Good lighting isn’t found, it’s made.

I don’t have a lot of Instagram followers. Much like the rest of you, whenever I post pictures of my brunch no one gives a shit and when I share selfies I get a few pity likes from my super-popular cousin’s friends. In desperate need of some spiritual Insta-guidance, I decided to ditch my mundane habits and try following in the snapshots of the most followed person on the app: Selena Gomez.

You’re probably thinking, whaaa? Justin Bieber’s ex-girlfriend is the most popular person on Instagram and my cat isn’t? Sure, she was on that Disney Channel show about wizards and is BFFs with Taylor Swift, but what exactly is it about her that makes nearly 80 million people want to know what she’s up to at all times?

I did a deep stalker-level analysis of Selena’s Instagrams and came to a few conclusions:

  • She does not post every day and when she does, it’s usually in the evening
  • Her captions are totally something your average sorority girl would say
  • Her selfies look natural and spur of the moment
  • Her pictures seem simple to recreate since she looks so down-to-earth in her photos

So I committed myself to two weeks of just gramming like Selly. I would recreate her poses, post in the evenings and copy whatever #relatable thing she said in her captions. In addition, I would tag her in all of my photos and use hashtags like #SelenaGomez, #Selenators, #Jelena, etc. The question was: if I Instagrammed exactly like the most popular person on the app, would I gain a slew of followers?

1. The car selfie

It took about twenty minutes to take this very average car selfie. I typically don’t take pictures of myself head on because I think it makes my face look strange, so this was not a natural pose for me. Of course, Selena’s selfie looks like she snapped it real quick and it just happened to come out perfectly. After taking nearly 50 selfies and making my mom drive around to catch the perfect light, I finally settled on a semi-decent one to gram, leading me to believe there were 99 selfies behind Sel’s “flawless” one too. And a lot of light editing.

Copied caption: “My fav shirt”

Number of likes: 15

Number of followers gained: 0

2. The “I’m casually hanging out in an elevator” pic

We didn’t get this one exactly right with arm placements and all, but the idea was there?—?hanging out in an elevator as friends do. Taking this pic was a real hassle because the doors kept closing on us and we literally had three seconds to get in place and snap the pic. Plus, I’m imagining Selena’s elevator is in a much more glamorous building than my low-rise office loft.

Copied caption: “Posted @tinafigs … She keeps me sane and we match sometimes #bff #workflow”

Number of likes: 12 (ouch)

Number of followers gained: 0

If it isn’t obvious, I was failing so far.

3. The T-Swift “Out of the Woods” pic

My coworker and I went to our local park, where literally the only option for trees were pine trees. It pricked our heads and was very painful to climb through, but we survived in the name of Selena. This one wasn’t too hard to recreate, because we were laughing at the ridiculousness.

Copied caption: “Are we in the clear yet?”

Number of likes: 18

Number of followers gained: 2

*Happy dance*

4. The casual “backstage” pic

This was hands down my favorite pic, but it did not come easy. I thought it would be totally simple to recreate, but it was more like holding a yoga pose for a good ten minutes and my arms were tingling afterward. My mom, who took the picture, kept repositioning my arms because I’m so unflexible. I even asked her to try it out since she seemed to think it was so funny, and she struggled too. Who knows how long Selly had to hold this pose, but I can confidently say she has way more endurance than I do.

Copied caption: “Backstage”

Number of likes: 23

Number of followers gained: 1

5. Hollywood pose

For this one, I hunted down Dose’s male content intern and forced him to wrap his arms around my waist for the sake of Instagram. Luckily, he was a good sport and we actually had a lot of fun taking the picture in the freezing cold May weather (hence why we weren’t dressed like Selly and her makeup artist).

Copied caption: “Me and @louisthexvii living, playing and working all the time #REVIVAL”

Number of likes: 25

Number of followers gained: 1

6. The wannabe fashion blogger pose

This wasn’t necessarily a “natural” pose but it was one of the easier ones to do. The hardest part was finding a white wall and the perfect light in the city. We ended up in the back of a US Bank, where my photographer (ok, yes, my mom again) snapped the pic. So glam!

Copied caption: None.

Number of likes: 20

Number of followers gained: 1

7. The Cheeto selfie

Never in my life would I have guessed this would be the hardest picture to take. As you can see, I didn’t get the angle right, because WTF is that angle anyway?? I tried getting crafty by holding the camera up high, but NOBODY’S ARM BENDS THAT WAY, and I ended up with this failed attempt. I took enough unflattering pics to fill a Myspace album, then finally gave up and went with this one. All frustrations aside, this one got the most likes, probably because this is truest to my real life.

Copied caption: “Routine”

Number of likes: 30

Number of followers gained: 1

8. The weird-angled balcony pic

My poor stepmom laid on the floor to take this awkward, semi-upskirt picture of me standing on her balcony. It took about half an hour because she struggled to get my smiling mouth in the frame like Selena’s. The other problem was copying Selly’s natural “look, I’m on a balcony in Paris!” pose, which involved lots of awkward forward leaning, head tilting and ankle twisting. I would honestly love to know a) how the photographer took this picture, and b) if that photographer is hiring, because I’d love to send along my stepmom’s resume.

Copied caption: “We made it Chicago” (originally: “We made it Paris”)

Number of likes: 20

Number of followers gained: 0

9. Laying on the floor pic

I laid on my dusty apartment floor while my mom stood over me for this pic. She tried so many different angles that by the time I got up, my shoulders were bruised. Main takeaway: maybe I should finally clean my hardwood floors?

Copied caption: @instyleuk

Number of likes: 24

Number of followers gained: 1

10. The makeover pic

OK, I know I’m not duckfacing, but that’s because Selena’s duckface was SO intense, my version would’ve probably been banned from the internet.

Copied caption: “life”

Number of likes: 8 (zoinks)

Number of followers: 0

11. “When they play your song at the club”

This took a good 15 minutes to take because a) the lighting was tough and b) I COULDN’T GET HER ARM/HAND PLACEMENT RIGHT! I also built muscle mass just by holding my hands up in the air for a straight 15 minutes. My dad (seen in the background) also thought he was the star in the picture and kept having my stepmom retake them to make sure his face was in it (not the point, dad).

Copied caption: “When they play your song at the club”

Number of likes: 18

Number of followers: 0

So, did I become Instagram’s newest “it” girl?

The short answer is NOPE, and I’m not mad about it. Not that I expected to get 80 million followers, but my plan totally backfired, and more importantly, I learned that I would never want to be a celebrity.

After two weeks, I gained a grand total of seven followers (womp), two tired arms and one newfound respect for celebrities. We follow celebs like Selena for a peek into their personal lives and in turn, it’s a way for them to connect with us. But how much of what we’re seeing is the whole truth, and how much is staged? While Selena’s pics may seem so effortless and relatable, when trying to recreate them, I learned she must have an entire team dictating her every pose, carefully curating each one until they’re sure it’s shareable and on brand.

My brand, on the other hand, is weak arms and Cheeto stains, and my team is my over-dedicated family?—?and frankly, I’d much rather have it that way.

The pressure of keeping up with 80 million followers must be oppressive. The sheer amount of time it took me to stage these shots was more stressful than the Selena/Bieber breakup. Thus, I’ve officially resigned to my fate as an F-list Instagrammer. Taking shameless shots of waffles and mimosas is much more fun, anyways.