Meet Phidelia: The Digital Creator Prioritizing Authenticity over Popularity

In this week’s Creator stories, we have a conversation with Phidelia, popularly known as awo.ara online. Phidelia is a digital creator, popularly known for sharing bits about her life, interests, and intentional slow living.

Let’s get to know her, shall we?

Tell us about yourself 

My name is Phidelia. I’m a writer, communications strategist, and digital creator. I’m passionate about human rights, travel, self-care, food, and slow and intentional living, which is what I like to show on my page. I’m a very creative person who needed an outlet for my creativity outside of work. That is how I started creating content online. 

What do you do as a communications strategist and how does it influence you being a digital creator?

I’ve always been a storyteller, and I wrote fiction when I was younger. I got into the Farafina Trust Creative Writing Workshop that was run by Chimamanda Adichie in 2015. 

In 2017, I started working in corporate communications at a financial services company. It involved doing a lot of social media and content marketing and using blog posts, videos, and all sorts of communications mediums to sell our products. 

Through this role, I was able to tap into my creativity as a writer and a person with a good eye for taking pictures and making videos. I spent about two years in financial services before I moved into the human rights non-profit field. 

There, I continued doing what I knew how to do best in terms of brand storytelling and using my writing, photography, and videography skills to communicate with our online community. I also produced documentaries, talk shows, and podcasts in my role. 

Generally, communications is about using storytelling, whether in the form of pictures or videos, or writing, to send a message to an intended audience, and having that creativity and talent to tap into is a natural gift that has helped my career so far. 

What led you to start creating content online?

I was using my creativity for work mostly and I wasn’t doing it in any personal capacity. I had a really small and private Instagram account, and a Twitter account where I shared my thoughts, but I missed doing creative things for myself, and that was when I started my page sharing skincare content because I was dealing with serious acne around that time. 

It was at the start of the Covid-19 pandemic and everyone was at home. I had my first major acne breakout and was researching how to deal with it.

My research led me to discover content creators that spoke about skincare on Twitter, YouTube, and Instagram.

I watched lots of videos and read lots of blogs trying to understand my skin and figure a way out. I bought skincare products based on those recommendations. And because we were all stuck at home, I developed a love for skincare and was very invested in my journey.

Nice! So when did you start posting about it? 

I felt the need to connect with other people and follow those skincare creators that I was falling in love with. But I didn’t want to do it on my personal Instagram, so I decided to open a new page just for skincare. 

It was when I started my page that I decided to share my experience and journey with acne because it was other people’s journeys and experiences that had helped me. I wanted to do the same thing for others while treating my acne. 

I started sharing the products I was using at the time and my reviews on these products. I shared what worked for me and didn’t work, and I was able to connect with a bustling community of skincare content creators and enthusiasts in and outside Nigeria. 

How did it go?

It was fun for like 8 months until I slowly began to drift from skincare. I consider myself a multi-dimensional person and sharing only skincare content made me feel boxed. It felt like I was forced to condense my personality into one interest, whereas I had other interests I wanted to talk about. Eventually, I got bored and stopped posting on that page. I abandoned it for almost a year. 

Wow. What did you do then?

I was auditing the page and thinking of what to do with it. I wanted to share more than skincare content. I wanted to talk about my other interests in travel, cooking, slow living, and mental health. 

So I put up a poll asking the about 1000 people that followed me at the time if they would be interested in seeing other kinds of content outside of skincare. I also gave people the opportunity to unfollow me if they didn’t want that. But the responses I received were overwhelmingly positive. I posted my first vlog shortly after, and that was how the page took off.

What inspires your content creation process? 

I don’t really have a special source of inspiration, but I consume a lot of content. As much as I love creating content, I also love watching content. During my free time, you’ll find me on TikTok scrolling endlessly and laughing. 

I get inspired by other creators that I love and my own life. I don’t think about the kinds of content I want to create. For me, it’s experience first, then content second, not the other way around. 

So I focus on curating my life in the most exciting, beautiful, and colorful way. And the byproduct of that is that the content I create feels that way. 

That’s an interesting perspective on content creation. Tell us more about it. 

(laughs) Okay. When I was doing skincare content creation, I saw how easy it was for creators to get carried away by followers. People who follow you on the internet just want to consume and so there’s a lot of requests to do various things. 

As a creator, if you allow yourself to get carried away by these requests, you lose your authenticity, you lose what sets you apart. 

When I went into lifestyle content creation, I saw how people started doing the same things because it looked like what was working. And I made a promise to myself that I wouldn’t chase followers, engagements, or fame by doing what’s expected of me or doing things just because it’s trendy, or will get clicks. 

I promised to stay true to myself and share only what I want to share, not because I’m trying to beat an algorithm or following a certain schedule to post every day. I post when I want to, and what’s authentic to me. I talk about slow and intentional living a lot, so if creating content is stressing me out, then I’m just lying to my audience because creating content shouldn’t make me stressed or prevent me from feeling good. 

Generally, I just really believe that authenticity is what sets you apart. And you can’t do that if you’re bending to the whims of algorithms or patterns or follower requests.

Since you don’t post for the algorithm, how do you grow your social media account?

Something that has helped my account grow is choosing quality over quantity. There are days when I make a video and after watching it, I don’t think it’s good enough or up to my standard. 

Instead of being attached to it and posting regardless, I don’t post it. 

I know most people say just post your content, but for me, I value quality over quantity. And my followers know I don’t post every day. But when I post it’s going to be creative and authentic. So I ensure I’m always doing my best work. 

Another thing I do is engage with my audience. I use Instagram stories a lot, more than I use feed posts or reels. I usually share little bits and pieces of my day on my stories and my followers can just reply directly and we’d have a quick conversation. I guess it makes my audience feel like they know me more.

How do you manage the creative demands from work with your personal creative needs?

My biggest challenge is definitely finding time to film. Because I get some ideas that I want to recreate but it requires a lot of time to shoot and edit. At the same time, I’m using the same brain for my 9-5 and it’s not like I’m doing something different at work. 

A lot of the time it feels exhausting because when I’m done creating for work, I don’t have the energy to create for myself. 

I don’t know how to manage it yet. There are times when I’ve pushed myself to film despite being busy and to be honest, it just feels stressful. 

So my biggest strategy is to allow myself to not feel pressure and just film on days that I can. I try to film on weekends because I know it’s easier to do it on those days than on a workday. 

I also film on public holidays, when I travel, or when I don’t have many work engagements. Working from home also helps because I can be working and making content. My content revolves around my home, so it’s definitely a benefit to be working remotely.

How do you handle the imposter syndrome that comes with being a digital creator?

I don’t experience imposter syndrome with content creation and that’s probably because I don’t put pressure on myself in this area. It’s the one area of my life where I allow myself to just be free. 

Okay, so let’s talk about the business of content creation. Is it something you’re willing to explore? 

I am passively interested in it. I have done a few brand collaborations so far, usually with brands who reach out to me. I have certain values I have attached to brand collaborations that I would take on my page, one of them is that the brand has to be aligned with my content style and niche. I never want to accept ads at the expense of my authenticity. I am open to collaborations but I’m very selective. 

What does the future look like for you for content creation? Is it something you’re going to consider doing full-time? Or do you like the idea of having a 9-5?

I would love to not have a 9-5. But from my observation, making money from content creation as a creator based in Nigeria is very difficult. I’ve had opportunities from foreign brands that I was very much interested in, but it couldn’t work because I’m based in Nigeria and my audience is mainly Nigerians. 

You hear about foreign content creators and influencers making a lot of money off brand collaborations, TikTok views, Instagram, and lots more, but those things are not available in a lot of countries outside the US. 

As a matter of fact, it’s easier to monetize your content, monetize your channels, and work with brands when you don’t live in Nigeria. And Nigerian brands, unfortunately, don’t value the Creator industry as much, and so not a lot of brands are willing to pay you your worth.

I know how difficult it is to make a living off of content creation and to be able to make the choices that you want to make about your platforms. So I would love to but I don’t see it in my near future at all. I like money so I’m going to stick to my 9 to 5 for now.

What advice would you give to aspiring content creators who are inspired by you?

I will just say stay true to yourself and stay authentic, and the people who like you will find you. I had 1000 followers in August last year. I have over 25,000 followers one year later. And it’s not because I did something extraordinary or I posted every day. I was in my lane being authentic and being myself and people found that interesting. So if you stay true to yourself, the people who are looking for you will find you.