Cyrene Quiamco didn’t set out to become a Snapchat star. That’s the way it so often goes for today’s top influencers and creators. Through hard work, a passion for art in digital mediums, and with the help of a sidekick named Ele, CyreneQ went from Snapchat archivist to one of the platform’s most popular artists and personalities.
After admiring work from the growing artist community on Snapchat, Cyrene found herself wanting to preserve the disappearing works, so she started the11thsecond.com. It wasn’t long after she embarked upon a mission to preserve works that she began creating and sharing her own work on Snapchat. From celebrity selfies to the World’s Smallest Mona Lisa, Cyrene is a key part of the art community on Snapchat.
We spoke with Cyrene to get the behind-the-scenes look at her rise to Snapchat stardom, the story behind her work, and the process that leads to some of her best works.
How did you get started with Snap art and was there anything in particular from your background or training that made Snapchat illustrating natural to you?
Before Snapchat, I was a web designer, but in college, I was a triple major with one minor, all in art. I was a major in graphic design, painting, ceramics, and a minor in digital graphics, so my background has always been in art. When I started Snapchat, it was just another medium to broadcast my art. Before Snapchat, I did art through the web and digital mediums, and now I’m doing art for social media. I don’t really see a big transition, I just see it as a different canvas.
When did you realize that your Snapchat account could turn into something huge and how did you make the decision to become a full-time Snapchat content creator?
It all happened organically. When I first started Snapchat, I started like everybody else: I Snapped my friends.
It was actually my old coworkers that I started Snapchatting. We would Snapchat back and forth through boring meetings just to get our creativity up. One of my old coworkers said, ‘Hey, there are these cool people doing Snapchat art, you should add them.’ So I added a lot of different people and I started admiring their art and I started becoming friends with them.
Then I thought to myself, ‘These are great masterpieces that are going to disappear in ten seconds. I’m going to create a website to archive them.’ That’s why I started the11thsecond.com. At that point, I wasn’t an influencer, I was just an admirer and it was more of a hobby website. I didn’t know that the website was going to help me turn into an influencer. I got so inspired by all these people that I was featuring that I said, ‘I’m going to do this, too, let me jump at it.’
I made my Snapchat profile public and started posting Snaps on it. I did a celebrity selfie series, and I think that was the series that actually got me viral. I would take a selfie and I would draw a celebrity on it and then I posted those pictures on the11thsecond.com. A lot of different people saw it, and then Kevin Jonas saw it and contacted me and retweeted and re-Instagrammed my celebrity selfie. Brands started contacting me and that’s how it started.
Knowing that Snapchat is a really engaging platform with a lot of tight-knit communities, how do you connect and interact and build relationships with your fan base?
I talk to my fans. This is where Snapchat is different from other social media. On Snapchat, you can’t just make content and have people watch it, you actually have to make content and have people engage with it. Whenever I create a story, I ask my fans to be part of it. I do a lot of ‘Can you help me complete this story? Snap me something and I’ll repost some of your Snaps,’ and so instead of just watching it, they’re becoming part of my story.
Another way that I engage with my fans is that I do a lot of games. I do a lot of ‘Screenshot this and complete this quest or complete this puzzle,’ and that’s another way of interacting. I think that’s unique to Snapchat in that you curate these things live and people aren’t just watching something that’s already made, they’re helping you create the story.
What’s your typical process for creating graphics and art on Snapchat, and how long does one piece of Snap art usually take you?
It’s just like creating any other video projects on any other platform. I do brainstorming first and then I do a written storyboard, and sometimes if the story gets a little complex I do a visual storyboard. Then, when the visual storyboard is done, that’s when I actually start filming.
One Snap, depending on the complexity, can take up to 1-2 hours. But usually if I’m on the go, I do my little sidekick Ele, and she usually takes like five minutes to draw. It all depends on the complexity of the Snaps, but the whole process for a Snapchat Story when I’m working with brands could take 1-2 weeks.
How do you decide which brands to partner with as an influencer?
I usually work with the brands that fit my lifestyle and that I already use. Like Disney — I love Disney, it fits with my brand, it’s something that I’m already doing on my Snapchat, and it’s a sponsored Snap rather than an ad that I’m being paid to put on my Snapchat Story. I just see which brands fit me and fit my personality.
Congratulations on your book, 11 Seconds to Success, reaching #1, that’s great news. What’s one takeaway that you want readers to come away with after reading your book?
I just want them to takeaway that it’s possible to take your passion and turn it into a career. One of the things that I talk about in the book is that if everyone does the thing they want to do, they’re going to give it they’re 100 percent. But if they’re doing something that they don’t want to do, they’ll never find success in it because they’re not going to be motivated to give it their 100 percent. I just encourage everyone to take their passion and really work hard to make it happen.
The book is about me trying to prove my whole life that I won’t be a starving artist. I show stages of my life from my humble beginnings in the Philippines and how people said, ‘Why are you doing art? You’re going to be a starving artist’ but I took that and constantly, even before Snapchat art, I proved that you can take art and you can create a life around it and that I’m not going to be a starving artist.
How did you come up with the cute orange character (Ele) that stars in so many of your Snaps?
Ele is the mascot of the11thsecond website. Snapchat is known for its 10-second Snaps and if you screenshot it and put it on the website, you’re giving it more than 10 seconds, you’re giving it its 11th second. And Ele is short for “eleventh” and it’s just a character that comes with me and it’s actually a modified Snapchat Ghost. You can tell that it’s very similar to a Snapchat Ghost, and there’s where I got the idea for my sidekick, Ele.
What’s been your most surreal experience since becoming a Snapchat star?
My first viral Snaps were my celebrity Snapchats, and I’ve always been one of those people that dreamed of taking selfies with all these celebrities. At first, it started out as a joke and now that I’ve gotten noticed on Snapchat, I’m actually taking pictures with real celebrities. So I turned my drawings into reality and I think that’s super surreal.
Given what’s going on with Snapchat right now, having just launched Spectacles, rebranding itself as a camera company, and going public, what are your thoughts on where Snapchat is headed and how that might affect you?
I think the IPO’s a good thing for us. I see that Snapchat is more open to listening to influencers because it’s a public company, they want to know what people are wanting from the app. I think it’s going to open a lot of doors for communicating with Snapchat and lead to a lot of features that are not only catering to the instant-messaging part of Snapchat but also the creator part of Snapchat. I’m excited that it’s headed that way.
As for the camera company, I’m excited to see what they’re going to make for Snapchat. I’m a fan of Spectacles. I use them so differently from how they’re supposed to be used, and I think it’s exciting. I’m excited to try out different products and I’m excited to find ways to use them.
Lightning Round: What’s your favorite livestreaming app?
I actually have not done livestreaming apps. Before Snapchat I was really shy and Snapchat actually got me out of my shell. I still want that non-live element to it where I have control, and so that’s why I haven’t used livestreaming. I haven’t been comfortable enough. But I think, later on, that might be a platform that I could try.
Favorite Snapchat lens?
The lens that you can take any face from your Camera Roll and then put it on your face because then you can do a lot of celebrity impersonations.
Two fun facts that your fans might not know about you?
1) That I bought and paid off my house at age 22.
2) I love Hello Kitty and my whole room is decorated in Hello Kitty.
Favorite Hello Kitty character?
This interview has been edited for brevity and clarity.