Since its launch in 2017, TikTok has become one of the most popular social media platforms in the world. Just in the United States, there are 138 million monthly active users. But what one might not know, is that 31% of that number is composed by Hispanic Americans, the highest share of users in the country, and creators are taking note.
During the COVID-19 quarantine, six Latinos began creating comedic skits about being Latinx/Hispanic on TikTok. These ranged from impersonating Hispanic parents to anecdotes from their upbringing and cultures. From their rooms and in front of their ring lights, these creators slowly began to gain a following through their viral videos, relatable content and unique personalities. What began as a hobby for them has now become their full-time career across platforms like TikTok, Instagram and YouTube.
These creators are part of COMPA, a collective of content creators made up of Jose Delgado, Basilio Cerdan, Abelardo Campuzano, Willy Hidalgo, Jay Torres and Angel Jimenez. It was founded on August 2021 by SOSA PROJECTS ENTERTAINMENT, a talent management and development company owned by Gilberto Sosa. Unlike many content groups that have become popular in recent years, COMPA is serves more as a brotherhood and support system.
“I was looking for ways of impacting creators aside from just bringing them revenue,” Sosa said. “But also wanted to create an environment that was open to their growth and that would help develop them into the next version that they could be.”
Sosa, who has experience founding other content houses and was a content creator himself, is now behind the scenes hoping to uplift and support emerging Latinx/Hispanic creators, such as the members of COMPA. He takes the role of manager and consultant to help these creators on the next step of their careers.
Together, the group collaborates on videos, attends networking events, and gives back to the community through nonprofit work. Long term, they all see themselves as actors. Through COMPA, they hope to gain the tools and experience to get their foot in the door in the entertainment industry in Hollywood.
Collectively, the COMPA creators have received over 200 million monthly views on TikTok and over 50 million on Instagram. They have over 23 million followers on TikTok and over 2 million on Instagram.
To continue creating bonds and connecting with their communities, COMPA went on tour around the United States in October. Through these tours, they uplifted Latinx/Hispanic communities of Houston, San Antonio, Los Angeles and Chicago through meet and greets, content creation and community activations. The tour also included sponsorship from Warner Brothers that led to a collaboration with The Rock to promote his movie Black Adam.
Before COMPA went on tour, they shared their background stories of how they ended up on TikTok creating content and how they plan to move forward with their careers in the entertainment industry.
21 years old from Chicago, Illinois and grew up in Mexico
Before COVID-19, Abelardo Campuzano was balancing three jobs — in McDonald’s, construction, and as a waiter at a restaurant. It wasn’t until one of his coworkers at McDonald’s suggested he download TikTok and upload videos. When he began to see his followers and views increase, Campuzano decided to stop working and use his savings for a few months to focus solely on content creation.
Though he felt pressure at first to see if it all would be worth it, it was the support of his followers that kept him motivated.
“It was so crazy, and I was not expecting it,” Campuzano said. “Behind those numbers, there are people supporting you, like a family and a community. That made me more passionate about social media.”
Campuzano always had aspired to become a professional soccer player, and never thought of himself becoming a content creator. His experience recording himself playing soccer and editing those videos came in handy now that he does this full time as a career, but with comedic skits about the Hispanic community and blogs about his daily life with his family.
“We were all raised similarly since we are Hispanic, and because of that we are who we are today,” Campuzano said. “The type of upbringing that our parents gave us, and everything we lived as kids has a purpose. I try to use that to give a positive message to my followers.”
Campuzano says his platform has allowed him to connect, but also become an example for Hispanic youth.
“I want to be that voice that can motivate other Hispanics and tell them that things are possible and can be achieved,” Campuzano said. “Just like I one day never thought that making videos would give me a voice to inspire others, I want to show others that they too can have a voice and do good within their communities.”
22 years old from Houston, Texas
Basilio ‘Basi’ Cerdan, like many of the COMPA members, gathers inspiration for his video from his childhood and simple moments with his family. Whenever something funny or interesting happens at home, it’s as if a spark goes off, and Cerdan immediately thinks that that could make a good skit from it.
He was first convinced to get on TikTok through his girlfriend, so they could send each other videos. He then began making his own videos and building a following, which was something he didn’t expect.
“I didn’t expect them to go viral,” Cerdan said. “I didn’t expect any recognition that I’m somehow getting now. I still don’t. Because at the end of the day, they’re just videos that I’m making in my room just to make people laugh.”
If it was not for social media, Cerdan would be working with his father in construction, installing tiles. When he first told his family that he was making money out of videos, his dad did not believe him.
“My parents are old school,” Cerdan said. “For them, it needs to be hard work in order for it to be considered work. But it’s not a fake job, and they’ve been supporting me.”
Cerdan acknowledges that platforms like TikTok have allowed there to be a more accurate representation of the Latinx/Hispanic community in mainstream media.
“In a way, we give a voice of ‘nuestra raza’ (our race),” Cerdan said. “I feel like we’re being heard more. There are creators that represent the Hispanic community, with skits and serious content to educate people about who we are and where we come from.”
24 years old from Mexico and grew up in New Mexico
When Willy Hidalgo was starting to become a full time content creator, his father passed away.
Since then, Hidalgo has used his passing as a motivation to continue creating content about growing up in a Hispanic household.
“It’s a way to honor them [his parents] because of how they were raised and how hardworking they were,” Hidalgo says. “It’s the least that I can do to honor them in every way possible through my social media and in a funny way.”
Hidalgo began posting skits about growing up Hispanic and funny moments with Hispanic parents in 2014 and 2015 on Facebook—years before TikTok’s launch in 2016. Before getting into social media, Hidalgo was a busser, and was studying Criminology to eventually become a policeman.
It wasn’t until 2019 that his sisters introduced him to TikTok and told him to begin posting his Hispanic skits. In many of his videos, Hidalgo places a rag on his head to act like his mom, and in others he acts like his dad. He has noticed that over the years, he has begun to become an example for his followers.
“If I can inspire people to get out of their comfort zone, put a rag over their head, then I can inspire them to do so many other things,” Hidalgo said. “It’s like you’re a role model for people, and in a way that’s a weight on your shoulders, but I feel like it’s a good weight that I wouldn’t mind carrying for the rest of my life.”
Hidalgo is a father of a 1-year-old daughter. Learning to balance the role of content creator and father has not been the easiest. Just like he uses his father as motivation, he wants to sacrifice and work hard to become an example for his daughter.
19 years old from Mount Vernon, Washington
Angel Jimenez is one of the many students around the United States who wasn’t able to have the ‘normal’ high school experience due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Though his life changed drastically with quarantine, he sees it as a blessing in disguise, since that is what led him to TikTok.
“I’m really blessed,” Jimenez said. “I just never thought this would happen. And being able to make videos for a living is one of my passions.”
He remembers seeing how other creators on TikTok would spend their entire days just making funny and relatable content. He, too, wanted to aspire to that and not have to work a regular nine to five job. Though he did a year of community college, he is currently taking a break to focus fully on social media. Coming from a small town of Mount Vernon, Washington, he feels pride in representing his community.
“The main motivation for me is just making my family proud,” Jimenez said. “I look at my audience and realize how far I’ve come, and I can’t just stop now.”
Besides the excitement of going viral and having millions of followers, Jimenez’s goal is to fill in the gap of the lack of representation in the Latinx and Hispanic community and provide financial stability for his family.
“Coming from a Hispanic family, I wasn’t really wealthy,” Jimenez says. “I always wanted to change that for my family, and being able to get closer to that goal makes ideas motivated to keep going.”
Jose “JY” Delgado
20 years old from Portland, Oregon
Jose Delgado says his videos have allowed him to embrace his Mexican culture more. He began making videos for fun, and that slowly started picking up traction in terms of views and followers.
“I actually wanted to do construction with my dad,” Delgado said. “But then after time, I started realizing that not only can I do this for a living, but also represent my people, my Hispanic people.”
Though his parents told him he was wasting his time at first, they too began to become part of his videos. An aspect Delgado says he has enjoyed a lot is the connection he has with his followers through his videos.
“The skits I make are videos of things I personally experienced,” he says. “When people also watch those videos, I feel like they can relate to me, and they know me as a person because we’ve had very similar experiences growing up.”
Through COMPA, Delgado hopes to learn about the industry, collaborate with other creators, and learn how to improve his content while always enjoying the process.
“I want to try to keep a positive message out there for the people,” Delgado said. “I always try to uplift people. I try to make people happy and make them smile.”
22 years old from Honduras and lives in Los Angeles, California
Jay Torres says he has always liked being the class clowns and making people laugh. During quarantine, he began uploading videos on TikTok singing, acting, cracking jokes, skating videos and soccer videos. But what began giving him a following was his comedy.
“It is incredible just how by recording yourself on your phone you can go so far,” Torres said. “Before, I used to see social media as something that wouldn’t take me anywhere. There was no way I could think that would be my full time job. I wanted something more stable.”
Torres’ family works in construction, and he was also part of the family business while attending college. Now that he has dedicated himself to social media full time, he enjoys the advantages of being his own boss and creating his own content. Despite having millions of followers, he still doesn’t consider himself to be an influencer.
“I don’t consider myself to be an influencer like others because in a way I am not giving a strong message to society,” Torres said. “That is something I would like to change. Right now, I am writing a lot of videos through which I want to make a bigger impact and influence on my viewers.
Though Torres says the jokes and skits he comes up with are never going to end, he does feel that content creation could be temporary. Therefore, he sees acting as his next long-term goal.
“I grew up not seeing Latino representation on TV shows and movies, and when there was some, it was very stereotypical,” Torres said. “I feel I have to work twice as hard and want to bring representation in order to open more opportunities for people like us who want to enter this market.”