Social media backlash as influencers rapidly fall from grace

Social media has served up yet another collective face-palm after Swedish influencer Natalie Schlater deleted her Instagram account over a backlash about a photo that she posted of her bikini-clad self, gazing over a rice field in Bali and "thinking about how different my life is from the man picking in the rice field every morning".

The post attracted plenty of backlash, with people accusing Schlater of "humble-bragging" and calling her "narcissistic".

Natalie Schlater received plenty of backlash over her Bali social media post.Credit:Natalie Schlater /Instagram

​​Schlater, who has 12,000 followers, later updated the caption, saying she never intended to be disrespectful and was sorry if she hurt anyone's feelings.

Schlater is far from the first influencer – a term for a person who markets products or services on social media platforms, based on their own appeal to their followers – to fall from grace following a public scandal. Here are a few of the most shocking and cringeworthy.

Belle Gibson

Belle Gibson outside the Federal Court in Melbourne.Credit:Darrian Traynor

The 26-year-old Australian amassed hundreds of thousands of followers, wrote a book and launched an app based on her claims to have cured her multi-site cancer without drugs, using diet and alternative therapies.

She also claimed that a large chunk of her income from app and book sales was being donated to charity.

But it was all a lie. In 2015, under pressure from journalists investigating claims in her book, Gibson admitted to having fabricated her cancer story, while it also emerged that far smaller sums than she had claimed had gone to charity.

Gibson was hauled before an Australian court and fined over $400,000, which she is yet to pay. If she continues with her non-compliance, she could face jail time.

All that hasn't kept her off social media though – she recently opened a new Instagram account. It's private, but "shoutouts [are] appreciated".

Olivia Jade

Lori Loughlin’s daughter Olivia Jade reveals she’d rather focus on her YouTube career than college.Credit:ninevms

Or Olivia Jade Giannulli, aka Lori "Aunt Becky" Loughlin's mini-me, and not a varsity-level rower – despite her apparent rowing prowess (and a convenient $US500,000 donation to the coach) being the basis of her admission to the University of Southern California.

Before the college cheating scandal, Giannulli was a vlogger and Instagram personality, with more than 3 million followers across the two platforms, a make-up line with Sephora, and brand endorsement deals with the likes of Marc Jacobs and Estee Lauder. In a video widely circulated after the scandal broke, she showed viewers around her dorm room, which appears to have been almost entirely kitted out for free via a deal with Amazon Prime.

Unlike the children of, say Felicity Huffman, Giannulli appears to have been aware of the activity that got her into an elite university (she posed for the photos of herself apparently training, after all) and the backlash has been swift, with several brands severing ties with her and Giannulli going completely quiet on her social media, though her accounts are still active.

Emma Hallberg

Another Swede, Hallberg was at the centre of what became a much bigger controversy late last year when followers began accusing her of posing as black.

On her YouTube channel and Instagram, the 19-year-old seemed to present as a woman of colour, with caramel-coloured skin, black hair and eyebrows, dark brown eyes and very full lips. Her deals were mostly with fashion and make-up brands that cater specifically to the black market, such as clothing label Fashion Nova.

But Hallberg, it transpired, is not black at all.

Following the scandal, during which she shed both followers and sponsors, Hallberg claimed that she did not intend to mislead anybody and that she didn't spray tan, take pigment-enhancing hormone melatonin or get collagen injections. Rather, she claimed to tan very easily and to have naturally dark curly hair.

"I do not get my sponsorships, work opportunities and collaborations because of the colour of my skin," she added. "I get it because of the way I style my clothes and create my make-up looks."

And despite these revelations leading to the discovery of several more black-passing white influencers whom the media has grouped together under the label "blackfishing", Hallberg continues unapologetically to sport the same look, continuing to post regularly – often multiple times a day – to Instagram.

Logan Paul

YouTube star Logan Paul in a video showing him coming across a body in Aokigahara forest, Japan’s infamous suicide forest. He removed the video after a strong backlash.Credit:Rachel Olding

Paul was one of YouTube's biggest stars with a channel boasting over 15 million subscribers when he made mainstream headlines for posting a video showing the body of a victim in Japan’s “Suicide Forest".

A horrified backlash ensured, and Paul posted the obligatory apology video ("So. Sorry.", it was entitled), but he still lost access to Google’s premium ad programme, Google Preferred, and to subscription service YouTube Red.

That didn't stop him, though. Three weeks after the apology video, Paul was back on YouTube – albeit with drastically limited ad-revenue options – with a video about suicide prevention programmes that garnered 30 million views.

His YouTube channel, last updated two days ago, now has more than 19 million subscribers.

Yovana Mendoza

“I’m really, really sorry”: Yovana Mendoza apologises for eating fish despite building a brand based upon her veganism.Credit:Rawvana/YouTube

A social media storm erupted when Mendoza – who goes by the online moniker Rawvana – appeared in a fellow vlogger’s video with a plate of fish in front of her.

The problem? Mendoza's online identity, and her brand sponsorships, are based around her veganism.

In a YouTube video clocking in at a whopping 33 minutes, Mendoza apologised to her fans, saying that doctors had encouraged her to reincorporate some animal proteins into her diet after she stopped menstruating and developed a growth on her small intestine.

Although she lost a number of followers in the wake of the scandal, with many accusing her of exploiting the vegan platform for commercial purposes and lying to the public, Mendoza continues her social media activity.

The last recipe she posted was for a classic egg salad.


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