Meet the city’s coolest and chicest mega-stars who are making social media— and Boston—the scenes to be seen in. Fashion, food, phtotography, nightlife, sports: right, we’ve got that, Boston. Always have, frankly. But now, in the age of insta-everything, we have the pictures, stories, and—God knows—talent at our fingertips, too, all through the power of social media. Building that digital narrative are the city’s top-five Instagram stars—some names you’ll recognize, others you need to know. Read. Like. Share.
To everything there is a season. The squad of sure-shot photographers behind IG Boston knows this better than most. Their work is a highly curated Instagram-only collection tracked by 45,000-plus followers; members who submit photographs must be approved by four moderators (represented here by Mic L. Angelo, a hip-hop artist, MIT IT expert, and consummate photographer).
The theme? Dazzling images of beauty: asymmetrical cityscapes, peaks of color-pop foliage, snow-drenched cobblestone streets, surf-worthy beaches, a single spring tulip… All of Boston and her many moods. Turn, turn, turn.
Selection process: The four of us have to agree on the shot and if it is worthy enough to represent the entire IG community. We want to cultivate great photographers. We want people to inspire each other.
Exclusivity: We have 462 members right now, [selected from] 7,000 applicants. The moderators are impartial and cannot post their own work.
Founding cause: [Photography hobbyist] Brian McWilliams founded IG Boston out of his love for Boston and photography.
The IG Boston look: We look for the kinds of photos you won’t see posted anywhere else, because those are the kinds of photos that only a resident of Boston would know about. We want to create an intimate feeling.
The analog element: We are working on more [nondigital outputs]. We’ve had a gallery exhibit where all of our photographers submitted photos and we showcased them. We’ve held panel discussions, too.
Insta-insights: A lot of it is just knowing what kind of theme you have and sticking to it. Knowing what your audience likes. Being careful about when you post—people look at a feed only at certain times of the day. Be consistent with your captions. And the hashtags you use are very important.
Best city locations: I love nighttime images and sunrises. You can’t miss along the Charles River, especially on the Cambridge side and around the BU Bridge. Newbury Street and the Back Bay are always great places to shoot.
IG goals: We are interested in making IG Boston more of a social force within the New England social scene, having it be a focal point where people can go for work or to find an awesome photographer.
As if her multi-flip, flyaway dismounts weren’t enough, gymnast and Olympic gold medalist Aly Raisman also kills it with kindness. The Needham native was named US team captain in two Olympics (London, in 2012, and Rio last summer) for good reason. Plus, the lass really knows how to dress up. It all makes for more than 2.2 million Instagram followers, a number growing by the nano-second.
Life after the Olympics: I’ve been extremely lucky to experience so many amazing opportunities since the Games. I met the President and First Lady, attended the VMAs, had a [televised] lip sync battle with Simone Biles and Olivia Munn, appeared on Ellen with my parents, went to fashion week, presented at the CMTs to Carrie Underwood… To name just a few!
Keys to success: Hard work, dedication, sacrifice, a love for what you do, an amazing support system, and confidence.
Cult of personality: It’s important to be a good role model for the younger generation. Social media is a huge part of everyone’s lives; I make sure to post content that sends a positive message and is consistent with my beliefs and values.
Social network: I want my fans to be inspired to dream big and find something they love. I want people to feel confident and beautiful in their own skin and not compare themselves to others. I like to re-post their content, especially if they’re wearing my signature GK Elite leotard line or FEAT sock line, or if they have something inspiring to say.
Top image: My favorite images are of course from the Olympic Games. The image of me overcome with emotion following the individual all-around finals, where I won silver, is pretty memorable. At that moment, all of the hard work and preparation paid off, and even though I got second to my teammate, I knew it was the best I could do, so that silver was like winning gold.
Boston sports: My favorite thing about Boston are the sports fans. Boston has the best fans in the world—I love how it’s such a passionate sports city. So thank you, Boston, for all the love!
How do you begin to describe chef Jamie Bissonnette? While “food lover,” “reality show star,” and “entrepreneur” are good starts, “creative genius” and “zesty humorist” certainly round out the menu. Chef and co-owner of Toro, Coppa, and his newest eatery, Little Donkey, Bissonnette also cooks up a social media storm to his 45,000-plus followers.
On food: I love food. Food is good. I grew up intrigued by food and flavors. In the restaurants, seeing the reaction of people eating food we have cooked for them is a driving, intangible thing for me.
Business development: Partnering with Ken Oringer helped me in my cooking, and in seeing the ways to make a business successful. Having a partner that can teach and push me, as well as listen and collaborate, has been the key to our growth and success.
Public face: Social media, for me, is all about sharing and having fun. I want the look [of my feed] to be like a DIY zine, and the feel to be inviting and fun.
Insta-inspo: I love to set up events and [try] new dishes. It’s like the sneak-peak into a menu sometimes. I think the most memorable moment was the first time a guest came in and asked for a dish using an Instagram post. I was stoked.
City satisfaction: I love seeing what’s happening at the farmers’ markets, and when I discover an off-the-beaten-track restaurant, bar, or spa I didn’t know about. And I love, love, love seeing what other restaurants are serving.
The Boston larder: My favorites include New Saigon Sandwich for Vietnamese iced coffee, sandwiches, and spring rolls; Gracenote Coffee in the mornings; Mike & Patty’s for breakfast sandwiches; New Golden Gate for late-night Chinese food; Townsman for a glass of wine and meat-and-cheese board; Uni for a blowout sushi evening; and Eastern Standard for providing a dope wine list until 1:45 am!
Fashion illustrator Holly Nichols attributes all of her formidable, sudden success to the forces of social media. The founder of Holly Nichols Illustration, Nichols owns a studio and online shop but also whips up social media campaigns for the likes of Saks Fifth Avenue, Disney, and Barneys New York, among others, sharing her creations all the time to her 544,000 followers. Nichols says her online popularity happened quickly, even accidentally. We say it’s no surprise at all.
Dual-purpose: I combined my two passions, fashion and art. My goal is for my work to allow people to enjoy fashion in a unique way. It eliminates the dressing room struggles that many women face, and lets them enjoy fashion on paper instead.
Growing a business: My business developed by accident. My account started as a way to document my portfolio. Soon I was being asked by the public about where they could purchase my work, and getting inquiries from brands on how they could work with me. Soon after, I quit my day job. I can happily say I’m living my dream of being a full-time professional artist!
The look: My social feed is very clean and consistent. I try to photograph everything in bright, filter-free, natural light so that the viewer can clearly see my artwork in its true colors. I want them to feel like they’re at my desk sketching with me.
Going viral: There’s a lot of thought behind each post. I figured out the best way to leverage the right hashtag, content, posting schedule, and who to follow—that’s important, too. You certainly have to be disciplined about it.
Visibility: I get almost all of my opportunities through social media. Even less than 10 years ago, artists had to work for years to get their work noticed. Now, it can happen as soon as you hit share.
Most memorable moment: Without a doubt, it was going to New York Fashion Week with TRESemmé and being able to sketch looks from the actual runway instead of from behind my desk. It was an absolute dream.
Best comment: “Wow, her legs are long.”
Favorite refuge: The Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum. I always notice something I missed [previously] every time I visit. Plus, the gardens are simply an artist’s dream. Also, Blick Art Materials for my pens. It’s my candy store!
You heard it here first: DJ Brek. One is going places—mostly in the night, and always with a playlist. The UMass Amherst graduate never imagined making a living out of deejaying, nor did he predict utilizing a social media platform on which his fans and competitors—he currently has more than 2,000 followers—could study his every move. But now, the unimaginable is coming to life.
The recipe: I mix it up. When I started, no one would play a Red Hot Chili Peppers song, then Stevie Wonder, then Kanye, then Prince, and just throw everything out there in one party. I play musical icons. Good music is ageless music.
Owning the night: I’m probably like the top-booked guy in the city at this point. I play all the major venues: Royal, Bijou, Cure, Good Life, and Middlesex will forever have a place in my heart. I was the music curator for the W hotel. I also played for Pharrell in Vegas, and for Kanye and Jay Z for the Watch the Throne tour.
Virtual socializing: I look to make my social media my brand [for] when you can’t speak to me [directly]. It’s colorful, very particular, and specific. I want people to understand that I’m delivering the highest quality of product. It’s chosen, mindful; it may be in-the-moment, but it’s still representative of me 10 years from now. My end goal is creating bespoke and very real experiences.
Musical outlets: I’m actually a huge jazz fan. I’ll hit Wally’s Café and Scullers in Cambridge. I love to hear other DJs at Middlesex, because they’re like a neighborhood nightclub that’s not the neighborhood nightclub. Style raves: I am definitely a sneaker freak! I love Concepts and Bodega. My favorite new store now is All Too Human.
PHOTOGRAPHY BY ©LISA RICHOV (HAND SKETCHING); COURTESY OF @HNICHOLSILLUSTRATION (REMAINING IMAGES).
OPPOSITE PAGE: JOHN LEE (ICON NIGHTCLUB); CHORALE MILES (TUNNEL NIGHTCLUB); COURTESY OF @BREK.ONE (MOSS