The Backlash Against Instagram Model Essena O’Neill Has Begun

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Essena O’Neill has made quite the name for herself since her re-captioned Instagram photos went viral. And whenever you make a name for yourself on the Internet, a backlash is inevitable. After posting a tearful thank you video, she quit YouTube… and created a Vimeo account, which, as Teen Vogue points out, “rarely features the kinds of paid promotional work that is now so rampant on Instagram.” O’Neill’s most recent upload includes a plea to donate to her Let’s Be Game Changers website, because she’s cut herself off from her primary source of income and needs money to keep up the servers.

And, well, live. This has not gone over well with some.

Two YouTubers, sisters Nina and Randa, who are friends of O’Neill’s say it’s all a stunt. “She has more Instagram followers than ever because of this publicity stunt,” they say in their own YouTube video called “ESSENA O’NEILL Quitting Social Media Is A HOAX.” (Via)

They also claim her “meltdown is due to a breakup with a guy she met through them while staying at their house in Los Angeles.” Meanwhile, Nina and Randa’s brother, Willie, wrote: “ESSENAS WHOLE MOVEMENT IS ABOUT NOT BEING FAKE BUT SHE IS BEING FAKE BECAUSE SHE IS LYING TO EVERYONE ABOUT WHAT REALLY HAPPENED WHILE SHE WAS HERE.”

O’Neill responded:

I no longer want to spend hours and hours of my time scrolling, viewing and comparing myself to others. I want to do something, anything, something radical, something a little different. I want to use my imagination, my individual mind, my unique take on this world. I want to research more into stuff that truly matters.


Yes, asking for money from strangers is gross, and yes, this whole thing is a stunt, and yes, she’s trying to take away attention from herself by going on morning shows (?), but there’s one thing you need to remember about O’Neill: She’s a teen, and teens express themselves online. Though Instagram, through YouTube, through, apparently, Vimeo. She made a lot of money being dishonest through social media, and maybe she’s still not telling the complete truth, but her message is an important one: Value yourself, not your Likes. This should be self-evident, but if this whole thing has taught us nothing, it’s that it’s not.

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