I typed the letters slowly. “S-W-E…” Before I finished the word, Daphne’s face appeared, right under the Sweetgreen account. I felt a prick of excitement as her feed sprung to life: private beaches, presidential suites, and room-service trays spilling over with exotic fruits. There were charcuterie boards and paper mâché castles as tall as the ceiling and children’s bento boxes filled with gourmet desserts. There were carousels and costume balls, cold Champagne bottles, tricked-out cars, and oh, the clothing — capes and dresses and shoes and handbags. It was retail porn, lifestyle porn, vacation porn, and food porn with the occasional bathroom bikini selfie that teetered into the realm of porn-porn.
Daphne’s body looked smaller in the photos than it had on the roof. The pores on her face were nonexistent, as if she’d been attacked by a giant eraser. I tried not to think too much about her captions, most of which sounded like they’d been lifted straight out of a “Quote of the Day” desk calendar.
But just when I wanted to cringe, I’d stumble upon a post where she would pour her heart out with a rawness that was rare to find among influencers of her caliber. She talked about things that women didn’t often talk about — her struggles with depression, her dissatisfaction with her body, her thyroid autoimmune disease, her screwups with her kids, and her guilt about preferring Netflix over f**ing her husband. I wasn’t unfamiliar with the world of influencers by any means. I’d ghostwritten captions for quite a few of them, when they were working with brands that had hired me. But perhaps because I understood the machinations behind the posts, I’d never found any of it all that interesting. There was something different about Daphne. Something that was impossible to ignore. It didn’t matter if you cared about her Balenciaga bag or botched Botox or brown-bag lunch challenge. She sucked you in. The commentators seemed to agree. “Where are the other honest portrayals of motherhood?” one follower wrote. “Sending love and light your way, my queen,” somebody else chimed in. “You are saving my life,” added another. Mixed in with the autobiographical content and sponsored brand posts with everyone from Prada to Pampers were pictures of her fraternal twins, a boy and a girl who appeared to be slightly older than Roman. Wide eyed and moon faced, they were photographed from all angles in high resolution and with such frequency that after only five minutes of looking, I was certain I’d be able to pick them out of a crowd. While I never could have felt comfortable sharing my kids the way that she did, from a brand perspective they were what grounded the whole thing in reality. For as fancy as some of her content tended to be (she wasn’t afraid to post a Birkin riding in a chopper), she was still a mom with all the same struggles.
Scrolling back through her feed, it seemed as if she was the originator of nearly every offbeat trend. She wore oversized eighties-looking suits with giant shoulder pads, nylon body suits that had built-in feet, patent leather trench coats with see-through mesh T-shirts, top hats, bowler hats, boater hats, and sombreros — and that was all years ago. Having met Daphne in real life, it was hard to look at her page objectively. I kept trying to find the woman I’d encountered in person, but aside from the over-the-top-fashion, she wasn’t quite there.
This was someone different.
In person she’d been sarcastic and mischievous, almost aggressive. Online she was softer and more feminine. Something about her posts told me she was in on the joke, which made me like her even more. She was playing to the crowd, without apology. She’d determined who they were and fed it back to them with a glamorous twist. She was doing the same thing I did. Only she wasn’t working for a brand. She was the brand.