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“Every week, I would have piano lessons, and if I did well, my teacher would give me a sticker. If I got a sticker, then my mom would take me to Tapioca Express, ” says Alyssa Wang, who goes by the online name Feed Meimei. “So I’ve always loved boba since I was a kid.”
For Asian Americans of a certain generation, this kind of childhood nostalgia is commonplace. But Wang, 27, is one of the only ones who has transformed her boba love into a career. She is the internet’s likely first full-time boba content creator.
Today, Feed Meimei boasts more than 605,000 subscribers on Youtube, 737,000 followers on her Tiktok and 242,000 followers on Instagram. Over the past five years, Wang has made more than 70 Youtube videos documenting her countless visits to Bay Area boba shops. Wang’s favorite boba shop in the Bay Area, Urban Ritual, even named a drink after her. The drink is currently one of the store’s top three sellers, according to founder David Zhou. Whenever Wang posts about Urban Ritual, the store usually sees a 10 percent uptick in sales.
In that sense, Wang has become one of the most powerful people in the Bay Area boba scene—a kingmaker of sorts whose videos, many which are filmed inside her car, often wind up having a real impact on a small shop’s business fortunes. It’s a future that Wang never could have imagined when she was a college student posting food recommendations just for fun.
Wang’s food blogging journey began in 2013 when she was a freshman at UC Davis studying computer science and psychology. As a hobby, she made @davis_eats, an Instagram account documenting her adventures exploring the college town’s food scene.
After graduating, Wang moved back to the Bay Area to live with her parents and began working as a software engineer. While she enjoyed coding, she found that she didn’t like it enough to do it eight hours a day. What she did love was building her food Instagram, which she renamed Feed Meimei.
“I found myself at work just being like, ‘I really wish I could just keep doing that. I want to go out and be shooting content at restaurants,’” Wang says. “It took months for me to come to terms with the fact that I was going to take this untraditional route. Growing up, I always thought I would be a doctor, lawyer or engineer, the classic jobs that Asian parents want you to do.”
Wang decided at the end of 2018 to quit her job in tech to pursue content creation full time, a decision she says was partially inspired by the path of fellow UC Davis grad TJ Lee, known online as Cup of TJ. Wang had saved up money from her job and didn’t have other major financial responsibilities at the time.
She hit the ground running in January 2019, churning out two Youtube videos per week and doing everything from storyboarding, preparing drinks and food, shooting and editing. On Instagram, she started making original content six times per week. In June 2019, she joined TikTok and started posting there as well.
“I was just like, go, go, go, just put my head down and work,” Wang says. “I was very much in the mindset of like, ‘I’m just going to work, I’m going to upload, and as long as I keep going, then eventually I will be able to succeed.”
It was unsustainable. At the end of 2019, she began to question why she was “working so hard towards something that was never going to happen.” So she took a break from content creation, a field where likes and views have made it notoriously easy to compare your own journey to those of others.
Then, the pandemic hit. While tinkering with unpublished footage, at first out of sheer boredom, Wang rediscovered her love for making videos about food. She slowly began posting on Youtube again, just once a week. In 2021, she began experimenting with making boba from scratch and forming it into different characters. Those turned out to be her first “viral” moments.
In a video with 1.2 million views on TikTok and 5.7 million views on Youtube Shorts, Wang melts down a strawberry Melona bar to make red panda-shaped tapioca pearls inspired by Pixar’s Turning Red. In another TikTok video with 5.9 million views, she makes cotton-candy pink, Kirby-shaped pearls.
The success has obviously helped, but being a full-time creator for more than three years has also taught Wang the importance of practicing self-care. She has learned to liberally use Youtube’s “don’t recommend channel” feature to prevent its algorithm from displaying other creators’ videos on her feed. It’s nothing personal—she’s ecstatic for their success—“but I also don’t want myself to feel like I’m not doing enough or I’m not happy where I am,” Wang says, “because I am happy.”
The other thing that has helped, Wang says, is that family support, particularly from her mom, has remained constant. And that has made all the difference.
Wang’s mom even makes frequent, highly-requested appearances in videos. (She has been featured in more than 60 of them so far.) The mother and daughter’s matching levels of enthusiasm for food make for lighthearted entertainment that some viewers have said reminds them of their interactions with their own family.
“Coming from an Asian upbringing, usually families aren’t super expressive with their emotions,” Wang says. “But, food, it was always something that could bring us together.”
While some of Wang’s subscribers may have originally come across her channel due to her viral boba videos, her positivity keeps them coming back for more—no matter the video’s subject.
Her well-received forays into making non-boba content are proof. She’s made food guides for the Bay Area, Taiwan, Japan, Toronto, Los Angeles, Hawaii and more. Her recent videos include a taste test and ranking of every appetizer, dumpling and noodle dish at chain restaurant Din Tai Fung alongside her mom.
Wang speaks to the camera directly, casually, as a friend. Seldom does she offer overt criticism. It’s what sets her, and other food influencers, apart from the professional food critics.
Sbe’s become somewhat of a local star, especially in the Bay Area’s boba scene. Baristas often tell her that customers use her videos as a guide for what to order, she says. She’s not fully used to the attention yet, and still finds it unreal that her subscribers will “sit there and watch me talk about food for, like, 20 minutes.”
It’s been a successful endeavor so far, if the Feed Meimei team’s rapid expansion is any indication. In the past month, Wang has taken on a hiring manager, an assistant and a lawyer—a move that she says has been “long overdue.” Soon, she’ll hire another editor and start a new Youtube channel for casual vlogging. She did not delve into specifics of her financial situation, but, like other influencers, she generates income through a combination of brand partnerships, ad revenue, merchandise and collaborations—her Urban Ritual drink included. She makes enough, at least, that she doesn’t need to take on any other day job.
Wang, a deeply nostalgic person, drew the flavor profile for her “Feed Me Ube” collaboration drink from her childhood. Her voice picks up as she describes the decadent drink, which features ube-flavored crème brûlée pudding, taro chunks, coconut milk and a choice of either rice milk or whole milk: “The rice milk is much lighter and it really lets the flavor of the ube shine through. But you could really taste that coconut-y sweetness with the whole milk.”
“It was so creamy,” Wang says, with the same enthusiasm she must have had as a kid, collecting stickers to get her weekly boba fix. “A dessert in a cup, basically.”