For those of a certain age, the structure of Musical.ly doesn't seem very lucrative: the app allows its users (known as "musers") to create 15-second to a minute-long videos, altered with filters, soundtracks, and speed manipulation—think of it like Vine, but longer and the edit function exists within the application. It's most popular use is as a lip-sync platform, teens from all over filming and editing themselves mouthing along to their favorite Top 40 hits. No one knows the app better than Baby Ariel, offline known as 16-year-old Ariel Martin, who has become the most popular muser with over 20 million followers. It's made her a celebrity in her own right, landed her a guest spot on Good Morning America and allowed her to find real fame—the first of this particular kind. We called Martin to talk about the app, her interest in music, and what the future holds.
Have you always been interested in social media?
No, actually, I used to only be on Instagram. Once I started Musical.ly, I began to download other platforms and that's when I really became interested in social media.
When did you join Instagram? What inspired you to do so?
I have always had an Instagram account to talk to my friends, but I started "social media" on Musical.ly about two years ago. My supporters have always been my inspiration. They have always been so kind and loyal to me, which I am so thankful for. I encourage them to comment on any post telling me what kinds of videos to make or what song I should do for Musical.ly, and that is where I get most of my ideas from.
Your success story really takes off with Musical.ly. Why did you sign up?
I started Musical.ly when I was 14 years old. During that time, my house was nearly destroyed by a flood, so my entire family was living in one room at my grandparents' house. Since we were working on our house most of the summer, my brother and I didn't go to camp. Instead, we spent most of our free time having fun with Musical.ly.
What was your relationship with Musical.ly before then? Did you know about the app?
The first day I found out about Musical.ly was the day I began to make them.
Did you have any idea how big your account would get? Why do you think you've had the successes you've had?
I had no idea my account would have gotten this big and it's all thanks to my supporters. Without them, I wouldn't be where I am today. They are like my family. They support me through everything and always motivate me to work harder.
When did you start noticing that people were engaging with your account? Was there a particular Musical.ly that hit big for you, like a viral moment, or has it been a slow build?
My first few Musical.lys that were featured were big across the app and that was when I really started to grow a following.
What makes a good Musical.ly?
Any musical.ly is a good musical.ly as long as you're being yourself. I love scrolling down my timeline and seeing all different kinds of videos from different people. Musical.ly has become such a wonderful platform to express yourself and show your creativity.
Do you have a favorite one that you've made? If so, what is it?
I definitely have the most fun making Nicki Minaj musical.lys. I love all of her songs, and she brings out some attitude in me!
Who are some of your favorite musers?
I love watching Lauren Godwin on Musical.ly. Not only is she one of my good friends, but she is super creative with each Musical.ly. Lauren makes comedy videos where she dresses up like different characters in crazy wigs and costumes. You have to check it out!
Have you considered pursuing music in other, real ways? Perhaps writing or recording your own songs?
I have actually been writing and recording a lot recently! I was very nervous to step into a studio at first, but once I did, I fell in love and now I can't wait to share with my supporters everything I've been working on.
Your Musical.ly fame has extended to other social media platforms—Twitter, Instagram and certainly YouTube. Do you have a preference?
I don't have a preference. To me, they all have their own unique purpose. For example, on Twitter I have the ability to say what's on my mind. On YouTube, I can post long, high-quality videos.
Being a public persona means you're forced to take the good with the bad. Do you think becoming a social media star has made you develop thick skin? You certainly have to be confident to do what you do.
At first all of the hate really did get to me. I would burst into tears after reading one negative comment and come home crying because of the things people would say at school. Over time, I have learned to focus only on the positive. I only surround myself with people who lift me up. I ignore any mean comments and I even compliment myself. Confidence didn't come overnight, it took a lot of work and a lot of believing in myself.
When interviewers ask you about your success, you often say you're just being yourself online and on social media. Why is presenting a genuine image so important?
Honestly, if I was trying to be someone else on social media, I wouldn't be happy. I believe everyone should always be their true selves and surround themselves with people who love them for them.
You also do a lot of videos with friends and family. Do you enjoy working with them? Do you find them to be easy to collaborate with?
I love working with my friends and family for any type of video. It can be difficult to collaborate at times because of how crazy we all are but for the most part we all have the best time. When I'm working with my friends who also do social media, we enjoy brainstorming and thinking of out of the box videos we can create in the future.
I'm sure fans come up to you all the time and ask for advice—either how to do what you do on social media or for more personal insight. What questions are you normally asked, and what do you tell them?
I get asked how to do social media a lot and my main response is just to be creative and to be yourself. Whether it's live broadcasting or lip-syncing, there are so many platforms to choose from based on your interests. Find one that you are passionate about. Also, you have to work extremely hard, just like anything else. Push yourself to make better content, try new things, post more, etc. I'm actually hosting a summer camp this August where I will teach other kids how to master social media. You can check it out HERE.
What's in store for the future? Where do you see your social media career heading in the next few years?
I have been working on a few big projects recently. I have been journaling for the past year, and am looking forward to turning those journals into a book. I have also been in the studio a lot recently, writing and recording, and am super excited to release music.
Splash image courtesy of Ariel Martin.