'It's not as glamorous as it seems' - Wakefield's social media influencers have their say on the realities of making a living on TikTok, Instagram and YouTube
As Wakefield prepares to finalise its bid for the title of City of Culture 2025, Sophie Mei Lan takes a look at a growing group of local stars: social media influencers.
Whether they're amassing followers from the comfort of their own home, juggling parenting and social media or taking time to star in national TV competitions, Wakefield s content creators are making a splash on the influencer scene.
It was a career which couldn't have existed 20 years ago, but now dozens of local people are taking to social media to document their lives, thoughts and opinions - and reaching hundreds of thousands of people with their posts.
Now, some of the district's most influential female creatives offer a glimpse at the highs and lows of making a living online - and the realities of straddling a virtual life with a real one.
Mum-of-two Gemma Pesce has amassed more than 40,000 followers with her blog and Instagram cataloguing the challenges of balancing a career as a lawyer with her family life.
She first began blogging when her oldest son, Riley, contracted slapped cheek syndrome as a newborn, and has since gone on to secure sponsored posts from big name brands including Tesco and MEL science.
But she says the lifestyle is not as glamorous as many people may assume - and even a single post can take hours or days of work.
She said: "It’s not as gifted or freebie filled as it seems.
“Many people assume that I get sent lots of free things. But nothing ever comes for free! Any brand events or gifted items involve a lot of work which takes hours to fulfil.”
Gemma, who works on behalf of a local government during the day, admits social media is "addictive", but says that the majority of her interactions online have been positive.
She particularly enjoys sharing her creative skills with her followers, and makes the most of the support of the "mum community" - a network of thousands of mums who share their thoughts, feelings and experiences online.
She began posting online after being encouraged by fellow school mums, who adored her bargain fashion buys which she styled from low-budget hauls across the district and Yorkshire.
But despite the bright lights and dazzling outfits on her social media, Victoria says that life "is not always as glamorous as it seems".
Posting across YouTube, Instagram, TikTok and Snapchat, Victoria works from morning until late at night, and fits her busy schedule around school runs and family duties.
But her success has paid off - she is now moving house and has set her sights on creating content designed at helping others feel more confident.
She said: "I am quite reserved in real life but I can express myself online. I do all of my style finds and buys on Instagram which makes it all look glamorous!
"But then I keep it real and raw on YouTube where I vlog about anxiety and our family life.”
Michelle Marshall works as an NHS Wedding Photographer for a living, but focuses her online efforts on her Wandering Curiosities blog, where she shares stories and reviews of her travel both global and local.
Although she has enjoyed the experience of being a blogger, she is aware that life can look a little "glossier" online than offline, and tries to take frequent breaks from the internet.
Michelle, who lives in Castleford, said: "The community has connected me however, with so many creators locally.
"Before Lockdown started and the Pandemic took hold I decided to shift the direction of my blog towards travel, this was the worst timing ever.
"Instead I worked all the way through the Pandemic in the NHS and have been busier than ever.
“I am now 18 months later starting to find time to blog again.”
Fellow Castleford influencer Siobhan Murphy has had rather a different path to success, having earned 100,000 followers on Instagram with her colourful outfits and quirky interior design.
A former NHS worker, Siobhan last year competed in the BBC's Interior Design Masters competition, and has continued to entertain her followers with regular updates as she continues to modernise her 1930s Art Deco home.
She said: "I‘m constantly designing, decorating and styling up my house and I have a thing for colour, pink in particular. I adore wild prints, wallpapers and soft furnishings and mixing up designer, high street, vintage and charity shop finds as well as things I have made and upcycled.”