This is what the life of an influencer is really like
For a lot of young people, the dream is to become an influencer. While I grew up harbouring hopes of being a football player or rock star, today's kids want to be vloggers and influencers.
It would be fair to say that in this vain, social media obsessed world that we're currently living in, finding validation and popularity online is the end goal for a worrying amount of people.
However, despite my cynicism and scepticism toward social media, I don't house any negative feeling towards the influencers that use it to make money. In fact, I find them fascinating. And, given that none of us really know what it's like to be one, I thought I'd find out myself.
Say hello to Kashira Whiteley, a 26-year-old influencer from southern Spain. Kashira's following boomed to 500,000 overnight after she starred in a prank video online.
The video, in which she walks past men wearing a small pair of shorts, was meant to shed light on the treatment of women in public spaces in a non-confrontational and comedic manner. However, Kashira said that she feels as if "it went over a lot of people's heads".
The video went viral and Kashira came a bit of an overnight sensation. Speaking exclusively to VT, Kashira says that this was something that she initially struggled to deal with:
"I never imagined the video would blow up the way it did, much less than I would as a result of it. It's been a pretty wild experience. I felt a lot of pressure initially to be 'insta perfect' which I'm not and don't think I ever will be."
The personal trainer and life coach says that she had always seen her Instagram as "a safe space where I shared my gym progress and ups and downs in life, much like a diary but online and public," and that the arrival of hundreds of thousands of people made her feel "very exposed and vulnerable."
Despite this, Kashira is grateful for her followers and the opportunities that they have allowed her to have: "I feel very humbled that people care what I have to say and so grateful for the opportunities that have come my way as a result of social media and ultimately the good folk that follow me."
While she makes a certain degree of her revenue off of the back of her Instagram account, Kashira says that most of her money comes from her work outside of social media. She is also keen to change the misconceptions of influencers, with plenty of people thinking they live an easy life of luxury and extravagance.
"I think one of the biggest misconceptions about influencers is that it's an easy job. It isn't.
"Most influencers I know work much longer hours than a 9-5. It's a 7-day-a-week job and nothing happens if you don't work for it. You are your entire business. Influencers just trade in less work hours for doing what they truly love and following their passion.
"Don't get me wrong, it's an incredible job, I think we all feel very lucky but it's not as easy as many assume. Success isn't guaranteed no matter how big your following is.
"It's also a very emotionally demanding job, you are your brand and if people criticise you or your work it's hard not to take it personally. Most of us pour our heart and soul into anything we create and the products we offer.
"You're also sharing a lot of your personal life, feelings, thoughts with thousands of people. You have to be incredibly vulnerable to connect with a large audience on a personal level."
The concept of putting your heart and soul into the job is something that is evident across Kashira's profile. A few months ago, she took a step back from social media and came back with a new sense of direction. Kashira's whole brand changed and she now focuses on mental health and mindfulness:
"That's always been me and what I'm about. I think at first I was more worried about posting what I thought people wanted to see but if I can't be completely truthful or post what I'm really passionate about I don't think anyone benefits from that.
"It began to make me miserable, what I've shared online has always been me and true to who I am but I felt I was only expressing a small edited version of myself.
"If I'm not truly invested in my page and my business I'm not going to provide true value to my people. I also think my page will always evolve as I do, I ain't getting any younger!
The change of direction meant that Kashria lost quite a few followers along the way. However, staying true to her strong beliefs, the 26-year-old hasn't let that faze her:
"My followers have decreased quite drastically since I changed my content but I feel at the same time those that have stayed and newcomers are more engaged with what I'm saying rather than just how I look and I'm happier.
"I feel closer to my followers by really being my whole self with them. I'd rather have a smaller tribe that's on my vibe."
In terms of the next step in Kashira's young career, she is hoping to take her message of positivity and run with it.
"I've always wanted to do work that brings value to others, I'm a strong believer in the butterfly effect and, as cheesy as it sounds, I think if you share and create positivity in your own little bubble of the world it will ripple outwards and get bigger and bigger. Social media just means my bubble is larger to begin with.
"That goal is still true for me, I want to create a successful business that gives me joy and feeds my passion while helping others. Then I want to teach them how to do it too."
Kashira's story shows that, despite what it may seem, influencers still struggle with the pressures of society like the rest of us. Her bravery in carving her own path, when she could have kept posting popular content for likes, should be applauded. It's easy to judge influencers and social media as having a detrimental effect on the world, but, the more people like Kashira - and other influencers - the better it will be.