ESSENA O’NEILL: The teen model who quit Instagram explains the lies behind her most popular photo

Australian Instagram model Essena O’Neill went viral last week after calling social media “fake” and saying it made her “miserable.”

“I spent hours watching perfect girls online, wishing I was them,” she explained in a YouTube video. “Then, when I was ‘one of them,’ I still wasn’t happy, content, or at peace with myself. Social media is not real life.”

O’Neill tried proving her point by breaking down one of the most popular photos she had posted on Instagram: a photo of herself at the beach.

While it may have looked like a simple snap captured by a friend, O’Neill explained that “there were probably 100 pictures, and this one was my favourite,” adding that she edited it to make herself look “effortless.”

She continued, “This life of effortless beauty was not effortless. My makeup was quite heavy, actually. The lighting made me look quite tan when I actually wasn’t, and the necklace I didn’t even like that much.”

She also reveals that while she may look happy in the photo, it was all a facade. “You look at this picture and you think this girl has it all together,” she said. “She’s tan, she’s glowing, she’s beautiful. But I look at this picture and I see someone that wasn’t happy with herself.”

Story by Aly Weisman, editing by Stephen Parkhurst