What Does It Really Mean to Be an Influencer Anyway?

Updated 03/27/19

It's not often we get the chance to pick the brains of some of the most creative women in the industry, so when I was told that I’d have the chance to chat with Lisa Dengler, Serena Goh, and Lainy Hedaya in honor of the launch of Cartier, you can guess how quickly I jumped. All three of these NYC-based creatives fall under the category we commonly refer to as “influencers,” a nebulous term that doesn’t adequately describe all of the different hats they wear, and I was curious to find out what exactly is involved in their day-to-day. (Spoiler alert: a lot.) When asked about the lessons they’ve learned on their unique career paths, they didn’t hold back. These successful entrepreneurs created a space for themselves in a notoriously competitive industry and nourish their inner light. Here's how.

Lisa Dengler Career
Lisa Dengler

Lisa Dengler’s insane on-the-go schedule is enough to make even the hardest-working among us feel like a slacker. When I ask her what term she would use to describe herself, the answer is unsurprisingly a bit complicated: “The most common terms are ‘blogger’ and ‘influencer,’ but neither fully describe what I do,” she says, going on to list artist, photographer, stylist, art director, creative director, model, architect, graphic designer, coder, and entrepreneur as bullet points on her résumé. “An entrepreneur is someone who has a dream—an idea—and they try with all their heart to turn it into a reality. That’s exactly what I do every single day.”

Lisa Dengler Career Path
Lisa Dengler

While Dengler finds her career incredibly rewarding, she tells me it isn’t easy (or for everyone). “This industry was basically born out of nothing,” she says. “At first people just winged it, but now things are constantly changing, and it’s harder to grow than it has ever been.” Clearly she’s doing something right—she’s got over 160k followers and counting, and she’s constantly on the move. Dengler attributes her success and longevity in the field to staying true to herself. She continues to create unique content that merges all her passion points: art, fashion, design, and travel, and you're able to see those come through in her artistic imagery. “It’s easy to get caught up in this industry and get lost in it. But if you truly shine from within, others around you notice.”

Lainy Hedaya Career
Lainy Hedaya

Haute Inhabit’s Lainy Hedaya is another mainstay in the industry, and it’s probably because of her background. She has a BBA in visual merchandising and also mentioned that she’s had every type of internship imaginable, from visual merchandising and styling, to design and production. But it’s clear that having an eye for design and a range of multifaceted skills is what has helped her stay in the game for so long. She’s been creating content for nearly eight years now, and she knows how hard the hustle can be. “Being an entrepreneur means taking risks on everything—especially finances—to create something meaningful for the world,” she explains. The hardest part of her job: “Staying focused,” she says. “I’m really doing a six-person job: social media, finances, marketing, production, photography; it’s never-ending.”

Hedaya only started to gain confidence when she stopped caring what other people thought and focused on things that mattered to her. “I don’t compare myself to others in the industry because we’re all different; we have different creative processes and aesthetics, so there’s room for all of us to succeed in our own ways,” she says. Also important to her process? Making sure she’s taking care of herself. “Self-care is the most important thing for people to feel bold and to let their inner light shine. I wouldn’t be able to do what I do without that rich feeling from within,” she tells me.

Serena Goh Career
Serena Goh

The Spicy Stilleto’s Serena Goh has also been in the industry for eight years, but it wasn’t in her plans to become a creative consultant or blogger. After college, Goh pursued a traditional career path working in technology and finance and started blogging on the side. It didn’t take long for her to realize that this could be her job. “You learn so much on a daily basis and face so many challenges, but I’m so grateful for how many doors it has opened for me,” she explains. But success—and maintaining it—isn’t always easy. “It’s really hard for me to just turn off, but at the same time it’s so rewarding to be connected to a community of supportive people,” says Goh. It’s all about balance and surrounding yourself with positivity.

Serena Goh Career Path
Serena Goh

“There will always be things that fill you up or drain you of your energy, and I think it’s important to recognize what those things are and remove them from your life," she says. Though Goh understands how social media makes it easy to compare yourself to others. “If you know what makes you unique, those thoughts become irrelevant,” she tells me. “Embrace your individuality to find your inner light—it’s the only way to outshine your competitors.” We should all take notes because it’s clearly been working for her.

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