The number of content creators on the internet is limitless. An abundant, lucrative, digital creative world is at your fingertips with platforms like Instagram, YouTube, and Facebook. And as our social feeds continue to fill with a wealth of content, it begs the question: What does it take for a creator to stand out? Drive, talent, vision, and purpose are the answer.
Look no further than the influential creators that we’ve featured here. They own their spaces, expand what’s possible, and innovate the future. Not only do they create, but they observe, connect, and keep impact in mind:
Swopes: Elise Swopes, or just @Swopes, has been at the forefront of the digital art space since the early days of Instagram. As the landscape evolved, so has her work. Now, she’s at the forefront of NFT art, thanks to her signature surrealist cityscapes.
But those aren’t the only possibilities she sees in the new medium – there’s also an abundance of opportunity for women of color. “It feels like a great responsibility right now for women of color,” Swopes says. “It is a very heavy load, but it’s not one that I would give up because I see that it’s worth it just by the peer ability for ownership, the peer ability for generational wealth, the peer ability for innovation and equity,” says Swopes.
Her new work takes her advocacy further: She’s working to put incarcerated artists’ work on blockchain. Swopes is also creating an accessible digital gallery that their family members can visit. “I just want people to understand what art can do for other people.”
Karen X Cheng: If you need some levity in your life, head to Karen X. Cheng’s Instagram and Facebook (@karenxcheng). There, the director, creative director, and queen of viral content shares a vast array of mind-bending videos and the behind-the-scenes scoop on making them. It’s something she’s had years of experience doing, since developing the Donut Selfie, which earned her 1 million views in a single day.
The drive behind her ideas? “It’s when you have an idea, and it’s uncomfortable for you to hold it in your head. You just want to create it and make it,” Karen says. “I actively say, ‘Nothing has to have a point. You just do it.’ I’ve realized that my best ideas come from when I’m playing around.”
It’s that ease that’s characterized her content with positivity, education, and exploration. Now, she’s exploring another medium. With Meta, she’s completely redesigning choreography from the ground up, specifically for virtual reality. The project is just the latest testament that her creativity knows no bounds.
Amber Whittington: An activist, creator, and host, Amber Whittington, the heart of @amberscloset, has made a name for herself throughout the past decade by creating a safe and accessible space for the LGBTQIA community. It started with posting YouTube videos for STEMs, which she describes as androgyny and the cross-section between stud and fem—since she didn’t see these resources available to understand herself.
Her platform has since evolved into a forum to discuss even the most taboo topics. You’ll find content on everything from emotional boundary setting to sexual pleasure and social justice on her Instagram.
Now, she’s a board member at Lambda – an organization fighting for the civil rights of the LGBTQIA community – and continues to speak at conferences and panels worldwide. “Over time, I just started being like, ‘I got to talk about more serious topics and do it in a way that’s digestible.'”
Eitan: Eitan Bernath (@eitan) is sitting atop an empire he has built himself, and he’s only 19-years-old. He is a chef, a social media sensation, author, and entertainer, recurring on The Drew Barrymore Show. He has amassed a following of 3.1 million on Facebook through it all.
He started in the kitchen at just eight years old and, by 11, got his break as a contestant on Chopped. With that exposure, the prodigy took his talents to Instagram. He quickly found an audience by creating simple cooking videos. “People love inspirational content,” Eitan says. “To me, the key elements of every video are the visuals being strong, the lighting’s good, the food looks great, the energy’s there.”
It’s tempting to dismiss internet fame as chance, catching the right wave at the right time. But Eitan is more deliberate. “I’m an analytics nerd. I like to figure out new concepts and really hone what I’m doing by looking at the data. Sometimes people will be like, ‘You’re so lucky that you grew so fast.’ Obviously, there’s luck involved, but it’s pretty calculated.”