Tik Tok Star Sony MTV Talks Identity, Culture, And Her Overnight Success
There’s no denying that Tik Tok star and social media influencer Sonia, “Sony MTV”, Taniguchi is a force to be reckoned with. In record time, the half-Mexican and half-Japanese content creator has created a loyal and engaged social media following, cementing her status as the next big influencer to watch. For those of you who are behind the times, Tik Tok is a platform that allows users to create short videos lip-syncing along to songs or audio clips. Luckily for 22-year-old Sony MTV, born Sonia Mayu Taniguchi Villafan, she has the kind of charisma, personality, and social media skills that are a perfect fit for the social media juggernaut.
With almost 700,000 fans on Tik Tok, it’s clear that Taniguchi’s persona has resonated with people. While her videos run the gambit, her calling card has become the window she provides into the daily life of a Japanese and Mexican Latina. Whether it’s imitating the contrast between her Japanese mother and her Mexican father’s parenting styles or describing the way each culture pronounces “avocado”, Sony MTV always delivers humorous insight into what it means to be a multi-cultural Latina.
mitú recently had the chance to talk to Sony MTV on a variety of topics: her rapid growth on Tik Tok, the causes she is passionate about, and how she is proud to identify as Mexican.
Mitu (M): What was it like moving from Mexico to the U.S. at such an impressionable age?
Sony MTV (SMTV): First of all, the reason why I decided to move to the US was because I realized that school in Mexico was not at the level that I needed it to be to educate myself and pursue a good career.
So my main focus was school, and I was not disappointed. I was impressed by how American public high schools have such great challenging classes, ranging from regular, accelerated, AP, or IB courses (which are nonexistent in Mexico). And not only that, but teachers actually do their job.
I couldn’t believe we had lockers, cheer team, varsity players, a “Glee”-like show choir team, and all this diversity of people that I had never seen. I felt like I was in a movie.
And not only that, but everyone walked home after school, or to the mall with their iPhones in their hands, without fear of getting mugged. That, to me, was hard to get used to.
I did struggle, though. My first two years of high school, I couldn’t make many close friends because I couldn’t speak English fluently. The hardest part was English class. I hated being picked to answer the teacher’s question because I couldn’t think in English; I couldn’t express myself. And I would just turn bright red, sweat, and answer with the vocab of an elementary school girl.
But thanks to that, I was able to push myself and eventually was able to dominate the language, passed my senior year IB English exam, got into UC Berkeley, and I had no need to take English in college.
M: How did you come up with the name Sony MTV?
SMTV: It comes from my name. Sonia = Sony for short, and MTV in the initials to Mayu Taniguchi Villafan.
M: A lot of your videos explore what it’s like to be a multi-cultural Latina. How do you navigate life while being authentic and true to all of your identities?
SMTV: I think that I try to adapt to the environment I am in. If I am with Japanese friends then I act accordingly, and if I am with Latino friends, then I act in a way that fits. Like kissing cheeks when greeting each other, taking off my shoes at a Japanese friend’s house, etc. I also speak both languages, so I can just adapt. And being able to do so is what keeps me being me: a mix.
M: What attracted you to TikTok as a social media platform? (as opposed to Youtube or Instagram or Twitter)?
SMTV: I was bored one day and I saw a couple of videos on Instagram, so I felt like making videos on TikTok because it seemed fun. I also kept at it because it is so easy to use. Especially because there is not much editing needed. And you have so many tools available within the app.
M: While a lot of people struggle to grow a following on social media, you grew yours incredibly fast. How did you do it? And what tips do you have for growing a TikTok following?
SMTV: At first, I made videos very frequently–like three every other day–simply because I had so much fun with it. I chose funny audios because I liked making my friends laugh and then people started finding me. My focus was never getting followers, but it eventually happened.
But one thing is that by posting a lot, I did notice the pattern of videos that got the most views, and started to focus my videos on more specific topics, which were my Mexican and Japanese background. And honestly, I never thought my life would be interesting to anyone because I am so used to it.
Anyways, I would say that to grow on TikTok, you just need to be authentic and post a lot. I mean, I think that applies to any other platform.
M: Who are some influencers you look up to and admire for their work and personality?
SMTV: I would have to say I really admire Team Badabun and their efforts to use social media to promote environmental awareness and education. Of course, not all of their videos contain those topics, but lots of them do. And I love to see how they invite their viewers to do something good in society and push to teach younger audiences to be responsible and aware of problems happening in Mexico and other Latin American countries.
M: You speak English, Spanish, and Japanese, but the majority of your content is in Spanish. What made you decide to be a Spanish-language content creator?
SMTV: I was very intrigued by the fact that TikTok had so many funny audios in Spanish, that I had to share my own versions to my friends. And I kept at it because I felt the need to spread these audios more.
I tried doing Japanese, but I could’t find as many funny audios so I couldn’t make many. And English was already very popular, so it didn’t catch my attention.
M: Why do you think people resonate with your videos?
SMTV: Because the topics I use are everyday things in Mexican culture, that many can relate to (not only Mexicans, but other Latinos too). Like certain expressions, music, sayings, etc. And they can also see how these interact with my Japanese side.
M: You’ve also been candid about how you struggled with a binge-eating disorder when you were in college. Being a Nutrition Sciences major at the time, how did this affect you?
SMTV: It was a very hard time for me because it seemed ironic that I was struggling with binge eating disorder while studying about it. But, I knew that I needed to take care of myself because I was falling into depression and I was way too stressed and insecure about school.
It’s been two years since dropping out of Cal and I am currently waiting on readmission to UC Berkeley for spring semester 2020. I did not change my major because I am still very intrigued by Nutrition Sciences and want to help others with their health through nutrition.
I think that after this experience, I am better prepared to not only pass my classes and graduate, but to understand more in-depth what my future patients will be feeling if they struggle with any eating disorder.
M: You’ve also been candid about how you struggled to adjust to college life. What do you tell fans who reach out to you with similar experiences?
SMTV: I share my experiences because I don’t want people to feel alone in this. While I was in school, I felt like I was the only one struggling because nobody talks about depression and eating disorders as much as they talk about drinking or parties.
Once I made my story public, so many people messaged me saying that they kept quiet to please their parents or because they were scared to be judged. And believe me, at the time I was extremely scared to hear people’s opinion but I NEEDED to be heard. I felt tired of hiding and pretending to be okay.
So I want and I hope that if anyone whether in school or not, are struggling, they should speak out and not be ashamed. Because we are all human and feel the same and can help each other. There is always someone willing to listen and help.
M: A lot of Latinx celebrities in the public eye deal with criticism that they’re “not Latino enough”. What did you do if you ever faced the same experience? And what do you tell others about being who you are no matter what?
SMTV: Well, I am educated enough to know that we all come from everywhere. Literally. Take a DNA test and you’ll see you have like 2% African even if you have nothing to do with Africa. That being said, when people tell me I am not as Mexican as they are because of my “chinita” face, then I make sure to tell them that “real” Mexicans are Natives who don’t even speak Spanish, therefore most aren’t “real” Mexican.
That means there are no actual Mexicans in Mexico but pure immigrants. So that leads me to say that if you consider yourself Mexican just because you have the look, then I can consider myself Mexican just because I speak Spanish, I identify with the culture, and because my family is from Mexico.
M: What exciting things do you have planned for your next career move and your future as an influencer?
SMTV: As mentioned before, I am planning to go back to school to finish my degree. Other than that, I want to keep making fun videos for TikTok and see where that takes me. I hope I can keep making collaborations with organizations that promote environmental awareness, racial and sexual diversity, feminism, etc. on TikTok and have a positive impact on my followers.
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