From property mogul to Instagram influencer, the rise of the Instagram star

Written by Laksmi, producer of CNN Home

It doesn’t take an Instagram junkie to spot the promotional images taking up the real estate of our social media feeds. Whether they are advertisements for big brands or photos of their own homes, regular people want to show off what they have to offer to their followers, usually inside their own homes.

And, in some cases, they need to. Back in December 2017, Kiara Stevens launched an interior interior design business following a short stint in a similar business in Britain. She left to escape the turmoil that had consumed her previous position after her human resources manager had a physical and sexual assault in a London theatre.

Now, she has joined the Women’s Committee at the Queens’ Indian American College and Creative Arts Academy , a cultural arts school in New York City. Stevens contributes as a teacher, giving students the practical experience they need to transition into the corporate world — and helping them shape the kind of future they want to see for themselves.

After graduating high school, Stevens had a project to submit for her higher education. She turned down college offers in favor of a degree at The New School , with the intention of working in hospitality. As an intern, she did a brief stint in real estate, but by the time she started attending New School in the fall of 2012, she had noticed similarities between it and running a business.

By the time her internship was over, Stevens had started designing her own personal space, which inspired her to turn it into a business. In September 2017, she launched Krown Shop , an Instagram account devoted to interior design photography, built around her skill for videography and her love of antiques and architecture.

Since then, she has become known as one of the biggest figures on Instagram, with more than 30,000 followers. “Photography is a great way to connect with people,” she says. “Your photography is a reflection of your personality — it’s a way of communicating a thought, a memory. It gives an incredible richness to the experience. When you can share them with a community of people, it just makes you feel so much more satisfied as a designer.”

Kookmuller, Krown Shop

Stevens is part of a new breed of social media influencers who have successfully pursued careers in the luxury industry by building their own businesses as well as their online presences.

“You have to put your success in perspective — I have one million followers, which is nothing compared to what some of the celebrities I follow have. And they’re all doing it for free,” she says. “I use social media to promote the things I believe in, and I’m using Instagram to showcase my work and create a community.”

This popularity is resulting in lucrative work for the influencer, who works for brands such as eBay and Amazon, as well as for other retailers. For brands, this type of popularity can be tremendously effective. In 2018, the star drew a set of iconic features from the Oscar de la Renta spring 2019 collection to the hands of four female refugees on the backs of vintage “Boogie Nights” dresses.

Stevens is famous for her ability to strike a balance between personal style and a commercial enterprise. She says she has four main rules.

1 / 20 The designer, who is based in Queens, said she got the idea for this selfie project from her social media, which she calls her “home office.” Credit: Kiara Stevens

“First, I have to know how my followers feel about it — my fear is that I can become a thing, that I will go from small business to huge business without knowing it.

“Second, I have to have a good understanding of what I’m selling, and understand the details of the business and the purpose of what I’m marketing.

“Third, I have to be a good person, and have a good work ethic — I had to put my internship on hold, and I have to stay focused. I’ve had so many negative people telling me not to do anything in this industry, not to follow my heart.

“And fourth, I have to stick to the path I love. There will always be negativity, and it will drag you down, but I’ve learned to stay the course.”

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