How Tulio Sasaya skated his way to social media stardom

Parents never stop telling their children to get off of their phones. They worry that it will take away from school work, stop their kids from getting into an elite college or ruin their career aspirations.

For sophomore Tulio Sasaya, it did the opposite. 

Like many students, the Plano, Texas native is a computer science major by day. By night, he’s a content creator who films himself roller-skating through the scenic backgrounds of Plano and Durham. 

Sasaya is one of the most popular student content creators in the recent surge of content creation. His TikTok account has amassed over 636,000 followers, while his Instagram has another 411,000 and is one of just 91 accounts followed by the official Instagram page. He’s landed collaborations with brands like Uniqlo and American Eagle, which helped him bring in five figures last year. 

According to Forbes, there are over 50 million content creators in the world, contributing to more than $100 billion in the creator economy. 

“People everywhere are starting to see how important [social media] is,” said Lily Annenberg, a senior who helped found the Creator Lab, a community for content creators on campus. “Younger generations see it as a career instead of a hobby.”

Sasaya’s journey started in November 2021, when his younger brother Lucas Sasaya jokingly dared him to post on TikTok. “The posts were like … thirst traps,” Tulio said. “Not my proudest moment.”

To his surprise, his content won him 10,000 new followers in the following week. By the end of his second month on TikTok, he had reached 200,000 followers. 

“Random people at school started commenting about it and his teachers found out,” Lucas said. “He's normally the guy who is kind of quiet in class, so no one expected it.”

Sasaya’s early content, however, was largely unsustainable. “Thirst traps” weren’t something he was particularly passionate about, and he quickly explored other ways he could consistently upload content. 

His first roller-skating video blew up, receiving over a million views. Building on his success, Sasaya continued to post similar videos, drawing in more followers and likes along the way. 

It’s not hard to see what makes Sasaya’s content stand out. He’s figured out the formula that gets him the most views by diving straight into action, skating around the beautiful scenery of Duke’s campus and completing the video with a trending song in the background and witty captions for more engagement. 

“He’s one of a kind,” Annenberg said. “I've never seen someone roller-skate with a camera that you can't even see he's holding.” 

Sasaya’s parents, alongside Lucas, have shown unwavering support for him and his content creation. 

“I don’t care if you’re gonna be rich — a lot of [things in] life come and go,” Sasaya’s father told him over the phone. “Just know that family will always be there for you.”

They text him about every video, telling him how nice it is seeing him do well. On holidays, the Sasayas bundle up together in the living room and watch his YouTube vlogs on the big TV. 

Although widely successful on social media, Sasaya still worries about the performance of each video. “You see the views go up and your dopamine spikes,” he said. “And if a video doesn't do well, then it just sucks.” 

Sasaya sees himself following the trajectory of an ordinary computer science student and working a nine-to-five job at a software engineering company — Google is ideal, but Meta would be amazing too, he said. 

Pointing to his love for connecting with his audience, Sasaya says that it would be ideal if he could follow his passion for content creation, and he’s still undecided about which path he’ll follow in the future. 

Through all his success on social media, Sasaya hasn’t changed much. From video editing to securing brand deals, Sasaya still runs all his content by himself. 

He often takes the bus to East Campus to spend time with Lucas, now a first-year at Duke. His friend, sophomore Luke Fu, describes him as much more introverted than one would expect from his personality on social media. 

When he’s not playing table tennis with his brother or solving computer science problem sets, Sasaya can be found on Campus Drive, doing what he loves most — skating. 


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