Maybe you’ve noticed this on your Instagram feed: It doesn’t deliver content equally. If you’ve noticed, you’re not alone, and studies have even proven it. Along with Facebook, the app has faced mounting scrutiny in recent years about racial bias in its algorithms, which means we have to try harder to find and follow creators of color.
Society 18 founder Pamela Zapata got an up-close look at the inequalities in influencer marketing in the decade she spent working in marketing, production and influencer strategy. In fact, it’s what led her to found Society 18, an influencer management firm that focuses on diverse—truly diverse—content creators.
“What I wanted to do is create an agency that focused on all types of creators: not just races and ethnicities, but skin tones, hair textures, body types, religions,” Zapata says. “I felt like the rosters I was receiving from other agencies when I was casting for campaigns [had] a lot of the same type of talent.”
We caught up with Zapata to talk about some of her favorite influencers on Instagram and came up with this list of 10 you should be following. Some are represented by Society 18 and some aren’t, but all are worth a follow.
1. Emmanuel Acho, @emmanuelacho
NFL linebacker, NFL commentator, author, content creator—Emmanual Acho has quite the resume. On his YouTube series, Uncomfortable Conversations with a Black Man, Acho truly revels in discussing the awkward sociopolitical issues we so often ignore—as when talking white privilege with Chelsea Handler or asking four-time Olympic Gold medalist Sanya Richards-Ross about her abortion.
Why Zapata follows him: “He just brings people from all walks of life and interviews them, and has very uncomfortable conversations that are awkward to have—but they need to be had. He really brings these conversations to life with his platform.”
2. Veronica Bonilla, @verooobonilla
You’re gonna love Veronica Bonilla, whose bio proudly proclaims, “where thick thighs meet streetwear.” The pint-sized, Puerto Rican New Yorker (her vintage e-commerce company is called @brooklynpetite) does it all: beauty, hair care, skin care, style hauls and GRWMs (get-ready-with-mes). Her style is edgy but effortless, from her “BUY WEED FROM WOMEN” tote bags to her giraffe-inspired Nike Air Max kicks, and her nails are always gorgeous.
Why Zapata follows her: “I love that she’s unapologetically herself. She’s someone who’s very vocal about how she feels and will voice her opinion on any matter, especially if it’s near to her heart.”
3. Hortencia Caires, @stylefeen
Brazilian beauty influencer Hortencia Caires has been working with Society 18 for about a year. Her trademark is her mane of gorgeous coiled curls: “The hair—you can’t miss it,” Zapata chuckles. But her brand goes beyond natural hair to encompass fitness, fashion… and even her pug, Thug. As a bonus? She’s absolutely hilarious, often poking fun at herself and goofing off with her fiance.
Why Zapata follows her: “She is so funny to follow. If you watch her stories… it’s just like you’re with one of your girlfriends.”
4. Sara Escudero, @collagevintage
Sara Escudero is one of Society 18’s longest-running clients and, with over a million followers, has one of the agency’s biggest accounts. Her combo of chic and comfy feels super attainable—even if the settings, from Marrakesh, Morocco, to Lanzarote to Paris, might not be on a daily basis. Adorably, Zapata says that her partner, Diego, shoots all of her content and has for years.
Why Zapata follows her: “I love her aesthetic; I love her fashion sense. She mixes really [luxurious], high-end pieces with everyday fashion.”
5. Tyla-Lauren Gilmore, @tylauren
Whether it’s a Budweiser tee and big hoops or an oversized blazer and cowboy boots or bright orange eyeglasses and a bright blue top, Tyla-Lauren Gilmore just radiates East Coast cool. She’s a New Yorker with unrivaled style.
Why Zapata follows her: She’s “one of the cool girls,”who can make a Happy Gilmore shirt look chic and who’s always posting pics of incredible thrifted finds.
6. Niá Pettitt (Niá The Light), @niathelight
The Zimbabwean, London-based entrepreneur got her start in the natural hair space, and today, she’s the creator and owner of The Curl Bar London. (She’s also in the process of signing with Society 18.) England’s capital city can be a gloomy and cold place, but you wouldn’t know it from Pettitt’s feed, which is colorful and vibrant and full of… well, light.
Why Zapata follows her: “She’s someone I’ve been following for years—I found her back in the day when I was casting at my last agency…. Her feed is just beautiful—she’s super approachable yet very aspirational. And also a business owner!”
7. Jeremy Mitchell, @xxjmitch
If the photos on Jeremy Mitchell’s feed look next-level to you, that’s because they are. The Brooklyn-based photographer and creative director-turned-content creator shoots editorial work for a number of brands, including J.Crew and Montblanc. He brings a photographer’s eye to men’s fashion, whether he’s capturing street style in Italy or shooting models in Puerto Rico.
Why Zapata follows him: “A lot of creators are their feed, but he’s very much like, ‘I like to elevate and showcase other artists and creators.’”
8. Janibell Rosanne, @janibellrosanne
There’s a real joy that radiates from Janibell Rosanne’s Instagram feed, and Zapata says that’s not a coincidence—she’s a real joy to be around. You’ll also see some incredible fits: hot pink pantsuits, Marc Jacobs bags and crop tops, all paired with her infectious grin.
Why Zapata follows her: “She can befriend anyone. She’s someone that’s very easy to talk to, and you’ll see that in her stories.”
9. Jay Shetty, @jayshetty
If you’re reading SUCCESS, you already know about the charisma powerhouse that is speaker, author and life coach Jay Shetty. You may, like Zapata, listen to his podcast, On Purpose. But are you following him on Instagram?
Why Zapata follows him: “He’s such a great follow—so inspirational, so educational. I just love how he talks about all these things that are so relatable: understanding imposter syndrome, understanding relationship building, understanding your trauma…. He’s great. He’s just great.”
10. Aysha Sow, @aysha.sow
Born in West Africa and raised in The Netherlands and Belgium, model and blogger Aysha Sow can do it all—including speak six languages. On Instagram, her stylish, simple, clean, elevated aesthetic is instantly enviable for its effortless elegance. Sometimes she’s showing off her New Balances and sometimes she’s showing off her newborn—yes, she’s also a recent mom! But always, you can sense her self-confidence. This woman rocks everything.
Why Zapata follows her: “She can wear a maxi dress and a button-up and I’m like, OK, that’s cool. I wouldn’t have put that together.”
Photo courtesy of Jay Shetty