Three UA students and Instagram influencers discuss their journeys with online fame
Josefyne Lentner is a UA student looking to study broadcast journalism. She is also a freelance fitness model and social media influencer with over 21,000 followers on Instagram.
Everyone is on social media nowadays. Students check Instagram, Facebook or Twitter to kill time every day of their lives.
For some, social media is more than just a way to kill time, it's a chance at fame.
The Daily Wildcat talked with three University of Arizona students who are also "Instagram Influencers" about online fame.
Sophie Cornwell is a junior from Illinois studying Spanish, communication and information science and eSociety. She's also a model signed with BMG Models Chicago.
Cornwell said she started modeling when she was three. She created her Instagram in eighth grade and began focusing on social media as a platform when she was about 16.
Now she has about 27,300 followers on Instagram, but she did not have a large following when she started. The number increased largely in the past two years.
She stated she was not sure how her account grew up so far. “It grew about 4,000 followers by freshman year of college, so that was like 4-5 years that it took,” Cornwell said. “And then once I got here, it was being in this environment and being with a bunch of new people, my following grew.”
She speculated one main reason she gained her followers so quickly is because she joined a sorority, Alpha Phi. Being in a sorority meant “100 new people are gonna follow you” every year. In addition, members of other sororities and people who follow the sorority can also follow her.
She stated that “being friends with influencers” also helped her be discovered and shared.
Another reason was the companies she has worked with. She interned this summer with a fashion company in Los Angeles as a social media marketing intern. She posted pictures to promote their products on her Instagram, which contributed her increasing social media presence.
Cornwell said that her success online was due to more than luck. She did research into what sorts of posts get the most attention.
She noticed there is a certain algorithm on social media. “If you don’t follow the right algorithm, then some of your followers won’t see your post, which is really interesting,” Cornwell said.
When she posts, especially for companies, she first clarifies the target, such as gender, age and area. She said she cares about things like how she includes her followers and what time she posts.
Cornwell said she tries many different poses and angles to make her photo unique before settling on a final image to post. She also uses an outside editing tool: VSCO.
“Everyone can take a same picture, but depending how you edit and work with it, it can turn into completely different. So, I think editing is a huge part how I make it unique,” Cornwell said.
Cornwell said she loves to be on social media, and that her dream job should be involved in social media.
Freshman Josefyne Lentner from Minnesota is also a model with 21,500 followers on Instagram, but her story differs from Cornwell.
Lentner started Instagram in her freshman year of high school as a “regular” girl. Then, a bunch of her followers recommended to her that she be a model, and she reached out model agencies in her sophomore year.
“A lot of people reached out to me on Instagram, really like ‘Oh my God, you’re so pretty, you should do modeling.' Obviously those people encouraged me,” Lentner said. “[People who recommended modeling] were friends, but there were also strangers too, because a lot of my followers are people I don’t really know”
After she started modeling, her number of followers increased. She said she became famous in her town and was often recognized when she was in public.
She was a target of bullying in high school due to the attention. Lentner said this never made her want to end her online presence.
“I think it was a good thing I had to go through that in high school because it made me a very strong person now,” Lentner said. “I truly love Instagram. I love the presence [it] brings me and how people treat me, the nice people. So, I was never like ‘I’m gonna stop because of the mean people,' because I’m not just like that.”
College made her too busy to work for modeling agency, so Lentner currently works as a freelance fitness model.
When she posts she tries a variety of styles and locations. Considering what would appeal to people is important to be viewed, according to Lentner.
“Also, I like to post what I feel … I feel [broadcasting] my life is the best some [moments]," Lentner said.
She stated she chose to come to UA because it is far from her home and she wanted to expand her possibilities.
Lentner expressed interest in broadcast journalism and stated she will declare a journalism major next semester. She expected her experience and connections will benefit her career in the future.
While getting likes on her pictures does make her happy, Lentner stated she will not get down if she does not get many likes, because getting likes on social media is not the only thing in her life.
"I’m still the same person I was when I was Instagram famous … so it doesn’t change me as a person,” Lentner said. “But getting the likes, it’s fun. It’s good to have attention, it’s fun to have attention. We all like attention.”
Andrew Edgerton is a sophomore from Flagstaff. He is also a makeup artist and beauty influencer with 28,900 followers on Instagram. He has a YouTube channel as well and has also been featured in videos for other channels, such as Refinery29.
Before finding fame on Instagram, he made comedy videos on Vine in his high school days. One of his more popular videos was a skit called “Two Moms at Brunch.” After Vine shut down, Edgerton said he lost his online popularity for a while.
Then, one short clip on Twitter and Instagram got people’s attention again. This clip was a moment when he was filming one of his YouTube make-up tutorials: his father said to him, “That look so freaking awesome.”
“I think [the video] is just a really important message for a lot of teens, especially those in LGBTQ community that don’t always have support,” Edgerton said. “There are a lot of people who have not had the same experience as me, have struggled with their parents and with friends. So to see that kinda happen, especially from a dad to their son who is wearing makeup, I think that’s really powerful.”
Edgerton started focusing on makeup two years ago. In his senior year of high school, he was watching many makeup tutorials on YouTube and realized he was interested in makeup, he just had not tried it yet. He talked to his parents, who expressed their support.
“I think it’s important for the parents to understand what they can do for their child. Having their support at home is really important,” he said.
He said he kept posting his makeup on Instagram because he likes to share his art [with] people who support and care about him. He also sometimes shared his makeup tools with his followers.
Edgerton stated he would like to make more tutorials, but currently he is too busy with his schoolwork.
He is currently a gender & women’s study major to have as many perspectives as possible. He said he has been interested in human rights study and believed the openness to diversity will help him when he works in the beauty industry.
Edgerton said his goal after graduation is to gain his online presence, go to Los Angeles or Seattle and work with brands.
“I also love how accepting both [LA and Seattle] are for LGBTQ,” Edgerton said. “Arizona is always the best, but I think the West Coast is definitely more accepting, more open and supportive.”
According to Edgerton, staying true to oneself, whether online or in person, was vital.
“I would say the most important thing is to be yourself and don’t apologize for it … just be open minded individuals, then we can all grow together.”
Follow Nagisa Tsukada on Twitter