Goodbye filter, hello #lifegoals. Sally Howard meets some members of the digital community that are using their influence for good.
Feted as entrepreneurs, slated as vapid capitalists, influencers are the men and women of the moment. In their upper ranks, these digital celebrities, who include Instagrammers, YouTube stars and all five Kardashian sisters, command hundreds of millions of followers who hang on their every word – and lipstick endorsement. And influencers have growing clout IRL (in real life), too. In January 2019, a British city was brought to a standstill when tens of thousands of teen followers turned out for a 30-second appearance by New York beauty YouTuber James Charles. In 2018, Snapchat’s value dropped by $1.3 billion dollars after Kylie Jenner referred to the social media platform as ‘sad’ in a fleeting tweet.
Now that the influencersphere is coming of age, killer eyebrows and a nice line in streetwear are no longer sufficient to clock up tens of millions of likes. Enter the new generation of ethical influencers, who are making a bid to save the planet and bolster followers’ self-esteem rather simply lighten our bank balance. They include body-positivity bloggers, zero waste advocates and – Baku’s favourite – a tattooed social campaigner from Siberia.
Girl Zero, Manuela Baron @thegirlgonegreen
Colombian American Manuela Brown was inspired to pursue a vegan, low-waste lifestyle by witnessing the ‘gross’ plastic waste bobbing on the seashore during her daily sunset runs as a Florida college student. The 23-year-old treats her 40k Instagram and YouTube followers to advice on everyday eco hacks, from making natural cosmetics, to batch-cooking tasty meals to eat on the go and making art from trash. Don’t bug Baron for product recommendations, though. “Refuse, reduce, recycle, rot!” is @girlgonegreen’s cheery mantra.
The Rebel With A Cause @sashadidntwakeup
Instagram doesn’t get more #feels than Siberian-born, St Petersburg-based male model Sasha Trautvein. The heavily-tattooed 22-year-old has quarter of a million followers and is an advocate for a more expansive view of beauty. His posts tackle social issues from rural unemployment to Russian machismo, as well as coming clean about his personal struggles as a young man born in Siberia in the aftermath of the USSR. The tattoo inked under his eye reads ‘wake up’ and is a message to our late-capitalist world. “And also because, as you will see from my eyes, I don’t get much sleep!” Trautvein points out.
The Body Positive Yogi, @mynameisjessamyn
African-American body-positive yogi Jessamyn Stanley has no truck with the world of $100 yoga pants. Think “how do I feel?” rather than “how do I look?” the 31-year-old schools the half-million followers of her YouTube channel and Instagram feed, where she celebrates a yoga practice that’s for all shapes of body, as well as offering tongue-in-cheek (tongue-in-tweek?) twerk shots to celebrate her own fabulous derriere.
View this post on Instagram
The African Feminist Activist, @yagazieemezi
Self-taught photojournalist Yagazie Emezi, 29, turns her lens on the pressing social, women’s and ecological issues in her native Nigeria and across the African continent. In current projects, she documents the education of girls in at-risk communities in Liberia and explores how trauma survivors with serious scarring ‘relearn’ their bodies. With 200 thousand followers, Emezi’s Instagram and Twitter feeds feature these projects, alongside luxurious shots of African natural landscapes and wildlife “This is #everydayAfrica, our changing home,” Emezi says.
The Fair Fashionista @mariana_nichifor
Moscow-based lawyer Mariana Nichifor is garnering a global following for her curated takes on the best in responsibly-sourced street fashion, be it with an eye to ecology or fair employment practices. Nichifor’s current hot tips include a rope shopping bag made from recycled fishing nets and one-off pieces made from upcycled fabrics. “Conscious consumption is the most important task of my generation; and humanity,” the 26-year-old says.
Images courtesy of @girlgonegreen, @sahsadidntwakeup, @mynameisjessamyn, @yagazieemezi and @mariana_nichifor