How did 20-year-old model Alexis Ren amass over 10 million Instagram followers in under 500 posts? The California native rose to social media superstardom by sharing a mix of vaguely captioned bikini, bedroom, fitness, and food photos: Writhing on a beach, nestled in hotel linens, stretching sexily, posturing with desserts. Ren’s adoring fans flood the comments section with praise and heart-eye emojis, and likes soar to hundreds of thousands. What you won’t see on her feed are ads for gummy vitamins, diet tea, or waist trainers. “I just want this to be real. That’s my whole thing,” she tells me over the phone. “If you’re an influencer and that moment is not real for you, then what’s the point of it?”
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It’s this emphasis on authenticity, Ren says, that keeps her from accepting big ticket product endorsements despite the temptation to cash in. “Any of the typical offers have all come to me, whether it’s a product for tea, or teeth whitening, or weight loss. And these brands have a lot of money. But [paid posts are] the complete opposite of what I’m trying to do.”
Ren has parlayed her Insta-fame into a few noteworthy campaigns for Calvin Klein, L’Oreal, and Express. Last year she appeared in Mario Testino’s towel series. Surely Ren could follow the blogger business model and make lingerie or swimsuits, but that would be too predictable, she says. Instead, she partnered with Revolve to launch her own collection of fitness-inspired basics, aptly named, REN Active (“For the girl that’s passionately curious”).
“I’m from L.A. and when you work out in the day you usually stay in your workout clothes,” she says. “So I always liked it where I can go to meetings in my workout clothes and still feel on it and fashionable.” The line is made up of the tomboy-sexy exercise separates that Ren is often seen wearing when she’s clothed. The “Enticed Crop Tee,” a $80 warm-up jersey hits just below the navel. The zip-front “Tiger Eye One Piece” ($138) looks utilitarian enough to swim laps, but the back is a thong. “I really wanted something that could go with me and wherever I go I could take it with me and it could be part of my life and story.” And for Ren, what’s more authentic than revealing athletic-wear?