Is Quarantine Making People On Instagram Less Fake?

For the longest time, Instagram felt like a frenemy, one that I’d been personally burned by. The highs, lows, and unpredictable algorithm made it overall detrimental to my emotional and mental well-being, and it’s been one hell of a tumultuous ride. However, this self-quarantine period has given me ample time to reflect upon all of my relationships, and while for most people that means figuring out that their ex is, indeed toxic, for me, that includes the relationships I have with social media. Out of a pandemic (of all things) my relationship with the social media platform had a surprising and positive shift. And, *Carrie Bradshaw voice* I couldn’t help but wonder: Is quarantine making Instagram better? Am I just so bored that I’m falling back in with a toxic (digital) ex? Or is something more going on here? I spoke with a few users and creators to see if it’s just me who feels like the pandemic has made Instagram a better place.

Content Creator and Editor Olivia Balsinger has written for the likes of Forbes, the NY Post, and Business Insider, but admits, “I had a love/hate relationship with Instagram for the better part of my twenties because it was that constant dick-measuring contest we didn’t want to (but felt pressured to) participate in.”

Before quarantine, Instagram was all about being aspirational. Posting in exotic locations, wearing expensive clothing, and having just the right lighting—it exploits the psychology of self-worth, and can prey upon people who lack inward self-confidence (points at self). But now, because we can’t visit a locale more exotic than our yards, people are changing the game completely, and it’s resulted in a refreshing influx of “ugly” posts. Celebrities like Hailey Bieber, Jessica Alba, and Katy Perry are posting themselves in sweatpants, hair tied, chillin’ with no makeup on. It’s a distinct departure from the perfectly poised, Photoshopped pics we’re used to. All of this has made Instagram feel endearingly real. “Now even the coolest of IG superstars are quarantined, and suddenly the human playing field is that much more level, “ Balsinger says.


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#workfromhome #conferencecalls @honest using @honest_beauty face masks -Detox on T-zone and Prime+Perfect everywhere else 🧖🏽‍♀️👩🏽‍💻

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B.C. (Before Corona), Balsinger would feel a tinge of insecurity and mild envy at influencers who appeared to live lavish lifestyles (which I have also felt—who hasn’t?), but says these thoughts and feelings have since changed.“I’m opening my IG app inferior to MissTravelGirl sitting there in her hot little bikini in Bali anymore,” she admits. “Instead, actually feeling empathy for everyone—even celebrities—because we’re all fighting the same scary, god-awful disease.”

I’m in agreement. Even though celebrities might be quarantining in mansions versus tiny apartments, the playing field does have a semblance of balance, and more importantly, this “virtual environment” somehow feels more genuine and intimate. As someone who has been diagnosed with a litany of mental health issues (depression, borderline personality disorder, trauma, etc.), in pre-pandemic days, I was frequently pressured by industry peers to use my personal Instagram account to further my career as a journalist. As a result, my posts felt forced and fake. And even when I was working as a social media manager for various spirit brands, interacting with fans felt phony too, since there was obviously a motive behind my interactions.

Up until recently, professor and journalist Kiran Nazish shared my sentiments. As the Founding Director of the Coalition For Women in Journalism she remarks, “I was never a big fan of Instagram, and a terrible user as well, with no sense as to how to engage with the public on this platform.” But in the thick of an unprecedented pandemic, we’re somehow navigating pathways to salvation with the app. For me, in these last few weeks, it began with memes and therapy-related accounts I follow. As a means of seeking out humor and levity in dark times, I would screenshot my favorite posts and share them on my IG stories.

Although I still don’t feel comfortable posting on my feed regularly, posting on my stories has been cathartic. I wasn’t expecting any responses, and yet, I’ve been getting upwards of 30-40 DM responses (compared with the previous 0-10), reactions, and new followers, so it appears that this content is resonating with people. It’s also acted as a gateway to engage in further conversation with people around the world by asking how they’re doing in these unpredictable times, which ultimately reinforces the notion that we actually are all in this together.

Nazish also felt compelled to give IG another chance. She says, “since the pandemic and the lockdown, Instagram has become a forum where I have been following accounts both for work as well as health,” and says she also feels more of an openness on the platform that wasn’t there pre-pandemic. She’s seeing people share things like “feelings about a sunset, preparing your grandfather’s recipe, thinking of your childhood, or openly speaking of depression.” These moments are special, she says, because “they’re representative of who we are as people: flawed, moody, powerful, powerless, impactful, creative, and at times, just bored. I love it. It feels real.” As Balsigner observes, this pandemic has created a strange sense of unity amongst us all: “it’s a silver lining in what otherwise feels like a really weird/scary Stephen King novel we’re living in.”

JQ Louise, a travel and food influencer, has definitely had the pandemic affect her content, but she’s taken more of the #TBT approach to posting content. “My focus has shifted from sharing tips and tricks for travel to opening up about my daily life, and in particular, all the details from my destination wedding last year,” she says. Despite initial concerns that her followers would get tired of her bridal images, she prioritized her mental health: “I’ve always been a private person, and yet, having the time to review, revisit these happy moments, and then post about my nuptials is getting me through these difficult times.” Moreover, she feels that, at least for the time being, the IG atmosphere is a safe and kind enough space to share these personal details. “There is an overall tone of gratitude across the platform, because we are all dreaming of being able to do simple things like see our friends or go to a restaurant, which we took for granted before.”


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Looking for all those summer trips like…miss this view from the @hotelhasslerroma! #JQSaysIDrew . . Planning: @cristenandcoevents Photo & video: @movemountainsco Dress: @firasyousiforiginals Floral design: @noosheensfloraldesign Hair: @federico_salon Makeup: @haleymakeupartist . . . . . #weddingportrait #bride #newlyweds #bridestyle #weddingday #weddingflowersdecor #destinationbride #weddinginspiration #bridetobe #luxewedding #elegantwedding #luxurybride #thedailywedding #weddingdecor #voguewedding #sobridaltheory #theknot #weddingitaly #brides #dreamwedding #destinationweddingphotographer #destinationweddings #destinationweddingitaly #weddingdetails #luxurybrides #destinationweddinginitaly #weddingflowers #rome

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Her followers don’t seem to mind. “My followers are reaching out, saying that my posts are a fun escape, and enjoying the personal connection,” she says, adding, “I am loving it too.” Branching outside of her usual travel posts also opened up another avenue to connect with people: “couples who have had to postpone their wedding due to COVID-19 have reached out to ask me about planning/strategies for destination weddings,” she says. She’s been able to share and swap ideas and help couples focus on the positives and brainstorm ideas for their new dates.

Jamie Milne, a food influencer, also attests to authenticity as being a successful driver of metric performance. Since lockdown, she’s doubled her engagement levels, increased story impressions, and seen over 1,000+ saves/shares of her recipe content—even when boosting numbers was never her intention. She, too, adjusted her posts and tone in response to the pandemic. “My content has been more personal now—rather than solely focusing on food/recipes, I always make sure there’s a personal element in my captions,” she explains. The vulnerability goes both ways, as she’s also encouraged people to reach out to her via email and/or DM. “It was my way of telling them they’re not alone and I’m here for them if they need to talk.” She’s also using her platform to help businesses that are struggling.


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always thinking about where I’m going to go eat once businesses start to open up again! tag the first store / business / restaurant you’re going to visit – I’ll feature them in my stories! please remember and consider supporting local businesses at this time ❤️ xx

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With celebrities and influencers relinquishing the picture-perfect Instagram aesthetic, Nizah says, “Instagram has significantly changed from a noisy place to a go-to place where I seem to be learning new ways to communicate while we are all locked away from actually meeting people in person.” However, the cynic/realist in me worries that this is all just a fleeting moment waiting to pass, so I remain ever-so-slightly cautious. It can be too easy to be sucked into this digital vortex with no safe exit strategy. Dr. Yusra Ahmad, MD, FRCPC, a community and academic psychiatrist, says that while there’s no harm in being optimistic, it’s important to exercise mindful and healthy boundaries if you feel you’re too caught up in Instagram, or any social media app, or relying upon it for validation. If this is the case, she advises you “consider setting time limits, and use your phone to set up such gentle alert reminders.”

Louise also takes Instagram with a grain of salt: “never take any social media platform too seriously even during these crazy times,” she warns. “It is still just a highlight reel that someone has chosen to put out there. Watching people constantly work out or organize their perfect homes gives me stress too, and makes me ask, how can they be doing that right now and why aren’t I? But just remember that it’s not a competition, it’s really not.”

Ultimately, we’re all doing our best to cope, so if an app can spark a little more joy in your life, by all means, use it—but do so thoughtfully. And remind yourself that once this is all over, there’s a big beautiful world out there to be explored, and in it are amazing humans who are waiting for me and you to connect with IRL.

Images: Daria Nepriakhina / Unsplash; jessicaalba, jqlouise, everything_delish / Instagram

Is ‘Diversity’ Enough? The Problem With Tokenism In Influencer Marketing

Shanna is a Richmond, VA based blogger, TV style expert and freelance PR coordinator for Sarah Olivia Marketing. Follow her on Instagram @meeandminnie where she sometimes post outfits but mostly post IG stories of her cat. 

Merriam-Webster defines tokenism as “the policy or practice of making only a symbolic effort.” When it comes to fashion, I see this “symbolic” effort made on the feeds of some of the biggest Instagram boutiques. Shops like @evereveoffical, @shopthemint, and @vicidolls will sprinkle in women of color (WOC) so sparingly that in some cases, if you scroll too fast, you may miss them. With many demanding more diversity in the influencer space over the past few years, including myself, I can’t help but have a nagging suspicion that this sprinkling of WOC influencers is a way to slip under the “lack of diversity” radar. More and more brands are facing criticism from not having a drop of diversity at all, which is good, but the cynical part of me has to wonder: Are brands genuinely making an effort to be more diverse, or are they turning to “tokenism” in an attempt to avoid backlash?

A 2018 BBC article written by Cherry Wilson explores tokenism in fashion over the past year, with the explosion of black women gracing the covers of coveted September issues. It poses the question, “Black women on mags: A step forward or tokenism?”  The question is never really answered, since the practice of tokenism is something that can be very much in the eye of the beholder. DC-based style blogger Jen Jean Pierre-Maull says she doesn’t think all brands do it, but admits, “I do believe many brands, in fear of being called out on social media, will add a splash of diversity on their feed or invite one or two bloggers of color to events in order to fit the quota.” Blogger Ashleigh Reddy expresses she does feel she’s been used as the token WOC, saying, “Sometimes at events they need to check the box for a WOC, or a black woman, whatever. I think I’m very ‘safe’ for brands, so there have been times that I’ve been the only one, and it’s frustrating.”  


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Currently watching @poseonfx on demand and fighting the sadness of my mom leaving to go back to florida. I’ve never been good with goodbyes. Even if they are just a “see ya later”. Pic is from 2017.

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Not every blogger feels this way. California-based blogger Vivian Rodriguez says, “I haven’t had an experience of feeling like the brands are including one token WOC. The brands and events have been inclusive.” She does, however, note she works with brands that are focused on diversity and value, choosing models that vary in ethnic background and size. 

According to a March 2019 eMarkter article, there are over 500,000 active influencers on Instagram, and while this number is not broken down by ethnic group, we know WOC influencers are included in this number. Logically, with plenty of WOC influencers to choose from, why aren’t we seeing more? And why do so many of these brands use the same few over and over? Brittany Hennesy, best selling author of INFLUENCER: Building Your Personal Brand In The Age Of Social Media, co-founder & Chief Relationship Officer at CARBON AUGUST, and former Sr. Director of Influencer Strategy & Talent Partnerships at Hearst Magazines Digital Media says, At the end of the day, casting is a job and you want to make your job as easy as possible. That means casting influencers you’ve already worked with, you already follow, or working with agents you already know.” In addition, she says, “Most people follow influencers who look like them, so if the majority of the people casting are not WOC, the odds that they follow and/or will cast WOC are slim.” 

But the problem of tokenism goes deeper than just laziness. Hennesy goes on to express that the problem is that many brands have a follower quota (often 100k or more) that influencers need to have in order to even be considered. The problem? “Many influencers of color do not have the crazy high follower counts brands have long desired,” she says. “If you see at all,” she says, “it’s because the brand relaxed the follower count standard BECAUSE they wanted diversity. I have done this more times than I can count.” Point taken.

In December of last year, Vicidolls was the latest brand caught up in a social media fury when an observer pointed out that a picture of a WOC was the only one the brand had posted for months. The Vicidolls owner took to the comments to defend her brand, stating that she does work with WOC influencers and was making plans to include more in the brand’s feed account. She also urged anyone in the comments who was an influencer and interested in collaborating to send her an email. 

It was a challenge that I accepted. After a few ignored emails (thank heavens for read receipts), I sent the brand a DM to check on the status. After going into the qualifications of the person they look for, I was informed, “We have a new model starting January 1 that is a woman of color as well as dozens of new collabs with women of color. You will definitely be seeing more women of color! It’s at the top of our to do list and we are getting it done.” Now go take a look at their feed and tell me how long it takes for you to spot a WOC—I’ll wait. I’m not saying she’s not there, I am saying you will have to dig to find her. 


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The perfect #worktoweekend look! Obsessed with our doll @carmenreneeblog in the Gus Snake Print Pocketed Shirt Dress // Available In XS – L!Designed with a salmon, grey and slate blue snake print on a cream satin fabrication. Two front bust pockets and a belted waist tie create soft definition with a splash of functionality. Carmen is 5’6” and wearing a Size Large.

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Nena Evans, a Virginia based style blogger who has worked with brands such as Neutrogena and LOFT, and is also currently a Vicidolls partner, bristles at the idea that she’s simply being invited to participate to fill a quota. She says, “I want to address topics like this, but it’s also frustrating because it minimizes my hard work and accomplishments in this space. No one wants to think of themselves as a token. I’m selective about brands I choose to work with. I pursue ongoing partnerships instead of temporary collaborations so that I can build relationships and ultimately be a thought partner. These opportunities did not happen by chance, but as a result of hard work, excellence, and support from other women.”

“That being said,” Evans says, “I don’t want to be the only woman of color represented. There’s a lack of diversity across the industry as a whole. Diversity and inclusion add real value, and the brands that make it a priority will remain relevant.”  

In the continuing conversation about diversity, tokenism is much more different than a lack of diversity; it’s a bigger slap in the face. It’s a brand not throwing out a bone vs. throwing a bone out to watch a few WOC fight over it. For some, this practice is a backhanded compliment that brands are giving to us in order to save their own skin, and for others, it’s a small step to make WOC a more thoughtful inclusion in their marketing. No matter which side of the fence you’re on, we can all agree it happens and is another example of this space not being as inclusive as it should be. 


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TFW brands think the varying shade of tan on the same looking white girl counts as diversity. That mini IG #tedtalk I went on last week about diversity in the influencer space led to a cool conversation w/ the editor-in-chief of @betches and a cool op-Ed I got to pen! Spoiler Alert @amaryllis_apparel still has yet to respond to my comments, but they’ve seen my DM’s ? pic by @sandyswaggerjones

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The bottom line is, tokenism can be hard to spot. It’s never easy to know if it is being done out of malicious intent to be inclusive without REALLY being inclusive, or whether it’s a brand’s starting point to make a change, but to fix it is simple. Jen Jean Pierre-Maull suggests to brands, “Hire more POC on their team so they know when there is a true lack of representation and follow more POC so they will broaden the invite list”. Brittany Hennesy adds, “Influencers need to break the cycle. I know influencers who have turned down brands because they don’t feature WOC. But if WOC turn them down, how is the brand supposed to fix that? This is a cycle that will keep going until an influencer stops it. And it’s not like it’s charity work, you’re going to get paid. Volunteer as tribute AND secure the bag.”  

Shanna is a Richmond, VA based blogger, TV style expert and freelance PR coordinator for Sarah Olivia Marketing. Follow her on Instagram @meeandminnie where she sometimes post outfits but mostly post IG stories of her cat. 

Images: Marcus Santos / Unsplash; meeandminnie, vicidolls, jenjeanpierre / Instagram

Where Are The Women Of Color On Influencer Trips?

Shanna (AKA Shanna) is a Richmond, VA based blogger, TV style expert and freelance PR coordinator for Sarah Olivia Marketing. Follow her on Instagram @meeandminnie where she sometimes post outfits but mostly post IG stories of her cat. 

Brands not inviting a SINGLE woman of color influencer on press trips: a tale that’s as old as the times we were told to not wear white after Labor Day, that black and blue don’t match, mixing patterns is a no-no, and never be caught dead in a denim-on-denim ensemble. If these old and antiquated ideas about fashion have been put to rest, why not the idea of brands excluding influencers of color from their press trips or campaigns?

The issue surrounding a lack of diversity in the fashion influencer space is not a new one. It’s been spoken about at length, with major publications from BOF to Forbes penning essays about the need for equal representation. Over the past few years, major brands have been called to the carpet for lacking diversity in their campaigns. Brands from Athelta to BooHoo, to Revolve and the whole #revolvesowhite issue—something they have yet to address—have been the subject of diversity consumer researched articles, personal op-eds, and the wrath of social media about their blatant disregard of the need for diversity.  

Obviously, this is a problem. I could go the “POC want to be able to see themselves” route with my “why diversity matters” argument; according to a recent Google survey, 75% percent of black millennials want to see more diversity in ads. But I’m going to do you one better, because that argument seems to be falling on deaf ears. No matter the color of the person who spends it, money is green, and I was under the assumption that brands wanted money, so why the hell would you not want to include my skin color in your marketing material? According to a 2019 University of Georgia study, minority markets spend a combined $3.9 trillion dollars on everything from beauty to fashion to health and wellness. Of that, Hispanic Americans take the lead with $1.5 trillion in spending, African Americans with $1.3 trillion, Asian Americans with $1 trillion, and Native Americans with $115 billion. Dat’s a whole lotta green brands are missing out on if the aforementioned minorities decide to collectively not shop with brands who don’t showcase diversity. Whew chile! 


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How long you think it’s gonna take for the tree to realize I’m not a flower? | ? @sandyswaggerjones

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And I don’t want to downplay or make light of the feelings minority groups have when we’re not included in campaigns. It’s a painful reminder of the spaces we were once not welcome in, and in some cases, still aren’t. It keeps a nagging question in the back of our minds: “are we good enough?” The answer is hell yes, but the question lingers anyway. As a blogger, I find myself sometimes modeling after my white counterparts because maybe it will make me more marketable and help me land campaigns. Spoiler alert: it doesn’t! But when we express our disappointment at being excluded, we’re told we are overreacting, we need to get over it, and (what’s funny as sh*t to me) we are being racist! So I thought a lesson in consumer diversity was better illustrated on a financial level, since a human one seems to be going over some folks’ heads. 

Last week, Alicia Tenise, a D.C. based fashion and travel blogger, gave a mini Ted Talk about the lack of diversity on press trips. She stated she’d been invited on just two trip so far this year (need I remind you, 2019 is more than halfway over), despite having over 22,000 followers. Alicia then screenshotted pictures of press trips she’d seen with zero influencers of color, shared those pictures via her Twitter account, and it racked up 13,000 likes.

Black influencers are rarely ever invited on influencer trips.

I’ve started screenshotting every press trip I’ve seen over the last month and the lack of diversity is so upsetting (but not surprising).

— Alicia (@AliciaTenise) June 20, 2019

Since then, Alicia’s tweet has been the latest centerpiece of a number of articles discussing brand diversity over the past week. I’d sort of forgotten about Alicia’s tweet until another blogger I follow shared a shout-out from a blogger who happened to be on one of the press trips Alicia called out, which no WOC had attended. I decided to head to the brand’s account, @amaryllis_apparel, and leave a comment asking why no influencers of color were in attendance. No more than 10 minutes later did I find they deleted my comment…..the damn nerve, but not a surprising one.


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we don’t sweat, we sparkle ✨kicking off #AmaryllisAbroad Turks & Caicos with an amazing crew .⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀ .⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀ .⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀ .⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀ .⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀ #myamaryllis #tropicalvibes #vacation #palmprint #tropical #summer #currentlywearing #ltkunder100 #ltkunder50 #fashionpost #summerfashion #bloggertrip #outfitideas #summerlook #instafashion #igstyle #summerootd #igstyle #ootd #ltkshoecrush #ltkit #weekendstyle #whowhatwearing #vacationstyle #dailystyle #todaysoutfit #contentcreator #ootdgals #stylesubmit #styleinfluencer

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Surely this was a slip of a finger, so I posted my comment again and sent them a DM with the same question. I then went on a mini IG Ted Talk of my own about the issue, again calling the brand out, and a few of my followers left comments of their own inquiring “Where the black gals at”????

Update: As of this article, @amaryllis_apparel has yet to respond to my comment or DM but had not deleted anything, so I guess that’s progress. 

So you agree? You think this is really f*cked up?

HOW CAN YOU BE AN ALLY, YOU ASK? Yes, white women, I’m speaking to you! I was asked this question, and my answer is simple: ask where the influencers of color are. Oh, you thought I was going to suggest marching out into the streets and protesting, burning the clothes on social media, or threatening to boycott? I mean, you can do all that if you want, but a simple ask would do the trick. When brands start to see the women they market to (white women) take issue with the lack of color, they will listen. For influencers who are being invited on these trips, speak up! Let them know you’re not comfortable working with a brand that doesn’t work to showcase diversity. Ask them what they are doing to be more inclusive. If you know an influencer of color who would be great for a campaign or press trip, tell that to the brand. 

But, ultimately, it’s up to the brands to decide that they want to listen to what their customers are telling them. Dear brands: diversity is not varying shades of tan on identical-looking white girls. Here are some ways to actually add diversity to your next press trip or campaign! 

It’s hard to showcase diversity in front of the camera if there is none behind it, so hire more minorities. I happen to be the PR coordinator for a digital marketing agency, so if you need help, hit me up. Shameless plug, yes, but the help is far from it!  

Instagram has these things called hashtags that I’m told I need to widen my visibility so people can find me. The ones I use, #ootdblackgirl, #wocblogger, #youbelongnow, and #browngirlbloggershave been helpful to me for finding other WOC influencers to follow, and I’m sure you can use them to find WOC influencers for your next campaign or press trip.

Did you know there are influencer marketing agencies that have been created just for WOC??? Brown Girl Bloggers, Black Girl Digital and SHADE are a few that come to mind, but I’m sure a quick Google search will yield more results.   

But if you have no desire to use any of my tips, do me a favor? When you knowingly make the decision to exclude influencers of color from press trips, campaigns, your Instagram feed, and website, KEEP THAT SAME ENERGY when you’re called out for it! When the comments section of an IG post is lit, your DM’s are bursting at the seams with questions, and you’re the latest subject of articles discussing a lack of diversity, don’t get silent, don’t ignore, don’t give us that tired-ass “We hear you, we value you and all our customers and will do better” bullsh*t. And for the love of God, don’t delete comments (third jab’s a charm @amaryllis_apparel)! The same energy you had choosing the influencers to invite on your trip is the same energy I want you to have doing damage control by sticking to that ignorance. It’s okay to say out loud that you don’t value me, because I already see it. 

I have no idea how long this latest round of  conversations calling for “more diversity” will be a hot topic, but just know, it should always be a hot topic until it’s become reality. 

And to @amaryllis_apparel, thank you for showing me what your true colors are—or in this case, lack thereof—by deleting my comment, not responding to my concerns, or giving me the standard “We hear you, we value you and all our customers and will do better” mess. I appreciate knowing where you stand and I will happily take my money elsewhere. I mean, Target has cuter swimsuits anyway! 

Shanna (AKA Shanna) is a Richmond, VA based blogger, TV style expert and freelance PR coordinator for Sarah Olivia Marketing. Follow her on Instagram @meeandminnie where she sometimes post outfits but mostly post IG stories of her cat. 


Images: AliciaTenise / Twitter

Why You Really Shouldn’t Trust Fitness Advice From Influencers

In news that should surprise nobody, a study showed that influencers don’t know how to give proper weight loss advice. I’m not even talking about the clearly sponsored tea ads that we all know are B.S.; I’m talking about the influencers with actual weight loss blogs and recipes. Yeah, apparently even the ones who seem legit can’t be trusted. A UK study was recently presented at a conference in Glasgow that gives scientific backing to this claim that the info these influencers are selling is misleading, to say the least.

The research conducted research on the 14 most popular UK influencers with fitness blogs, and they were chosen based on the following criteria:

So here’s what happened. Of the 14, 5 didn’t make the cut because too much of the blog content didn’t relate to fitness or weight loss. The 9 remaining influencers’ blog contents were further analyzed for credibility. The research had 12 indicators that they used to quantify credibility (science will turn anything into numbers, it’s crazy). These indicators looked at transparency, proper use of other resources, trustworthiness, adherence to accepted nutritional guidelines, and bias. They were measured on a pass/fail basis, and just like in high school, 70% was the pass rate. The study found that 5 influencers did not provide evidence-based references (so, scientific studies) for their nutritional advice and they presented their opinions as facts.

The researchers also took 10 latest meal recipes from each blog and analyzed their nutritional values. These values were then compared to guidelines in the Public Health England’s “One You” calorie reduction campaign (so their version of USDA’s My Plate)  and something called UK Food Standards Agency’s Traffic Light Scheme (which sounds to me V. CONFUSING, but turns out it’s just their cute little method of labeling their food). Only three recipes met the UK’s public health criteria.

So who really passed? Just one. The passing blog is run by a degree-qualified blogger, who is also a registered nutritionist with the UK Association for Nutrition. Interestingly enough, a medical doctor did not pass. Considering that doctors are not trained in nutrition (a lot of people don’t realize this), this is not that surprising to me. The lowest scoring blog was run by an influencer with no nutritional qualifications.


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love that for us | @mf_flynn

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Now first of all, this study has an extremely small sample size. Nevertheless, the findings are still important. Let’s be real, personal trainers and nutritionists SHOULD require, at minimum, a certification course and passing a certification exam. Not all the online trainers you see will have these certifications. Better personal trainers have degrees in their field that require years of work, and better nutritionists are registered dieticians, which means they have to take the Board Exam.

As someone who has degrees in both fields, I can attest to the amount of work we do. We talk about the cycles of metabolism in deep detail. I’m talking all-nighter required levels of detail. We literally remember the glycolysis pathway with each metabolite and catalyzing enzyme, along with the byproduct of each metabolizing step. We also remember the actual chemical illustration (the hexagon looking things, you see? Yea, those). A nutritionist who knows their science should know it takes 10 steps to get a sugar molecule into usable energy for your body because they should’ve learned it in an Advanced Metabolism class (pre-requisites include organic chemistry). A personal trainer who knows their sh*t should know all about the correct ways to periodize training programs to overcome the general adaptation syndrome for their clients’ continuous progression because they should’ve learned that in Kinesiology 101, or at the very least, during their certification course.

That all too science-y? Thank you. The point is this: People cannot just start going to the gym, getting their own bodies in better shape, and start giving out advice. Not only does that put people’s health at risk, but it also demeans an entire industry. That’s like if someone who put Neosporin and a Band-aid on their cut started calling themselves a doctor.

people take one mirror pic at their local gym and swear they’re fitness influencers

— J (@oh_jdiaz) June 12, 2019

The main takeaway from this study? Be careful who you take advice from! They may have the perfect IG feed with a blue check, but that doesn’t mean they’re qualified to dole out advice. Nutrition and fitness is a field that is super scientific and specific, and it deals with your HEALTH. Always, always double check someone’s background in the field before believing what they have to say.

Images: Ayo Ogunseinde / Unsplash; dietstartstomorrow / Instagram; oh_jdiaz / Twitter

A Travel Influencer Was Accused Of Scamming Her Followers Out Of $180k

We all know 2018 has been the year of the scammer, and the gods of winter solstice have come through with one final controversial event to propel us into the new year. The alleged scammer’s name is Aggie Lal (more commonly known as @travel_inhershoes), and she popped up this December with a simple yet elegant plan that will be sure to influence your financial goals for next year. A few months ago, Aggie announced that she had created a 12-week course called “How To Grow Your Instagram,” where Aggie’s most loyal followers—called her “Master Tribe” because white women on Insta can’t be stopped—could go “behind the scenes of going from being a broke traveler to becoming a six-figure earning travel blogger.” All for the low, low price of $497.

Okay so right off that bat your bullsh*t detector should be going off. First of all, there is no need for a 12-week course on how to grow your Instagram. I will give you this course in six words: be beautiful and post thirst traps. As an added bonus, you can also be rich. Being rich is always helpful. But that’s not even really the issue. The issue is that, according to several people who signed up for Lal’s “Master Tribe” (ugh), the course didn’t deliver what was promised. I am just shocked and appalled that something I saw on Instagram might not be real!

Things started to go south when one of Lal’s students published a Medium essay called “I Was Scammed by a Celebrity Influencer” detailing their experience in the class under the pseudonym Wannabe Influencer (gotta love that honesty). Wannabe Influencer said she’d been following Lal for a long time and was “damn curious” about how she built her brand, only to find herself $500 deep into what she alleges was a scam. (For the record, I have spent $500 to have a 40-year-old man who still sleeps on a dirty floor mattress teach me improv comedy, so no judgment.) The post was picked up by Buzzfeed News, and it was all downhill from there.

Lal enrolled a casual 380 people in the “course,” meaning she made $188,860 on the sales. (Not bad for a girl with no talent.) Despite a promise of 12 weeks of instruction, Lal only ended up providing courses for six weeks. According to Lal, this lapse was due “hurdles with health” and “internet connectivity issues,” which sounds a lot like sh*t I say when I fail to show up to work for the fourth day in a row. However, Lal continued to post her regular Instagram content, which just violates the cardinal rule of playing hooky: don’t post to social media while you’re claiming to be out of commission.

But it wasn’t just the lack of classes that were a problem—members of the Master Tribe (every time I type that my fingers almost fall off) were supposed to learn “not only social media techniques” but also “photography classes,” and the “business side of things.” Unfortunately for the people who paid $500 to learn how to use an iPhone, one student described Lal’s content as “basic information you would find from a simple Google search,” and complained that the videos were “barely five minutes long.” When Lal did upload videos, some students reported her making problematic comments like “People who work at Starbucks aren’t living up to their full potential,” which is pretty rich coming from a woman who looks like a sentient pumpkin spice latte.

One of the big issues participants took with the class (apart from the fact that it’s something you bought from a random person on Instagram) happened when Lal issued a “challenge” to the class. And what was this challenge, you ask? The challenge was to post about the course to your own followers, trying to get them to sign up for the class themselves. As anyone who has ever had a friend that got too deep into LulaRoe can recognize, this has all the makings of a pyramid scheme.

This all brings us to the inevitable notes app apology, posted to Instagram in true public gaffe fashion:

View this post on Instagram

I woke up to terrible news that some of the students in my Mastertribe course felt disappointed with it. ::::: I was heartbroken because this course was my baby, which I’ve been working on since June. It took me and my team months to create almost 9 hours of video classes. I never held any information back, always being open about everything I know: including sharing my media kit, email examples, Lightroom, Photoshop and camera tutorials etc. ::::: I want to sincerely apologize from the bottom of my heart who anyone who feels like what I shared wasn’t enough. :::::: Due to some hurdles with my health and WiFi connectivity, 4 out of 66 videos didn’t get uploaded as scheduled last week. I did apologize over the weekend to the Mastertribe directly but no excuse can justify me not showing up for those who I care about thre most, my tribe. :::::: I already spoke to each Mastertriber directly and offered to anyone who felt disappointed in the whole situation a full refund (to be processed by this Sunday). :::::: I was honored that so many beautiful people joined the class and it makes me feel truly terrible that I’ve let my tribe down ???? :::: My intention has always been to inspire this community I dearly love and I would never want you to feel taken advantage of. ::::: I am closely talking with each member of the Master Tribe but wanted to let my wider community know what is going on. My goal is to support the next generation of Instagrammers by sharing learnings from my journey so far. ::::: Love always, Aggie ❤️

A post shared by AGGIE LAL ???? travel girl (@travel_inhershoes) on

Like most Insta-pologies, this didn’t exactly go as planned. Lal told BuzzFeed News she is offering “anyone who felt disappointed in the whole situation a full refund,” but disgruntled Master Tribe members flocked to the comments to tell their own stories. They claimed that Aggie had initially blocked people who asked for refunds, calling them “Bad Apples.” They also called her out for claiming she “just woke up to” news people didn’t like the class, when students had actually been reaching out for weeks. It reminds me of when I ghost a guy for six weeks because I found a guy I liked better, only for that relationship to fall through, so I hit the original guy up with an “OMG I just saw this” text.

Others just generally took issue with how the class had been run and Aggie’s characterization of people who left the class as being “unmotivated” or “not dreamers.” (Because paying $500 to have to watch a bunch of Instagram tutorials is totally the dream.)

But perhaps most damning of all, several comments pointed out that Aggie’s follower count had grown suspiciously since the news of her failed course, despite the fact that many people were actually unfollowing her. All of this points to the original sin of Instagram: buying followers (and getting caught).

Uh yeah, you think a lady who somehow finessed her way into $180k in fake “course” money wouldn’t buy followers when the going gets tough? I sure do.

Time will tell if this is truly a scam, or more of a well-meaning-but-poorly-executed blunder, so I’ll be watching closely. Aggie’s latest update is a doozy, and she swears up and down that she’s done right by the people who demanded refunds:

View this post on Instagram

????✨ ::::: I wanted to share an update with my wider community about the progress that's been made with my @MasterTribe. All students who asked have been refunded. The 300 who remained enrolled will continue to learn from me and will also receive personalized feedback. ::::: Despite my good intentions and a firm belief that what I know and shared is enough to become successful in this field, it's clear now that I could have communicated my knowledge in a more hands on manner and I have taken this as a huge learning experience. ::::: I started Master Tribe this year with the hopes of repeating the success of the first edition and providing even more value. The first @MasterTribe in 2017 produced some of the most original and admirable accounts in this space, with some of the students growing organically from a few hundred to well over 100k followers. I strongly believe that I can help current students achieve a similar success and I will put even more effort in to make sure it happens. ::::: In the meantime, I've decided to step back to restructure the way I run my page in a team of one so that I can continue to deliver quality content that so many of you enjoyed. :::: Merry Christmas, Happy Holidays and see you in the New Year. Xxx Aggie

A post shared by AGGIE LAL ???? travel girl (@travel_inhershoes) on

Maybe you really can develop a lucrative Instagram career from watching videos of one girl who’s clearly more attractive and has more access to money than most. Maybe you’ll win the lottery and not even need an Instagram account, for that matter—all things are possible. Maybe, just maybe, if she was going to produce content “in a team of one” (who’s snapping those pics, sweetie?) and charge $500 for it, she should have actually had the content ready to go when people signed up. I know, call me crazy.

The real scam, if you ask me? This bitch is NEVER wearing shoes when she travels.

Images: travel_inhershoes / Instagram (4)

It Looks Like Taylor Swift Got Perez Hilton Suspended From Twitter For The Pettiest Reason

If there are two things Taylor Swift loves, it’s her fans, and suing people. This year alone she’s sued a sexual harasser for $1, threatened to sue a blogger for calling her an “icon of white supremacists” (I mean, we’re not not saying that…), and now she’s allegedly gotten Perez Hilton suspended from Twitter because he posted a picture of the track list from Reputation, her allegedly over-hyped album that is allegedly coming out on Friday. Allegedly.

In a six minute video posted to YouTube, Perez Hilton allegedly alleges—we’re being careful because like, yes Betches is a poppin’ brand, but we don’t have T Swift lawsuit money—that shortly after receiving a “take down notice” from Taylor Swift’s team, Perez’s personal Twitter account was taken down.

So to recap: Being a Nazi = blue check on Twitter, 280 characters, RTs for days

Posting a picture of someone holding Taylor Swift’s album which will be released in two days = How dare you? Suspended. Cancelled. No tweets for you.

So like…should we be getting our legal team together for even posting this? Does the ACLU have a Taylor Swift-related hotline we can call when this type of thing happens? If they don’t, TBH, they should.

Luckily, Perez is back on Twitter now and probably learned a very valuable lesson about never doing anything that might anger Taylor Swift ever again. Either that, or she has now made a powerful enemy who will come for her with the power of a thousand fiery Suns. It’ll def be one or the other. With Taylor Swift, there is no in-between. 

Hmm…a super famous person who should have better things to do but spends all their time responding to petty nonsense on Twitter? I wonder who that reminds me of…

IDK, I’m stumped.

Update: We spoke to Perez, who confirmed that the takedown notice came from Twitter because they received a DMCA notice regarding his account. He told us, “They did not reach out to me directly.” A quick Google search reveals that a DMCA Takedown happens when content is removed from a website at the request of the owner of or the owner of the copyright of the content. In other words, even though the email didn’t come from Taylor Swift’s team directly, the DMCA notice itself still could have originated from her camp.

As far as how Perez got back on Twitter, he says, “I had to contact Twitter myself. And make my case!” Regarding the posting of the cover, he insists, “I was totally legally protected in posting the damn album back cover! Totally fair use. And newsworthy.” But still, at the end of the day, he says, “I remain a Taylor fan.” 

Read: All The People Whose Reputations Taylor Swift Tried To Ruin, In Honor Of ‘Reputation’