Lifestyle & Fashion Influencer Paula Kalumba on Overcoming Social Anxiety Online
Paula Kalumba is a 19-year-old fashion, lifestyle, and beauty creator from Zambia. In late 2021, she signed with Sintillate Talent.
Paula shares that life before being a content creator and life now isn’t wildly different for her in terms of her day-to-day experiences.
“I did content because it was something that I loved to do, and in the beginning, I didn’t necessarily take it as a career or something that I’d do professionally. I love to share with my audience what I’m up to, what I’m doing, that type of thing.”
She adds, “I noticed that my audience started growing, and people were responding positively to what I had to share. I decided to take it up professionally and do it consistently as well because that’s not what I was doing before.”
Paula often travels with her family and enjoys sharing her experiences in other places and cultures with her audience. These experiences gave her a plethora of content to share with her followers.
“I travel quite a lot with my family, so I have a lot to show my audience on Instagram about the world, where I’ve been, what I’ve experienced, and different cultures. It’s just something that I genuinely love to do, although I didn’t necessarily plan to go [in] this direction, but I had a positive response to the content that I had to share.”
After receiving a hugely positive response to her content, Paula started looking at content creation as a career. In late 2021, she signed with Sintillate Talent, an influencer and talent agency, to learn more about the industry.
She shares, “[Sintillate Talent] really helped me grow as a content creator because I didn’t know much about being a creator or being an influencer. I didn’t know too much about it. All I knew was I was sharing my life, and people love to hear about it.”
Paula adds that the Sintillate Talent team helped her to navigate how to take her content creation to the next level professionally.
Overcoming Social Anxiety
Paula shares that she is a very introverted person, and pursuing being an influencer professional was difficult at first because of her social anxiety.
“I’ve had a little trouble sharing, especially when it comes to actually speaking on social media. I’ve had a little trouble sharing my story because I’m reserved.”
Before overcoming her social anxiety, Paula primarily posted about her travels, shopping, going to restaurants, and more “typical” influencer content.
However, she shares, “I wanted to do something a little different from what the normal influencer is doing, and I figured that in order to do that, I’d have to overcome my social anxiety, which I have struggled with for a very long time, but I managed to do that basically by understanding that the people behind the screens, behind the likes, behind the shares, are normal people like me.”
This realization made Paula understand that her audience faces the same life challenges, which decreased her anxiety about sharing more intimate parts of her life.
“I wasn’t just sharing the great parts of life on my social media anymore. I was basically sharing all of, behind being an influencer, behind the restaurants, behind the shopping, behind the travel, behind all of it. I was showing people the real deal, what it is about, but that didn’t come easy.”
She adds that overcoming her social anxiety didn’t come easily, but understanding that everyone viewing her content is also human and facing life like her helped massively.
“[Social media] is a safe place for me. I consider all of my followers – friends. I don’t really look at them as followers, or I don’t really look at them as just an audience. I consider them friends, and that made it a safe space for me to know that everyone else is just like me and we’re going through the same life experiences or at this certain stage in life where we’re trying to figure out what it is exactly [that] we want to do, where are we headed.”
Paula’s Content & Brand Partnerships
Paula shares that while she posts fashion, beauty, and lifestyle content, she notices that her fashion content receives the most engagement.
“I’ve noticed that what engages my audience the most is my fashion content. When I’m posting mostly about my outfits, how to style a certain piece of clothing or closet staples, or where I got a certain piece of clothing that has the most engagement for me.”
She has also done a few brand partnerships, most notably with Chi Chi Clothing, a London-based fashion retailer.
“I’m part of an agency, which is Sintillate Talent, so I’ve had brands approach me directly, but I’ve also had brands come to me through the agency. The majority of what I do is through the agency. I’ve [also] worked with brands like Romwe.”
Paula’s Advice for Other Creators Struggling with Social Anxiety
“I would say to them that it is important to first of all, understand yourself. Understand where you social anxiety comes from and what exactly is making you anxious. Is it knowing that there’s people watching? Is it knowing that it is hard to connect with your audience? Is it not knowing what to post, [or how] to engage with your audience?”
She advises creators struggling with social anxiety to start by assessing themselves and what the root of their social anxiety is before tackling it.
“I’d like to share with them that it is extremely important to be patient with yourself because it’s not something that happens overnight. Dealing with social anxiety is a long process. It’s not linear… Some days are worse than others. Sometimes you might feel like it’s getting better, and then some days you might break down, which is absolutely fine.”
Ultimately, Paula stresses that patience and understanding are critical when working through your social anxiety as a creator.
“Know that eventually, it’s going to be okay if you’re consistently working towards making it.”