Alumna finds following through TikTok cooking videos

Gloria Sullivan has amassed more than 350,000 followers through her cooking and baking content.

Temple alumna Gloria Sullivan has amassed a large following on TikTok through her cooking and baking content. | COURTESY / ELIZABETH HASIER

In 2021, Gloria Sullivan posted a TikTok of herself simply making lemonade and talking to the camera. Before she knew it, a seemingly ordinary video led her to start gaining followers by the thousands. 

“It was pretty weird because I didn’t think people would be that interested,” said Sullivan, a 2019 anthropology alumna. “I was like, ‘Everybody, lemonade is not like a revolutionary idea. It’s like a very simple drink, and I think for a lot of people, it’s a very regular staple for them.’ And it was just like, all of a sudden, these people started following me.”

Following the simplicity of the lemonade video, Sullivan centers her content around her daily life, particularly food. She packs lunches for her teaching job, makes iced coffee and cooks simple meals. Last summer, she started a series reviewing 100 Philly coffee shops, garnering attention from many Philadelphian TikTok users. She now posts several videos a day to her account @_gloyoyo_, which has more than 350,000 followers.

“I just intrinsically like to cook and bake, so if there’s a new recipe that I want to try, I’ll make a video and it depends on the mood that I’m in if I make it like an ASMR video, or if I just film the clips and then I edit it to do a voiceover if it’s like noisy in the background or I want to listen to a podcast while I’m cooking,” Sullivan said. “I just try to do things as organically as possible so that it doesn’t feel like anything is super-produced.”

When Sullivan first started on social media, she avoided making in-depth content about her teaching job. Many educators have gathered a large following on TikTok through videos about their teaching career, but Sulivan elected to focus on her passion for food because of the abundance of teaching content and privacy concerns for her students.

With her cooking videos, Sullivan aims to make viewers more comfortable with cooking and eating and combat the negative diet culture she has noticed on TikTok. 

“I think so much of the diet culture space is like, ‘Have a smoothie for breakfast and a salad for lunch,'” Sullivan said. “And it’s like, you can have a smoothie for breakfast and a salad for lunch if that’s what you want, but if you want a bagel for breakfast, and a sandwich for lunch, you can also do that, like those are both fine choices. So I think it’s, not to be too preachy, but also being like, ‘It’s okay to eat what you like to eat as long as it makes you feel good.’”

Sullivan’s passion for food shows in her content, said Will Loftus, Sullivan’s fiance. Loftus admires the excitement and energy she brings to her account, especially when she’s testing out a new recipe.

Loftus relishes in seeing Sullivan’s social media presence flourish. He always noted her talent and passion for cooking but never expected it to result in a social media career.

“I guess in my mind, the next step to those things would be opening a restaurant or working in the food industry in some capacity, but I never thought that you could take those skills and put them towards making videos on the internet and then develop such a large and fast following,” said Loftus, a 2018 media studies and production alumnus.

Sullivan’s friends were initially skeptical when she first started posting to TikTok. They poked fun at the videos she made, but as her following developed, they offered her advice. 

Sullivan reached out to her friend Abby Wolanin, who worked in the social media industry when she was first offered brand deals. 

“I was just like, ‘Just stay true to you, be authentic, your real self,’” Wolanin said. “And it’s just crazy seeing the progress and growth she has just completely, organically and naturally has just come to her.” 

Sullivan hopes to finish up her Philadelphia coffee shop series by the end of next year and aims to make her content more accessible for beginner home cooks by writing out the recipes she features in her videos.

“I’m not great at measuring,” Sullivan said. “I think that’s my whole thing is like, maybe trying to be more intentional about how accessible my content is, because I don’t measure anything, and I’m really bad about writing recipes down. Like, I’m willing to eyeball everything. And I know people learning how to cook are not necessarily comfortable with like eyeballing things, that’s sort of a grow and learn situation, so I think generally just like making it more accessible.”

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