Ariel Martin, also known as “Baby Ariel” online, was just a normal freshman in high school until a lip-syncing app took her life by storm and turned her world into a dream come true. The now 18-year-old singer, actor and social media star has released her own original music, wrote a successful book, made her way onto our TV screens and is a role model for her 40 million followers. Ariel shares her take on building a business, creating music, and her latest role in our Spring 2019 issue.
Give me a little bit of an intro on yourself, some of the things you like to do, and a bit of your history.
It was the summer going into my ninth grade year and I decided randomly to make these videos. I found this app musical.ly. I made an account to do these lip sync videos, trying out my facial expressions, my hand expressions, and all these things. I guess people really liked the way I was doing it, and they started to follow me on musical.ly. I still do YouTube videos, Instagram, and Twitter, and all that fun stuff, but now what I love to do is write and sing and act as much as
So you did not expect things to take off like they did at all when you started on musical.ly?
When my family realized what it could be, my mom tried to research a ton of social media people and saw that, “Oh my god, these people have followers, and they’re doing this for a living!” We saw that that was possible so we opened up a YouTube channel, an Instagram account, and a Twitter account. From there, I got like my first brand deal in the first few months, and then I got offered to go on my first tour which took me out of my 9th grade year, and everything took off from that point. It’s been a real big whirlwind. At the end of the day, I’m super blessed and thankful. I have this family online, and they’re my fans, but they’re really my best friends and they’re my family. I talk to them on a daily basis, and I’m able to create content, and we can talk about it. Hopefully, it puts a smile on their faces.
So your parents were very supportive throughout the whole thing?
I’m really lucky because I think social media is such a new thing and a lot of parents where I grew up were very skeptical about putting anything on Instagram, whether it’s for just their friends or for a large following. Luckily my parents have monitored all my social media since the start and I’ve researched everything. Now they’re who I do everything with. We do all of my videos together, we write together, we act together. My mom even did a show with me on YouTube. They’re my biggest support system. They’re amazing, and I could not do this without them.
You turned your social media channels into, essentially, a full-blown business. Was that a hard thing to do?
It really…it was weird. It wasn’t ever “let’s turn me into a business.” Over time little things started coming up. So I thought, “If this is going to be my job, then I have to make money somehow. Let’s align with a brand or do YouTube ads.” It’s weird because I have never thought about money, even though I know that it’s a part of it, but it’s never been why I do anything. I realize it’s a business, but I don’t like to think of it that way.
So things don’t really feel like work to you?
It doesn’t feel like work to me. I have totally stayed on the creative side. My dad, luckily, is a financial planner, and my management is amazing, my family’s amazing, and they kind of take care of all the logistics in this business side. I don’t like to get caught up in that because the second that I know I’m getting this brand deal and all these things, it feels like work, and I don’t like it to feel like work. I like to continue with writing and singing and acting and filming as much as I can stay on that side.
I just want to continue from where I am and keep building.
With your platform, you can do both and it’s completely normal. It doesn’t seem like you’re having to pick through either one.
I have many goals. I do want to sell out arenas one day hopefully and have many movies out someday. There’s multiple things; it’s not just one. That’s what’s really cool about now. With YouTube, anybody can sit down and write a script for a mini TV series and put it out on YouTube. There’s so much that you can do on your own now. Everybody can find themselves on social media somehow, and I’m able to do the things I want to do.
Is there one thing you like more than the other? Singing or acting?
I can never choose. That’s a hard question. However I can get my emotions out in that day and whatever feels right for me I’ll do. Sometimes it’s singing, sometimes it’s writing a song. Sometimes it’s creating characters for some reason and filming and doing monologues in the mirror. I just want to continue from where I am and keep building. I want to direct movies and have an album out one day. There’s so many things that I can’t just choose one. It’s sort of how I want to express myself in that moment.
You have this great, bright pop sound. Is there like anyone you like emulated or idolized before that or that you looked up to in the music industry that you kind of model yourself after?
I am a huge fan of Julia Michaels. I like a lot of the sounds that Charli XCX uses, like her “Boys” song and that whole album is really cool. I like the Spice Girls and TLC, who is the best. I love pop. I love those really interesting sounds. But right now, I think Julia Michaels is my favorite.
You just did Bixler High Private Eye, which was your first movie, correct?
Yeah, Bixler High was my first movie and hopefully first of many. It was a great experience. It was one of the coolest things for me. I love movies so I wanted to soak up as much of everything as I possibly could. I was probably so annoying. I took tons of pictures, I wrote out my character, and made up my character arc. My mom and I would sit down for hours, talking about my character and how I would do it that day. And the people on set were just amazing. They knew it was my first movie and they just made me feel so comfortable. Jace was awesome, we’d laugh non-stop. It was just like a magical experience to me. I felt like a little kid. I was so excited.
Do you want to tell me a little more about what your Bixler High experience was like?
It was just amazing. I had so much fun working with Jace Norman; we became good friends on set and just honestly were constantly cracking up. Leslie, our director, and the entire crew were also great. They made it easy and comfortable to be on set. And Nickelodeon is just an amazing organization to work with. I hope we get to do more together.
You also spearhead an anti-bullying movement. What started that for you?
When my social accounts first started growing, I noticed how much hate I got from people commenting really mean things. At first, it really hurt and affected me, but at some point, I realized that these people that were spreading hate didn’t know me and for sure had no reason to say mean things about me. I learned to brush it off but felt that other kids, who might not have a support system, might need to know that they’re not alone. So I started #ArielMovement as a way to connect people who have been bullied and also to let bullies know that it’s not okay to pick on kids.
Do you think your platform comes with a responsibility to use it to help others?
Yes! One of my favorite quotes from one of my favorite movies is when Ben tells Spiderman, “With great power comes great responsibility.” I don’t feel powerful like that, but I do feel it’s important that I do my bit to put a smile on people’s faces and make the world a little bit better. My parents remind me that there are a lot of kids looking up to me; I should try to be someone worthy of being looked up to.
Anything else you’d like to add/share with our readers?
Just a big thank you to everyone and stay positive. Keep doing you and remember, “I Heart You”!!!!
STORY GINA DECICCO
PHOTOS RAUL ROMO
HAIR MIKA FOWLER
MAKEUP AARON PAUL for EXCLUSIVE ARTISTS using STILA COSMETICS
STYLIST KATIE QIAN
CREATIVE DIRECTION ANNA ZHANG