’m constantly surprised at new creative ways people have used music or the effects in the app. But if you’re curious about my daily favourites, you can follow my stories on Instagram – I’m always reshaping things that make me smile.”
On settling into London life.
“London life is worlds away from living in Asia, which is worlds away from living in New Zealand. I kick myself all the time that this scrappy little kid from South Auckland gets to work right near Covent Garden, or I get to travel around the world to film with extremely talented teams, and very recognisable faces. Sometimes I think ‘did they mean to pick me?’
London is an amazing city, it’s so alive and bustling, and an absolute melting pot. It was a little bit of a shock going from Singapore, being surrounded by people who looked like me, of East Asian descent. But I love it, and I’m slowly learning about all the cultures and people who I now share a neighbourhood with.”
On what she is most looking forward to achieving this year.
“I hope I can celebrate the small successes and not be chasing after the next thing! It’s a hard balance to find in work and life. I’ve just wrapped one of the biggest campaigns we’ve ever done here in Europe (we partnered with the Brit Awards to livestream the red carpet straight from the TikTok app!) So it’s time for a little rest and reflection. Time to learn and heal. Then we rev up, and do it all again.”
Her piece advice for young creatives.
“Don’t believe in job descriptions, don’t stay in your lane, don’t stop learning!”