The Hub is a platform designed by H Collective to connect creators to each other and to brands. The Hub is a home to 25,000 photographers, models, videographers, makeup artists, and stylists. Our mission is to bring connectivity and collaboration to the real world among our members all over the world in their respective cities.
Today I got to sit down with the incredibly talented Hub member Alysha Nett, who weighed in on what it’s really like to be a female content creator behind the scenes. Alysha, a Wichita native, now calls San Diego home – the warm tones of southern California match her eclectic and streetwise-glam style, and the vibrant state is the perfect environment for her ever-evolving aesthetic. Not one to shy from the camera, Alysha sizzles both in-front of and behind the lens. A quick scroll through her Instagram feed, and it’s easy to see why her online family is rapidly growing.
Alysha begins her day by checking her socials. ‘It’s important to keep track of reactions to my posts from the previous day,’ she explains. ‘ How did my last Instagram post do? How were my story views? I don’t want to annoy people but I want to stay on their minds, so I try to post a snap to my story every 2-4 hours just to stay on top of their feeds. After moving my Tumblr audience to Instagram, I noticed that my audience grew at a much quicker rate than before.’
Her audience has grown with her over the last 7 years, adapting with the changes in social media from MySpace, to Tumblr and now Instagram. Her interactions can be as small as a snap story of a cup of coffee in the morning, yet manage to draw in views in the thousands within an hour. Even such a simple post comes with a lot of thought, as Alysha plans her posts to optimize her feed – ‘I use Snug and UNUM to plan out my feed to make sure that it is aesthetically pleasing. I don’t have a defined aesthetic per-say (because I work with so many different types of photographers), but I also don’t want my feed to be messy and displeasing.’
After doing her first check, Alysha then makes herself breakfast before sitting down to check her emails. She works her way down from the most urgent, and then makes her first post of the day which she follows up with a snap to her story to draw in viewers and get the interactions flowing. Timing is key here, as she wants to coincide with peak traffic on social media – ‘ I don’t typically make my first post to my feed until after 10AM, for greater visibility.’ Alysha also allows select fans more intimate access to her life via her Patreon app. Patreon is a relatively new tool that brings fans closer to their role models, and can break the barrier between spam interactions online and real time connection. ‘Patreon is really special because it gives me a space to interact with fans and followers of my work in a closer way. I feel like I get to know them more because we watch each other’s snapchat videos (my snapchat is private for members only), I send motivational messages, we chat back and forth, and many of them receive letters from me every month. It’s cool to have a space where people can choose to support me and receive cool incentives (posters, photo galleries, letters, etc.). Many people see a Patreon page and associate it with a private porn site, expecting nudes and private cam chats but it’s not always about that. Sure, there are some creatives in the sex industry that use it that way but Patreon is what you make of it and it’s a great resource for creatives in ALL fields whether its photography, design, etc.’
The next to-do is to check networking sites for potential collaborations and new job postings. ‘I usually run through those and see if any new jobs have been posted that make sense with my personal brand. If so, I send them my pitch and wait to hear back. I send multiple pitches a week. When I’m selecting brand partners, I have to make sure that it makes sense FOR ME. As a content creator, I could easily create something for literally anyone, but that doesn’t mean it will be a success. It’s important to me that my fans and followers don’t feel taken advantage of, so I try to align myself with brands and companies that will fit seamlessly in my feed and that my followers will have genuine interest in.’ Alysha herself has her own favourite collaborators who both inspire and admire her in return. ‘I have so many wonderful people and I’m grateful for their support and try to give it back whenever I can. Supporting your supporters is something I’ve learned to live by. I love my BFF @samiiryan. She’s a hard working babe that has faced a lot of adversity much like myself. She is constantly on the grind, working to be better and better and that’s super inspiring to me. Watching @xomissdanielle come in to her own has also been special. Seeing how she has developed her aesthetic and how true she is to it, is very admirable. I can’t do it!’
Maintaining creative control can be difficult, especially when your fan base grows and you begin being bombarded with opportunities from all directions. It can be easy to slip into a habit of saying yes to everything without thinking about what is best for your brand. Alysha was not immune to this initial adrenaline rush as she recalls her first collaborations generated by her Tumblr blog. ‘Companies were reaching out and asking me to wear their shirts, take pictures in them, etc. At first I was excited, but then it got to the point where items were being sent to me that I didn’t even necessarily want so I started imposing a fee. It worked, and I’ve been doing it ever since!’
But it is also important to have fun with it and stay true to yourself. Alysha avoids being pigeonholed by her own brand by experimenting with different versions of herself, ‘I’ve always been a sort of “sexy” model, I continue to work these sort of glamorous images into my feed while maintaining artistic vision. The streetwear industry really helped my career in many ways. They accepted me as a short, blonde, tattooed model and dressed me up in their cool clothes. Now I was given this opportunity where I could finally mix my street style in with this glamorous side as well. It was the best thing for me because now I can be all versions of myself online. I can be sexy when I want to be or I can style out a killer OOTD. I just try not to stray too far from what my audience expects which is good, quality images.’
Being a creator is often misconceived as an easy way of life, but the truth couldn’t be further. While the job offers flexibility and adventure along with the perks of brand collaborations and world travel, it takes dedication, long hours, and is usually met with a lot of negativity. Even a creator as successful as Alysha has not always had the support of her family along the way – ‘when I first started this journey in 2010, I felt A LOT of negativity from my family especially. I come from a family of hard workers, manual labor type stuff. They did not understand what I was doing and were even disappointed that I was using my real name. After a few years of being on my own and working hard, I finally earned their support and respect when they could pick up a magazine down the street that I was in, or when they finally recognized brands I was working with like Etnies and Urban Outfitters. In the end, I guess their lack of support is what ended up encouraging me. I wanted to prove them wrong and prove myself right.’
And that is not the only negativity within the folds of the creative industry. Being a female in such a vulnerable position comes with it’s own ups and downs to which Alysha is no stranger. As someone who works both in front of and behind the camera, she is acutely aware of the manner in which women can be taken advantage of. ‘As a model, luckily, nothing too extreme has happened to me, but there have been times when I’ve felt uncomfortable or wished I was somewhere else instead. I had one instance with a male photographer that was completely out of line. We were shooting for a magazine pictorial. The magazine was based in the UK so it was just myself and the photographer in the states shooting it and then sending it to them. After we shot what we needed for the magazine, he asked if I wanted to shoot some photos for fun. I said yes because he was one of my bucket list photographers and I wanted images to post outside of these for the magazine. These extra photos quickly turned in to “private collection” photos and I’ve never felt more uncomfortable. Telling someone “no, I don’t want to do that” over and over again made my anxiety levels go through the roof. You find yourself going through various scenarios in your head like “how can i leave without it being awkward” as if the current situation wasn’t awkward enough. After the shoot was over, I wrote to the magazine and told them what happened. The initial pictorial images were still printed, and I’m still proud of them, but my image of this man that I once put on a creative pedestal is completely tainted.’
As a photographer, Alysha uses her experience as a model to ensure that her subjects are always comfortable and at ease – ‘I need my models to be able to take constructive criticism which is hard enough as it is.’ Even if it is simply providing refreshments and good tunes, communication and respect are the most important elements of a successful collaboration. It has been difficult for Alysha to transition between model and photographer too, as she has received some harsh criticisms and judgements from within the industry. ‘Certain people I have approached with collaborations feel I’m beneath them because I chose to pose in lingerie or because I’ve done tasteful nude work in the past. Some people are still offended by the human body and unfortunately there’s nothing I can do to change their minds so I just continue living my life for those that DO support me, and for myself.’
But she still encourages women to get out there and fight for our space in the industry. ‘I’m still working on overcoming these expectations. It doesn’t happen over night, unfortunately. I branded myself as a model initially, and I’m still working hard to be taken seriously as a photographer. If you want to be a creator, create. The time is now. We need more women in creative fields. Trust your gut and do what YOU want. It’s ok to say no to projects that don’t work for you. It’s ok to charge what you’re worth.’
And the pay-off has been truly worth it. Alysha has been fortunate enough to make magic – ‘to date, I’m proud of my work with Staple Pigeon that led to a billboard in NYC’s Lower East Side. I’m proud of the national commercial I was in for New Amsterdam Vodka. I can’t believe I got to work with the legendary music video director Sam Bayer for a Green Day video!’ But she is also aware of the bigger picture. ‘Have a greater goal in mind. It’s amazing to be an influencer, but think about why. Why should you be an influencer? What are you trying to influence? What is the message you’re trying to tell? What do you want this influencer lifestyle to lead you to? There should always be an idea of what’s next. In the future, I’m excited to have a family and a little boutique of my own. I can’t wait to tell my future children all my crazy stories because in the end, that’s really the only reason I do any of this- to create memories.’
Written by Azra Gani.