Essena O'Neill boasts 605,000+ followers on Instagram, and her vast audience has helped her earn an untold fortune in advertisement loot. But now she's pulling the plug on her digital empire because she's ready to walk away from the false image she's been portraying online, and finally present the "real" Essena to the world.
The Instagram star, whose bounty of beach selfies and mini-fashion shoots have earned her double taps and endorsements galore, has spoken up about her decision to quit social media altogether -- and her story about the underbelly of being an online sensation is pretty shocking indeed.
Essena went back through her portfolio of pics and edited the caps to reflect the *real* story behind each of them.
This photo, for example, took 50 takes to perfect.
"I put on makeup, curled my hair, tight dress, big uncomfortable jewellery... Took over 50 shots until I got one I thought you might like, then I edited this one selfie for ages on several apps- just so I could feel some social approval from you. THERE IS NOTHING REAL ABOUT THIS," Essena re-capped the image.
And there's nothing candid about this one.
"This is what I like to call a perfectly contrived candid shot. Nothing is candid about this. While yes going for a morning jog and ocean swim before school was fun, I felt the strong desire to pose with my thighs just apart #thighgap boobs pushed up #vsdoublepaddingtop and face away because obviously my body is my most likeable asset," she wrote.
This one? 100% staged for cash.
"Not real life. Only reason we went to the beach this morning was to shoot these bikinis because the company paid me and also I looked good to society's current standards," O'Neill explained about the shot. "I thought I was helping young girls get fit and healthy. But I only realised at 19 that placing any amount of self worth on your physical form is so limiting! I could have been writing, exploring, playing, anything beautiful and real... Not trying to validate my worth through a bikini shot with no substance." PREACH.
And on and on the truthbombs fling throughout her feed as she lays down some real talk about the Insta-industry.
Essena also launched a website to further explore the problematic industry of selling selfies and challenged her fans to go a week without with social media interactions, saying that her "whole life changed" when she did exactly that.
"I finally woke up. I saw more, I listened more, I had more time, I found myself becoming more and more creative, less stressed, happier and with this new sense of power.... but most of all I just FELT MORE. I want you to feel this too. It's so beautiful. It's real," she wrote on her site.
Being constantly attuned to her virtual image -- including the amount of likes, comments and offers that came along with every upload -- completely "SUFFOCATED" her.
"I can't tell you how free I feel without social media. Never again will I let a number define me," Essena O'Neill wrote. "I would just spend hours looking at everyone else's perfect lives and I strived to make mine look just as good... Guess I succeeded. It's totally stupid. Everyone's doing it. And I know you didn't come into this world just wanting to fit in and get by."
Watch Essena explain her decision to remove herself from social media altogether in this video she titled simply, "The Truth."