‘Influencer’ is not a dirty word.
Influencer. We all follow one, work with one, or maybe even know somebody wanting to be one. The rise of the influencer seemed to have happened overnight, with more and more brands turning to the consumer trust built through influencer campaigns in favour of traditional advertisements. However, the concept itself isn’t new at all: it dates back to the 1760s, when King George III endorsed the pottery of Josiah Wedgewood, who then used his “celebrity” endorsement to advertise and sell his products.
Today, anyone can become influential with the right skills. Although this profession is deeply beneficial to brands, the materialistic and artificial aesthetic of the influencer causes most people to scoff and roll their eyes. Some influencers are even just famous for being famous. However, there are many creators who do much more behind the lens of their perfectly staged Instagram post. Besides brand collaborations, a lot of influencers use their platform for true good. Whether that be raising awareness for important causes, having meaningful discussions with their followers, or even just posting deeply relatable, authentic content making us feel like we have an e-friend. These are the influencers who are true creators – visionaries who transform their platform into a work of art.
We’ve rounded up nine influencers who are debunking the idea that influencers are just a pretty face.
A model from Edmonton, Alberta and of Eritrean descent, Grace Mahary uses her platform to advocate for Eritrean representation in the fashion industry and raise awareness of the energy crisis in Africa. On her first trip to Eritrea in 2015, Grace found 70% of the houses did not have electricity, so people had to walk long distances to access power. Wanting to involve herself personally in fixing this energy crisis, Grace started Project Tseheigh: a non-profit initiative to bring clean, renewable energy to Eritrea. After fundraising through concerts, events, ads and utilizing her network as a model, Project Tseheigh brought solar power to the entire city of Maaya, including 101 homes, a church, a mosque and a school. Grace continues to use her platform to bring awareness to her cause and Project Tseheigh, and most recently provided solar energy to a primary school in Tanzania.
Tiffany Ima is a health and wellness influencer with a goal to help women embrace who they are through breaking down stereotypes and spreading positivity. Tiffany shows a side of weight loss and health habits that’s usually hidden. From being vocal about her past experiences with eating disorders and depression to debunking fad diets and exercise crazes, Tiffany shows her audience how to take care of themselves and live a healthy lifestyle through her content.
Paul Octavious is a Chicago-based art influencer and self-taught photographer whose content focuses on the beauty of change over time and amplifying the Black narrative. Paul’s projects are truly unique as he never views them as complete: he revisits old projects after a period of time to study how his subject has changed. Recently, Paul started the Black Archivist program, an initiative putting cameras and photography equipment into the hands of budding Black photographers through donations. By eliminating barriers and making photography accessible, Paul’s initiative allows Black people to document their own stories.
Entertaining and authentic, Ivy Chen is not only a lifestyle influencer on the Matte Talent roster, but also a style expert, mom of two, and founder of the toddler fashion brand Bébé Fête. Originally focussed on fashion, her blog Prim and Pimp and Instagram have evolved into an open and heartwarming platform sharing stories of motherhood and what it means to be a modern mom. Her blog covers a range of “sometimes serious but always funny” topics, from her experience getting fillers to her guide to achieving inner peace. Prim and Primp is a no-nonsense platform that steps away from the filters and offers genuine and relatable content. With her it-girl style and candid voice, Ivy is that “cool mom” followers look to for advice.
As a photojournalist and storyteller, Aditi Mayer is on a mission to decolonize fashion and sustainability. Not only does she share photos from her travels and tips on living a conscious lifestyle on her blog Adimay, she also posts her ongoing photojournalism work exploring sweatshops in L.A. and its ties to the undocumented working community. Aditi uses her platform and photography skills to show and dismantle the patriarchy, colonialism and imperialism in the fast fashion industry.
Monique Taylor-Yee Shui is Matte Talent’s very own crafts and DIY expert, who regularly shares her creative ideas on Cityline. Her blog, ByMeaux, authentically discusses real life issues alongside recipes, mom hacks, and DIY projects. Through her content, Monique inspires her followers to explore their creative side and provides a relatable voice for mothers everywhere. Most recently, Monique helped one couple pull off their dream wedding virtually with beautiful homemade décor on Cityline.
Jamie Windust is a non-binary model, writer, public speaker, editor known for their creative makeup looks and activism for LGBTQ+ representation in fashion, beauty and media. As the editor and founder of Fruitcake Magazine, Jaime provides an outlet for LGBTQ+ views and ideas through interviews, art, poetry and photography. Recently, Jamie has been advocating for more genders to be added to U.K. passports, and exclusively works with brands whose actions support marginalized voices.
Irene Matys is a Toronto-based foodie blogger, food stylist, and local farm-to-table advocate. Irene uses her platform to share recipes featuring fresh, local foods and emphasize the importance of shopping local. Currently, buying local produce can be more expensive than imported products, therefore creating a barrier for a majority of the population. By giving exposure to local farms, she hopes to boost its accessibility so more people can support farm-to-table eating.
It’s easy to feel intimidated by the thousands of influencers selling a “perfect life”. Their filters, FaceTune and cringey captions can leave us feeling inferior. Instead of warding off all influencers, let’s follow the ambassadors, change-makers and social gurus that are utilising Instagram to give us something to feel good about.