“It is good to be important, but it is more important to be good.” I find that no matter how viral I become, I never want to stray from my values. I try not to promote any products that do not align with my values and not release any content that could potentially hurt somebody. I also try to use my platform to promote things I find worthwhile, like vaccination and voting.

I had the pleasure to interview Maria Comstock at the SPYSCAPE Festival’s ‘Bullsh*t! or Bullseye!’ Event in New York City, New York. SPYSCAPE is a contemporary experiential museum which aims to inspire people to discover their own superpowers through spy and superhero narratives, and experiences. Its seven main galleries are each themed around an aspect of espionage.

Maria Comstock is a digital creator who became known for her @mariaisabellecomstock TikTok account, which she uses to share trends, challenges and comedy sketches. She also posts about her father, who was a spy for the U.S. government and often worked in Russia. Her series, Asking A Retired Spy The Questions We Really Want To Know, centers on interviewing her dad about his experiences at work. The series went viral on TikTok in 2021.

Thank you so much for doing this with us! Can you tell us the story of how you grew up?

I was born in Dallas Texas and lived there for just over five years before moving to Houston for another three years; at the age of eight, I moved to Napa, California where my family has lived ever since. I was always close with my family growing up and did a variety of activities to keep me busy in my childhood, including competitive soccer and developing a passion for art. An interesting aspect of my childhood was that my mother was very anti-technology. Throughout high school, the phone that my mother begrudgingly bought me was a ten-dollar flip phone where you pressed one three times to type a ‘C’. It was not until I graduated high school that I had saved up enough money to purchase my own smartphone. With this being said, I did not use social media frequently until I was in college; I had one small Instagram account that I would go on once a month when I visited my grandma and could use her ipad, but that was the extent of it. Moving into UC Berkeley and finally having access to a device that could connect me with my peers, I started downloading more social media, this included TikTok. I started my account as a complete joke, just for fun; it mostly consisted of videos of my cats and silly videos with my roommates. However, after having TikTok for just over two months, I made a video with my dad as a joke. We had a running joke about how secretive he was concerning his past spy career, so I made a video asking him silly questions like “Is Wyoming real? Or are birds real?,” this video got maybe 20 views, but the next day I decided on a whim to create a Part 2 with equally nonsense questions. A week later I had millions of views and tens of thousands of followers. One month later I hit 100k followers and today I am at 1.6 million.

Can you share the most interesting story that has happened to you since you started?

I think the most surprising thing that has happened so far is getting texts from my friends that I was showing up on their news feed. I made a video about a year ago where I asked my dad where in the US is most likely to be nuked, he responded “Minot, North Dakota.” A day after that was released, I started getting a stream of messages saying that news sites and radio stations were claiming that my dad revealed a nuclear destruction plan. My dad and I make these videos just for fun and as a form of father-daughter bonding, so I find it funny when my audience takes my dad’s words as gospel.

Can you share a story about a mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lesson you learned from that?

One mistake I made when I first started out was underestimating myself and my content. Every time I would make a new video I would think to myself “well, this is going to be the one that does not do well, so it doesn’t really matter what I do in it.” This mindset would lead to silly mistakes. I once got absolutely flamed in the comments for not pronouncing Antarctica correctly just because I did not take the time to refilm it. Also, I would not get ready for the videos physically and there are some horrific videos of me with millions of views on the internet forever. I learned that I need to be very careful with what I release on the internet, because you never know how viral it will go, and once it is out there, it is out there forever.

What are some of the most interesting or exciting projects you are working on now?

I am most excited about my work with Spyscape! This will be the first time I travel for TikTok and it amazes me how far I have come. After this upcoming Spyscape festival, we plan to continue our partnership in a variety of ways; one of the most exciting is the access to more spies! I plan on starting to incorporate some other retired spies into my popular series “Asking a Retired Spy the Questions we REALLY want to Know.” This will be a super interesting addition because my father worked in a different sector than these new spies, so we can create a more encompassing narrative of spy culture.

What are your “3 things I wish someone told me when I first started” and why. Please share a story or example for each.

The first thing I wish someone told me when I first started is “dress cute for your videos, they may go viral and you don’t want that image of your post-shower hair on the internet forever.” Seriously, this is my number one regret; forever, when you google my name, my teeny tiny freshman self will pop up in her uneven braids. Secondly, I wish someone told me to get an iPhone sooner. I finally bought myself an iPhone with my TikTok earnings recently, and the difference in quality is shocking. TikTok is just not yet compatible with Androids, and my videos look so much better now. Thirdly, I wish someone had told me about the money-making potential. It is crazy how much you can make on social media these days. If I had started to convert views into money sooner, I would have made so much money.

Which tips would you recommend to your colleagues in your industry to help them to thrive and not “burn out”?

What I do to not burn out is make several TikTok accounts. I found myself dreading opening the app due to the overwhelming amount of negative messages I was confronted with on my main account. While it was not a big proportion of the feedback I was receiving, when you have such a big audience, it is inevitable to have some haters. I made a new account and started posting just fun videos on that and it revitalized my joy in making TikToks. The problem was then that account blew up too (not extremely, just 27k) and I had to make a third account haha. Another tip is to not check your messages every day; I set aside a day each week to go through my direct messages and comments, this helps not drain me out.

Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?

“It is good to be important, but it is more important to be good.” I find that no matter how viral I become, I never want to stray from my values. I try not to promote any products that do not align with my values and not release any content that could potentially hurt somebody. I also try to use my platform to promote things I find worthwhile, like vaccination and voting.

None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story about that?

I would never be at this point today without my father. He takes absolutely nothing from my TikTok, he only gives. He is always so open to making videos with me, and will even drive up from my hometown to my college town for the sole purpose of one needed video. We have so much fun making the videos together and he is also my number one fan; he checks on my TikTok more than I do. He also has the most positive view of life; just over a year ago my dad fell out of a tree and absolutely shattered some bones in his leg. I never heard him complain once, he seemed so proud to send me pictures of his disgusting-looking sewed-up leg. At that time, I was doing a sponsorship with a water bottle company, he even let me use his broken leg story in an ad for this sponsorship, and thought it was really funny.

You are a person of great influence. If you could start a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 😉

During the height of Covid, my dad and I used our platform to ask people to get vaccinated; it was crazy to see the influence we carried, some of the comments were along the lines of “I wasn’t going to get the vaccine, but I trust your father so I got my first shot yesterday.” With this kind of influence, I would also like to promote more participation in voting during midterm and election season. A lot of social media users are young people, and there is a shortage of young people voting at the polls.

How can our readers follow you online?

Readers can follow my TikTok: @mariaisabellecomstock and my Instagram: @mariacomstock


  • Savio P. Clemente

    TEDx Speaker, Media Journalist, Board Certified Wellness Coach, Best-Selling Author & Cancer Survivor

    Savio P. Clemente, TEDx speaker and Stage 3 cancer survivor, infuses transformative insights into every article. His journey battling cancer fuels a mission to empower survivors and industry leaders towards living a truly healthy, wealthy, and wise lifestyle. As a Board-Certified Wellness Coach (NBC-HWC, ACC), Savio guides readers to embrace self-discovery and rewrite narratives by loving their inner stranger, as outlined in his acclaimed TEDx talk: "7 Minutes to Wellness: How to Love Your Inner Stranger." Through his best-selling book and impactful work as a media journalist — covering inspirational stories of resilience and exploring wellness trends — Savio has collaborated with notable celebrities and TV personalities, bringing his insights to diverse audiences and touching countless lives. His philosophy, "to know thyself is to heal thyself," resonates in every piece.