Today the New York Post features Jen Selter, a Long Island native who's amassed 1.4 million Instagram followers by posting "belfies" — selfies of her butt. She's a 20-year-old fitness nut who quit her minimum-wage job at a gym after reaching 500,000 followers on Instagram. Now she says people recognize her on the street. She tells the Post:
I don’t really go to public gyms anymore just because it is a whole big scene when I’m there. I don’t like being watched.
Selter has gotten sponsorship deals through Instagram, and she says she makes enough money now that she doesn't have to work. She's become famous on her own terms, without a reality show or a modeling contract. And she feels she's dealing with true fame — in an Elle profile from last month, she sounds like a movie star who just wants her privacy:
I’m mysterious. Nobody knows my personality. It’s interesting to me how I build a following of fangirls and fanboys who like me, when they don’t really know me.
Selter's not an anomaly. There's a whole crop of Instagram users (women, especially) who have become famous in real life because of their online profiles. Massel Arias, a 24-year-old who's also known for the way she looks in yoga pants, has had random men propose to her. And then there are the cheerlebrities of Instagram, who are dealing with social media fame while still attending high school.
Selter prioritized fame over continuing her education, a move that her mother thinks was the right one. She tells the Post, “I’m very proud of her because this is a girl who didn’t want to go to college, and she was able to build up this social media in such a way that she has become famous and she is an inspiration and motivation for so many people. We can’t even get down the street without people stopping us and saying, ‘Oh my God, is that Jen Selter? Can we take a picture?’"
Selter has even had to deal with a Kim Kardashian-level conspiracy that her butt is fake. She responds to the scandal in the best way possible: "I’ve seen fake butts, and they’re very nice. They look nothing like mine. I see it as a compliment."
But unlike Kardashian, Selter didn't need a reality show to launch her brand. Today's Instagram celebrities show that a belfie and some filters can bring the same trappings of fame. Next up, Selter is launching her own line of sportswear. She also dreams of owning “like cool gyms, like with some glowing stuff." Now that's the American Dream.
This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.