Our third Manchester-based influencer and content-creator is Mimi Labesa, you can find her vibrant work here!
Q: Do you agree with the label/definition of an ‘influencer’? Are there other terms that you prefer?
A: To be honest, the label ‘influencer’ does not sit well with me because it insinuates that the person in question has control over their audience. Basically they can make their audience do or buy whatever they endorse. It is not necessarily a bad thing but I feel like almost anyone is an influencer. I have been influenced by people in the mall. I see a lady wearing a dress and I walk up to her to ask where she got it from.
I think of myself more as a Digital Content Creator that an influencer.
Q: How did you become a creator? What inspired you?
A: In 2014, a close friend who I was living with, came across a show ‘Fashion Blogger’ about a group fashion bloggers.
She’s interested in photography and I am passionate about fashion. She suggested we explore fashion photography and that was how I started documenting my outfits on Instagram.
Q: Did you always want to be an influencer? What did you study and what were your job aspirations?
A: No! I would say I am an accidental influencer because when I published my first fashion IG post in 2015, I had no idea what I was doing or that there was any such thing as an influencer.
I was just content taking photos of my outfits. I studied Pharmaceutical Sciences at the University. I aspired to teach Chemistry at a secondary school or university level.
Q: Do you consider being an influencer a full-time job? Is it hard to keep your free-time and your career separate?
A: Being an influencer is definitely a full time job. I recently had to quit my day job to be a full time content creator because I was struggling to cope with both and motherhood as well.
I’d say it can be hard keeping my free time and my career separate especially when I have certain goals I’d like to achieve. Even when I am trying to have some me time, my mind is still working thinking of ways to improve my skills so I can serve my audience better.
Q: What does an average work day look like for you?
A: I am a mum of two so my day typically starts with getting my older girl ready for school.
I try to wake a bit early so I can have 30 mins to meditate and journal. Once I’ve dropped them off at school, I have about four hours to work before it’s time to pick up.
9:30 am: I check my emails and calendar for scheduled work.
Between 10 am and 12 am is when I shoot most of my content. It doesn’t take me two hours to shoot but because I have a toddler with me, I have to reserve enough time to get what I need.
I use the following two hours to edit and write up any captions before posting on Instagram.
Q: Which platforms do you use the most and which is your favourite?
I use Facebook and Instagram the most. My favourite is Instagram because it is more visually appealing and it allows me show my photography work and connect to my audience on a more personal level.
Q: Do you believe that influencers have a moral duty to take an active stand for ideals that they stand for?
A: Not everyone is mentally equipped to be an activist and I don’t believe that influencers should be forced to take an active stand even for ideals they believe in.
I feel it’s enough for them to identify with various ideals but they shouldn’t feel pressured to take an active stand unless it’s something they are truly passionate about and are happy to do.
Q: How has the COVID-19 pandemic affected you? Do you feel as though the pandemic has affected influencers in a ‘positive’ way?
A: I would say the COVID-19 pandemic has forced me to do an introspective analysis of my life and values. It has helped reshape my thought process in a positive way. I am now more about sustainability and adding value to my community.
For the most of it, I feel It has affected influencers positively. It has forced us to look for more creative ways to engage our audience, and brands had to rely on us more for content. I’d like to think that brands now see and respect our relevance.
Q: Do you feel pressure from your followers to act a certain way or produce certain content? How do you create boundaries or deal with the pressure?
A: I have the most amazing followers who encourage me to be myself. I don’t feel any pressure to produce certain content.
When I begin to feel the pressure, I take a break from social media and content creation to reflect and refresh. If I don’t, I believe it would reflect negatively on my work.
Q: What is your favourite thing about being an influencer?
A: My favourite thing about being an influencer is that I get to inspire others while being myself. Also the creative freedom to tell stories from my perspective.
Q: What is your least favourite thing about being an influencer?
A: My least favourite is the need to put out content daily so as not to disappoint my audience.
Q: Do you feel that there are any downsides to online activities and social media?
A: The downside I can think of is getting addicted to social media. This can have a negative effect on relationships when one is not always present because they are almost always engaging on online activities.
Q: What is the influencer scene like in Manchester? Is it harder to work online in Manchester than it is in London or a bigger city?
A: The influencer scene in Manchester is thriving. Manchester is home to a lot of amazing and successful influencers. Being the second most popular city in England, I find that brands always put Manchester into consideration when launching new products.
I don’t think it is hard to work online in Manchester. London would have much more opportunities but that does not affect the opportunities for influencers in Manchester.
Q: What advice would you give students who would like to build their online following or become influencers?
A: Be clear on why you want to be an influencer because there will be difficult times where you wonder if it is worth it. In those times, I go back to ‘why’ I started the journey and I get re-inspired.
Also try to stay true to yourself and be wary of what you consume online. It’s very easy to get distracted by other influencers, so that you start imitating them.
There are people out there that need to hear your story in order to be able to tell theirs.