There are many things in this world I don’t profess to understand—fidget spinners, Gwyneth Paltrow, free will. I’d like to add to that list the official Instagram account of our First Lady, Melania Trump.
I didn’t want to say anything for a while. After all, the great Instagram accounts of our time (@kyliejenner, @judge_jeanine) didn’t blossom overnight, and I wanted to give the First Lady her time. But it’s been five months now since her husband’s inauguration, and the official @flotus account remains a slipshod collection of blurry photos, senseless angles, and godforsaken filters like Amaro and Valencia—you know, the old ones, like when people still used borders.
What’s more, she tags President Trump with @potus in her photos, not @realdonaldtrump—his actual handle. Which means that when you tap on “@potus,” you are pulled suddenly into the void. Chilling.
Mrs. Trump once famously asked of a beluga whale: “What is she thinking?” I think it’s time we ask that question of the First Lady herself.
Two quick examples, before we delve into more:
What the hell is happening here? This photo was taken by someone who assumes that widening your fingers on an iPhone camera actually pulls you closer to the scene, as opposed to just magnifying it and making everyone look like death. I can’t tell if the First Lady is listening attentively to what this guy is saying, or staring into some deeper abyss while contemplating her existence.
And then there’s this photo. So blurry, I don’t even know who I’m looking at. Who am I looking at? Who are these people? Beyond that, the filter—a masking, yellow undertone—is one I can only assume is a cry for help:
One of the reasons I find her account so alarming is that Melania Trump’s professional life was literally centered on photography and aesthetics. But beyond that, this First Lady has split much of her married life between the gilded walls of Trump Tower and the Spanish-tiled grounds of Mar-a-Lago, both saturated by the Lilly Pulitzer- and Amanda Uprichard-clad marketing majors who most certainly understand the platform. Then there’s her extended family: Ivanka and Tiffany Trump are both active presences on Instagram, Ivanka with sleek and curated glimpses of her home life and Tiffany with staged glamour shots and selfies with her boyfriend (please follow back, Tiffany). And from what I’ve been told, Barron is very good with the cyber. All of which is to say that, alongside her (apparently useless) staff, Melania is surrounded by many a competent Instagrammer. So why aren’t they helping her?
Because my editor insisted I consult an expert other than myself for this piece, I reached out to Sophie Pyle, a DC-based social media maven whose companies (including Rosé Media) specialize in content for weddings and luxury lifestyle brands. She sent me her tips for remaking the @flotus Instagram into the account America wants—nay, needs—amid these fractured times.
Let’s start with her most recent Instagram:
Feedback: The White House is arguably the most beautiful home in America, and somehow, Melania managed to Instagram it in such a way that we only get to see an air vent. I don’t even know how it is so dark when there is a gigantic window and two candles providing ample light.
Pro Tip: To best Instagram the features of a room, find the brightest light source–in this case, the window–and turn your back to it. The light behind you will illuminate the room, eliminate shadows, and provide for a gorgeous photo.
Moving on to photos with friends:
Feedback: We know Melania swiped this photo from a professional photographer – but why this one? Queen Rania looks like she just heard Melania try to make “fetch” happen. Melania also has clenched fists, and that’s awkward. She knows that she has more than half a million followers watching this, right?
Pro Tip: Body language is important. If a photo is awkward, choose another. If there is no other photo, don’t Instagram that moment. Quality over quantity.
And now, the obvious things you shouldn’t ever do:
Feedback: This photo is blurry. This is unacceptable. Period. And not that this next thing I am about to point out is “wrong,” but can we talk about the crop job on this? Because she clearly sacrificed the world leaders to the left to make sure sexy Justin Trudeau could make the pic. That is Justin, right? Hard to tell since it’s so blurry.
Let’s wrap this up with some good feedback:
Feedback: This picture is perfect. It feels natural and unposed. There is some mystery because we can only see their backs. Finally, it is punctuated with things that are “Instagram gold” = a sunset, a sweeping view, flowers, and polished attire. Individually, these elements can command armies of “likes,” but combined like this, it makes for a marvelous Instagram. Did Ivanka take this?