How Fake Beauty & Authentic Beauty Impacts a Brand: Essena O’Neil


Successful Instagram Model Speaks to Her 12 Year Old Self:

Essena O’Neil, courageous 19 year old Australian Instagram model, went viral after calling social media “fake” and saying it made her “miserable.” She gave up opportunities to represent major brands by abruptly “giving up social media” and all the “fakeness” that goes with it.

O’Neil posted a 17-minute video message explaining her decision to quit social media, which immediately went viral. It was long before commentators were calling her out for not immediately deleting her Instagram. Many criticized O’Neil for using YouTube, of all platforms, to blast social media. Others criticized her for using her new website, Let’s Be Game Changers, to solicit donations from fans. Her friends say the video was all a publicity stunt. This is not a gossip site so I won’t give you links to all that drama, I am sure you are neither interested or have the time to dig deeper into her O’Neil’s haters.

The point of this article is to encourage you to think about the impact of this video on her brand as a whole. This action will either make her brand more sought after, for her authenticity or it will move her out of the way for the millions of young women who would both love and appreciate the spotlight, fake or not.

Is her willingness “to keep it real” good for her brand? Does it enhance her image? Will it open better doors for her career? In the end, will her core values be worth more than the revenue from the major brands and modeling agencies she represents? Will she find happiness and success without the facade that marketing, branding and sales generally requires?

“I spent hours watching perfect girls online, wishing I was them,” she explained in a YouTube video. “Then, when I was ‘one of them,’ I still wasn’t happy, content, or at peace with myself. Social media is not real life.” ~Assena O’Neil

Essena Oneil takes brand stand

O’Neill tried proving her point by breaking down one of the most popular photos she had posted on Instagram: a photo of herself at the beach.

While it may have looked like a simple snap captured by a friend, O’Neill explained that “there were probably 100 pictures, and this one was my favorite,” adding that she edited it to make herself look “effortless.”

All of her hard work paid off as she was signed to IMG a leading modeling agency but O’Neil says from the outside she appeared to have “made it,” but on the inside she was miserable. This lifestyle of fame, fortune and beauty was not aligned with her core values. She wasn’t presenting an image that supported her 12-year old self. In the end, her brand was not lending to her joy.

The Brand Stand

As you reflect on your own brand and image, think about some areas where you can be more authentic. Your brand is the emotional connection your followers have with your company. Are you on social media primping for perfection to gain followers, hustling for likes and begging for shares? Or is your intention for social media to get your message out to connect with your ideal buyer?

Social media is a valuable asset for both new and established brands. Social media can help you connect with your audience in deep and meaningful ways. There is no other marketing platform that can offer the same opportunities to connect, dialogue and receive immediate feedback the way social media can offer – if used wisely.

When using social media, be sure you are using the platform that will help you get in front of your ideal buyer. Your goal is to get your message to the audience that is more likely to buy from you. Your objective is to stay relevant and top-of-mind for your target market – not the world.

Before you post on social media, be clear about your intention. Ask yourself, what is the purpose of this post? Why am I sharing it? What will it do for my brand? Will it…

  • Build brand awareness?
  • Increase engagement?
  • Solidify my reputation?
  • Create long-term, mutually beneficial relationships?
  • Generate leads? Repeat buyers?
  • Grow loyalty and brand ambassadors?

Your post may be either entertaining or informative but ultimately it should serve a purpose. Your goal for the post must be strategic. Your posts must be engaging and your posts must lend to the success of your brand.

I hope you have found this post helpful, I would love to hear from you. Get in the conversation, share your thoughts below.

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About The Author


Andrea Callahan is a brand designer. She helps passion & purpose-driven entrepreneurs maximize their strengths to craft and implement an image that represents their WHY and to use that why to position themselves as an Industry Influencer. She a speaker, seminar leader and the author of, "It's Your Brand ~ Make Your Identity Clear" available on Callahan launched the Industry Influencer Academy at

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