We’re kicking off our new series, Meet the Creator, with mega-influencer Adam Waheed. You may know him as @adamw on Instagram and TikTok, where he respectively has 2.8 million and 10.4 million followers. The busy creator took the time to sit down with Casting Networks and share about the journey that got him to where he’s at today, as well as the purpose that motivates his work. Keep reading for a window into the person behind the content.
In your Instagram post about making Forbes’ “30 Under 30 – Social Media” list, you shared how you got there after having trouble paying rent just three years ago. Can you share the @adamw “origin story” that led to your current status as a mega-influencer?
I moved to Los Angeles about four years ago with the goal of becoming a huge comedic actor. But I wasn’t able to get auditions or a manager or really anything. I was working as an assistant and didn’t have money to go to acting classes. For a year and a half, I kept trying to get my acting career going, but nothing was coming my way. I saw people creating content online and thought it was something I could try. I had roughly 290 followers on Instagram at the time, and I’d never recorded or edited anything before. It took me five months to finally make my first video and post it. The video got like 90 views on Instagram, which was the last straw for me because I’d tried everything else to pursue acting. I’m originally from New York and decided to move back so I could go after another career. But I had to stay in LA until the end of the month in order to receive my last paycheck from the assisting job. So I decided to shoot a couple more videos while I was waiting, and the fourth one that I posted on Instagram got more than 400,000 views by the time I woke up the next morning. I was surprised because I only had 300 followers on that platform at the time, but it turned out that Ludacris and some other huge accounts reposted my video. Then, a few social media stars that I followed reached out and asked me to film with them. So I just blindly showed up to their shoots, and we ended up becoming friends. My tenth video hit one million views on Instagram, and then it just kind of had a snowball effect.
My Instagram account grew to have almost half-of-a-million followers, and huge brands like Old Spice, T-Mobile, Disney, Mountain Dew and a number of others started reaching out to me to create content for them. I was able to sign with CAA (Creative Artists Agency) after that, and I found an amazing manager as well. I started getting auditions and did a Comedy Central series called Pitch Please not so long ago. So that tenth video kind of kickstarted everything. It opened doors for me and got me in a lot of rooms that I had tried to get into before when I was just pursuing acting. I’m happy it worked out the way it did because if I had found success at acting right away, I never would’ve known that I had the skill to create my own material.
That’s such an encouraging story, and speaking of inspiration, you include the mantra of “laugh every day” on your website. As a creator known for his comedic chops, do you feel that your content has been helping people get through these pandemic times?
Ever since I first started creating, I would receive tons of messages from people saying that my videos were helping them get through dark times. Even before the pandemic, people would approach me to communicate how my content had impacted them. One time, a girl stopped me to share that she’d recently lost a parent and that watching my videos was helping take her mind off her grief. Instances like that are inspiring because you don’t always realize that you can positively impact people’s lives by putting out funny videos. So that’s a big purpose for me in creating content: to make people laugh every day. And laughter is especially needed during these pandemic times.
You’ve brought that purpose to the satirical short film that you starred in and produced, which was accepted into the Cannes Film Festival and houses some important takeaways. Can you share the main message that you hope people glean from Tribes?
I think the biggest message is that we’re all the same at the end of the day. You can separate people based on their age, gender, ethnicity, sexuality, etc., and categorize them into different subgroups. But we’re all connected as members of the human race. I think comedy is the best way to tackle important issues in a digestible way because it helps you to take a step back and look at a topic in a different light.
Helping people gain perspective is definitely a worthy cause, which leads to my next question. You posted about utilizing the power of your platform to help donate more than $100,000 to philanthropic causes. What inspires you to give back?
Well, when I was a kid growing up, I would always ask my mom why the rich and famous didn’t give money to people who needed it. I may have just been a naive kid, but the thought stuck with me as I got older. If you had a lot of money and an enormous platform, why wouldn’t you give it to people in need? So the money and status I’ve obtained isn’t just for me; it’s to be shared with others. And if you don’t have a lot of extra resources to give back, you can still lend a helping hand in some way. I’ve been volunteering since I was young, and I think the greatest feeling you can have is to help better someone else’s life.
Before we wrapped the interview, Waheed took the time to share some advice for other actors who want to start making their own content like he did. The creator recalled how it’s easy to let perfectionism or self-doubt keep you from giving it a try. “Just start,” Waheed advises. “Jump in and figure it out along the way.” If you’ve been waiting to take the plunge, the creator’s call to action may be just the inspiration you need to start putting out your own content. Who knows? Maybe you’ll wind up with a powerful platform, a top agency, and your own project getting accepted into Cannes as well.
This interview has been edited and condensed.