Xenia Tchoumi is a Swiss-Italian public speaker, influencer and digital entrepreneur who first became a household name in Switzerland from gaining second place in the Miss Switzerland beauty pageant. She then used this position to challenge stereotypes and stand up for female empowerment. Xenia has refused to accept the generic concept of a model and pursued a career in finance, interning in several reputable banks including Merrill Lynch and JP Morgan Chase. Tchoumi went on to develop and grow her online presence on social media with 1.5 million followers on Instagram and her web magazine which reaches over 7.4 million fans daily.
Her online success has allowed her to work to brands such as Bulgari, American Express, Tom Ford, Versace, and Rolls Royce.
Xenia is leveraging her voice and platform for good to help drive the empowerment of women. She was asked to speak at the UN summit in Geneva on the power of digital women in business and is also an advocate for tackling the negative effects of social media by opening up to her fans and sharing her struggles and setbacks.
How are you using your position to help promote gender equality and female empowerment?
This is an issue that I am very vocal about. I use and share my own story and the experiences from being a young female entrepreneur to highlight gender-based bias that I have encountered and let young women know that it’s not acceptable and something that they should not tolerate.
Even in this developed society, there are a lot of age-old biases that people aren’t even aware that they hold. While it is not the normal etiquette, It is perfectly acceptable for a woman to invite a guy for dinner, pay for his drinks or propose to him. This is an example of inequality that has been embedded in our very culture.
Also, for women, they can be attractive, dress femininely AND be fully respected for her opinion. Being a feminist doesn’t mean being against men – and in a matter of fact, there are lots of men that are feminists.
You have built your personal brand and gained 1.5 million engaged followers on Instagram alone (not to mention the global community). What advice do you have for growing a personal brand to this level?
Be true to yourself and be very, very consistent. If you find a posting strategy that works for you, stick to it. When it comes to working with brands, learn to pick the right brands and brand messages that resonate with you and what your brand is about. It is equally as important to learn how to say no to collaborations that don’t fit with your message.
You must defend your brand and unique selling point.
Also, I suggest that you have a mission and an end goal. The online community can easily see through your visual content so you must have some substance behind your brand. You must have a message that offers your followers more than a beautiful sunset picture.
You speak on the dark side of social media. What do you think should be done to ensure that it is a more positive, healthy and supportive environment?
Improper use of social media can affect mental health. What you see online is obviously a polished and distorted version of reality. Yet it is extremely easy to fall into a trap of feeling like you aren’t good enough or your life is less appealing than that of the people you see online. It is very important to understand that everyone will tend to share only their best looks and moments, as this is more appealing to their followers. Self-esteem, human connection as well as attention span are vital in the real world and these can be eroded by the over-consumption of social media.
I think in order to combat the dark side of the internet, it’s great to point out this side of social media platforms to remind everyone that things are not as they may always seem online.
As an influencer, you have worked with an impressive line-up of brands in the past but what do you think the future of influencer marketing looks like?
It’s an ever-evolving area. Brands are becoming increasingly savvy on how to work with digital marketing and therefore it’s never static. The algorithms on the social networks change every few months, so therefore so does the methods brands use to reach people. Maybe one day we will all immerse ourselves into a virtual reality world where influencers have holograms or avatars of themselves. I think the distance from influencer to follower is going to continue getting closer and people will get increasingly more connected to their idols.
How much responsibility do you think influencers have to ensure they are being honest and transparent with their audiences? Should they be responsible for the effects their social feeds have on their audiences?
As the market solidifies, the regulators are starting to get a @ on how to enforce disclosure rules on advertising. You will notice the so-called ‘#ad’ or ‘sponsored posts’ are becoming obligatory in several countries. Most influencers are doing it spontaneously as a moral duty to their audiences, to disclosed paid partnerships. It’s not a problem in terms of engagement, you can be paid to use a product and fully stand behind it. For example, most of the items I promote are items I would personally wear and buy if I wasn’t involved in this type of business. It’s important that influencers understand that credibility is built on trust and honesty with your audience.
Finally, what advice do you have for any young female entrepreneurs?
Do not stop, keep pushing. Success is first created within, in your head and in your heart. Never be afraid to ask (it doesn’t hurt) to open new doors, don’t be afraid of being seen as pushy and don’t be afraid of getting no’s. You will see a lot of closed doors at the beginning, but it shouldn’t be a deterrent if you truly believe in your idea or mission. It’s always just a natural part of the journey and the process. Do learn from your mistakes but remember – in the end, the ones who don’t give up are the ones that end up winning. Lastly, get yourself a mentor- someone you look up to and respect.
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