With the unstoppable ascent of TikTok and other social media platforms during the course of the pandemic, the number of influencers online has grown exponentially. Whilst this increased accessibility has been beneficial in some respects – for example, in improving diversity – I believe it has also allowed a lot of the wrong sort of individuals to rise to stardom. As someone who is constantly scrolling through various digital feeds on my phone (yes, my screen time is up to an absurd amount of hours), I feel as though I have managed to filter through the mass of dirt to find some real gems – listed below are my top five influencers from the US that I think everybody should be following. Hopefully, some – if not all – of these recommendations will not only be entertaining, but actually useful in one way or another.
Hyram Yarbro (@skincarebyhyram)
Undeniably, the biggest name on this list is the Hawaiian-based skincare influencer: Hyram Yarbro. With over 11 million followers from across the globe and having had a series of positive articles written about his work by big publications – such as Vogue and The New York Times, to name a few – Hyram has built up a flawless reputation as ‘the content creator who can make or break a skin care brand’. Although his career began on YouTube with general skincare product reviews, Hyram shot to fame on TikTok with his hilariously harsh but fair video analyses of celebrity skincare routines. Since then, he has been able to launch his own line of skincare products under the name Selfless by Hyram. Not only is this business venture ethical in its use of natural ingredients that actually care for customers’ skin, but also ‘every product purchased helps to provide clean drinking water or protect tropical forests from deforestation’, which contributes to Hyram’s push for environmental activism. Perhaps if it had not been for lockdown and everybody’s subsequent obsession with self-care and glow-ups, Hyram would have forever remained a small content creator; however, I think that his soft-spoken savagery, effortless charm and genuine commitment to the truth behind skincare brands meant he was always destined for greater things.
Remi Bader (@remibader)
If one beneficial thing has come out of this pandemic, it would have to be the upsurge of the body positivity movement. Aside from A-list celebrities finally being honest about their bodies – take, for example, the photograph of Will Smith being ‘in the worst shape of [his] life’ going viral – mid and plus-size models have taken social media by storm, promoting an alternative standard of beauty that is inclusive of all. One such individual is the New York City based curve model Remi Bader, who became an overnight sensation after posting a series of realistic reviews of clothing hauls from big brands, such as Zara, Nasty Gal and Pretty Little Thing. What makes Bader unique is her complete honesty when reviewing items. Her witty bluntness, knowing facial expressions and the way in which she comically distorts her physical body language to imitate that of the online model pictures is so refreshing to see in a world that is usually dominated by Instagram filters, specifically posed positions and deceitful brand ambassadors. Another part of this honesty comes through Remi’s vulnerability. I think a lot of the time, plus-size models feel the need to emanate confidence at every given moment, even if they do not necessarily feel that way, in order to prove that they do not care about what the mainstream dictates. Bader does not do this, because she knows that it is not realistic; instead, she has used her platform to be open about her struggles with mental health and how she has had to overcome various barriers to her self-confidence. If you are fed up with the fake influencers out there, I highly recommend following Remi Bader.
Wisdom Kaye (@wisdm)
Cited by Vogue as ‘the best-dressed guy on TikTok’, Wisdom Kaye has amassed over 7.4 million followers on that single app alone. If that was not impressive enough, the Houston-based fashion influencer has achieved all of this at the mere age of 20 years old, and it is not hard to see why. From the extremely high-quality production of his videos, which include cleanly-timed zoom-ins and sleekly-animated graphics, to the actual composition of his haute couture outfits, anybody would think that all of his content comes from professional shoots; however, this is not the case at all, with Kaye creating, directing and filming as an amateur, often in local parking lots or against a white wall in his family home. What is incredible is that although Wisdom has somehow harnessed this unbelievable level of expertise, he is an extremely humble person. Not only does this come through his interviews, but also in the way he interacts with his following – much of Kaye’s inspiration for his videos is drawn from his fans, whether it be the comment sections challenging him with certain tasks, such as making wild colour combinations look fashionable, or him starting and participating in trends that anybody can get involved with, including the #voguechallenge which saw users making magazine covers with their own photographs. Perhaps the most interesting thing about Wisdom’s style is its androgynous nature – he is not afraid to mix typically masculine pieces with more feminine items, and this particularly came to light with his famous heeled boots. There are not many male fashion influencers online and even those out there do not appear to have the same unique, creative talent as Wisdom Kaye.
Nabela Noor (@nabela)
I have never been a fan of lifestyle influencers. More often than not, they portray a romanticised, rose-tinted view of their lives that is not truly reflective of what they do on a daily basis. However, Nabela Noor is an exception to this criticism. At first, her crisp, bright white interior design and perfectly organised kitchen seem overly staged and quite alienating to the average slob like me; however, after watching some of her videos and listening to her speak, it becomes clear that the way she lives is a clear result of her mindset. As can be read and seen in her picture book Beautifully Me, Noor holistically and wholeheartedly adopted the philosophy of self-love, learning to unapologetically be herself despite any adversity, which is something she has often encountered in her life as a plus-size woman and first-generation Bangladeshi-American immigrant. My favourite videos from Nabela are the ‘Pockets of Peace’ that she records for her TikTok page. In an interview with Elle, she describes them as ‘those little moments of goodness in each day’ and even though they are usually just short clips of her making a coffee or having a shower, they are so aesthetically pleasing and relaxing to watch. Furthermore, Nabela has recently released the news that she is expecting and although I do not know this woman in the slightest, I cannot help but wish her and her husband the best as the world follows the journey of their rainbow pregnancy.
Emily Mariko (@emilymariko)
The second lifestyle influencer (yes, another one!) I have grown to love is Emily Mariko. If that name means nothing to you, I am almost certain you will have heard of the ‘salmon and rice girl’ that has taken TikTok by storm. Based in the Bay Area of California, the millennial star has been dubbed as ‘that girl’ with her unbelievably clean and healthy way of living. Not only this, but Mariko willingly eats greens, is a graduate of the Ivy League Columbia University and is in a happy long-term relationship in which she has recently got engaged. Despite beginning on YouTube with general lifestyle videos, Emily gained her millions of followers from her food and cooking clips on TikTok, which are popular for the ASMR sounds as well as the care and attention she puts into her meals – this is clearly evident from her cheeky smirking facial expressions and the yearning way she looks at her food before eating it. Mariko has definitely been a source of inspiration for many young girls across the world who have recreated her recipes and tried to imitate her gym-set wearing lifestyle, and, to be candid, there have been moments of jealousy from my end where I myself have attempted to live her life vicariously through my phone screen, but I suppose in a way that is what the core responsibility of being an influencer is about. Whether she actually motivates you into getting your life together or just makes you sit and watch in awe, Emily Mariko is absolutely worth following.
See also: The top five UK influencers to follow