How Kiwi influencer Annalee Kemsley turned an ordinary job into social media career

Staying relevant, long hours, being told to die… the life of a social media influencer is no easy task.
Staying relevant, long hours, being told to die… the life of a social media influencer is no easy task. Photo credit: Supplied / Annalee Kemsley

Unlike many of the protein-shake and skinny tea-touting influencers filling Instagram feeds around the world, Kiwi YouTuber Annalee Kemsley never set out to make money on social media. 

"It just randomly happened to be honest. Being an influencer was never something I set out to become, it naturally evolved from being a professional in the industry," she tells Newshub. 

The beauty YouTuber and Instagrammer first found her passion for makeup as a consultant for Clinique seven years ago, which she now calls her "purpose in life". 

She began sharing tutorials on YouTube and connecting with a small audience on Facebook. 

Before long her online audience grew into more than 100,000 subscribers and says she couldn't fully dedicate her time to both. 

"I was working two full-time jobs and only giving 50/50 to both of them," she says. 

As offers from beauty brands began rolling in, she decided just to go for it. 

"I didn't want to regret not chasing the opportunity." 

Kemsley now shares much of her personal life online, including her marriage, dogs and daily commitments. 

She says she likes keeping things as "real" online as they are in her personal life without trying to be someone different when posting content.

"I just do me online, I'm not a character." 

But being in the spotlight comes at a cost. Unsurprisingly, exposing yourself, friends and family to 40,000 Instagram followers can bring with it many trolls.

"The sad reality is there will always, always be nasty people out there," she says.  

YouTube trolls would comment about her looks, pointing out her teeth and making fun of her Kiwi accent. 

Once she had someone tell her she should die. 

"That was so intense. I don't know why - I was just doing makeup."

While the bullying used to discourage Kemsley, she now just deletes negative comments. 

"Behaviour simply says a lot more about that person than the person they are targeting and the energy you put out will be the energy you receive back."

Being an influencer also comes with pressure to stay in the spotlight, and not getting to switch off when the clock hits 5pm. 

"Life balance is difficult to maintain and it's 24/7 engagement," she says. "The reality is if I don't stay relevant my job is at risk and I find myself up late at night working or on my days off." 

Social media influencers receive free products from brands to try out and recommend to their audience. Kemsley says some influencers do it "for the wrong reasons" and let numbers, likes and popularity define their lives. 

"They'll sell you any product or brand for money and just want to receive free PR. The world needs more people who want to be motivated and inspired by the journeys of others who are simply just being their authentic selves."

Looking back, Kemsley says she has no regrets. 

"My passion deep down has always been for the beauty/fashion industry and now I'm living it as my own boss," she says. 

"That's my motivation every day - to keep it that way."