Broadly recently featured several couples who have risen to prominence with their shared Instagrams, where they document their lives together, always through the lens of a happy couple. Squabbling doesn’t sell.
They point to John Tuite and Carlos Santolalla as being among the first to create a popular joint account, called Jarlos420. They started it for fun, but it resulted in a Wall Street Journal profile and a team modeling contract with Fusion, the first LGBTQ couple to do so.
The pair broke up in last year and deleted their account. Breakups are always a potential hazard to a career tied to a partner.
But social media and marketing trends are harder to kill and in their wake we now have couples like Justin Moore and Nick Grant, aka @Justinickpgh, who have earned the nickname “swolemates” for their penchant for shirtless aspirational gym selfies.
They met at CrossFit, because I mean of course they did.
“I was questioning about whether he was gay, but then I saw he was wearing a Lululemon tank top,” Moore said. “We just started talking, and hit it off from there.”
They have since diversified their selfie game, fearing they were becoming too much of a stereotype.
There’s also Brock Williams and Chris Lin, or Yummertime, who have made a name for themselves more on the consumption of calories side of the equation, although both are in model shape.
“We just started having fun, posting photos of each other’s outfits, what we’re eating—we had no expectations about what it could become, as a brand and a company,” Williams said.
That gee shucks this all just happened story is harder to believe when you learn a bit more about their backstories. From the Broadly piece:
The couple come from marketing backgrounds—Williams as an account executive at an ad agency and Lin a performance marketing manager at a Tokyo-based provider of mobile and online games, among other services. They met in 2011 online. Williams was trying to become a model, and his best friend put him in touch with Lin, who was signed to the Ford modeling agency at the time. He gave Williams advice.
“Sometimes it’s difficult to make it seem so happy all the time, because nothing’s perfect and every relationship has its own things going on,” Lin said.
“I wouldn’t say we’re putting anything out there that isn’t true,” Williams said.
They have partnered with Nordstrom, Coach, Cheesecake Factory, and Hallmark.
“If we were to talk about our brand now, the word couple might not even fall into it,” Lin said. “Going on adventures all the time, eating a lot, hating working out, loving Katy Perry—these things may be surface level, but we actually talk about them on an everyday basis. That’s what we’d see as our brand.”
Matt Armato and Beau Ciolino are another food based couple – yes, this thing is getting big enough to have subcategories – who manage the account Probably This. They said they go back and forth on whether their photos are either “too formulaic,” or “off brand,” and struggle with the idea of turning their relationship into a brand in the first place.
“I have put some thought into the people who are consuming our brand, but I don’t know at what line the blog stops being us—our relationship—and starts being its own thing,” Ciolino said. “I’ve never really considered it ‘selling our relationship.’ I’ve always thought about it, like, we’re going to document our lives. Because I have a background in photography and Matt has a background in writing, we’re gonna do it really well.”
Naturally, all of these couples have attracted their haters and trolls along with the fans.
“I have put some thought into the people who are consuming our brand, but I don’t know at what line the blog stops being us—our relationship—and starts being its own thing,” Ciolino says. “I’ve never really considered it ‘selling our relationship.’ I’ve always thought about it, like, we’re going to document our lives. Because I have a background in photography and Matt has a background in writing, we’re gonna do it really well.”
“There’s always going to be a bit of ego that’s involved,” Matthew Dempsey, a psychotherapist who specializes in the lives and relationships of gay men, told Broadly. “There’s always going to be a part of it that’s presentational. I think what’s important is what percent of it is about presentation versus something that could be a little more meaningful.”
All of the couples reported that if they broke up they would probably discontinue the brand but continue working together on it as a business. Whatever that means.
“What are we gonna do with the blog handle?” Ciolino says. “Fuck! What are we gonna do with our fucking puppy, or our house we have together? Where are we gonna put our families that love each other? If we break up, there are so many more important things on my mind than losing my Instagram handle. If we break up, I’m losing the most important person in my life.”