Who thought when Oscar Wilde talked about “immoral influence” or Shakespeare pressed on “heavenly influence” the word would one day change its meaning forever. For them, it meant concepts such as the effect of heavenly bodies on humans or invading someone’s thoughts. Etymologically, the word “influence” comes from the Latin word influere meaning in ‘into’ + fluere ‘to flow’, meaning inward flow. Today, the word is not just a verb but a career, a job description. Influencers have evaded every sphere of our life. Our decisions, choices, and style revolve around their Instagram grids. But who qualifies as an influencer? What does it mean to be an Influencer?
We can always say that Kylie Jenner and Kim Kardashian are influencers because people adapt their style. But is that all there is to being an influencer, people adapting your style? Influencing today has evolved due to the emergence of social media, especially Instagram and TikTok. Small videos of people doing things that are not that exceptional or unique become hyper-popular within hours, earning them the label of “influencer.” Popularity, then, seems to be an indicator of being an influencer. Popularity, however, is a subjective concept. One can be famous in a particular area but completely unknown in another. In order to tackle this confusion, OpenAxis decided to have conversations with people who are doing the work of social media influencing. Shaina Ahuja (@shainace) is a Fashion Influencer who has worked with famous brands like L’Oreal and Daniel Wellington. She describes an influencer as a person with high-quality content, a decent following, and confidence among many things. Does it mean that anybody with these characteristics is an influencer? No. Shaina goes on to add that Influencing is a career, and not just anyone can turn up and call themselves an influencer. They need to be genuine, committed to their audience and have a positive impact. Influencing comes with a lot of responsibilities– one needs to stand for a cause, push for positive change and engage in brand promotions.
Hiten Noonwal, (@hiten.noonwal) is a gender-fluid performing artist known for their avant-garde style and for being a Fashion educator. They have worked for Ritu Kumar before becoming an independent artist, and for them, being an influencer means self-acceptance, commitment, and being fearless. “You have to love your art and be proud of your work” are their words. Popularity, for them, is not a parameter of being an influencer, instead, it is gaining the right audience. They go on to say that self-validation is the key, and if one cannot influence themselves, they cannot influence others. Influencer then does not have a standard definition. It has layers, levels, and fields.
“Every new collaboration is an opportunity for me”Shaina Ahuja
Shaina tells us that she started her work back when she was in Grade 10 before Instagram was so popular, and TikTok never existed. She began on Facebook and today she can proudly say that her years of hard work has begun paying off.
For Hiten, the work was tougher because of their identity. Being a queer influencer in a heteronormative society is not only tough but dangerous for one’s mental and physical health. People don’t see your work or art, but your gender or sexuality first. They go on to assert, “Queer People are fierce”. To be an influencer one needs to be fierce. People will always criticize your work, art, and job, but you need to rise above those obstacles and emerge successfully.
“Queer People are fierce”Hiten Noonwal
Shaina and Hiten both agree on some common elements that one should have for being an influencer but those common elements are not as important as individuality. These common elements include commitment, consistency, quality, understanding (your audience) and above all love for your job. It is not a fairytale, and the amount of hard work required to reach the level one needs to be able to endorse brands and commercialize one’s work is breathtaking.
The conversations with Shaina and Hiten show the complexities of being an influencer and how the understanding of the word starkly differs from person to person. They both agree that posting thousands of photos, reels, and Tiktoks does not make one an influencer. One needs to understand the marketing industry, have a certain sense of panache, have good taste, and have quality in their work. One must also be ready to accept the responsibilities that are on one’s shoulders once people start following them. Above all, one must be confident, positive, and driven to achieve their goals and have a positive impact on the world.
Lakshya Sharma is a first year undergraduate student at Ashoka University. He is an economics and media studies student. Apart from his academic interests, he has keen interest in writing and fashion.
Image Credits: Thom Bradley
We publish all articles under a Creative Commons Attribution-NoDerivatives license. This means any news organisation, blog, website, newspaper or newsletter can republish our pieces for free, provided they attribute the original source (OpenAxis).