Photo via Natalia Taylor (Instagram).
Ah, Instagram influencers – where would we be without them?
We’d have no clue where we should travel next, what to do while there, or how to pose to get the most attention from our followers.
Now, yet another social media influencer is making headlines, and we’re not sure if she’s ridiculous or brilliant.
We like to write about social media influencers here on Proud American Traveler because, let’s face it, it’s so much fun to make fun of them.
They’re young. They’re beautiful. They’re desperate for attention – and we give it to them.
Because as obnoxious as they usually are, with their six-pack abs and long, flowing hair – we’re drawn to their absolute confidence in the fact that we’re all suckers for a pretty face, beautiful scenery, and a good story.
Natalia Taylor is one of these Instagram influencers, with thousands of followers.
On her page are all the typical Instagram influencer photos – Natalia in her belly-baring corset; Natalia with her heavy makeup and waist-length hair.
“I know I’m beautiful, and I know you all want to behold my presence.”
She, like the rest, aren’t usually doing much of anything but posing for the camera. Maybe once in a while, they’ll include a photo of some tropical destination or mountaintop field – whatever makes them look the best.
So it wasn’t a surprise to Natalia’s followers when she uploaded lots of sexy pics of her recent trip to the beautiful shores of Bali.
Like, who wouldn’t share their dream trip with the world? We only use social media to make other people jealous of our lives, right?
But her posts about this trip were a bit different…
Because, she didn’t take a trip to Bali at all.
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Where in the world is Natalia Taylor?
Being a woman myself, I’m all for strong, confident women.
I was raised by a prim and proper mother so, of course, I had to push the boundaries and be the rebel of the family.
We would go shopping, always reminded to use our “inside voices” and keep our hands off the merchandise. My mother was never, ever one to draw attention to herself.
I, on the other hand, became more extroverted and attention-seeking in retaliation. But even I would never, ever have the guts to do what Natalia did.
You see, her “trip to Bali” was actually a photo shoot in a local Ikea.
You know Ikea. Everyone loves their minimalistic designs, their clean lines – even if their bookcases have a shorter shelf-life than the time it takes to put them together.
Ikea is always crowded. There isn’t one on every street corner, after all, so people will go to remarkable lengths to make a day trip of an Ikea shopping excursion.
Some people even go there just for décor inspiration, because Ikea is like a magazine we can wander though. Our homes will never look as great as their little modular rooms do – but we want to try anyway.
So here’s Natalia, entering her local Ikea with a photographer.
Does she want to preserve some photos for inspiration for her dining room makeover?
Nope, she wants to get a bunch of sexy and exotic photos of herself posing in Ikea’s unattainable splendor – so she can perform a little experiment.
In one photo, Natalia is lounging in a perfectly-staged Ikea bathroom, in the tub, clad in a robe with a towel wrapped around her hair. We picture the dampness of the sea as she washes out the sand from an exotic beach.
She poses on a lounge chair – at the pool in her luxury hotel, perhaps?
Then one in front of an ornate mirror, and one talking on a baby blue phone, her eyeshadow perfectly color-coordinated.
She labels the photos “Bali, Indonesia” on her page.
And everyone falls for it.
No one questioned that she was exactly where she claimed to be – soaking up the sun in Bali.
Everyone did exactly what they always do with picture-perfect Instagram posts. “OMG, you look so beautiful!” “I wish I had your life!”
No one thought that when Natalia posted, “The queen has arrived,” that she was wandering through the crowds of Ikea instead of enjoying a tropical sunset.
They probably didn’t wonder because she included some actual photos of picturesque Bali scenery with her Ikea photos. She borrowed them from friends or pulled them off travel sites.
Anyone can do that, so why all the fuss?
So what was the point?
I’m torn on this one.
I usually have a pretty consistent view of beautiful millennial social media influencers. I think they’re idiots.
Being of an older and wiser generation, I think it’s ridiculous that anyone needs this kind of attention.
It took me years to even consider getting a Facebook account, and I only have about 30 “friends.” I never post photos of myself, although if I had the body I had when I was Natalia’s age, I just might.
I get that it’s an ego boost when people focus on us, when we feel appreciated and noticed, but these beautiful millennials go a little too far most of the time.
I don’t care what you’re eating or wearing. I don’t want to hear your complaints or see a photo of your chipped nail with a crying emoji after your $250 manicure.
And I especially don’t want to hear that you’re “too good to work,” so you’re trying to make a career out of making us all pay good money to look at you.
But here’s where it gets interesting.
Natalia admits her posts were fake. She admits she was in Ikea and not Bali. She didn’t even try to sway someone with her beauty and Influencer status to close the store for her photo shoot.
She climbed in that tub in a bathrobe in front of crowds of shoppers, not the least bit shy or worried about getting yelled at by management.
She says she wanted to create a fake post to show people that they shouldn’t believe everything they see online.
But… (there’s always a but) someone did notice an Ikea price tag dangling from one of the chairs in her photo.
Sure, it’s possible that luxury hotels in a tropical paradise buy furniture from Ikea. It’s also possible there are little green space men out there performing experiments on us… just like it’s possible Natalia pretended she was creating an intriguing social experiment because she got caught.
You be the judge.
While Natalia and her ilk still annoy the crap out of me, I think there just may be something more-than-millennial-skin-deep about her story.
We all think seeing is believing, and it’s really not. And I guess pretty, little Natalia may be able to remind her young followers to be more aware next time around.
Whether she intended to post something fake or she had to come clean because of that naughty little price tag, seeing isn’t always believing.
She wants her followers to take social media a little less seriously, and I have to agree that’s a good message to get across.
On the other hand, she must not think much of her fellow millennials because she said the “experiment” was a perfect way to “fake an influencer vacation and lie” to all her followers.
And then, according to news reports – yes, this has made national headlines – she said “it’s easier than ever to become anyone you want. But with great power comes great responsibility.”
You probably know what I think. The “Bali Princess” is awfully full of herself. Power is a strong word.
But social media can be a powerful force.
Natalia Taylor may have fooled some people. Others may have been less convinced. But by the story going national, maybe we’ll all be a little more skeptical of people trying to convince us their lives are perfect on social media.
In the end, we’re the suckers in Natalia’s little world. As she’s commented to news outlets, you really can “fake it until you make it.”
She won’t be the first – or the last – to do so.
So, go where you want to go on your next trip. And take a sexy selfie while you’re there. You only live once.