National City TikTok star named to Latinx TikTok Trailblazers list

Jesus Morales sitting in an office holding his computer and phone
Working from his home office, Jesús Morales is happy he’s found his new calling. Morales has tied his social media popularity with public donations that in turn are donated to street vendors.
(Nelvin C. Cepeda/The San Diego Union-Tribune)

Like a lot of people, Jesús Morales found himself with some extra time on his hands in March of 2020. As the world shut down and words like “social distancing” and “quarantine” began to make their way into our lexicon, Morales, who had been furloughed from his job at a gym in Los Angeles, started spending more and more time scrolling through TikTok, the social media platform.

He’d originally downloaded the app in November 2019, but it wasn’t until quarantine that he began spending more and more time on the app.

At first, he was strictly a consumer, casually scrolling away and enjoying the daily viral content.

“One day,” he said during an interview, “I was like, ‘I’m going to start creating content on TikTok. Let’s see what happens.’”

What happened was that Morales’ videos started getting attention.

A lot of attention.

Morales, who is 24-years-old and goes by @juixxe on TikTok, initially earned a decent following (somewhere around 200,000 to 300,000 followers) thanks to some comedic videos he made where he attempted to enter stores wearing unusual or interesting objects as face masks, including one where he goes into a 7-Eleven using the lid from a kitchen pot as a mask. That video, which was posted on April 11, 2020, blew up, with over 5.6 million views and nearly 1 million likes.

Today, Morales has 1.3 million TikTok followers. But they aren’t there to watch him do popular TikTok dances or other viral trends for which the app is known. Instead, his followers are there to watch him hand out large tips — usually in the $1,000 range — to Southern California street vendors.

Morales parlayed his following from funny videos into a different sort of social media endeavor. He solicits donations from his followers and then hands the money out on camera, which results in inspiring, tear-jerking videos that usually go viral.

Because of these acts of kindness, Morales’ popularity on the app has soared — and so has his influence.

To date, he’s helped raise over $136,000 for Southern California street vendors. And this year, he was named to TikTok’s annual Latinx TikTok Trailblazers list, a group of 15 creators honored for their creativity and passion in the community.

“I’m humbled, to say the least,” Morales said of being named to the Trailblazers list. “There’s literally a billion users on the TikTok app. Of course, I know not all of them are Latinx, however, you can only imagine how many millions of users are. To be named one of the 15 Latinx Trailblazers for 2021 is absolutely unreal to me.”

Jesus Morales working from his home office
TikTok star Jesús Morales has been chosen as a Latinx TikTok Trailblazer, one of a group of 15.
(Nelvin C. Cepeda/The San Diego Union-Tribune)

Morales lives in the National City area, but he said he donates to street vendors all over Southern California. He was initially inspired to start donating to street vendors after watching videos of other creators like @LexyLately and, who were also soliciting donations via what’s called the “Venmo Challenge” for service workers and others who were in need during the pandemic.

Morales said he feels a connection to street vendors, in particular, due to his own background.

“My parents are immigrants. I’m a first-generation immigrant. I think my ‘why,’ as to why I do this for street vendors, has honestly gotten deeper and deeper over time.”

“At first, I just did this because it was so amazing to see street vendors being tipped and their reactions; they’re just so humble,” he continued. “But as I kept doing it over and over, and I started hearing these stories, many of these stories were from immigrant street vendors. It all kind of tied in and it was full circle for me. My parents, they weren’t street vendors, but they experienced struggle firsthand. They came to this country with absolutely nothing besides a dream. For me, the ‘why’ would definitely be my parents and knowing the immigrant struggle and seeing these people coming in day in and day out, just trying to make a living for themselves.”

In November 2020, Morales saw another viral video in which a street vendor was harassed and taunted by a group of men. Morales shared the video and asked his followers to help him find the man in the video so he could make a donation. Within a week, he’d located the man — and raised a whopping $20,000 for him. It’s his biggest donation to date.

“It was really sad to see because this man was just trying to make an honest living. You could tell his English wasn’t the best. He seemed really scared,” Morales said. “I never would have imagined that we were going to raise $20,000 for him. I remember that day so vividly. I literally handed him $20,000 in cash, just from that video. I never would have imagined handing someone that much cash in my life.”

Creating viral videos is now Morales’ full-time job. He earns money via TikTok’s Creator Fund, which pays content creators based on how well their videos do.

“I essentially just tip street vendors for a living,” Morales said with a laugh.

As for what’s next, Morales said the sky’s the limit.

“I’ve always wanted to shoot for the stars,” he said. “In the past year, since we’ve been able to raise over $136,000, I can only imagine what we can do with the next three to five years. I plan on just riding out this amazing opportunity that I’ve been blessed with to be able to do this on behalf of so many people. I want to be able to give away over $1 million with the platform at some point in time.”

He also said he hopes that his TikTok fame can one day impact not just street vendors, but others who might be in need.

“I want to be able to make a difference, not only in the Latino and the Hispanic community, but in the world. Of course, right now, my main goal and focus is our street vendors. However, I would later love to expand and just be able to help out people in general.”

Morales said that he’s forever grateful for the opportunity that TikTok has given him — and the support he’s received from the TikTok community.

“When I first hopped on the app, I never would have imagined that I would be in the position that I am today,” he said. “I am forever thankful for TikTok and the opportunities it’s brought to me. Honestly, just overall (I’m) so thankful for the community to be supporting me because I would be nothing without the community.”

To follow Morales on his TikTok journey, or to make a donation, follow him @juixxe.