Let’s face it. All thoses self-identified “influencers” you follow on social media are rarely actually “influential” (beyond telling us what sunglasses to buy or which juice press to go to). In the airless, lightless vacuumed space that is Instagram, it can be a bit challenging to find an account of substance, originality, and creative work that isn’t just replicating everyone else’s pictures of avocado toast on a marble countertop. So let me help!
Last year I decided to cleanse my feed from lifestyle bloggers, “life coaches,” and thirst traps with zero body fat — you can too. In 2019, we are taking Instagram back as tool for empowerment, information, and creative Inspiration. My criteria: 1. They have a body of work in Instagram. 2. They create actually original content on Instagram that feels unlike any account I’ve ever seen. 3. They feel “fresh” to the mediascape, whatever that means to you, and are set for the come-up in 2019. With that in mind, here is a list of who I think are the most exciting queer and trans folks to follow the app this year.
As a descendent of rancheros myself, I’m not sure I’ve ever seen my cowboy side reflected in such a homo-friendly and gorgeous way. Fabian’s photos document the ways Mexicans reckon with masculinity in the context of queer identity through the lens of la raza, using Chicanx imagery, a desert backdrop, and at times, sequins, in his portraits. Follow Fabian.
Narrowing down the list of queer artists on this list was a tough task, but Wednesday rose to the top last year with their angelically bright Instagram feed creating affirmational bubble letters and informative queer cartoons. You may have seen their “SHOW UP FOR TRANS PEOPLE” illustration post-Trump memo, but their feed is filled with educational messages and How-Tos about mental health, supporting queer artists, coming out, misgendering, and a whole other slew of helpful things. Follow Wednesday.
The collage and photo work of Savana Ogburn has a dream-like quality, incorporating a combination of colors, materials, textures, and fabrics to construct their elaborate signature sets. From icons like Sasha Velour and Amanda Lepore, there is an ingenuity to their portraits that cannot be replicated — and they’re literally still a student. Follow Savana.
Meet the man behind the newly minted style icon, Kim Petras. She won the gays, she won fashion week, she won Halloween, and she continues to win with her hella glam sidekick Matthew, who dresses her through it all. This stylist and DJ is infused into New York’s nightlife with a unique sense of style, a bike between gigs, and an affinity for Latinx memes. No matter what it is, it’s so fun to watch. Follow Matthew.
The work of a curatorial Instagrammer might seem like an easy job, but rarely do you find one with the kind of taste level that transcends your expectations with surprise and delight each and every post. Chuck is a collector of images and publications centering Black, queer, and queer-adjacent cultural forms. Photos of his old magazine collection, found rare images of Black cultural icons, and an affinity for Fran Lebowitz make this feed one of the most poignant out there. Follow Chuck.
Last year, Jeremy created one of the most talked-about plays in the theatre scene with Slave Play. Though his work causes controversy, we love every second of it: He is fashion eye candy, a salient Gemini who rolls with a very cool-kid group of friends, and wields a funny brain that translates well on Instagram stories. Jeremy’s next play Daddy will star all your faves (Tommy Dorfman, Alan Cumming, Hari Nef). Follow Jeremy.
Or just “Juku,” for short. This Brooklyn drag queen has the makeup game you wish you had everytime you want to go for the bold eyeshadow right before you leave the house. The way she constructs a look is *screaming emoji* and her performance style is some of wildest you’ve ever seen. (The number of times I have actually screamed watching this girl’s Stories, I cannot even count.) She’s bound for big things, I promise you. Follow HaraJuku.
I’ve never recommended an Instagram that already had one million followers, but honestly, the folks running Diet Prada deserve it. After breaking the story of Dolce and Gabbana’s racist antics last year, this Instagram alone can take big credit for the effective canceling of the bigoted fashion house. Both loved and feared, they continue to use Instagram as a platform for calling out fashion folks for racism, plagiarism, or just plain indecency with an acute sense of justice and journalistic integrity. Follow Diet Prada.
After retiring from a career in fashion, Mariah became a full-time tattoo artist to much success, employing her signature scribbly style and affinity for women and femme imagery. Her high-profile clientele (Um, hi Ariana Grande.) are just a teeny reason to follow her: Her thoughts on love, relationships, feminism, fashion, and more in her Stories are a constant source of wisdom from a young woman who has lived a lifetime as a Puerto Rican, a mother, and a person with a disability. Follow Mariah.
After a busy year, this makeup artist and they/them libra is doing mugs for queens like Karlie Kloss, Padma Lakshmi, and Amandla Stenberg. Though fashion week behind-the-scenes, constant travel, and very good tips, William is a must-follow for any beauty addict. The glow of his models alone will clear your skin and fix your credit score. Follow William.
After the debut of his film Ponyboi — a meditation on intersex identity executive produced by Stephen Fry and Emma Thompson nbd — River is set for great things this year. He has created GapToof Entertainment, a production house in LA making Hollywood magic for queer stories, and continues to advocate for intersex people with fabulosity in a mediascape that totally ignores the “I” in LGBTQIA. Plus, that winged eyeliner! Follow River.
Though he maintains an anonymous presence for his safety, this Instagram is dedicated to representing Middle Eastern and North African people in their queer, everyday lives. Though the ways he shows queer Arabs in love shouldn’t have to be radical, it is by nature, and we’re thankful for it. Plus his postcards and illustrations are oh-so sexy! Follow Queer Habibi.
While every photo she takes is staggeringly beautiful, the specific subjects Lia shoots create an added layer of awe to her feed. Her lens holds queer models with austerity, elegance, and an understated grace that we are often not afforded. For photographers and queers alike, you won’t regret following this constant source of inspiration. Follow Lia.
Internet, meet Shoog. Shoog, Internet. This all-around delightful queer hails from Florida and has dedicated the body of their work to, well, bodies. Shoog shoots and paints surrealistic images of #RadQueersInNature, championing body positivity before anything else. You will be in absolute awe getting lost in the whimsy and empowering magic of this feed. Follow Shoog.
What started as a call for submissions for a queer zine turned into an explosive curatorial dream come true documenting the lives of queers in the South and rural Appalachian communities. From memes, to updates on the opioid crisis, to corn-on-the-cob buttplugs, this exquisitely edited Instagram has both informative and lol-worthy value. Follow Queer Appalachia.
If you haven’t yet heard of King Princess, what have you been doing with your life? Her debut single last year reached a wide audience when Tweeted by a one Harry Styles, but she holds her own putting out queer bop after queer bop. (I strongly recommend “Pussy is God,” the queerer follow-up to “god is a woman.”) Aside from her music, she’s one of the funniest people on Instagram and well worth the follow even if you don’t binge her on Spotify (which you should). Follow King Princess.
After being named a finalist of the Wintour-selected CFDA/Vogue Fashion Fund Awards, Raul Lopez continues to put out some of the most gender-forward clothing out there under his label “Luar” (“Raul” spelled backwards). Hailing from a pre-gentrified Williamsburg, Raul’s sense of style and design is influenced by his Dominican upbringing, hip-hop, and his mother, among other things. Follow Raul.
After being named the Director of Food and Culture of The Standard, one of most regarded hotel brands in the game, Angela is upending, queerifying, and decolonizing the industry with a fresh perspective. Immigrants are the backbone of the hospitality experience, she says, and the food and programming she injects into the chain is putting PoC, femme, and queer perspectives first in that regard. Not to mention, she is just really freaking cool. Follow Angela.
The composition of Michael Bailey Gates’ work has a Mapplethorpian quality to them, with a bizarre, hilarious, and genderless edge. There is a sense of humor injected into every portrait and ensemble as imagined by the young photographer that challenges binaried systems in a way that is both tactful and unapologetically fun. You will wait for each photo with baited breath wondering what he’ll come up with next. Follow Michael.
As a Brooklyn girl myself, I know I seem a bit biased when I say Brooklyn yields some of the most exciting drag in the country, but if there’s anyone who can convince you of that, it’s West Dakota. After a very fast and prolific rise in the drag scene last year, Dakota has already caught the attention of Vogue, Katy Perry, and Opening Ceremony. Plus, her lip syncing is so good, she won the prestigious Mr(s), Brooklyn Award wearing only a plastic bag. Follow Dakota.
You have not watched porn until you’ve watched a Noel Alejandro film. Hailing from Barcelona, the breathtaking, gorgeously shot erotic films of his production house champion real bodies, people of color, HIV-positive folks, and real narratives. His cinematic style is so intimate and oozing with emotion that you might even tear up watching porn. Follow Noel.
Full-time fashion brand, and part-time DJs, the queers behind the genderless fashion house No Sesso (“No Gender” in Italian) have developed a cult following in LA, and now a national presence through clientele like Kelela, Lizzo, and Erykah Badu. Their palette is psychedelic, their silhouettes are radical, their styling is absolute gender fuckery. But clothes aside, they are convening spaces for queer and trans people of color across the west coast, and dressing Black bodies before anything else. Follow No Sesso.
When Eli isn’t too busy running Plastik — the creative production house behind a magazine, studio, gallery, and store of the same name — the director and photographer is giving voices and representation to queers in the Middle East with a Willy Wonka-esque aesthetic. Having grown up a closeted kid in Lebanon, Eli flies renowned drag queens like Sasha Velour and Alaska out to Beirut to give queer Arabs a space to be themselves and experience a taste of nightlife that is otherwise barred from the country. Follow Eli.
The work of a bad bitch is hard, but it must be done. Model, filmmaker, and other hyphenates, Fatima is a world-class creator with a radical attention to social justice, sexual racism, and desirability politics, as shown in her ongoing documentary project, No Fats No Femmes. Her Instagram feed, though, is pure fashion goals and you will get your whole damn life each time she graces you with a photo. Follow Fatima.
The woman behind your favorite drag queens — Aquaria, Naomi Smalls, Milk, and Sasha Velour to name a few — has been dressing up club kids and throwing parties long before her designs were winning Drag Race. In both the fashion world and the drag world, queer women are rarely championed, if at all mentioned. Hana performs and designs to prove that her place in fashion goes above and beyond the prejudice of those industries. Follow Hana.