Essentials (South Africa)

HOW SO­CIAL ME­DIA CHANGED MY LIFE

Whether it’s show­cas­ing your pas­sions or of­fer­ing ad­vice, so­cial me­dia can be a pow­er­ful tool. Th­ese three women share their per­sonal ex­pe­ri­ences

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Th­ese three women share their per­sonal ex­pe­ri­ences of how so­cial me­dia can open new op­por­tu­ni­ties

Christy Str­ever, 35, is a chef-turned-pho­tog­ra­pher who lives in Rand­burg with her brother Robin, 38. She is known in so­cial me­dia cir­cles as the ‘ Food Selfie Queen’. I’ve al­ways been a big foodie. While some peo­ple eat to live, I eat for the pure en­joy­ment of it and I put a lot of ef­fort into prep­ping meals I know I’ll love – that’s why I be­came a chef in the first place. But while I loved my job, I even­tu­ally had to give it up be­cause I started de­vel­op­ing food al­ler­gies. I be­came both gluten and lac­tose in­tol­er­ant, which made it dif­fi­cult to pre­pare a va­ri­ety of food.

In 2010, I left the food in­dus­try to pur­sue a ca­reer as a pho­tog­ra­pher. I’ve al­ways had a pas­sion for tak­ing photos – I was given a cam­era at age 10, and my brother and step­fa­ther taught me a lot about pho­tog­ra­phy while I was grow­ing up. But in 2010, lit­tle did I know that my two in­ter­ests – food and pho­tog­ra­phy – would one day be­come a killer combo in the form of my so­cial me­dia al­ter ego: Food Selfie Queen. By 2014 I’d be­come a full-time free­lance pho­tog­ra­pher.

Soc ial Me­dia Jour ney

In 2017 I stum­bled across a photo of a woman with a pineapple perched on her head and there was just some­thing about it that sparked my cre­ativ­ity. I repli­cated the image by pos­ing with a pineapple on my head and posted it on my In­sta­gram ac­count and got more than 100 likes.

I raided my fridge, and started pos­ing cre­atively and tak­ing pho­to­graphs with all the fresh pro­duce I had. I posted a

‘At the mo­ment it’s a pas­sion project, not some­thing I make money from’

photo where I had a lemon in my mouth and I’d ap­plied yel­low make-up to match, painted my face like a strawberry and posed with the fruit, made ear­rings and a neck­lace from baby but­ter­nuts, and adorned my­self in as­para­gus. Peo­ple loved it – even celebrity chef Gordon Ram­say liked and fol­lowed my ac­count! When I started, I only had 400 fol­low­ers but it’s grown to over 1 300 in a year.

When I’m in­spired, the process is easy, but some­times I need vis­ual stim­u­la­tion to get my cre­ative juices flow­ing – that’s when I go to my near­est gro­cery store to walk the aisles and look at all the fresh pro­duce to spark an idea. I get odd looks from the store staff and the other shop­pers but it’s all part of the process of find­ing my next muse.

Once I have the idea, half the bat­tle is won. I do ev­ery­thing my­self from the make-up to the light­ing and tak­ing the photo. I set up in a room at home or in front of my pas­sage wall and I take about 100 photos by us­ing a ca­ble at­tached to my cam­era .

Once I’ve cho­sen the best photo, I Pho­to­shop in a colour back­ground and do a few mi­nor touch-ups. The whole process can take me any­thing be­tween 45 min­utes and three hours. I shoot the selfies at mid­day be­cause the light­ing dur­ing that time of day is per­fect for my In­sta sto­ries. The ac­tual pic­ture­tak­ing doesn’t need lights as I have my stu­dio light­ing set up. I’m lucky to be a free­lancer with flex­i­ble hours – I don’t know how else I’d find the time.

The most chal­leng­ing selfies I have taken were the ones I did in the bath, or where I’ve had to ask friends to throw milk made from milk pow­der on me. It’s all in the name of fun and re­ceiv­ing pos­i­tive com­ments af­ter post­ing a pic­ture is what makes it worth it.

I was adorned in as­para­gus and Gordon Ram­say liked my post!

How my life has ch anged

Since my Food Selfie Queen so­cial me­dia posts have gained trac­tion, I’ve had calls from com­pa­nies ask­ing me to be their brand am­bas­sador

– I’ve even had a US restau­rant con­tact me to pose with their food. I’ve worked with some brands but at this stage I don’t make money from my selfies: it’s a pas­sion project.

Some peo­ple have said

I’m waste­ful be­cause of how I han­dle food in my posts, but I have the ut­most re­spect for food in all shapes and forms. What I don’t eat is used for com­post or fed to the birds. The food selfies are a way of ex­press­ing my love of food, and I ap­pre­ci­ate that so many of my fol­low­ers draw in­spi­ra­tion from my work. It’s nice watch­ing my fol­low­ing grow, but that’s not why I’m do­ing this; it’s for the feed­back and to in­spire cre­ativ­ity in oth­ers. I’ve learnt that when you post what resonates with you, not nec­es­sar­ily what your fol­low­ers ex­pect, you’ll at­tract the kind of au­di­ence you’re look­ing for.

✱ Fol­low Christy on In­sta­gram @christys­tr­ever ( Food Selfie Queen)

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