Influencers Are Now Being Paid To Improve Saudi Arabia's Image

"Do you turn a blind eye or do you take a stand?”

As well as skinny tea endorsements and sponsored posts flogging teeth whitening products, social media influencers can now make a few extra bucks helping to improve Saudi Arabia’s image.

According to The Guardian, influencers are now being sent on all expenses-paid, supervised holidays to Saudi Arabia to help generate positive social media posts about the country. 

Gateway KSA, the organisation behind the influencer push, says it is opening “the door to the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, giving today’s best and brightest students the chance to experience this evolving global powerhouse from a unique perspective.”

It sounds like Gateway KSA is selling the tours as a way of learning more about Saudi Arabia, but Dr Raihan Ismail, an associate lecturer at the centre for Arab and Islamic studies at ANU, says it’s all part of a much bigger billion-dollar image reform.

“The Saudi government is investing so much in trying to reconstruct its image, particularly after the assassination of Jamal Khashoggi, the Saudi journalist who was killed in the Saudi consulate in Turkey,” she told The Guardian. “I think that’s when people started to realise that we’re dealing with an authoritarian regime. We’re dealing with a state that is so repressive.”

Instagram posts from the likes of travel vlogger Jay Alvarrez, Travel in her Shoes blogger Aggie and Aussie influencer Tara Milk Tea feature fancy Saudi hotels, scenes from the Red Sea, ancient tombs and jaw-dropping views. 

While the posts have been received well from most followers, others are claiming that they fail to mention any of the negative headlines to come out of Saudi Arabia in recent times. In the seemingly sponsored posts there is no mention of violence against women, beheadings or the Saudi-led airstrikes on Yemen. 

“Sometimes you have to pick a stand,” Ismail told The Guardian. “The standard you walk past is the standard you accept. If you see the country violating human rights. Do you turn a blind eye or do you take a stand?”

Clearly, there are influencers who are fine with turning a blind eye, but not everyone is happy to oblige. For example, Nicki Minaj recently cancelled an upcoming performance at Saudi Arabia music festival in support of women and the LGBT community.

After receiving backlash for accepting a trip to the kingdom from Gateway KSA last year, photographer Gab Scanu told The Guardian “I don’t agree with ‘influencers’ travelling there and commenting on issues they’re not educated in.”

Scanu has a point – before accepting a free trip for Insta followers or social media clout, it’s probably best to do your research first, or it could risk you more than a few unfollows.

Makeup Brands Are Suffering And Apparently It's All VSCO Girls' Fault


Remember when contouring your face within an inch of its life and covering your lips with a thick coating of foundation and lip gloss was all the rage? Well, times have changed and VSCO girls are at the forefront. 

According to Nylon, big beauty brands like MAC and Anastasia Beverly Hills are struggling in sales, and it could have something to do with the growing VSCO girl trend which involves a shift towards “sustainability, or general broke-ness.”

If you’re not across the new trend, allow me to explain. The name (pronounced vis-co) is based on the popular editing app, VSCO. The ‘VSCO Girl’ is inherently trendy, arty and deeply submerged in online culture. Essentially, she’s what the Tumblr girl was 10 years ago.

She’s the girl with an endless scrunchie collection who wears oversized tees, carries a stylised and reusable water bottle and is never seen without her lip balm. Oh, and she also owns one of those Swedish backpacks everyone’s wearing.

A survey, conducted by Piper Jaffrey for Business of Fashion, suggests that these Instagram-loving teens may be the reason for the recent downfall in beauty sales. The survey found that makeup purchases were down 21% and 20% of upper-income teens don’t even wear makeup at all. 

Apparently, teens – and VSCO girls in particular – are all about the ‘no makeup makeup’ look characterised by barely-there Glossier products, Mario Badescu facial spray and simple skin care routines, opposed to the caked on foundation-heavy looks of generations past.

The BoF survey also found that the ingredients in makeup and skincare products are just as important to teens. Half of respondents pay attention to ingredients, and two-thirds said they’d pay more for ‘natural’ or ‘clean’ formulas – this call for sustainable beauty also includes packaging. “Teens in the survey made statements like ‘the planet is not a trash can’ and that they care about ‘people throwing away plastic and not recycling,” Cheryl Wischhover writes in the report. 

One of the key features of a VSCO girl is a reusable Hydro Flask, after all.

So there you have it, if makeup brands are looking to market to the younger gen, they’re going to have to go pared back and environmentally friendly… or face the scrutiny of thousands of scrunchie-wearing VSCO girls.

Quit Banning Everything Good In The World And Let Us Snack On The Bloody Train

Stinky food can go, though.

Apparently we just can’t have nice things, because there has been a call to ban snacking on public transport in the UK after researchers found it could help combat rising rates of childhood obesity.

A report, published by England’s chief medical officer Dame Sally Davies, recommends that eating and drinking while on urban buses, trams and trains should be banned to counter unhealthy eating habits. 

The ban would be applied to adults as well as children and the report states there would be exceptions for drinking water, breastfeeding and anyone who has a medical requirement to eat.

Social media users have complained about the suggestion, claiming that the ban would be inconvenient for people lead busy lives who need to ‘eat on the go.’ There’s also the fact that the best part of a long train trip is tucking into a biccie or two.

However, Davies’ report also makes a bunch of other very valid points that, if implemented, sound like they could help quell the obesity epidemic. 

Other recommendations include letting children grow up “free from marketing, signals and incentives to consume healthy food and drinks,” invest in environments that create opportunities for children to be active and healthy, and making better use of data and technology to help change the future.

Keep in mind this suggestion has only been made for UK residents, and the report was written by Davies who is the country’s outgoing chief medical officer – so there’s no confirmation it will ever go ahead. 

However, we do have similar issues going on in our own backyard that need addressing. According to the Heart Foundation, one in four Queensland children is overweight or obese, and about 60% do not get enough physical activity. 

Perhaps it’s a matter of baby steps and we start by banning stinky food and other gross behaviour from public transport first. The commuters who insist on eating boiled eggs and trimming their toenails on the train are first on the list.

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