I moved to LA at 18 with the dream of being an influencer. I lost myself, and I can’t wait to leave.

  • Rhegan Coursey found success creating TikTok videos and now has over 4.5 million followers.
  • She moved to Los Angeles to pursue a career as an influencer in early 2021.
  • She said she found a toxic culture of partying and social climbing, and she wants to leave.

This essay is based on a transcribed interview with Rhegan Coursey, a 21-year-old creator and influencer. The following has been condensed and edited for length and clarity.

I was born and raised in a small town near Dallas, Texas, and I’ve been interested in social media since I was a child.

In fourth grade, I made my first video: I taught myself how to edit, bought a professional camera, and posted a variety of content online.

Growing up, I thought Los Angeles was the coolest place on the planet. I knew LA was the place to be if you wanted to be an influencer or do social media.

I told my father in seventh grade, “I’m going to live in LA one day.”

So when I “blew up” on TikTok and gained a following, moving to Los Angeles was at the top of my list. My video went viral in March of 2020, and it was boom, boom, boom, back to back. I quickly surpassed a million followers. I didn’t even have time to think about it.

I visited Los Angeles in January 2021 and found an apartment and signed a lease in three days. I had just turned 18, and I went against my parents’ wishes.

While I was on my way back to Texas, I texted my mother about my decision to relocate, and she was not pleased. She felt duped. I stayed at home for another month before moving into my apartment in Los Angeles.

I feel terrible about it now, but I was willing to go to any length to be in LA. I felt like if I wasn’t there, I wouldn’t be able to grow as a content creator.

LA is fantastic until it isn’t.

I got blackout drunk on my first night in LA. I’m not upset with myself because it was my first night. But I did it for three months in a row. I was drinking and going out every night. I’d lost all motivation to create content.

I was hanging out with people I met on social media, and we were attending mansion parties. People in Los Angeles use partying to avoid their responsibilities.

There’s usually a list, and you have to bring your ID to match the name on the list, and those who aren’t on the list will sometimes just jump fences and sneak in. Many people in Los Angeles want to live the celebrity lifestyle without actually being celebrities.

I was contacted three months after moving to the city by a content house called “Go House.” I’d live in a mansion and collaborate with other influencers who were staying there to create content. I ended up staying in the house for six months, during which time a lot happened.

I met my first love, my first boyfriend. I was mistreated, and as a result, I met people who pretended to be my friends in order to get close to my boyfriend. Friends of mine had an affair with him behind my back.

That’s when I realized I don’t want to be around a group of people who treat each other like they’re competitors.

I want to return to Texas so that I can be with my family and live a normal life.

Everyone in Los Angeles wants to be someone, and they’re willing to go to great lengths to get there.

Because it is so expensive, many people are struggling financially. They want to live the celebrity lifestyle so they can brag on social media about spending $20 on a smoothie at Erewhon, a luxury grocery store. You’re pretending to be someone you’re not, and you end up losing yourself. That is the LA cycle. That’s exactly what I did.

I became so estranged from my family that I did not return home for a year.

When I finally decided to return, it was because my 12-year-old cousin had committed suicide. Someone broke into my car the night before I was supposed to fly and stole my documents, as well as $2,000 worth of clothing I had just sold on a second-hand website. It was the third time in three months that I had been robbed. I missed my flight the next day because I was at the police station trying to figure out what was wrong with my passport.

All of this added up to a sense of unease. Los Angeles is gloomy. It never feels like home. I rarely feel safe as a 21-year-old woman living alone.

In April of this year, I started a fitness challenge on the spur of the moment, waking up early, reading self-help books, doing two workouts a day, and eating healthy. It began the cycle of wanting to be the best version of myself.

I documented it on social media, where I am now followed by hundreds of thousands of people. It paved the way for me to create lifestyle content that inspires others. It’s no longer just for me; it’s for the entire community.

The more I connect with my followers and work on myself, the more I realize there is so much more to life than getting blackout drunk until 4 a.m., going home, sleeping in until 5 p.m., and repeating the process.

I miss my family and the comforts of home. I also believe my content would perform better in Dallas because I would be living a more normal life. I’m not a famous person. Yes, I get to experience bits and pieces of that life, but at my core, I’m a normal person who enjoys normal things, and I don’t want to shape-shift into someone else.

Not everyone I met in LA was a bad person, and I made some lasting friendships. I enjoy the outdoors in Los Angeles and have a lovely apartment. Despite the advantages, I don’t want to be just another LA girl.

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