Ex-Instagram Star Essena O'Neill Calls Out 'Fake' Social Media Relationships

Corinne Redfern and Deborah Cicurel

The Aussie 'fitspo' blogger and Instagram 'influencer' Essena O'Neill has just dropped another huge bombshell



Last October, Australian blogger and 'fitspiration' star Essena ONeill, 18, shocked the blogging industry by revealing the truth behind her 'perfect' lifestyle - and now she's dropped another bombshell.

Essena has called out social media couples for being 'fake', saying many famous relationships are constructed just to make money, and that she was approached to be one half of a fictional couple herself.

Essena revealed she was approached by a 'famous supermodel' who kept commenting on her pictures, saying 'he was the most good looking person I'd ever seen - I had no idea that type of superficial beauty would ever like me or be interested me and he had over one million followers on Instagram. I wanted love and something real, I think everyone wants that.

'He ended up calling me for four hours and he was really funny and really nice and really sweet. He sent me a ridiculous amount of selfies, which again should have been a turn off, and he asked to see a good night pic from me.

'My skin was not great so I put on a really thin layer of foundation and I took a whole heap of selfies and I ended up sending him this stupid one because I just thought the whole process was so stupid I didn’t understand why he wanted a goodnight selfie.'

The supermodel then suggested the pair should get together as they would get more likes and followers - in other words it would 'go crazy'.

'He referred to other couples that had been doing it; he said we’d have all this free travel and that if we became a couple we’d both bump up our followers and we could make YouTube videos and get heaps of money,' she added. 'He said in the industry it's not unheard of to do this, that it's actually really smart and that I should think about it seriously as a business proposal - so here I am, 18, in Thailand and this A-class supermodel wants to propose a business deal and that is an online relationship.

'It really shocked me realising that this person was only pursuing me because I had a heap of followers, I had a somewhat carefree personality online and I looked beautiful in pictures. I don't think this is love - I want to focus on being myself and having someone love me for who's inside.

'This is behind the images of a series of selfies I took to impress some supermodel that wanted to have an online relationship and I quote "make millions the first year".'

Watch Essena dropping the bombshell in the video below...



Until last week, Essena had over 600,000 Instagram followers. She could make over £1000 per post, simply by wearing branded products in her selfies. Day in and day out, her fans told her she was beautiful - that they wished they looked like her, that they were jealous of her lifestyle, her body and her clothes.

But on the 27th October, Essena decided she'd had enough. She deleted over 2000 photos which 'served no real purpose', and began the laborious task of recaptioning the ones that remained - to reveal the 'truth' behind the pictures.

One caption (originally stating: 'Things are getting pretty wild at my house. Maths B and English in the sun,') was  edited to 'Stomach sucked in, strategic pose, pushed up boobs. I just want younger girls to know this isn’t candid life, or cool or inspirational. It’s contrived perfection made to get attention.'

Essena has now launched a new site - Let's Be Game Changers - where she plans to continue debunking the social media myth, and talking honestly about what it means to live an authentic, real life - far away from Instagram likes and Twitter retweets.



'We are stuck living in distractions,' she explains. 'A 2D world. An addiction to screen life. We believe and obsess over contrived ideas, images and personalities. We live in a celebrity obsessed culture. We walk out into a shopping mall, watch a movie, turn on the TV, search the most popular people on YouTube, and what do we see? We see luxurious living, genetically blessed people, we see new clothes, sexy workout wear, tight abs, toned thighs, perfectly styled hair, painted masks, spray painted bodies. We don't see real life. This celebrity culture based largely on aesthetics has taken over our own individual lives. We talk about these people like we know them, when in reality we know next to nothing about them, their fears, their dreams, their regrets. We put them on a pedestal and enjoy throwing rocks. We like watching them struggle, we mock them, humour ourselves... yet in the same breathe we complain about how we aren't up there with them.'

'I didn't live in the real world, I lived through screens. And I created a celebrity construct of myself, believing it would bring me happiness. That couldn't be further away from the truth.'

She's continuing to work her way through her past photos, revealing which images she was paid for (and how much), how many tries they took to get right, and how she was really feeling at the time. 


Was paid $400 to post a dress. That's when I had maybe 150k followers, with half a million followers, I know of many online brands (with big budgets) that pay up to $2000 per post. Nothing is wrong with accepting brand deals. I just think it should be known. This photo had no substance, it was not of ethical manufacturing (I was uneducated at the time). SOCIAL MEDIA IS NOT REAL is my point. Be aware what people promote, ask yourself, what's their intention behind the photo?


NOT REAL LIFE - took over 100 in similar poses trying to make my stomach look good. Would have hardly eaten that day. Would have yelled at my little sister to keep taking them until I was somewhat proud of this. Yep so totally #goals

The only thing that made me feel good that day was this photo. How deeply depressing. Having a toned body is not all we as human beings are capable of.


NOT REAL LIFE - I didn't pay for the dress, took countless photos trying to look hot for Instagram, the formal made me feel incredibly alone.

I had acne here, this is a lot of makeup. I was smiling because I thought I looked good. Happiness based on aesthetics will suffocate your potential here on earth.

Now, as the praise rolls in for her bravery, Essena has promised to continue fighting for a more honest approach to social media - calling for an app that allows you to share your life, without the need for approval from others.

'Never did I think this would be shared so globally,' Essena wrote. 'I'm crying because I needed to hear this when I was younger, heck anyone who spends hours and hours on a screen wishing they could have a 'perfect' life, this is for you. There is nothing cool about spending all your time taking edited pictures of yourself to prove to the world 'you are enough'. Don't let numbers define you.'

'Don't let anyone tell you you're not enough without excessive makeup, latest trends, 100+ likes on a photo, 'a bikini body', thigh gap, long blonde hair. I was born into the flesh I have, there is nothing inspirational about that. I am just so grateful to think of how many young men and women might see this movement and stop limiting themselves to artificial ideas of happiness online. When you stop comparing and viewing yourself against others, you start to see your own spark and individuality. Everyone has love, kindness, creativity, passion and purpose. Don't let anyone sell you something different.'

Despite the initial praise, last week Essena sent her followers a 6,000-word newsletter describing the backlash she has received in the months after she quit social media. In it, she says, 'I guess I became a trending topic. The girl crying saying she thought her whole life wasn’t real – became a laughing stock.'

Many of Essena's friends have insisted the whole thing was a hoax, and that she was either doing it for attention or because she was upset after a break-up. Essena has denied all of these claims.

She continued, 'I took down the site three weeks ago simply because I just couldn’t be on the Internet. It felt toxic. It got to the point where I just wanted to write, the satire/memoir that I’m currently working on but more so fiction. Sci-fi novels have been my dream since I was 12.'

I don’t regret what I said, sure I could have worded things differently, but I didn’t think twice or even edit that viral video. To those who took pleasure in creating videos or articles mocking who you think I am or my intentions, you have every right to have your own opinion.'

But maybe consider that actively shaming someone online can result in dark things that I know no one would ever want for someone else.'

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