Someone once said to me ‘we all have our vices’ and asked me what mine was. I didn’t have a vice. I didn’t agree that everyone should have a vice. I don’t drink, I don’t smoke and I don’t party. I did not need any of those vices to cope. I don’t. Yes, life overwhelms me at times but I don’t need to light a cigarette to feel better about myself. When you hustling there is no time for a vice. The only thing covering your brain is your next goal. It’s exactly how my mother would say, don’t focus on anything else. Focus on passing. That’s what I would do- like my brain would not filter anything else through. First it was school, then marriage, followed by finding a job and making money. When the hustle starts you can’t afford to have a vice. Were there days when I wished I could just relax? All the time. But that usually meant just sleeping early or having a long shower. When you grow up old school, ‘just having fun’ is never an option. Life always has routine and structure and filled with tangible goals- the most important one is obviously surviving.
Now this has all changed. I don’t wake up in the morning with a clearly marked routine which entails me racing against a stop watch of adulting. I used to wake up at 6, to be out the house at 6.30 to be at at work at 7.30 to start work at 8. Then I would have lunch at 1, leave work at 6, reach home at 6.30 and then eat, shower and sleep. Later, I fit in blogging here and there but that too I had a rigid schedule I would stick to. Two days a month were for shooting and weekends were for writing and scheduling posts. This clock work has been ingrained in me. My life has changed as you may or may have not figured out. I am a brand ambassador/ model/ influencer/ blogger/ Youtuber. This life has no structure. This life entails spending a few hours creating an illusion and spending the rest of the time waiting for freebees. Okay, I’m lying. Its not always like that. But you get my drift. There’s no longer structure in my day.
When I go to brand events, I make a point to chat to other girls like me- as a source of networking but to actively learn from how others are doing things. I believe in being ahead of any game you play. If you spending time doing it you might as well do it well. So despite my inhibitions of being the most introverted person I know, I put on a bright smile and get my girl love on. Its not always easy. If you think you saw all the mean girl cliques in high school you ain’t seen anything, hun. So this is what most events look like: there is often a few A list celebrities who are either MCing the event, DJing or are the guest of honour. The A listers are there for a short while and do what they paid to do and take a few selfies before they out the door. Then there are the B listers made up of TV and radio hosts and a few ‘famous for being famous’ types. The B listers fangirl around whichever A-lister is there and act like they are old friends. Some of them are super cool and oblige to the dozens of requests for selfies.
Then comes the hierarchy of influencers/bloggers. On the top are the OG journalists- people who have been around on the social/ fashion scene for a while and they writings and reviews are published be reputable platforms. Brands and PR companies bow to the feet of this group of fabulous women. If they dislike something, they will have a PR disaster at their door step. Nabs tells me that an event is only successful if it gets the nod from this group. And when you go to events you can see who the real journalists are. They ask the toughest questions, don’t schmooze like the rest of us and often get very drunk.
Then comes the bloggers who make real money. I have just recently joined this group and its very different from when you are a starter upper. When you making real money and got big brand endorsements behind you, you become very picky about what events you attend. Lots of girls told me how they are fussy about what their brand associates with so they turn down events that are usually low-end. I generally turn down events at clubs but go to all the brunches and cocktails. Attending these events can make real good content for my blog. Let me tell you, people have become obsessed with exhibitionism. People love reading about which events I am invited to, what I wear and what I ate. What I do different to other bloggers is add a very personal touch and write about some of the conversations I have with other bloggers. People think I have the biggest network of friends but I’m out here what sapping my mother all day.
At the bottom end of the social hierarchy at brand events are the newbies. They are desperate to be seen and heard. You can spot a newbie in a distance. They were fast fashion like they bought every piece of clothing from a store mannequin, take ridiculous amounts of pictures of everything and DIE for selfies with The Who’s Who. I think what set me apart when I was a newbie was that I showed up with my personal photographer (Dylan) and we just had loads of fun. Now Dylan comes with me to only paid events or extra special ones. The money-bloggers are often not really interested in the goodie bags but when the newbies get their hands on the gift bags, you can hear the screeching from a distance. I get it though. Being invited to fancy events and getting free stuff is very alluring. From the muslim bloggers there are two factions. The ‘ignore my muslim name’ type and then the ‘hijabinistas’. You guessed it already. The two factions don’t get along. Im glad to be somewhere in between.
I digress. So from my conversations with so many bloggers I keep hearing how ‘crazy busy they are’ and how ‘being a full time blogger is no joke’. Simmi, my flatmate, often gets real with me about this. “Uploading pictures, writing a few captions and responding to email is what journalists do in one morning. And we don’t get paid half of what you guys get paid for”. She’s right. Going to gym and going for facials can’t be interpreted as work. I often thought I was not working hard enough as a blogger but when I see my output compared to others I realize I am wrong. I mean, I upload a fresh blog post with professional pictures every day at 6 am. I have well thought out social media posts that are all in theme. And it only takes me one full day of work. I shoot and write posts on the first day of every month and schedule one or two meetings a week. It really isn’t that time consuming. Honestly, most bloggers are not used to hard work.
So back to my initial thought. Having so much of free time isn’t great for my mental well being. I wake up at 8, go to gym, get coffee for my daily ‘coffee chat’ on my Instagram and Snapchat and then hit straight into emails. I check on the blog for an hour, and respond to comments on social media. I don’t have too many friends so I can’t really do lunch dates. I literally spend from midday until the evening chilling on my bed watching random TV. Yes, there are days that I have to go for meetings but I prefer to interact on email and Skype. I have shoots too but it is often on two full days a month. Its never a constant stream of work. I mean, I get my nails done once a month then get my hair colored and treated the next week and my eye lashes filled. Add a wax and I go to a salon at least once a week- but that to me does not feel like work. The free time has also contributed to a bout of depression that refuses to escape me.
Nabs suggested I find a man. Like its so easy, I can order one online. Uhm, turns out if you have a following of thousands of people, you can order a man online. One day I posted a picture of a mug that reads ‘Single AF’ with the caption “hope to break this mug soon”. I never really think it through because honestly, it was just another post of me trying to be in line with the cheeky onion persona I created. I picked up my phone after 10 minutes and gosh! The only time I had this many DM responses was when I hosted a silly competition and people were begging me to announce the winner of a R5000 makeup hamper.
Guys of all races, ages and sizes responded. Some downright flirty. Others were smooth. Some sent me traumatizing pictures which in some countries could make him land in jail! That’s when I reach for the block button. Yes, there were a few creeps here and there but I actually enjoyed the attention. I am not a novice to online flattery but this was something else. Guys- good looking guys- were asking me out, wanted to meet up with me and even some offered marriage. It felt thrilling. It still does. I can spend hours chatting to complete strangers. Sometimes its flirty, most time its just plain fun. Everyone needs a vice right?
I don’t know why I am still chatting to random strangers. It has become an addiction of sort. It would be a whole different situation if I actually liked any one of the dozens of guys I am chatting to and then enter a relationship with them. I don’t think I even want to be in a relationship. Yes, it would be nice to add a #BaeGoals element to my social media but do I want to be in a serious relationship? Nah thanks. Been there done that. The t-shirt isn’t that great. I love the harmless flirting… I don’t event take it serious enough to stalk the guys I am chatting to on social media.
Its almost like I challenge myself to come up with better one liners and cheeky statements. If you are a light-eyed fashion blogger/ model you really don’t need to say much to have a guy eating out of your palms. Sometimes, at gym usually, I just scroll through my messaged reading flirty messages to feel better about myself. I don’t even respond to all. The crazy thing about addictions is that you know what you doing is stupid. I flirt with dozens of guys online and I don’t want a relationship. It sounds like I am a crazy psychopath, really. But like all addictions, even if you know what you doing is wrong, you just can’t stop doing it. Trust, me I try. Then I inevitably one my inbox and entertain the messages.
No one really knew about my little secret until I get a call from Nabs. It’s midday and she’s meant to be in a lunch meeting.
“Maria? What are you doing?”
“Nothing much Nabs… Just making lunch. Whats up?”
“Okay don’t freak out… I think it may be a fake account or photoshop but a makeup blogger, you may know her… her name is Radiya and goes under the name as RadiyaRoars… she just posted a screengrab…”
“Yeah I know of her. I don’t follow her. What screen grab?”
“Apparently its of messages you were sending to her husband…”
“Crazy I know… I think its doctored. You may want to have a look. I have to get back to my meeting”.
My heart is stone cold.
I go to this girl’s profile and see the screen grabs. It distinctly has my profile picture and Instagram user name.
“She doesn’t only steal brands from other bloggers, she steals husbands too,” the caption reads.
I AM DYING.
I reread the screen-grab and I cringe. I don’t know what got in to me. I would never say the things I said in the message aloud. Flirty is actually an understatement. As disgusting as it sounds, but I had to scroll through a whole lot of other message threads in my inbox to find the one in question. As much as I want to deny it, it is true.
Within a few minutes all sorts of insults are hurled at me. Radiya’s followers come to my social media pages to spew hate at me. I never ever faced this type of attacks in my life. The way people reacted you would swear I was having an extramarital relationship with the guy. As horrible as it sounds, but he was just one of many boys I had fun chatting to. But when I reread the messages I realize that its not actually good ol’ fun. Now the internet has blown up and Twars are happening in my name.
The longer I keep silent the more attacks come my way. If I deny it, I am sure she has more proof that she’s ready to share.
Nabeela calls me back.
“You have to be honest with me”.
“You need to act… this will tarnish your brand especially in the blogging community”.
“Yes, I don’t know what got into me. I didn’t even know”.
“Okay. So this is what you do… go through your images and find one which makes you look sweet and kind.”
“Then I will send you a caption which you will post under”.
While I wait for Nabeela I check Instagram and see hundreds of people unfollowed me. I can’t even make sense of it all. I didn’t know the guy was married. Also, I did not have an affair with him. I don’t know why people are insisting that I had an affair with a married man. To be honest I didn’t even know how he looked. As brutal as it sounds, this was all a game for me!
“I know people are obsessed about the FAKE NEWS screen grabs… but let’s talk about girl love for a second. In the cruel world we live in with the mounting patriarchy and inequality against women, all we can do is have each other’s back. When there’s girl hate, sexist males thrive. They love it when girls have ‘cat fights’ because while we are busy with petty fights they still earning more, getting away with doing half of what we do and make women their slaves. Sl*t shaming girls rightly or wrongly only makes the fight for equality harder. No man is a victim to a woman. He is an active participator and often initiates the contact. I have nothing to say in response to RadiyaRoars but that no amount of girl hate will deter me. All I have for her is love and support”.