Amanda Cerny: More Than Just A Pretty Face
If you’re on Instagram, chances are that you’ve seen Amanda Cerny. Originally known for her massive following on the social media platform Vine, she has exploded on YouTube and Instagram, where she has over 19 million followers, because of her popular comedy videos.
She’s more than just a funny girl who looks good on camera, though. An extremely savvy entrepreneur, she’s build her own multi-million dollar business through brand deals with companies like Paramount Pictures, Tinder, and Guess Jeans and will continue to grow her empire with her upcoming lines of supplements and merch.
Heavily involved in charity work, she frequently travels to areas affected by natural disasters, like Haiti and Puerto Rico.
To watch the video interview, click here.
Tom Ward: Let’s take it back to the beginning. You were going to Florida State and studying business. What were your goals at the time?
Amanda Cerny: I wanted to be in the CIA. Laughs. My mom has done Taekwondo her whole life. and has had some special jobs, so I was like, “That’s the coolest thing ever! I want to be like my mom.” That was my goal, but then I got some opportunities out in LA so I decided to stay in the entertainment space.
Ward: Before you moved to LA, you did Playboy. Once you did that you got some exposure and some money, which was great, but was that a challenge? Were you just a Playboy model? Was it tough to go from that to traditional acting roles? Trying to get management, those kinds of things.
Cerny: So it was so random. I was at Florida State and the opportunity I got was to test to be a Playboycenterfold. I was like, “This is so cool. Drew Barrymore was in Playboy. Some of the biggest people were in the magazine, so that’s really cool.” I’ve never been to California before. I was nervous at first (to be naked on set) but then I realized that everyone there had been doing it for like 50 years. They were the most professional ever.
Ward: Isn’t it crazy, with all the stuff going on in Hollywood right now? Every day there’s a new sexual harassment thing, yet the people at Playboy were the most professional and the least creepy?
Cerny: Laughs. Yeah, you never hear anything about them. I think that’s why he (Hugh Hefner) was in business for so long. Because he treated people right. But like you said, Hollywood loves stereotyping people and putting them in a box, so they were like, “You’re a Playmate. That’s what you are.” So, it had the opposite effect of what I thought it’d have; like getting me more into acting. So I said, “I’m still going to do acting; I’m just going to do my own stuff.” And it worked out for me because people were actually enjoying my content of comedy videos.
Ward: So when you came out to LA were you laser focused like, “I’m going to give this a shot for six months. I’m focused on social media.” Or was it, “I’m focused on acting.”
Cerny: For me it was acting because I didn’t know social media was a thing then. I was like, “It’s a great platform, a case study, to say people like my content. So it could be a good case study when I go to the agents.” And it wasn’t for like another year and a half, until I really started doing it.
Ward: And then Vine comes along.
Cerny: Yes, Vine! So, I started Vine because I wanted to do more YouTube. And my friend Jimmy Tatro, who does a lot of YouTube stuff and has a show on Netflix now, I'm so proud of him; I reached out to him, and said, “Jimmy if you ever need any actors for any of your stuff, just reach out to me.” But he was going to New Orleans to film 22 Jump Street, so he was like, “There’s this new app Vine. You should check it out." I was like, “OK this is making 6 second comedy skits. This is great!”
Ward: Just saying that out loud sounds ludicrous. Like, “Here’s six seconds, make somebody laugh! Go!"
Cerny: Laughs. And people wonder why Vine has so much slapstick in it.
Ward: Yeah, you don’t have a lot of time to set up a joke.
Cerny: No! Laughs. You just have to punch somebody at the end of it, and hope somebody laughs.
Ward: What made you think you were funny or have enough faith in your skills? I mean you don’t come from a comedy background, or anything like that. What made you say, “I’m going to make people laugh in 6 seconds.” Why even comedy? Why not style or fashion?
Cerny: You have to stick with what you enjoy and what you’re good at. So me doing beauty vlogs all the time, I would feel fake doing it because that’s not me. With comedy, I was always surrounded by comedians and joking around. And I loved writing. Writing skits and sketches and stuff.
Ward: What advice do you have for aspiring YouTubers out there?
Cerny: I think it’s choosing your circle. For me, it was so beneficial to have so many characters to choose from when I was making my videos. If you’re trying to do comedy or short term videos, find a videographer who’s trying to get into the space; so you don’t have to self teach yourself everything. If you try to do everything yourself, the quality of your content isn’t going to be that great. Find people to collaborate with, who have expertise in certain area, that way your content is high quality. Because now days there’s so much content out there that you need to make something that stands out; that’s unique.
Ward: Do you know exactly who’s watching this video interview? Can you imagine that she’s a girl, she’s 18 years old, and she lives in the Midwest, whatever.
Cerny: Mine is a majority 18-24 years old, which they say is the “lost boys.” Because advertising to that age group is really difficult for brands. So that’s why influencer marketing is really effective, because you’re getting direct marketing to that age group. I have to be selective in the brand deals I choose because my fans will know if it’s a brand that I don’t like or use.
Ward: Like you’re not going to sell beef jerky because you’re a vegan.
Cerny: Laughs. Exactly. My fans would be like, “Screw you Amanda! You lied to us!” Laughs. What I’ve noticed about social media too, is that if you’re trying to create a piece of content that is super entertaining and creative, for that brand, and not try to hide from your fans that it’s an ad; then they’re going to appreciate it so much.
Ward: What’s up with your website? It just says, “Coming soon.” When’s it coming?
Cerny: Soon. Laughs. I want to time it when I’m releasing all my products.
Ward: The beauty of that is, for you younger people out there, is that it’s easy to get caught up in the social media following, but they don’t realize the importance of growing an email list.
Cerny: Oh my God. Yes! Get their email and their phone number! Because both are super important.
Ward: Why phone numbers?
Cerny: Because there’s new IP that helps you take all of the phone numbers of your customers; where you can send them a direct text for information they want to receive. If you have a new product, you can text them. It’s so much better than email. Even for kids when they want to buy a hoodie or merch from their favorite influencer, who’s now their favorite celebrity; which is what they are!
Ward: Yes they are! Pause on that real quick. Because there’s still a pecking order: Hollywood actors are up here, and influencers are down here. I don’t think people realize the engagement of an influencer, versus a traditional TV star who’s not active on social media. Tell the person out there, who still doesn’t get it, what engagement means.
Cerny: Engagement is one of the most important things, besides following, because those are the people that are going to go watch your movie or buy your product; the ones that care the most to like and share. That’s engagement. So if you have an audience that’s highly engaged, you have an audience that’s more likely to be invested in whatever you’re doing. The best form of marketing is through social media. It’s the only one where you’re getting exact demographics, exact age groups, and you’re getting someone’s full attention because they’ve got their phones pressed up to their face and deciding to watch your piece of content, no matter what else is happening in the world. They’re watching your content and you’re sure of it. With TV, things are playing and I’m walking away getting a snack. Influencer marketing is so personal too, that it’s priceless, almost. It’s the best form of marketing and a lot of people are going to understand it more. If you take advantage of social media marketing early, you’re going to get the best investment of your life because a lot of people don’t understand it yet. So, be the one that does and take advantage of these moments while you can.
That doesn’t sound like talk from a random Playmate does it?
Amanda Cerny refused to be put in a box, didn’t give up, and chose her own path to success. An early adopter of social media platforms, like Vine, and influencer marketing; she has the ability to command an audience while still being able to talk shop with the marketing departments of Fortune 500 companies. Because social media can be so fickle, you’re here today and gone tomorrow, Amanda is already hedging her bets and is looking to help the next generation of influencers grow their careers.
Maybe she can help a bald, 39 year old guy like me, blow up on Instagram. If anyone can do it, it’s Amanda Cerny.