Photo courtesy of Hailey Serrano
While many influencers’ content revolves around fitness or lifestyle, senior Hailey Serrano rose to stardom by making videos about the last thing she thought would bring her overnight fame — her faith.
The 23-year-old, who goes by Hailey Julia on social media, said she downloaded TikTok in 2019 to make fun, lighthearted videos with her suitemates after transferring to Pepperdine. Little did she know, her following would steadily grow to over 300,000 followers over the course of the next year.
“It was just one of those things on social media where I wanted to spread the love of Jesus just by being who I am,” Serrano said.
Serrano said she grew up in a strong, nondenominational Christian household. Because much of her life revolved around her religious upbringing, she said she wanted to create content that would not only influence but inspire people on their faith journeys.
“Growing up, I’ve always wanted to be an entertainer,” Serrano said. “The first TikTok that I ever made I just combined my love for Christ and my goofiness together.”
While her rise to fame occurred after candidly talking about Christianity, Serrano said her faith hasn’t always been as strong as it is now. She said she felt spiritually disconnected from God while attending the Fashion Institute of Technology in Manhattan and wanted to return to her family’s Christian roots.
“My faith was definitely at a plateau,” Serrano said. “But coming to Pepperdine, my relationship with God has increased so much. The community is just awesome. This is the first time in my life that I’ve literally had Christian friends.”
Looking for a church to call her own, Serrano and her suitemates started to attend Pepperdine Executive Vice President Gary Hanson and his wife Tracey Hanson’s house church, where she returned to her faith and eventually was baptized.
“I was always looking for a church to call home, and this one was one that I actually liked and felt at home,” Serrano said. “Going to house church and having that community and also my friend, Sarah, definitely helped me make the decision to get baptized at Surfrider Beach.”
After finding her foundation in Christianity and becoming a religious influencer, Serrano said she befriended other Christian TikTok creators who helped her grow in her faith and created opportunities for others to grow into theirs.
Serrano said her newfound friends inspired her to financially assist college students like herself, since she had been given numerous opportunities.
“I partnered up with bold.org to create the Hailey Julia ‘Jesus Changed my Life’ scholarship,” Serrano said. “Because I was incredibly blessed with financial support, I really wanted to bless other students too.”
Regardless of the fame, Serrano said she just wants to spread the message of Christ.
“No matter what your circumstances are, still keep leaning on the Lord,” Serrano said. “Even if you are living your best life, and everything is going right for you, or even if it’s the worst of circumstances, there’s nothing better than having that comfort that comes from leaning on the Lord.”
Email Taylor Gather: Taylor.firstname.lastname@example.org