Backstage

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Helen Owen

In recent years a brand new category of career has emerged. It is one that is hard to describe, and, at times, hard to believe, but it is booming, and anyone who even dabbles with social media is acutely aware of it. It is the sudden infiltration of the “Influencer,” a millennial job aspiration technically defined as an individual who has the power to affect purchase decisions of others because of authority, knowledge position or relationship. With 1.2 million followers on Instagram alone, few know it better than Helen Owen.

A California enthusiast—born in Silicon Valley, schooled at UCLA and proud La La Land dweller—Helen built a name for herself via social media. What started with a Tumblr blog in high school has exponentially grown into a way of life. While attending UCLA, she began taking the creation of social content seriously and was recognized by several significant brands. A few collaborations later and the popularity of her digital presence exploded.

While millions know her and just as many heed her fashion, travel, fitness and general lifestyle advice, Helen has a hard time defining her own career when asked about a specific job title. And while the inquiry gives her a bit of pause, she typically designates herself as an influencer and model who works with select brands to integrate creative projects into her personal lifestyle and travel narrative. Her travel and life companion, Zack Kalter, who has amassed a not-to-scoff-at 141K followers, might one day have the same question to answer.

We did a little Helen Owen stalking (and direct questioning) ourselves to find out more about the model and media maven’s substantial following, remarkable travel destinations, eye for design and slight Oribe obsession.

You have 1.2m Instagram followers, which is a massive accomplishment. What is it about your content that has attracted so many followers?
If I knew what the secret ingredient was, I’d write a book, become a billionaire and retire tomorrow! But seriously, people are attracted to personalities they can relate to and trust. In addition to going above and beyond to get the best content possible, I like to think I’ve built a level of trust with my audience.

What are five other Instagram accounts that everyone should follow right now?
My friends Alyssa (@alyssalynch) and Jordan (@taylorcutfilms) are an adorable couple that travel the world and produce amazingly inspiring videos.

I recommend throwing them a follow and giving them a good stalk. I’m obsessed with @overheardla at the moment. That account is a collection of hysterical conversations overheard in various Los Angeles locations.

An awesome travel account I love to follow belongs to Jessica Stein (@tuulavintage)—I aspire to visit half of the remarkable locations she’s explored.

And, finally, my fashion inspiration always has been and will continue to be Julie Sariñana (@sincerelyjules).

What are some of your favorite travel destinations?
The Greek islands of Mykonos and Santorini are my all-time favorites. I haven’t missed a summer vacation there in the past three years. You can’t beat the energy of Mykonos and the beauty of Santorini. I also fell in love with the Maldives and can’t wait to visit again.

What has your time spent in different locations around the world taught you?
Having spent the past two years traveling, I’ve learned how easy it is to fall in love with places. Ironically, I’m a homebody who is easily homesick and nostalgic, but I seem to have applied those emotions to the various places I’ve visited and loved. As a consequence it feels like I’ve built mini homes throughout the world, and I’m homesick for all of them simultaneously. That may or may not be the definition of wanderlust, but there you have it.

Has L.A. or any of your travels influenced your sense of style?
My personal style is a mishmash of influences from California-festival style to athleisure with random mood swings of boho and classic chic. Los Angeles has been my main fashion influence, and I tend to bring that with me everywhere I go.

What are your Oribe must haves?
My all time hair favorites are the Gold Lust Repair & Restore Shampoo and Conditioner and the Après Beach Wave and Shine Spray. I also use the Côte d’Azur Eau De Parfum as my daily scent, which means in addition to my hair smelling magical, I tend to smell of Oribe all over, all the time.

What has been the most “pinch-me” moment of your career?
I like to think that my best “pinch-me” moments are still ahead of me, but I have had a handful and each one requires a tighter pinch than the last. Almost all of them happen when we travel somewhere new.

What is one wardrobe mainstay you couldn’t live without?
This is so hard. If you’re including swimwear, I feel like I have to go with bikinis. If we’re sticking to clothing, then I couldn’t live without simple cut-off denim shorts—so California of me. 

What is the craziest thing on your bucket list?
I want to do a road trip across America over the course of a few months. I know that sounds rather tame compared to villas in exotic locations or skydiving, but to me that’s a crazy bucket-list item.

Tell us about your foray into designing and collaborating with Birksun.
I majored in “Design Media Arts” at UCLA, and have always loved design and being creative. During my senior year I modeled in a couple of Birksun commercials, and, afterward, they approached me about a design collaboration. I could not have been more honored. It was an incredible hands-on design project to undertake as a student, and so was born Birksun’s “London Collection.”

Do you have a weekly workout/eating routine that you stick to even when traveling?
My routine has changed over the past few years, but I think I finally have a rhythm of at-home body-weight workouts to stick to when traveling. I’m not very strict when it comes to eating, but I tend to gravitate toward clean, healthy options. When traveling, I opt for a lot of fresh fruits, veggies and lean proteins, and stay away from carbs as much as possible. Dessert is a non-negotiable with me, but I try to limit sugars in other ways, such as swapping water for juice and drinking coffee black. 

What’s your favorite thing about your fans?
I don’t like to refer to anyone who follows me as a fan—I stalk everyone back, so it feels like a two-way street. But over the years I’ve noticed certain people who follow me are actually paying much closer attention than I thought. I’ve had a few low points over the past four years where I thought no one noticed my emotional rollercoasters, but I received the kindest messages and encouragement. It makes me realize how perceptive certain followers are, and I honestly—and weirdly—feel like I have friendships from afar. 

What is your everyday hair routine?
I keep it so simple. My priority is for my hair to look healthy rather than totally styled. I wash, towel dry and blow out. Oribe products do the rest.

If you had to wear one outfit for the rest of your life what would it be?
This is so difficult. Thinking practically—and because it can be dressed up or down—I’m going with simple jeans and a t-shirt. Boring, but it makes the most sense to me given the gravity of this question.

Bikini or bralette?
Bikini

Instagram Stories or Snapchat?
Ah, the social media dilemma of the moment! I try to do both, and use each of them for their strengths. I approach Snapchat in a more casual way, so I’d say I have more fun with Snapchat (ahem, filters). With Instagram Stories, I like to keep my content more polished and professional. This is where I incorporate favorite brands and products in conjunction with my Instagram posts.

Most important thing in your life?
My relationships and my health, both mental and physical.

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