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UCLA alumnus sweetens up ‘For You’ page with aesthetic baking content

Tuyen Nguyen (left) is pictured next to one of the desserts she has baked (right). The alumnus runs the recipe TikTok account @lifewithtuyen, which has accumulated over 600,000 followers. (Courtesy of Tuyen Nguyen)

By Kaycie Rippe

March 2, 2024 2:59 p.m.

This post was updated March 3 at 7:49 p.m.

Tuyen Nguyen’s TikTok page displays a sugar-filled slice of life.

The alumnus is the face behind @lifewithtuyen. Starting her account during the peak of the COVID-19 pandemic, Nguyen said her extra free time and isolation led her to explore her baking hobby and connect with an online community. Nguyen said her videos document her process making sweet treats, drawing inspiration from other bakers’ recipes and encouraging others to experiment in the kitchen with her. Four years later, Nguyen’s account has reached over 600,000 followers with its cottagecore aesthetic videos.

“One of the most surprising things since I’ve gotten this following is knowing that so many people share the same passions and interests as you,” Nguyen said. “Now I have my own community who loves talking about baking, coffee making, matcha, anything in general. It’s super cool to be able to find that on the internet and being able to talk to real people about it.”

[Related: Q&A: Ryan Tonthat takes a bite from LA food scene with @foodandpooch Instagram page]

Searching through her mom’s pantry, Nguyen started her passion for baking at a young age – exploring her childhood curiosity by mixing together leftover expired ingredients, she said. While others may have been drawn to Sunday morning cartoons, Nguyen said she was mesmerized by the process of cooking and baking on Food Network. Nguyen’s brother Luan Nguyen said he distinctly remembers her spending months in middle school attempting to create the perfect macarons.

“She made those for months continuously,” Luan Nguyen said. “She would just make batch after batch. I think that is where she really discovered her love for baking and perfecting different techniques. It was really cool being able to see her go through all the phases and see how invested and involved she was.”

Tuyen Nguyen said she was influenced to create her TikTok account because of aesthetically pleasing baking content that came across her own ‘For You’ page. She said she transformed a corner of her bedroom into a faux kitchen counter for filming. Capitalizing on the height of TikTok’s popularity, Tuyen Nguyen quickly gained traction and shifted her content creation hobby into a career. Even though her account has grown a lot in video and editing quality, Tuyen Nguyen said she still uses the same setup as when she started, emphasizing that inspiring influencers do not need fancy equipment to be successful.

Tuyen Nguyen added that when she first started creating content, she kept it a secret from her friends. Alice Kim, Tuyen Nguyen’s friend and fellow alumnus, said she didn’t discover Tuyen Nguyen’s social media fame until her baking videos showed up on her feed. Kim said she believes Tuyen Nguyen may have been afraid of her friends flooding her comment sections with quips. But instead, she said they have responded with support and pride for her social media success. For example, Luan Nguyen said Tuyen Nguyen asks him to make comments so she can reply in informative and comical ways.

As her following has grown, Tuyen Nguyen said she has developed brand deals and partnerships with many large food and kitchen tool companies, such as KitchenAid, Reese’s and Betty Crocker. When she was growing up, Tuyen Nguyen said her family couldn’t afford the brands she said she works with now, making it surreal that they now send her products for free now.

“Growing up, I never could have afforded my own KitchenAid, but when you watch Food Network or any baking influencer, they always had a KitchenAid mixer,” Tuyen Nguyen said. “Now, not only do they want to send me my own, but they want to work with me long term.”

Concurrently, she said she has a full-time career as a product marketing manager at a tech company. Tuyen Nguyen said she strategically plans her video content, drawing inspiration from seasonal relevance and audience interests in music, editing and recipes. She also forms her videos around pop culture trends, such as remaking Erewhon smoothies and basing her tea series on the fantasy television series “Avatar: The Last Airbender.”

Although @lifewithtuyen aims to create a therapeutic space for much of its audience with light instrumental music, golden hour lighting and a picturesque scene of props, the internet is not always the kindest, Tuyen Nguyen said. The influencer never shows her face or speaks in videos, she said, but people still find ways to criticize her. Kim said she admires Tuyen Nguyen’s ability to not take negativity to heart and to respond with humor.

[Related: Ingrid Teng finds community, makes memories by documenting culinary adventures]

“The most iconic video, I would say, is Kylie Jenner’s chocolate chip cookie recipe,” Kim said. “The only reason I remember is because she got so much hate for it. People were like, ‘Oh, it’s just a chocolate chip cookie recipe. You’re just putting Kylie Jenner in the title to get likes and clicks.’ And I feel like the way she responded to that whole situation made me respect her even more because she kind of trolled them back.”

Tuyen Nguyen said she is grateful for being able to create a community of people who have similar passions and histories with baking and making drinks. Unlike the real world, where people’s interests vary, the internet allows for a space for like-minded people to get together and bond over their shared interests, she said. In awe of the responses she receives from her audience, Tuyen Nguyen added that she often has people reach out to tell her that her videos help their anxiety or provide their family with a new favorite meal.

“It’s always so insane to me. Something I created and put out on the internet is being used and recreated by real people, and it’s actually touching other people’s lives,” Tuyen Nguyen said.

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