The ‘Real Women Of Instagram’ Campaign Is Challenging Beauty Standards Amplified By Social Media


By Kayla Tricaso

A few months ago I was prompted in my Psychology of Women class at my college to incorporate my major into a final project. My major is Public Relations, and a prominent facet of PR is Social Media marketing for clients. With PR as my major and millennial as my generation faction, I am pretty familiar with Social Media. I didn’t have to think long about the direction I wanted to take my project. I knew I wanted and needed to disrupt the existing narrative of the one-dimensional beauty standard that has been cultivated on Social Media, specifically Instagram.

I am bored with the over-saturated “Instagram model” beauty standard that dominates our feeds and popular pages. There is nothing wrong with the Instagram model, but she is not me. She is not my best friend, my little sister, or the women I work or go to school with. I can’t relate or resonate with her and I’m tired of trying to. I believe we all have the right to use social media the way we choose, and I am not here to bash or shame anyone on their personal Social Media efforts. I’m also not saying the Instagram model should seize to exist. All I want to do is shift the focus from the current narrative of staged aesthetics to storytelling and empowerment.

A separate problematic aspect of this archetype is that it suggests there is nothing more interesting than a woman in a bathing suit or overpriced clothes that were sent to her by a company for being “influential.” It suggests that as a woman, you are not “liked” or even interesting if you are not “hot” or half naked. Women can be more than just a pretty face or “hot body” and looks are not the only trait that make us interesting, likable or marketable.


Additionally, the notion of branding has evolved. What used to be something business’s do to create recognition with consumers, is now what Instagramers do to gain recognition with followers on Social Media. We’ve bought into this idea of branding ourselves, but what we’re really doing is adhering to the brand of the “Instagram aesthetic” and eliminating room for personal identity. Our Instagram posts are less of our true selves and more of what we think other people want to see.

I could just rid myself of Social Media forever. However, I don’t believe that’s necessary, nor is it something I want. Social Media can be a powerful tool that has the ability to change perception and create exposure where exposure is needed. I believe the sooner we encourage more diverse dialogue and imagery for women on Social Media, the sooner we can change what’s unfortunately become the beauty norm. I want to hear more from the empowering, inspiring, creative and overall amazing women on Instagram, who I know exist, but who’s voices and stories wont be projected loud enough because they don’t get 20,000 likes on their photos. This is where my campaign, “Real Women of Instagram” comes in.

With a combination of inspiration from the popular Humans of New York and my personal love for creative non-fiction, I created the “Real Women of Instagram” (@RealWomenofIG) campaign to bring exposure to stories, backgrounds, and perspectives of relatable women. Each day I post a picture of an amazing woman, followed by a direct quote on whatever she wanted to share with the account-whether it’s her personal story or perspective on an issue. I initially planned to engage women I organically came in contact with all over Chicago, where I live, but then thought- why not utilize the network of women that I have accumulated throughout the years.


I made it a point to reach out to women who had inspiring stories, already used Social Media to voice their views and opinions on beauty standards or feminism, or who were just doing really cool things in life. The range of topics cover everything from perspective on beauty standards and self-esteem, health, traveling, career choices, mental illness, body-image and more. More importantly, these topics cover the unique personalities and authenticity of women we could all know, something you seldom see on Instagram.

I’m aware that this issue is bigger than me and that beauty standards- on social media or otherwise- are systematic and internalized by both women and men. This Instagram campaign isn’t going to save the world. I can’t “fix” Instagram, and truthfully, I don’t even believe it’s broken. I just want to provide a platform for incredible, relatable women to share their perspectives and stories.

I want these women to know that their perspectives matter, that people care about what they have to say and that their voices deserve to be heard. The (real) beauty of Instagram- and Social Media in general, is that there is content for everyone; no matter what your interests, hobbies or taste there is an account for it. There wasn’t an Instagram account for this.. so I decided to make it, myself.

Take a look at some of the submissions so far, and the amazing stories that have been shared by these women:


Growing up I always felt that there was a stereotype that I had to live and abide by to get through my days and as I grew older it got substantially worse. Going into college I was morbidly obese, unhealthy, uncomfortable and insecure. But FINALLY after 18 years of being unhappy, I decided to change who I was and what I stood for. I started off with the mind set of “I need to be skinny” “I need to fit in”, but after I started losing weight, my entire mind set changed. I thought to myself, who cares? Who cares if I’m a little bigger than other people? Who cares if I don’t look as good in a bikini? I stopped comparing myself to other people and what they LOOKED like and started looking at how people ACT. Yes, losing 100 pounds has made me more confident in what I look like, but now I am just an overall healthy person. I am no longer a borderline diabetic, I have my PCOS under control, I can go on a hike with my friends and enjoy the view without being a half mile behind everyone. The point I’m trying to make is life isn’t all about being “skinny” but about being “healthy” because Healthy = Happy!




In the often times male dominated world of hip hop it becomes an incredible challenge for women of my kind. The thing that keeps me going is the thought of being a pioneer and being one of the first to open doors for other female rappers similar to myself. I refuse to conform to the traditional “sex sells” mentality of many mainstream female rappers. Being a lesbian in a world where you have to appeal to men and what men want in order to be successful more often than not becomes a huge obstacle. Thus with rapping and Team Turn Out I plan to “turn the world out” to something new…”Empowering people to be yourself and go against the mainstream.




My passion is life! I was diagnosed in 2010 with Stage IV Cholangiocarcinoma and given six months to live. I had it all- a successful career, beautiful children, and an amazing husband. My life was perfect. I felt like my accomplishments defined me, but they didn’t. With cancer, comes many blessings such as the ability to be happy just being alive, the joy of giving others hope, and the pure love of life. When I was diagnosed, I wanted to turn the “C” word into something positive. I developed 3 goals. My first goal was to give hope to others by mentoring cancer patients. Second was to raise research funds and start a foundation. My third goal was to increase my faith and the faith of others. My passion is to give others hope through love and support. Our foundation has raised over $85,000 and I currently mentor over 20 survivors. The last 5 years have been occupied with over 30 hours of surgery, over 50 chemotherapy treatments, 3 rounds of radiation, 5 recurrences, 8 tumors, and countless doctors visits. My passion is to show others that you are stronger than you think and with love, hope, faith, and positive thinking you can accomplish your dreams. Our website is




As I’m writing this, I’m finding it very hard not to tear up in a room full of people who understand what I’m about to say. In 2013 when I was told I would be deploying to Afghanistan, I had no idea what an impact it would have on me, how I would come back and not recognize the girl I was before. I left thinking I was fearless and invincible and that I would be OK. I not only grew as a soldier but as a woman. During my deployment I dealt with missile attacks on the daily, a long distance relationship with my boyfriend who was 100 miles north of me for 12 months, the loss of my grandfather and the diagnosis of an illness that will plague me for the rest of my life, among other things. I realize that no one asked me to do this, but every second not only in Afghanistan but in this uniform has been absolutely worth it. Now, almost 3 years later, I am engaged to that same man who got me through that deployment and I am a mother to the most beautiful little girl, and in less than 2 months I will be starting my life as a civilian. But not a day goes by that I am not absolutely grateful for the endless opportunities that the Army has given me, and not a day goes by that I don’t long for Afghanistan.




Looking back at my college and even high school years, I think I used a busy schedule as an excuse. Something to make me feel and look good. I question now if it was more for vanity than passion. I use to always say, “you can’t go to the gym until you have everything done” or, “you can’t eat dinner until you get this done”, and with things always to do, I always put my health last. So, I get to Dubai with an empty schedule, no friends or loved ones, and I find myself nervous to spend time with Laylaa. Who is Laylaa? I always preached self reflection, but I don’t think you can truly reflect until you spend so many days away from the familiar. I struggled with my self image. I think that’s a pretty common thing for young women. I never saw what people saw in me.

I have a fellow sorority sister that tells me every time she sees me,”Laylaa for president”, and it wasn’t until it was genuinely repeated, that I finally realized, this girl really thinks I could be president. I had a friend once tell me, “there is no way you cry, you always have it all together”. I would take a step back and ask myself what these people saw in me. At that time in my life, I hated the way I treated my mind and body. Being in Dubai, has made me more confident than ever. I’ve learned how to treat my mind and body right. I learned what self care is for me, and how to implement it in my everyday life. I’m learning a little bit more about Laylaa everyday.

I do things now, that would have given me anxiety months ago. I’m living half way across the world for four months. I started off not knowing anyone, but I’m surviving and thriving! It makes me like myself. Makes me proud of myself. Makes me think “hey maybe I can be president one day”. I see so many girls get confused with vanity and confidence. They are not one in the same, a lesson I have learned in Dubai. I think of my little sister all the time here because I want so much for her. I want all young woman to have that moment of confidence where they can say “maybe I’ll be president.



I am still taking submissions for Real Women of Instagram. I’d love to keep this account running as long as possible! If you or anyone you know would like to share your story or perspective, contact me at to participate!



My name is Kayla Tricaso and I live in Chicago, IL. My life goal is to be able to use the power of creativity and communication to cultivate dialogue and change where it’s needed in society. Additionally, I want to prove the Uber driver wrong, who told me I would never create a successful career for myself out of Social Media. I enjoy tacos, black tea, and French Bulldogs.

Campaign: @RealWomenofIG

Personal Instagram: @kaylatricaso

One Comment

  1. Pingback: Why We Think Alicia Keys' Essay On Going Make-Up Free Is A Game-Changer - GirlTalkHQ

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.