Social media influencer Tiana Lachnit explores the highs and lows of sharing life through a lens
Mariah Klein, Contributor
Christine Wei, Illustrator
“Filming is a very lonely concept,” Tiana Lachnit says, as she attempts to sit in her makeshift filming studio. Two couches are crammed together, and she faces a ring light cast by two overhead LED lamps propped up on a desk. The room is filled with everything required to create that ‘everyday glam’ look. She steps over a makeup bag on the floor, then situates herself in front of her setup. Even though it’s only five degrees outside, she’s still wearing her pyjama shorts. Her laptop, which allows her to see if she’s centred in the camera, is mounted on 18 boxes of the Too Faced brand’s latest foundation. “I donated a bag of makeup last week,” she says. “There’s just no room for it all.”
Lachnit, a 20-year-old Vancouverite, works from home as a YouTuber and social media beauty influencer. Her YouTube channel boasts 250,000 subscribers, and she manages an Instagram account with 160,000 followers, a following she’s amassed in the past couple years. While she started as a freelance makeup artist, today, her job also encompasses photoshoots for Instagram, filming videos for YouTube and going to brand events with fellow influencers. On top of this, she’s also a full-time second-year student at Capilano University, studying Communications.
All this is orchestrated from the same small room she calls her filming studio, which is located on the top level of her family’s narrow, European-style home in Kitsilano. In the middle of filming, her mom calls from below, “Tiana, are you recording? I want to turn on the vacuum cleaner, or do you need it quiet?”
“Yeah, I need it quiet, sorry.”
Pulling up in her ’92 bright red Geo Tracker, Tiana’s glamorous life online sometimes doesn’t feel like a reality. If you were to scroll through her feed on Instagram, you might get the impression that she lives in Los Angeles, looks camera-ready 24/7, and doesn’t have a care in the world. Yet, this Vancouver native lives like a typical university student. Her Tracker was a gift from her Grandpa, her ‘studio’ is on the top level of her parents’ house, and she still has final exams to write. She’s also her own manager, financial advisor, producer and editor. “This just seems so normal to me,” she says. “You’re your own business.”
Today, according to Pixlee, a social media marketing company, the term ‘social media influencer’ refers to “a user on social media who has established credibility in a specific industry. [They have] access to a large audience and can persuade others by virtue of their authenticity and reach.” This can look differently, depending on the platform and industry, but the weight of maintaining their ‘authenticity and reach’ puts the same kind of pressure on each content creator. However, when the number one tip to growing your online platform on Vest, a social media marketing resource, revolves around “[Committing] to Posting Multiple Times Per Week,” continually pumping out content can feel exhausting and overly competitive. As more and more influencers enter the industry, maintaining your relevance is the name of the game. After a while, standing out and being heard can start to feel like shouting over a crowded room.
So what does it really take to make it in this industry? Mikayla Greenwood, a 23-year-old social media influencer with over 450k subscribers on her YouTube channel, @MissMikaylaG, has seen the highs and lows of this fast-paced business. When she hasn’t posted a video in a while, she admits to feeling bad sometimes. Since she’s been on YouTube for seven years now, she’s also figured out what works for her. “Just because you don’t post a video, doesn’t mean you’re not working, there’s always stuff behind the scenes,” she says. “You kinda get over [posting everyday], the more you [take a break], you’re like ‘it’s fine, [the followers] will be fine.’” Learning to find that balance looks different for every influencer, and for Greenwood, it means taking breaks every so often from posting, but never for very long. “I don’t think in the seven years I’ve been on YouTube, I’ve ever taken a week [long] break of doing no social media, that’s never happened.”
The average social media influencer’s job doesn’t look like the typical nine-to-five work week. From filming, editing and uploading videos, to working on brand deals, going on photoshoots and company events, the list can become tiresome. The competition is also higher than ever. With more people starting channels, and uploading every day, there’s about 400 hours of content uploaded every minute. As the numbers increase, the number of channels that actually succeed dwindles. Inc. Magazine reports that 90 per cent of viewer traffic are concentrated to just 3 per cent of YouTube channels.
When thinking of new video ideas, Lachnit asks, ‘what’s never been done before?’ With an entire community of influencers in the same category as you, there’s a lot she can compare herself with. Not only is Lachnit’s content being scrutinized, but the way she comes across is put up to the microscope of ‘fitting in’ with the social norms of each platform. “I get half of people saying I’m very monotone and very hard to listen to. I don’t have the voice people expect me to have.” Yet, on the flipside, those who do enjoy her videos, appreciate how refreshing it is for Lachnit to produce content that is authentic and no-nonsense. “If you don’t wanna watch me, don’t watch me, this is how I am,” she says.
Specific to the beauty industry on social media, appearance is literally everything for an influencer. Photoshopping every picture is the norm, whether you admit it or not. The amount of white walls, lighting and windows required to capture the ideal setup for a YouTube video might look ridiculous walking into it, but it’s necessary to achieve the perfect light. The camera focuses on your face, blurring out everything else, so you really have to get used to looking at yourself for long periods of time. Lachnit and Greenwood both experience editing and filtering their lives online. They’re never really ‘off-the-clock’ even on vacation.“It is work the entire time,” says Greenwood. “You feel pressure to take pictures all the time. You’re constantly filming and taking [photos of] things.”
After that slight interruption from her mother, Lachnit resumes filming. “Next, I’m going to be using this Peach Perfect foundation, it says it’s oil-free, but it’s not, not at all, but I really like it.” She then inspects her under-eye area, mumbling to herself, “I really need to cover these, they’re pissing me off.” She continues on with her daily makeup routine. Between applying each product, there are multiple silent pauses. She fumbles to open up a container, “I just cut this part out,” she says.