FAKING IT (to be famous)
Irecently spent a weekend with an influencer and got a look behind the magic curtain. See that amazing post on Instagram? Pan out, and the picture looks nothing like it appears on the app. “All it takes is a little imagination, a little illusion and helluva lot of effort — and your life could appear picture-perfect on the gram,” she told me. The frame captures so much, but obscures and hides even more. Influencers are working with a very defined, very curated and very limited version of reality — it’s a reality with four sides — and any situation can be turned into a scene.
Tips I picked up from the experience: Anyone can be a photographer Enlist your child, the waitron, your work colleague, the guy who’s rolling his eyes at you while you apply yet another layer of lipstick — anyone can be instructed on how to take the perfect shot. And, with your thousands of posts, you’ve enough experience to know. Remember: that work colleague who’s inadvertently become your private snapper and quit … well, anyone is replaceable.
Any scene can look like paradise
A factory, just off shot, is belching pollution into the air; the seascape you’re shooting is laden with trash and dead sea birds? No problem, that’s the part of the image you definitely need to cut out. Zoom into what’s important — your heavily made-up or filtered face with a bit of blue (sea) or green (forest/jungle) in the background. It will always pass as unfiltered beauty. Effort, effort, effort “Infuenzers” — that’s what we used to call them. Until a newspaper colleague and I travelled with a few Instagram hotshots. Scoff at the constant selfies, giggle at the endless makeup touch-ups, snigger at the ridiculous posing — we learnt that hours of behind-the-scenes time goes into getting just the right shot, just the right look — not to mention lugging around all those outfit changes, three-hour applications of beauty products (there are unseen layers, people!) and a criminal mastermind mentality when it comes to choosing location (and what get’s removed from the scene). The client is boss Ditch any residual shame — if you’ve been sent a free product, it will appear front and centre of your account and you will love it, consume it, pose with it, make it the epicentre of your universe … until the next company sends you a product.
Showmax recently released a documentary on the subject, Fake Famous. True to influencer form, there’s a lot of mugging for the iPhone camera, or angling of faces into the reverse angle of their own devices, hustling — constant hustling — to convince you of the verisimilitude of their fake experiences. It’s a contemporary rite. Whether you make a living from it or not, most teenagers these days know how to make their lives look enviable.
“Followers are the current currency of the most important thing on Earth today,” says Nick Bilton, writer and director of Fake Famous. “What everyone seems to be obsessed with. They want to be famous.”
Fake Famous makes it abundantly clear that being an influencer can be a tedious kind of labour. It’s all smoke and mirrors — and really, how satisfying can that be?