Sirin Kale | Contributing Writer | Monday, 2 March 2015

Post Work-Out Selfies And Artfully-Lit Ass Shots: Meet The Call Girls Of Instagram

The Debrief: Aspirational, intimate and addictive. Meet the high-end escorts who've started using their Instagram feeds as a marketing tool

How do you use Instagram? To share more pictures of your avocado on toast than you’d care to admit to your 124 followers? To post pics of your Friday night cocktails? Or maybe you’re self employed and you’ve worked out how to use Instagram as a marketing tool to promote your own personal brand. From snaps of your latest piece of work to airport shots from that work trip (it’s totally fine to take a pic of the BA Club Lounge when you’re flying Ryan Air, right?), every image is carefully crafted to promote the professional image you want the world to see.

But what if your personal brand – and indeed job – is that of a high end call girl? It turns out, it’s absolutely no different. From artfully-lit nude shots, to post work out selfies, they’re quickly becoming the most aspirational, carefully crafted feeds out there. And I'm totally hooked on them. They also take us behind the veil of sex work, and introducing us to the women out there doing it on their own terms. I interviewed Alex Rayne, Estelle Lucas and Gloria Van Vaulker, to get the truth behind the filter. Say hello to the Call Girls Of Instagram. 

Sex workers historically have lived on the periphery of society and are rarely given their own voice. This lack of a voice is compounded by the fact that most people don’t - knowingly at least - ever meet sex workers in real life. But although the girls' feeds might be useful in terms of starting up a dialogue around sex work (and keep in mind here that we're only talking about well-paid, high-end escorts so their experience isn't representative of all or even most sex workers), they’re primarily used as a marketing tool  - to attract more clients. Which makes sense really, where else would you get the opportunity to present such a carefully curated version of yourself, and keep it in place? Estelle explain. ‘I've chosen to present the best version of myself. And I think when my followers look at my images, they think “cute, playful, kinda sexy, kinda funny, somewhat witty, all round cool gal” and that works with me.’  Gloria adds that it’s important to judge your brand online carefully. For example, if you ‘flood your stream with a constant influx of sexually appealing pictures’ you might appear narcissistic to potential clients - a big no.

A few clients have mentioned that my photos convinced them to book, as they were nervous and it was reassuring to see that I was “real”

Being a top-flight escort in a competitive industry is about more than just looks. All high-class escorts are beautiful: as Gloria puts it, 'a classic fashion model's face and a fitness model's body.' So you need to have personality, too. Once again, enter: Instagram. Don’t we all feel like we know people whose lives we follow online? As Alex explained ‘a few clients have mentioned that my photos convinced them to book, as they were nervous and it was reassuring to see that I was “real.”’  

Alex

This sense of familiarity is especially important to GFE (girlfriend experience) escorts. It’s easier to imagine the person you’re with is a girlfriend when you’ve seen her post-workout selfies online, after all. 

Now, a good escort Instagram page takes commitment. I’m pretty lazy online, so I asked Estelle what  it would take to get my Instagram up to scratch. She told me the essentials: you need to be posting high quality images daily (no blurry shots please), showing the range of activities you get up to (so post that gallery trip as well as a lingerie shot), and responding to every comment personally. Basically, you’ve got to be professional. But don’t over-style things. As Alex explains- and this holds true for all social media, sex-work aside -  ‘don’t do things just because you want to photograph them - it’s obvious and comes across a bit fake. Just try to do authentically interesting and fun things with your time and it will show through in your content, I think.’

Instagram’s also a useful practical tool for sex workers, as Estelle explains. ‘I always have requests for more/candid photos and I can just relay that request straight to my Instagram. That's less admin work for me.’ Gloria agrees. ‘[Instagram is] a very good platform as it reiterates that I actually look identical to my images.’ Instagram can be useful in other ways - letting you publically thank a generous client for a gift, for example. Gloria admits that the platform is essential in terms of securing first-time business: men who wouldn’t normally see a sex worker, but who feel like they ‘know her’ because they follow her life online. 

The more well-known your Instagram profile is, the more likely you are to be taken down by Instagram for violating its terms of use

But how do you measure the success of a call girl's Instagram account? Of all the girls, Gloria has the biggest Instagram following, with well over three thousand followers. These followers can comment on anything from an arse shot (the most recent arse pic on Gloria's page got 259 likes) to a selfie-with-cat photo (194 likes). Unsurprisingly, the arse shots tend to come out on top, likes-wise.

Gloria

And some escorts can have even wider mainstream appeal. The inimitable Gia James - who I had originally interviewed for this piece -  had well over 10,000 followers on Instagram. But mainstream popularity can come at a price. The more well-known your Instagram profile is, the more likely you are to be taken down by Instagram for violating its terms of use - as Gia's was last week. 

But with the emphasis on being as authentic as possible (all with an uber-flattering filter chucked in, of course), where does the professional end and the personal begin? All the girls I interviewed emphasised the importance of being yourself online. Estelle told me that her favourite posts are the ones where ‘I'm acting like a complete derp. And being a derp is the ethos of my character, I'm clumsy and awkward, long limbed and gawky.’ Gloria said not to overthink things: just to post what you feel like, whether it’s ‘photos of me smoking, with no make up on and kissing cats on my mouth.’

But there are downsides to creating such a public online profile for yourself as a sex worker. Instagram has been known to take escort pages down, which explains why many girls have to cover up their nude shots with stickers or 'modesty lines' to prevent falling foul of its terms of use. And with depressing inevitability sex workers can be targets for online abuse. When I asked all of the girls what sort of people followed their profiles, their responses fell into five categories: other people working in the industry, friends/family, potential/existing clients, random fans, and weirdos/trolls. Not all weirdos are harmful - Gloria has a special soft spot for her own personal category, the arse fetishists. But there is a negative undercurrent.  Everyone I interviewed had experience of being trolled online: Gloria said on average she got a negative comment every week, and Estelle spoke of a troll calling out her (totally non-existent) cellulite. 

Instagram can humanise sex workers, showing us that they are just ordinary people, doing a job that is still the subject of stigma and taboo

But there are other positives, too. Instagram and social media more broadly is an empowering platform, allowing sex workers from all over the world to connect online and form a community.  As Estelle explains, 'since the rise of social media, the sex work community has been more connected than ever before.' Alex added, ‘I stopped reading women’s magazines years ago because I hated the nauseous aspiration-fatigue they gave me, but it’s completely different to browse hot pictures of women in your community - you kind of just think "go girl!"'  

Estelle

Existing publicly as a sex worker online is in itself a meaningful act. Historically, sex workers have been marginalised and often vilified by society. As Estelle puts it, it requires a certain stroke of bravery to 'put ourselves out there into the mainstream community and say "hi, this is me, this is what I do, I'm here to stay, so deal with it."' Instagram can humanise sex workers, showing us that they are just ordinary people, doing a job that is still the subject of stigma and taboo. If the personal is the political, then openly self-identifying online as a sex worker is a sort of political activism.  So let’s hear it for the Call Girls of Instagram: helping to make the world a less judgemental place, one selfie at a time.  

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Follow Sirin on Twitter @thedalstonyears

Tags: Longish Reads, Instagram