Creators on the Rise: Celestial Sylvia reads the danger all around us

By 05/02/2024
Creators on the Rise: Celestial Sylvia reads the danger all around us

Welcome to Creators on the Rise, where we find and profile breakout creators who are in the midst of extraordinary growth. You can check out previous installments here.


Celestial Sylvia has been fascinated by true crime for as long as she can remember.

But she's not only drawn to stories of dangerous people. A lot of the research she does when she clocks out of her 9-to-5 marketing job focuses on the danger all around us: the power of nature.

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“In the true crime world, I feel like people a lot of the time will jump towards foul play in a case,” she says. “For me personally, I think nature is just as scary as somebody with ill intentions.”

She cites the 2o23 disappearance of 18-year-old Cameron Robbins as an example. Robbins, who'd recently graduated from high school, was visiting the Bahamas with a large number of other students and grads, and jumped off a boat into the ocean near Athol Island at night. Video of the last moments he was seen show Robbins swimming away from the vessel, seemingly ignoring pleas for him to grab a buoy so he could be pulled back on board. As Sylvia points out, “a bunch of people were saying there was a shark in the water.”

But, she says, “There doesn't need to be a shark in the water in order for it to be scary that he's out in the open ocean in the middle of the dark...People, I think, underestimate nature, and there doesn't need to be some predatory animal out there to kill you in order for you to die.”

Robbins' case is one of dozens Sylvia has featured on her social media accounts. Having grown up watching shows like Forensic Files and Snapped, she was naturally drawn to true crime content on YouTube in college.

“t was just a passion for me that I was looking into on the side,” she says. “I felt like my friends and family were getting bored hearing about me talk about all these different interesting stories I was reading online and I decided that I wanted to start creating my own.”

She made her own YouTube channel, and then, after a year of trying longer-form, got on TikTok to make short vidoes. Within a few weeks, her account took off.

Now, Sylvia has nearly 350,000 followers on TikTok, and plans to spend 2024 exploring longer-form content again, from YouTube videos to a potential podcast.

Check out our chat with her below.

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This interview has been edited for length and clarity.

B-ru: For anybody who doesn't know you, if someone were to go to your content, who are you and what can they expect from seeing you?

Celestial Sylvia: My name is Sylvia and I'm known online as Celestial Sylvia. My content is mainly focused on true crime and I occasionally dabble in horror and other mystery/thriller movie reviews. When people go to my account, they can definitely learn about a different unsolved case or a cold case that was recently solved. I like to cover them in one part if possible, so it's a lot of trimming down that I have to do in the editing process.

B-ru: Backing up just a little bit, tell me about your life before social media. Where are you from? Did you have a career? Did you go to school before this? What was everything like for you before TikTok, before YouTube?

Celestial Sylvia: I'm actually pretty much newer to the field of being an influencer. I am originally from the South and I graduated college with a degree in communications in 2018. I was working in the marketing field, and I still actually do work in the marketing field during the day. When I log off is when I do my passion projects, which is my true crime. It's interesting because, being newer to the field of content creation, I'm seeing it from the other side. I did watch those OG true crime YouTubers grow throughout college, and I've always been interested in true crime.

It was just a passion for me that I was looking into on the side. I hadn't even started creating content until well into the pandemic. I felt like my friends and family were getting bored hearing about me talk about all these different interesting stories I was reading online and I decided that I wanted to start creating my own. Prior to being a content creator, I was just on Instagram as a regular person. Then I created my YouTube for my true crime. Then from that I branched off into TikTok. TikTok is the one that ended up taking off.

B-ru: What do you think made your content particularly appealing to TikTok and its audience?

Celestial Sylvia: I am really, really passionate about true crime, and a video will always do better when I'm excited about what I'm talking about. It's something that I'm already passionate about, and that's why I started creating content around it, because these are stories I want to tell. A lot of them are stories I think are important for people to know. I think one of the reasons why it took off on TikTok is just because I like to get into it. I like to start the story immediately, and I'm always excited about what I'm talking about. I think one of the things that always tends to do well is when it's something people can relate to.

My video that really took off that I created maybe in my first three weeks of making videos on TikTok was a video about someone who went missing on a cruise. There's a lot of suspicious circumstances surrounding that disappearance, and it doesn't seem like she went overboard. Instead, it seems like there was a crime that was committed, but because it's a cruise and it's traveling to all of these different countries, it's harder to investigate.

I think it's really something that I really like to do is take a case that has something that other people will be able to relate to in it. Whether it's someone who had met somebody off social media because they first met on Facebook or Instagram, that's something people are familiar with and that's something that I like to incorporate into my videos. The audience will already be able to connect to it.

B-ru: How did you originally get into true crime?

Celestial Sylvia: I've been interested in true crime basically my whole life. As a kid, I loved watching Forensic Files and Snapped. My favorite show growing up was always this show on Oxygen called Snapped, and it's about women who killed their husbands. I always found it to be so fascinating. I loved hearing the mystery and how the investigation took place in order to solve it. I've always really, really been interested in forensics and psychology. I originally did want to go to school for behavioral science, that was my initial major, but I ended up deciding that maybe it was a little bit too much schooling than I was willing to take on, since most people don't really do much with a bachelor's.

It's always been something I've really been interested in. I think it came to a head maybe in 2019 because like I said, I would watch true crime videos on YouTube, and a lot of the time if I was really, really interested in the crime, I would go off and start Googling it myself. Sometimes I would uncover information or articles that mentioned stuff about the crime that wasn't in the video that I've been watching. That is another thing that made me want to start making my own videos.

B-ru: Interesting. What was the first case that you covered in your content?

Celestial Sylvia: My first ever case that I covered was on YouTube. It was a 20-minute deep dive into the disappearance of a high schooler named Brittanee Drexel. Brittanee was, I believe 16, years old and she went with a couple of friends to Myrtle Beach, South Carolina. While she was there, she wasn't really getting along with the other girls. She'd been spending a lot of time walking up and down the boulevard by herself, going to the hotel room of some other people she knew there. She'd been texting her boyfriend the whole time, but she stopped texting him. Because of the cadence of her responses, he immediately knew something was off when 13 minutes went by and she hadn't texted him back.

I think what drew me to the case and what I think drew a lot of people was how they knew the quarter mile where she was taken and they knew which direction she was taken in because her cell phone pings three times going 40 miles per hour to a remote swampy area of South Carolina and she didn't have a car. The fact that there's that data right there showed that she was in a car with somebody, and for whatever reason, they were driving out of Myrtle Beach, which is the touristy area. There's a very clear indication of foul play right there. That was the first case I ever covered.

When I covered it, it was a missing person's case that was unsolved and it was actually solved in, I believe, 2022. I've been making TikTok videos at this point and I got to post my first-ever update to a case. It is hard to describe, I guess, because it was something I'd spent so much time thinking about because her case, in particular, was the one that I found myself always looking for updates, always looking at the map of that area of South Carolina to see why was she taken to that area? Who could have been driving down the boulevard that day to see her and to somehow coax her into the car or was she forced into the car?

That was something that really occupied my head space for a long time, so to hear that the case had been solved and the case had been solved because the perpetrator confessed to it, so that's immediately closing the case for the family and avoiding a trial, it was a really interesting experience, to say the least.

B-ru: What did happen to her?

Celestial Sylvia: According to the person, first of all, he was a sex offender that served time in prison for the sexual assault of someone who was really, really young, like under the age of 10. Of course, he'd been let out and he hadn't been registering with the sex offender registry and he'd been written up for that, but I guess not really prosecuted in any real way. According to him, he and his girlfriend asked her if she needed a ride and they asked her if she wanted to go smoke weed with them at their house. He took her to that remote area, which was where he'd been living.

I doubt that. I don't think that she would've agreed to go off with people like that, especially when she was on her way to do something. She had a task at hand that she never was able to accomplish. He said that he took her out there and they were hanging out for a little bit and the girlfriend left and he sexually assaulted and strangled Brittanee and then buried her in a pretty deep grave out in the woods. I think that's why it was so hard for them to find her. He told them where her grave site was and they dug her body up and they were able to return her cremated remains to her mother, so.

B-ru: I'm glad her mother was at least able to have closure.

Celestial Sylvia: Yes, yes. It's good to get closure, but I guess the sad thing in true crime is that there's very rarely a happy ending. When a missing person is found, unfortunately, they're usually not found alive, especially if they've been missing for more than a week.

B-ru: True. You mentioned you still have a day job, you work in marketing. Especially your longer YouTube videos, these take a significant amount of research and prep. I'm really curious what the average week looks like for you in terms of producing videos, how much time you're putting into videos, how you split your work and work and life balance?

Celestial Sylvia: I'm definitely a busy person, all of my friends know that about me. Basically, when I log off at five o'clock-I work from home, so when I log off, I start researching a case. A lot of the time I'll be listening to a podcast or watching a documentary about it anyway during work. I'll log off and I'll start researching.

Something that I pride myself on with my content creation is when I am researching a case and I'm writing up notes, I only pull from the actual case file, if that's available online, or a news article. I won't hear something that another influencer or content creator says about the case, or I won't take something from a Reddit thread. Every single thing I make sure to vet against actual information online, so I can point to an article and say, That's where I read this. I really try to avoid relying on hearsay and other kinds of just gossip and speculation online, unless I'm talking about a theory, because I think Reddit is really great. There's like, I think it's called /UnresolvedMysteries, and it's a whole Reddit channel where people post these really thought-out theories. A lot of the time, especially with a case about a missing child named Asha Degree, I was really deep into the Reddit thread and people had these amazing theories based on details in the case. Everything that I end up writing in my notes is taken from an article.

Also, something that I tend to do is I really I write out the full script of the video, just because I think that's a lot easier. I'm not necessarily somebody who can just sit in front of a camera and start talking, especially when it's a lot of the time a chronological story, or there's specific details, especially specific timestamps, and dates that will really, really matter in a missing person's case. That is something that I always have to have written down.

Sometimes if I'm making a TikTok, I'll go off script and I won't really have a script, especially if I'm talking about a movie because it feels less important to have the exact details of a film compared to somebody's case. I'll write out the script and then I'll usually record in the evening time. Sometimes I'll record during the day, and then I also record on weekends a lot. I try to batch record but a lot of the time, I feel like that doesn't really work out very much. Either I'll be visibly tired or over it in the video and you can tell that I am, or I can tell at least, or something will be wrong with the audio always and I have to go back and rerecord.

I have a pretty full schedule. I feel like my work days are easily at least 10 hours, counting my day job as well. I just I'd like to say that I'm very grateful for any CBS, or NBC, or Medium article that tells the entirety of a case from beginning to end because that cuts out a lot of work for me.

I've always been interested in storytelling and uncovering the truth. I actually worked on my university's newspaper as a reporter.

B-ru: Oh, really? Where'd you go to college?

Celestial Sylvia: I went to the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga, and I was the regular reporter and then the features editor for my newspaper. I miss interviewing people. I would love to take on some kind of opportunity in the future where I get to interview people as well.

B-ru: You're right in the niche for it. It would be an interesting evolution of your content, if you're able to conduct your own interviews.

Celestial Sylvia: Yes. I would really love to. I have started creating a short list of people that I think would be fruitful to interview because I'd like to take my content off TikTok in some way. Because TikTok is just so short form, so I would like to be able to take on some kind of project where I can interview people and get a lot deeper into stories. The YouTube deep dives I don't really do much anymore just because it felt like it was a lot of work and a lot of editing for something that wasn't necessarily being paid off, and the YouTube shorts were doing better. I would like to take on a more professional interviewing direction.

B-ru: Doing like a podcast direction?

Celestial Sylvia: Yes.

B-ru: I know you don't do the YouTube deep dives as often, but you do want to get back into longer-form coverage?

Celestial Sylvia: Yes. It does require, like I said, a lot more editing for sure, and then research also. I've been in the process. I just want to make sure that before I commit to a podcast, that I have three episodes ready to go, and when I'm getting into the deep dives, I get a little bit sidetracked. I was watching an interrogation video for a really long time yesterday, and was like okay I need to wrap up my notes but I can't stop. I kept pausing the video every 30 seconds to make some new note.

B-ru: What are the qualities about a case that really draws you to it?

Celestial Sylvia: I really like mysteries. A lot of people in the true crime world want there to be a definitive answer. They tend to want the case...They tend to want to see solved cases but I think unsolved cases are really interesting in that there are so many theories. There's an element of newness to it because you never know when something might get solved. A lot of the time it'll seem like nothing is going on in a case but really behind the scenes, the officers have been working on it, and they have been interviewing people, and they've been conducting their own research and working towards an answer. I love that about the unsolved cases when I get to post an update.

Then another thing that draws me is something I've always found interesting or is true crime cases that have to do with vacations. Like Brittanee Drexel was on spring break in Myrtle Beach. The cruise one, a cruise is a vacation as well. I think it's really interesting to think about the concept of voluntarily going to a place because you want to have a good time and we don't really think about how vulnerable we are when we're on vacation. You're in an unfamiliar area a lot of the time in a foreign country where you don't speak the language, and it's not something that you'd really think about as being dangerous but you are putting yourself in a vulnerable position a lot of the time.

B-ru: Yeah, there's a vulnerability there. The difference between knowing your home turf and then being somewhere strange and needing a ride or needing help.

Celestial Sylvia: Yes, needing a ride or something as simple as just not understanding the climate and not understanding the terrain of the area, I think, is something that tends to happen probably more often than falling victim to a crime when you're on vacation. All the time people go hiking, or they go swimming and they get themselves in this area that's really remote and they're totally out of their element, and they end up losing their life to getting lost in the woods or drowning.

B-ru: So you also cover mysteries that potentially have natural causes.

Celestial Sylvia: Yes. In the true crime world, I feel like people a lot of the time will jump towards foul play in a case. For me personally, I think nature is just as scary as somebody with ill intentions. I don't know if you've heard about this but it was a pretty big news story. That teenager that jumped overboard on that boat. He randomly jumped into the water, and they'd all been drinking and- I don't know how accustomed he was to drinking, but he was 18, so he wasn't going to bars in the U.S. A bunch of people were saying that there was a shark in the water. There doesn't need to be a shark in the water in order for it to be scary that he's out on the open ocean in the middle of the dark. I guess they never found him. I don't think they ever found his body. People, I think, underestimate nature, and there doesn't need to be some predatory animal out there to kill you in order for you to die.

B-ru: Definitely true. Do you have any other plans or goals that you're looking for in terms of the trajectory that you want to take your content?

Celestial Sylvia: I would love to get closer to actually the professionals that work in the crime space, whether it's a detective or a defense attorney, or a prosecutor. I would love to learn more about that lifestyle, and then maybe help get involved with a company like Texas EquuSearch, or searching for missing people. I know that when somebody went missing from the Brooklyn Mirage, I was initially going to go join the search party, but then they ended up being found.

I think a goal, of course, would be to start a podcast and I hopefully will be doing that this summer. Another goal would be to get involved with some kind of nonprofit that helps people. Even something like RAINN where it's like they're helping people who've been abused, so it's not necessarily a true crime story per se, but I would love to get involved in a nonprofit and help people out.

B-ru: Do you foresee this becoming a full-time job for you eventually?

Celestial Sylvia: Yes, I do. I would love for it to. I'm just trying to be patient. I'm a very impatient person. I'm an Aries, so I like for things to happen immediately. The TikTok taking off happened pretty quick, so I don't think I'm accustomed to the patience that's required for a lot of content creation, because my TikTok took off just a few weeks into running it. I started the TikTok a year into having a YouTube. I think that I just need to be patient and continue to work toward my goals, and I luckily have a great agency that helps me out.

B-ru: Is there anything else that you wanted to talk about? Anything else you want people to know about you?

Celestial Sylvia: I post true crime stories on TikTok, YouTube, and Instagram. All short-form at the moment, but I will be venturing into long-form content, hopefully, starting in the summer. I hope to see everybody on my pages, and I always love accepting case requests, which I prefer to do through email compared to my DMs.

Celestial Sylvia is repped by Viral Nation.

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