Content Creator Denny Balmaceda On His Hope To Inspire

Photo by Lawrence De Leon

Blogging since 2008, Denny Balmaceda is among the distinguishable pioneers of content creation.

I don’t like the word influencer. I think of myself more as a content creator,” says Denny Balmaceda.

We meet in downtown New York City at See/Know, a clothing boutique dedicated to emerging streetwear brands where Balmaceda operates as social media director. Bustling and packed with smiling faces (despite just opening two weeks ago), the shop appears much more like a hangout spot.

“Most of the leaders here are Filipino. We’re trying to create a community,” says the creative. “I style and create lookbooks for them as well. In a way, I’m also a promoter.” With more than 85,000 followers on Instagram, anything Balmaceda co-signs undoubtedly receives traction.

Denny Balmaceda Fashion
Photos by Lawrence De Leon

The 35-year-old Filipino-American content creator has been posting OOTDs since 2008, long before it became a trending hashtag. His uniquely recognizable style and early knack for thrifting garnished him popularity on fashion blog sites like and Tumblr, solidifying him as an OG and leader in the social media community.

“I don’t know the exact time when I got an interest in fashion, but I feel like it was always a part of me because as a kid I was into painting and drawing. That was my persona. As Filipinos too, if you’re good at something you’re always encouraged to follow it. I started treating myself as the canvas,” Balmaceda recounts. As a precocious and young creative, he began to shop at thrift stores like Goodwill and The Salvation Army to dress himself without having to spend an arm and a leg. And the stigma of wearing used clothing didn’t bother him. Much like his approach to life, he beats to his own drum. “I didn’t care. You could walk into a thrift store and find Ralph Lauren jeans for cheap,” he emphasized coolly.

Denny Balmaceda Fashion
Photo by Lawrence De Leon

Born in Pasig, Philippines, then adopted, and ultimately immigrating to the United States in ’96, Balmaceda had a challenging upbringing with an ever-present sense of being an outsider—shared with his classmates and family alike. “It was hard. I had a lot of confidence issues where I couldn’t fully figure out who I was or what I was to do,” he confesses.

Enamored by films by Scorsese, Tarantino, and Wes Anderson, he found comfort in the illustrative worlds these directors created—a sort of escapism. “I also really love Filipino films from the ’70s because they felt like actual films. The color grading and the styling, it feels raw and real.” Maynila, sa mga Kuko ng Liwanag directed by Lino Brocka is one he mentions.

His attraction to film is not only attributed to world building, but also (possibly more importantly) to the vivid and compelling characters occupying the imaginative worlds. They forged a blueprint for him to reference in his own approach to style. Dressed in a red bowling shirt, large-brim hat, and cowboy boots, his personal style is contemporary yet still has a cinematic touch. This unwavering aesthetic has now become synonymous with his identity. “People have dressed up as me for Halloween in Malaysia,” he jokingly shares.

After high school while his friends were entering college, Balmaceda began working rather than following his dream to attend the Fashion Institute of Technology due to his lack of citizen papers. An overwhelming sense of frivolity began to take hold.

But one year, he was given a Nikon camera for Christmas and the trajectory of his life shifted. He was introduced to, an online fashion site where people post photos of their outfits (a mecca for fashion lovers in the early aughts). “On my lunch breaks, I just started to take photos. I posted every day and all my outfits were thrifted. Everyone else on there looked like models in expensive clothes. The only advantage I had was that I had time,” says Balmaceda.

His time certainly paid off: within a year, he was the top male profile on the site.

Denny Balmaceda Fashion
Photo by Lawrence De Leon

As one of the pioneers, Balmaceda has seen a significant change in social media from when he first began. In the beginning, the idea of making money wasn’t even a thought that passed his mind. It was purely for the joy of sharing looks. The monetization of social content didn’t come to pass until the age on Instagram. “Instagram changed everything because you could get paid now. It’s when the word influencer came out, which I hate. Anyone has the power to influence. What I do and what my peers do is so much more. We are creative directors, stylists, photographers. You are all these things to make your brand,” he says.

Balmaceda also believes the stigma of the ubiquitous influencer, that runs in the streets and takes selfies at any chance they can get, is a false portrayal. “It’s hard work. It’s a 24-hour job. We only have days to complete a job, whereas brands have months and a full staff.”

Now that he has an established fan base, his approach is much more selective and organic. Even who he decides to work with is more curated—often collaborating with other Filipino creatives or those who he knew from his early days. But, he is still figuring out how to separate his personal life and his online life. “I’m still learning how to be present and enjoy the moment. I’m going on my first vacation in 13 years next month to Hawaii. I’m going to try not to work while there.”

Despite a difficult upbringing and struggles with identity and self-esteem, Denny Balmaceda has persevered and cultivated the life he dreamed. “I feel my life is like Slumdog Millionaire. Everything that I have done, everyone I have met, has led me to where I am now,” he says with a smile. With hopes to make a short film or open up his own shop, Balmaceda finds true inspiration by inspiring others.

“I just want people to understand that as someone who felt lost, someone who felt like nothing was going right—things can change as long as you dedicate yourself. Dreams do come true, for anyone,” he muses. “Love yourself first, love what you do, then share it with the world.” 

Denny Balmaceda Fashion
Photo by Lawrence De Leon

Photographs by Lawrence De Leon. Sittings Editor: Ticia Almazan. Makeup and Hair: Caitlin Nusche. Photographer’s Assistant: Selwyn Tungol. Shot on location at Another Man’s Treasure, Jersey City, New Jersey.

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