In the ever-growing city of Charlotte, it feels like there is a new restaurant every other day. Keeping up with the food scene is equivalent to having a full-time job. In fact, some folks have made it one.
Shionda Farrell, a Charlotte-based food and lifestyle content creator, went full-time just a year and a half ago. Like many Charlotte locals, her prior job was in the banking industry. She started off posting pictures of food to her Instagram for fun. Then as TikTok rose to prominence, short videos and Reels became more appealing to the masses. As Farrell started to post more TikToks and videos, she began to go viral with regularity.
Known as @shiondafarrell on Instagram and on TikTok, Farrell has over 75,000 followers on the platforms combined. She has always been a foodie, and hopes to have her own travel business in the future, bringing people to different countries to try their cuisines and experience their cultures.
Queen City Nerve got the chance to speak with Farrell to gain some insight into the fast-growing food scene in Charlotte and her new career.
Queen City Nerve: So tell me about how you got started with doing food and lifestyle-based content.
Shionda Farrell: In the beginning, I first started it for fun as like a hobby. I probably started the page maybe a year and a half ago. A lot of people kind of knew me by the handle @yelpelitechick. That was the name of my handle, but I don’t go by that anymore. My background is banking and brokerage, so I ended up leaving corporate probably about a year ago. It started as something for fun for me. I was just posting pictures and videos, because I’m always out to eat. And then it turned into a thing for me when I got my first paid partnership. I received one with an actual restaurant, and the other one was with the actual brand; I had one with smartwater. And then I was like, “Okay, this, this could be a thing.”
Has creating this kind of content, especially with food and lifestyle, always been something you wanted to do?
As long as I can remember. I tell people all the time, like when Red Lobster was a thing … Of course, people probably barely go to Red Lobster anymore, but back in the day Red Lobster was big. I was in Red Lobster in freaking middle school. To me that speaks volumes, because I’ve always been like a true foodie and just like good food, you know?
@shiondafarrell Smokehouse – 9330 Suite 100 Center Lake Dr. Charlotte,NC #turkeyleg #turkeyleghut #charlottenc #charlotte #fyp #charlottefood ♬ HOTEL LOBBY (Unc & Phew) – Quavo & Takeoff
What drew you to use TikTok after building your following on Instagram?
My platform started on IG. I just started posting pictures and pictures kind of went out with the trash. Now Reels is a thing. I feel like that’s how a lot of my content began to grow.
When I started doing more videos, it started to grow even larger. A lot of people always tell me, not even just my audience, but maybe the businesses that reach out to me and want to do business with me, they always say, “We have to be very careful on who we’re going to choose to actually pay to market this.”
They say, “Well, what we like about you and your page is that to us, you come alive in your videos. We feel like we are there with you.”
What’s a day in the life for you?
Every morning, I have a ton of emails I have to go through. And it’s usually someone wanting to partner or collab with me, whether it’s restaurants or just fun experiences, because I do get a lot of experiences. For me, I’m trying to convert more into travel now.
So I feel like travel and food go hand in hand. It makes sense. I’m actually hosting a trip to Egypt in December. A lot of that is still based around food as well. One of my dreams is actually to have my own TV show and just travel the world to different countries and try different cuisines. I’m gonna get there, too!
So with the food influencer scene in Charlotte, would you say there’s a lot of competition here?
Absolutely. I mean, there’s tons. So many other people are starting to see how people are turning this into a full-time thing. I’m feeling like they’re popping up by the day — more new and new pages. You can go into a store and there’s 1,000 loaves of bread, but only a few are gonna get chosen, right? So you still have to create something for yourself that makes you stand out from everyone else.
Would you say the community within food influencers is a welcoming space?
Oh, absolutely! I know, a lot of the food content creators — because I don’t like that word influencer — I know a lot of food content creators, and a lot of them know me. For me anyway, my only competition is me. I compete with myself. It’s me against me, that’s all there is to it. I’m a firm believer in collaboration, anyhow. I feel like teamwork makes the dream work.
How do you choose what food spots to visit and menu items to order in Charlotte?
I pretty much stay in the know with knowing where to go, but I don’t really have any strategy when it comes to ordering my food. I just order what looks like it may be good or, you know, I may want to try this restaurant, because I have five restaurants that I frequent often.
What are they, if you don’t mind me asking?
I would say my top five — I would say Little Mama’s is one. That’s an Italian restaurant near SouthPark Mall. So to me, they have the best chicken parmesan ever. I haven’t found anybody’s chicken parm that’s better than theirs. It’s cute in there, it’s like a little Italy. They have drinks, like their Aperol Spritz is one of my favorite drinks to order there. This may be TMI, but I call it my “Black Girl Boujee Drink” – the Aperol Spritz.
What’s your take on the food scene in Charlotte? Have you seen it change over the years with the city’s growth and new people moving here from different areas?
I would say a lot of people like to call it “the Baby Atlanta.” I feel like Charlotte is getting pretty close to Atlanta. Atlanta not just a party scene, but also a food scene. I promise you, I feel like every couple of weeks a new restaurant is popping up in Charlotte. The food scene here is definitely popping. I think that us as creators, we also help that situation, too, because they have gotten plenty of articles written up in like major magazines from videos they seen from TikTokers or IG. People are just wanting to come to Charlotte and visit Charlotte now just because of the food scene.
@shiondafarrell Vegan & vegetarian options available #hotdog #fyp #hotdogs #hotdogcart #charlottefood ♬ Hot Shit (feat. Kanye West & Lil Durk) – Cardi B
Do you think that there’s a lot of diversity within the food scene? Or is it a lot of the same thing?
I feel like Charlotte has done better with it. Because I feel at one point in time, there was not a lot of diversity. They’ve done a 180 on that end, for sure.
Do you think it might be because of a lot of the different people moving to Charlotte that’s created the diversity?
My honest opinion: I do believe that’s some of it. I also believe that a lot of it has started with people like me, and a lot of other people of color. Whomever, you know, just with different backgrounds creating content for these restaurants.
My audience is diverse. I have Caucasian, I have Asian, but a good bulk of it may be African Americans. So, where they were lacking in, you know, African Americans coming into their established places, they now have them. I do believe that does play a big part in it.
What do you love the most about Charlotte and its food scene?
As far as the food scene, I like the community part of it. I think a lot of the owners of these establishments are working hard with the actual creators to try to come up with a plan to bring more business, not only just to themselves, but to help each other.
I feel like a lot of these owners are building these relationships with us. It’s not just us, we want to build these relationships together. That’s kind of what makes everything work. Like I said, teamwork makes the dream work.
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