By Sheeva Azma
.@ElaineChaya: My motto is that you should always try out a path you’re passionate about. And if it doesn’t work out, it’ll lead you to what you do next…Tweet
Elaine Daneshrad is a digital content creator and influencer based in Los Angeles, California. She started out as a blogger, and over the past 9 years, she has worked with brands including Macy’s, M&Ms, Abercrombie & Fitch, and Reebok. While everyone’s lives have taken unique turns this past year, Elaine’s has led her to becoming a homeschool teacher. I recently talked to Elaine, who goes by the name Elaine Chaya, about her transition from social media “it girl” to homeschool teacher.
FC: Working in the Internet world can be very difficult to explain to others. As an internet influencer and content creator, what do you actually do?
EC: I was in the digital content and social media world full-time until I started teaching. It’s a 24/7 job — working morning until night. I’m not teaching today, so instead, I’m catching up on a million things I have to do for my Instagram — writing posts, updating my website. There’s a lot of work, and I’m the only one who’s doing it. I wake up extra early in the mornings to do pictures, videos, and content before the sun goes down. Then I spend the rest of the day or night emailing people and doing random endless tasks — really, multi-tasking and making sure that my endless list of to-do tasks get done daily.
FC: How did you get into social media?
EC: I started out as a blogger eight and a half years ago [in 2012]. Back then, people were into heading to websites and reading blog posts. I had a website and blog, and posted a blog post every day. Once Instagram came around though, websites seemed to become obsolete. It’s good to have a website, though, and create blog posts with SEO because it’s a good additional way that people can find and use your web content.
FC: Did you start out wanting to follow a career path in public relations (PR) and social media?
EC: As a Persian, you’re taught to be a doctor or a lawyer. I studied medicine in college at UCLA and took the LSAT to go to law school — like every Persian Jew does in LA. I loved PR, Hollywood, and all that stuff. I did a bunch of internships at MTV, working for event companies and PR companies, and I loved it so much that I got a job in a PR firm. My parents hated the idea of me working in PR – but I believed that this was the path for me. When I was at the company, my coworkers and some friends would always tell me “You should start a blog, and take photos of your outfits.” I never listened. And then all of a sudden, Instagram launched. And instead of reaching out to celebrities to do paid promotions — we were reached out to people with Instagram followings. When I saw that, I thought, “I can do this and do it well — I should do it.” So, I started my blog in 2012, and launched an Instagram. I always joke how I got companies that wanted to send me a few free tee shirts, then I quit my job. Doing both my blog full-time and my PR job full-time got to me a lot. So I made the decision to quit my job and try pursuing this full-time. I saw potential in this.
I spent time networking and talking to brands. I met other bloggers and became friends with them. We tagged each other in posts. It was easy back then to be seen — there weren’t that many bloggers back then, bloggers and brands wouldn’t only post certain things and brands that fit their “aesthetic” . It was way easier for your photos to be reshared and to get more visibility.
FC: My parents did not really know anything about the world of freelance science writing. Maybe they expected me to get a PhD and become a scientist, because that’s what I was doing before becoming a science writer. How did your parents react to your decision to become a blogger?
EC: Parents always want the best for you — they say the doctor or lawyer route — because in their minds, those are the most reliable paths to making money and having a good stable life. Being a blogger is different. It’s pretty much a freelance job where you’re unsure of the next paycheck, and always hustling.
@ElaineChaya: Being a blogger is different. It’s pretty much a freelance job where you’re unsure of the next paycheck, and always hustling.Tweet
There’s a give and take — it took a while for my parents to be okay with my PR job and accept that I was doing great work. Ultimately, they ended up being the ones who supported me and told me to blog full-time — it was a full-circle moment.
My motto is that you should always try out a path you’re passionate about. And if it doesn’t work out, it’ll lead you to what you do next…I’m a homeschool teacher for the time being. It has nothing to do with what I’ve done previously in life and who knows where this path is going to take me!
FC: What is your coolest career accomplishment?
EC: I’ve done so many cool things. One accomplishment that stands out to me was a campaign I did with my best blogger partner at the time. He’s a guy and me being a girl, we did a bunch of collabs on social media. At one point, we really wanted to travel abroad and go to Italy. We didn’t have the money to do it, so we worked really hard together to turn it into a blogging opportunity. The idea was to get some brands on board to pay the costs of the trip and to make some money.
We worked hard and got Macy’s on board to do a campaign with International Concepts (INC). We got sent different clothes from the latest line and posted in the outfits on different stops on our trip. There’s a famous photographer named Murad Osmann known for his “Follow Me To” pictures where he holds his wife’s hand and it shows her in a beautiful outfit featuring a cool background of places they travel. So my friend and I recreated this idea in the different cities we went to doing “Follow Me To London” and the different cities in France. This was a very cool opportunity that we made happen ourselves. I’ve also worked with brands like BAI, VitaCoco, SweeTARTS, and Delta Airlines and Coca-Cola.
In the pandemic, I launched “Class of Quarantine 2020” sweatshirts and t-shirts. For every shirt purchased, I donated four meals to the Los Angeles Regional Food Bank. This effort paid for over 15,000 meals, and celebrities were seen sporting the gear. I also partnered with Absolut Elyx, Blick Art Supplies, artist Kasey Blaustein of Kasey Jones, Ink, and LA’s mural hotspot, The Doheny Wall, to create The 2020 Wall. The 2020 Wall pays homage to everything we’ve collectively experienced in 2020 in a colorful, whimsical way. I loved working on the 2020 Wall because it reminded me that, in order to move towards a new future, we must remember the past and not forget how we came together despite being socially distanced.
FC: How do you reach out to brands?
EC: I either reach out to people I know who represent the brands or literally just email people out the blue. At this point it seems like I’ve emailed over a million people randomly. I use my PR knowledge from working with brands to present ideas that I think they’d be interested in to create social media campaigns. Because of my organizational skills and the way I can showcase a company’s messaging, people find it easy to work with me.
FC: How did you get into teaching?
EC: In a combination of not getting as many brand campaigns as in the past along with more free time on my hands, someone suggested to me one day being a homeschool teacher since I love working with kids. Coincidentally, the next day, I found out a good friend of mine was looking for a homeschool teacher and the rest is history.
FC: Do you think teaching is what you’re going to do as your forever career?
EC: I plan to teach homeschool until summer and figure out what to do next. I’m trying to think of that now — I don’t want to be a one-on-one teacher for the rest of my life. I’d like to work with kids in a larger capacity — assemblies and work with students in big groups. I’m thinking that’s the path for me as a “teacher”. I have no idea where life will take me — I believe that it will take me where I am meant to go.
FC: Do you teach in person? What’s that like in COVID-19?
EC: I teach kindergarten in person. Everyone is aware and protective. We all wear masks, sit outside, sanitize our hands, the parents take my temperature and I wear double masks.
FC: How have you been juggling homeschool and being a social media influencer?
EC: My days are divided from waking up and creating some content for my Instagram to then running to class and being a homeschool teacher to running home and finishing more work for my social media. Doing my social media all the past years had been a full-time job and so now it’s really dividing that time in half with teaching. I don’t have time to try and pursue as many campaigns as I have in the past. But I incorporate my teaching into my social media world with sharing what I teach in class on my stories and sometimes in posts.
FC: What’s next for you?
EC: That’s a great question! I usually would have that answer but as we’ve learned in the past year, anything in life can change. My life journey has taken me to homeschool teaching, which is something that I truly like, but I never thought I’d be doing that. My business model used to be focused on getting Instagram campaigns. But as those have become less for me in the past few years, I’m rethinking my business and brainstorming what I want to do outside of Instagram.
FC: What inspires and motivates you?
EC: There’s so many different things. Fashion trends that I find for one — I was a fashion blogger to begin with — so I love creating fun TikToks around fashion. I am mainly focused on wanting to inspire people and impact the world in whatever capacity. I am making posts that are mindful of that.
FC: How has been Persian influenced your career? Are there a lot of Persian influencers?
EC: I don’t know too many others. Negin Mirsalehi is a very beautiful Persian influencer – she’s the only one I know. The reason for that may be because Persians are taught to be doctors and lawyers. When I was starting out, there was nobody to look to as a role model or to ask for guidance. Now I try to be a support system for others who want to get into this field. Not everyone has the kind of guts I have to branch out and get into the PR world. My goal is to inspire people not just in the Persian community but everywhere — to help them be who they are, and not feel like there’s something wrong with it.
FC: What inspired you to do Mary Poppins for your Instagram?
EC: When I first started teaching, the students had told me how they had just watched Mary Poppins for the first time and how they loved it. And as I try to make everything in the classroom “magical” — I felt it was very fitting to be Mary Poppins. When I walked into the classroom dressed liked her, the kids were squealing, saying, “you are really Mary Poppins.” It was so exciting and nice. It’s such a joy to dress up again, even if it’s for three- to five- year olds. It’s like a fashion show for kids, and they comment on my outfits.
FC: What tips do you have for anyone looking to get into your industry — whether homeschooling or social media influencing?
EC: For homeschooling, I had no teaching background so this was all very new for me. I did a lot of studying on YouTube, Pinterest, and Google to understand how to teach the different topics I was going to do. The parents additionally bought me a curriculum to go off of but I’ve ended up coming up with my own ideas of things to do.
As for social media, my biggest advice is to not look at what anyone else is doing. Be true to yourself. I am known as a colorful Instagram blogger girl. When I first started my Insta, everyone was in jeans, with black and white muted photos. That’s what the famous and popular girls were doing. So, I did that because I thought that’s what you do to become big. One of my friends – the one who did the Macy’s INC campaign with me – told me I needed to be myself and not to follow other people. That’s one thing that has stuck with me and that’s what I’ve stuck to being. People define me as “unicorn rainbow sundae” and will even tag me in rainbow photos or message me with pictures that remind them of me.
@ElaineChaya: I’ve made a brand for myself based on who I am. That would have never happened if I had followed everyone else.Tweet
I’ve made a brand for myself based on who I am. That would have never happened if I had followed everyone else. In a world where everyone’s trying to be a Kardashian and trying to look like everyone else, you have to be creative and put your own twist on things.