Scrolling through the ream of infinite selfies on Instagram, it is easy to assume that everyone on the photo sharing site thinks that they’re a model. Inspired by the Insta-models, such as Bella Hadid and Kendall Jenner, everyday users upload an incessant stream of selfies and contrived ‘candids’ to impress their followers.
It may all seem a little narcissistic and vain to those who use the app recreationally, but for those that dedicate a large quantity of time to their ‘online brand’, it is a savvy business move. With 800 million active users per month, Instagram is the tool that all talent scouts are using to source the latest stars. Forget the days of being “discovered” whilst at a shopping center or an airport (à la Naomi Campbell and Kate Moss), in this modern world your future is at your fingertips. Anok Yai knows only too well the power that Instagram yields, after she went viral earlier this week and subsequently landed contract offers from three different agencies. The 19-year-old sophomore at Plymouth State University in New Hampshire had long aspired to be a model, a dream which has now come true by pure coincidence. Yai, who grew up in Manchester, New Hampshire, attended the Howard University Homecoming Weekend celebrations in Washington DC, where she happened to be caught by a photographer present at the event. “Saw her right at the end of Yardfest,” wrote ‘theSUNK’ as he uploaded a series of photographs he had taken of the young beauty. The photographer, who has remained unnamed, told The Boston Globe how his mission was to document and showcase the outfits worn at the event. When he snapped Yai, he told her that there was potential that her pictures would go viral on his Instagram page which has 16,000 followers. His predictions weren’t wrong, as Yai’s pictures quickly accumulated 11,000 likes. Users flooded the comments section with stunned messages upon seeing the student. “HOW IS SOMEONE THIS PERFECT,” wrote one user, while another typed: “One of the most beautiful humans I have ever seen.” Yai was dumbfounded by the support she was receiving. “My phone just started vibrating rapidly for a long, long time,” she told The Boston Globe. “At first, I honestly thought someone made a meme of me or something.” Instead, people were saturating her inbox with messages pleading her to pursue a modeling career. Within 24 hours, Yai had gained 8,000 followers on her Instagram account. “Can’t believe I went from just 150 followers to almost 8K in one day. The support’s overwhelming,” she wrote on Twitter. Her Instagram account now has 38,500 followers, just one week later. These followers then began to tag modeling agencies in her snaps, in a bid to attract their attention. Their determination to land Yai her dream job was a success, with the 19-year-old being offered three contracts with separate agencies. Meanwhile, Yai was perplexed. The biochemistry student had thought that she looked “average” in the photographs and couldn’t understand the attention they were receiving. “At first, I questioned what everyone was seeing because I didn’t really see it,” she said. “Honestly, I think that people get so used to seeing themselves that people don’t see their own beauty because they see it everyday.” Yai, who moved from Egypt to the US with her family in 2000, had always dreamed of becoming a model. “It was a dream that I always wanted, but I wasn’t sure if it was going to happen,” she said, skeptically. But, much to her surprise, it has happened! It is unclear if Yai has accepted any of the contracts she has been offered yet, but it is clear that she will be going far! Watch this space! If Yai is to join the Instagram elite, she better be prepared for rivalry. While the modeling world is a big one, it would appear that it isn’t big enough for the Hadid sisters, who are allegedly at war with one another over contracts with big fashion houses. Is Bella stealing the limelight from her big sister?
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