celebrity

The cult-like rise of Shani Grimmond, Australia's most powerful influencer.

Shani Grimmond is the voice of young Australian women.

The 20-year-old beauty and lifestyle YouTuber might not agree with that statement, but with a combined social media following of over three million people – almost all of them tweens and teens – it’s hard to twist it any other way. In selectively sharing her life Grimmond has reached icon status; her merchandise and clothing brand, SG The Label, sells out mere minutes after its shelves are restocked.

When they’re not sending her boxes of free products, brands pine after the influencer like they would a celebrity; to be endorsed and approved by Shani Grimmond is akin to being praised by a millennial Oprah.

Her power to sell makeup to the masses has seen the Gold Coaster flown across Australia in a private jet, as well as travel on paid branded vacations to London and The Maldives in 2018 alone. In the case of The Maldives, she’s been paid to go twice. It’s February.

In some respects, we are talking about your ordinary 20-year-old. One who spends her weekends at festivals, on the beach or going clubbing. Who is experiencing the brutal force of heartbreak, anxiety and self-esteem issues in real time. And yet, in the same breath, Shani Grimmond is anything but ordinary. This is a woman who drives around in a slick new Range Rover worth $100,000 – a woman who lives in a high-rise apartment and dons herself in designer threads. A woman who has enjoyed wealth, fame and success from having an uncanny ability to connect with girls she has never met.

Despite most influencers’ social currency naturally waning over time, Grimmond’s soars year on year.

A post shared by SHANI GRIMMOND (@shanigrimmond) on

If you’re the mother of a teenage girl, you’ll likely find she’s one of Grimmond’s many adoring followers.

This all begs a few questions: How has a 20-year-old cultivated such a loyal following, and why do young women find her so captivating?

One explanation is that Grimmond expertly navigates a well-tested pathway to online success: She epitomises what Instagram beauty looks like in 2018, while also feeding fans crumbs of information about the ins and outs of her private life. In July, over 1.8 million people watched Grimmond announce her split from manager and boyfriend Johnathon Sauer in a video titled “We Broke Up.”

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It was the beginning of a rather curious period for the influencer; in the months proceeding her breakup, her following grew faster than any other point in her almost five-year career.

It wasn’t the first time a YouTube influencer’s relationship breakdown saw their career to soar to unprecedented heights. In 2016, Sydney-based Brittney Saunders shared every piece of her shattered heart with the online world. Her popularity boomed.

The narrative of Shani Grimmond’s love life plays a large part in keeping followers engaged and so, subsequent hints that Grimmond’s fractured relationship was on the mend were meticulously seeded out in countless videos and photos.

Whether it was her intention or not, Grimmond created an environment where fans wondered ‘are they back together?’ for more than three months. This only drove up the intrigue and, cleverly, engagement until the perfectly-timed Valentine’s Day Instagram post announced the news fans had been desperately hoping for: she and John are back together. More than 24,000 people commented their messages of congratulations.

Why are more and more young girls altering their faces to look like Kylie Jenner? Post continues after audio.

Whether that was expertly calculated PR or coincidental timing is up to you.

What we do know is, despite having the digital footprint of a major celebrity, the true essence of Shani Grimmond is elusive.

You could say Grimmond has made herself a reality television star without any need for an actual television at all. The script, the material, the production are all hers to curate and edit. And with that, she has emulated the mantra of the Kardashian/Jenner empire; feed your followers regularly without ever dishing up a full meal. (Fittingly, a popular fan-created Instagram account named Keeping Up With Kashani uploads updates on the blogger’s life every day. It has thousands of followers.)

The brand of female empowerment that has worked so lucratively for the Kardashians seems to have paid off for Grimmond, also.

The 20-year-old has been transparent about her cosmetic procedures and surgeries; in a November video she said, “I’ve dyed my hair, I’ve got a boob job, I’ve got my eyebrows tattooed on, I’ve got fake teeth, f**king fake lips. I have done so many things with my body, but at the end of the day I’m still the same person.

“… The only thing that has changed is physical appearance and that just comes down to me wanting to do it, because I’m happy with doing that with myself. I just wanted to change a few things.

“I mean I could take my breast implants out… I could let my lips dissolve, I could let my eyebrows fade off… and at the end of the day I’m still going to be that same person, I’m just not going to be as confident, you know what I mean?”

At just 20 years old, Shani Grimmond has millions of young women’s egos in her hands.

And when she’s only on the cusp of adulthood herself, that’s a breathtakingly powerful position to be in.

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