Influencer spotlight: Manolo Padron and Tessa John Connor

Obviously Social sat down with @manolopadron and @afroista, to talk about how their accounts got started, where they want to go from here, and how to make it as an influencer in this big ol' social-obsessed world.

Manny is a men's lifestyle influencer, with a focus on fashion and grooming. With over 10k  followers, he's certainly one to watch.

If you're looking for a beautiful and natural lifestyle account, look no further. Tessa's flair and eye for natural beauty will have you hooked.

OS: Looking back at day 1, when you first created your Instagram account, did you ever think that it would grow as much as it did? What was the turning point for you that made you want to monetize your Instagram feed?

Tessa: My first account on IG was solely used to edit my photos for FB, I had no idea that I was creating a feed. During this time I wasn't privy to the natural hair community, and began to notice that people were using this platform, to share their message, or show themselves. I decided to create a page due to a picture that went viral. The beginning of Afroista was more than just about my hair. My intention has been to create content that reflects my lifestyle, share tools and knowledge. To have the ability to reach and make connections with others has been humbly motivating. Through developing my voice, I have questioned if this was a fleeting hobby, or I would take my brand to the next level.

Manolo: When I first started, Instagram was very different. I just wanted to post about my lifestyle. I feel like, today, my feed is similar but my lifestyle has changed dramatically. I definitely did not expect it to transform into what it is today nor did I know that Instagram was going to become as popular as it is now. My snapchat (@manolopadron) today is what my Instagram was 4 years ago. I’m not curating a perfect image, just being more ridiculous and silly.

OS: What is the most challenging part of trying to make it as an influencer today?

Manolo: I think it’s really exciting what we're experiencing now through social media because we are seeing personalities come out. There is a lot of fashion menswear out there, but there can only be one ‘you.’ Everyone has a different personality. I think my Cuban-American culture really plays a part in my identity. People see there are a lot of layers to me and that I’m not one dimensional, and that’s what makes me stand out. I’m a father, I have a family, I own two businesses, I’m an entrepreneur, and those are the layers that help me stand out.

Tessa: At times seeing myself as an influencer has created blockage. I can recall the various obstacles I was facing "behind closed doors" and I didn't feel very empowered. I couldn't fathom that I was making a difference, and would often tell myself that I should just stop what I was doing. Mystically in those moments I would receive emails from followers on how much I have inspired them. Which encouraged me not to be swayed, and affirmed that I must not give up! When a being makes a determination, you are sure to be assailed with obstacles. You either win or lose! In the midst of the chaos, life is always shifting, and is filled with endless positive possibilities.

OS: How have you integrated the “maintenance” of your social media feeds with everyday “real” responsibilities? Do you put a lot of planning behind every post or are you more spontaneous?

Manolo: I like that question because it made me think about what I do and I think it all comes down to my lifestyle. I’m very fortunate to have an active social lifestyle. I get invited to many events and once I’m there, I try to think about what single photo will translate the vibe and then what social media outlet to use. You want to stay "on brand" but to me I’m just like “Hey, be real!” to collectively put something together that people will appreciate. I love finding things that describes my culture, my brand and allow me to be real. I’m not going to promote a product that I genuinely don’t care about or don’t find inspiration from. It’s all about being creative and artistic.

Tessa: I try to be as conscious as possible about my post. Social media has created various lanes, unfortunately a lot of it is fluff. I feel responsible about what vibration I put forth. You never know who's going to see it. With that being said, most posts are organically spontaneously created, a mere glimpse into my life.

OS: What is the craziest thing that has happened to you so far because of social media? This can be either working with a “dream brand” or people recognizing you on the streets, to maybe meeting someone who has had a big impact in your life since then.

Tessa: My close friends joke that I'm Insta'famous, which I brush off as a silly statement. I'm still taken back when beautiful beings recognize me. I have seen actual proof of determinations; from being spotlighted in a various magazines to musing for FLOTUS Hair stylist Johnny Wright. The greatest continuous blessing has been making more connections with those in my community, that are of like mind.

Manolo: Social media is a whole other world. As much as we want to say it’s not real, you do deal with real people. I met the Godfather of men’s fashion in New York City, Ignacio Quiles. I met him on the street one day and I recognized him, and now we do things together all the time like collaborating together on different projects. Everytime I’m with him, I cannot walk for 5 minutes and not have people stopping and wanting to take a picture with us, or wanting to talk to him. It’s just crazy! It’s almost like you are a celebrity. I think it’s funny when people comment on my posts but they don’t think that I’m a real person. But I handle my Instagram, and I curate the feeds myself.

OS: Speaking of which, what would be your dream collaboration?

Tessa: I would love love love to do an ad campaign for Uniqlo, Levi's, Swatch....!

Manolo: This is a tough one. Anything creative, artistic and fits my lifestyle. That being said… I mean there is so much…! I want to work in editorial because it’s the one industry I haven’t been in to yet but influences people a lot. So either in a magazine or with a magazine, a project, a blog or something. Working with Esquire or GQ magazine.