Chiara Ferragni's Instagram Stories Are Frightening—and Comforting

Chiara Ferragni—the Italian model, fashion designer, and Instagram influencer—has a new bona fide: public health advocate. Since COVID-19 swept Milan, where she lives with her husband Fedez and their toddler, Ferragni has transitioned from her usual glamazon posts to dispatches meant to impress upon her 18 million followers the importance of not leaving their homes. (She is, thankfully, still sharing her “house look of the day,” driving me to consider how I might “style” my rotating cast of sweatpants.)

When it comes to social media, people have often said, “Instagram is not real life,” and never has that felt truer (or more twisted) than it does right now. This doesn’t feel like real life—watching a world-famous blogger become a voice of reason in our upside-down universe.

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Grateful. To feel healthy and to feel surrounded by part of my family during this lockdown. Miss my parents and my sisters but so grateful to have my son and husband with me 24/7. To all those who are as lucky as I am right now: treasure this time and transform it into quality moments that you’ll remember forever. To all those who are missing some beloved ones: be strong, hang tight and imagine the joy you’ll feel when this is all gonna be over. Even in the weird time, enjoy the ride and find a lesson for the next phase of your life. Make a list of what you’re missing and never take it for granted again. Life after Covid will be a new life for us all, and I can’t wait to experience everything with different eyes ❤️

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I started following Ferragni a few years ago. I liked the cute glittery sneakers she made and even bought a pair. I liked her excess—the sense that she was always doing too much, the most, everything. But I didn’t get really interested in her until Milan went on lockdown.

In Milan—and across the whole of northern Italy—hospitals are on the brink of total collapse, as the number of people who need treatment overwhelms the number of available beds and providers. According to the experts, the progression of the virus in the United States is expected to follow the pace it set in Italy, which means soon we’ll be in a similar situation if we don’t cancel everything to “flatten the curve,” or ensure that demand for health care doesn’t exceed the number of ICU beds and ventilators available.

I have been home with my three almost-teenage children for over a week and, honestly, I’m going kind of nuts. While they commandeer the common spaces to do their homework and watch TV, one of the things that’s oddly kept me sane is Chiara Ferragni’s at once mesmerizing and comforting Instagram stories.

Ferragni is the influencer we never expected, punctuating scenes from her apartment with posts that fight rampant misinformation from her fellow celebrities (including our President of the United States). First she smacked down Kendall Jenner after Jenner shared “a series of infographics from various sources like the China Centre for Disease Control & Prevention, which highlighted how ‘mild’ the ‘seriousness of symptoms’ was and then encouraged fans to ‘swipe up’ to buy her Moon teeth whitening products,” as Business Insider reported.

“From a huge voice, comes a huge responsibility,” Ferragni said in response. “I’m trying my best to help my country and do what’s right for the people because I feel it’s my responsibility. Please do the same.” I can think of a few people who could stand to strike the same note.

Soon Ferragni started a GoFundMe to raise funds for Italian hospitals to help with the overload. In under a week, she raised four million euros. And her frequent updates—beamed into the feeds of the millennials and Gen-Zers who most need to internalize it—have in all likelihood helped other people realize that it’s responsible, even cool to be inside. With reports breaking around the clock that younger people can still have and spread the virus but show no symptoms, it’s so profoundly important that Ferragni’s literal influence go figuratively viral. Her virality could in fact prevent more virality.

But for me, there’s something more: I never imagined I’d turn to an influencer for a sense of calm, but it is somehow moving and oddly hopeful to watch this beautiful young Italian woman in her modern apartment with her husband and son, quarantined like the rest of us. Millions of people are in a more desperate situation than she is, as she well knows.

But I have always looked to the young and fabulous for a respite from our deeply unfair world, and Ferragni is both. With each day of quarantine, she shows off her new “house outfit.” She puts on a full face of makeup. She reminds us that even in this darkness, an influencer is still gonna influence. That little pieces of the world still go on, that even though we’re be scared, and thousands of us are terrified, we will survive this—and that there will be more #spon when it’s over.

Instagram can so often be used for bad—for bragging and tacky displays of wealth and selling gross scam supplements. But this isn’t that. This is a woman with an enormous platform, doing her best—in a never-ending number of nice sweatsuits.

Watching her of course makes me ache not just for Italians, but for us and for all the people around the world who are dealing with this. It also makes me feel a twinge of wistfulness; I remember what it was like to entertain young children, to be new to married life.

We have no shortage of panic in the world right now and no shortage of misinformation; Ferragni is doing her part to stem the flow of both. But she’s also offering a window and a lifeline into what life under the strictest (and, of course, most privileged) quarantine is like. She’s making me in New York, which experts are worried could turn into the next Milan, feel a little less alone.

Molly Jong-Fast is the author of three novels. Follow her on Twitter @mollyjongfast.

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