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Who: Scarlett Hao
What: State of Social in China; Being a Curvy #girlboss; Clothing Line Goals
Where: Nickel and Diner, NYC
Occupation: Fashion & Lifestyle Influencer

We met Scarlett at Soho's latest Instagram-worthy eatery — Nickel and Diner — and learned all about what it was like to grow up without social media. Unlike most US millennials, Scarlett didn't open a Facebook account until 2012 — when she first moved to the US from China. Since then, she's built an impressive content business on Instagram and remains active on Chinese social media platforms Weibo and WeChat, where Chinese brands sponsor content. 

Scarlett exudes confidence and isn't afraid to state her mission clearly: empower curvy women, especially within the Asian community, to embrace their bodies and see themselves as beautiful, inside and out. 

Q: Growing up in China you didn’t have access to Facebook and Instagram when the rest of the world was getting started on those platforms. When did you learn about these social media channels?
Growing up, I used Chinese social media platforms, but I got my Facebook account set up on the first day I moved to the US on August 2, 2010. I started my Instagram account while I was in college in 2012. 

Q: When did you realize you could use Instagram to help build a personal brand and earn money working with lifestyle brands?
I worked in fashion PR before I started building my own brand. Working on other brands’ social media content and strategy helped me realize that I was really into influencer marketing and wanted to build my own audience online. I started to build the @scarletthalo_ brand in July 2015 — so it's been almost two years now.

Q: What are the most popular social media platforms in China? Are people working with brands to create sponsored content on those platforms?
WeChat and Weibo are the most popular nowadays — and there is a lot of sponsored content on both platforms!

Q: What are the main differences between Weibo and WeChat? Which do you prefer, and do you actively work with brands on either of them?
On Weibo, you can post pictures, short text, and long messages, and it's really easy to engage with other people’s posts. It’s also a great source for real-time news. It feels like Instagram meets Twitter.

WeChat is mainly an instant chatting app, but it also has a social feed and the option to make your account public. Some big influencers have public WeChat accounts. It’s more like Facebook and Facebook messenger. Personally, I'm more active on Weibo when it comes to posting content, but I use WeChat for keeping up with friends.

Q: Who are some of the most influential China-based influencers? Are they only on WeChat and Weibo, or do they find ways to use Instagram, Facebook and Twitter?
Gogoboi is a fashion blogger and trendsetter loved for his personal style. He's a staple on the Fashion Week scene and has one of the biggest followings on both WeChat and Weibo. He's also on Instagram: @gogoboi.

Papi Jiang is another well-known influencer with huge followings on both Wechat and Weibo. She's a vlogger known for original video content and comedic personality.

Editor's note: Scarlett let us know that influencers in China who want to access the Instagram platform must pay for private VPN servers which allow them to access sites not sanctioned by the Chinese government. 

Q: Let’s shift gears to your personal brand. Tell us more about what it means to be a "curvy #girlboss," and the mission behind your brand?
Curvy #girlboss, to me, means being who I am, knowing what I want, doing what I love and becoming who I wish. As a curvy women myself, I would love to empower and inspire women all over the world and help them to discover their true beauty. My hope is that my content helps women feel confident and beautiful — regardless of size and body type.

Q: How has your Chinese culture played a role in shaping your mission to promote body positivity among women?
As a Chinese girl, I grew up with one message: “Beautiful women should be skinny.” This really challenged me to rewrite my own ideas on beauty. Ever since I was a young girl, I've had to find ways to see beauty from more angles while learning how to love myself. Today, I try to use my social influence to create content that will inspire Asian women — and the larger Asian community — to value diversity when it comes to beauty standards.

I am happy to see curvy/plus-size become more and more acceptable in the fashion industry and appreciated by the public. But, it’s primarily dominated by white and black women. My Chinese culture allows me to be a voice for curvy Asian women, adding a new perspective to the global curvy/plus-size industry. 

Q: One of your goals is to design and sell your own clothing line, and it sounds like you’re on your way! What does the process look like for embarking on that kind of a venture?
I am super excited about this! I really want to create a curvy clothing line based on my style and focus on sales in both the US and Asian markets. It’s definitely not an easy process — between sourcing a design team and the right manufacturer, and promoting the collection online, it will take a ton of work. But, I'm dedicated to making this dream a reality!    

Q: You’re also studying at NYU, getting a degree in Public Relations. Are there specific courses offered about influencer marketing and social media marketing?
Yes, the program does offer social media strategy courses and other general marketing courses are talking a ton about social media. We all know that social media is taking a bigger role in the PR industry, and I would like to see all PR programs develop more courses specifically related to influencer marketing.

Q: Lately, we've seen Instagram creators start to worry about their engagement due to updates to the platform's algorithm and what’s being called “shadowbanning.” What are your thoughts on this and are you adjusting your personal Instagram strategy?
Engagement is the key for all influencers on Instagram. With the Shadow Ban, I think it will be harder and harder for influencers to grow fast, but it will ensure more authentic growth. Personally, I'm trying to keep up with all of the changes and updates, and also testing different hashtag strategies. 

Q: What do you think is the most influential trend or topic in influencer marketing today, and how do you think it will shape the future of the industry?
I think videos will be even more important than photos in the future. Shoppable videos and brand tagging placement within videos are things I can see happening, so I'm personally focusing on making beautiful video work.

Coffee with Collaborators is an interview series featuring the incredibly talented, creative voices in our community. Interested in having coffee? Email us.