Amelie Zilber (Instagram) isn’t your average influencer. Sure, her feeds feature fashion, beauty, lifestyle, but these are just a few of her many facets. What sets Zilber apart from the rest is her dedication to a truth, a truth that appeals to a socially-conscious youth, one that’s underserved by the mainstream media. Zilber is, in many ways, an educator, a spreader of news, a voice for worthy causes. Beyond the shoots with Dior and Tiffany, beyond the beauty tips, there’s a true desire to, as trite as it may sound, make a difference. Oh, and she’s 21.
“My journey [in content creation] began as a prepubescent, when I unintentionally laid the groundwork for a career in news summarizing. I started a weekly newsletter called the TwoMinuteTimes in sixth grade, purely as a resource for my peers. I noticed the lack of awareness amongst my friends and wanted to change the landscape of media available to young people with limited existing knowledge of global events,” she says. Zilber took current events and broke them down into five to seven sentences, making them easily digestible and understandable. After a while, she pivoted into social media and she hasn’t stopped since. She started this at 11 or 12 years old, let that sink in.
The model, actress, influencer aims to be an agent of change for a generation starved of tailored, serious content. Studying Middle Eastern Foreign Policy at Washington DC’s Georgetown, Zilber is fascinated by politics, social issues and the Middle East. So why life as an influencer? “Social media is this generation’s new media outlet. My mission is to educate wider audiences and inspire them to take action. I truly believe when my generation has the information and tools to create change, we do,” she says. It’s obvious, really. The mission is to spread the word and if you want to reach young people, you go where they are. Zilber is indeed an influencer, but she’s a very different breed from your average TikTok star.
There’s no doubt that, as Zilber says, “Social media has immense potential as it can transform passive engagement into real-world impact.” But the key to Zilber’s success is perhaps a little disappointing if you take half a step back. There’s very little traditional media – news shows, websites, magazines – that talk to the younger generation about serious issues, about politics. There’s plenty of entertainment, but very little informative programming (if we’re to use the old terms) about issues of real substance. Added to that, the explosion of new outlets such as Instagram, TikTok and others has effectively formed an entirely new series of channels that traditional media simply don’t understand, and certainly don’t dominate. All this means that there’s space for people like Amelie Zilber to reach an audience and to build themselves a platform.
Zilber is clear on social media’s power, “I believe vehicles of change are ever evolving, and right now, the most prominent looks like social media My generation wants to be the change and to challenge status quos, and community is imperative to do this. Through social media we find community and can encounter like-minded groups who strive for the same goals,” she says.
Currently Zilber sits on 2.2 million followers on Instagram, 7 million on TikTok and hundreds of thousands on Twitter. She’s big and she’s growing all the time. Outside of social media, she’s an actress and plays Lauryn on Hulu’s Grown-ish, a show about a group of students navigating the challenges of college, young adulthood, friendships and relationships and an off-shoot of the famed Black-ish, “I’ve always dreamt of working on the screen in the way that I do, and Grown-ish has simply been the most wonderful, life changing experience. I look forward to continue working on interesting projects that speak to me, and ultimately being a part of pieces of work that make a difference!” she says.
Unsurprisingly, Zilber’s studies are on hold, for now. She’s currently taking a gap year. But, her influencer-media work began long before university, and it’s clear that the two have fed into one another as her posts on the protests in Iran and commentary on immigrants have shown. In any case, Zilber says that her education at Georgetown and the news items she covers aren’t necessarily related, “My studies are for my curiosity and personal edification. If there’s a crossover between a current news story and what I learn, all the better!”
What is clear is that Zilber had a more traditional, though incredibly ambitious, plan for her life before she fully embraced her current path. The influencer planned to major in Middle Eastern foreign relations, graduate, work at the US State Department and eventually end up at a think tank working on foreign policy. Demanding, certainly, and not for the fainthearted. However, “Life took some unexpected, but joyous, turns, and I no longer see that as my path. I’ve always found my curiosity driving me towards the history of the region, and feel very lucky to have found a major that really fulfils me,” she says. She hasn’t completely ruled out working in Middle Eastern-related fields, but from the outside it looks as if her career is headed in a totally different direction.
Zilber has interviewed some heavy hitters in Washington for her social media feeds and she occasionally works with White House Administration. She coyly suggests that we check out her channels to see what she’s spoken about, but she’s talked to former Democratic presidential candidate Pete Buttigieg, Vice President Kamala Harris, and former White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki among others. All of these interviews are available on her socials and have reached a vast audience, “I believe it’s important my generation is able to have productive and constructive conversations with politicians. We are a core demographic, and we deserve to be heard,” she says.
Zilber talks about a wide range of topics, political, cultural, social. Her scope is international, and she’s spoken on the treatment of migrants, the Turkish earthquakes, the situation in Syria, Russia and Ukraine and the protests in Iran. However, it’s fair to say that the majority of her focus is squarely placed on the US, a country that’s going through a period of political and legal upheaval that is often incredibly hard to understand. As such, she’s posted on issues such as climate change, LGBTQ+ rights, abortion and more. She’s clearly to the Left on these issues. When asked to elaborate on the topics she covers, she gives a relatively neutral response, “I have a point of view on many different issues, which is not dissimilar to many in my generation. With the audience that I have, I feel it’s imperative I utilize this power to start conversations and to educate those who might feel disempowered to get started.” Again, when asked if there’s a cause she’s particularly focused on, she gives an answer that hints that her education at Georgetown and her time spent around politicians have taught her a thing or two, saying, “So many issues are at the forefront of today’s conversations. I would say I’m more well versed on certain issues, but am always learning and have a drive to continue educating myself and my audience.”
“Beauty and fashion with a socially conscious twist.” This is how Zilber describes her platform, so it seems fitting to circle back. Speaking of her social work and fashion, she says, “The two, in my life, are intrinsically connected. Having social consciousness forces me to recognize the consequences my actions have on the rest of the world. I’m in a place of privilege simply by having choice options, and it’s my obligation as a burgeoning young woman with an influence to do what I can, when I can. Social consciousness in the beauty and fashion world, especially in terms of consumerism, is vital in inching our way to global sustainability goals. Who I am in terms of how I outwardly express myself is intertwined with who I am internally.”
It’s refreshing to see such as clear take on the issues surrounding the industry, especially from one so enmeshed within it. The fashion industry is one of the most polluting sectors in the global economy due to the endless need for new products and our insatiable desire to keep on-trend. According to in-depth reporting by Bloomberg in early 2022, the industry accounted for 10% of global carbon dioxide output – more than international flights and shipping combined – and accounts for 20% of the 300 million tons of plastic produced globally every year.
That said, Zilber is clearly in love with the world of fashion and has worked with major labels and featured in international publications, “Any opportunity I get to wear something exquisite is a highlight for me!” she says and lists Christian Dior, Tiffany and Ralph Lauren as her favourite houses, “They’re such wonderful companies and are all aligned with my purpose,” she says.
As for the future, it sounds like she’s in a good place, “I hope to keep growing and learning, to continue evolving and become a better version of myself every day, and to keep pushing myself to accomplish all I set my heart to.”
Amelie Zilber is unique, her blend of fashion, lifestyle and social activism is certainly refreshing in a world where so many influencers appear carbon copies of one another. Her commitment to spreading awareness of progressive causes and important political issues is fantastic to see and it’s certain that her audience is underserved when it comes to the mainstream media. Above all, it’s heartening to see such a talented young woman embracing her passions in life and managing to combine her love of fashion, media and social activism to such effect.
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