Sydney Lee is a 20-year-old creative based in New York. Although she identifies as a creative, she explains that it’s not her full-time job, at least not yet, “Now that’s not my job, I wish it was but instead it’s more of what I would view myself as. However, there is no way I’m taking a career in anything but being able to express myself through different forms of creation. I’m the CEO of my life, so I’m going to make it happen.” She has created things almost her entire life from hands-on crafts and DIY projects to sharing her story on Instagram/Youtube.
She started her Youtube channel as another creative outlet to express herself and to tell stories, “I love storytelling and I wanted to make short films because I am in love with the process of cinematography. I still am.” Every video she made was carefully thought out and has become an extension of her as an artist but also as a person. Within good reason, she had to put a pause on her channel to focus on herself, “I haven’t filmed or edited a video in almost a year though. I stopped because I just wasn’t in the right headspace and I’m not good at faking my feelings nor do I ever want to force myself to do anything.” Although saddening to hear, she does express that she missed making videos (we hope you start again soon!)
We asked her for some tips to those who want to start a Youtube channel, she emphasized that people should, “just have fun with it and to simply just start.” She explains that people often tend to overthink when we know the answers to the questions we’re asking ourselves. As no one is perfect, she talks about how she has pressured herself into perfection in her work, “whether is photo, video or art” and that’s why she stresses others to just have fun and “keep learning on the way.” She adds by saying that you must also want it enough to keep on learning and growing, do that by “watching youtube videos on how to edit if you care enough to have good editing.”
She is currently expanding her creative boundaries through digital illustration where she rediscovered her love for art. Her story of how she began started with rejection. The power of this story is that rejection is not always a bad thing. Sometimes, rejection is redirection and that’s what happened to Sydney, “The story of how I got into illustrating was simply because I was waiting on a job that never got back to me even when they said they had my back. The job was a person who was working at a company and he just never texted me back but then, later on, I found out he got fired so yeah. With that indirect reject, I took it as redirection and I think if you’re reading this, you should take every rejection and take it as a story to tell people in your future success story because rejection is redirection.”
She began selling her prints and started progressing into the entrepreneurial world, “As I was saying, I took that reject and turned it into a business selling prints that I hand drew on paper with sharpies and paint and then had printed at Staples to sell copies in person. I became an overnight entrepreneur because a week later after I launched my website, I did my first pop up event, and then after that, I became a vendor at a night market 4 or 5 times.” She fondly looks back at those moments where she worked hard for what she wanted and kept on growing, “I can’t believe I spent a month locked up in my room just drawing and painting on actual paper and throwing out so many because so many weren’t good enough. I say actual paper because 2 weeks after I turned 20 in November, I bought myself an iPad and apple pencil and bought a $10 app to take my art digital. I didn’t even have the word illustrate or illustrator in my vocabulary until I bought my iPad and made digital work.”
Sydney shared a few personal tips on getting started as an illustrator based on her experiences. She first mentions that you should “not compare your work to other people,” even if it is hard to. She explains that comparing yourself to other people will be a detriment to your work. Your work can be influenced and inspired by but don’t ever let it dampen your work and how you choose to express it, “Everyone is unique in their way and if you’re comparing yourself to other people and their work, you need to realize you are your own person, and being you is your greatest power.”
Everyone is unique in their way and if you’re comparing yourself to other people and their work, you need to realize you are your own person, and being you is your greatest power. – Sydney Lee
No successful person will ever tell you they have never failed or that their success came easy. Obstacles are an inevitable part of life and it’s ultimately what makes life worth living. One of the obstacles Sydney had to face was her family’s expectations, “After I graduated from community college, everyone was expecting me to continue my education by going to a 4-year college. Not going to happen because I know what I want is to be able to work for myself and I don’t need to go to school for that, let alone get a diploma for it. What am I gonna get? A bachelor’s in entrepreneurship? I don’t think so.” On top of the family expectations she doesn’t intend to meet, she added that the family’s lack of support is quite discouraging. Her grandma moved into her house due to personal reasons and she’d often stifled her with more expectations that limited her as an individual.
Although Sydney loves her family, that lack of support is one of the greatest obstacles she still faces as she is sometimes belittled for her decisions in life, especially from her aunt. Despite the pain and anger, Sydney decided that she needed to be the bigger person, “That put me in a really bad position and took all of me to not start yelling at her from the top of my lungs with the anger I felt at the moment. But I held in the anger tears and just shrugged because I did not feel like speaking to her any longer. I had to become a bigger person. I did become a bigger person. The way she belittled me is something I will hold onto forever. I don’t hold on to a lot of grudges but I can’t move on from that moment. Family not understanding me is the root of the lack of support and struggle I still to this day face.” Her commendable nature is a testament that we’re all human and we all struggle in our own ways, but we can choose how we react to those struggles and how we let it define us.
With that experience, she recommends people to “block as much of the noise as you can. The criticism, judgment, belittling, and opinions of people will break you if you’re not strong. It has broken me on numerous occasions because I do take it to heart and I am a sensitive person. Nothing wrong with that but I’ve found ways to shut the darkness so I could lead my life with the light I know I possess. I’m going to make a very beautiful life for myself, and so are you.” Her strength is so admirable and we agree with that sentiment as well.
Sydney happily shares that she was greatly influenced by Gary Vaynerchuk, who she called “a legend.” She praises him and talks about how he prompted her to succeed, “He’s one of the best entrepreneurs in the world. He’s an amazing public speaker and runs multiple million-dollar companies. He is a god damn hustler and the epitome of someone who started from the bottom and now he’s at the top. He keeps it real and tells you how it is. Always. All while having a heart of gold. He inspires me every day with the content he posts on his social media platforms and I’m so grateful I decided to search him up when I heard a YouTuber talk about him in a video.”
Her story is amazing and her struggles are so relatable. Not every journey is seamless and struggle-free. Her creative and humble nature is why this article is written. Her story is powerful and in its own way, inspiring. It speaks to those who feel lost and hurt by people who are closest to them. You can redefine your story if you tried and that story can be as amazing as you want it to be…you just have to believe in yourself like Sydney did.
Bonus: Favorite anything and why? (this can be movies or fashion/beauty pieces)
“For a movie, I would say A Walk to Remember because it has such a beautiful storyline and makes me ugly cry almost the whole way through. As far as fashion, anything that is comfortable makes me feel the most confidence and that’s a good feeling to feel. In general, my favorite thing is to make people smile. I’ve always cared way too much about people and put others first which isn’t a bad thing but sometimes I feel like I should take some time to be selfish and put myself first. I don’t think there’s a greater feeling than making someone’s day whether it be a letter, a funny Instagram story, or giving advice, the world could always use more smiles. If I could make people happy as my full-time job, I would but for now, I’ll keep doing it as much as I can with what I have.”