The Glow investigates: Can a 'normal' woman become 'Instagram hot'?

It doesn’t matter which social media platform it is, there will always be a rising class of hot people who will try to run the joint. Instagram, the photo-sharing app which I formerly used for photos of my lunch, is now overrun with ultra-attractive people who post multiple selfies a day.

What fascinates me about Instagram Hotness is that it can be a complete illusion. I’ve met a few people over the years who have been friends-of-friends, who spend hours crafting their online profile. These guys and girls look stunning in every photo they post, whether on Instagram, Facebook or any other social media platform. But when I finally met them in real life, I sometimes didn’t recognise them at all.

Meet the 17 year old who makes $750 for every photo she posts on Instagram.

I understand that you’d want to put your best face forward on social media, and the internet in general. But, I think there’s a difference between looking good online, compared to spending the majority of your time cultivating a false face and lifestyle on social media. It’s the disease of our generation. We put our heads down, gazing into our phones, so that our beautified faces can then beam out from screens around the world.

There’s definitely a formula to Instagram Hotness, whether it be a pose, a place or an overall look. Tiah Eckhardt Delaney, the Aussie model, writer and super genius babe, puts it best:

I got to thinking: if so many women are vying to be the next Instagram Hottie, then surely, there must be something good about it? I was intrigued to investigate whether I, an ordinary mum and non-model living in the suburbs, could become Instagram Hot through using glamorous locations and props, camera angles and techniques, and all the makeup I could cram onto my face.


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Here’s a blow-by-blow account of my experiment, in which I used the tricks and techniques of some of our most beloved Instagram Hotties, in an attempt to become one of them. All of the photos were taken with my retro iPhone 4, and the “final” photos were edited using PicsArt.

1. Cover your face

One thing that Instagram Hot Girls love doing is occasionally covering their faces with their hair and hands. I suppose it adds mystery and emotion to the photo. Lara Bingle is fond of this, but it only makes me worry about her. What if she walks into a pole or something, because she can’t see? What if she can’t see her iPhone, and we never get to find out what she does with her hair next?

Maybe that’s why she won’t return my texts – it’s because she can’t see them. I sent her this poem, and maybe she didn’t like it:

Hey Lara
I saw you once in Zara
You were wearing Balenciaga boots
Did you wear them at a photo shoot

Also, I don’t have her phone number, so there’s that. I just sent it to “Lara” in my phone, who is my high school friend, so I guess now that’s two people who haven’t texted me back.



I have since realised that Lara Bingle is a model of the highest standard. This is because it is a true feat – nay, it is a miracle – to look good when your hair and hands are covering your face. I could not get this right.




The first few photos that I took were terrifying, as my face took up the entire frame of the shot. I had squished my face into a weird shape with my own hand, and my hair looked like it was attacking me. I had to fashion my own selfie-stick from a wooden spoon and packing tape, as I was so desperate to get a photo that looked halfway normal.

The end result was an Instagram Hot photo, but I can tell you, if an attractive stranger walked into the room and saw me with my hair in my face, my own hand around my throat and the other hand wielding an obsolete iPhone duct-taped to a wooden spoon, well…I don’t think they’d be double-tapping me, that’s for sure.

Time spent (incl. making selfie stick): 20 minutes
No. of photos taken: 26


Would you double tap this?

2. Use fruit as a prop

Loni Jane Anthony. Instagram, @lonijane

Many of the most popular girls on Instagram are the ones who are “healthy”, such as fitness guru Kayla Itsines, and poster girl for the 80:10:10 diet, Loni Jane Anthony. These girls seem to have it all, and they love taking photos of fruit in artistic arrangements. Have you noticed how a thigh gap seems to go hand-in-hand with strawberries arranged in the shape of a heart? Again, I find this practice to be strange, because when I’m hungry, I just want to eat my food and not arrange it into the Mona Lisa or something.



Trying to take a fruit-themed photo made me realise that it’s easier just to be yourself. You know what I love? Eating Twix bars and taking photos of it. You know what I don’t love? Searching high and low for a watermelon that doesn’t cost $8, cutting up said watermelon and then rearranging it artfully in its shell, then having all the watermelon pieces fall onto my bedsheets.

Watermelon got everywhere.

In the time that it took me to prepare everything, I could have just eaten the thing! If I saw the below photo on Instagram, I would feel jealous of this girl, because it looks like she’s healthy and really happy. Eating a watermelon in bed just seems so holiday-like and relaxing. Therefore, I would feel sorry for anyone who would be tricked by this photo, because it’s not real at all.

Time spent (incl. cutting and arranging fruit): 30 minutes
No. of photos taken: 28


In all seriousness, I did end up eating this entire watermelon, and it was filling and energising. Who would have known?!


3. Take selfies in bed

Jennifer Hawkins. Instagram, @jenhawkins_

Instagram Hotties love taking selfies in bed. I think this is weird, because when I’m in bed, I just want to be sleeping. Jennifer Hawkins does this all the time. The bed is the ultimate setting, as it tells the world how relaxed and sexy you are. The odd thing about these photos, though, is that they always look so staged. I also sometimes worry for the person in the photo. Are they confined to bed due to illness? Do they have glandular fever? I’m concerned for Jen here, because it looks like she’s suffocating a bit amongst all the sheets. Breathe, Jen! We don’t want to lose you!



I had to study Jen’s photo for a long period of time, and it became like an optical illusion to me. I mean, why does she have sheets above her head? And she’s not snuggled or wrapped in her doona, it’s just kind of magically floating above her body. Does the Jbronze tanning range give you anti-gravitational powers, or something?

Taking the photo was an awkward experience. My head was in a pool of watermelon juice. That wasn’t a metaphor – this isn’t Fifty Shades of Fruit – the watermelon juice was still there from my attempt at being Loni Jane. I was lying lengthways across the bed, so my legs were hanging off the edge, plus the curtains were open, and I was so scared that a neighbour would walk past and see me.

Time spent (includes preparation, posing and shooting): 15 minutes
No. of photos taken: 9


"What's that watermelon smell?"

Four hours and 75 photos later, I realised that being Instagram Hot is a lifestyle choice, and not an accident. And, like all lifestyle choices, it takes a huge investment of time. It took me four hours to get any photos that I sort-of liked, and I don’t even want to post them to my Instagram. They’re all too something: too healthy, too sexy, too distant from who I really am. Objectively, the photos look good, but personally, the process made me feel really bad about myself. That happens when you have to look at 71 awful photos of yourself.


It was frustrating, especially as I was directly comparing myself to women who have the looks, bone structure and talent to be full-time Instagram Hotties. I wondered why I couldn’t just take a single photo and look like Miss Universe; the answer is, because I’m not Miss Universe. And that’s totally fine with me.

One thing that I did learn from the Instagram Hotties is that they are brimming with confidence, and in a time where criticism and hate is just a click of a button away, I think we should grab any shred of confidence we can find and run with it.

It takes a lot of guts to shoot an unashamedly sexy selfie, and then upload it to Instagram for the world to see and criticise. I don’t know about you, but these days, I feel insecure about so many things, as I’m living through huge life upheavals. Maybe the Instagram Hotties feel that way sometimes, too. Yet, their photos ooze confidence and self-esteem, and if these women can feel that way for even a second, then I think that’s just brilliant.

At the end of it all, I peeled off my false eyelashes, scrubbed off the makeup, and washed my hair, even though it took me ages to get that just-curled-enough look with my straightener. I just wanted to get back to normal, and I literally had to wipe away the illusion.

Cherry Beale is on Instagram, where she posts more photos of chocolate than of her own kid. Follow if you dare! @cherrybeale