Instagram followers: 443k
The Internet is a dark place—a place of malware and phishing and Craigslist killers; a place where “notorious troll” actually exists as an occupation. The native murk might be partly responsible for stars like Jamie Andries, whose sparkle is enhanced by all the grubbiness around her. A cheerleader from Allen, Texas, Andries is five feet and three inches’ worth of toned limbs and blonde locks and high spirits. Her smile is pageant-ready and her abs are so golden and symmetrically faceted that the only comparison is to a tiny, evenly toasted waffle. She has more followers on Instagram than Minneapolis has people.
Andries is one of the “cheerlebrities” of Instagram—a group of well-browned teenagers who document their toe tosses and scorpions and arabesques in daily updates. There are online quizzes to find out which cheerlebrity you are—other popular cheerleaders include Peyton Mabry, Carly Manning, and Gabi Butler—and fan pages, and even fan fiction.
But if “cheerleading” calls to mind whipped-cream bikinis and letter-wearing boyfriends, you’ll want to reorient yourself before entering the cheerlebrity zone: This is competitive cheer, which means cheer for cheer’s sake and not in service of, say, the high-school football team. Cheerlebrities like Andries spend far more time at the gym than at the mall, and they sustain more broken ankles and black eyes than the average high-schooler. Andries’s most recent shiner was the result of a basket toss, which is where a person is vaulted 10 or 15 feet in the air and then caught by her teammates, one of whom Andries hit on the way down during practice. She laughs when asked about it, explaining that “it was nothing too bad; I just hit heads with someone.” That resilience (and the aerodynamics) has helped her win multiple cheerleading-championship titles.
Even within the world of competitive cheer, the Instagrammers are a sub-clique. If a viewer were to extrapolate Andries’s personality from her online presence, she might expect to meet a miniature diva with a Texas twang and a clique of slightly-less-pretty blondes hovering in the near background. She posts photos of herself in hot-pink sports bras printed with FIERCE, and photos of herself doing Charlie’s Angels poses with her teammates, and photos of herself with teammates in full cheer splendor: poofed hair, pink lipstick, taut midriffs, and skirts no wider than a Pop-Tart. In response, commenters leave comments like “YOU.ARE.PERFECT. Please notice me!!!!!!! [image of the emoji depicting prayer hands].” She even has her own entry on Urban Dictionary: “Jamie Andries (noun): living Barbie doll.”
But Andries is soft-spoken, polite, and not given to compulsively padding her conversation with “like.” She’s a high-school junior who is finishing her credits over the summer so she can start college early. And she’s created policies to govern her own social-media use: Don’t read the crazy comments, don’t post when in a bad mood, allow Mom and Dad to monitor the account, and don’t post front-camera selfies (“I have nothing against them, but I’d rather show people what I’m doing, if I’m doing something interesting, instead of a picture of myself”). She also knows that, like high school, internet popularity is fleeting: “At some point, Instagram may die out, or I’ll outgrow it, but it’s fun while it lasts.”