Interview with Sabrina Cruz: The Creator of Nerdy & Quirky

Sabrina Cruz is a YouTube star, vlogger and, as her Twitter bio states, an owner of many books, but reader of embarrassingly few. Cruz created her YouTube channel "Nerdy and Quirky," when she was in middle school in 2012. On her channel she uses comedy to talk about pop culture, trivia, and social justice. Five years, 162,000+ subscribers and 10,295,710+ views later, we discuss her YouTube success, challenges, university life and her future goals. 

Gal: What first interested you in making videos on YouTube?   

Cruz: I was a pretty avid YouTube viewer as a kid and what really caught my eye was the communities that were forming online, like the Vlogbrothers’ Nerdfighteria. In real life, I was really struggling to figure out where I fit in; but, online, I found people who shared a lot of my interests. So, I started making videos on YouTube to take on a more active role in the communities I loved.

 Sabrina Cruz filming with her Yeti Microphone. 

Sabrina Cruz filming with her Yeti Microphone. 

Gal: Your answer reminds of that Apple ad called "Think Different" from 1997. Have you seen it? Check it out. It's kind of cheesy, but it basically gives a shout out to everyone in history who always thinks differently than the status quo. Definitely plucks the inspirational heart-strings. I think you get where I'm going! How do you come up with unique ideas for your videos each week? What’s your process?

Cruz: My process for coming up with ideas is largely content-intake. I read a lot of books, articles (especially from AtlasObscura), and watch a lot of videos that lead me down a rabbit hole of asking questions like why was Thomas Jefferson so obsessed with moose, or why do people think gingers don’t have souls? Then I try and figure out the answer for me, and eventually, my viewers. 

Gal: Has being a student at University changed your process?

Cruz: Definitely! My production schedule has become a lot more rigid since I need to account for class time and homework. I used to spend almost every waking hour on production but I can’t anymore since I have a bajillion different assignments and readings, which are fun in their own way… but not in as many ways. 

Gal: You have fantastic motion graphics, animation, and editing in your videos, what software do you use to edit your videos? (I won’t judge if it’s not Premiere Pro or After Effects ;) )

Cruz: I mainly use Premiere Pro, occasionally building assets in Photoshop. When I’m feeling fancy, you can find me opening After Effects; but, I rarely feel fancy.

 Sabrina Cruz editing or just staring at her screen. We will never know. 

Sabrina Cruz editing or just staring at her screen. We will never know. 

Gal: Glad to hear you are also a Premiere Gal! I recently started doing some Live  #AskGal streams on my channel. What are your thoughts on YouTube Live? Do you like live-streaming or would you prefer to record and then edit?

Cruz: YouTube Live is an amazing tool for certain people, but not me. I’m a bit of a perfectionist and a lot more can go wrong live, so I prefer recording and editing.

Gal: I can definitely relate with you about being a perfectionist when it comes to video editing! After all, I have a YouTube channel focused on video editing!  In one of your videos you mentioned that you are a math major, do you intend to pursue other careers in addition to YouTube or do you want to integrate your university studies into YouTube or video?

Cruz: That’s a big question that every undergrad fears. I love YouTube but it has been my job for a majority of my life – I started when I was 13. So, for at least a short period of time, I want to try my hand at other career paths.

Gal: It makes sense to diversify and mix things up! Good for you for trying something different. I'm currently doing the opposite. I did undergrad and grad school, worked full-time and just now trying out YouTube! So, out of all the videos you've made, which video are you most proud of? Why?

Cruz: It would probably be this one:

My biggest YouTube challenge over the past 5 years was dealing with the fact that specific formats are destined to be more successful than others.
— Sabrina Cruz

Cruz (cont'd): It was a panel proposal for VidCon, the biggest YouTube convention in the world. Back then, a friend and I realized that a lot of talented young creators were being overlooked compared to older counterparts despite having the same amount of experience and despite the quality of our videos. It was frustrating. So, the YoungTubers panel was born, and in response, we got dozens of auditions from incredible creators. That’s why I’m so proud of the video. It was a concept that came about in a frustrated conversation with a friend and turned into a movement for young creators to take pride in their work, and also a successful panel that has been a part of every VidCon since. 

Gal: This makes me so happy to hear! It's amazing how one video can build a community and a panel tradition at VidCon. What was your biggest YouTube challenge over the past 5 years? How did you overcome it?

Cruz: My biggest YouTube challenge over the past 5 years was dealing with the fact that specific formats are destined to be more successful than others. The type of videos I make would usually fall into others. I used to find it extremely discouraging, but as of late, I’ve come to consider it a challenge. How can I transform content and topics I want to share, and make it algorithmically viable? Maybe it’s my inner nerd talking, but it’s actually a lot of fun.

Sabrina Cruz at her editing desk with her sweet iPad teleprompter setup! 

Gal: #Truth. I think making content algorithmically viable is always the challenge. How to be unique and creative, but also popular? Not an easy task to do! It's like being an oxymoron, constantly. What opportunities has YouTube brought to you that you would have otherwise never have experienced?

Cruz: I think the biggest would be meeting viewers. It is an objectively strange experience, right? One time I was leaving class and I heard someone gasp and yell my name. After a moment of confusion, we started talking, and eventually I made this new friend. For someone who is terrible at social interactions, YouTube acts as the perfect friendship “dating” profile.

Gal: Haha. Yes, I can also relate. I definitely consider myself an introvert, I love interacting with people as long as it is not "small talk." I think your channel definitely helps facilitate conversations on deeper and more expansive issues. So thank you for doing that! In addition to learning how to tell compelling stories, what life skills have you learned while being a YouTuber?

Cruz: It’s helped a lot with public speaking. When you’re editing yourself for hours a day, you quickly pick up on where your voice went wrong – whether it sounds off or it doesn’t convey the right tone, or the pacing is off. YouTube has helped me refine my speech, so when I’m giving a presentation, I don’t need to worry about my voice sounding weird… and my anxiety can focus on other things.

Gal: That's great. So many people fear public speaking! What advice would you give to other young women first starting their YouTube channel?

Cruz: Make use of the comment moderation tools YouTube provides. You can automatically filter out comments that contain certain words, and I’m sure you know what words I’m thinking of.

Gal: Oh, I do. Do you have any secret talents/powers that your YouTube followers don’t already know (besides being fabulously quirky and nerdy at the same time)?

Cruz: I wish, but I’m a remarkably untalented person.

Gal: Well, I definitely think you are talented! Thank you for being authentically awesome and sharing your awesome perspective with the world. Keep it up! Anything else you'd like to share?

Cruz: Keep an eye on my YouTube channel, NerdyAndQuirky, in August 2017. There’s something new brewin’.

Gal: I'll definitely keep an eye out!