by Morgan Culp
More than 98% of college-aged students use social media, according to the Pew Research Center. The University of Tampa’s campus is flooded with students using smartphones and social media, many of these students follow influencers. But where do these influencers come from?
“My following took off because I got ‘meme-ed’ originally,” said Theodora Mountinho, UT sophomore theater major. “It’s so embarrassing, but it was making fun of me saying I wear a back brace because I arch it, and then I’ll photoshop it.”
Mountinho is known by 2.9 million as @teddybearosito on Instagram. There, she has a fanbase that supports her by liking, sharing and reposting the photos and videos she shares on a daily basis.
“My manager found me and wanted to boost my Instagram,” Mountinho said, “I take all of the content that he wants, and he’ll give me tips on what to take and what captions and hashtags to use.”
According to Mountinho, her manager had multiple clients before her, but dropped the rest to focus on Teddybearosito’s image. Her manager declined an interview.
“He actually doesn’t get paid,” said Mountinho. “Neither of us make any money.”
Mountinho explained how she came to the U.S. from South Africa on a student visa, not a work visa. So, she is not legally allowed to profit off of her social media and brand deals yet.
“It really sucks because a lot of female influencers I know that have a similar following as me can make upwards to $500 thousand a month,” said Mountinho. “There is so much opportunity for me, but I haven’t made one cent.”
Mountinho shared that her manager will be set to retire within a couple years after Mountinho gets her work visa.
Amelia Robbins, junior communications major, is also an Instagram influencer. Robbins has 33.7 thousand Instagram followers and is trying to expand her following. She became “insta-famous” after being featured on Instagram’s “college babes” account.
“I get a lot of free stuff and sometimes I get paid,” said Robbins. “I don’t have enough followers to rely on the money I make through brand deals. I mainly just get free products to promote.”
Sometimes, successful influencers will be invited to fly out to certain events for meet and greets with fans.
Rolling Loud Miami 2020 has reached out to Mountinho to be featured as a spotlight creator.
According to their website, Rolling Loud is the largest hip-hop festival in the world with hip-hop’s biggest names performing. The music festival will be held at the Hard Rock Stadium in Miami Gardens from May 8-10.
Mountinho will be compensated for travel and lodging in exchange for three Instagram story posts and one Instagram feed post.
“Rolling Loud told me and another featured creator that we would be taken care of in the VIP skyloft area,” said Mountinho, “I hope I get to meet Post Malone.”
Both Mountinhho and Robbins put their bodies on the internet, knowing they will receive some negativity in the midst of praise.
“I can always hear those little whispers in the background when people recognize me and it really pisses me off,” Mountinho said. “It’s mostly girls.”
“It’s an awkward thing,” Robbins said. “People think of me as my Instagram, so sometimes I get insecure about it.”
Mountinho explained how close the “IG Baddie” community is. They lift each other up and support each other much like her real family.
“I love to help and take pictures,” said Mountinho’s mother, Regina Mountinho. “We are always looking for new ideas and places to take pictures. I support her 100 percent.”
Mountinho shared how even though her family is back in Brazil, they still are with her every step of the way. Her family creates calendars with Mountinho’s best pictures of each month.
“I always get the comments: “oh your dad must be so proud,” Mountinho said. “But he actually is.”
Mountinho said she is hoping to expand her Instagram presence to YouTube and start her own channel. She and her manager are also hoping to get @Teddybearosito verified on Instagram by the end of 2020.
“Teddy is just your regular 20-year-old girl with hopes and dreams,” Regina said. “She is doing what makes her happy. We as her family are very proud and support her on her path to success.”
Morgan Culp can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org