Cover story featuring Kim Jones
In case you were wondering, this is how an instagrammable life looks: a vintage ring-dial telephone sitting on a pile of coffee table books, brightly colored floaters swaying in the middle of an infinity pool, nautical striped table cloth lining a pristine white dining table. Sunlight pours in from every direction. Sometimes a miniature beagle named Atticus (Finch, of course) pokes its nose around, but for the most part it lays down to sunbathe.
That’s Kim Jones’s life, or rather “Miss Jones.” She of the six-digit Instagram following, the quarter of a million Facebook likes, the 44,000-strong Twitter audience for an account that only cross-posts from her other social media outlets.
I notice, however, that none of it looks familiar. I’ve gone through her entire Instagram account, read a large chunk of kimcamjones.com (which goes all the way back to 2012), Googled her intensely, but none of it—not the vinyl records shelved into her marital home’s little nooks, or the full-length mirror resting by the staircase, or even Atticus—has made its way onto her social media.
Which makes for an even more horrifying conclusion: Kim Jones has bigger things to post about.
Her blog began as a “moodboard”—run of the mill Tumblr fare where she posted things she liked, showing an obvious interest in photography, art, and fashion. Things take a turn for the artista only in her first post of 2013, which features her “twirling about” in the woods as photographed by then-boyfriend, now-husband Jericho Rosales. The subtle but telling clothes credit is at the end. In that instant, it would’ve been easy to categorize Kim under “fashion blogger” and close the tab.
But the twirling about escalated quickly into sponsored posts from brands like Coca-Cola, a capsule clothing line with shopping site Ava.PH, an invitation from Louis Vuitton to Palm Springs that put her alongside social media heavyweights like Margaret Zhang (shinebythree.com) and Aimee Song (songofstyle.com), and a visual glossary of every beach in the country worth a photo. From Amanpulo to La Union, Jones has become a veritable ambassadress for Philippine tourism at the exact moment in pop culture when every sunset and neoprene bikini on Instagram is an ode to Eat. Pray. Love., and every beach trip is a weekend warrior’s escape. Her social media’s message is simple: cheers to the freaking weekend, except her weekends seem to last longer than the weekdays.
Nowadays, the outfit post—#ootd, #ootn, etc.—is something else in Jones’s hands: she’s taken to frequent out-of-town collaborations with photographer Shaira Luna and stylist Bea Constantino, where Jones plays muse, wearing at any given moment Joel Escober, Joey Samson, or Vania Romoff, the woman behind her wedding dress.
The fantasy-inspired mini editorials do the trick of erasing a less-than-glossy past: you forget that she actually did time as an ETC host alongside Patti Grandidge. She tells me about growing up middle class in Adelaide (“I probably had like, two pairs of shoes. All of my uniforms were secondhand”), and how when she first arrived here in Manila, she was sleeping on the floor surrounded by six other people.
Yet perpetuating la dolce vita doesn’t seem to be the point of Kim Jones being here. She is not on vacation—or at least, not anymore.
With Jones’s background in finance, command of social media, and careful toeing of that ever-so-tricky line between masa appeal and access to the velvet ropes, one can’t help but draw comparison to her trajectory and that of another Brit-done-time-in-Oz—the cunning, calculated Georgina Wilson, whose social media stock is in the millions, yet remains free from the clutches of noontime shows and the deciding hammer of TV networks. Wilson controls her 9 to 5, and handles each move, brand, and post with the utmost precision.
Jones has yet to achieve the same level of anal, almost obsessive control over her image. Right now, she’s more concerned with staying true to who she is, refusing to accept free clothes or any offers for plastic surgery, and making sure her hemlines don’t go too high (she tells her manager Vanessa, right before bounding in front of Mark Nicdao’s lens, to “watch her skirt”). The opportunity, however, is undeniable: the creeping realization that she could be the respectable, premium social media star that is easy to find all over the world, but the Philippines has yet to cultivate. If—and only if—she chose to play the game, she could be Wilson, or the digital version of her: queen of endorsements, friend to all collaborative brands, dream selfie of every makeup artist’s Instagram account.
Of course Jones knows what her social media audience (typically females, between the ages of 18-34) likes and wants, but perhaps there lies the difference. What they “like” is simple: “I’ve done a lot of travel posts because it’s very much a part of who I am, but the local ones are by far the most popular,” she explains. “Maybe the interest is from seeing the Philippines through the eyes of someone that didn’t grow up here.”
And what they “want” is a bit more complex. Jones has a wide range—she brings you behind the scenes, she puts you at the front row, she takes you with her on every ride, whether on plane or boat or train. But still, it has to be said: her God-approved marriage to soap star Jericho Rosales is clearly winning her a few extra likes. While she usually averages in the 5,000-10,000 range, a romantic photo of her husband dipping her low and moving in for a kiss, her face mid-laugh and a leg kicked up in the air, hits 14,000 likes easily. And that one was posted just a couple of hours ago.
Her 376,000+ followers clearly don’t all belong to her, and this is important: these are actual numbers, a real measure of brand value. Jones juggles the numbers because she has to, but her eyes tell you something different, that she’s aiming for something else: purpose. “We’re at a stage now where we’re realizing social media, in traditional or current terms, is saturated. So having a following doesn’t necessarily mean you’re influential. Following doesn’t equal influence. I think it’s who you are—despite your following—is how you’re influential. It’s what you choose to do, what projects you don’t choose to do, it’s those little details that make you influential.”
She pauses. “Unless you’re Kim Kardashian. Then you’re just a whole different breed.”