This blew up: Get to know your favorite viral Twitter personalities beyond 280 characters

This blew up: Get to know your favorite viral Twitter personalities beyond 280 characters

AC Soriano, Hershey Neri, Gigi Esguerra, and Yani Villarosa tell us what life’s like beyond the viral video.

Photos by JV Rabano


Being famous IRL is one thing, but being Twitter famous is a whole ‘notha level these days. Viral sensations really are born overnight (you do note!), and no amount of training will prepare you to master the Internet’s brand of self-deprecating humor. If you’ve got it, you’ve got it, and it’s up to the general population to judge whether your content flops or not — regardless of whether or not you meant to gain clout in the first place. 

But what happens when someone chooses to escape everyone’s short term attention spans and transcend those 15 minutes of fame? We chat with people who’ve been there: AC Soriano, Hershey Neri, Gigi Esguerra, and Yani Villarosa to find out what life is like beyond that one viral video. 

AC Soriano, 24 (@itsACsLife)

User @itsacslife deserves a veteran’s discount. While you might be familiar with AC Soriano’s K-Drama-esque vlogs and unapologetically honest online persona, not many know he got his start on the ugly side of the internet back in 2013 with a prank call video gone wrong. The video garnered lots of backlash, even prompting an apology video.

It was only when AC entered college later on as a Digital Filmmaking major that he got back to content creation simply as a means to practice his craft. It was also meant to be an apology of sorts for his past, “proving to the people that I actually changed.” Apologies coupled with action to change are not things you’d normally see in controversial Internet figures (see: Jake Paul), but AC is making it work. 


“Per platform ang pinaka-serious is YouTube,” he says of the differences between the content he posts on Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook. Each episode of AC’s Life isn’t like your typical “Hey guys!” vlog since he uses the series to apply what he’s learned in class. Most of the time, the episodes are edited with “ang nakaraan” sequences, establishing shots, background music, and go through the usual pre-prod and post-prod process. 

It’s a lot of work for a full-time student, which is why AC lets loose more on Twitter, even calling the platform a space where you can see his “truest self.” “Since [sa YouTube] yung serious side, nailalalabas ko yung anything goes lang sa Twitter and Instagram. I don’t really filter myself pag sa Instagram and Twitter. Even my opinions, go lang.” 

Now, he has over 156,300 followers on Twitter, over 86,000 on Facebook, and over 117,000 on Instagram. This is influencer-level following, but rarely do we see him post about brand partnerships. He’s even hesitant to even call himself an influencer because of the air of privilege that the word reeks of, as many of them, he says are “just looking down [on others].” 

AC understands that a huge following also gives him the opportunity to express his opinions freely and to “speak out for those who don’t have a voice,” which is something he didn’t used to do back then as he was trying to feel out the landscape and make a name for himself. “Mas naging, “I’m speaking for a group more than just for myself. Iniisip ko not just me but also for the welfare ng iba.”

The approach is tricky, but necessary in today’s world. “Ako kasi, sobrang subversive yung content ko,” says AC. “Like, I’m going to make you laugh first, then I’ll make you realize na, ‘Ah, oo nga!’ May moral lesson lagi na hindi siya imposed or preachy,” he adds.  

If there’s anything AC’s learned from his time online, it’s that while content creation is something he’s passionate about, turning into a full-time vlogger was never the plan. Instead, he’d rather work full-time for a production company after graduating in March — a move towards his wish to become a successful filmmaker. 

Either way, we’ll still be seeing more of AC’s life, as he’s taking it as he goes along. “Kung panonoorin nila ako, thank you. Pero kung hindi, okay lang din naman. I don’t think of it as a constant thing. I think it’s not so predictable,” he mentions when asked about the future. “Hindi ko talaga sineseryoso yung virtual world.”  — Gaby Gloria

Hershey Neri, 23 (@heyhersheyy)

As outgoing as she is in her videos and in real life, Hershey Neri says that her online persona wasn’t always reflective of her actual personality. Currently a fashion writer for, she started fashion blogging in 2011, and was focused on maintaining a “prim and proper” appearance that her friends commented wasn’t true to her. “For some reason, I never got to break the boundary. All of my friends in the blogging industry, nag-boom yung career nila – and I was really happy for them! But at the same time, I felt sad because I love what I do but I still couldn’t make a career out of it. I was trying so hard to fit in a mold.”

When she posted her first video,a short tour of an interesting Airbnb around June of last year, she didn’t expect how far its reach would go. “Sa Airbnb video ko, may mga tao from Singapore, people from India saying that they had no idea what I was saying or what’s happening but they were laughing.” 

In the beginning, when Hershey first started gaining followers on Twitter, she didn’t know how to keep up with the expectations of her newfound audience. “It was stressful the first time,” she says. “[I realized if] I stopped posting for three weeks, I would lose 1k followers. It was stressful, I thought that I always have to have new content.” Over time, Hershey says that she had to refocus her mindset and remember her roots: making content that will make people laugh, and that it’s not about the follower count. “I want to say that it’s okay to have an imperfect life, it’s okay to make fun of yourself,” she states. “Growing up with low self-esteem, ang ganda ng lahat. Ang perfect ng mga tao sa magazines. Now, sometimes I post stories without makeup or looking haggard. That’s what I want people to know: life isn’t always Instagram worthy.” 

Hershey describes herself as a storyteller who also uses her platform to talk about her advocacies. “I think people also unfollowed me because of my political stuff, but minsan I get serious. I can’t stop being me. I cannot separate that. I am not 25% comedian, 25% feminist, etcetera. I am Hershey as a whole,” she says. “It’s okay to have fun, but at the same time, you shouldn’t live in a bubble.” With that, politics, HIV awareness, and post traumatic stress disorder are just some of the topics she has been basing her content on recently. She’s even enrolled in a masters program in counselling psychology at the Ateneo de Manila University, aiming to integrate whatever she’s learned onto her digital platform. She’s had a tough past, but Hershey believes that it doesn’t define her. “I am a victor of sexual harassment, and I say victor, not victim, because I believe that the past cannot define us. It can shape us but it can never define us.”

So what’s next for Hershey Neri? She was actually kind of hoping for a feature! “I know the behind the scenes, I produce campaigns, shoots, interview people. This is all so weird, it’s funny to experience this from the other end.” Hershey explains. She’s also looking to grow her YouTube channel with more vlogs. “I have so much respect for full-time vloggers because It’s not easy. Now that I see this industry growing, I see more opportunities.”  — Patricia Manarang

Yani Villarosa, 17 (@yanihatesu)

Currently still a Grade 12 student at the University of the East, Yani Villarosa is part of her senior high’s HUMSS (Humanities and Social Sciences) strand. She’s gone viral numerous times, with most of her videos reaching tens of thousands of likes. Her skits started in 2017, and Yani had no idea back then that they would become the hits they are now. “Stress-reliever from the stress of a science high school yung mga videos ko dati, parang coping mechanism. Kapag gumagawa ako ng videos may tinatakasan ako na responsibilidad, hanggang ngayon,” Yani says. “Nagustuhan ng schoolmates ko, so tinuloy ko.”

Yani recalls the first video of hers that she thinks went viral. “Yung list of 2017 crushies yung una.” She talks about how she was at school when it hit 100 likes, then eventually 1000. It came to a point where the video left Yani’s control, with someone posting the skit on Facebook without her permission. “Iba sa Facebook. Nandoon yung mga kamag-anak, mga makikita na ayaw mong makikita.” Her succeeding skits were also uploaded on Facebook, this time in a compilation and with credits to her. “Na-discover ng pamilya ko at tinatanong kung anong ginagawa ko. Nung nagvi-video pala ako nung hindi nila alam, akala nila may kaaway ako,” she laughs. 

The process behind filming her videos involves a lot of improversation, but sometimes she creates a loose script. “Yung iba, spontaneous. Minsan nakaupo lang ako tapos may maisip ako. Yung iba, nag-iisip ako sa commute ng lines pag nasa jeep ako tapos linilista ko, improvise na kapag filming.” On her iconic “are you the father?” video, Yani says that she had just thought of that line in the bathroom and prepared only that before filming. Yani’s content has also evolved throughout the years, but she says one technique stands out: “ Pinaka-remarkable is yung zoom in. Before, hindi ko napapansin or nakikita, ngayon yun yung mga naalala ng mga tao sa skits ko.” She’s also been doing other videos with clips of her dancing or goofing off in various places. 

Yani gets recognized in public, but she doesn’t like to describe herself as “Twitter famous.” “I don’t introduce myself as Twitter famous. Ang weird ng flex!” Yani exclaims. People have started tagging her online whenever they see her in real life. “‘Nakita kita sa ganito’, ‘nakita kita sa 168’, kahit yung mga panahon na hindi ako ready, bagong gising, haggard!” She doesn’t know how to deal with it quite yet, especially when people at her school recognize her. Yani doesn’t want people to think that she’s a snob, but she feels uneasy if she smiles at someone before they approach her. 

At the moment, Yani’s priorities are her studies, but she’s gained a lot of opportunities from her online presence. She’s able to earn from hosting gigs, event promotions, and YouTube monetization. Yani appreciates where she is now, because she says it’s like jumpstart to the things she wants to pursue in the future. She starts listing off her plans. “I want to take up broadcasting communication in college, maging MYX VJ, maging radio broadcaster. Gusto ko yung dumadaldal, so laking tulong yung pag video ko ngayon. If ever pwede ‘ko na rin maging content creator!”  — Patricia Manarang

Gigi Esguerra, 21 (@gigiesguerra)

Freelance makeup artist Gigi Esguerra’s videos made the rounds on Twitter this year and gained a huge amount of attention, and for good reason. In the videos, Gigi can be seen giving out flowers at the Metro Manila Pride March. When asked about what inspired her to do this, Gigi says that her outlook on how to interact with protestors changed. 

“For the past three years, I’ve been attending Pride, always interacting with the protestors and all of the people there because I thought it was important for me to be visible and present myself as a proud transwoman,” she says. “The years before this year, the way I would be handling protestors was with a lot of angst, anger, and hate.”

Gigi says that she realized her thinking was counterproductive, and she turned to compassion, kindness, and understanding. “I believe that they’re like this because they were raised this way. I don’t believe that is how humans act. I think humans are inherently good. If I were to reach out to them, the best way is to send out love.” Gigi believes that flowers are symbols of love and peace. 

Initially not expecting her videos to blow up, Gigi was overwhelmed with the amount of support she received. “It was heartwarming. Hanggang ngayon, may mga message requests pa ako on Twitter. People took their time to share their stories, some were inspired to come out or become allies,” she says. Although the general response was positive, there were still some people who expressed anger towards the LGTBQ+ community to her, but Gigi did not let it get to her. “Because I was so overwhelmed with love, I wasn’t really bothered. I put my energy into moving forward and inspiring others instead.” she continued. “There were people who I didn’t know personally who were fighting for us. Hindi ko na pinapatulan yung mga bashers but others would, and I’m thankful and honored that there were people out there who cared.” 

Despite being unfazed by the negative reactions to her viral videos, Gigi admits that there are moments where some comments on social media can affect her. “In sharing my story online, there are still people who invalidate me, saying that I don’t pass as a real woman. I try my best to present myself as a strong transwoman who is unphased by this, but in reality I still do get affected.” Gigi mentions that it’ll ultimately be her own demons bringing her down, but that she is reminded of a bigger community who gives her enough love and support to overcome them. 

When talking about her future, Gigi wants to keep doing what she’s doing now, but on a more elevated scale. She wants to continue sharing her journey to a wider audience and using this avenue to leave a legacy. “That is my advocacy: trans visibility and trans awareness. Even if one person in this world is able to change their life because of me doing what I’m doing, living my life as a transwoman, then I would be happy.”   — Patricia Manarang

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