It sounds like the easiest job in the world, and a pretty good one too. Stunning red carpet selfies, lavish vacations abroad, receiving thousands of dollars for a single Instagram post – the life of an internet influencer seems like a walk in the park.
But life has been anything but easy for Shantania Beckford, one of Birmingham’s most influential people. A quick tour of her glossy Instagram page would suggest that she’s lived a life of luxury, but the 29-year-old beauty and lifestyle influencer knows the true meaning of hard work.
From battling homelessness as an undocumented immigrant to working the night shift at a Walsall fried chicken shop, Shantania’s path to internet royalty has been something of an unconventional one. This is the story of how Shantania Beckford launched an internet empire from her social flat bedroom, now earning up to £3,000 for a single social media post.
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Shantania, 29, moved to the West Midlands from Jamaica when she was just nine years old, initially as an undocumented migrant. Having settled in Walsall, he quickly learned the importance of hard work from his mother, who worked three jobs at the time.
Three days a week after school, Shantia would travel to Birmingham to help her mother with her cleaning job. Living as an undocumented migrant and being bullied at school because of the color of her skin, she says her childhood was a “stressful” time, but that she found solace in hair and beauty, a passion that sometime day would turn it into thousands.
“I have always liked art, drawing and creating,” he says. “Makeup and hair have always been art to me; I’ve been doing people’s hair since I was little.”
But things were going to get much more difficult for Shantania when, at the age of 17, her mother returned to Jamaica. Struggling to make ends meet, Shantania worked long hours at a chicken shop to pay the rent, using a fake bus pass to get to work after a full day at college.
After her landlord kicked her out, Shantania was left homeless and spent months sleeping on her friend’s couch. She had a series of restaurant jobs at the time, but she knew that beauty was her true calling.
“While homeless, I started doing people’s makeup for videos and photo shoots, mostly because I was bored. I kept my hustle on the makeup side while trying to find a place to live.
“I was in a hostel for a while and I would make up all the girls and organize photo shoots for them. Everyone was always in my room, I was very popular!”
After saving enough money to rent council property, resourceful Shantania would launch a business empire from her bedroom. “I saved enough money to pay for my residence and then bought myself a camera and started making YouTube videos along with my full-time job,” she said.
“I was making videos about everything I’d learned throughout my life, like where to find cheap wigs, how to take care of yourself when you work long hours, that kind of thing.”
In a matter of months, Shantania’s life had changed forever. As his popularity grew, so did his drive to grow his brand.
Since then, she has collaborated with the likes of Sephora and some of the biggest brands in the hair and beauty industry. Her work has been featured in Cosmopolitan magazine and her story has been front page news in her homeland of Jamaica.
Shantania, who now lives in Smethwick, has more than 300,000 subscribers on her YouTube channel and 200,000 on her Instagram. But she says it’s not just about numbers.
“Because of where I come from, I always try to help people,” he says. “Every few months I stack up all my PR packages and send them out to people who don’t really have much.
“I like helping and giving and making people happy. I don’t want to be an influencer who just sits there and promotes products.”
“I want to help people, inspire people, and leave the world a better place than I found it.”
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