When Instagram launched in 2010, the term “Instagram model” interested teenagers to engage in social media. Among the thousands of beautiful girls on Instagram praying for a shot at fame, Essena O’Neill rose to the top, accumulating 600,000 followers. This level of popularity meant that Essena enjoyed a luxurious lifestyle filled with sponsorships and gifts. However, in 2015, Essena shocked the internet when she announced she is quitting social media.
Who is Essena?
When Essena created her Instagram, she just turned 15 and wanted to pursue a career in modeling. The Australian blonde bombshell immersed her life with photoshoots, extravagant vacations, and expensive clothing. All her work paid off as she earned enough money to move to Los Angeles.
Behind every Instagram post, there lies a secret. In her tearful YouTube video, she confesses:
“Taking myself off of social media is a wake-up call… to everyone that follows me. I had the dream life. I had half a million people interested in me… on Instagram… and to a lot of people, I made it. I was at the pinnacle of my success… and yet I had never been more miserable.”Essena O’Neill: “Why I Am Really Quitting Social Media”
Essena warns her viewership that she created a fake reality. She stated that all her photos were staged, and the trips she went on were centered around taking photos. She quit social media because she wants to prove her worth is not defined by her body.
The media’s reaction
All of the words that Essena expressed became a hot topic of discussion. Slowly, young women sympathized with Essena’s pain. Above all, they commended her bravery for coming out. Essena’s story opened the eyes of models online, and her impact will continue to inspire others.
Where is she today?
After her announcement, Essena set up a website, Let’s Be Game Changers, where followers can donate for her future career aspirations. However, in 2016, her website mysteriously vanished, and Essena took $10,000 in donations. Fans felt betrayed and began to call her out as a scammer.
In 2019, she appeared in YouTube creator Tiffany Ferguson’s video detailing how her life has been. She clarifies her donation controversy by saying she was young and broke. As a result, she used the donations towards charity and paying her rent.
Essena admits to Ferguson that her life has not been great since leaving Instagram. She mentions that she works multiple jobs and also takes classes to finish school. Recently, she released her project, Authority Within. The concept of her new website features her opinions and what she is currently studying.