Full disclosure: in my line of work, I’m lucky enough to have interviewed my fair share of what you may call ‘proper celebrities’. But nothing has ever made me quite as nervous as interviewing my long-term style and career crush, Pandora Sykes. In case you’ve been living under a rock, Pandora is an all-round fashion icon (seriously, check out her amazing wedding dress and tell me it doesn’t make you want to find the nearest match on Tinder and bunker down) who’s witticisms have spanned every publication you can imagine, and since 2016, her incredibly successful podcast – alongside fellow journalist Dolly Alderton – has seen her scale to even greater heights.
So, ahead of the launch of Our Daily Thread, I sat down with Pandora to chat about a subject I feel she’s more qualified than most on – Instagram. With over 150,000 followers and a visual style that’s all her own, I got the low-down on who she follows, how to take the perfect Insta-selfie, and whether all this sharing is making us all better – or worse.
ND: How do you see selfie culture developing?
PS: Ooh in with the hard stuff! That’s a really interesting one. To be honest, I think we’re peak selfie. I don’t really see how it could develop. Maybe we’ll move into more mixed media, maybe there’ll be more video. I guess people were really into Boomerang for a while, but haven’t really been for a bit now. I imagine it will ebb and flow, as a culture, just because identity does. But I just don’t see, with all this technology available today, how it can go much further. I’m sure it will but it’s hard to visualise! I know it’s not a very interesting answer! I guess it will go into different mediums. Whether or not we get new phones, new tablets, with new capabilities - the possibilities that you can portray yourself differently will change. But I still think it will be primarily photographic.
ND: Do you think selfies are a force for good or bad?
PS: The million-dollar question! I don’t think they’re inherently good or bad, I don’t think anything is inherently good or bad. I think it depends on the context, and the mental state of the selfie taker. If you’re someone who has very fragile mental wellbeing or self-esteem, it’s probably not good to be cooped up taking loads of selfies. But I don’t think it does any harm if you are well adjusted to take a selfie once a week. In terms of if they’re good or bad for society, I think that’s just a wider discussion about the role of media and technology on impressionable minds. I think it’s about moderation, and frequency. I don’t have a hard and fast answer, I really think it’s up to the individual. If they are making you feel bad about yourself, perhaps take some respite from them.
ND: Speaking of caring for your mental wellbeing, how do you balance being so outwardly on-point and perpetually busy with maintaining a level of inner harmony?
PS: Inner self is obviously much more important than the outer self, but I do think we’re in an age now where you just see on the surface, don’t you? Personally, I turn off my phone quite a lot. If I’m working, any time before 8am or past 9pm, and all day on Sundays, I will have my phone on airplane mode – I think that helps me a lot. As for social media, I go onto Twitter a lot but believe it or not I actually don’t spend that much time on Instagram. I probably post a picture every day or so, but I don’t do that thing of scrolling. When you’re always just waiting for the next hit of dopamine, psychologists say that’s quite dangerous, when you’re just sitting there and waiting for your next hit. So, I switch it off, which sounds really lame. Off my phone, though, since I went freelance I try and walk to a lot of places, and listen to a lot of podcasts. I read a lot more now too, I don’t think we read enough anymore. All those things that any therapist would tell you to do, they work!
ND: Whether they’re good or bad, we all take them. What’s your go-to selfie tip to get the perfect snap in one go, so you don’t have to spend three hours getting the money shot?
PS: I don’t actually take that many! I find them really difficult and they are time consuming. My tip would probably be, though, to take them in a mirror. I don’t look very good at a lower angle so I take it in a mirror that’s level with me. But the key thing is - don’t overthink it! It’s not the most important thing in the world.
ND: On that note - how do you feel about selfie editing tools?
PS: I use VSCO Cam because I like making it look old, primarily because I’m lazy and I don’t know where my camera is. But I would never do retouching or editing or anything like that. I’m not a fan of those apps. I spoke to a lot of teenagers recently for a piece I was writing, and most of them used retouching apps and they didn’t see any problem with it. That really depresses me. I think it’s really cyclical with the amount of surgery young girls are getting now – the more surgery you get, the more you retouch your pictures. So that does upset me as I think it’s changing the way in which we see women. I think we’re starting to see the idea of a woman as something very, very enhanced. Big lips, big everything - it’s so common now, and that’s quite sad. So I try and be as natural in my shots as possible.
ND: If you’re not about scrolling through to get the dopamine hits, who do you follow on Instagram that really makes you happy?
PS: I like following quite random accounts. There’s one called @C__L__O that I love [ran by Creative Director Lauren Faye]. She’s kind of a digital curator, so she’ll have archive pictures, and landscape pictures, and current pictures and beauty pictures - and it’s all just so beautiful and inspirational. Aside from that, I like following ManRepeller, my friend Leandra’s site, just because it’s always fun. But really, I don’t particularly follow fashion accounts – but I do follow a lot of animals. My husband is always making me follow new animals. My current obsession is more human though - I follow one account called Tiny Gentle Asians, which is just tiny Asian babies. They started liking all of my pictures, and I was like ‘what is this?’ and it worked! Because now I am obsessed with them, small Asian babies that are tiny and gentle!
See more of Pandora's work on her site, PandoraSykes.com
Pandora was also part of a panel discussion entitled, 'Me, Myselfie and I' at the Saatchi Gallery in association with Huawei on this subject, alongside various scholars. You can see more about this here, and visit the Self-Expression exhibition at the gallery until the end of July.