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Check Out Sylvia Wakana Gunde’s Story

Today we’d like to introduce you to Sylvia Wakana Gunde.

Hi Sylvia Wakana, thanks for joining us today. We’d love for you to start by introducing yourself.
I’m half Japanese and half White-American. I was born and raised in Los Angeles (South Bay) and was lucky to grow up in an area and family that celebrated both of my cultures. I have been working under the large umbrella of social media for about ten years now: creating content for brands and influencers, digital creator talent management, and becoming a social media specialist and consultant. After years of helping so many individuals and brands grow their social media presence, I wanted to create something for myself. I’ve always loved food and cooking so I decided to start a food account! Initially, it was a general “here’s where to eat” and “how to make these random recipes” page, but I wanted to do something more meaningful and that reflected myself more. I carefully and deliberately turned my brand into Sylvia Wakana, my American and Japanese names, a perfect example of being a hybrid of two very different cultures. My goal was to create a space to facilitate community between these two different cultures. To use my experience and knowledge of growing up bi-cultural through the shared passion of food by utilizing and sharing recipes, showcasing old traditions, and current pop-culture. In a time when we are in deep need of cultivating connection and tolerance, I hope to spark some interest in what someone else may consider different and push one’s creativity and boundaries in both eating and life.

Can you talk to us a bit about the challenges and lessons you’ve learned along the way. Looking back would you say it’s been easy or smooth in retrospect?
I wouldn’t say it’s been smooth and there’s the typical road bumps along the way of creating a brand: getting the right people to see your content. Especially as a digital creator, I can be a slow process to grow your accounts. However, I really love and believe in what I’m creating, which really makes it worthwhile.

Thanks for sharing that. So, maybe next you can tell us a bit more about your work?
I specifically showcase Japanese culture and cuisine in Japan as well as in the United States. There’s a lot of overlap and a lot of differences, which are really interesting. Initially, I started on Instagram and YouTube. I have a degree in art (photography) so those platforms made the most sense to me. I also really enjoyed long-form video since I wanted to really educate people. However, what really made my brand take off was short-form content and launching my new blog which simple Japanese recipes. I didn’t start short-form content (TikTok) until during COVID, and that was the same for my blog. I was feeling a bit uninspired so I decided to do some things I’ve been meaning/wanting to do before COVID but I didn’t have time. I launched my blog and TikTok with creating some of my favorite Studio Ghibli dishes. This took off way faster than I thought and I grew my TikTok to 100k in several months. I would say overall, I’m known for creating “cute” but simple Japanese food. I’m proud of really sticking to my heart for the content I put out. I love creating and sharing recipes from anime that I love (something I have a passion for) as well as food I grew up eating at home or in Japan (something nostalgic to me). And I love that there are people who appreciate that and who can relate or people who are learning new things from my content.

Are there any important lessons you’ve learned that you can share with us?
Stay true to yourself and your voice. As much as you can do what other people are doing or what you *think* you should be doing, it’s really soul sucking. I think people can truly tell and feel if you have your heart behind your work and they respond accordingly.

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Sylvia Wakana

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