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Social media influencers are a part of the daily media diet of swiping, scrolling and double-tapping for many teens and adults. Some see them as modern role models and entrepreneurs who have the potential to play an important role in identity for their many viewers, followers, fans and subscribers.
The digital world works as a window into the lives of others and even places that were once unknown and cut off from the average person’s experience and knowledge. But in the age of hashtags, these content creators may also be found in the same city and with more diverse backgrounds.
In our “Identifying Influencers” series, we take a behind-the-Instagram look at the lives of some of South Florida’s most popular social media mavens, how they got started, how it’s going and what the future holds.
Melissa Marrero | Always Hungry Mel
When content producer and TV host Melissa Marrero isn’t interviewing celebrities and community consultants, her Instagram posts have taken culinary stories to a new level.
“I started baking when I was a little girl,” she said. “Food is something that brings people together and that’s one of the main reasons why I enjoy what I do.”
From an early age, Marrero realized that food was another kind of hug — one of the ways people love and learn from each another. As a child, she would bake brownies for her siblings. Her brother would even invite his friends over for her fresh-baked treats.
“Everyone knew me for brownies. Meli’s brownies,” said Marrero. “My mom always cooked at home and so did my grandmother. It’s something I was always passionate about.”
Now the 28-year-old has taken that passion to her lnstagram profile, which is dedicated to recipes, food inspiration, mouth-watering photography and videos, and local eats.
She shares firsthand knowledge of food plates from restaurants and recipes she has made and recommends such as glazed salmon, stir fry, stuffed peppers, desserts, and cultural food such as rigatoni pasta, chicken teriyaki and arepas.
“I was born and raised here, but my family is Colombian and Venezuelan,” Marrero said.
Visitors to her Instagram will also see berries, challah French toast, waffle cones made with three scoops and toppings galore, chocolates and pizzas, among other grub.
Working as an entertainment and lifestyle reporter for WSFL-TV, the CW affiliate in Miami, Marrero has taken an in-depth look into issues, people, places and events important to South Florida. Once graduating from the University of Florida’s College of Journalism and Communications, she produced a morning show, worked a graveyard shift, and now she hosts television segments and does entertainment reporting.
“Will Smith is so humble,” Marrero said. “When I interviewed him on the red carpet, when people were screaming his name and there was a lot of chaos, he made me feel like I was the only person in the room.”
Her career of also covering restaurants and speaking with chefs was also an inspiration to start @AlwaysHungryMel.
“Whether it’s work or Always Hungry [Mel], I want to make sure that the content I’m putting out there is good,” Marrero said. “For example, I wouldn’t post a recipe if it didn’t work out for me.”
Some may think being a foodie influencer and blogging is an easy hobby but creating informative, visual treats is not an easy task.
Like any serious content creating and art, it requires a lot of hard work and dedication. Any foodie who wants to give their recipes a tasty twist that stands out needs some culinary knowledge and expertise. They also need a talent for multimedia aspects such as photography and videography.
“There’s a lot of trial and error, but once I create a recipe I like, I start filming. I bought a Sony camera to get better shots. Once I’m done filming, then I edit,” she said. “Some people may not realize how much work actually goes into it.”
Her foodie adventures take to her places such as New York, the Bahamas, Colombia, Italy and Paris.
She also has tried kitchen experiments such as Nutella-filled chocolate chip cookies and a video showing how to make the ‘90s nostalgia snack Dunkaroos.
“During the week I do try to eat healthy,” Marrero said. “I do try everything I post but not eat everything on the plate. It’s about balance.”
Food-related content creating has become highly competitive. Some have managed to build businesses out of their passion for food and make connections through their online platforms.
A couple of months ago, someone from the Food Network contacted Marrero because they found her through a hashtag. Marrero said she believes that hashtags work when growing a following in addition to being yourself because people want to see the person behind the content too.
Marrero’s favorites are Italian and Latin dishes and maybe one day, she said, she’d like to combine the two in her cuisine.
Racquel Goldy | Multimedia Content Creator
TikTok: racquelgoldy, 1,815 followers
Even though the 2011 Marjory Stoneman Douglas graduate was a shy, competitive dancer who faced injuries, her public speaking for peer counseling paved the way for her multimedia and broadcasting career she always pursued.
“I’ve always known I wanted to be on camera,” she said. “I would watch ‘TRL’ [on MTV] every day while getting ready for dance and I loved the idea of the interviewer being that connection from the artist to the fans.”
While attending Florida Atlantic University, Goldy was hungry for hands-on experience in the working multimedia world and she started her own YouTube channel in which she interviewed musicians.
She also interned at Y100 and iHeartRadio Miami stations for almost three years. She was the pre-game show host for home games of the NHL’s Florida Panthers as well as the BB&T Center’s digital event productions.
After graduation, the now 28-year-old became a popular multimedia personality working as an on-air personality and producer for Revolution 93.5 FM Miami, ESPN Radio 106.3 FM, and she was a video host and a reporter for “Eye on South Florida.” Goldy also covered the red carpet as a correspondent for numerous entertainment events, including the Billboard Music Awards, iHeart Fiesta and the Creative Arts Emmys.
“It was so much fun and I got to be myself,” she said. “I got to interview Martin Garrix and end up in Billboard magazine, but COVID happened and I lost my radio job, but I still kept at it with content and my love of music.”
Goldy’s love of pop music and her YouTube channel and Instagram page has led her to be a K-pop enthusiast. K-pop, short for Korean popular music, has grown in prominence to become a major driver of global culture with their fluffy pop music making its way onto U.S. Billboard charts.
“Half the time the people I’m interviewing from there don’t even speak English,” Goldy said. “It made me get better at my skills and I have people texting me all the time asking me who to listen to and how I’ve helped them learn new culture through music.”
She spends hours editing, planning and reaching out to managers and publicists and uses her social media platforms to inspire her fan base to listen to such artists and bands like EXO, and she’s reached over 3 million digital impressions.
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With the help of her friend Natasha Salehi, Goldy also is co-host of the multi-platform podcast the Millennial Girls. Even though the podcast features millennial topics such as music, humor, events with guests who have appeared on “American Idol” and viral TikTok songwriters, Goldy said she believes that an older audience can still be intrigued.
“We have a lot of people who listen to it who aren’t millennials,” Goldy said. “We focus on mental health, dating, therapy, music, trending topics and finding your passion because those are open and tailored topics to all ages.”
Since she was 18, Goldy has wanted to go to Los Angeles to expand her multimedia profession. Before the end of the year, she plans on moving across the country to find new opportunities working in radio and interviews.
“I’m very passionate about music and putting out good content wherever I am,” she said. “Being brave enough and willing to put your work out there, being honest with yourself, and if someone sees me as inspirational through my work then I’m doing my job, doing something right, and that alone is breaking barriers.”