It was back in April 2016 when then-15-year-old Yanyan (Ian Carl) De Jesus decided to give lip-syncing videos a try through the popular video-sharing app TikTok. The young boy with the ginger hair and white shirt enthusiastically mouthed the lyrics to “Don’t Mind” by American rapper Kent Jones.
Little did the Pampanga-raised Yanyan know that fast forward to 2020, his videos would give him the rise to stardom, becoming a TikTok star and being signed to one of the Philippines’ biggest media companies in the form of Viva Entertainment.
“Hindi naman natin in-e-expect lahat ng mga nangyayari sa buhay natin, ’di ba?” Yanyan tells pikapika.ph. “So, the time na meron na akong mga supporters, or just little supporters, doon na ako nag-strive hard. Kumbaga, I was doing it for fun but also I don’t want it to look like a work kaya I’m still happy right now kung ano ’yong ginagawa ko.”
Yanyan grew up in San Simon, Pampanga. As the elder child to his little sister, the TikTok star says he spends a lot of quality time with her.
“Lagi naman po kaming magkasama. Merong quality time with each other. Ini-spoil ko siya, mostly,” he says during his contract signing with the Viva Artists Agency last July 3.
As a kid, being a face on media platforms was not his first goal. He believed he had no talent back then so he had no clear ambitions.
“I don’t know what to do in my life kasi hindi ko alam kong ano ang ambisyon ko, kung gusto ko bang magtrabaho as a doctor like my parents suggest,” he recalled.
Thinking of practicality when it comes to a job, Yanyan came to a decision to aspire to become a chef, taking up culinary arts during his days in senior high school.
However, despite having the drive to pursue his studies, he had to halt it so he could focus more on his growing social media platform.
Upon discovering TikTok, Yanyan tried doing lip-syncing and dancing videos on the platform, the latter garnering positive reviews from his booming followers. He said his talent for dancing started at a young age when he would rummage through his mother’s collection of CDs to find the iconic SexBomb Girls song, “Spaghetti.”
“Noong bata po ako, ninanakaw ko po ’yong CD ng mama ko, tapos ’yong tunog no’n ’yong ‘Spaghetting pababa’ tapos doon ako nag-enjoy,” he says. “Noong nag-enjoy na ako, ginagawa ko [na] siya pero patago—sa CR.”
Yanyan revealed he struggled with dancing to feminine steps because of the toxic masculinity back then when it came to the gender specificities that society implanted in the art.
“I think dati noong bata ako, I think dancing is very embarrassing,” he reveals. “Kasi, ’di ba, parang may toxic masculinity dati. Kumbaga, kung lalaki ka, you need to dance like a boy. E, ako kasi, I really like dancing [in a] feminine [way] kasi, I don’t know, it brings [out] the character in me...kaya parang tinatago ko siya [noon], pero I enjoyed.”
He also struggled with insecurity as a child. His shyness got in the way from every opportunity that came until he discovered the art of dancing.
“When I was a kid, I [was] very insecure, kumbaga I’m very shy,” he recalls. “Pero, ayon. Dancing kasi is my number one talent. Doon ko na-discover ang sarili ko, doon ko nakilala ang sarili ko as Ian. I didn’t know that I can dance, so you know, I [did] workshop...Dancing is my passion kaya, you know, hinabol ko po siya for five years I think I’m good at it somehow.”
His passion for dancing led him to the country’s leading dance group G-Force, led by Georcelle Dapat, popularly known as Teacher Georcelle. However, Yanyan said it was not an easy journey to become a member of the Philippines’ premier dance company.
“Nag-audition po ako. First audition ko, hindi ako natanggap,” he recounts. “I think it's normal pero [the] second [time], I try hard. Before I audition for the second [time], nag-train ako outside [of G-Force] kasi I really want to be part of them kasi they are professional when it comes to dancing and I want to be professional so they taught me a lot of things talaga.”
Thus, he got in and, under the tutelage of Teacher Georcelle and other members, became a G-Force dancer for one year. He started posting his dancing videos on TikTok, which was welcomed with rave reviews from users.
However, Yanyan’s heart told him to widen his horizon. That is why through the video-sharing platform, he started posting lip-sync skits and make-up and fashion videos.
“Hindi ako nag-i-stick sa isang genre lang or isang content kasi I want myself [to] get to know each and every genre out there kasi, ako talaga gusto kong mag-explore, and I want to learn talaga,” he says.
With people calling him a versatile type of performer through his choices, Yanyan says he does not want to be boxed as simply a dancer but with his other aspirations, as well. He, then, left G-Force and decided to go solo.
“[Gusto ko] ibahin ’yong path ko. I don’t want to be a dancer lang kasi gusto kong mag-explore. I want to be a dancer, I want to be a singer sometimes, and I want to be an artist. I want to be a social media influencer,” he said. “Kumbaga, I want to grab everything na kaya kong i-grab kasi opportunity is there, e. I just need to grab it kaya I decided to go solo kasi I know marami akong capabilities as a person, as an artist.”
Going solo, he effortlessly continued with his TikTok videos until he garnered 7.8 million followers on the video-sharing platform.
“I believe naman po na ’yong 7 million supporters ko, they saw something in me na I can bring them joy. That’s why, you know, I motivate myself to work hard, even more, every single day. I put out content kasi like for three years or two to three years na pag-ti-TikTok ko,” he explained. “I never stop uploading. Never akong nag-take ng break kasi I know na there are a lot of people [that are] in need of [a] smile. Kasi, every day, lahat [ng] teenagers like, me they undergo depression. I want to make sure na they are not alone kahit isang 15-second video lang.”
Yanyan produced videos with effort, posting five different contents a day. A lot of people started to notice his efforts, including the executives at Viva, who invited him for a contract signing on a rainy Friday. For the dancer, this opportunity turns his dreams of becoming a local artist into a reality.
“I am striving very hard to be an artista kasi it was a dream of mine when I was a kid. Wala siya sa isip ko, hindi ko siya ini-strive, but now that Viva gave [me] the opportunity to be one of their rosters of artist, I grab the opportunity kasi gusto ko talagang matuto. Gusto ko talagang mag-bring smiles to other people,” he said.
And with a Viva Artists Agency contract in his hands, will we see more of Yanyan outside of the dancing and TikTok sphere?
“It would be a surprise soon kasi it’s all about a matter of training, [a] matter of improvements kasi every time na mag-improve tayo, we bring out the best of us sa every content na ipapasok natin... so yes I’m expecting or I want you guys to expect na I will be a better version of myself through Viva,” he said.
And we cannot wait to see the new and improved Yanyan under Viva. Good luck, Yanyan!
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