The Dangers of Online Influencers
Last week, former T4 presenter and current star of The Good Place, Jameela Jamil, turned to Twitter in anger after pop star Iggy Azalea posted an image promoting ‘flattummyco’ and their meal replacement shakes.
Azalea claimed that ‘they have gotten me more definition in my tummy without losing my ass.’ The image shows Azalea in gym clothing, with several unopened shake packets in front of her. Jamil, having suffered with eating issues in her teens and early twenties, commented on Twitter that she has had enough of celebrities who have surgery, use filters, and can afford personal trainers pretending that laxatives, appetite suppressants, and detox ‘teas’ and ‘shakes’ are the secret to their near flawless figures.
The actress tweeted, ‘when will these women who are covered in plastic surgery stop telling their followers to drink a laxative to look like them?’ She then followed this up by stating that posts such as Azalea’s are ‘embarrassing’ and ‘so encouraging of eating disordered behaviour.’ She goes on to retweet the advice of a GP that said, ‘I’ve dealt with the side effects of detox teas such as tachycardia, restlessness, decompensation of thyroid pathology, etc. Luckily those patients asked for help on time.’
Jamil’s response now has over 22 thousand likes, and 3 thousand retweets, proving that she is not the only one feeling exasperated and offended at this recent trend in celebrity advertising. After receiving such a positive response, Jamil backed up her point with images of other celebrities who’ve posted similar things, even referencing a video of Cardi B promoting detox tea. She claims that Cardi ‘probably doesn’t ever take the products she promotes… during her promotional video, she keeps looking at the name of the product on the cup…almost as if she’s never seen it.’
Here, Jamil has highlighted the deceit that comes along with celebrities and online influencers and the immense power that they have to ‘influence’ their young and most vulnerable followers. In 2018, brand deals are now a well-known source of income for YouTubers, Instagram stars and people with any form of social media presence (including celebs.) PR unboxings are incredibly popular YouTube material, and sponsored advertisements are all over social media. It’s understood that this is how influencers earn their living, but the issue that Jameela Jamil was mentioning is that the women promoting ‘teas’ that can seriously impact the physical AND mental health of buyers are not women who need to be taking every advertising job available to them. Cardi B alone has a net worth of $8 million, so in reality, she probably doesn’t need to be promoting detox teas to teenagers.
This, then, insinuates that some influencers are advertising potentially harmful supplements by choice, as Kim Kardashian chose to do with her ‘appetite suppressing lollipops’ earlier this year. Jamil also commented on that controversy, stating that it was a ‘terrible and toxic influence on young girls.’ As Jamil hinted earlier, it is well worth noting that Kim Kardashian’s figure is most definitely not achieved through lollipops or teas, and is actually a result of surgery and personal training – things which the average member of the public cannot afford.
The Advertising Standards Agency (ASA) and UK advertising code determine that advertisements must be ‘obviously identifiable marketing communications’ – therefore they must be signposted to an influencer’s followers. On Instagram, there is also the option to state whether something is a paid partnership with a brand or company. However, whilst most influencers claim to only ever advertise and work with brands whom they believe in, who have a good ethos, and whose products they actually do use in their real lives – the fact remains that there is no real way to know this for sure.
This leaves the public at risk of being deceived into purchasing items and subscriptions that they normally wouldn’t, as they believe that someone that they look up to, and by definition, are influenced by, recommend the product first-hand. This issue is then exacerbated ten-fold when it comes down to dieting and exercise recommendations and brand deals. As Jamil reveals clearly in her tweet claiming that ‘teen surgery, eating disorders and self-harm are at an all-time high.’ If this is true, then I think there is an exceedingly clear correlation between this, and the number of brand deals that influencers and celebrities are posting with companies such as the aforementioned ‘flattummyco’.
Jamil finished off her tirade of tweets against such promotions with a photograph of herself, makeup smudged, on the toilet, with the caption reading ‘every time you see a celeb or influencer post sexy diet/detox product ad… remember this picture. This is what they’re selling.’