Under My Students’ Influence: A Follower

Who is an influencer? In 2006, Time voted YOU as its Person of the Year and no title felt more right since. We evolve, survive (or die) by following each other through personal battles, cultural maelstroms, diets and riots. Every academic term I am blessed with an opportunity to learn from my students. My social media classes include a prompt for folks’ favorite content creators. Each time I am unaware of 3/4 of the names shared. Early on, I felt out of touch until I realized this was actually a really great thing … a celebration of internet’s vast capacity to inspire, empower, and sustain individuals, communities, markets, industries, us. Here’s a half-dozen accounts I discovered thanks to my students at the Academy of Art University School of Fashion and its Fashion Journalism program as well as IFA Paris. The niche is YOU.

A HUG (brand)

I don’t usually follow brands. Most “advertorial” content is tedious. A Hug is a happy exception. My students introduced me to its wearable sculptures upcycled from vintage garments. They bring joy to my feed. I love the craftsmanship and the sense of humor! One day when I grow up, I’d love to collaborate on a piece of fashion art.

Our exclusive INTERVIEW with A Hug: “What Makes Clothes Art?

Joshua Dixon (multidisciplinary artist)

The best storytellers survived their own epic battles. Chicago-based Joshua Dixon is no exception. My students introduced me to his work as a photographer and an advocate for suicide prevention. I have come to deeply appreciate both. He also runs a streetstyle label Admire Wear which benefits mental health orgs. Must-follow meets must-have!

Our exclusive INTERVIEW with Joshua: “We Heart Joshua Dixon. You Will Too.”

Saiyak Rakeeb (digital wellness coach)

“A digital wellbeing coach helping perfectionist content creators break free from painfully high standards.” First I rolled my eyes. Then I couldn’t take my eyes off this page. Saiyak took a year off social media to learn about its adverse effects all aspects of our post-wifi lives. Thanks to my students I continue to benefit from her insights.

Our exclusive INTERVIEW with Saiyak: “On/Off/Etc: On Digital Wellness

The Indian Feminist (knowledge powerbrokers)

These are not your average memes and infographics! I am grateful to my students for introducing me to these “two kickass Punjabi girls smashing the patriarchy one post at a time.” From curating stellar content to generating their own studies and guides, such quality edutainment is why internet should’ve been invented. Live, laugh, learn.

Bretman Rock (young icon)

How many followers?! I must’ve lived under a (different) rock before my students introduced me to Bretman. Just this fall, the beauty vlogger had the honor to wear Aaliyah’s iconic Cavalli dress to the VMAs (!) before becoming the first (gay) man to appear solo on the cover of Playboy (!) How much history can one person make?!

Haatepah Clearbear aka Coyotl (model/activist)

Too often models’ interest in “charitable causes” corresponds to trending hashtags and gala schedules. Coyotl’s commitment to advancing Indigenous rights, including the seminal land-back campaign, as well as environmental justice at large, makes him an essential zeitgeist worker alongside Xiuhtezcatl Martinez and Lil Native Boy.

P.S. The cover image for this post belongs to Krithika Sengottaiyan, an award-winning textile design student at the Academy of Art University.

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