Cannes 2023: Are influencers making greater impact on red carpet than movie stars?

Actors have traditionally received all the limelight on such occasions but this year, we saw a record number of content creators leaving a mark at the celebrated film festival

by

Somya Mehta

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Diipa Büller-Khosla attends the 'Killers Of The Flower Moon' red carpet during the 76th annual Cannes film festival at Palais des Festivals.
Diipa Büller-Khosla attends the 'Killers Of The Flower Moon' red carpet during the 76th annual Cannes film festival at Palais des Festivals.

Published: Thu 25 May 2023, 7:22 PM

In the past few years, we have witnessed significant changes. As people adapted to a new normal post-Covid-19, they also had to grapple with the economic aftermath of the pandemic, such as disruptions in the supply chain, a persistent shortage of essential workers, and the looming threat of inflation, all of which continue to pose challenges to the global economy.

According to a recent State of Influencer Marketing report (2023), the businesses that have managed to endure the distress are now seeking novel ways to market their products or services in order to stand out in the minds of consumers. The report also mentions that influencer marketing industry is set to grow to approximately $21.1 billion in 2023. In this context, the influencer industry has become more crucial than ever to connect brands with the right target audience.


UAE-based fashiond designer Michael Cinco
UAE-based fashiond designer Michael Cinco

“While movie stars have traditionally been the centre of attention, influencers have gained substantial visibility and impact due to their strong social media following and ability to connect with a wider audience while representing the brand’s unique aesthetic,” says Dubai-based designer Michael Cinco, whose garments have made frequent appearances on the red carpet. “Their presence can generate significant buzz and media coverage, often amplifying the reach and influence of the brands they collaborate with,” says the Filipino designer.

With the rise of social media, influencers, who’ve amassed large following on platforms like Instagram, YouTube and more increasingly, TikTok, have established themselves as important figures in the fashion and entertainment industries. So, it comes as no surprise then that in 2023, we’re seeing the influencer movement create equal impact on coveted red carpets. An avenue primarily being dominated by actors and film industry insiders is now widening its horizons to embrace the charm of content creators.


The Lebanese influencer donned an elegant white gown from Tony Ward Couture for one of her Cannes red carpet appearances this year
The Lebanese influencer donned an elegant white gown from Tony Ward Couture for one of her Cannes red carpet appearances this year

The 76th edition of Festival de Cannes that commenced on May 16 has seen a record number of influencers make it to the glitz and glam of one of the most-awaited film festivals of the year. Touted as one of the most important events across Europe, “it is really an honour to be there for the third time in a row and especially to be present for the opening ceremony.

Each year is more glamorous, more exclusive, more fascinating,” says Dubai-based influencer Elvira Jain, who walked the carpet donning a gown from Italian label Barbara Rizzi. “Our presence at prestigious events, such as the Cannes Film Festival, is indicative of a much more open and accepting landscape,” says Diipa Buller-Khosla, who’s a regular at Cannes and was seen wearing Dubai-based designer Marmar Halim’s gown for her first outing at the festival.

Elvira wore a custom-made piece from Italian label Barbara Rizzi for the brand’s first appearance at the film festival
Elvira wore a custom-made piece from Italian label Barbara Rizzi for the brand’s first appearance at the film festival

Rise of the influencer

A lot has transformed for influencers, both as an industry and also as individuals pursuing this as a full-time career. Diipa Khosla, who’s back at the Cannes red carpet in 2023, started as a ‘newbie’ in 2018. “From then to now, a lot has changed. This year, I not only walked the red carpet but also had the privilege to host many other upcoming content creators from the Asian subcontinent for my brand,” says the social media star, who founded her own skincare line, inde wild. The influencer industry is finally getting the space and respect it deserves, she adds.

Dubai Bling star Farhana Bodi has been attending the Cannes Film Festival since 2017
Dubai Bling star Farhana Bodi has been attending the Cannes Film Festival since 2017

To this, UAE-based influencer Nadine Abdel Aziz, adds, “In the past, only celebrities or high-profile athletes could endorse products and services, but now anyone with a significant social media following and engaged audience can become an influencer and collaborate with brands.” Diipa says in 2023, one has well and truly witnessed the power of influencers. “It simply does not make sense to deny them the opportunity and platform to grow and showcase themselves,” she adds.

Influencers are the future, says Farhana Bodi, who’s been walking at the Cannes red carpet since 2017 and was amongst the first global Indian influencers to make it to the prestigious event. “There’s a lot of room for everyone to grow in the industry. It’s great to see so many influencers on the red carpet this year.”

Diipa, who’s been a regular at the Cannes red carpet, wore a gown by UAE-based designer Marmar Halim for her first outing to the film festival this year
Diipa, who’s been a regular at the Cannes red carpet, wore a gown by UAE-based designer Marmar Halim for her first outing to the film festival this year

The brand-influencer relationship

Their presence on the red carpet not only allows them to showcase their personal style but also provides an opportunity for designers and brands to gain exposure and reach a wider audience through their social media platforms. “Designers derive several benefits from collaborating with influencers.

By featuring designer pieces on their social media platforms, influencers can create desire and aspiration among their audience, potentially driving sales and brand loyalty,” says Michael. “Influencer collaborations bring a fresh perspective and contemporary relevance to a designer’s work. They provide valuable feedback, insights and trend insights, helping designers stay in tune with the preferences of their target audience,” he adds.

When influencers promote specific designers or brands on the red carpet, it can lead to increased visibility and interest in those products, potentially driving sales and brand recognition. “As influencer marketing is often more affordable than traditional advertising, it has made it easier for small and medium-sized businesses to engage in marketing efforts and reach new audiences.”

More and more brands are participating at the Cannes Film Festival, says Farhana. “Brands love showcasing their clothes and jewellery on influencers and content creators because we promote brands very differently than other celebrities,” adds the Dubai Bling star, who was seen flaunting Arabic designers at the gala event this year.

The relatability

Influencers are known for their ability to connect with their followers and build strong relationships with their audience. Niharika NM, who has taken over social media, amassing millions of views on each of her videos, recently made her debut on the Cannes red carpet. In a recent video, she was quoted as saying, “What celebrities don’t tell you is that there’s a long queue at the start of the venue, where people actually have to wait to get onto the red carpet.” It’s these ‘behind the scenes’ moments, that make influencers more relatable vis-à-vis the conventional celebrity.

After her meteoric rise on social media, Niharika NM has made her debut on the Cannes red carpet this year, wearing custom Shantnu & Nikhil
After her meteoric rise on social media, Niharika NM has made her debut on the Cannes red carpet this year, wearing custom Shantnu & Nikhil

“In a way, influencers are the new celebrities and are now trusted more than conventional celebrities. People trust influencers for product recommendations rather than movie stars,” says Nadine. To this, Elvira adds that influencers are “the new opinion leaders”, “the ones that can really be a bridge in communication between brands and people by showcasing real, authentic ‘behind the scenes’ of events”. Adding another dimension to the conversation, Diipa says, “The influence we possess is one hundred per cent thanks to our community of followers. Hence, it is important that we share our genuine experience.”

The transition from looking at creators as people-next-door to suddenly being centre of attention at larger-than-life events can be challenging for the audience, Niharika points out. “It’s a struggle for a lot of people to see this transition, if we’re doing something mainstream. But at the same time, if you see someone you can relate to make it to such places, it also means that anyone can.”

The struggle

Many influencers also feel they seldom get credit for the hard work that goes into pursuing this as a career path. Though there’s greater acceptance from the industry, they still fall prey to excessive scrutiny and trolling on social media, misconstruing their effort for ‘privilege’. “A lot of influencers face cyber harassment, criticism and even threats from social media users,” says Nadine. “You exist on digital platforms, so everyone feels entitled to have their opinion or leave a nasty comment,” says Diipa.

According to Elvira, influencers are easy targets because “people see this as a hobby while the fact is that it is a real job, which requires a lot of hard work”. “Social media trolls can be very mean and dismiss all the work we put in to create a place for ourselves. If a person decides to put himself/herself under the spotlight, this doesn’t allow people to cross all boundaries of normal social conduct and be offensive.”

Recounting her journey, Diipa adds, “My first Cannes red carpet outing did not just fall into my lap. I had to fight for it. And I’m glad I did.” To make it in any industry, it’s important to take charge of the narrative and get what you deserve, she adds. “Don’t expect things to come to you. You need to put yourself out there and chase your dreams. That is exactly what my peers and I have done,” says Diipa. To this, the Dubai Bling star adds, “There’ a lot of room for everyone to grow in the industry.”

The great impact

From being a relatively unknown digital industry to now being at the epicentre of all things glamorous, are influencers making greater impact on the red carpet than movie stars? “While influencers have a large social media following and can generate buzz around their appearances, movie stars typically have a longer history of building a fan base and have established themselves as household names through their work in the entertainment industry,” says Nadine.

Although things on-ground for influencers have changed significantly, Diipa believes, “there’s a long way to go”. “There’s still a mindset of ‘why are they on the red carpet’ or ‘what did they do to deserve this’. But things are progressing in the right direction. The disruption has been quite empowering.” To this, Elvira adds, “What’s beautiful is that every year you see more and more influencers attending large-scale events, such as the Cannes Film Festival and it’s becoming a great place for networking, meeting new, interesting personalities, brands, actors and influencers,” says Elvira.

Photo: Supplied
Photo: Supplied

Overall, influencers have become key players on the red carpet, offering a fresh perspective and a different kind of star power. Their presence and impact are likely to grow further as social media continues to shape the dynamics of the fashion and entertainment industries. “Movie stars have enjoyed credibility and acceptance since the beginning of celebrity culture. Obviously, there are still times when they’re favoured more by the traditional media, resulting in stronger visibility and impact,” says Diipa. “But I’m not too worried, we’ll get there!” Indeed.

somya@khaleejtimes.com


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