Instagram’s champagne haired influencer Heidi Mae spoke to The Natural Aristocrat about the art of taking the perfect photo and why she’ll never do reality TV again.
The Natural Aristocrat [Nir Regev]: Do you feel there’s a need to go the extra mile on Instagram these days because of competition rising exponentially all the time?
Heidi Mae: You know, that’s something I’ve thought about a lot… I don’t know if it’s going the extra mile, so much as it would be finding your own voice. I don’t want to create things just to get engagement, which is always sort of the trap. “Oh, I want to get more engagement, so I’ll post something that will get more engagement!” That can really make you suffer artistically. So, I’ve been focusing on creating stuff that I resonate with and trying to be more honest with people.
This year, I started opening up about some mental health issues that I’ve had, and advocating mental health awareness. I don’t need to have a million followers. But what I would like is to have is a positive impact on whoever sees what I create.
I feel your Adobe Lightroom “Vibrant Life” Presets give your photos an artistic, personal touch other Instagram influencers lack. Something beyond the usual filters everyone already uses. This desert photo comes to mind with the purple/pink hued sky and synthwave cover-esque sun. What made you experiment with Lightroom originally?
I love photography, I’m a big photography nerd! (laughs) I just love the way light plays on things. I’ve had a camera since I was like 18, way back in the MySpace days! When I take a picture, a lot of times, I want to reflect a feeling and create an emotion when people look at it. For me, a huge part of that is editing the tones, colors, and shadows to where each picture creates an emotion and has a feeling to it. You know, instead of just going straight from the camera.
The biggest difference for me is just the fact that I feel much happier, and I enjoy the pictures a lot more when I look at them. I feel proud of them and that they will reflect what I was trying to capture. I read this quote once that said, ‘A picture is how a camera sees the world and the edit on the photo is how the photographer sees the world.’ It resonated a lot with me.
When I edit a photo and change the colors and shadows or put something like the sun in it, that’s how I felt in that moment. That’s how I experienced that moment in time when I took the photo.
I’ve read you already started singing at the age of two! Longtime fans have obviously heard your voice on the cosplay parodies on YouTube. Did you want to be a vocalist in a band growing up?
(laughs) Yeah! When I was younger, I wanted to be a singer or an actress or a Russian Supermodel! Not even taking into account that I wasn’t Russian. (laughs) I grew up around music. My dad was a one man band and played every instrument.
My family had a traveling theatre show that we did at events and traveled around six to nine months out of the year, non-consecutively. So, it would be like six weeks at a time, eight weeks at a time. Always home for winter! The older I got, the more photography and travel became what I was passionate about making.
According to The Houston Herald, you and your siblings used to go to Texas County Library for the WiFi to upload those YouTube parodies. As the internet wasn’t strong enough countryside where you lived. Do you still have to do that?
(laughs) Not anymore! A couple years ago, the phone carriers here started offering unlimited data which they didn’t before. I mean they did at the very beginning and then they stopped. I switched carriers, so I could actually use the data at my house. When I used to upload a video or wanted to look something up, my cell phone reception and internet was so slow that it would take hours! I remember one time I wanted to upload one of the parodies, it took like a day and a half.
You mentioned wanting to be an actress earlier. Many of your Instagram fans remember you being featured on season 6 of ABC’s Wife Swap. How did that opportunity arise and would you do something like that again?
That opportunity arose because of my family’s theatre show,The Caboodlestoppers. I don’t… I don’t think that I would do reality TV again. The reason is because I learned the hard way that reality TV is a story that the producers want to tell. And they will ‘accomplish’ that story by whatever means necessary. You do not know going into it what story they want to tell, until you’re in the middle of it… You know what? I would not do reality TV again! (laughs)
I see fans commenting on it on your Instagram all the time still!
Yes, yes. (laughs) There are actually quite a few moments involving me on that show that are absolutely not true! They used some copy and paste audio in an episode to make it seem true. There’s actually a conversation I had where they chopped up what I said, and then just didn’t show me talking when I said it. So, you can’t tell that’s not what I said. I’d actually had a boyfriend before, my family had a home that was 74 acres but that didn’t fit the story they were trying to tell. ‘So, let’s just not say that!’ (laughs)
What are some of your style inspirations, fashion wise?
I follow Revolve because I really like a lot of their looks. It’s an online clothing company and they have designers there that create really unique things. A lot of my fashion actually evolves because of photography. A couple of years ago, maybe 4 years ago, all I ever wore was like black and gray. All the time! Then as I started doing photography more as my social media started taking off… I started noticing that the colors of black and gray don’t translate to the mood of an image very well.
If I’m on this beautiful expanse of land and I’m wearing all black, it doesn’t lend itself to the feeling I wanted to create in the photos. So, I started steering more towards lighter colors and more romantic looks. And I started noticing, “Oh, I really like this!” The clothing lends itself to the images much more to where everything felt complete in the picture versus say at opposition with each other.
How vital do you feel wigs are to your YouTube videos? Do you prefer to do your hair naturally if you can?
I definitely prefer to do my hair naturally. It’s so much more comfortable that way! (laughs) Especially, when I did some Harley Quinn looks for Suicide Squad, the wig was in pigtails and it was such a nightmare. Because you’re pulling the hair up but you’re glueing it to your scalp so it’s always like trying to peel away from your skin. It was horrible!
So, I definitely prefer to use my real hair with the exception if it’s like a crazy color. I definitely don’t want to dye my hair green, so I’ll use a wig for it! (laughs) So, any extreme colors or if I really feel like it will lend itself to the image well, I’ll use a wig.
I recall you mentioned the process of glueing that Harley Quinn wig on during a fan Q & A video. Speaking of that Q & A video, it’s been about two years now since it was posted… Are you ever going to do a followup?
(laughs) That’s a very good question! Yes, I’m going to! Filming more video blogs has been on my to-do list. I’m much more proficient at photography than I am at video. So, recently I’ve been pushing myself more to do more videos. Like the Instagram videos that I’ve been posting recently. It’s sort of like, “Okay, let’s get out of your comfort zone and push yourself a little bit!” Instead of just like sticking with what I’m comfortable with. Which can kind of be a human tendency at times.
What has the experience of your YouTube cosplay parodies going viral taught you?
I think what it taught me is if you set your mind to something and you try hard enough then you can make it happen. It might sound cliche but it’s true. Those parodies were the result of quite a few months of research, planning, and creating the costumes. I think the Suicide Squad one took about a year, including writing and recording.
It definitely taught me if I want something bad enough, and I work hard enough at it, I can find a way! Even if it’s not exactly what I originally set out to do. It can be a little different. I can still achieve that end goal!
My last question, going back to that fan Q & A… Two years later, do you still listen to the Backstreet Boys?
(laughs) Yeah! Funny you should ask that! I just went on like a three week road trip with my mom to California, and we found this 2000 through 2019 Pop Hits Playlist. Backstreet Boys are definitely on it, and there’s definitely singing along in the car!
Be sure to check out Heidi’s custom Adobe Lightroom “Vibrant Life” Presets to bring the magic to your own photos!
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