By Marga Salvador on January 1, 2016
How does one get a job with one of the internet’s most visited websites?
Pulilan native Isabelle Laureta studied in UP Los Banos and got her degree in Development Communication in 2013. Typically, graduates of the program find work in government, social work, and sometimes the media. However, this soft spoken 22 year-old’s real passion was art and painting and so the dream to become a graphic artist began.
After her bum break of six months after graduation, Isabelle applied for several graphic artist positions and got accepted to a few but being the millennial that she is, “mapili ako eh”, she wanted the right one. The right one, however, never came so when the offer to be the social media manager for one of the country’s biggest TV networks came, she couldn’t pass it up.
This was where Isabelle got her first taste of “real life.” She was lucky because she got to incorporate her love for painting into her work where her job was to create content for the network’s social media channels and some of the channels of the different shows and productions. While she learned a lot there, Isabelle soon realized that the life of TV media was not for her. She left after nine months.
A millennial through and through
Back to square one and like any 20-something displaced after leaving a job, Isabelle didn’t see it as the worst thing. In fact, she was relishing her newfound freedom. It gave her a chance to do the things millennials love: eating, sleeping, Instagram, and cats. On one fateful Facebook scroll in October 2014, she stumbled upon a BuzzFeed post looking for contributing writers. She wasn't exactly busy and creating content for one of the internet’s most visited sites is not something you get to do everyday. She clicked "apply".
Expecting a tedious process, the entire application was lightning fast. From the time she applied to the day she got the offer, only about a week had passed. Isabelle breezed through the initial tests and her “audition post” on the site made waves. But then the people from BuzzFeed asked for an interview. A Skype interview. “Ayoko na. Wag na,” she thought at the idea, “baka Amerikano ‘yung mag-iinterview sa'kin eh.” Confetti bursted through the bandwidth when the BuzzFeed interviewer on the other end spoke to her in Tagalog. Manila bred Matt Ortile works in editorial operations at the BuzzFeed HQ in New York. He is also the head of BuzzFeed Philippines and Isabelle’s latest boss.
#omg #wow #win
What started out as a contributing writer job with a few articles per month has turned into the best thing that’s happened to her and a regular 10 articles every month. Her first BuzzFeed post, 20 Signs You’re The Tita Of Your Friend Group, was published on January 8, 2015. When Isabelle first saw it, her first thoughts were, “Wow, may pangalan na ako sa BuzzFeed.” Since then, every new post she comes out with gets re-posted like wildfire on Philippine social media. Even without sharing her BuzzFeed posts on her own feed, people find them and her name has become a mainstay. She’s humbly happy with the recognition.
Unlike traditional blogging, what takes a huge chunk of Isabelle’s creation process is not the writing but finding the material. It takes a different kind of dedication to the internet to churn out kinds of topics Isabelle comes up with. Aside from being internet savvy, Isabelle refers to herself as a social media tambay which is perfect for her line of work. Whatever she comes across, she writes about it. “Kung anong meron sa ref, slice of life topics that people don’t talk about,” like the fact that she eats every 20 minutes, “it’s great because people can relate to those kinds of things.” Her favourite topics to write about, however, are local celebrities and reaction memes to trending events.
“I laugh at at what I write sometimes,” she says of her portfolio. The freedom she gets when it comes to topics is why she loves writing for BuzzFeed. 95% of what she’s written were ideas Isabelle came up with herself. The other bit is comprised of topics she’s assigned to or collaborations like the How Stereotypically Filipino Are You? quiz she did with editor Matt.
She has an upcoming spoken word inspired collaboration where fellow BuzzFeed contributor Loreen Ordoño will take care of the text and Isabelle will provide the artwork. Be sure to watch out for that one because Isabelle is giddy about it. When she isn’t writing, reading books, or watching movies, her time is taken up by brushes, colors, and canvases of every kind. She paints not only because she loves it but “that’s what feeds my soul.”
While Isabelle doesn’t keep a blog or anything, she does do some freelance writing for a few other publications like Candy Magazine, Spot.ph, and Manila Bulletin where she just debuted in the lifestyle section with a weekly Friday column in called Meow-sings (Musings).
Her calendar is probably up to the brim with deadlines but they don't scare Isabelle. Freelancing is the perfect job for her right now because she gets to work at home and at her own pace. “There’s no pressure for time but it’s hard for me to be responsible sometimes.” Every month or so, she gets major brain blocks so she steps away from the computer, takes a breather and recharges with some cat videos or food. Most likely food.
When your job requires humour, you can’t help but question how funny you actually are sometimes. Isabelle says that her self-esteem goes down too. She wonders “what if I’m not funny anymore or corny na ‘yung mga jokes ko.” When asked if she thought she was a funny person, she gave a meek, “Mmm.. yes. Hehe.” She’s grateful that she has people in her life to slap her back into reality with an ano ka ba! Don’t worry, Isabelle, we crack up at every single line. How you come up with these jokes on such a regular basis is beyond us.
Isabelle loves pretty much everything about her job at BuzzFeed Philippines. When asked about the worst thing about her job, she didn’t really have an answer. Instead she gave the most challenging part: “The topics need to be super specific for Filipinos. As in super specific. There are things that apply to Filipinos but they can also apply to others.” Her extra hard work to cater to readers of the motherland, however, pays off. The very Pinoy nature and accessibility of her posts are so relatable and on point that every one of them has gone viral at one point or another.
Isabelle shares her humor and findings from the internet for more than just virality or recognition though. Her favorite post that she’s done, 36 Of The Most Beautiful Words In The Philippine Language (which she did the typography art for), moved one of her readers out of depression. The reader told her that she changed his life with that post. At that point, Isabelle realised that her work is about more than just entertainment. There is real power and impact to what she’s doing.
What are your plans for the future?
“I really hope this continues. I’m happy with BuzzFeed Philippines. I get to practice my creative freedom which I really appreciate because it’s not something you can [always] get at a regular job.” She hopes to one day write for BuzzFeed Life because “it’s like an umbrella column where you can write about… life.” When asked if she had plans to one day make it to the BuzzFeed HQ in New York, she giggled, “that’s the dream.”