Cyrene Quiamco — better-known as CyreneQ in tech circles — is cashing in on the public’s obsession with turning themselves into what they are are not.
The 34-year-old Filipino-American digital artist, influencer, author and “augmented reality lens creator” began her artistic journey of creating funny social media filters six years ago as a “curious amateur.”
Now, Quiamco is a proud millionaire garnering nonstop attention — and up to $30,000 per lens or filter — from top brands and online platforms like Snapchat and TikTok.
After only three years on the job, in 2020 the social media artist was able to fully purchase — with cash — her “dream house in her dream neighborhood” in Little Rock, Arkansas.
She now lives surrounded by a golf course and within walking distance to certain necessities, such as restaurants.
Along with housing several arcade machines and a huge pond, Quiamco’s impressive abode also houses one of her lifelong wishlist features: a twisting staircase.
Quiamco had no prior coding experience before coming onto the scene with a rough animation skills.
“After a few hours of watching tutorials, I made my very first lens. It got over 150K views in less than 24 hours,” she told to Caters News Agency. “It was a bouncing head. It was so rough — but people thought it was funny.”
However, pursuing a career in art was always on her mind as early as childhood, despite the stigma of the starving artist, she told Forbes.
“I knew early on I needed to work extra hard to make my dream as an artist come true,” Quiamco explained to the outlet. “My art career started in high school when I would create t-shirt designs and sell it to school clubs. I remember purchasing my first laptop with the profits I made from selling my shirt designs.”
From there, she was able to explore the world of professional freelance work.
Quiamco’s indie gigs including designing logos, brochures and websites started in high school and went into college. It was in her sophomore year that she paid off in cash her first house from freelancing and scholarship money, she admitted to Forbes.
Her career took a turn when she created a website for a new app where users could send pictures that would disappear in 10 seconds: Snapchat.
“There was a community of artists that doodled on top of disappearing pictures,” Quiamco said. “The artwork was so amazing that I felt it was a waste that they disappeared, so I created a website that archived and showcased these pieces. It was being involved in this new Snapchat art community that I was able to create a following and a career with my doodles.”
Quiamco makes an average between $20,000 to $30,000 per lens, according to Caters. She first hit the one million dollar mark in 2022.
Even so, it took years of dedication to get to the financially comfortable point she’s at now.
“I work from the moment I wake up to the moment I sleep, which sometimes means 18-hour days,” Quiamco said. “Now, I have enough saved to pay for decades of bills without needing to work, but I love doing this, and it’s a bit addictive.”
Since 2017, her lenses on Snapchat have amassed over 1.5 million views and her filters on TikTok have been used over 17,000 times. Quiamco’s most viral sensation is her celebrity selfie series, where she would take a normal selfie and then doodle a celebrity next to her.
“I’ve created hundreds, maybe near a thousand, filters for my organic Snapchat account, and I’ve also collaborated with brands,” she said. “There are some days where I take a rest, but most days, it’s crazy hours. It is equivalent to full time and I just really want to keep going with it. I want to be at the forefront of this technology.”
Quiamco is still in disbelief over what social media has allowed her to accomplish. After achieving financial freedom from doing something she loves for five years, she was also able to fund the early retirement of her mother, Christine Ganzon.
“My mom was a single mum raising two kids on a retail job wage. I knew what her hardship was growing up,” she explained. “My mom went to work every day and sometimes she would come home late because she had extra shifts.”
Quiamco continued, “I think the way that I grew up, not having so much, is what made my imagination grow further. All I could do was focus on my dreams and I have just really honed into that skill. I think all of this started my success.”