by Collin Baja
Three years ago I was told that I needed to start playing "the Instagram game" if I wanted to continue working. The modeling and acting worlds were changing and now casting directors were requiring the amount of followers you have be listed every time you went in. Social media has changed the game. It is now a fact that a deliciously curated and filtered existence on social media can lead to bigger and better work, possible sponsorship, or even full time careers. However, what is real? How much of yourself do you reveal to the masses and how much of the desired content actually represents who you are?
As I spent time reflecting on 2018, I was struck with the difference between how my year TRULY was versus how it APPEARED on Instagram. I post sensual photos with near nudity for my modeling presence. It is what people comment the most on, “like” more, and it brings my followers up to a non stellar but respectable number that lets me still sit in those casting rooms. However, my exterior shell is literally one of the least interesting things about me or my past year. I spend time on it and am proud. I am also insanely grateful people enjoy it and that it allows me to work. However, it does not make me who I am. I put it up on social media as an offering but also a protection from exposing too much more of my life. Yet, this year was the most challenging year of my entire life and my “top nine” did nothing to honor the struggles that truly made me grow. I imagine many of you have similar discrepancies.
This year brought me heartbreak in the form of unexpected deception and divorce. It saw my finances fluctuate in terrifying ways. I lost a family. I lost a dear friend way before what should have been his time. I had to start all over again and build a new home for myself and my pup. Above all else, I had to keep on moving and hustling just like the rest of you, because we know life in this city requires it. Did my social media presence showcase any of this? Perhaps in the tiniest of ways but it lacks the weight and thanks deserved to a multitude of people.
So, as I look back on 2018 and move forward into the new year, I want to give thanks for all the beauty that surrounded me the entire time, even in the deepest darkness. My chosen and given families without whom I wouldn’t be standing and smiling. My insanely adorable dog who is the ultimate healer and kept me from being self destructive. The joy of being an artist on Broadway and working with the incredible people at Hello, Dolly!. There was an army of people supporting me and an insane amount of personal work not seen in the tiny squares of instagram. Those spaces in between and the things unseen are what truly make us who we are. Whether my feed shows the depths of my personal story or not, I hope we can ALL remember it’s just a small slice of the game. Every one of us has more value than any picture, caption, or all the “likes” in the world.