From the age of 15, Essena O’Neill was a social media star with close to one million adoring followers, an enviable lifestyle and countless modelling opportunities.
In November, the bold 19-year-old made global headlines after releasing a video admitting how the lifestyle she portrayed was fabricated and a carefully constructed image, before deleting her social media accounts and creating a website – Let’s Be Game Changers.
Now, Ms O’Neill has removed all traces of her website except for a small snippet of text alluding to an upcoming book and on Monday, allegedly sent out a heartfelt newsletter explaining why.
‘I’ve tried to write this newsletter for weeks…but up until today I just couldn’t find the words,’ said Ms O’Neill in the email, which is thought to have been sent out to her followers, and has since been circulated online.
New beginning: Essena O’Neill, 19, made headlines after quitting social media in November
Unreal: Ms O’Neill admitted her online persona was a fabrication, wasn’t a true reflection of who she was and was instead a carefully constructed image
‘There is so much more I wish to say, more than any email could fill…I guess that’s the point of the book, but even so I’ll try and keep this brief,’ she added, referring to her upcoming book ‘How to be Social Media Famous’.
After amassing a large following through her Let’s Be Game Changers website, Ms O’Neill, has once again been overwhelmed by the pressures of the Internet and has decided to bid farewell to the cyber world for good and work in a bar.
The Sunshine Coast, Queensland teen said she shut down her website ‘simply because I couldn’t be on the Internet’ and said it felt ‘toxic’ and that she wanted instead to write the ‘satire/memoir’ that she is currently working on and write sci-fi novels.
Leaving social media: Ms O’Neill left social media to start a website – Let’s Be Game Changers – which she has since deleted
‘Toxic’: In a newsletter sent out to some of her followers, Ms O’Neill said she was leaving the Internet for good as it wasn’t healthy and was going to focus on writing her book ‘How to be Social Media Famous’
‘So as for me? I’m getting a job at a local bar and pursuing writing full time.That was my childhood dream…and I can’t help but think maybe I might have pursued that if I believed in myself enough beyond what people told me I should do….’
‘So I’m going to work at a bar and work my a** off at this first book…whilst also planning fantasy novels (extremely nervous, excited and just passionate about that!).’
Ms O’Neill went on to recap the past four years of her life, including the tumultuous few months and the global attention she received after she decided to film a ‘very raw, arguably desperate video’ that she described as ‘throwing away such a big part of my life.’
New ventures: Ms O’Neill also said she was going to get a job at a local bar and write sci-fi novels
‘As for me’: Ms O’Neill said she has no plans to model again and will never get back on social media
Big day: The day she released her original video, Ms O’Neill went from a glamorous social media star to a life without $50,000 YouTube contracts, a jet-setting lifestyle and her ‘tiny sparkly 2D world.’
The day she released her original video, Ms O’Neill went from a glamorous social media star to a life without $50,000 YouTube contracts, a jet-setting lifestyle and her ‘tiny sparkly 2D world.’
She also explained that over the past two weeks she has donated all the funds raised over the past few months to three charities close to her heart – the Animal Foundation of Florida, bullying and cyberbully prevention foundation the Megan Meier Foundation and The Fred Hollows Foundation.
‘I’m scared even sharing this will make me seem attention seeking all over again (I guess you can never win),’ Ms O’Neill wrote.
Making a change: Ms O’Neill donated all the funds raised over the past few months to three charities close to her heart – the Animal Foundation of Florida, bullying and cyberbully prevention foundation the Megan Meier Foundation and The Fred Hollows Foundation
‘I don’t think this is love’: Ms O’Neill previously said she wants to be her ‘daggy self’ and be loved for who she is ‘inside’
‘How to be Social Media Famous’: Ms O’Neill hinted at her upcoming book three weeks ago
Explaining that the Internet no longer feels ‘healthy’, Ms O’Neill concluded her newsletter by saying she was now going to focus on her bar job, rebuild relationships with her family members, make new friends and reconnect with past ones and ultimately live and enjoy a normal life.
‘If I could say one last thing don’t idolise me. Don’t idolise anyone, especially personalities you view online,’ Ms O’Neill said, before going on to offer apologies to those she may have hurt in the process.
‘Who I was in the past is not the person I wish to be now. We all make mistakes. We all feel lost, hurt, scared and confused. I was extremely open about that.’
One tip: ‘If I could say one last thing don’t idolise me. Don’t idolise anyone, especially personalities you view online,’ Ms O’Neill said
Time off from the cyber world: ‘The next time I speak, the next time you hear from me, I’ll be standing stronger than I could ever have stood before. So thank you,’ Ms O’Neill said
‘The next time I speak, the next time you hear from me, I’ll be standing stronger than I could ever have stood before. So thank you.’
Between the ages of 16 and 18-years-old, Ms O’Neill said she would spend more than 50 hours a week answering questions on Tumblr, posting daily photos on Instagram, creating YouTube videos, recipes or workouts.
‘Social media allowed me to profit off deluding people,’ she said in her original video.
The teen deleted over 2,000 photos from her social media accounts, first amending the captions on her remaining images to reflect the ‘truth’ behind the snapshot in a bid to ‘expose the harsh and often humours reality behind the instafamous culture.’
Big step: Ms O’Neill had over one million Instagram followers, more than 250,000 subscribers on YouTube and around 60,000 dedicated Snapchat contacts when she announced that she was giving up social media
A vision: After deleting her accounts, Ms O’Neill said she hoped to initiate a movement where an individual’s worth is not determined by their physical attributes or social media influence
Ms O’Neill’s candid captions revealed details about how much she was paid for promotional posts, how much make up she was wearing and how many failed attempts she made before capturing a photo worthy of posting – a move that inspired thousands the world over.
The then 18-year-old said she got to a point where she felt as if she was only creating content with the ‘sole purpose’ of gaining approval and decided she didn’t want other young girls falling into the same trap.
‘If you find yourself looking at “Instagram girls” and wishing your life was there’s… Realise you only see what they want,’ she wrote.
After deleting her accounts, Ms O’Neill said she hoped to initiate a movement where an individual’s worth is not determined by their physical attributes or social media influence, giving people the opportunity to be free, grow, learn and explore while challenging their own beliefs.