Moffat County’s Tayla Siminoe balances online presence with helping youth
For Craig Press
During the quarantine period of the COVID-19 pandemic, it wasn’t unusual for teenagers to spend a lot of time online, and Moffat County High School senior Tayla Siminoe was no exception. Finding a creative outlet played a role in addressing some personal issues, and though it didn’t instantly solve every problem, gaining nearly 900,000 likes certainly didn’t feel too bad.
Tayla was one of many across the world who coped with an abundance of spare time during 2020 by posting videos on TikTok. Previously posting content on the social media app’s predecessor, Musical.ly, she found her niche by creating videos featuring elaborate makeup sessions set to music.
Gaining a following on the platform was slow going but eventually her content started to gain traction.
“I only got a couple hundred views on the first few makeup things I did, but then I did one — a makeup representation of how each of my ex-boyfriends made me feel, and that one really got big,” she said. “I got 1 million views on that, which was crazy for me. I had started giving up on trying to go viral and just started trying to have fun with it.”
Among the hits on the way to minor stardom were videos featuring the Moffat County teen channeling her makeup skills by displaying the four Hogwarts houses of the “Harry Potter” and another lip-syncing Jim Carrey’s dialogue from “How the Grinch Stole Christmas!” while applying heavy green foundation.
“The biggest one I did I was doing Oogie-Boogie from ‘The Nightmare Before Christmas’ and that was about 2.5 million views on it,” she said.
Though the videos could take considerable time to put together, Tayla noted that TikTok’s format didn’t take long to master.
“I grew up around computers, so you kind of just figure it out fairly quickly,” she said.
Since starting on the platform, she has since reached more than 50,000 followers on her account and an abundance of viewers likes and comments, which has been somewhat of a mixed bag, especially for parents who wanted to ensure the fanbase was age-appropriate.
Tayla’s mother, Kamisha, has emphasized to her daughter the many potential dangers of social media.
“It’s a little concerning because you don’t know if all those people are representing themselves as they truly are,” Kamisha said. “For the most part, we could see a lot of her followers initially were adolescents. It’s interesting to watch the pros and cons of social media, so we were paying a lot of attention.”
In particular, they’ve been watching out for online trolls who are less interested in feedback and more in stirring up chaos.
“I try not to pay that much attention to those kinds of comments, and if I see one I’ll delete it because I don’t need that kind of negativity on my account. It’s really tiring and it can really bring you down,” Tayla said.
Conversely, some viewer interactions have been exceedingly pleasant. Kamisha noted a young fan who was so overjoyed when Tayla responded to her input that the girl made a new video about it.
“She was 9 and she was so excited that somebody she followed and had commented on had actually reached out to her, she was just gushing over it,” Kamisha said. “I told her this is a perfect example of a young lady looking up to you because of the skills and content you have, so you have to be responsible with what you post. Those are good conversations to have with teenagers in general.”
Kamisha also wanted Tayla to be aware of how much time she was spending on TikTok.
“There were a lot of accolades and a lot of positive responses, but the downside of that is it kind of becomes a full-time job. Some of those makeup looks take four or five hours to do and edit, so you can see how those influencers make a job of it,” she said. “You have to find balance doing what you love and sharing what you love and still being responsible for all the things that you have.”
Though finding a large community online in the past year, Tayla struggled with personal issues in the real world before and after getting on TikTok.
“It kind of carried over through the years, and I didn’t want to go out in social settings because it made me really nervous. It turned into kind of a general anxiety,” she said.
The anxiety came back by her junior year, and COVID-19 only added fuel to the fire.
“This year was kind of when everything exploded,” she said. “When the pandemic hit, just being inside all the time and being alone, it was about 15 times worse.”
She participated in the Bulldog spirit squad and the MCHS drama program throughout high school, but as senior year came around, Tayla was also experiencing panic attacks, one of which came immediately after a cheer routine at a basketball game.
She noted that her teammates were unsure how to help her at the time, though she understood how they felt.
“A lot of people don’t really know how to handle that kind of situation, so they were just giving me my space. It was probably just as scary for them as it was for me,” she said. “I felt like I was dying.”
Tayla said she was a little hesitant to post about her problems on her personal account.
“It’s probably easier to be like that with people you know just because you’re comfortable with them and they know some of the things you’re going through versus if I put out that I have depression and anxiety, some people might take that as, ‘Oh, you already have a big following, and you’re just doing this for more attention,’” she said. “There’s different judgments from different people globally, but because they’re behind a screen they can say whatever they want. That’s the downside of social media.”
However, she had an easier time discussing her issues on a different page, one which she operates for the youth ministry program at Craig Christian Church.
“I did my personal testimony for that. It really opened a lot of doors for them to be, ‘I don’t have to feel like I’m alone because somebody older that I look up to has gone through this,’” she said.
As principal of Sandrock Elementary School, Kamisha noted the pandemic has likely affected teenagers differently than the younger kids who were able to regularly socialize during school hours much sooner in the Moffat County school year.
She noted that the pandemic has called attention to an already existent problem.
“Worldwide, it’s really brought to the forefront the mental health crisis and really compounded that issue for so many people,” Kamisha said.
Following graduation, Tayla said she will be taking a gap year to figure out what she wants to do and to save up money.
“There was a while where I wanted to do special effects makeup for movies, because I really like the horror aspect of makeup,” she said. “One of the places I really wanted to go was Colorado Christian University in Denver to study youth ministry and theater. But, I think if my makeup career, starting at a younger age, kind of takes off, I think I’d go down that path and try to do the youth ministry thing on the side.”
Whether or not she pursues it in a professional capacity, Tayla said her work with the youth ministry has been significant for her.
“I think there are a lot of kids dealing with a lot in the pandemic and dealing with a lot of the same issues I’m dealing with, so working with them and sharing some of the things I’m going through has really impacted their lives,” she said. “We all really care about each other in the youth group. I’ve always loved being around kids and having them look up to me for help is really a special thing to experience.”
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