‘Maybe people won’t like my posts, and then, you have a mini-anxiety attack’
Models, fashion bloggers and so-called influencers pervade our feeds, marketing their lifestyle, clothing and products through flawless images. However, making a living in this industry requires ‘thick skin’.
Fashion blogger Mel* who wished to remain anonymous during this interview, says that the reality of developing an online presence isn’t easy – you have to create relationships with brands, be constantly updating your social sites and deal with anxieties.
Mel already had a substantial social media following (over 10k) and contacts in the fashion industry due to her career in modelling, and whilst she says Instagram has been a great tool for her career, she believes that mental health issues such as body dysmorphia and ‘why don’t I look like her syndrome’ would be less prominent. With likes a form of feedback in the industry, it’s inevitable that it can give rise to comparitive behaviours.
Blessed with perfect teeth, makeup and manicured nails – that aren’t chipped – at first sight you’d think Mel has no reason to be self-conscious. However, she tells me it’s hard not be insecure when you’re exposed on the internet. “I have had trolls before, leaving comments like ‘look at her fat rolls,’ ‘she’s too short to be doing fashion’ or critiquing my outfits,” she says. “But I have to remember it’s just some one behind a computer who most likely wouldn’t say this to my face.
“Obviously it gets you down, if someone’s criticising you, it’s hard not feel insecure about the choices you’ve made. Even when you put up a post, what goes through your head is maybe people won’t like it and you have a mini-anxiety attack. However, at the end of the day it is work and you’re going to face criticism regardless.”
Most of us are active on at least one form of social media, with thoughtful consideration going into the images we upload. Ass on the sink selfies to enhance what our mama’s gave us, sucking it in profusely whenever there’s a camera in sight (whilst trying our hardest to look candid at the same time) and forcing our lips into positions that make our parents cringe – we’ve all been there.
But our social media posts are a collection of highlights that don’t capture the pain and anxiety most of us go through to get that perfect shot, thinking of the heaviness that weighs on our consciences when we skip a gym session, or that reoccurring pang of guilt when a Victoria Secret model’s body comes up on our feeds during a lunchtime scroll. Whilst we can switch off and refrain such feelings from escalating, the nature of Mel’s job means they are inescapable.
“Often I’ll be excited to post something, but if it receives a disappointing amount of likes, I start thinking there’s something wrong with the way I look,” she says. “Sometimes it’s helpful as you can identify how to improve, but sometimes it can upset you.”
She admits that she’s considered plastic surgery to progress in her career, believing that a certain look is required to garner interest from brands. “When I feel insecure I think, maybe if I was thinner, had bigger boobs and lips I’d get more work. Curvy figures are in at the moment but then again, so is being tall and skinny,” she tells me. “I notice that it’s going down the plastic route at the moment. Girls are feeling an increasing amount of pressure to get surgery just to look better on social media. I feel that a lot of fbloggers have had surgery purely to look better on the gram.”
Despite the industry fostering insecurities, Mel doesn’t regret a thing, her job is an expression of self. She wouldn’t want anyone to be put off by trolls in pursuit of their passion.
But how easy is it to make a living? Mel shows me a new app influencers are using, which directly links followers to sites where they can purchase their look. Companies can then monitor how much incoming traffic they gain from such sites and subsequently, remunerate the individual through either money or partnership.
In a New York Times article, Tracey Manner, a PR spokesperson for handbag retailer Botkier, revealed that when it comes to marketing, “the digital girls” make higher conversions (web visits to sales) more than celebrity placement the brand might have paid money for. In addition, some influencers can earn up to £20,000 per post, Jenny Woods, Founder of the social media startup for marketing teams Zaapt, told Mashable. Whilst it depends on the brand they are working with the potential earnings are anything from £5,000 to £20,000 per post.
Whilst the attraction of fashion blogging isn’t going to dissipate anytime soon, with young women poised and ready to take the next surge of followers, Mel’s advice to those considering a career in the industry is to have multiple hustles – it’s tough, the market is saturated and you need to find your niche. “Don’t focus everything on it,” she says, “it takes a while to make money from it.”
I also ask her if it’s important for her to inject personality into her posts, so her followers can affiliate with a real person, not a distant clothes mannequin – a common perception of models. She believes it’s really important for followers to see you as an authentic and real person, that’s what they want.
“But I would say, for me, when I first started, I was worried about being judged,” she says. “I still need to keep my guard up a bit. When someone judges your looks that’s one thing, but when they start judging who you are, that takes it to a whole another level.”