Liam Martin amassed 1.7m fans impersonating celebrities, but the pressure was overwhelming for the teenager.
Liam Martin amassed 1.7m fans impersonating celebrities, but the pressure was overwhelming for the teenager.

Teen Instagram star's pain trying to please 1.7m fans

At 16, Liam Martin shot to fame as an Instagram star - his photos impersonating celebrities' glamour shots quickly racking up almost 2 million followers.

But by 17, the Aucklander was suffering depression and living out of his car, the pressure of his online persona and the harassment it received becoming too much.

"I think people thought my life was really good but it really wasn't, but they were being quite negative about it. It was hard to cope with at times."


He added: "At one point I was trying to juggle my Instagram account while living out of my car, so I was using all my 3G, all my data, I was spending all the money I didn't really have on that.

"I kind of got myself into a deep hole and for so long I was trying to rebuild myself on a broken structure, so at the moment I'm trying to re-establish a really firm one."

The teen shot to fame three years ago aged 16 when he began impersonating stars such as Miley Cyrus and Nicki Minaj on Instagram.

Mum Karen took the photos and her son edited them on Photoshop and uploaded them.

About a year after joining the photo-sharing app he had amassed more than 200,000 followers and was clocking up to 2000 new followers a day, more than the number of fellow pupils enrolled alongside him at Lynfield College that year.

Still at school and struggling with body insecurities, he said the negative comments and abuse came at a "really vulnerable time in my life".


There were good comments and presents from fans, but the bad comments were "quite horrible".

"People can get quite personal about your personal life ... It was quite hard for me at the time because I was dealing with a lot of personal abuse as well. So I kind of found the online comments a lot more hurtful, but I had to find comfort with my friends and people that supported me."

He turned his back on his @waverider- account in a bid to shut out the haters.

"I was going through a lot so I had to make a lot of changes and really take time to make myself okay and make sure I'm happy with where I am in life and kind of take it day by day."

Martin feels he "let a lot of people down" - fans and those who supported him - but said he "had to take time off for myself".

During his break from Instagram he learned not to rely on social media for happiness, he said, and praises his close circle of friends for getting him through the dark times.

His reactivated account is hugely popular - he now has about 1.7 million followers.

The 19-year-old advises others struggling with cyberbullying to "go to your family or friends that comfort you and make you feel good about yourself, don't let something online affect the way your feel about yourself - and that's so hard, but you have to learn to accept real comments, not ones online".

Depression is still something he is learning to deal with, Martin said, but he's confident about the future, which includes a book he's writing on his experience.

"It's kind of going to be a modern day Catcher in the Rye, where it's a coming of age story about [moving] into adulthood with an online spin to it."

He hopes it will raise awareness of mental illness and cyberbullying.

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