In the latest in our series of leading influencers, we profile FKA Twigs, aka Tahliah Debrett Barnett, who hasn’t always had an easy ride online, but has now amassed over a million followers on Instagram. Her latest move, releasing the Instagram magazine Avant Garden, is one reason why we pick her as this week’s star influencer.
Since exploding onto the UK music scene in 2014 via a Mercury Music Award nomination, FKA Twigs, aka Tahliah Debrett Barnett, hasn’t always had an easy ride online. She didn’t win the Mercury Prize that year, it went to Young Fathers, although you’d never know that from her impressive album sales and streaming statistics. During her first year in the limelight, she was frequently attacked by racist trolls on Twitter. Once her relationship with actor Robert Pattinson went public, the avalanche of online hate was palpable. At the time, she addressed her trolls on Twitter saying “I am genuinely shocked and disgusted at the amount of racism that has been infecting my account. Racism is unacceptable in the real world, and it’s unacceptable online.”
Proving her haters wrong, she has amassed over a million followers on Instagram since then. Though she posts infrequently, she has maintained her artistic integrity through the channel and the vast majority of her posts are related to art and music. Notably, she has never used her relationship with Pattinson to extend her following. It is hardly surprising considering her rocky start, that she now says she has never been particularly comfortable with social media and that she finds sharing everyday things online “intrusive and weird”.
Last week she released the first issue of her Instagram magazine Avant Garden, quenching her thirst to put creativity into something online which she can have “a certain amount of control behind”. In an interview with Dazed magazine, she explains “I think for me it’s my way of interacting with people that follow me in an honest way without me cringing at myself. Rather than posting selfies or pictures of your cups of coffee or avocado toast, I thought it would be exciting to see people using it in more of a creative way to express themselves.”
The front cover is striking and the issue is formatted beautifully for the slide through gallery function of Instagram. The launch issue is focussed on braided hairstyles and all the images are shot in FKA twigs’ own house and are photos of her friends. The sense you get from the pages, is that it is an intensely personal piece, it addresses FKA Twigs’ background and blackness, it is she and her friends embracing their heritage via the story behind different braids. One girl in the magazine, Chanel, wears the braid style of the Ghanaian Ashanti tribe, her Grandmother’s tribe. Her cultural identity is something which FKA twigs has never spoken about to any degree publicly since she was targeted by online trolls in 2014. Launching the first ever Instagram magazine is the perfect way to redress the balance and it earns her the PRmoment star influencer crown.
Written by Hannah Emmanuel, owner of agency Pinball Digital www.pinballdigital.co.uk
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