While her path to Queen of Jozi could be described as random, her staying power - 11 years as a digital content creator - is a far cry from random and from the science degree she enrolled for studied after school.
“Initially my father and I both thought I wanted to be a doctor, but then that changed to a science degree which, in my second year I realised was not my path. But I persevered and finished the degree and made my parents proud. Then I broke the news that I wanted to act,” she says.
She confesses that she did not know what she wanted to do. “But I knew I wanted to be in the arts. I grew up thinking I was going to be famous. I did not understand why we didn’t live in Hollywood.”
She began to work on TV commercials and started a small business selling fashion jewellery. “Then I met a blogger (there were no influencers) and I thought she was cool and so I “sort of fell” into the blogger thing and started my own blog."
It grew from there and with the advent of social media she moved onto these platforms. “I was doing quite well between my social media platforms, and retainer work when I got headhunted.”
This was in 2019. But she says it wasn’t an easy environment (for many reasons) and she did not have a pleasant experience, so she resigned in January 2020, just before the Covid lockdown.
But first, she travelled to Togo, West Africa as an influencer. “A week before I was due to leave, we were broken into three times - the last time we were shot at! I was highly traumatised, and I wanted to cancel, but the company had bought the tickets and arranged everything. I could not let them down.”
When she got there, she met influencers from all over the world and that was when the travel influence bug bit her.
“Then lockdown came and while I had saved money when I was working, it was scary. What did work for me was a course I attended through which I secured three clients, and this got me through lockdown, but after two bouts of Covid, I lost two of the clients and eventually the third one."
At the beginning of 2021 she had no work coming in and had used up all her savings. Then her luck changed. “In March that year, Sanlam offered me a retainer to be one of their ambassadors for a year as an influencer.” From there her influencer business and her digital agency business took off.
“The online space is a fickle one and it is easy to get lost in people praising you and loving you for all the wrong reasons. As a content creator, you must be authentic.”
She adds that having some sort of moral compass is important to her. “It helped me get campaigns and retain certain brands - really great brands. You must believe in the brands you represent.”
She mentions a shoe brand that approached her. “I had mentioned this brand to my followers multiple times, saying I think it "rocks ugly". If I now go and represent the brand, I will lose the trust of my followers. I never took up the offer.”
This has nothing to do with the brand. “An influencer has a personality online and your followers are not stupid. They remember everything, so I can't go back and do things that are out of character for me, such as working with brands I don't align with. My followers will know and not support it.”
But she says not everyone can be themselves or confident enough to be themselves.
“For me, it's blind confidence. Being an influencer is a lot of scrutiny online. As much as it comes with love and support, there is also hate so you must have a thick skin, and that’s why you really need to know who you are. You need to be authentic, but also be different and have a point of view.”
She adds you must do quality work. “There is the perception that influencers live the grand life and don’t really work. And yes, you do get to go on fabulous trips, but there is a lot more to it and harder work than people think.”
It’s not only your followers you need to please, but also the algorithm. “You must post consistently if you want your stuff to show up for TikTok and Instagram and that takes a lot of work. You must constantly be creative, and think of new idea ideas, especially with brands if you want to stand out.”
She adds that she has suffered from creative burnout several times.
“One of the problems with social media and being a content creator online is that people are so used to you posting and they want to know everything about your life and everything that you're doing and where you are, etc. That is very consuming.”
On the upside she says, you do get loads of free stuff and you get them before they come out.
“You also get to go to some really great events and travel to some amazing places – places you cannot afford and have never thought of going to - I have been overseas twice with my influencer work and both were to places I wouldn't even have dreamed of going to.”
After 11 years of working as an influencer, she says it’s validating that she is still working in this space.
“There are people who blow up after a year or two. There were many times I wanted to give up. Now I look back and I am the one standing tall."
She adds: “It’s validating that I am sort of doing something right, and it’s cool and I am really thankful for it all.”