Coast to Coast, Barnes Is the Ultimate Trendsetter
Once Instagram arrived 12 years ago, the career of the “influencer” was born shortly after. And if you were creative, smart and consistent enough back in those early days of social media, it might have changed the course of your entire life. For Rocky Barnes, who started blogging and posting on Instagram about 10 years ago, just that happened. With an impressive 2.9 million followers on Instagram and now a growing 2.8 million likes on TikTok, Rocky Barnes is undoubtedly known as one of the original social media influencers. Influencer Entrepreneur Rocky Barnes
Prior to the world of social media, fashion, creativity and modeling all played big roles in Barnes’ life. “I got scouted right after college,” Barnes recalls. “I was hustling, then working four jobs—two restaurant jobs, marketing part-time (which is what I went to college for) and then modeling part-time as well, driving back and forth from San Diego to LA.”
Barnes found her modeling niche within the swimsuit/lifestyle fitness world. She explains that while the modeling world is so different today, when she started 15 years ago, the modeling agencies wanted “all of the girls to be tall, thin and light-skinned—white, essentially.” Influencer Entrepreneur Rocky Barnes
“I was shorter, curvier (for modeling, per se), and I’m half Filipino, so I was always tan. I always liked different photos than the agencies did, so I started using Instagram as my personal portfolio,” Barnes explains. While the photos the agencies would choose were over-exposed and airbrushed, Barnes gravitated towards the more original and natural images of herself. “Modeling is creative for every other person on the team, except for the model,” Barnes says. This frustration led her to leverage her Instagram account as both a modeling portfolio and a creative outlet.
Already traveling around the world for photoshoots wearing clothes she loved, Barnes began to snap images of her outfits in tropical locations and post them. “It kind of just turned into what it is today; it’s evolved over the past 10 years, but it’s what kind of gave me my initial start,” she humbly admits. Influencer Entrepreneur Rocky Barnes
And evolved, it has. The Instagram app, which might be unrecognizable from when it first launched, has become much more than users posting a pretty photo. “It’s become more and more of a beast, to say the least. At first, it was like one photo here or there. Now people want multiple photos, videos and stories,” Barnes says. Barnes has worked with a variety of incredible brands over the years like Revolve, American Express, Veuve Clicquot and Express. Aside from being strikingly beautiful, her effortless style—California cool meets eclectic boho—mixed with the dreamiest of locations, high-quality images and all-around authenticity is all part of the secret sauce that keeps her followers coming back for more.
“It’s so much more about being relatable and real, engaging with your community and showing vulnerability now. It’s definitely done a 180 since I started, [but] in the best way possible. I think it’s really evolved with who I am as a person,” explains Barnes. Curating the most perfect image is not as important on social media as it once was. Followers and fans are searching for that vulnerability and genuineness, and Barnes explains how refreshing that is, especially since becoming a mom. “Now that I’m a mom—not just a mom but a mom of two, which let me tell you is a complete game changer from one—we’re still just figuring it all out at the moment,” she laughs.
“I know moms are always trying to be perfect and hold everything together for their families, but being able to have an opportunity to connect with other moms and share our grievances is nice. It’s nice that social media has allowed that to be a safe place among other things.” Influencer Entrepreneur Rocky Barnes
While keeping up with constant content on Instagram, a whole other social media platform emerged that viewers quickly turned towards in 2020: TikTok. While the virality of TikTok has spread more rapidly than Instagram, Barnes was still hesitant to join the platform at all. “I didn’t want to just jump in with anything, having already established myself on Instagram. I wanted to do what felt right for me, and not just start off dancing or doing whatever everyone else was doing,” she explains. Barnes found her sweet spot on TikTok by posting “get ready with me” videos. She now coordinates her TikTok videos with her Instagram images, admitting she’s had a lot of fun on the new platform. “I think social media is constantly evolving, and I think in order to stay with it, you have to always be willing to evolve with it,” she notes. Influencer Entrepreneur Rocky Barnes
Apart from what you see on social media, Barnes lives her life off the screen with her family—two boys Jones and Charlie and husband Matt. Not only husband and wife, but she and Matt are also business partners; Barnes notes it was a learning experience to merge the two roles. “Learning how to deal with each other on a professional level and also still be loving and come together as husband and wife has definitely been a struggle—it’s not easy to find that rhythm, but when you do and it’s clicking and you’re having a good day, it’s like the best thing ever,” she says.
Looking at what they have built together, however, the two wouldn’t want it any other way. “We work from home, we work together, we have two kids together now, we have our moments but it’s allowed us to have such an amazing life together—to be able to travel together and create our own schedule,” she says.
The family spends their time bi-coastal between Los Angeles and New York. Barnes is a California girl at heart, born and raised in Los Angeles, while Matt is originally from New York. “Our home base is LA, but we keep Matt’s apartment/bachelor pad in New York, so we try to get out there as much as possible,” Barnes says. The duo recently renovated their stunning Los Angeles home, which Barnes notes is one of her biggest accomplishments to date. While the family will certainly be enjoying their home, they also look forward to traveling the world as a family of four. Influencer Entrepreneur Rocky Barnes
Adding successful entrepreneur to her list of accomplishments, Barnes launched her own clothing line in the middle of the pandemic. The Bright Side is Barnes’ passion project that she’s dreamed of having since she was a young girl. “Growing up, whenever they asked what I wanted to be, it was always a designer,” Barnes gushes. She notes that it’s been a humbling learning experience, having so much more respect for what brands have all gone through, especially with the supply chain issues from these last couple of years. “We’re trying not to rush into things and have everything we want on our time schedule. So, it’s slow-moving but I really love it, and it’s nice to have something outside of the social media space,” Barnes says.
With the ever-changing, fast-paced social media world, it’s clear that Barnes continues to grow and progress each step of the way while remaining authentically herself, which certainly solidifies a space for her in the industry. But with her almost decade-old blog and growing clothing line, Barnes has her eyes set on even bigger goals and dreams. “I’ve always said growing up I wanted to be a combination of Rachel Zoe and Martha Stewart—like really taking a fashion brand and the lifestyle space and having a full lifestyle brand would be so fun.” Influencer Entrepreneur Rocky Barnes
Undeniably a trendsetter, Barnes has utilized her platform to evolve both in and out of the social media landscape. With a loyal following and fiery passion for creating, Barnes continues to set trends and embrace her many roles as mom, wife, model, designer and social supernova.
Taylor is a graduate from the University of Southern California with a degree in journalism. She is our Los Angeles and Orange County editor. You can find her dining at a new restaurant, in the ocean or planning her next adventure. Say hello!