Social media stars Loren Gray, Paulina Porizkova and Cassie Petrey explain how to get rich by being real

When Paulina Porizkova started modeling at age 15, she often felt more like a puppet than a person.

“You didn’t control your body, your face, and you certainly didn’t control your voice,” Porizkova, now 56, said at the inaugural ceremony. Forbes 30/50 Summit in Abu Dhabi on March 7. “I had a lot of success, but when I was seen the most, I was heard the least.”

The rise of social media companies like Facebook, Twitter and Instagram gave celebrities like Porizkova power over their brands and images for the first time.

But for model-turned-actress and author Porizkova, it wasn’t until the tragic death of her husband, former Cars frontman Ric Ocasek, in 2019 that she felt ready to show the public her true self. . “It took me to a place where I couldn’t just post happy photos of myself wearing handbags and makeup, and making food,” Porizkova said. “I started posting my feelings about the bereavement.” Soon she took to Instagram to share her difficult experience and start conversations with others going through similar difficulties.

Like Porizkova, TikTok star and singer Loren Gray and Crowd Surf co-founder and co-CEO Cassie Petrey rose to social media stardom by accident.

Speaking to the Forbes 30/50 Summit in Abu Dhabi on Monday, said the three Forbes Associate Editor Diane Brady explains how social media has shaped their careers, personal lives and influence in the industry.

When it comes to social media, the three share the same strategy: be open, honest and vulnerable.

As the first Central European model to appear on the cover of Sports Illustrated, Porizkova, who has around 736,000 Instagram followers, took to social media to share raw experiences that differ greatly from the imaginary life of a glossy magazine cover. Porizkova, who grew up in Czechoslovakia when it was occupied by the Soviet Union, recently tweeted about how Instagram deleted a post, about his difficult childhood and Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, for violating the platform’s content rules.

Like Porizkova, Gray was also in the limelight from an early age, gaining a large following on social media by the age of 13. The Pennsylvania native quickly grew her fanbase, amassing more than 75 million followers on TikTok and Instagram combined, calling her popularity a “genius accident.” .” To cash in on her digital stardom, Gray launched her own jewelry brand, &always, and partnered with Alphabet’s Android, Revlon and Clarins brands to power social media campaigns.

Petrey, a Hollywood power player who managed Britney Spears and Steven Tyler (his clientele also includes Gray), has used social media as a route to entrepreneurship. A Forbes Under 30 Listing with 40,800 Instagram followers, she co-founded digital marketing company Crowd Surf which now has 50 employees and provides media services to stars including Camila Cabello, Backstreet Boys and Becky G.

Petrey’s strategy? Opening. “I think these platforms kind of evolved to not be ‘on’ all the time anymore,” Petrey said. “You can be more honest and share the difficult things that are going on in your life. This is what people want now.

For Petrey, the trend of polished, heavily edited social media accounts is on its way out.

Gray’s advice for building influence on social media is to be authentic and honest. While the space can be harshly negative, full of internet trolls, security threats and criticism, Gray said the upside of social media always outweighs the downside. Still, the agreed three social media giants need to add more protection, privacy, and controls for their billions of customers.

“I don’t know what the next big social media platform will be,” says Petry. “But I think those who go out of their way to protect people will win.”