During our daily social media perusals, it's not uncommon to stumble across the account of a so-called "Instagram model;" and whenever we do, we're instantly filled with a sense of ambivalence. First comes envy: her tropical jet sets, vibrant açai bowls, and impossibly trim frame are what commenters might call #goals. But then comes skepticism: How much of her soul did this girl have to sell to get sent on that vacation? And how much Facetune went into that eight-pack?
According to a new, in-depth interview with Instagram's most famous teen model, Alexis Ren, the answer to both questions is… zero. "I hate when people say I Photoshop myself," the 22-year-old told The Cut over a kale-and-quinoa salad. "I do work this hard, and I have this body."
If you are one of Ren's 13.3 million Instagram followers, you recognize the bikini model's mermaid-length brow hair, bronzed skin, and, as The Cut describes it, "a waist so small in circumference it appears to defy the laws of physics." Ren first shot to internet fame four years ago, when a series of her poolside bikini photos surfaced on Tumblr and were reblogged like wildfire. She was only 15 at the time, but Ren guarantees, she's "wiser than [her] age.”
The Tumblr and subsequent Instagram fame led Ren to sign with an agency, acquire a team and a manager, and secure campaigns with big brands from Calvin Klein to L'Oréal. But her lust-worthy Instagram is still her biggest claim to fame, and she's continued to grow the account thanks to a few key strategies, all of which surprisingly have to do with authenticity. (For example, Ren takes pride in turning down deals with "as seen on Instagram" products, like teatoxes and waist trainers.)
So, according to one of the most-followed Instagram models in history, what is the secret to the perfect post? Read on to find out.
Ren travels the world constantly to keep her Instagram posts, as she puts it, "spicy and fun." She's typically found posing in a bikini somewhere coastal and palm tree-filled—Ibiza, Maui, Bali. Sometimes brands pay for the trips, but often they come out of Ren's own pocket. These vacation photos earn her upwards of 600K likes.
Ren's measurements are a seemingly impossible 34-22-34, and she owes most of her success in maintaining them. She works out every day without fail, usually with a personal trainer. She doesn't drink, and according to The Cut, "she really eats all those açai bowls she posts on Instagram."
Ren describes her diet as "more Paleo than anything," though eating "the cleanest form of food" possible is more important to her than sticking to a specific eating plan.
Maintaining an even tan is also key. "I have to get at least 20 minutes of sun every day," she said (and yes, she assures she wears sunscreen). "An hour is the best because it's good for you. You need it. I need it to have that little spark… I think of the sun as my battery, my charger. That’s why I travel so much… My life goal right now is to have in my wardrobe a bikini and a fur coat and nothing in between.”
Most of Ren's photos feature just that: a bikini and not much else. She's proudly showing off the hard work she puts into her body, and she knows that her followers appreciate it too. "I love to show off my body, and I feel like I earned it because I work out every day," she said. "I'm really healthy, and that's one of the things I pride myself on."
Just as her millions of fans look up to her, on Instagram and in life, Ren has role models too. "I look up to Gigi Hadid," she said. "I love where she's taken herself, I love what brands she's working on... Girls like her open the doors for girls like me."
A high-end fashion career could be next for Ren. As The Cut says, she could be "one TV appearance away from mainstream success." But in the meantime, she'll be racking up millions of followers on Instagram, without even a quick pass through Facetune at play.