"I was profiting from deluding people."
A teenage girl who has half a million Instagram followers and earns an income from social media has boldly lifted the lid on the addictive and "contrived" sense of beauty she says is promoted online.
Essena O'Neill had more than 574,000 Instagram followers, around 250,000 subscribers on YouTube and close to 60,000 dedicated Snapchat contacts when she chose to give up her life as a "social media celebrity".
She has since deleted 2,000 photos from her online profiles, and amended the captions on remaining images to reflect the "truth" behind the snapshots in a bid to "expose the harsh and often humorous reality behind the instafamous culture".
O'Neill's new, candid insights reveal details about how much she was paid for promotional posts, how much makeup she was wearing and how many failed attempts she made before capturing a photo worthy of posting.
Although she spent years carefully constructing the picture of a beautiful, happy and carefree blonde, O'Neill, 18, said she grew tired of fabricating the life her online profile suggested was true.
In reality, she said the social media modelling work left her feeling empty and unfulfilled.
"Without realising, I've spent the majority of my teenage life being addicted to social media, social approval, social status and my physical appearance. Social media, especially how I used it, isn't real," she wrote in an online post.
"It's a system based on social approval, likes, validation in views, success in followers. It's perfectly orchestrated, self-absorbed judgement."
O'Neill, who is from Queensland's Sunshine Coast, said from the age of 16, she would spend more than 50 hours a week posting photos, creating videos, recipes or workouts, and answering questions online - but little of what she portrayed was real.
In one of her re-captioned images, she poses on the water in a stunning white floor length gown, with the honest message: "I didn't pay for the dress, took countless photos trying to look hot for Instagram, the formal made me feel incredibly alone".
Another shot of her beaming at the camera while tucking a lock of blonde hair behind her ear is captioned: "I had acne here, this is a lot of makeup. I was smiling because I thought I looked good".
O'Neill revealed many of the seemingly natural photos featured on her Instagram page were manufactured and had only been published because she was paid to do so.
In the caption of one image she says she was paid $400 to wear a dress, while in another she reveals she could have easily made $2,000 by posting a single promotional image for a tea brand.
"Only reason we went to the beach this morning was to shoot these bikinis because the company paid me and also I looked good to society's current standards. I was born and won the genetic lottery," she wrote on another.
The 18-year-old said she got to a point where she felt as if she was only creating content with the "sole purpose" of gaining approval and decided she didn't want other young girls falling into the same trap.
"Social media allowed me to profit off deluding people," she wrote. "If you find yourself looking at 'Instagram girls' and wishing your life was theirs... Realise you only see what they want".
"My success was largely in the hands of my white privilege and genetics. I was thin, tanned, toned, blonde with a big smile and a push up bra," she said.
Now, O'Neill is focusing on a new project - 'Let's be Game Changers' - where she encourages others to live a life without digital distractions.
She has posted two videos of herself without makeup and styling, appearing natural and uninhibited.
O'Neill said she hopes to start a movement where someone's worth isn't determined by their physical attributes or social media influence, giving people the opportunity to be free, grow, learn and explore while challenging their own beliefs.