Personal Essay

A couple of years ago, some of my friends were talking about someone named Arielle Charnas, also known by her Instagram handle – Something Navy. I had heard of Arielle through friends who followed her early on, but I had not personally taken any interest in her. Though I loved fashion, and followed magazines and designers on Instagram, I was not interested in looking at this somewhat “normal” 20-something year old girl posting photos of herself in her closet mirror. At that time, I truly only followed and looked up to timeless and trusted publications like Vogue, and some of the brands that I loved. However, throughout the year I would more and more hear the words Arielle, Brandon, Ruby, and Something Navy around me. Naturally, I wanted to be in the loop and hit the follow button on the formerly @SomethingNavy Instagram page. 

Photos of a perfectly dressed Arielle gleamed the page, mixed in with pictures of her and her husband Brandon, and her incredibly adorable daughter Ruby Lou. Looking through her page, I felt a sense of comfort and likeness to Arielle and the Charnas family. I had not ever felt this way towards any other early influencer, as I could never see myself in them and had not ever wanted to take advice, whether it be about fashion or life, from them. However, the Something Navy page had a sense of “glammed-up familiarity”. Maybe it was because Arielle foreshadowed what I saw myself as at her age, or because she came from a New York Jewish family like my own. Two years later, I follow almost every member of the Charnas family on Instagram, including her husband Brandon, a real estate developer, her sister Michaela, a beauty influencer, her sister Danielle, a professional stylist, and her mom Carrie. I truly feel like I am a part of the Charnas family at times, always knowing what they are all up to and posting. Though they are all only known through Arielle, and are truly just normal people, I was in awe when I happened to sit next to Brandon at dinner or when I ran into Arielle’s parents at a coffee shop over the summer. Arielle, and the Charnas family, have truly redefined the word influencer for both me, and for the world. I feel that Arielle has created a sense of trust and loyalty with her 1.2 million followers that almost no other influencer has, and with that sense of trust has grown her brand exponentially. 

As I have watched Arielle grow her personal brand, and the Something Navy brand, I have become so much more interested in learning more about that space and one day working in that space.  Last summer, I had the opportunity to intern at William Morris Endeavor. Throughout my internship at WME, I learned a lot about the role that agencies play in the creation of personal brands. I have always been interested in talent development, but never understood the extent to which entrepreneurship influenced agencies, and the ways in which agents shape brands out of personalities. Having both the perspective of a follower, and the perspective of the behind-the-scenes teams of those I follow I have become even more engaged in the emerging space. I feel that through my project and research I will advance my perspective and create a knowledgeable foundation of the space in a more academic and analytical sense. More so, I hope to build a strong research project by interweaving more traditional studies of digital mediums and the social media space with some contemporary application. I feel that there will be many patterns and strong foundations to build upon as the branding of personal image and platforms weaves together already well-defined spaces in a novel way. 

“Arielle Charnas is said to have driven more than $1 million in sales for her exclusive line with the retailer in less than 24 hours” (WWD).

Another aspect of the digital influencer space that I find incredibly interesting, and plan to explore through the lens of Something Navy, are brand partnerships. The media culture of our world today has completely stepped out of the box of traditional marketing and early digital marketing. Instagram has been a leader of that change and has created a completely modern culture of advertising. According to Instagram’s definition of “Branded Content,” creators on Instagram “partner with a business to create a branded content post or story …” and “creators have control over their content”. Personally, I have noticed that in the last year or so most products that I have purchased and brands that I have been interested in have come from organic marketing on Instagram. Even more so, most of those products have come from Arielle and the Something Navy team’s recommendations as I have already built that digital “trust” with Arielle and her team. Interestingly, I am working on a semester long project in another one of my classes this Fall that involves creating an integrated marketing campaign for Neiman Marcus. A lot of what we have been researching for our campaign is the use of influencer and digital power to harness the marketing capacity to millennials and target demographics who are more socially engaged. I hope to bring some of that research and knowledge into this project as well as one of Arielle’s biggest successes has been her collaboration and launch with Nordstrom’s. 

“Something Navy’s Arielle Charnas Is More Successful Than Ever”

Observer, 2018

I hope to create a scholarly research project that textually and creatively, through the creative project, lays out all of the ways that Arielle, her family, her team, and the Something Navy brand as a company has shaped both the digital world and the traditional fashion and retail world. I also plan to study how Arielle has crafted such an intimate lens into her personal life through Instagram. I believe that Arielle has transcended the word influencer and has actually created a new foundation for what it means to be a personal brand and I look forward to creating a strong project that illustrates such a dynamic space. 

References: Burack, Emily. 2018. “Why Are Millennials Obsessed with Jewish Mom Influencer Something Navy?” 

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