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Meet Jeanelle Castro of Jeanelleats in North Orange County

Today we’d like to introduce you to Jeanelle Castro.

Jeanelle, let’s start with your story. We’d love to hear how you got started and how the journey has been so far.
I started Jeanelleats to share Filipino food and do something creative on the side. I was working as a Product Marketing Manager at a tech company and I couldn’t imagine myself working my way up as an executive, so I left the company to see what else was out here in the world to pursue.

I was born in the Philippines and immigrated to California when I was eight. My parents and grandparents wanted more opportunities for us beyond what they established in the Philippines, which was the biggest reason behind our immigration.

My family was very proactive when it came to preserving our Filipino culture at home. They didn’t want us to forget our culture, so they constantly spoke Tagalog, cooked Filipino food at home, and hosted awesome Filipino karaoke parties!

I started Jeanelleats as a means to share the food that I loved with whoever was willing to watch. The more videos I created, the more I realized that I kept sharing Filipino food and culture.

With Jeanelleats, I’ve met a whole community who share that same passion around Filipino culture and food. There are times when creating content becomes difficult, but these amazing people are who keep me going.

Now I work on Jeanelleats full-time. From cooking courses, cookbooks, to membership programs (in the works!), I’m just happy to wake up every morning, greeted with a loving and supportive community who can’t wait to see what other Filipino food they can make this week.

My ultimate vision is to create unity between cultures through food, and for the majority of the world to enjoy the experience of Filipino food and culture!

We’re always bombarded by how great it is to pursue your passion, etc – but we’ve spoken with enough people to know that it’s not always easy. Overall, would you say things have been easy for you?
It’s been a STRUGGLE at times. After leaving my job as a Product Marketing Manager, I was freaking out thinking, “what the heck did I get myself into”.

I had a lot of limiting beliefs around Jeanelleats. I didn’t think it would actually be able to support me full-time, and that I needed to stick to my chops as a (video) marketing consultant.

The YouTube game is a long road, and I thought my efforts would never bear any fruit. I’d stay up until 4 am finishing a video just to make sure I upload a video on time to stay consistent.

After that, I’d eagerly wait to see if anyone would watch my videos. There were months where I would have no increase in subscribers.

I’ve dropped off consistently making YouTube videos a couple of times because I felt defeated and didn’t think people would even care about the content I created. This had to be the most difficult part of the journey.

However, YouTube is an exponential game. You’ll see either a tiny drip of subscribers or zero subscribers…and then you get that ONE video that takes off.

Even after that one video, you gotta keep going. You have to keep creating videos and content that can help people.

It can get really tiring, but if you’ve been making videos for a few years like I have, it becomes faster and easier with each upload. Ultimately, it’s SO worth it once you’ve built a community of people who share the same passion as you do!

We’d love to hear more about your work and what you are currently focused on. What else should we know?
I’m working on editing a current Filipino food TV show that I plan to pitch to major networks: Netflix, Amazon, Hulu, and others. I create videos that revolve around Filipino food and culture, and my ultimate goal is to launch large-production Filipino food shows to familiarize mainstream media viewers with Filipino culture and food! I hope to collaborate with awesome people in the space someday, like Jo Koy, Nicole Ponseca, Roy Choi, and Padma Lakshmi.

Right now, my short-term goals are to make recipes as simple to understand as possible and to show the imperfections behind cooking and baking. I’ve found that this strongly encourages people to attempt these recipes at home!

As an immigrant Filipina-American, I’ve got this advantage where I’ve seen what our kitchen and ingredients in the Philippines look like, and also know how to substitute ingredients we commonly use here in California. I feel like I’ve got the best of both worlds!

I also believe in accepting new ways of cooking and including other cultures in my cooking. I believe in being resourceful with what you have, which I believe is a huge part of being Filipina too.

I have to give lots of credit to my previous work experience as a Marketing Manager in growing Jeanelleats because I was able to understand how to rank on YouTube, how to present my videos and generate engagement from my audience, and so much more.

What were you like growing up?
My family would say I was a very happy and optimistic child, intelligent, and also very resourceful.

I was a weird kid apparently…and mischievous. But I was also a straight-A student. My classmates thought I was mute in first grade because I never spoke (I was afraid I would say the wrong English words).

I loved trying all sorts of hobbies and toys. I was mindful of stereotypes that were put on me at an early age, so I’d do whatever I could to prove someone wrong.

I played with my Easy Bake Oven a lot, and also played with dinosaurs and did magic tricks for my family. I dressed like a boy for a while, and I finally stopped when one of my classmates said I looked like a boy.

The earliest memory I had of making videos was with a USB toy Barbie camera that my dad gave me. My sister and I took stop-motion photos and compiled it to make a short video!

I’ve always loved trying new types of food while I was growing up, and now I’m encouraging people to do the same.

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