Life as a Christian Influencer with Jeanine Amapola"I am here to love and help people and just to show them the light and the truth."
Jeanine Amapola is a well-known millennial Christian influencer. Since the beginning of her YouTube career, Jeanine has shown her subscribers what it’s like to live a real and unedited life behind the cameras while also keeping God at the center of her days.
WC: Tell us a bit about yourself.
Jeanine: My name is Jeanine Amapola. I’m from Dallas, Texas and I moved to Los Angeles, California two and a half years ago, and it was one of the best decisions I have ever made. I am a YouTuber, social media influencer, fitness aficionado and a new podcast creator.
WC: When did you start your career on YouTube?
Jeanine: When I was 16 years old, I started creating videos purely out of boredom. I was home-schooled most of my life and YouTube became a creative and social outlet for me. I loved editing, graphic design and being on camera and entertaining people. After I discovered YouTube, I decided to try it out for myself. I never in my life thought it would become what it is today. Then in my junior year of college at The University of Texas, my channel completely took off. I grew from 200,000 subscribers to a million subscribers in just a couple of months. My life had completely flipped upside down, and I’ve enjoyed every minute of it.
WC: Did you ever expect YouTube to become a full-time job?
Jeanine: No, I definitely did not. When I first started, it was just a hobby, a creative outlet for me. It was something I just completely did for fun. I actually thought about quitting a couple of times because I wasn’t sure how I was going to balance YouTube and college. But once it really took off, I realized that I wanted to do this full time. I started fully dedicating all my time to making sure I was uploading once a week, and before I knew it, I was being asked to participate in commercials and magazine interviews.
WC: What has been your favorite collaboration or project that you have been a part of?
Jeanine: Oh, wow. I mean there has been so many awesome brands that I have got to work with over the years. I was featured in Teen Vogue magazine. I got to work with American Airlines and shoot a video in Dallas, Texas. I’ve worked with MTV, Fabletics and Starbucks! So, there have just been so many awesome things I have been blessed to do. I would say some of my most special moments though come from any type of meet-and-greet I get to do. Being able to connect my audience at events just brings me so much joy and reaffirms what I’m doing and the message I’m sharing.
WC: What advice would you give to anyone who is looking to start a career as an influencer?
Jeanine: I think a lot of people are worried that this market is just so saturated already. They feel like there really isn’t a place for them, which totally makes sense because it can be oversaturated at times. But I think something that people need to remember is that there really is only one of you. You bring your own unique story, experiences, past, personality, things that you enjoy, so I would just say find really what makes you unique and different and hone in on that. Everything else has already been done. So, the best thing you can do, and as cliche as it sounds, is just to be yourself.
From the very beginning, just be consistent, be yourself, find what you enjoy, post what you love. If you do not find yourself enjoying what you are posting then find something else to post and just keep showing up. Know that it will take time, but once you keep putting in the work and stay consistent, it will start paying off. The best joy you will get is when you realize that you are helping people. Just remember that the goal hopefully is to help people and to give back.
WC: You share a lot of about your very big and diverse family on your channel. Tell us a bit about them.
Jeanine: Yes, so, I am the youngest of seven kids, and my father is from Germany and my mother is from Guatemala. They have the classic love story where when they met, it was love at first sight. Six months later, they got married and raised a family in Texas.
I grew up in a very diverse family. The European and Latin cultures are so different, but I would not trade them for the world because they both taught me such cool, unique things. I got to learn different languages growing up, and I got to learn from my mom how to dance and how to cook and how to just love on people but with my dad, I feel like I learned how to be like punctual and clean and orderly. I ate different types of foods growing up than most of my friends ate. I wore different things, learned a lot about art and different cultures and just had a different outlook on life while growing up. I have really learned to fully love myself and to be proud of my culture. I am just thankful for every experience I have had with my family.
WC: Do you speak German and Spanish?
Jeanine: I speak a little bit of both actually. We did not grow up learning them fluently but if my dad or my mom says something to me, I can understand it. I have also learned both those languages in school, and I try to keep up with them by using language apps and watching different movies and just speaking to my parents in those languages. It’s not fluent but it is definitely enough to get by.
WC: Do you ever receive any backlash due to being so open about your faith online?
Jeanine: Yes, I do because the more I open myself up and share my past and story, the more that it subjects me to criticism. I share most of my life online, and a big part of my life is my faith. My faith has changed me for the better. It has changed how I view the world, how I resolve situations and how I treat people. It’s almost inevitable that my faith will be something that I talk about quite often. I get a lot of comments saying that I’m “not relatable anymore,” or “I wish you would talk about other things.” On the other side, I get comments that may say, “If you’re a Christian, then why do you do or say certain things?” It’s definitely frustrating at first, but I think as a Christian-—and as a human—you will receive some sort of backlash in one way or another. There will always be someone out there who doesn’t 100% agree with you and your choices. You are going to receive criticism, as a YouTuber or not, and that is something that I have to be okay with. I want to share my life, and my faith is a part of it.
WC: When you do receive criticism, do you find that spending more time with God gives you clear answers on how to handle that criticism or backlash about your faith?
Jeanine: Yes. I have to find multiple ways to deal with it because I think anybody would be lying if they said that it did not affect or hurt them because it totally does. Especially when people don’t know the full picture and are making assumptions based off of one post or video. So, there are multiple ways I go about handling that backlash. First and foremost, I have to just surrender to the Lord. I have to say “God, like this is not my identity. What these people are saying about me is not true. Your praise and approval is what matters to me most.” I always try to remember that and remembering that human praise is not what I need—I need God’s.
I also journal, and when I do journal, I will talk to the Lord through written words. I share things that hurt or affected me, or maybe a lesson I feel I need to learn. I am always open to constructive criticism and try to learn from it. Lastly, I go to my peers and mentors if I feel I need to talk through things more. They will give me their feedback as to whether I should or should not listen to some of the backlash. They aren’t afraid to tell me when I’m wrong and help me work through some of those issues. I have to process that a lot with my peers and that helps me out a lot, and when something really does affect me, I have friends pray over me or just kind of help me walk through it. I am really thankful for the circle of people I have.
WC: When did you find God, was it something you were raised with, or was there a pivotal moment in your life that brought you to Him?
Jeanine: I was raised in a Christian home. I grew up knowing about Jesus, going to church every Sunday and reading the Word. My dad would constantly read the Bible to us. My mom would pray over us every single night. I’m very thankful for all of that because I had awesome parents that have led and guided me. They are truly amazing examples of Godly parents.
However, when you grow up in a Christian household, you can become numb to hearing the repeated stories. There has to be a point in your life where it becomes your own faith and you create your own relationship with God. When I was 14 years old, I went to this church camp called US for the Nations at the Church of Christ for the Nations in Dallas. I honestly didn’t want to go, but of course I ended up having the time of my life. I truly encountered the Holy Spirit and I knew at that moment that Jesus was there. I know He has changed my life and so at that moment, I fully surrendered my heart to the Lord.
I was really tested throughout the years. I was exposed to things as I got older, and for a time, I put my faith on the back burner. After college when I decided to move to California, God radically changed my life. He brought some incredible people back into my life. I got involved in a local church and a Bible study. I started meeting all these awesome Christians. I also got in a relationship that really called me higher and kind of called me out on some things that I was really unaware of. This is a whole other story—my whole testimony—but based upon all those factors, I started realizing I cannot be living a double life anymore. For the second time in my life, I had surrendered to Lord. I have been faithfully walking with the Lord for the past two years, and I am so thankful that God has changed my life. I would not say it was just one pivotal moment. I think the Christian walk is an up-and-down situation. It’s not going to be perfect, but I know God is walking with me faithfully, and now I am just trying to walk faithfully back with Him.
WC: When making big life decisions (such as moving to California), do you typically rely on your friends and family’s advice? Do you turn to God? Maybe all of the above?
Jeanine: All of the above for sure. I mean, for example, when I was making the California decision or even when I am dating somebody, I always seek the counsel of people around me because as you read through Proverbs, it always talks about seeking counsel, seeking wisdom, getting people around you to help you make decisions. So, for example, when I moved to California, I asked the Lord for peace. I asked God “if this is something you want me to do, I pray you to open the door. I pray—you confirm it. I pray—you give me peace.” And I felt like He did all of those things. My friends and family blessed my decisions and knew that God was going to take care of me. Once I started getting all the confirmations and the doors kept opening, I felt like it was a green light from the Lord. I felt so much peace, and to me, peace is like a compass for any decision I am making. It is so evident and clear why God brought me here because being here, my life has completely changed for the better. I know that God used that decision for His glory. So, yes definitely all the above, as you said.
WC: How has COVID-19 shifted your career as an influencer?
Jeanine: I can’t lie—it’s been very, very hard. I was in Texas for over a month just because COVID was pretty bad here and everything was shut down. I wanted to spend time with my family because I had not seen them in a while. I spent a lot of time with family, but it definitely revealed to me how important our jobs are and how much the internet would not fade away. It shows how much influencers do truly have an impact especially at a time like this. It just shows how important our voices are and how we need to lead by example.
The hardest part has been facing a lot of different opinions. So many people were telling me how and what to do, while other people had completely different opinions. It definitely made me realize I absolutely love my job and I love what I do but also, again, people’s opinions make this job really, really hard because a lot of people assume things and they criticize you or they just want to get mad at you for a small reason. It made me realize this job is not going anywhere because of COVID-19. Everyone is on the internet—and even more so now, with people looking for influencers for entertainment. Everyone is on their phones, and people are shopping more. It made me realize that my job is needed, but then also made me realize everyone is watching my life under this microscope. Because of that, I need to take what I post ten times more seriously.
WC: Do you find that you have lost or gained subscribers because you are a Christian influencer?
Jeanine: It has actually been pretty even I would say. Some people don’t want to follow Christian influencers; it’s not their thing, so yes, I’ve lost some in that aspect. But I’ve also gained a whole new audience—people that are so passionate about it, that are just eager to learn and eager to grow.
During quarantine, I started doing the Bible challenge. I did the 21-day Bible challenge with the Book of John. I also did the 31-day Bible challenge with the Book of Proverbs. I do weekly Bible studies and formed a Facebook group called the Abide Tribe. I formed this community online for people who are really seeking the Lord and seeking a community. It is really bringing to light that people do care and do want to hear what I have to say. During COVID, I gained a really loyal, faithful audience that shows up every single day. Yes, it is hard to definitely lose people but at the same time, I would rather have my most loyal followers who aren’t nitpicking my life apart.
WC: How has your content changed since transitioning to a more faith-based influencer?
Jeanine: I try to think a little bit more before I post a picture or write a caption. I definitely make my posts more centered on the Lord. I used to do more videos that maybe did not fully represent Christ, but as I have developed my relationship with Him, I want to make my content more focused on the Lord. I want to be a light to people and always try to leave somebody with something to benefit from. Most importantly, I want to help people grow in their faith. I work with a lot more Christian brands now, and I have participated in several Christian speaking engagements and conferences. It has been such a blessing to work with so many different Christian influencers and brands the past few years. It has opened up so many doors, and I’m very thankful for it because this is what I want to do. I ultimately want people to know the Lord, and I want people to see how great He really is.
WC: You share with your audience the good and the bad. You’ve shared breakups and failures and show how life is messy and not perfect, but how do you keep some of your private life private?
Jeanine: That is something that, as I have gotten older, I have had to learn to think before I speak. I try to be very open with my audience, but I have also learned that once it’s on the Internet, it’s there forever. Sometimes when I am too open, I have seen how people have used my own life choices against me or how they have criticized me. I try to always find the balance now. I want to be helpful and relate to others which is why I share a lot. I want this story or this pain that I went through to help someone in a similar situation.
I always go back to God though. I wait for him to heal me through something and he helps me realize what I should or should not say. There are definitely times where what I share is awkward or weird as it may be, I am still going to share it because I know that it will help somebody.
WC: What advice would you give to others who might be shy or scared to share their faith online?
Jeanine: My biggest piece of advice is, if it could save someone, if it could change their life or if it could set someone free, why not share the message in your heart. If your story could possibly set someone free from the exact same thing you are going through, then I say it is worth it. Once you start seeing how God will change your life and how he will set you free, you can’t help but share it.
I think of Romans 1:16, “For I am not ashamed of the gospel.” I don’t want to be ashamed of it because it is this gospel that has set me free. It has changed my life. I want people to see the gospel like that. It should not be something you shouldn’t be embarrassed about sharing, but rather something that you are proud of and you shout from the rooftops. Once you start looking at it from that perspective, you start to slowly open up and share what God has done in your life. You should not feel shameful of opening up, because sometimes people might try to make you feel small. Just start sharing what is in your heart because you never know what your life or your testimony could do to change someone else’s life. If it changes at least one person’s life, then it is worth it.
WC: What is your favorite Bible verse, and why?
Jeanine: My Abide Tribe girls know that my favorite is John 15. The whole chapter actually is my favorite. It is what I have based my life and my platform around. John 15 talks about how we are the vines on his branch and how he wants us to grow into healthy fruit. If we remain in Him, if we abide in Him and we abide in His love then our lives will be more fruitful. If you abide in God and you abide in Jesus in anything you do, in any decision you make, you cannot go wrong. The reason why I started Abide Tribe is because I want us to be a unity of people that abide in the Lord. We chase the Lord together and so whenever I am making a decision, I think, “Okay, how can I abide in the Lord in this decision? Does this honor the Lord? Does this help me bear more fruit or does this pull me away from God more?” John 15 is just a beautiful example of just got your life and how He wants to prune us. He wants to grow us. He wants to make us closer to Him, and apart from him, we really cannot do life well. So, I want to always constantly remain a part of his true vine and be a branch that grows healthy fruit.
WC: Anything else you want to share?
Jeanine: I think a lot of people may look at my platform and assume that I’m trying to shove my beliefs down their throats, but that is never my goal. I want people to be happy and healthy in all aspects of life. I am here to love and help people. Hopefully, they get that from my page. Just remember to always abide in the Lord in anything you do.