Karen X Cheng (@karenxcheng) is probably best know as the girl in the viral internet video “Girl Learns to Dance in a Year” which has been viewed well over 5 million times. In 2013 Karen released a YouTube video showing her progression over a year of daily dance practice:
But this single video is far from the whole story. Before teaching herself to dance in a year, Karen changed careers after teaching herself graphic design. Her article on how she did remains Google’s #1 result for the query “How to become a designer.” And through her company GiveIt100, she went on to teach others how to take the little steps towards impossible goals. (Here are some of those success stories, which we discuss in the interview.)
These days Karen works as a viral video consultant, helping companies and brands create stories that stick. As the saying goes:
Once you’re lucky, twice you’re good.
Karen has an incredible track record of creating viral hits. In 2014, her “donut selfie” concept became the impetus for the biggest ever Beats by Dre advertisement campaign.
More recently, Karen has created a video about San Francisco hills and written a Medium post about The Evolution of Magazine Covers, both of which have received wide-spread attention. In short, Karen know what makes things engaging and share-able.
Our interview is full of practical tips to make anything you put on the Internet get seen and shared. We dive into what is was like for Karen when her first video was misinterpreted by the Chinese media, how she felt when the attention of the Internet was on her, and how she has learned to change her mindset to embrace controversy.
I’ve known Karen since 2013, but this conversation is by far the deepest we’ve gone into her own insecurities and the challenges that accompanied her rise to Internet fame. If you’ve ever struggled with someone’s negative option of you or wondered how to reinvent yourself and your career, you will enjoy this interview with Karen Cheng.