Being an influencer is hard work. Achieving and sustaining the life of an influencer doesn’t only inspire a large aspiring pool, but also electrifies them to curate an image unique from anyone else’s while courting followers, especially sponsorships. One of these approaches is standing out to your followers by sharing your faith. Two influencers openly identify as members of The Church of the Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. What’s important for them is being as authentic as possible.
Jane Williamson agrees with being described as an influencer. “I have always loved photography, writing and fashion,” she said. “So I decided to combine my three loves and start my passion. I never thought it would turn into my dream job one day.”
Her Instagram handle, @janeinsane_, has around 24,000 followers. A portion of her profile tag line reads “I’m a cool mom.” She posts a lot about her recent foray into motherhood, detailing her journey as thorough and aesthetically lush as possible throughout her posts. “Creating content is no joke as a new mom,” Williamson said. Also on her page are travel photographs, images of her cozying up with a mug and a slew of ad-supported posts, featuring brands such as Aeropostale, Conair and various maternity companies.
The impression she wants newcomers or followers to leave with after scrolling through her page is seeing that ”My content is happy, humorous and relatable. I never want to be the ‘average’ influencer that Instagram happens to be very saturated with,” she said. Sharing raw, unmanicured moments which reveal her “weird, quirky” personality and sense of humor to relate with her followers is crucial for Williamson.
Her relationship with the church and their teachings inform her outlook on social media. Dressing modestly guides her, as does having Heavenly Father as one of the three most important people in her life (her baby and husband are the others).
A 2017 article called “Why Mormon Women are So Prevalent in the Beauty Industry” was published in Allure magazine, a publication dedicated to covering the evolving sphere of beauty. Detailing possible theories of why this growing representation is heading the field of influencers, they look to popular Latter-day Saint literature, citing “For the Strength of the Youth,” a pamphlet covering the dimensions of church living and doctrine in an approachable manner for young members.
One of the sections outlined in the article is dedicated to the upkeep of personal appearance and the importance of doing so. “Your body is sacred,” the introduction of the section reads. “Respect it and do not defile it in any way. Through your dress and appearance, you can show that you know how precious your body is.”
When asked about this, Williamson agreed with it. “I love that! I definitely believe it. As a Latter-day Saint, I believe that many of us have an eternal perspective and keep that in mind in what we say or do,” she said.
Kathryn Williams is a freshman at the U, majoring in political science. She is a member of the church and follows influencers who are also members on Instagram, naming @caraloren as an example, an influencer with around 1 million followers. She thinks the church stressing the value of maintaining their visage and dress can be connected with a large amount of Latter-day Saint influencers.
“It encourages members [to believe] that appearance is really important to upkeep and stuff like that, and sort of that is translated as maybe I can make a living while taking care of my kids,” Williams said. She explained that family is a central priority for members. With the potential to earn an income by featuring your family on a platform, along with opportunities for distinct branding, it makes sense for a female church member to try becoming an influencer.
Jesse Espinosa also agrees that the church teachings help to answer the insurgence of Latter-day Saint influencers. “There’s a light about me, or like, I’m just constantly happy,” she said. “I think it’s because we do have the gospel in our life — and so we want to share that.”
Espinosa is a 22-year-old YouTuber and posts videos of her speaking to her followers on a weekly basis on her channel. Also known as SundayJess, she entered the platform after spending 12 hours in a car watching videos. “I got frustrated with not relating to any of the people I watched on YouTube,” she said, pointing out how frequent clothing videos didn’t align with principles of modesty. Feeling inspired to create content that gives advice for young girls interested in fashion or relatable topics that wouldn’t compromise their religious or personal values, she launched her channel.
Espinosa has almost 4,000 followers and can already claim a sleeve of former and upcoming sponsorships, working with companies such as Preserve a Mission, Macy’s and Sora Bella, some of which are geared towards Latter-day Saint customers.
She posts videos that almost exclusively center around Latter-day Saint subjects, with titles like “Modest Shopping in Milan, Italy” or “Fitness Tips for LDS Missionaries.” Topics like how to mark your Book of Mormon, dating as a Latter-day Saint and even tips on transitioning into garments are discussed on Espinosa’s channel.
Her viewer demographics are mainly female and between the ages of 13 and 30. She said that aside from those who identify with the church, a healthy amount of non-denominational Christians also take up residence at her channel. Espinosa describes her personality in videos as “a big sister giving advice”.
Due to her sudden and expanding fame, she has been offered a job based in Provo that focuses on social media analytics. She has also returned to Utah Valley University, studying journalism. Espinosa wants to hit 10,000 followers this year, write a book in the near future and get into public speaking. Overall though, she wants to make sure her fans know “it’s okay to be different because of your beliefs.”
This article is part of the Poynter College Media Project. Click here for more stories and information on the topic “Are U Mormon?”