If we remove the filters from our pictures, do without the skin-smoothing apps, and untag the designers that dress our appearance up on Instagram, what would be left and who would we see?
For many of us, social media provides audiences with an illusion of what life is like. Throw on a smile and find a caption-worthy lyric to pizzazz the images and voila! We have what appears to be a happy, fulfilled individual, free of flaws and living a life of perfection–or so we think.
I’m sure for many of you reading, this movement of hearts and likes has brought about a new, unhealthy wave of validation, with many of us living dual lives, on and off the screen. But what happens when the same person who is looked at as the influencer feels insignificant because of a façade? Social media is the new makeup line on the market and some of us are trying to remove what you think you see.
Up until this week, Essena O’Neill was a 19-year-old Aussie with a colossal following of 500,000 on Instagram, 200,000 on YouTube and 60,000 on SnapChat. That's until she woke up one day and decided to unveil the facade she was selling her followers. Spilling the beans on the real behind her most liked photos, and even deleting a few that didn’t mirror who she was off the web, O’Neill stunned thousands when she decided it was time to live more authentically. Her messages have been one of building a dedicated following and yet finding yourself lost in the masses.
Want the story? It's simple. I spent 12-16 [hours a day] wishing I could receive validation from numbers on a screen. I spent majority of my teen years being self absorbed, trying desperately to please others and feel 'enough'. Spent 16-19[hours a day] editing myself and life to be that beautiful, fitspo, positive, bright girl online. I didn't talk about topics and interests of me, nor did I pursue my childhood talent for writing. I didn't find happiness in social approval, constantly edited and shooting my life. So I decided to quit [and left] educational captions meant to raise awareness, now I want to start something important.
Noted as an Insta-celeb, the teen gave new meaning to the term "behind-the-scenes" when she made the decision to rename her Instagram account, Social Media Is Not Real Life. Shedding light on popular pics–like the one where she amassed 30,000 likes for simply showing off her same frame and a white dress–Essena O’Neill did something courageous when she edited previous captions to reflect her honest thoughts on each photo. In the aforementioned post, O’Neill revealed that she didn’t even pay for the dress and unnecessarily took numerous photos to get the right shot, feeling empty in the end.
Other edited captions unveiled how much she got paid to promote items and called for followers to evaluate just what we consider #goals, when we don’t know the intentions of doing so.
“Took over 100 in similar poses trying to make my stomach look good. Would have hardly eaten that day. Would have yelled at my sister to keep taking them until I was somewhat proud of this. Yep so totally #goals.”“Edit: I put on makeup, curled my hair, tight dress, big uncomfortable jewelry...Took over 50 shots until I got one I thought you might like. Then I edited this one selfie for ages on several apps just so I could feel some social approval from you." THERE IS NOTHING REAL ABOUT THIS. #celebrityconstruct
One heartbreaking post delves into what many mainstream supermodels have to go through, like not eating in order to maintain a flawless look in shoots, and the pressures of trying to paint life as utopia. Essena also described her life as a photo shoot every day, to paint a perfect picture for her followers–Welcome to the life of some of your favorite IG models.
Without realizing, I've spent majority of my teenage life being addicted to social media, social approval, social status, and my physical appearance. Social media, especially how I use it, isn't real. It is a system based on social approval, likes, validation in views, success in followers. It's perfectly orchestrated, self-absorbed judgement.Standing there and looking pretty, is what I once aspired to do as a young girl. In our society, if you are pretty, people give you attention. So I made my appearance my worth.
It’s through the personal revelations and honesty in her revamped move that spawned a her new site, Let’s Be Game Changers. Her aim is powerful and to go from promoting major brands, to messages that need to be heard and heeded to, O’Neill is doing something bigger than what she did before.
“...Why aren't we seeing rapid positive changes? Why isn't our youth waking up each day with a sense of undeniable empowerment to help the world or even a slight interest in global issues? It's simple, it's because we are stuck living in distractions. A 2D world. An addiction to screen life. We believe and obsess over contrived ideas, images and personalities. We live in a celebrity obsessed culture. We walk out into a shopping mall, watch a movie, turn on the TV, search the most popular people on YouTube, and what do we see? We see luxurious living, genetically blessed people, we see new clothes, sexy workout wear, tight abs, toned thighs, perfectly styled hair, painted masks, spray painted bodies. We don't see real life. This celebrity culture based largely on aesthetics has taken over our own individual lives. We talk about these people like we know them, when in reality we know next to nothing about them, their fears, their dreams, their regrets. We put them on a pedestal and enjoy throwing rocks. We like watching them struggle, we mock them, humour ourselves... yet in the same breathe we complain about how we aren't up there with them.”
It is through the thousands of comments of women wanting to be like her that she felt the need to free herself of the suffocating and increasing demand to actively share on social media. The things we give light to and endorse on our pages is one we should check ourselves on from time to time. I, for one, have been swallowed by the need to always be on Twitter, averaging over 10 hours a day last year and forgetting about what matters most in reality. For me, it wasn’t a subconscious need for approval from others, but the desire to build a brand even at the cost of losing human connection. But for millions of men and women, retweets are endorsements, likes are signs of love, and faves are signifiers of validation. O’Neill opens a door where she lets it be known that these aren’t similar sentiments for those in the spotlight. She also highlights a major factor in her success–her skin color.
[Tweet "Retweets are not endorsements and faves are not signifiers of validation"]
“Before I made myself well-known, I studied it relentlessly. My parents argue I would have spent at least 50 hours a week at this so-called hobby...My success was largely in the hands of my white privilege and genetics. I was thin, tanned, toned, blonde, with a big smile and a push-up bra.”
We live in a world where people are catapulted to stardom for “doing nothing,” and Essena is on journey to be more than just a pretty face, citing some of her photos have no substance. What message are we portraying?
For others, Essena O'Neill's recent message isn't resonating and is coated in fraudulence. A family of YouTubers–Nina, Randa, and Willie–have vocalized their thoughts on the Aussie's revelation on Insta-celebs. In their videos, “Essena O'Neill Quitting Social Media Is A Hoax” and “Essena O'Neill Is Fake,” the pair and their brother paint a picture of O'Neill as a liar and says she's doing it all for publicity. And in true social media fashion, others have followed suit, weighing in on how they don't believe any of it, seeing that she's now asking for donations to help pay rent.
Essena's response to the recent and unfortunate backlash was, “I wish they would have come to me personally, not share intimate details of my life. But this is my exact point about social media. People say gossip and rumors to avoid the real problems.” Bingo.
She was also slammed by many who built their careers off of social media, including the CEO of a company called Rise9, which specializes in helping young people and businesses build their following. In a scathing Facebook post, he wrote:
Essena O’Neill is wrong; Social Media isn't a lie.Social Media can be whatever the user desires it to be. Allowing yourself to become pressured into a false life that you're uncomfortable with is the result of your own actions and intent. The inability to define yourself, your life, your own sense of confidence comes from a lack of trying to understand yourself.
Blaming Social Media, calling it a lie, further shows your lack of attempt to understand yourself. Yes, deleting your Social Media is a step in the right direction. Disowning personal responsibility for your own happiness and shifting the blame is a step backwards.
[...]You decide to take money for a dress? That's your choice. You decide to spend hours taking the right photo? That's your choice. You decide to live a life that you feel is a lie? That is absolutely your choice.
Deciding to use Social Media as a tool to tell people Social Media is a lie contradicts that very same notion. Social Media is there to be used for the truth or for the lies. Essena O'Neil needs to find real help instead of redirecting personal responsibility towards mankind's greatest communication tool. I truly hope you do, because Social Media isn't a lie, you were the lie.
Maybe we'll find out if this is all just come big scheme to get more followers as some are arguing (but I can't see how since she's deleted all of her social media accounts including Youtube, Instagram and Snapchat). Maybe others will fall in line and realize that what she said is what's actually important. She could be doing it for the Vine or doing it for numbers, but it won't take away from the validity behind her viral messages these last few days–social media is a craze that manipulates a lot of people's minds. But folks won't admit or double-tap that.
Her message echoes one that a lot of us preach–positivity and living in our truths. It’s easy to like fantasies, but are we loving our realities? “I want to create a site with a community sense of collaboration and desire to help action change; this heavily involves individuals submitting their own game-changing work and ideas, for all of us to share and learn.”
[Tweet "It’s easy to "like" fantasies, but are we loving our realities?"]
Be the change you want to see. There are enough beautiful lies being double-tapped.
Share your thoughts with me and the xoTeam in the comment section below! Was Instagram star, Essena O'Neill's social media makeover necessary?
Exclusive: Gabrielle Union On Radical Transparency, Being Diagnosed With Perimenopause And Embracing What’s Next
Whenever Gabrielle Union graces the movie screen, she immediately commands attention. From her unforgettable scenes in films like Bring It On and Two Can Play That Game to her most recent film, in which she stars and produces Netflix’s The Perfect Find, there’s no denying that she is that girl.
Off-screen, she uses that power for good by sharing her trials and tribulations with other women in hopes of helping those who may be going through the same things or preventing them from experiencing them altogether. Recently, the Flawless by Gabrielle Union founder partnered with Clearblue to speak at the launch of their Menopause Stage Indicator, where she also shared her experience with being perimenopausal.
In a xoNecoleexclusive, the iconic actress opens up about embracing this season of her life, new projects, and overall being a “bad motherfucker.” Gabrielle reveals that she was 37 years old when she was diagnosed with perimenopause and is still going through it at 51 years old. Mayo Clinic says perimenopause “refers to the time during which your body makes the natural transition to menopause, marking the end of the reproductive years.”
“I haven't crossed over the next phase just yet, but I think part of it is when you hear any form of menopause, you automatically think of your mother or grandmother. It feels like an old-person thing, but for me, I was 37 and like not understanding what that really meant for me. And I don't think we focus so much on the word menopause without understanding that perimenopause is just the time before menopause,” she tells us.
Photo by Brian Thomas
"But you can experience a lot of the same things during that period that people talk about, that they experienced during menopause. So you could get a hot flash, you could get the weight gain, the hair loss, depression, anxiety, like all of it, mental health challenges, all of that can come, you know, at any stage of the menopausal journey and like for me, I've been in perimenopause like 13, 14 years. When you know, most doctors are like, ‘Oh, but it's usually about ten years, and I'm like, ‘Uhh, I’m still going (laughs).’”
Conversations about perimenopause, fibroids, and all the things that are associated with women’s bodies have often been considered taboo and thus not discussed publicly. However, times are changing, and thanks to the Gabrielle’s and the Tia Mowry’s, more women are having an authentic discourse about women’s health. These open discussions lead to the creation of more safe spaces and support for one another.
“I want to be in community with folks. I don't ever want to feel like I'm on an island about anything. So, if I can help create community where we are lacking, I want to be a part of that,” she says. “So, it's like there's no harm in talking about it. You know what I mean? Like, I was a bad motherfucker before perimenopause. I’m a bad motherfucker now, and I'll be a bad motherfucker after menopause. Know what I’m saying? None of that has to change. How I’m a bad motherfucker, I welcome that part of the change. I'm just getting better and stronger and more intelligent, more wise, more patient, more compassionate, more empathetic. All of that is very, very welcomed, and none of it should be scary.”
The Being Mary Jane star hasn’t been shy about her stance on therapy. If you don’t know, here’s a hint: she’s all for it, and she encourages others to try it as well. She likens therapy to dating by suggesting that you keep looking for the right therapist to match your needs. Two other essential keys to her growth are radical transparency and radical acceptance (though she admits she is still working on the latter).
"I was a bad motherfucker before perimenopause. I’m a bad motherfucker now, and I'll be a bad motherfucker after menopause. Know what I’m saying? None of that has to change. How I’m a bad motherfucker, I welcome that part of the change."
Gabrielle Union and Kaavia Union-Wade
Photo by Monica Schipper/Getty Images
“I hope that a.) you recognize that you're not alone. Seek out help and know that it's okay to be honest about what the hell is happening in your life. That's the only way that you know you can get help, and that's also the only other way that people know that you are in need if there's something going on,” she says, “because we have all these big, very wild, high expectations of people, but if they don't know what they're actually dealing with, they're always going to be failing, and you will always be disappointed. So how about just tell the truth, be transparent, and let people know where you are. So they can be of service, they can be compassionate.”
Gabrielle’s transparency is what makes her so relatable, and has so many people root for her. Whether through her TV and film projects, her memoirs, or her social media, the actress has a knack for making you feel like she’s your homegirl. Scrolling through her Instagram, you see the special moments with her family, exciting new business ventures, and jaw-dropping fashion moments. Throughout her life and career, we’ve seen her evolve in a multitude of ways. From producing films to starting a haircare line to marriage and motherhood, her journey is a story of courage and triumph. And right now, in this season, she’s asking, “What’s next?”
“This is a season of discovery and change. In a billion ways,” says the NAACP Image Award winner. “The notion of like, ‘Oh, so and so changed. They got brand new.’ I want you to be brand new. I want me to be brand new. I want us to be always constantly growing, evolving. Having more clarity, moving with different purpose, like, and all of that is for me very, very welcomed."
"I want you to be brand new. I want me to be brand new. I want us to be always constantly growing, evolving. Having more clarity, moving with different purpose, like, and all of that is for me very, very welcomed."
She continues, “So I'm just trying to figure out what's next. You know what I mean? I'm jumping into what's next. I'm excited going into what's next and new. I'm just sort of embracing all of what life has to offer.”
Look out for Gabrielle in the upcoming indie film Riff Raff, which is a crime comedy starring her and Jennifer Coolidge, and she will also produce The Idea of You, which stars Anne Hathaway.
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If you haven’t scrolled upon Olivia McDowell's TikTok famous dinner parties, you may need to reconfigure your "For You Page."
What began as a passion for hosting aesthetically themed meals for her closest friends has quickly become a viral sensation. With an astonishing 12 million viewers, women describe Olivia’s picturesque dinner parties as the “dream girls' night,” complete with classy cocktails, beautiful table settings, elegant outfits, and, most importantly, food plated to perfection.
Seemingly reigniting the feminine urge to host fancy dinner parties, Olivia has perfected the finer details. Overlooking the skyline in her beautiful NYC apartment, she never fails to make her signature handmade pasta dishes while simultaneously looking effortlessly chic in the wardrobe of dreams while doing so.
Replying to @nara0630 what should the theme of my next dinner party be? #minivlog #nycliving #dinnerpartyideas #caviarinnewyork
What I love most about hosting intimate dinners for close friends are the connections and relationships that form over food. They don't require a caviar budget with a high-rise apartment, it just takes determination and a little creativity. Watching Olivia’s journey inspires viewers to be a part of a community of positive and uplifting women who share common interests and tastes in food, fashion, and decor. Simply stated, she’s raising the bar of friendship goals.
If you’re aspiring to host a holiday-themed dinner party this season, check out the four tips that will guide you along the way.
Choose Your Theme
Replying to @emz.life.tsv what was your fav part? 🤍 hope this gives you some inspiration to host a fancy friendsgiving too! #hostingtip #dinnerparty #pastamaking
Set the ambiance with a thoughtful theme, which will indeed be your guiding light for less stress during the planning process. Establishing a theme sets the tone for everything else to fall in place, such as menus, table design, and presentation. For example, a holiday-inspired dinner party is a perfect occasion for elegant all-white decor paired with draped table cloths, pillar candles lit atop luxe holders, floating floral arrangements, and, for a personal touch, handwritten place settings.
Utilizing free resources such as Canva for menu templates and creating a “Dinner Party” moodboard via Pinterest is perfect for gathering dinner inspiration for themes, decor, and recipes for the special occasion.
Simplify the Menu
How to host your own pasta making dinner party — part 1: pasta making from scratch 🤍 Hosting dinner parties has become my favorite thing to do this year. More goes into it than you expect, the prep, planning, guestlist, tablescape, etc. but it’s always worth it in the end. What do you guys want to see next? #hostingtips #dinnerparty #pastamaking
Don’t overcomplicate the menu. A simple dinner party formula to use as your guide to making sure your guests leave full of food and joy is appetizers, salads, entrees, sides, desserts, and beverages. As a starter, assemble an aesthetic spread that your guest can nibble on while awaiting the main course with starters such as bread, cheese, jam, nuts, and fruit. A simple salad will do, complete with a light dressing right before your entree. For a main dish, pasta recipes always go a long way and also allows your guests to interact with one another, which leads to McDowell's third dinner party hosting tip.
Include an Interactive Element
Replying to @itstai.tv 🖤 #girlhood
To break the ice and encourage guests to get to know one another, introduce interactive elements to the evening. Moments of interaction allow everyone to connect, like capturing content for social media or memorializing the essence of the night through fun Polaroids. Olivia also encourages her guests to participate in the pasta-making dinner process as a group, or if hosting a brunch, her friends indulge in building their own coffee bar as an opportunity for forming connections and conversation starters. Group board or card games are also great for laughs and healthy competition to help get the vibes flowing.
Don’t Forget the Dress code
Replying to @samantha_mendiz when all of your friends are the main character 🖤🥂 #dinnerparty #nycfashion
Tis’ the season for glamour and sparkles, so why not go all out with a super chic dress code? You can’t have a picture-perfect holiday dinner party without the coordinating attire to match. When planning, make sure to make the required attire specific yet broad enough for a range of personalities and preferences to comfortably partake while looking stunning doing so.
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Featured image by Justin Lambert/Getty Images