‘Not real life’: Instagram star reveals the ugly truth behind her pics

At the height of her Instagram fame, Australian teen Essena O'Neill was making upwards of €1,500 a post, with over 600,000 followers hanging on her every word.

But after three years of faking it, the 18-year-old has finally had enough.

On October 27 she deleted 2,000 photos from her feed, leaving only a handful – with the captions re-edited to show the grim truth behind them all.

One photo of her lying by a pool studying while wearing a bikini was once captioned, "Things are getting pretty wild at my house. Maths B and English in the sun."

Now it reads, "See how relatable my captions were – stomach sucked in, strategic pose, pushed up boobs.

"I just want younger girls to know this isn’t candid life, or cool or inspirational. It’s contrived perfection made to get attention."

As well as skipping meals, exercising "excessively" and "barely eating" to stay slim, Essena says she was hugely insecure and felt her body was her only asset.

Another photo of her sitting on the beach reads, "NOT REAL LIFE – took over 100 in similar poses trying to make my stomach look good. Would have hardly eaten that day. Would have yelled at my little sister to keep taking them until I was somewhat proud of this. Yep so totally #goals."

The teen says she often took hundreds of photos, editing her selfies in various different apps until they looked exactly how she wanted them to.

Referring to a snap which shows her pulling her t-shirt up to reveal her toned stomach, Essena admits the photo was "the only thing that made me feel good that day."

As well as revealing the insecurities behind the seemingly carefree images, Essena has pointed out various photos she only posted to earn money.

"NOT REAL LIFE – paid $$$ to promote both the jeans and top," she wrote next to a "candid" shot of herself looking out to sea wearing jeans and a black top.

"Any girl with a lot of followers promoting a bikini brand is paid, I would say 99% of the time," she wrote next to another. 

"If they tag a company 99% of the time it's paid."

To further explain her decision to come clean, Essena has set up a website, Lets Be Game Changers, where she has been posting daily vlogs.

"Anyone who spends hours and hours on a screen wishing they could have a 'perfect' life, this is for you," she writes. 

"There is nothing cool about spending all your time taking edited pictures of yourself to prove to the world 'you are enough.'"

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