Remember Regina George from Mean Girls? She was the ultimate influencer. Love her or hate her, you wanted to be her. Too bad they didn’t have social media in 2004…because it was 13 years ago, only 2 months after Facebook was founded and a whole 3 years before the first iPhone debuted. Do you feel old yet?
If Regina was fictionally alive today, she would be doing pretty well for herself. The first time I learned what the top influencers are banking annually (it’s in the millions), it made me question my life choices. All they do is prance around in pretty outfits and get paid in one post what I make in a month (or year), right? HA *dies on the inside*. Of course I knew, or hoped, there was more to it, so I sat down with @Thatsotee to get the DL on the gram life.
For those who don’t follow her already, Tee (@Thatsotee) is a prominent Toronto based social media influencer/content creator/blogger. Unbeknownst to many, her career in social media isn’t her first creative venture. As a teenager she started a dance team in her basement, and managed to grow it into Markham’s primer street dance academy which still runs today under her successor. Needless to say, this woman has a knack for building an audience!
Now, with over 186K followers and counting, she is a brand and fan favourite, partnering with multi billion dollar companies while remaining true to her creative vision.
K: How was insta different back in 2015 when you started compared to present day?
T: Well after Facebook bought instagram they implemented a lot of ways that would impede your growth unless you paid into the platform. This really limits one’s ability to grow their following. When I started it wasn’t like that at all and my followers were growing exponentially. Insta used to display posts in chronological order, so if I posted at 5pm my followers who tuned in at 5:05 pm will see that post. Now posts are displayed based on how much I interact with specific follower. This means if a follower isn’t actively liking or commenting on my content, my posts get bumped down on their feed and they probably won’t see it. This in turn leads to even less engagement. You basically have to pay to get your posts screen time, especially if you’re tagged as a “business account”. So yes…completely different today. If you want to grow at a good pace, you better get ready to pay up!
K: How hard is it to make it as an influencer if you are starting out today?
T: Unless you are a blond, beautiful, fit, tan, buxom babe, it’s VERY hard.
K: When you started your IG account, did you set out to become an influencer?
T: Honestly when I started, I kept it a secret because I didn’t want to be judged by my students and friends. I loved fashion, I loved taking beautiful photos, so it as my creative outlet where I can create anything I want. I knew in the back of my mind it could become my livelihood, I’ve seen other bloggers do it, but I didn’t have any expectations. I just wanted to put myself out there and see how far it would go.
K: Would you say you are still “authentic” with all the ad’s you do?
Tee: It does get tough. Sometimes I have to turn down good paying campaigns because it just doesn’t “fit”. I like to create beautiful content that pleases my followers AND the brand I’m working with. I’m able to remain authentic that way because the content I create is still a reflection of my creative vision, regardless of what I’m promoting. Followers are smart too, and recognize when you’re being a sell out. When you lose your authenticity, your followers will peace out.
K: What advice would you give aspiring content creators and influencers?
T: Be relatable. Be authentic. The most successful influencers are also the most relatable ones. They’re genuinely nice people! You also have to love doing it. Those who do it solely for the money….after a while it shows. I always keep an open dialogue between me and my followers. I listen to what they have to say and I respond. It’s the best way to build your brand and grow your following.
K: The life of an influencer…is it as glamourours as it seems?
T: Definitely not. Don’t get me wrong, there are more pros than cons because I truly love what I do. But like every job there are some drawbacks. I can’t travel without constantly thinking about the images I need to capture. I can’t live in the moment because I’m always thinking about getting the perfect shot, so I’m always working. You get free products but it doesn’t mean much. In fact I get more product than I know what to do with, and after a while it just becomes wasteful. I work out every single day to make sure fashion sits well on me. Not that being healthy is a bad thing, but keeping your body a certain way does take its toll. Don’t get me wrong ,I don’t deprive myself. But working out everyday…who really wants to do that?
K: Ok last question! How do you define “Success”?
T: This sounds cliche but success is loving what you do. That was my mentality when I started my dance company, and when my passion for dance ran dry I let it go and pursued other passions through content creation. I can’t live doing something I don’t love. I come from parents who were both successful entrepreneurs and my three brothers are all wildly successful in their own ways. It made me realize there is more than one path to success — that you don’t need to sit at a desk all day. Not that there’s anything wrong with that. It’s just not the ONLY path. You don’t have to be making tons of money. Even if you can just get by doing something you love, that’s already success in my eyes.
This interview has been edited and condensed.