Art & Culture - 09/14/18

The Girl Next Door to Follow

Written by Catherine C

What began as an exercise sharing selfies with her friends has become a business amassing over 600,000 followers on Instagram. Kimi Ji tells us what it’s like to be one of Taiwan’s most popular influencers.

Though few outside of Asia may have heard of Kimi Ji, whose handle is @eatzzz7 on Instagram, she is anything but under the radar. Aged 23, she has nearly 230,000 followers on Facebook and boasts more than 600,000 followers on Instagram. Regarded as one of the earliest influencers in Taiwan, she tells us how it works and what it feels like.

In the pre-Facebook era of the mid-2000s, Kimi was already active on the social media site Wretch (a Taiwanese counterpart to Myspace). She transitioned to Facebook during her teenage years, using it to share selfies and anecdotes with her friends. This all turned into something more, when, at 17, she was asked to model for a line of Japanese-styled hairpieces and wigs, which immediately propelled her to fame amongst young students. At her peak, it was reported that one out of three middle-school-aged girls in Taiwan was following Kimi on social media.

Despite this sudden influx of fans, Kimi didn’t think of social media as a career at first, more as a fun hobby. It was early days on the influencer scene, and when brands first approached her to collaborate, she didn’t even think of monetising her feed. But, as Kimi’s career started to take shape, so did the influencer industry. Due to the meteoric rise of social media platforms in recent years, especially Instagram (in June, 2018 the platform hit one billion users), influencers with large followings can now earn truly significant incomes by creating and posting content featuring products from a wide range of companies, including everything from vitamins to running shoes. This form of advertising has reportedly grown into a billion dollar industry in itself, with no signs of slowing. Kimi is currently working with a dozen or so brands. Scroll through her feed and you’ll see her modelling the latest line of Guerlain lipsticks, having fun with other influencers at a yacht party hosted by Nivea and posing with a Levi’s tote bag printed with her username. Scroll further down and you’ll find guest appearances from MAC to Bobbi Brown, Glam Glow to Innisfree, even Adidas and Marc Jacobs.

However, it isn’t all glossy shots and freebies. Behind the photos is a story of constant pressure and competition as others flock to her field. “If you never change, your fans will get tired of your content and think, ‘Oh, these are the only things you talk about and share’,” says Kimi. “You really have to put a lot of thought into whether your fans will want to see the photos you’re creating, and whether they will support the products you present. I think this is one of the more stressful parts of being an influencer.” In addition, there is the constant presence of online trolls – something Instagram does little to moderate. “When I was young, I would reply to them directly, saying things like “Does this concern you?” she recalls.

Going forward, Kimi is still set on reaping the rewards her followers have won her. Her sights are set next on a Youtube channel to provide more varied content – as she herself says, you have to keep evolving, otherwise, you’re yesterday’s news. Her parting advice for budding influencers is something she has upheld herself: “As long as you are yourself, and treat your fans with sincerity, I think you will succeed.”

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