When you hear the word “influencer,” what comes to mind? From trendsetting and creativity to fostering strong digital communities, Gen Z influencers today are creating waves of change on social media, and I’m continuously inspired by their ability to influence others in a positive way. Whether it’s their relatable content, passion for a niche topic, or expertise in beauty, style, wellness, or all of the above, influencers are the driving force behind many of the world’s important conversations about where we’ve been, where we are, and where we’re headed.
In case you haven’t heard, The InfluenceHer Collective (IHC) is a tight-knit influencer community that encourages and provides members with resources for creativity, empowerment, and collaboration. As one of our beloved sister brands, the IHC recognizes the creativity and ambition of today’s Gen Z creators and honors the incredible things they do through content every day. This year, through our 2021 InfluenceHer Collective Awards, we’re celebrating five incredible Gen Z influencers who are making a positive impact in their community and beyond.
In honor of our fall issue theme, “influence,” Her Campus spoke with the five winners to hear how they’re making an impact and what influences them to create positive change. From helping women feel more confident to advocating for educational equity, here’s how the 2021 IHC Award winners are changing the world.
Influencer of the Year
What influences you? “Going through life really influences me. I think there’s so [much] beauty around us if we choose to look at it.”
Dez Smith always dreamed of having her own creative business, but didn’t always know what it would look like. She began creating content in college while studying communications, and her experience ultimately led her down the path of becoming a style and lifestyle content creator. Today, Dez showcases her creativity, style, and personality through her content, and strives to change the world by inspiring women of diverse backgrounds and walks of life.
“Coming from a small town in Jersey, I never really felt like I had the power to inspire anyone around me,” she tells Her Campus. “I love that social media has given me that.” And when asked about her goals from the future, Dez says she’s ready to keep empowering others around her. “I hope to continue to inspire women of all different shapes, sizes, and backgrounds to be themselves,” she says. “Winning ‘Influencer of the Year’ truly means so much to me.”
College Influencer of the Year
What influences you? “The idea that I get to empower thousands of disadvantaged students is exactly why I do the work that I do. As a first-generation student of color, I didn’t have anyone to look up to while I was applying to school. If I have helped just one person feel more secure in their future, all of this would be worth it.”
Youssef Hasweh is a Palestinian-Moroccan first-generation college student at the University of Chicago. Born and raised in Brooklyn, New York, Youssef developed a student leader advocacy program with over 100k followers where he shares resources about college equity and access. His work is focused on supporting disadvantaged students through education, and his advocacy work has led to him founding two scholarships in an effort to eradicate student debt.
“For me, fighting for access for students in higher education is a fight every year,” Hasweh tells Her Campus. And as “College Influencer of the Year,” he’s ready to keep creating waves of change in his community and beyond. “To be recognized as ‘College Influencer of the Year’ empowers the work that I do today and every day. It is an honor I don’t take lightly,” he tells Her Campus. “I’m committed to continuing the work and putting in even more effort to reach more students.”
Zoe J. Felix
Lifestyle Influencer of the Year
What influences you? “My influence comes from simply living in NYC — and trust me — there is never a dull moment. Everything from the architecture, the people, the museums, the graffiti on the walls, and the many cultures embedded in this city gives me a rush that I can’t quite explain. This city inspires me to keep going and that it is okay to be an anomaly.”
Zoe J. Felix, AKA “Twiggy Versatile” identifies as a “southern girl taking on the Big Apple.” In her work as an influencer and content creator, she operates a blog, digital platform, and has even curated self-help resources for women to gather, grow, be inspired, and find unexpected silver linings in life. Her guiding mission: to encourage others to accept their imperfections, embrace their uniqueness, and allow their motivation to emerge so they can live beyond their fears.
“This award is not only for me, but for all the women that put their best foot forward and strive to be their best selves,” Felix tells Her Campus. “I am a testament that no matter what you go through in life, you can always come out on top.” When asked about her goals for the future, Felix tells Her Campus, “I hope to continue building a community of women who aren’t afraid of being their true selves.”
Beauty Influencer of the Year
What influences you? “As a creative, I take inspiration from so many places! I am constantly being influenced by other content creators in my niche, and platforms such as Pinterest, TikTok, and Instagram. I think the amazing thing about influencing is that it is unique to you and can come from anywhere!”
Chazlynn Yvonne is a fashion, beauty, and lifestyle micro-influencer based In Los Angeles, CA. She enjoys sharing her personal aesthetic through her content. “I have been creating content for a little over a year, and have worked so hard to get to this point in my influencer journey,” Chazlynn tells Her Campus. She is currently pursuing a Bachelor’s degree in digital marketing at the Fashion Institute of Design and Merchandising (FIDM), and aspires to make an impact on the future of Gen Z creators.
“As a small creator and woman of color, I am honored to be chosen for this award,” Chazlynn tells Her Campus. “I want to thank my family, God, my supporters, the IHC team, and the many brand partners that believed in me to help get me to where I am today! This award proves that you can do anything you put your mind to.”
Style Influencer of the Year
What influences you? “I am constantly inspired by individuals that empower others by being themselves — people that make other people feel something. It makes me want to be that for others, especially when my passion sparks joy.”
If you’re looking for a corner of the internet to find “feel-good” content about life and style, Sarita is your girl. She is passionate about all things creative, especially when it comes to bringing your favorite OOTDs from Pinterest to life. Her dedication to content creation has earned her the title of “Style Influencer of the Year,” and if you’re a fan of dressing up and impromptu photoshoots, Sarita tells Her Campus that she’s ready to be your bestie.
“I am overwhelmed with gratitude to have been selected to receive the ‘Style Influencer of the Year’ award,” Sarita says. “Words can’t describe how honored I feel to have this journey recognized by the Her Campus family and the community built on my little corner of the internet. I look forward to treating each and every outfit as if it’s going to be photographed by the paparazzi.”
It’s no secret that these Gen Z influencers are absolutely amazing, not only because of their content creation skills, but their dedication to making the world a better place for all. As we reflect on the meaning of “influence” in our fall issue, may these Gen Z creators serve as a reminder that you also have the power to impact the world with your unique skills, gifts, and talents. Take notes from these influencers and start harnessing your passions today — I can’t wait to see the incredible things you’ll accomplish in your community and beyond!
Learn more about the InfluenceHer Collective Award winners here.