There are many hubs around the United States that contribute to both American and worldwide cultures. However, the influence of Los Angeles may just beat out these other cities being the capital of the entertainment industry and a creative center for many different industries as well. Culturally, it is home to a melting pot of communities that all share the vast landscape in California.
Over the past decade, a new digital age has emerged causing a shift in the way we consume media and entertainment. Social media being at the forefront of our daily lives, it has opened doors of opportunity for a new kind of celebrity. The old stars of Hollywood, in their age, were put on an untouchable pedestal for the rest of the people to admire, but the appeal was never that of being relatable or like us in any way. Their elaborate, glamorous lives were special and different than anyone else’s. Thanks to the digital age, celebrity is now accessible to all in the form of being an influencer, granting access to the lifestyle of the people others look up to and aspire to reach. Due to this new accessibility, it has caused an influx of changes and problems as well as opportunity. The rise of social media and the digital age has caused an overtaking of influencer culture in Los Angeles, with the over-saturation of influencers leading to the unfortunate replacement of culture with clout and contributions to gentrification.
In order to understand the complications, first one must explore what an influencer even is. It is likely a term heard and known by many, but the truth of the matter is that there are many forms of influencing and different ways of doing so. The majority of these people can be placed “into the following categories: celebrities, industry experts and thought leaders, bloggers or content creators and micro-influencers” (Zdenka and Holiencinova 92). It really boils down to anyone that has any sort of power or guidance on a significant number of people. This is why the celebrity is so accessible because of the range in which you are able to be an influencer and how “an unprecedented number of fame-seekers use social media as the gateway to self-promotion even if in reality, only a few get the kind of recognition that can be converted to money” (Gomez 10). In the last decade, especially when Instagram was released, that sparked the new influencer economy present today that gave communities and people a platform to share their work and communicate instantly. Platforms such as: Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Snapchat and now TikTok have all been successful in getting users and contributing to the growing influencer scene. With each new app that arises, is born a new set of influencers. At the rate of growth that social media and the digital world has grown, these numbers are not set to slow down anytime soon.
Anyone can aspire to be an influencer because of the nature of the platforms in which you can be successful. In contrast to a more corporate or professional career that stems from formalities and growing experience, influencers are born out of many things, from their relatability and people’s attraction to things they are interested in to viral fame. That is why no influencer has to be a celebrity. They are just people who add value to their social networks and reach a large number of people from their following from their knowledge or expertise in a specific field (Zdenka and Holiencinova 93). Users who are already using these platforms for fun, entertainment, or to stay in touch with friends and family, are already producing content. With that in mind, the attraction to being an influencer for many comes from making money off of something that is already happening. That lifestyle of an influencer then becomes the main goal and motivator for people trying to gain their following in order to live off of their earnings and simply produce content by living how they want.
In order to produce watchable, viral content, the environment and events are everything. Needing an aesthetic backdrop to put behind their lush lifestyle that people will want to follow results in a huge flocking of these influencers to Los Angeles. Being at the creative and cultural hub, the city becomes a place for these influencers to grow their brand and status and try to expand on their connections and opportunity for more success. People come to L.A. not to “break from the hustle of everyday life by relaxing and taking in the sparkle of Tinseltown,” but to earn more likes because those are influencer currency. Likes turn into followers, more followers turns into more fame (Fry). This move makes sense given that Hollywood has always been the home of many celebrities and home to opportunities as well. This is a place to meet like minded people and others in the creative field with similar aspirations.
Collaboration then becomes a major part of the influencer journey especially for young people interested in the party scene and getting together with people their age to create content and have parties. This influx of young aspiring influencers created collaboration houses.These young influencers are banding together to live in luxury, forming groups to live in a mansion together. This is both a financial and creative strategy as they are able to create content and have a luxurious backdrop to do it and also to collaborate and make exclusive events and parties. Some well known houses include The Hype House and The Sway House. Both are fairly new to the game as they are TikTok influencers. Starting in 2019, these mansions are being occupied by the top influencer celebrities and have a following on social media for the content released from the house in the billions.
The impact of this on the other Los Angeles residents, especially in these more upscale locations, are the shenanigans and volume of these houses. It is reported that “neighbors complained to the Times about hearing loud music late at night, trash left out front, the sounds of someone vomiting and the early-morning firing of paintball guns” (Leggate). Having consistent partying going on and loud events creates a less than hospitable environment for other wealthy residents in the area. The disruption and inconsideration of the neighbors comes from the influencer culture that lives on clout chasing and attention grabbing content. In order to hold viewers attention, things often have to be both in your face and loud. Group content especially needs some sort of exciting factor to keep viewers engaged.
This influx of influencers not only affects the residential life of Los Angeles, but the actual landscape as well. As many other subcultures are already outraged by the gentrification taking place in their neighborhoods, driving up the cost of living and erasing history within their culture, influencers are adding onto it. One instance demonstrating this is when “a (kind of) new mural on Melrose Avenue in Los Angeles sparked outrage on social media, with people calling it “social media gentrification” and “perfecto capitalism”. (Adrian) The mural was only accessible to people with a certain following criteria and was a promotion for a new influencer oriented company. This is attributed to the exclusivity of influencer culture, like that of celebrity, but more harmful in the way that more and more people are making the effort to become an influencer because of its accessibility in comparison to A-list celebrities in Hollywood.
The connection between gentrification and influencer culture especially draws from the roots of capitalism. Once an influencer grows their following, much of their profits comes from brand deals and influencer marketing. A brand will reach out to an influencer they feel matches their target demographic, and therefore their followers would also be the company’s target as well. Influencer marketing is one of the leading forms of marketing because of its success for brands. Influencers hold so much power due to the relationship between them and their followers. There is a sense of trust between them because someone will only follow another person if they like them and what they are producing. The longer an influencer is online and puts out content, the stronger of a relationship is grown. People feel that they know the influencer, as if they are their friend. That is the power of the relatability aspect and everyday folk feeling that many influencers have. People today are more cautious of brands and other advertising directly from the brand itself because of the idea that they are only in it for the profit. The illusion of the influencer is that they are essentially doing the exact same thing, but instead of someone hearing it from a stranger, it feels as if it is a recommendation from a friend. The dangers of this especially those who are younger influencers, is that once they find success, they will do anything to propel that and upkeep an influencer status. That’s when clout chasing and authenticity come into question because of the fake-ness of social media.
People can project what they want to project. Influencers will go all over Los Angeles into places they are not even aware of the culture and pose with things of significance without appreciation for the history and use it for their aesthetic. Likewise, especially starting out, influencers will take any brand deals they can get in order to get their income started. So, they may praise and try to sell a product to their viewers that they don’t even like or use.
Authenticity is a major concern because of the nature of the market and the desire for an upcoming influencer to gain their income and feel their career blossom can easily outweigh being authentic in their posts. Being accustomed to already scouting locations and editing photos for the best posts online or curating videos they think will get more attention and staging certain events makes it seem like part of the job as an influencer. “People’s claims of digital authenticity sometimes turn out to be superficial attempts to claim certain alternative identities to enhance their egos or the knowing cultivation of personas in the interest of persuading others for the purpose of some form of gain” (Hund 30). Because the digital space is newer, and influencer culture has only sprouted in the last decade, navigating these problems is unique to this industry and time. The collaboration between influencers and companies need to be regulated in order to keep ethics in check. Another major factor with influencer culture is that because they could be any regular person, the rise to fame over a short period of time can have a negative effect on celebrity life, culture within L.A. and the influencer themselves. It can be seen in a lot of young TikTok stars and YouTubers getting constantly canceled or called out for problematic instances because they do not know the societal expectations and responsibilities that come from being a celebrity and having that lifestyle.
The glamorous aspects of being an influencer or celebrity are the normal motivators for influencers, meaning that the other aspects of being in the spotlight are overlooked. In a commercial, capitalist world, it is easy for a young person who has grown up with social media and this culture to aspire to have that as their career. The additions of the negative impact of social media on society and mental health in general due to the facade that can be cultivated online, sparks problems within this industry that are not even addressed because of the newness of it all. The infiltration into Los Angeles not only is harming the cultures present, but the new digital age and influencer culture is removing the authenticity of L.A. and the people that reside there.
Overall, this rising influencer culture has had a lot of impact within the last decade and continues to thrive with new markets being created within digital platforms. Unfortunately, that is causing an influx of influencers to Los Angeles, which is changing the landscape and existing cultures there as they take over mansions in Beverly Hills and other high end areas, and use the existing subculture scenes for their own clout and aesthetics for their online profiles. There is a definite rise of gentrification and with influencers, marketing has soared and capitalism with it as people spend a large portion of their day scrolling on various social media platforms. It is evolving and becoming more relevant in the grand scheme of things as we see these rising influencers infiltrate other creative hubs such as films, music, and television. The desire for more fame, money, and success are driving these new celebrities into other spheres aside from the social media world, indicating that not only are they here to stay, but are paving the way for a new route for other people to follow in order to attain the lifestyle of a celebrity that everyone desires.
The residents of Los Angeles push back against gentrification and many are bothered by the new wave of influencers joining the scene, but the best change that could come from those coming into the city would be to enter it respectful of those who have resided there and be mindful of the culture capital having a significant history. Appreciation of the places they go and not simply using the beautiful aspects of Los Angeles for their own gain and advantage online would be a step in the right direction to correcting the harmful over-saturation of this group. The values of influencers and upholding an authentic, mindful brand is steadily increasing as the more original influencers who were not mindful of that are being called out and canceled. That will hopefully provide enough inspiration for these newer, upcoming influencers to not make the same mistakes and have an authentic, responsible presence online that is mindful of the power that comes with a following and fame.
Fry, Naomi. “‘Fake Famous’ and the Tedium of Influencer Culture.” The New Yorker, February 2021.
Hund, Emily Ann. “The Influencer Industry: Constructing and Commodifying Authenticity on Social Media.” Thesis / Dissertation ETD, ScholarlyCommons, 2019, pp. 28–30.
Kadekova, Zdenka, and Maria Holiencinova. “Influencer Marketing as a Modern Phenomenon Creating a New Frontier of Virtual Opportunities.” Communication Today, 2018.
Leggate, James. “TikTok ‘Content Houses’ Take over Luxurious LA Mansions.” Fox Business, Fox Business, June 2020.
Mecava, Aridan. “LA Influencers Compete Over Exclusive Urban Space.” Pop, 2018.
Ruiz-Gomez, Alexandra. “Digital Fame and Fortune in the Age of Social Media: A Classification of Social Media Influencers.” ADResearch ESIC International Journal of Communication Research, vol. 19, no. 19, 2019, pp. 08–29., doi:10.7263/adresic-019-01.