We are about to close 2021 with just a few more weeks to go. Let’s skip all the formalities and commentary about how terrible 2021 is – that is yesterday’s news. However, let’s talk about a ‘hidden issue’ that seems to be growing more prominently this year under the surface within the influencer (and general entertainment) world; the rise of influencers in their stride to overtake the status of our traditionally defined ‘celebrities’.
Traditional celebrities in films, magazines, and runways have been the idols that we worshiped over the last century since the existence of media. Yet, over the last year, there has been brewing conversations on influencers trudging into what was previously considered exclusive for these traditional celebrities – from tv-series and exclusive events, in local and international contexts.
For the purpose of this piece, influencers are defined as anyone whose popularity is primarily and initially built on social media platforms such as Instagram, YouTube, Tiktok, and many more.
Influencers on Box Office Movies
Perhaps not as well known a fact, but influencers have been featured in movies and TV series since the initial rise of influencer marketing. One of Nuffnang’s favorite films, the Pitch Perfect franchise, features a popular German YouTuber in its second installment. YouTuber Flula played Pieter from Das Sound Machine, the German rivals to the Barden Bellas.
It was a role that perfectly suited Flula as a musically talented individual and was pulled off spectacularly in our opinion! While it caused quite the buzz surrounding Flula’s own fanbase, it did not quite create the conversation on influencers taking over the bread and butter of traditional celebrities. Perhaps it was because he was not the star of the film and not quite the highest-paid actor there? Yet, those within the influencer community can now aspire beyond the sphere of social media and onto the greater stage of entertainment – and this is just the beginning. Talent is talent, it should and cannot be limited to its own ‘category’.
Influencers on Realising Singles
2020 was a great year for TikTok as a growing platform and the star of it was Bella Poarch. One year into her debut into the influencer community, she release her first single titled ‘Build a B*tch’ and that’s when the conversation on where influencers might go next gained momentum.
When the song was first released, critics remarked on the degree of auto-tune made to Bella Poarch’s voice and even the ‘art-form of the song itself. Poarch then subtly rebutted the critics through her platforms with live sessions and videos of her singing capabilities to show her vocal prowess. Her fans follow suit to defend her debut single by expanding the messaging of her song and even the production value invested in her music video. While one can never silence the critics, Poarch’s talent and her fanbase have managed to prove a case – influencers have access to a fanbase which traditional celebrities previously did not have or could not tap into due to the lack of social media. Not only is it an access, but the die-hard support of defending their influencer-idols to the end. Now, if you were a music label producer, would you not want to capitalize on an influencer’s expansive and dedicated network when choosing your next big star? We would.
Influencers on the Red Carpet
The exclusive invite-only Met Gala for 2021 made its comeback in September after a year of postponement. While we have seen influencers invited in previous Met Galas such as Lily Singh in 2019, 2021 marks a significant milestone for the influencer community with recognizable influencers strutting down the red carpet with designer wear, shoulder-to-shoulder with celebrities. From TikTok stars like Addison Rae and Dixie D’Amelio, YouTuber Eugene Lee-Yang from The Try Guys, Emma Chamberlain, and Nikkie De Jager from Nikkie Tutorials, they represented a community that was previously seen as just exclusive for the social media sphere onto the larger entertainment industry.
Many celebrities and critics made comments on the ‘less-exclusive’ guest list this year but the fact remains, even Anna Wintour could no longer ignore the power of influencers – not if she wanted the Met Gala to stay relevant to the younger audience. Fact is, influencers have been ‘trained’ to engage with their audiences, unlike their celebrity counterparts. Bringing influencers to the Met Gala or any ‘exclusive events’ is not just an ‘awareness-move’, it is an effort to engage with the audiences.
Here in Malaysia
Malaysia is not exempted from the growing conversation of influencers rising to celebrity status. Early this year, we’ve seen Sharifah Rose (a favorite of Nuffnang, might we add) playing the lead role in the TV series Kekasih Hati Mr. Bodyguard on TV3. Critics flooded social media and portals with reviews of her acting capabilities, stating that her acting skills were ‘kayu’ (flat) and some local celebrities even jumped on the bandwagon to say that ‘influencers should stay in their own lane’. Being of strong character, Sharifah Rose dismissed the negativity and took the criticisms as feedback to improve her art – a move that was defended by Sharifah’s own loyal fanbase. As much as it is a brand’s dream-come-true to have a band of loyal advocates, the same can be said for a TV series – it is an inherent benefit of positioning a strong influencer as an actor.
To be fair, this is not new as well in the Malaysian context. We have had bloggers back in the early-influencer days such as Hanis Zalikha and Vivy Yusof who have risen to celebrity levels. Yet, the conversation on the concern of influencers taking over the rice bowls of celebrities gained prominence lately due to the frequency of it happening. The day will come when influencers populate the contents of major entertainment scenes. As a driver of growth, Nuffnang as a company believes that it is only a natural progression towards an influencer’s growth to expand their opportunities beyond the initial realm of social media.
Amongst many other developments within the digital sphere, it is exciting to see how much more influencers can further dominate the industry in the coming years. Cheers to the new year!