Niomi Smart is the queen of social media wellness influencers. In her five-year career, she’s amassed a loyal audience of more than 1.7 million followers on her YouTube channel, 1.8m followers on Instagram and 1.45 million on Twitter. Or, as one newspaper pointed out recently, a fanbase as large as the population of Ireland.
Her fans can’t get enough of her recipes, sustainability tips, easy-to-adopt fitness regimes, natural make-up suggestions, beauty routines and flawless style, while her much-imitated video series ‘What I Eat In A Day’ was the inspiration of her bestselling recipe book Eat Smart.
Delighted as she is by her success, Niomi is determined to stay grounded and just ‘be herself’. After graduating from the University of the West of England, she started making home videos “years and years ago, before YouTube and Instagram became what they are today.”
“When I first started doing it, I was just doing it purely for fun and I had no idea it would become a career. It did get to a stage when it became this huge big thing, which was brilliant because I was able to make it my job.”
Refreshingly she admits to feeling pressure to be ‘always on’. “Social media has become a saturated place, which means you can of course feel pressured to become something you’re not to keep up. It’s always changing, always moving, just moving so, so fast. You can feel ‘that piece of content’s doing really well, maybe I should be doing that’.”
Despite the pressure, she’s determined to remain authentic. “I think you benefit so much more just being yourself – and that’s just what I do,” she says. “I’m always open-minded and I’m always exploring new things that are going on in wellbeing, food and fitness.
“I’m in my own space, doing my own thing, speaking about wellbeing, things that I’m really passionate about, things that I enjoy, and for me that works.”
She finds it hard to envisage the extraordinary size of her audience, all looking to her for achievable inspiration. “I don’t know what I would do if I had 1.5 million people stood in front of me, staring at me,” she laughs. “I would just freeze and not say a word.”
She deliberately keeps that sense of intimacy by kidding herself she’s talking to an audience of one. “The great thing is I’m doing it basically on my own, sometimes filming with a crew but that’s a max of 15 people in the room. I think my content comes across in a more authentic way, because I think of it as just one person I’m talking to and connecting with.”
Her phone may be one of the tools of her trade, but Niomi believes one of the best ways we can look after ourselves is to recharge without distractions – and that includes scrolling.
“It’s not easy putting your phone down – it’s available, it’s enticing,” she says. “But I feel so much better for it at the weekend when I’ve hardly been on my phone. I guarantee you’re not going to discover something absolutely mind-blowing in those five minutes of scrolling on a Sunday afternoon. I just try to be as disciplined as I can. Nothing’s going to change, the world’s not going to end if I don’t look.”
Research by Galaxy has shown that women who put themselves first are happier and feel more fulfilled. Shockingly, women have one hour less on average than men to dedicate to themselves and what makes them happy. We’re driven to be the best mum, daughter and work colleague while caught in a cycle of housework and to-do lists. But taking time for ourselves shouldn’t be relegated to a ‘guilty pleasure’
In our Sorry, Not Sorry podcast series, radio presenter, author and columnist Gemma Cairney talks frankly to successful women including Niomi about why it’s time to take that hour back – and how they’ve all seen the benefits of making a conscious decision to prioritise their own pleasure over the endless lists of ‘should-dos’. Funny, relatable and inspirational, this is the podcast we all need to listen to – and act upon.
“I feel that women can benefit by just having an hour to recoup, relax, reset themselves,” says Niomi.
So how does Niomi recommend making special time for yourself? “Just relaxing, being yourself, not feeling the pressure of work or friends or social media, just lifting that weight off your shoulders,” she says. “For me, it’s cooking or having a bath, applying skincare. It’s amazing how an hour can totally change your mood.
“It’s about getting rid of all those external stresses and distractions – the phone in your hand, the TV on, the radio in the background – and just being there on your own, being present and focusing on that one thing. That’s when you can totally relax.”