It was my first day getting ready to go to social media academy. I truly felt like a kid again nervous for my first day of school, laying out my clothes the night before anxiously trying to fall asleep. But this was it, this was my calling and it was the first day of my new journey. Destiny. Fate.
I think all of us ask ourselves at some point that daunting question, what’s my purpose? A few months ago, it hit me like a bags of bricks. If I had only known that my true calling had always been right at my fingertips.
Spring of 2017, I quit my corporate 8-5 job down in nowhere California, packed my bags, loaded up my 1986 Toyota van named Roxanne and she and I headed North to Portland. I had some friends with connections at a local weed farm and figured I’d stack some cash until I figured out what to do with my life.
One night partying in Southeast Portland after hitting a few dive bars and the strip club on Morrison, we ended up at a house party. The most stylish people I’d ever seen hung out on the stoops, vaping, taking photos of each other. I glided through the mid-century modern living room decorated with an overwhelming amount of house plants and through the1980’s pastel kitchen to the backyard. The yard was adorned with hanging lights and a mini ramp where a few guys in striped shirts and beanies skated while their girlfriends hung slouchily in their jean jackets around them, mystified by their board sport talent. I thought to myself, who are these people? Is this some rendition of hipsters 2.0, they were too cool, better than hipsters, diverse, less gentrified… I couldn’t quite put my finger on it. Then, a girl with a prominent nose ring, bangs, stick n’ poke hand tattoos, dressed like she just flew in from Paris asked me if I wanted a Kombucha Sangria her friend made. “It’s local,” she sang. One sip and I was blown away, probiotics and alcohol in one cocktail was genius. Why hadn’t I thought of that? I had to find out who the Einstein behind the madness was. There in the Pulp Fiction of a kitchen was Gemma. Gemma, was the embodiment of a flower. Her floral dress, Goddess, vegan, yogi, mermaid hair automatically made everything she created just pure organic gold. I went in for a hand shake but she grabbed and hugged me, I mean really hugged me like she meant it.
“I’m Gemma, aka, @holistichaolehappiness on Instagram,” she smiled, her teeth a beaming fluorescent white, “I’m the host food blogger tonight.” I froze.
“Um…,” I stuttered, immediately embarrassed about the name and overall lack of attention I ever gave my Instagram account. My mind traveled back to my last post from weeks ago, a selfie of me pretend devouring my In N’ Out burger chasing it with Pepto Bismol. This was just hours after crossing the border from 2 weeks in Mexico eating cheap street tacos with a side of food poisoning with my burn out friends.
“WizzzardQueen69,” I cringed, “with three Z’s,” I finally responded. Gemma scrunched her noes and said, “Funny! I’ll have to follow you. What’s your category?”
Category? What the fuck was she talking about? Last I remembered, I put “Fictional Character” as my “type” of Instagram account because who really takes that shit seriously? But as I looked around, it dawned on me like digital quicksand. These people took it seriously. To the left were two stylish young men, one with a 35mm film camera around his neck and another with a bandana around his head, too tan for Portland with spirit beads around every major joint.
“Sorry,” I said, “What is all this?” I asked Gemma. She smiled again and said, “The annual Pacific Northwest Influencer Summit, well they stopped calling it that and now call us Selected Advocates. This is just the mixer, tomorrow we’ll split off into groups based on our following and niche for curated experiences around the Pacific Northwest. I’m headed to the mountain to stay in a cabin with a few other content creators and we’ll just go create! This new and upcoming Free People kind of brand is endorsing us.” Endorsing? She meant paying for. I could picture it now, a dreamy cabin nestled under the trees covered in moss on Mt. Hood. Gemma modeling some delicate lace lingerie with a felt hat on while the dudes to my left shifted around the room to catch her in the best light. Cool.
“Yeah, help yourself to anything here. There’s several sponsors for this evening just make sure to tag them on your Instagram!” she went back to pouring sangria and hugging people. I blazed through the living room and shoved my purse full of free everything. Alkaline water, collagen powder, fernet, chia dessert pudding packets, snack chips made from root vegetables. I hit the bathroom and locked the door behind me, under-eye serums, organic toilet paper, algae based all-in-one edible shampoo and conditioner, what-the-fuck! Purse full.
By the end of the night, eleven-ish Kombucha Sangrias and about 100 selfies with local influencers I ended up blacking out in my van after hosting the after party inside Roxanne under the Burnside bridge. I couldn’t remember if it was influencers or homeless people playing guitar in my van and drinking CBD water while dosing activated charcoal to prevent hangovers.
I woke up to my phone buzzing. Someone had put a new solar charging phone case on it. I had 11,308 notifications on Instagram. I had 5,432 friend requests, mentioned in countless stories, tagged in photos from the night before, and direct messages from people I didn’t even know asking me about van life, what I was wearing, and who my hair stylist was. There were messages from people I’d met at the party like:
@YogiBombAlotti “Hey girl, you’re amazing! Let’s collaborate again soon!”
@ShamanUnderpants “Micro-influencer on the rise!”
@SurfDankNugs420 “This girl does not give a f*ck! #spiritanimal #microinfluencer”
So, with nothing to do but trim weed, I joined a few of my new “friends” on the curated experiences and sponsored trips around the West coast for several weeks. Before I knew it, people from around the world were asking me about what I ate for breakfast. I never felt so loved in my life. I’d post my ugliest face on my Instagram story and people called me “real”, “hilarious”, “an inspiration”, “genuine”, “humble.” Even better, forget paying for anything ever again. All these brands from sunscreen to snacks to staying at their new & upcoming yurt camp were sending me free shit and giving me and Roxanne a free place to stay. As my following grew, I had to start turning down brands and people who were asking me to become an “ambassador”. It was just too much work to take all these photos of their products in-use or on my friends and publish, tag, and offer people in my “community” a discount code. So, instead, I picked a few of my favorites, opened up a website that they paid for, and started to sell organic sunscreens and spirit hoods on my blog for a small commission. I was making money while I slept.
Tomorrow, one year and 50,000 followers later, I’m getting paid to go to my first Influencer Academy event on a remote island in Finland. I’m meeting up with the best and baddest content creators, influencers, and bloggers on the planet to creatively collaborate. The itinerary is a secret because supposedly so is this island, until we get there and blast it on our social media accounts. People still ask me, “What’s your category?” I still keep as “Fictional Character” and one thing I’ll never be is a Public Figure.
Ok, so none of that really happened if you didn’t pick up on the disturbingly satirical tone. But here’s what’s really going on in the influencer world. I asked one Byron Bay based model influencer, also an engineer, to clarify the weird world of influencing to us. Her response?
“I’ve had a look through this and I’m not too comfortable talking about some of the content because it doesn’t really apply to me.. I’m pretty reluctant to label myself as an influencer the way that this implies due to the way the term is thrown around… The monetised side of influencing is really personal to me as I only work with brands that I believe in and refuse to be a bill board, haha! Whether I influence people or not I never intended to do that. I just wanted to put my voice somewhere that it could help people, if anyone. No strategy. No aim. Just for the love.”
It’s Jen here, just so you know, this is all completely fake…false, not real. ……never happened. OR DID IT!?