"I honestly think if influencing was a male dominated industry there would be so much less [negative] focus on it"

Cassie Snelgar was born to be a globe-trotter. Coming from South Africa, she's used to people moving around a lot. She herself has split her time between London, Hong Kong, Sydney and basically any other global cultural hub you could name. With that in mind it should come as no surprise that she built herself up to become a prominent social media influencer and entrepreneur.

It started with a simple idea in Sydney: creating ethical clothing that can easily move "from beach to bar." CASLAZUR was Snelgar's entry into both entrepreneurship and social media. As a part of building her brand, she started six different Instagram accounts to experiment and figure out what works, and apparently, she figured it out pretty damn quick. Before long she had amassed an influencer-worthy following and found herself in the social media spotlight, an odd development for a self-described introvert. At this point in her career development, it was clear that Cassie had a knack for social media, but what else was there? In trying to find a way to satisfy her need for creative outlet whilst leveraging her following, the X Cartel was born.

The X Cartel is Snelgar's answer to the idea of #blessed life that social media is peddling. Though they are by no means unafraid of fun, in fact there is nothing they believe in more than "the noble pursuit-of-pleasure." This website is meant to function as a joyful burst in its followers' lives, giving people the gift of luxury and aspiration without tempting them into the infinitely scrolling abyss that social media can easily become. It originally grew from Cassie's desire to create with a greater sense of purpose whilst leveraging her dynamic skills as an influencer. Social media was never the end-all-be-all goal, but it was an incredibly useful by-product of Snelgar's foray into the business of luxury. Her most recent venture, the X Cartel, is the highly refined product of all her work and experience as a businesswoman and influencer. Because really, the two are often one and the same.

We're at a point in our society where social media is woven into almost every part of our lives, for better or worse. It's friendship, entertainment, communication and, often, business. And that can make things confusing for anyone. How can people manage all those pressures without letting it get to them? As an ambassador for the South African Depression and Anxiety Group (SADAG) Cassie is a massive advocate of being your own "rating system […] if there's an account making you feel a little depressed, anxious or that you're comparing yourself too much to—just unfollow." No doubt every single one of us has needed to hear that piece of advice at least once (and if you're me, several hundred times). The X Cartel should act as a "dose of quality down time" without the "rabbit hole" effect that similar brands can have on their users. They don't want users staring down into their phone for hours on end, but that doesn't mean it's wrong to find joy and pleasure in social media. Cassie believes that "we often feel self-critical about taking time to have fun and be in the moment, indulge." But we need to give ourselves that time for indulgence, to satiate our inner sybarite. All work and no play—well you know how the saying goes.

For Cassie, hedonism is a "way of life," but as an avid Instagram-user and influencer she understands that social media never tells the whole story. Social media is a collection of highly choreographed moments that people are choosing to share with the world, and it's crucial to remember that. Yet people also want the posts they see to feel "authentic." They don't just want the corporate sponsor page, because the beauty of marketing a business on social media is that it feels personal. And the posts need to reflect that. Thankfully, users are quite adept at keeping content-producers vigilant. The people who are following these influencers know the drill, they're used to it, and they have a keen nose for bullshit. But expressing yourself authentically online and running a business can seem like conflicting interests. Cassie is acutely aware of this fact, and she openly admits that the community can tell whether you're being true to yourself and they will call you out. Becoming an influencer may have been a "by-product" of her business, but that doesn't mean she treats it like a cash cow. She understands that to best serve her followers it's all about finding a balance between the curated and the candid. Though she admits she doesn't "get it right" all the time. Maybe sometimes a post is just "ticking a box" and other times things get a little too real, but "if you're being yourself that level of authenticity" will shine through.

But even with the perfect level of authenticity the identity of an influencer can still feel like a double-edged word. On one hand people think it is utterly frivolous, as though you're famous simply for having a pretty face or being photogenic, on the other hand, people assume influencers are money grubbers trying to use something as "easy" as social media to make some quick cash and score sponsored swag. Basically, you're either "vapid" or a "sellout," and though some might fit that bill, according to Cassie these are the influencers with a short shelf-life. Most of the women that she has worked with are incredibly business savvy and come with a heavy-duty work ethic. This shouldn't be that surprising, because if being an influencer was that easy everybody would be doing (myself included).

"Women's work" has always been perceived as less valuable, less powerful, and just generally less serious than men's, for no reason beyond the gender of the people doing that work.

A lot more goes into an Instagram post than the single second it takes to click "Share" on the gram and those posts can lead to a hell of a lot more than just likes and comments. "It's easy to sum up a girl, influencer, as some airhead, but a lot of these women are running businesses and managing teams. Arielle Charnas, in 24 hours, drove a million in sales for Nordstrom. These are people that have the same following as a magazine." And yet for some reason all that work is being maligned by stereotypical ideas of what it means to be an "influencer." Off the feed, these are straight up businesswomen, there is no question about that. But therein may lie the problem. "I honestly think if influencing was a male dominated industry there would be so much less focus on it, says Snelgar. "Women's work" has always been perceived as less valuable, less powerful, and just generally less serious than men's, for no reason beyond the gender of the people doing that work. When was the last time someone called a man "vapid" or accused him of being nothing more than a pretty face for his work? These are the types of comments that women, in particular influencers, face every day. And there is almost no other industry as distinctly powered by women as influencing; in 2018 84.6% of all sponsored Instagram posts came from women. Once you tune into the consideration of gender on influencer stereotypes, it becomes apparent that these complaints are inextricably linked to womanhood.

Being a woman, an influencer, a business owner, a mental health advocate and a staunch sybarite is a lot for any one person to handle, even without the additional levels of scrutiny they face due to those identities. But the passion that Cassie and many influencers like her have for their work is as honorable as any other profession; it's simply a new and predominantly feminine way of doing business. "Girls who got a business off the back of it, those girls really value the trust and the relationship that they've built [with their followers]. They're not just doing it for quick fame. The influence, the Insta numbers are valueless if they don't carry any weight. You can have a site with ten million viewers a month, but if the engagement of the community isn't there you might as well have none."