Expressing themselves on social media is a daily essential for ex-Germany’s Next Top Model alumni/actress, Anuthida Ploypetch, and singer, Nisa-Maranda Jones. Still, it took them a while to embark on a journey to find their own voices. Both ladies had their social media reawakening around a year ago, and decided to begin expressing their true selves. They started to question beauty ideals, management advice, and the expectations of their Instagram audiences.
Having overcome those prior restraints makes them the perfect ambassadors for the new Valentino scent VOCE VIVA, the newly released fragrance which stars Lady Gaga as its face. Born to voice the Maison’s values of diversity and individuality, VOCE VIVA came to life in a dialogue between Lady Gaga and Pierpaolo Piccioli. Composed of color, couture, and coolness, this essence lets each woman radiate with the energy of fulfillment and confidence. Like the newly released fragrance, the following conversation is about striving for a unique, bold voice that comes from a heart of good intentions.
What was an early experience where you noticed that what you do creatively has an effect on other people, like, influencing them for the better?
Anuthida Ploypetch: I am entering a new chapter in my life and my career at the moment. I have been active on social media for four years and I think the first time where I truly used my own voice was around one year ago. There was something that frustrated me personally. At that moment, I didn’t really think about whether I should oppose what frustrated me or not, I just did it. The issue was about face-tuning and photoshopping myself and what beauty really means. It was the beginning of a self-healing phase, how to improve my life to be more healthy physically and psychologically. I started to question myself, what I was striving for and what others expected of me. This time, I didn’t keep it to myself, but shared it.
What was it that you felt uncomfortable with?
AP: I was very unhappy and frustrated with myself, how I saw myself. I got used to editing my face, my skin tone. I made my eyes bigger and my face smaller. Basically, to follow the beauty ideals that were dominating Instagram. I was told to do it this way by my management, the people around me, but I was still unhappy.
Then, my boyfriend took a picture of us after we just fell in love. He posted it immediately. And I felt I looked ugly in these pictures. I couldn’t see myself in the mirror. And that’s when I woke up, I guess. I started asking myself, “What’s wrong with you?” “Why are you so unhappy with yourself?” and “Why does he think I am beautiful?” So, I questioned my own perception and I stopped editing myself. That was very hard. I felt that those are kind of first world problems I am dealing with. But I just felt like I had to accept myself in order to support any other people or in order to speak my voice in the first place. Like, I have to deal with myself first to know who I am. And that’s when it all starts. Instagram was a big part and a big motivation to share my doubts. I was sure that other people would identify with me. I posted a big text on this and an unedited picture with my skin not looking perfect.
And for you, Nisa?
Nisa-Maranda Jones: When I started with Instagram, I used it to put myself out there to share everything I did. I used to compare myself a lot and think way too much about the way I look. Trying to fit in. Maybe one and a half years ago, I started to show myself the way I wanted. I did things how I wanted to do them. I reflected on what it is I really wanted to share. For example, I grew my eyebrows out.
That was also a year ago: Was there something that happened on Instagram in general?
NMJ: I am not sure. I just started to follow people I found inspiring. I found others who thought the same. I slowly started to not care what other people think.
How did your audiences react to your changes? Anuthida, you cut your hair recently. It looks really good, but it feels like quite a big change.
AP: I am very thankful for my audience. In my profile, there is less hate today than about five years ago. If someone writes to me now, it is mostly a constructive opinion. But of course, on some days there are random people who complain. For example, accusing me of acting like all the other “trendy people.” I didn’t feel personally offended by that comment, but I questioned what “trendy people” meant. Just because I express myself? I started to dance more, voice my thoughts and opinions. I became bolder. In the end, I decided that I cannot reach everybody and that is good. I shifted my focus to those people who understood my changes. In a way, I have started to build another community – to communicate to those who are open-minded.
How was it for you, Nisa? Finding your own person and knowing you will probably lose followers through that.
NMJ: I definitely lost followers but also gained new ones. And I don’t get a lot of negative comments. I don’t focus on that. I get a lot of messages thanking me for being true to myself. I was afraid to be that person and it still gives me validation.
How far did you start with a new way of storytelling in social media?
AP: It changed a lot. I feel the more I became aware, the more I was careful. I was aware of things. I knew I wanted to be sensitive. I almost became too aware. Sometimes I impulsively post something emotional to make people feel encouraged. But some topics are just too complex to just put them out there. Sometimes I feel Instagram is too small. Not sufficient enough to deal with these topics. Because of the algorithm, I feel a certain restraint. Like I shouldn’t post so much that my posts would be perceived as spam. I am still in the process of figuring out what kind of content I want to do.
Also because Instagram has become more intense when it comes to social debates. People have become more political. Do you think Instagram has matured in a way?
NMJ: It has totally changed in this way. Back when I started Instagram, it was nothing like it is today. People have preferences. It can be frustrating when I post something serious and only some of the people react, not all of them. Something I also struggle with is when I want to post something creative and not many people pay attention to it.
What are your goals right now? Have you also developed new ideals?
AP: With my personality, I would love to be a young woman who is not afraid to speak up. I am still afraid every day. That might sound weird for somebody who follows my Instagram. But for me, what I do isn’t enough. I think it will never be enough. I have expectations of myself. And I only see the things I didn’t do. I would love to be more patient with myself. To have more courage. I know there are people who are listening. My dream is to change my position as a human a bit more. I started acting school in May, and since then my perception of reality has really changed. I see the world differently. I would love to fight for the younger generations to find a better, more healthy way of dealing with the digital age. I am part of Generation Z. We are always on our smartphones. What kind of impact does Instagram on us all? It is a really good platform to share your voice, to inspire people, but it can also be very unhealthy and counterproductive.
What are your dreams, Nisa?
NMJ: My dream has always been to make music. It’s something that I am doing right now and I hope I can put my music out there soon. I also want to voice my opinion more than I do now. But I want to be taking more action than just words. I feel I don’t do enough. When it came to the Black Lives Matter movement earlier this year, I wanted to protest more than I did. The movement is not over, but it has already become less present. I want to do more in the future.
Do you have the feeling that things are really changing overall? For example, in the fashion industry, a natural idea of beauty is gaining more traction. There are more plus-size models on the runway, there is greater diversity than before. Is there hope for a better future?
AP: Yes, there is change. The younger generation is much more aware of political topics such as racism, climate change, beauty ideals, etc. But we always have to remember: This is, in a way, also our bubble on social media. People out there are extreme. I think that the future is going to be very different than we expect it.
AP: I ask myself this every day. How is this going to end? And the answer is: I don’t know. Currently, our lives are very uncertain. All we can do is to do better every day. Be kind and follow our passions. Contribute to the world. Ask yourself: What can you give to the world? If we work on that, we will create a better world for our children and grandchildren.
NMJ: A lot of people think what does it bring if it is just me doing something, but that is the wrong question. You can start in your personal environment, among your friends. And then, ideally, this is like a chain reaction that triggers others to follow. Doing something is better than doing nothing. If I don’t start, nothing will change at all.
AP: You often feel too small. Thinking, “Who cares when I say something if I only have 300 followers on Instagram?” This is wrong. Regardless of the number of followers, we feel the same. It is not about the size of our audience, but about how we feel about ourselves as humans. We can influence our friends, our neighbors, or somebody in the supermarket. You have to start somewhere.
This story appears in Numéro Berlin Autumn/Winter 2020