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It’s way too easy to lose track of time scrolling through status updates, insta-stories and the latest TikTok trends. But on one of those trips down a social media rabbit hole, you just might have come across an SJ native who has made the bigtime as a social media influencer. (You may have been following them already and not even known they’re from your hometown.)

@julzmichele –  10M Likes

In one of her most moving TikTok posts, you hear audio say, “Put a finger down if you’ve ever been touched without consent, if you’ve been body shamed, if a man has made you feel extremely uncomfortable, if he hasn’t taken no for an answer, if you’ve worried about your drink being drugged at a party.” Then the 19-year-old, crying into her iPhone camera, slowly puts down 5 fingers.  

Beyond her funny lip syncs and dance videos, Mt. Laurel’s Julz Michele uses her voice on social media to spread mental-health awareness to her 550K followers. 

“I felt like if I could speak out on a platform like TikTok, I could reach more people,” says Michele, whose videos have garnered more than 10 million likes. 

After battling severe anxiety disorders stemming from an abusive relationship, she felt empowered to speak out. When her video “Red Flags in Relationships” got more than a million views, her account started gaining traction – in both good and bad ways.   

“I get a lot of positive comments from people who feel validated in their mental health battles, but people say terrible things too,” she says. “When people comment the first thing on their minds, they have no idea how much it can hurt.” 

She keeps posting, she says, because she wants people to be more upfront and honest about their own struggles.  

“Posting about my mental health helps me cope,” she says. “There can never be too many advocates.”

 

@arielversace – 461K Followers

If you catch this social media star at Wegmans, you’ll see Cherry Hill local Bryan Neel in a t-shirt and jeans. But on Instagram, you’ll see “life-sized Bratz doll” Ariel Versace – his colorful, in-your-face drag queen persona.

As seen on “RuPaul’s Drag Race” Season 11, this queen is a Jersey Girl through and through – big hair, Jersey tan and heavy makeup in all the colors of the rainbow.

Versace “sashayed away” in the fifth episode, but she’s far from a one-hit wonder. Today, you’ll find her on social media performing, modeling for national brands, sharing clips from her music singles and promoting her SJ-based wig company, Drag by Chariel.

 

“People who think social media isn’t important are dead wrong. My online brand deals pay the bills,” says Versace, who launched a nail polish collaboration with Loud Lacquer and has done ad campaigns for Iggy Azalea and Betsy Johnson. 

And as anyone who’s been to a local drag brunch can attest, Versace slays. “I perform around the country,” she says. “But when I’m home, the audience feels like family.”

 

@andrewathias – 505.6K Likes

Since his Cherry Hill trick-or-treating days, Andrew Athias has loved Reese’s. 

So it came as no surprise when he was crowned the #1 Wawa-Reese’s fan in last year’s Wawa Outrageous Summer contest. His “Reese’s Rap” music video won $1,000 worth of Reese’s and Wawa merchandise, and that, he says, was supposed to be the end of it. 

But he kept making videos, and they were getting lots of attention. 

“Hershey called and said, ‘We talk about you on a daily basis. Whatever you need to make more Reese’s content, we’ll make it happen,’” says Athias, 27. 

Not long after, a 10-foot box truck showed up at Athias’ home, filled to the brim with white chocolate Reese’s and a note that said, “Have fun.” It snowed Reese’s in his resulting “All I want for Christmas is Reese’s” music video. 

“By that time, I had no choice,” Athias says. “This was officially my brand.” 

Now, tens of thousands of people are following his Reese’s antics on YouTube, Instagram and TikTok. It’s not an official job – he isn’t a Hershey employee or even paid for his videos – but the company does provide him with a never-ending candy supply. 

“And honestly,” he says, “That’s where any money they’d have paid me would go anyway.”

 

@jay – 4.3M Followers

Pleasantville’s Jay Versace may have gotten in trouble once or twice (or a couple hundred times) for being the class clown, but those shenanigans are exactly why the internet fell in love with him.

Versace found internet fame on Vine, where his videos of Oscar-worthy facial expressions, outrageous rants and wild impressions brought in billions of views.

View this post on Instagram

jay versace by @a_lilfilm

A post shared by JAY VERSACE (@jay) on

 

“Social media was full of people who encouraged me, who said it’s ok to be goofy,” says Versace, 22. “I could be myself.” 

Versace didn’t grow up as your typical Gen Z’er with a smartphone in hand. His religious family wasn’t much for mainstream culture. 

“I didn’t even have wifi in my house,” he says. “I walked to the library every day just to upload a video.” 

But, he says, his upbringing makes his videos funny. 

“The way I talk, the way I think, the style of my videos – it all goes back to my roots,” he says. “There’s definitely a Jersey flare to everything I do.” 

Despite Vine’s demise in 2016, Versace continues to reign on Instagram and TikTok, where he uploads videos for his combined 5 million followers and does sponsorships with companies like Reebok, Footlocker and H&M. 

“It can seem like silly videos, but success on social media is not just something that happens,” says Versace, who is now pursuing acting full time. “When I started putting videos up, I didn’t realize I was taking big steps toward my career.” 

 

@lapassionvoutee –  2M Monthly Viewers

Louisa Moje never set out to make waves on social media, but tell that to her 2M Pinterest viewers, 50K Instagram followers and 150,000 monthly blog readers. Moje, a fashion blogger who lives in Stratford, is the face behind La Passion Voutée, a blog dedicated to “practical style and beauty for today’s women.” 

“Practical” is the key word. Most of her outfits cost less than $50 per piece, which makes her the perfect face for partnerships with affordable brands like Amazon, Covergirl, Neutrogena, Dove, Olay and Julep.  

But she’s not just about social media – Moje has a pharmacy license and MBA under her belt. Starting the blog, she says, was to let off some creative steam. 

“It was just an escape from my rigorous pharmacy school schedule,” she says. “I didn’t plan for this to become anything serious.” 

Moje, who was living in Alaska at the time the blog took off, moved to South Jersey last year, but she worried what that would mean for the blog. 

“I don’t blend in – I actually call attention to the ways I stand out, which is why so many of my outfits are African-inspired,” says Moje, who was born in Nigeria. “I didn’t know how the area would receive me.” 

That, it turns out, wasn’t an issue.  

“South Jersey embraced me,” she says. “My social media presence and blog isn’t just online – it’s a part of who I am here.”  

 

August 2020
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