TikTok Mental Health Advocate Jorge Alvarez Shares Advice for Applying for Grants and Awards

Photo credit: MaksymTomko/Shutterstock ijorgealvarez/Instagram (Licensed) remix by Caterina Cox

We’re reaching out to some popular creators to get their best tips and tricks for success and better understand the ups and downs of life as a trailblazer on the internet.

This week, we spoke with Jorge Alvarez (@ijorgealvarez), a mental health advocate and content creator with a combined social reach of over 140,000 followers across TikTok, Instagram, and LinkedIn.

Alvarez started his creator journey in 2021 on TikTok, using the platform to share his experiences with therapy as a Latinx man. In his videos, Alvarez discusses BIPOC [Black, Indigenous, and People of Color] communities, cultural stigma against mental health care, skillfully navigating relationships, building self-confidence, and more. Within months of starting his account, his following grew to over 100,000. Since then, he’s partnered with high-profile brands, like BetterHelp, Dove, TikTok, and Instagram.

In February 2022, Alvarez was invited by MTV to participate in a Mental Health Youth Action Forum at the White House to pitch a mental health campaign with other creatives, which was then picked up by Pinterest. As previously reported by Passionfruit, in September 2022 TikTok announced Alvarez was a recipient of a $50,000 TikTok Latinx Creatives Grant to launch another mental health campaign. Alvarez was previously a part of TikTok’s Latinx Creatives incubator program and #LearnOnTikTok campaign.

In an interview with Passionfruit, Alvarez discussed his first viral videos, what video formats work best on TikTok, how he crafted his application for TikTok’s Latinx Creatives Grant, his tips for creators applying to awards and grants, strategies for avoiding burnout, and more. 

The following interview has been condensed and edited for clarity.

When was the first time your content went “viral,” and what do you think made that content special?

My first viral video with over 1 million views was in June 2021 on TikTok. The video was about how most BIPOC experience feelings of guilt and shame when trying to do things for themselves. Whether we decide we want to move out of our childhood homes or choose to go to a restaurant, because of our collectivist cultures, it’s easy to feel these emotions and think we’re doing something “wrong” when that’s not the case at all. In the video, I explained the difference between collectivist and individualist cultures which I think resonated very deeply with people. This, in addition to the fact that we don’t often speak about these experiences despite so many of us relating, is what led to the video’s virality. 

There was no particular format or strategy behind this video in particular. I was sitting in my car, picked up my phone, and started recording. I did stitch another video that was also performing well so in hindsight, using that video as my “hook” definitely helped. I think following the stitched clip with emotions that people resonate deeply with also pulled viewers in when watching.

How do you research some of the topics regarding mental health that you address in your videos?

Background research was always and continues to be an important consideration for me given the type of content I create and the intention behind my content. For starters, I am always sure to share my personal, lived experiences and connect these to culture or my learnings on how we collectively experience similar emotions or feelings. I always fact-check terms and phrases when I get more technical in my videos, and I also share what I learn in therapy from a mental health professional.

Which styles or formats of videos do you find work best on TikTok?

This really depends on the niche but for me personally, straight-up talking to the camera supported with text on screen has worked best. I find skits are always a great format as well!

What do you think made you stand out as an applicant for the TikTok Latinx Creatives Grant?

First, I need to say I am so happy I applied because I almost didn’t because of imposter syndrome. But I believe I was chosen as 1 of the 10 to be awarded the grant because of a few factors. 

I would definitely say: How I personally brand and position myself in the mental health activism space showed that my project was related to and addressing an issue I deeply care about. I had also worked with mental health non-profits and worked on other mental health projects which served as a “resume” in a way. I was sure to mention this in my application.

[Also,] the type of content I create and how I intentionally show up across platforms from a truly genuine place. I very honestly share creative [hobbies] and career updates on Instagram and LinkedIn, so I believe that the people reviewing my application were aware in some capacity of my intention and trusted this would reflect in my project. 

Finally, the idea was one that my executive co-producer, [Jazmine Alcon,] came up with that addressed a pressing issue in BIPOC communities. We identified a gap and explored how we could fill it through this project.

How did you initially get involved with TikTok’s Latinx Creatives incubator program?

I had previously been a creator part of the previous #LearnOnTikTok creator community and was engaged by TikTok to promote the program in a partnered video which was my initial introduction to the program. But like everyone else, I applied directly through the application, and I heard back a couple of months later!

Similarly, how were you able to achieve the opportunity to participate in the Mental Health Youth Action Forum at the White House?

In October 2021, around the same time I heard back from the TikTok Latinx Creatives incubator program, my partner and a few other folks I had previously connected with linked me to an application for the Mental Health Youth Action Forum. Word of mouth is powerful because had I not been told about this opportunity, I may have never seen it. I applied but did not hear back until February 2021, but since then, my life has changed greatly when it comes to my personal mission and career.

Do you have any tips for other creators who want to be involved in a program like that?

I have countless thoughts and suggestions for people who want to be selected for any program or award in recognition of their work! 

First, celebrate your wins and share what you’re passionate about! I can’t scream this at the top of my lungs enough. We’re often embarrassed or don’t want to come off as pretentious/cocky and so we don’t share our wins publicly or what we’re excited to achieve. But let me emphasize, I truly believe this has helped me a ton in my journey. By being vocal about features, opportunities I’ve been accepted to, and what I am excited about, people have thought of me when recommending folks or gone out of their way to share a link with me. This goes a long way!

Second, connect, connect, connect! Definitely build genuine relationships with people in fields that interest you. I can assure you this will achieve the same purpose, and people will be eager to show up for you or recommend you to others when the opportunity presents itself.

Third and finally, keep an eye out! Follow social accounts of companies or organizations you hope to work with and shoot your shot when the chance does come up.

You’ve spoken about burnout recently on TikTok. Do you have any strategies to avoid burnout as a creator?

Don’t chase trends, take intentional and regular breaks from socials altogether, do something each day that brings you joy, build healthy habits, and have more fun by doing things that have nothing to do with what you create!

What advice would you give an aspiring creator?

We all have a story, love, or talent worth sharing. I get it’s easy to think, “Why would anyone care?” Let me remind you, creating has nothing to do with anyone about you. Creating should be an outlet and avenue for you to share your craft and/or voice with the world and have fun while doing it.

Are you a creator making a difference on social media? Email [email protected] for a chance to be featured in an upcoming newsletter.

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