In a photo posted on her Instagram page last month, Natalia Levsina relaxes in a nest of plush white bedding, a book in one hand and a cup of coffee in another.
At first glance, you might assume the New York City-based social media influencer with 126,000 followers is holed up in an upscale hotel or luxuriating in her multimillion dollar apartment on a lazy morning.
The truth is a bit more complicated.
Levsina has not spent a night in the comfy bed and does not even live in the 2,400-square-foot penthouse in Manhattan’s SoHo neighborhood in which it resides. Nobody does. Levsina — like dozens of other social media influencers who have begun flocking to this particular abode — is here to create content for marketing products (in her case, bras, as her Instagram post notes).
Welcome to the newest trend among social media influencers, one that is blurring the lines between fact and fiction, authenticity and advertising as Instagram becomes the go-to platform for enhancing someone’s image, regardless of reality.
Rented by Village Marketing in August, an all-female agency that connects social media influencers to brands like SoulCycle, Warby Parker and Equinox, the penthouse was designed to give social media stars an “optimal canvas” for content creation, according to the agency’s 36-year-old founder Vickie Segar.
The $15,000 a month rent is not hard to recoup, considering a single shoot in the space can cost a brand from $3,000 to $10,000, Segar said. The home includes a kitchen, two bedrooms and a roof deck with views of Lower Manhattan. The space is on the top floor of a building to maximize photographic light and is already booked through December.
Like the photos that emerge from inside its walls, everything inside the penthouse was meticulously planned, down to the glistening gold silverware and the walls’ inspirational messages aimed at women.
“There’s a lot of millennial pink, furs and velvets, with gold accents, which is very on trend,” Segar said, noting it took her team nearly a year to locate and design the 100-year-old space. “We wanted a very harmonious vibe to start as you walk through the space — a lot of tans, whites, marbles and different accents.”
“At moments there are a few pops, like a loud wallpaper in the bedroom,” she added. “We wanted influencers to have options.”
The lives of social media influencers look enviable from the outside. They jet-set to exotic destinations, feast on tantalizing spreads and — when they are not doing planks in the gym or drinking rosé at a rooftop gathering — always seem to be unwinding among perfectly ruffled sheets.
Despite looking breezy and blemish-free, social media influencers have begun to carefully curate their images, especially as brands increasingly rely on them to reach potential customers.
Agencies like Village Marketing do not represent influencers like a talent agency but are, instead, hired by brands to help them sort through and maintain relationships with tens of thousands of influencers, finding the ideal content creators for their image.
The goal, Segar said, is finding an influencer who can pair with a brand “organically,” creating imagery that others might describe as an advertorial.
With demand for influencers increasing, Segar said she came up with the idea for a “content studio” after hearing about the struggle New York City influencers face trying to create original content.
“We work with a lot of‚ micro-influencers (people with 100,00 to 250,000 Instagram followers) that are always looking for a place to shoot,” Segar said, noting some influencers shoot in home decor stores or get up at 5 a.m. to take photos when city streets are empty. “We thought: Why don’t we create a place that gives them the opportunity to create content in a private setting?”
“Their job is to create content, and we are another opportunity for that,” she added.
Segar said her agency is already planning to find another home to turn into a “content studio,” possibly in Los Angeles. She remains adamant that the current location is not designed to mislead Instagram followers who may be left with the impression that the influencers inhabit the spaces in which they appear online.
Though the home has already appeared in multiple influencer’s Instagram posts, its eye-catching wallpaper a dead giveaway, Segar said she is not worried the imagery will lose its novelty.
Several thousand feet of home, she said, translates into thousands of shots — and months of photoshoots.
“We will need to change it up to make sure it does continue to stay interesting at some point,” she said. “There’s so much you can do we haven’t really even tapped into that yet.”