It goes without saying that NYC is a buzzy hotbed of social media stars who have cultural currency to spare. From the 2006 launch of Twitter to the 2010 arrival of Instagram, innovative digital platforms have provided the branding opportunity that intrepid bloggers needed to become top influencers. From stylish new It girls and guys to Insta-famous DJs to foodies who are capturing the culinary-cool quotient, the ever-evolving world of social media has us looking for the latest tastemakers. We go #BTS with five of NYC’s best ’grammers—who have more than one million fans addicted to double-tapping their snaps—to find out what inspires them and how they are able to capture the unique vibe of our city.
Artist, adventurer, and aerial photographer Humza Deas has scaled every New York City building and bridge that he feels is Insta-worthy, all the while snapping away with his Canon 6D. The 19-year-old has amassed 192k followers on Instagram and has been called an outlaw. Like the epic heights of the buildings he conquers, the Crown Heights-born Deas has a unique POV on NYC, one that’s enhanced by his world travels. “I love coming back home to New York,” says the country-hopping daredevil. “I always have a different perspective on it each time.”
What he covers: “The nature of my feed is showcasing my city, New York, through an unseen perspective, often aerial and sometimes below the underbelly of New York.”
How he does it: “My perspective on NYC is showing it from places that are off-limits to the public.”
Getting started: “I got started with an iPhone snapping pics. A couple months later, my work got featured by New York magazine, and a career was born.”
Big break: “I was hired by Adidas to photograph Yeezy Season 1. They paid me a ton of money, and I said, ‘I can make money from the things I love to do the most!’”
Most memorable image: “Being above Times Square from a rooftop surrounded by a sea of lights.”
The key to success: “Don’t worry about what everyone else is doing, be happy with yourself and the rest will fall into place.”
Most frequent comment: “Where is this??”
Toughest part of the job: “Being 19! People don’t want to pay a fair rate because they don’t know why a 19-year-old needs so much money.”
His advice: “Learn to keep up with New York!”
Alexa Mehraban’s 230k+ followers on Instagram know her as a food-obsessed blogger hunting down New York’s latest food trends, one post at a time. Born and raised in New York, this fresh face on the food scene recommends and reviews the best places to go for special occasions, from date-night spots to dinner with the ’rents, and covers all cuisines, from Jewish to Japanese. There are newsy bits about pop-ups and first looks at the hottest restaurant openings. But it’s her restaurant rating system that sets her apart from the culinary pack (a scale of 1 to 10 to the tenths place).
What she covers: Food and lifestyle.
Her mission: “To stay up-to-date on the hottest restaurants and latest trends, serving as a utility for New Yorkers and people around the world to inform all of their dining decisions.”
Getting started: “I started @EatingNYC in January 2014 while working as a food writer for a lifestyle website. Shortly after, I decided I wanted to pursue a career in the hospitality industry. (I now work for Tacombi restaurants.) As one of the first ‘food Instagrammers,’ I’ve had the opportunity to witness a cultural transformation firsthand.”
Her social media reach: “About 1.5m impressions per week.”
Her inspiration: “A beautiful table of food.”
Most memorable moment: “I recently spent the day with a CNN reporter for a feature on CNN International. That was really exciting.”
Must-snap places: “Sadelle’s, Emmy Squared, Black Tap, Union Fare.”
Most inspiring places: “New restaurants that offer something unique to the dining scene.”
If she only had 20 minutes in NYC… “It’s hard to get somewhere in 20 minutes! I’d probably have to run for a classic slice.”
Twenty-six-year-old DJ Cory Kennedy has spun at the hottest spots in NYC including the Thompson LES and Le Bain at the Standard. She travels the globe but righteously loves the music and fashion scene here in New York. In a city where the DJ is as crucial as the event itself, Kennedy books the hottest launches from Dolce & Gabbana to DKNY, with her 44.5k followers listening to what she is #NowPlaying.
What she covers: “Basically, it’s a curation of friends, art, music, fashion.”
Getting started: “I interned for a party photographer at the age of 16, and began modeling due to interest from fans and designers, and writing for magazines and blogging.”
Her inspiration: “Going to museums and galleries, being in nature, movies, fashion, and live music.”
Favorite Insta image: “A photo I took when I was attending an Alexandre Birman show at the MOMA for NYFW. I was wearing this cute pink dress, and I turned around and saw my favorite Andrew Wyeth painting, Christina’s World, and got down and posed like she is in the painting.”
Most frequent comment: “You were my fashion icon when I was 16.”
Favorite local hangouts: “The Metrograph Theatre, Dimes, and Café Henrie.”
The most inspiring places: “In the summer, all of the public Alphabet City gardens are open, and I walk across the Brooklyn Bridge several times a week to clear my head, which is heavenly.”
The fashion-meets-art world on Pari Ehsan’s feed is a story of refined selfies snapped in all the right art galleries. The alchemy of Ehsan’s success is understanding how entwined art and style are and how she harmoniously blends the two. Her 205k followers look to her for innovation in the arena, and she perfectly captures the once-again explosive art scene through the filter of fashionable portraits.
What she covers: “Post-modern appropriation of art in the context of fashion.”
Her passion for NYC: “I feed off the endless amount of creation that exists in the city—the vigor and the fluidity.”
Getting started: “I was an architect in my former life, seeking a deeper and freer form of expression. The idea of exploring the intersections between art, design, and fashion had fascinated me for some time, and I started to do collage. Then one day I happened to match a Helen Frankenthaler painting at the Gagosian, and decided that I could enact and document this dialogue in person.”
Her inspiration: “Nature, illusory art that holds the mystery of how it was made, monumental spaces/architecture, alternative ideas and perspectives.”
Her advice: “Find your niche, cause someone to discover something.”
What makes NYC special: “The way in which it propels you towards your truth often in very dramatic and mysterious ways.”
The best cup of coffee in the city: “I enjoy a dirty chai latte from The Bean.”
The key to success: “Optimism.”
Man-about-town Patrick Janelle settled in New York City in 2011 and has won the CFDA’s Fashion Instagrammer of the Year Award for his stunning feed. Only using his iPhone is part of the methodology, but so too is exquisite, picture-perfect taste when it comes to interiors, fashion, retail, and food. His 452k followers crave daily updates on his stylized daily life.
What he covers: “I create a chronological snapshot of my day-to-day life in New York City and on the road, documenting the places I eat, the cocktails I drink, the outfits I wear, the people I discover during my creative and entrepreneurial pursuits.”
Getting started: “In 2014, I was given the first-ever CFDA Instagrammer of the Year Award, and my followers tripled. Something incredible happened. Offers to create sponsored and paid content started to trickle in from brands interested in what I was doing.”
His passion: “A balance between professional, classic looks and something a little more fun.”
Toughest part of the job: “When I get busy as an entrepreneur, I sometimes have to remind myself to stop and document all the things I’m up to.”
His advice: “In a digital landscape where people can come to expect the same things, it’s a fun challenge to keep it fresh.”
Must-snap places: “The Top of the Rock for views, and Happy Bones for that #dailycortado.”
The city’s best coffee: “Café Integral.”
If he only had 20 minutes in NYC, he’d… “Stroll through Washington Square Park with a coffee.”
Photography by: PHOTOGRAPHY COURTESY OF @EATINGNYC. THIS PAGE: PHOTOGRAPHY BY DIRK KIKSTRA (KENNEDY); COURTESY OF@CORYMKENNEDY (KENNEDY WITH LAUREL WREATH, MODEL) THIS PAGE: PHOTOGRAPHY BY PHOTOXVIDEO (NARCISO RODRIGUEZ LOOK); TYLOR HÓU (LIBERTINE LOOK); KELLY ELAINE SMITH (PETER
PILOTTO LOOK); @PARIDUST (AMANDA ROSS-HO PIECE). OPPOSITE PAGE: PHOTOGRAPHY COURTESY OF @AGUYNAMEDPATRICK