A chat with Aaron Maniego and Rain Matienzo, the two influencers giving us life right now, made possible by Colgate
Amid the pandemic, the internet and television (occasionally) have been the only consistent lifelines to the outside world. They’re crucial to getting a reality check, but they provide that healthy dose of escapism that’s sometimes necessary, too. As of late on social media, Aaron Maniego and Rain Matienzo are two content creators, in particular, who have stepped up to the plate, keeping people entertained with a little something extra. With a string of viral content to attest to their popularity, they’ve both done well to branch out from the social media personas that gave them their start as creators.
For 23-year-old Aaron Maniego, being TikTok’s “Pambansang Bortang Barbie” allows him to poke fun at heteronormative standards—an emphasis on fun that leaves room, still, for meaningful messages about not being boxed in. On the other hand, for 22-year-old Rain Matienzo, who took the internet by storm as the “Conyo Girl” on TikTok, lighthearted commentary on everyday college experiences has eventually led to a career in television.
Regardless of the moves they make as content creators, what’s notable about the two is the way they keep themselves in check. With fame comes the question: what does it mean to create authentically and unapologetically? To borrow from Colgate Fresh Confidence, our partner for the chat ahead: the confidence to “#BeXtraYou” in this vein doesn’t just happen overnight. What was that experience like for Aaron Maniego and Rain Matienzo?
Aaron Maniego rough road to self-discovery:
From grade school until high school, I was bullied for being too feminine, too fat, too acne-ridden. Basically, Aaron Maniego had all the “undesirable” traits [if we go by society’s standards]. I also went to a Catholic school, where people like me were seen and treated differently. It was really hard growing up in that environment, which is why I was very insecure during my formative years.
Aaron Maniego on college being a turning point:
When I transferred to UP, I was able to truly express my authentic self without being judged. Aaron Maniego was thought to do everything that people back then said I shouldn’t: wear makeup, dress and act femininely, all of that good stuff. Throughout college, I was able to explore different parts of myself, from being hyper-feminine to being hyper-masculine. I learned to love myself because of this one simple but important thing: being in an environment where I was able to explore myself without the fear of being judged and mistreated. This is why I stand today as the Pambansang Bortang Barbie–both unapologetically masculine and feminine! Pak.
On how his past has informed the content he produces:
I think of my content as a love letter to my past self, to my insecure self. Gusto ko ako ‘yung kuya na nagpapayo sa mga katulad ko dati…na takot at hindi mahal ang sarili [I want to be like the older brother that could guide those just like me before…when I was scared and didn’t know how to love myself]; I want to be that guiding figure and inspiration that I never had as a kid. I’m just grateful that life has been good to me amidst my trauma and bad experiences, kaya I am able to openly express myself authentically now.
Aaron Maniego on content creation as a way of encouraging confidence:
I want the LGBTQIA+ youth to learn to love themselves and find an environment where they are not just tolerated, but celebrated! Kaya pasigaw talaga ako eh [That’s really why I scream]—it’s like a battle cry toward a better and more inclusive future. GANERN! I also want to affirm through my content that love and happiness are abundant, no matter who you are, as long as you have a good heart! There are people in this world who care about you and want to see you grow to be your best self!
Aaron Maniego on his dating/courting content and the extra step of having long-lasting fresh breath for extra confidence:
I have videos that say the simplest of things can make you extra sexy and confident: being hygienic, brushing your teeth, wearing perfume, dressing neatly, taking care of your skin. Basic hygiene is a major turn-on and self-care is key talaga! Kapag mabango ang breath, iisipin nila: “OMG, fresh, inaalaga ang sarili! Alagaan ‘din kaya namin isa’t isa…” [When you have fresh breath, they’ll think: “OMG, fresh, he takes care of himself! Can we also take care of each other…”] CHARIZ!
Aaron Maniego on navigating negative comments and reactions online:
I don’t really get that many trolling comments, and if I do, mas nagrereact pa family ko sa kanila [my family reacts to them more than I do]! They are very supportive of my TikTok content, so they also read the comments; they’re the ones who give rebuttals. I’m very grateful for the people around me who love and support me. They help me realize that the comment of “user0006969” shouldn’t have a significant effect on my life. As the saying goes, “If they don’t please you, finance you, or feed you, why should they matter?”
Aaron Maniego on the first time he realized “this is my sweet spot” in terms of his content:
My brand is basically me screaming, being masculine then feminine. I became more certain about it since most of my viral videos follow that format, which is just me being me.
I have nothing to hide; I’m not a big fan of curating an online persona that looks “aesthetic.” Whatever idea I think of, I immediately record and post. For my content, I value quantity over quality. Quality is subjective to the viewer; the only thing I can control on my end is the number of videos that I post daily. You don’t need a fancy camera or videographers; all you need is consistency—to post every day—and confidence in expressing your ideas!
On advice to his younger self on building up confidence:
In the wise words of Kris Jenner: “YOU’RE DOING AMAZING, SWEETIE!”
My only wish is to affirm to my past self that what I did was worth it. When I was starting out, I would post 10 to 15 videos per day. That’s how dedicated I was. I wouldn’t change a thing. Honestly, I’m grateful to my past self for not giving up, because I wouldn’t be who I am today without him.
On the future of the “Pambansang Bortang Barbie” of TikTok:
I’m working on my YouTube channel, taking my content to the next level. All of my followers and viewers have really inspired me to pursue being a full-time content creator, so I’m going to make daily vlogs, challenges, and even collaborations with other creators.
On getting her start as a content creator:
I always had this fear that I wouldn’t be funny enough or that my personality isn’t one that audiences would gravitate towards. I’ve been told in the past that I’m not everyone’s cup of tea.
My videos going viral in 2020 was a pleasant surprise because, though I was thrust into the digital space without much preparation, it was the start of me overcoming that insecurity. I [may not be] everyone’s cup of tea, [but] there are people out there who are positively impacted by what I create and that is more than enough reason to continue creating.
On using what was once an insecurity as a springboard:
When I was starting out, I would get mean comments about the way I talk or present myself; I would get called “OA” or “maarte.” I used to dwell on that negativity. It came to the point where I would delete my videos [because of negative comments online]. It caged me as a creator. like seeds of my creativity got trampled on—and in cases like that, they rarely ever got to grow. I regret ever deleting my videos. Right now, I’m in the process of owning my platform again.
On refocusing her attention on what matters:
Over time, I became more discerning and realized that these quirks are the personality traits that allowed a much bigger, more important chunk of my audience to gravitate toward my content. Being my unapologetic, kulit, kikay, OA self makes my followers feel like it’s okay to be themselves, too, and that has always been the goal of what I produce.
On finding what works for her as a content creator:
I think the first time I realized “this is it” was a little after the Conyo Girl hype. I started being more myself in my videos with rants and “story time” entries. The way I began to portray myself was no longer a character. I felt at ease having conversations with my followers. Still, I’d like to think my sweet spot as a content creator continually [changes] as I grow. As a person, it’s inevitable that I change as circumstances around me shift. I’m excited to unravel more of myself this year when it comes to the content I create.
On the flipside, on feeling boxed in as Conyo Girl:
There was a time I felt the Conyo Girl persona dragged on for far too long and I felt stuck. All my collaborations revolved around the persona, and to an extent, it felt like even people I met forgot that it was a role and expected me to be spot-on Conyo Girl 24/7. As much as I enjoyed every bit of it, Conyo Girl is not who I am. She’s a facet of me and gave me a more than great beginning in the industry of content creation. But as long as I held onto that first chapter, I could not move forward to find out what’s next.
On breaking away from what people expect of her:
To switch it up, I really had to limit myself from making [Conyo Girl] videos for now…just to create space and introduce who I truly am and all the other amazing things that make up my personality. I entered showbiz, finished my degree with flying colors, and shared those little moments on TikTok in place of POVs. I’m happier I get to share more.
On advice to her younger self about trying her luck as a content creator:
People will always have something to say about what you create. Go do it anyway. If there’s someone that could survive and thrive amidst criticism, it’s you.
RELATED: 10 Filipina Photographers to Empower
On taking on a new career milestone with fresh confidence—where, amid the pandemic, in-person interactions have become rare but even more crucial:
I often get the opportunity to be with celebrities who have been in the industry for far longer than me, and fresh breath just gives me that boost of confidence to strike a conversation with them and overcome any shyness. It’s also the mindset that comes with knowing you have fresh breath that can be really empowering, especially now [where mask mouth is actually a thing]. In my case, I know having fresh breath is one small step that helps me to connect with my peers and perform to the best of my ability every time I host or step on set to act.
View this post on Instagram
On what’s next for the OG Conyo Girl of TikTok:
Acting! I know it’s not necessarily a surprise as I’ve been acting in POVs on my TikTok account for a while, but I’m blessed I was given a shot to act for a TV soap. We’re about to enter the second half of lock-in taping for our GMA Afternoon Prime series, Artikulo 247, a legal drama set to air this February. I’m learning so much. Hopefully, I get to explore television more alongside content creation now that I’m with GMA.
RELATED: Who’s That Guy: Alagadngsining
Amusing just-for-fun accounts online are a dime a dozen, but not everyone can be inspiring. Who’s kept you entertained and inspired to be #Xtra lately? Sound off in the comments.
Embrace the #XtraYou like Aaron Maniego and Rain Matienzo do. Colgate Fresh Confidence gives an intense cool and long-lasting freshness for that Xtra dose confidence of confidence. Learn more about Colgate here.
Art Matthew Ian Fetalver