Carlos Costa has posted over 1,000 photos and videos to his Instagram page. Why? Because that’s his job.
He boasts more than 200,000 followers from around the world, and as his popularity on the social media platform has grown, so too have the opportunities he has been offered. Costa is what is known as a “social media influencer”; a person with a large enough social media presence that brands and businesses will collaborate with them and hire them to endorse their products to their audience. With an impossibly photogenic face that is seemingly carved from the finest alabaster, he is known for his trademark burly but well-kept beard and head-to-toe tattoos. Costa is a sought after male model and influencer who works with brands around the world.
And this summer, he’s getting married.
“I call myself ‘A shadow of a beard’,” says Costa’s fiancé Jenna Needham.
“I remember finding his Instagram page years ago and saying, ‘Who has 3,000 followers? He’s such a ladies man!'”
The London-based pair have a long history with social media, citing that they may never have met had it not been for Instagram and Facebook.
“We sort of paved our path with our relationship through social media without even really realizing it,” says Needham.
“We met through it, we were Facebook friends and all that, but we had never actually met face to face. Yet we ended up getting to a point where we were chatting just about every day.”
They did eventually meet in person. Sort of.
“I went to a tattoo convention in London and saw him, and he was with his cool friends and I didn’t want to walk up to him and say ‘Hey, I’m the girl from Facebook you’ve been talking to!'” Needham says.
“So instead I waited and messaged him afterward and said, ‘I saw you at the show,’ and he comes back with ‘What? You saw me a didn’t say hello?!'”
Now they’re preparing for their wedding. And Needham admits the path from Facebook friends to full-on fiancés has been a unique one. What exactly is it like to marry a social media influencer?
“It’s kind of a new thing in today’s world,” says Needham.
“Obviously there is the celebrity culture, and sometimes a celebrity will date a non-celebrity and they may have to deal with this sort of thing. But this new-wave culture of ‘social media influencers’ and the way girls will sort of throw themselves at them and make these public comments, it’s new and we had to learn how to navigate it. You do feel a bit jealous at times because it’s not every day that you have your partner being subjected to these types of comments and attention.”
What type of comments and attention, exactly?
Costa repeats some of his favorites.
We can’t print them here.
“I’ve gotten some really raunchy, nasty comments from women,” Costa says.
“Before Jenna and I started dating, I would occasionally respond to some of the nicer comments and say ‘Thank you,’ and that sort of thing. But you realize when you’re in a relationship how this type of thing can be weird for your partner, so we had a conversation about it one day and I said, ‘Yeah, you know what, you’re right.’ And I quit responding in the comments.”
“Now it’s different, now we look at those type of comments together and laugh. I mean at the beginning of any relationship you tend to feel a little insecure and unsure of things, and the whole social media influencer thing and the comments tended to highlight those insecurities a bit more,” Needham explains.
“I’ve since had quite a few girls message me that have started dating guys on a similar sort of social media level as Carlos, and they ask ‘How do you deal with the comments and messages?’ You have to eventually understand that ok, he’s my partner, we spend our days and nights together, we share our lives – this is just a comment from a girl on the other side of a phone or a computer.”
Beyond women ogling her fiancé and asking him to do things to them that we still can’t print here, what does life with a social media influencer consist of?
It’s worth noting that Needham is no Insta-slouch; she herself has over 15,000 followers and is not only often featured in shoots with Costa, but works with brands on her own social channels.
“It’s a lot of work and you take your work everywhere with you, so you have to evaluate everything as a potential opportunity to post, talk, stream, share. So you have to make an effort to maintain some private memories and moments.”
“Every day you have to be looking to spot a social media opportunity,” Costa adds.
“At one point I was just too sucked into my phone, and it actually created some little arguments between us about it. We try to keep more things private, but at the same time we’ve learned that people like to see more than just the professional photo shoots and outfit posts, they like to see some of the simpler, day-to-day stuff, so we can show a bit of our real selves.”
But the couple have learned how to balance life and social media to find a happy balance.
“It’s a hard thing to determine that off and on point,” says Needham.
“It can be frustrating, some days it’s like, ‘I just want to do this thing without snapping 30 pictures in the process.’ But realistically it’s fun to get creative with what and how we’re sharing, and it’s become less about the perfect picture and more about people wanting to see the real you being goofy and living your life.”
And part of their lives is their upcoming summer wedding. So will they shun their phones on the big day?
“We see it as a big celebration, and we want to celebrate with everybody,” Needham says.
“There are people who have been following Carlos for a long time, and they saw me come into his life and watched our relationship develop, so we want to share that with them. We’re documenting most of the stuff we’ve been doing wedding-wise, and we’ve even been debating live-streaming the ceremony!”
The couple have since started their own style blog called Roque & Soul, and they have plans to launch a clothing brand under the name in the near future. It’s a business venture that wouldn’t have been possible if not for the road they were sent upon because of social media and influencing. But the pair know they have to attribute not only a burgeoning business to social media, but their very relationship as well.
“To fall into this [social media influencing] and meet Jenna because of it, it was all kind of just a wonderful accident, but I believe it was meant to be,” says Costa.
Needham echoes the sentiment.
“I feel like everything has slowly led us toward this path,” she says.
“It’s weird to attribute things to social media, but the truth is that without it, we probably wouldn’t be where we are today.”