Jillaroo’s Insta shows ‘real side’
Jessica Edwards is certifiably "popular" on Instagram, an image-based social media platform that has been criticised for impacting on people's mental health by bombarding them with unrealistic beauty standards and through a curated highlight reel of other people's lives.
But the truck driver, farmhand, brand ambassador and television presenter doesn't have much time for perfecting her online presence, and it seems she doesn't need to either.
"The most popular photos I post are the unflattering, dusty, sweaty and tired ones," Ms Edwards, who goes under the name Jillaroo Jess online, told news.com.au.
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3yrs since I lost my last best mate Kora. She was such a gentle thing, I'm not sure what she would've thought about Bunj. Merely tolerated him I'm sure! (This pic was taken just after I'd spent 2hrs pulling a cow out of a dam. Didn't think she'd make it, but suprisingly - she ran off as soon as I had her out).
"People can pretend to be anyone they want online," Ms Edwards said. "It is so important to me to be a positive role model for young people, especially young women … I'd love to show them that the best person you can be is yourself."
The brand of Jillaroo Jess was created around a decade ago when Ms Edwards began working in rural Australia, Jillaroo being the name for a young female trainee on a cattle station.
She adopted the pseudonym for an online blog she used as a creative outlet, but her work soon got in the way.
"I started working in more and more remote areas, it got harder to find the time to write stories," Ms Edwards said.
On the lookout for a new way to share her adventures, she soon found Instagram.
She's now one of several accounts chosen by the social media platform as part of its A-Z of Instagram campaign, a "cultural pulse check" aimed at showcasing the diverse range of content and characters on the social media platform and encourage Australians to pursue their unique interests.
But it's not the first time Ms Edwards has found a new career opportunity through the social site.
"It's pretty exciting to see the doors social media has opened for me," Ms Edwards said from Tasmania, where she's currently filming a television show.
"I love that I can combine my two passions - media and agriculture … I definitely do have a lot on my plate, but it's self-inflicted!" Ms Edwards added.
"Throughout the year, you might find me transporting cattle by road train, fixing windmills, mustering cattle in remote parts of Australia, or filming for television."
Ms Edwards also acts as a brand ambassador for Wrangler jeans and radiocommunication company GME.
But she's more interested in documenting the sometimes harsh reality of agricultural and rural life to educate others and help them understand the struggles.
"We're all so protective of ourselves in the outback, as sometimes people don't understand what they're seeing. I truly hope that through my platform people see the love that we all do have for this way of life, the environment and the animals in it."
But she concedes she does hold back sometimes.
"A few years ago when I was knee deep in the devastating effects of the drought, I didn't publish anything in case it'd offend or cause issue," Ms Edwards recalled.
"Although there are some sad sides to agriculture and some really difficult parts of farming which I choose not to show, I try my hardest to put the real side up."
Ms Edwards said she preferred to volunteer her skills in times of crisis, being "a 'doer', not so much a talker", but she applauded those who have shared the full unfiltered details of their experiences.
"I'm in awe of those in the industry who have taken a stand and shared their gut-wrenching stories publicly, despite often copping backlash."
While Ms Edwards said she gets "mostly good reactions" to her content, she's no stranger to backlash herself.
"The majority of people realise I'm just a normal person sharing my experiences," she said. "The negativity has come from a different direction than I initially would've predicted, though I think at the end of the day, it comes from people who don't quite understand my platform."
"It doesn't come from a place where I want to big note myself.," Ms Edwards said. "I'm the first person to admit my faults! I'm just a normal person sharing my passions, and hoping to put a little positivity into people's newsfeeds."