Illustration by Peter Oumanski

Every issue, GRAZIA USA highlights 17 Game Changers, who inspire, educate, and celebrate individuality, beauty, and style. Meet Patrick Janelle, the Instagram influencer and social media entrepreneur who’s rethinking what he wants his life to look like now and in the future.

I was kind of early in the scene, working full-time as a creator really before the term “influencer” began to be used. I actually moved to New York City on the eve of my 30th birthday, so this was 10 years ago, in 2011. Being new in the city and looking for community, Instagram really made sense for me. I didn’t know anyone, and this was the first way that I met people. We’d become friends on social media; we’d meet up; we’d shoot together; we’d get coffee together. So, there were a lot of other reasons why growing an audience was important to me, but not necessarily because I was seeking a career. It was about this outlet that I had: the confluence of my interests, which were visual design, aesthetics, and experiences.

My goal is always to show an image that, because of the way it was constructed or the specific moment that’s being shown, is able to convey that same heightened sense of delight that I was personally feeling in the moment — the best vantage point into what that experience looked like and felt like to me. There’s obviously a kind of dopamine rush that you get from having people recognize your work and responding positively to it.

In the beginning, there was no road map for this being something that was monetizable or a business opportunity. At a certain point, I realized there was a need for us to apply what I had created internally to the business of others. I realized that this really was an opportunity for growth, both for me professionally and for the industry, and I launched Untitled Secret. We’re a boutique agency that does both talent management and creative services for clients. We are kind of like the talent agents and the managers all rolled up into one.

Social media is a beast that always needs to be fed. It requires you to continue keeping up with the platform changes, trends and the ever-increasing amount of information posted on social media, so you have to try to cut through the noise. That’s challenging and not always fun, and yet, at the same time, I think there’s the opportunity to continue to grow as a creative and shift the way that I communicate and the types of things that I talk about. I think it’s really wonderful that there continues to be other types of voices and individuals who are given a platform. At its very best, social media truly can give a voice to people that otherwise wouldn’t have one. And there are incredibly talented, funny, interesting, weird, niche people who have found audiences.

For me personally, I think that there’s always the challenge to continue to maintain relevancy and to change with the times. I recently turned 40, so I’m a decade in from where things started. What I now want for the future looks completely different than what I wanted in the past. In the past, my hopes were driven by how I was making my mark in New York City and my mark as a creative. In many ways, I’ve accomplished certain aspects related to those hopes, but I’m thinking smaller than I used to: Who do I want to spend my time with? How do I make time for myself? How do I ensure that everything that I’ve created ultimately creates a life where I feel comfortable and satisfied?

I like risk and making swift changes, but right now I’m thinking about how I can give myself the time to slowly transform. I’m looking towards my future from a longer-term perspective than I had before. I’m now in a space where I post less frequently. While I still want to show those highlights, I want to think more about the moments in between where I’m creating just for myself — and not for an audience.

As told to Aaron Rasmussen

Pick up GRAZIA USA’s March 2022 issue on newsstands and email to subscribe.