Patrizia Yanguela was working at a marketing firm in 2014 when she developed a newfound love of fitness. On a whim, her husband suggested she document her journey — and resulting physical transformation — on Instagram, to help inspire other people. The space was not quite as crowded then as it is today, and brands quickly began reaching out to her with requests to collaborate.
The Switzerland native now has 1.4 million followers on Instagram, and regularly partners with fitness, lingerie and fashion brands on promotional posts and photo shoots.
“For me, modeling happened by accident. I never planned to get this big, but I’m loving it,” she said. She’s since left behind that office job.
Yanguela has an ongoing partnership with the e-commerce apparel and lingerie shop Yandy.com, and has worked with brands including lingerie line Harlow & Fox and Gold Elements cosmetics. She’s in the midst of transitioning to traditional fashion modeling, a process that isn’t always easy for a model whose experience is heavy in lingerie.
We called Yanguela to chat about her current job transition and how she deals with the constant judgment that comes with a large social following.
Yanguela poses in a picture for Instagram <any partnership here?
How are you making most of your money?
I’m aiming for larger campaigns, but most of my clients are sponsoring posts that feature their product. They reach out to me and we discuss what they’re looking for, what the budget is, how they want the posts to look and how many times the posts should happen. It’s usually two to three posts, or a week of posts (one per day).
I mainly do fitness and lingerie, but I’ve started to do “hype” fashion modeling, which refers to the sports [apparel] and streetwear, which is very popular at the moment. I’ve had a really good response from it, because people weren’t expecting it from me.
Have you ever run into problems with securing payment?
I encountered that once with a sports brand, where I posted two pictures featuring their stuff and they never paid me. We had a whole written agreement, and they just stopped answering my emails. You have to really trust people in this business, because most brands want you to post the item first, before you send them an invoice to receive payment. It’s hard to change that, and I haven’t tried since it only happened once — but if it happens again, I might [start asking] for the money upfront.
What’s the hardest part of your job?
Really presenting the product in an interesting way and planning that all out. You have to be really creative and put a lot of thought into it: Where will I photograph it? What else will go in the picture? There are a lot of behind-the-scenes details that people don’t realize all Instagram influencers have to deal with; they don’t know what it took to get that picture and how many shots were taken to make it right.
Is it difficult to constantly put yourself out there?
You have to feel comfortable with what you post. The moment you post something, you have to forget about judgment and just accept it. I try to look past the response and just focus on the part that I enjoy. There’s a lot of hatred, of course, but I just try to delete it and move on.
That said, you definitely have the creepy men sending you pictures or strange messages like, “I want to send you used panties.” When I started this, I never expected to deal with stuff like that, so I just try to take it day-by-day.
Is it hard to convince fashion brands to work with you because of your lingerie work?
There’s definitely a stigma. Interestingly, it’s the people who aren’t the bosses or who aren’t as high up who seem to discourage [working with me] more. When you present the idea to a CEO or a director, they always seem to love it, but the people below them seem a bit more judgmental or maybe don’t have the same vision. It’s been a challenge, at times, and I know I’m not alone. That’s why it’s good to diversify your portfolio and show what else you can do outside of lingerie, whether it’s fitness or fashion. I try to show people different sides of me, so I don’t get pigeonholed into one thing.
Some brands are very open [to hiring a lingerie model], but a lot of the cool brands are very traditional, and with those brands you just have no chance. They may not call out the lingerie specifically, but they’ll say something like, “Our influencer pool is already full.”
Yanguela wears BAPE for a partnership with the sportswear e-commerce site Recon
What are the biggest perks of your job?
The work pays off when people approach me in real life to tell me they love my pictures or they recognize me from Instagram; it’s so gratifying. It’s a nice moment because, at the end of the day, Instagram is just a platform. You know from the analytics how many people are seeing your posts, but you don’t really know what your fans think because a lot of people don’t comment.
Do you have a community of friends who do similar work?
I don’t, which is hard. I’m a pioneer in Switzerland for this kind of work; to be this sexy is unusual here. I don’t have any family or friends who can connect me to people, either. It’s all come from my own efforts. Swiss people are very open-minded about the lingerie modeling — they love it — but the part that’s hard for them to understand is the concept of a job based on social media. It’s still a new way of making money and it isn’t always taken seriously.
Do you get a lot of free stuff?
Yes, probably at least three items a week — which seems like a perk, but it can also feel like a burden. Most of those people who send stuff then want free publicity. I have to remind myself that this is work, and I need to be selective with my time. I also don’t want to post something quickly that’s not done professionally. Not everything I receive is nice, either, so I often have to let people down [by not posting their stuff], which can be awkward.
What do you wish people knew about Instagram models?
Don’t judge a book by its cover. The people [posting on Instagram], you don’t know the reasons behind [their posts] or their story. Don’t be so quick to say something cruel. There’s a lot of judgment on social media, mostly from other women — and especially in the fitness and lingerie worlds, where there’s a lot of fat-shaming. The level of sensitivity is at zero.