At 35 years of age, it wasn’t so long ago that I was just an impressionable teenaged girl. Britney Spears’ low rise hip-huggers were turning heads, Christina Aguilera had just been rebranded X-Tina thanks to those red boy shorts and chaps and punk rock princess Avril Lavigne had teen girls everywhere trying to figure out why everything was just so damn complicated. Parents were shook. It seemed like girls as young as 13 were utterly enthralled with these female pop stars that were no longer “playing it safe” by industry standards. A lot of parents felt that the pop scene in general (think Eminem digging a grave for his mother and crooning about cleaning out his closet) was influencing teens to grow up way too fast and placing themselves into physically mature situations that emotionally they were not mature enough to handle.
Influence? Flash forward just 17 years later, and the idea of pop culture influence has somehow taken a turn for the positive… At least socially speaking. Perhaps it’s because those young teenaged fans are now free-thinking millennial parents, with a much different perspective than their parents had.
Whatever the case, to be an “influencer” on your generation has become a lucrative and often 7 figure career to children as young as seven years old. This is in most cases because of the rise of the social media platform, more notably Facebook, Youtube, and Instagram. With these platforms come access to anything and anybody almost instantaneously. With the lack of privacy and often modesty, you have to question how today’s teens can really form their own identities or self-awareness while always be “Influenced” by other millennials, that are paid to tell them how to think in many cases.
I had the opportunity to speak with A’Rayah Joi a 16 year up and coming beauty influencer about her take on influence and developing self-awareness as a millennial teen girl. “A beauty Influencer FOR ME means that you or I dedicated our time to helping others see and be aware of self-worth and understanding that beauty is not just makeup. Beauty is everywhere. It’s making sure to dedicate your time to helping people find beauty in every aspect of themselves. That can manifest in physical, mental, or even spiritual form.” She explains.
As a self-proclaimed beauty influencer, I asked A’Rayah Joi what exactly inspired her to become one. “I became a beauty influencer for one reason only, and that is to help uplift this new generation on self-love and confidence. I am very passionate when it comes to educating men, women, and teens that beauty is not just about makeup. That it can be in anything and also within anyone.” She Continues “When I was 14 years old is when I knew that this was something that I wanted to do. I started to focus more on my image and wanted to use that as a platform to help girls an boys find self-love and beauty. It wasn’t easy! I had to work on self-discipline and time management to kickstart my journey of becoming a beauty influencer.”
Researching beauty influencers, one thing became evident to me; They absolutely set the standards amongst the masses. It’s no longer actresses, models, or musicians that people are looking to for making fashion trends infectious. At least not in most cases. Most of us do love our Yeezys! So I was more than curious to know this 16-year-old beauty influencers idea of what “beauty” should be defined by.
“My definition of beauty is SELF-Love! Self-Love is everything. It can answer so many questions that people have about themselves and others. I honestly do not feel any pressure from my peers or society about their standards and definition of beauty.” She explains. “Really, the only standards that I need to meet are those of my parents, and they are very supportive of my dreams and life purpose.”
With top beauty influencers such as Jeffree Starr, Jaclyn Hill, and James Charles, I was curious to get Araya’s thoughts what is causing the current craze of beauty influencers and gurus.
I think the “craze” is less society and more influencers themselves. Why? Two words Pr List. Almost everyone is trying in some type of way to get on a high demand makeup PR list. Well-known beauty influencers are the first selected to be on PR lists… Now I understand that free makeup is beyond amazing, but you don’t have to lose your self-respect in the process, which many influencers do by getting caught up in controversy” She says.
This statement brought me to turn my attention to another topic that I have noticed. In light of the controversy that just happened between James Charles and Tati Westbrook, I have been somewhat enlightened by what is not called “cancel culture.” This basically means that when an influencer or celebrity of any kind, does something that their loyal following does not approve of, they are then considered to be canceled. In other words, they lose followers, subscribers, endorsements, which means, all in all, they lose income. When James Charles was “called out” by now ex-best friend Tati Westbrook and “exposed,” the 19-year-old Beauty influencer went from 16.5 subscribers to 13.8 in just 48 hours. That seems unbelievable to me, but it had my curiosity about what peers of James think of this “Cancel culture.”
A’Rayah Joi states, “The whole James and Tati thing, I completely understood both sides. But it goes back to what I said about losing self-respect and dignity. Someone that you love and claim is like family hurts you and you go directly to social media do solve the problem? Cancel culture? It’s wrong. I look at society as a big projection screen. When someone is out of frame, someone or someting always has something to say to project their emoions on to you.” She continues, “James Charles is actually who I am most influenced by professionally. He covers everythingthat I love. He is an amazing teacher without making it feel like school. He is such an amazing inspiration to bounce off of in a time of difficulty, and I really love how he started from having absolutely nothing besides his family, who is still is everything.”
Being so poised, confident, and self-assured at such a young age, A’Rayah Joi reminded me so much of myself as a teen. I was so ambitious and so confident that I had been born to leave a significant impact on the world. But there is that extra something about her. A versatility that you would most likely find in a college junior and not a high school junior. This prompted me to ask her how she maintains such confidence and self-awareness at such a young age.
“Honestly? I try to pamper myself every chance that I get! For me, pampering can mean exploring different haircuts and styles, learning more and more about myself, eating healthy, maintaining natural nails and being AWARE that I am an amazing person with or without makeup on. Also, my family is very much responsible for the positive perspective that I have of myself. No matter what we go through, I am constantly learning from everyone and everything around me. My sisters are a big part of what I do, and I love them so much for that!” she beams.
I really enjoyed my conversation with A’Rayah Joi and was pleased to know that she is becoming quite the teen Mogul! She is currently working on her own series/podcast called “True Reflections.” It focuses on helping women, men, and families, in general, be more aware of themselves and how to be the best versions of themselves each and every day. She is also working on a video shoot that is going to be focused on women empowerment specifically.
As she evolves into the ambitious queen that she aspires to be , there will many teens that will struggle each and every day with what to and not to be influenced by. I asked A’Rayah Joi what advice she has for them as they try to find their way in a culture that is often shallow, inauthentic, and confusing . How can they too develop and maintain such a positive self-awareness despite what they see day to day on social media?
“My advice is that I want you to live in constant awareness of your inner strength, beauty, and power. You don’t need the validity of anyone in order to accept how beatiful you truly are. No mattter what anyone says, even those supposedly close to you, you have got to live your life exactly the way that you manifested it. Learn to grow past all of the people who doubt you and understand that it’s their own insecurities and not yours.” She pauses for a moment in thought and then continues. “My platform Is not just my platform; it is my real life… When you log onto it, that same magnetic and positive energy that you get from reading my posts is the same energy that I believe in and live by in my everyday life… I am selfless, loving, strong, and emotional. I am me. And that is beauty.”