Feature Stories

Life of an Influencer: Mai Lyn Ngo Gets Paid To Eat Fried Chicken

Paid to eat fried chicken. Living the life.
Paid to eat fried chicken. Living the life. courtesy deepfriedfit.com
Mai Lyn Ngo has found a way to get paid to eat fried chicken and work out — through blogging.

Deep Fried Fit is Ngo’s food and fitness blog. The Southern Methodist University journalism alumna went from a marketing job to an all-out blogging career almost two years ago.

“I basically work every single day. And it’s not like, ‘Ugh, oh my God, I have to work.’ This is my life. This is my love,” she says while sipping a can of Mexican Vanilla cold brew.

She’s just posted a picture of the drink on her Instagram story — an update for her 12,000 followers.

Ngo is sitting inside Goodwork, a co-working space near Deep Ellum. It’s an old warehouse with various places to work or have meetings. It’s like a a gym membership, but instead of weights, you get Wi-Fi. Dressed in black workout clothes, Ngo steps away from her laptop by the window to sit at a photogenic couch.

“Most of the time, I’m educating people on what it means to be an influencer or a blogger. On social media, it looks great,” Ngo says. “But there’s so much work that goes into it. I have to be creative director on top of a businesswoman and my accountant.”

Ngo explains that she earns money mainly from sponsored opportunities. Companies ask her to review products or places, and if she likes them, she’ll write about them and get paid. For Ngo, standards distinguish professional bloggers from amateurs. Because she has a community that cares about her opinion, she needs to “maintain their trust — you can see what’s fake,” she says.

Ngo’s background in journalism helps. She studied reporting and editing at SMU and says she brings that ethical approach to her blog.

“Ultimately, it’s storytelling,” she says. “I’m learning how to tell a story in different ways, whether it’s through a traditional article or through photos or through video … learning the foundation and the ethics behind that …  having that moral compass.”

Tony Pederson, who chairs the journalism department at SMU, saw Ngo’s potential early on.

“I could tell that she was highly motivated and willing to work hard,” Pederson says. “That she is a full-time blogger is no surprise to me. She is innovative and imaginative and clearly has been willing to strike out on her own. I admire her independence and her ability to be an entrepreneur. What she has done isn’t without risks, but she’s making the risks pay off.”

"There’s so much work that goes into it. I have to be creative director on top of a business woman and my accountant.” — Mai Lyn Ngo, food and fitness blogger

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But when Ngo graduated, she felt burnt out. She’d done everything right in school: earned good grades, worked at internships, wrote for the student newspaper.

“I had the best internships, but I was really tired of writing,” she says. “I didn’t love what I was doing.”

She sees her turn to blogging as “more like a creative outlet or a hobby,” she says.

“There were no intentions behind it to be anything. It was just something I could do when I got home, but I was re-energized and refreshed the next day to get back to work,” she says. “It wasn’t anything like, ‘Oh I want to become a full-time blogger.’ I was just here for fun.”

It wasn’t long before the blog became more than a side gig.

Even now, Ngo’s’s blog is about balance. It’s in the name, Deep Fried Fit: You work out so you can eat the fried food. And it’s evident that she lives it. She’s living the “exciting and terrifying” life of a blogger, she says, but is passionate about it.

“I’m hustling,” Ngo says. “The fire is in my belly, and I love it, and so far I’m still here, so we’ll see how this goes.”

Mai Lyn Ngo will host Silent Sunset Yoga with Fitness Ambassadors on March 29 on the rooftop of Victory Park's Victory South 1 parking garage, across from Classic Pilates. Tickets are $25.
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Isabel Arcellana has been writing for the Observer since spring 2018 and has been creating fake newspapers for her mom since she was 8. She graduated from SMU with a double major in journalism and fashion media. Her five guitars are named after High School Musical characters.