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Insta-Girl Reveals the Blatant Truth Behind the Influencer Business: ‘I Get Paid to Promote Shit, You Should Buy It’

Sunshine Coast social media sensation Essena O’Niell is putting her high-profile status to good use and revealing all the dirty secrets, aka transactions, that go on behind the scenes of a digital influencer, content creator, or, as the 18-year-old coined it, “Someone who uses self promotion for financial gain”.

After feeding on a life full of validation via likes, followers and views, which we can only imagine would become quite addictive with over 595,000 Instagram followers and 262,000 YouTube subscribers, Essena has thrown in the towel on the “fake” life she leads and has instead deleted over 2,000 of her Insta photos and re-captioned her existing ones with the truth.

“Was paid $400 to post a dress. That’s when I had maybe 150k followers, with half a million followers, I know of many brands (with big budgets) that pay up to $2000 per post [sic],” she reveals in one post from over a year ago. “Nothing is wrong with accepting brand deals. I just think it should be known.”

Fed up with how “empty” the digital life made her feel, spending over 50 hours a week taking photos for Instagram, creating YouTube videos, responding to fan questions and basically just getting consumed by her “2D world” rather than the “3D” one we should be experiencing, Essena has decided to bin her social media and modelling career for something a little more zen.

“I was living in a system based on social approval, social status and social expectation. I was living in a system that said, ‘If you’re genetically beautiful you’re more important’. I was promoting a system that was like, ‘Hey, I have heaps of followers, I get paid to promote shit, you should buy it’,” she explained in a recent YouTube post.

Her Instagram is still active but she hasn’t posted on it for almost a week, instead wanting to focus her time and energy into a new website called “Let’s Be Game Changers” which promotes self-love.

Some would find it odd that anyone with opportunity to make bank by taking a selfie would walk way from that, but she’s being upfront about how she’ll make money moving forward. An explanation on the info section of her site reads:

“How will I make money now without YouTube, modelling, instagram paid posts? Living my values and passions is my priority, with the audience I have created over the last few years, I wish to create a platform that acts to spread new age messages of conscious living, addition to technology, minimise the celebrity culture, promote veganism, plant based nutrition, environmental awareness, social issues, gender equality, controversial art etc.”

I plan to fund this with donation based work (I want everything, every future project to be free, but with a ‘pay what you think it’s worth’ option). On top of this support, I also plan to collaborate with companies spreading the same core messages.”