How Perth’s Jem Wolfie built a multi-million dollar Insta empire
Ben O'Shea PerthNow
April 10, 2019 2:00AM
A former apprentice chef at Feral Brewing has more Instagram followers than Daniel Ricciardo, has Kanye West’s record label paying for cross-promotions and is currently earning a staggering amount of money as the world’s most popular performer on a social media platform that is disrupting the adult entertainment industry.
But, unless you are a male aged 18-35, you probably haven’t heard of Jem Wolfie, WA’s first social media mogul, with 2.5 million Instagram followers.
This mogul status is a far cry from her humble origins as the self-confessed “naughty kid” at Helena College in the Perth Hills, whose first selfies were posted on MySpace.
After leaving high school, Wolfie worked 70 hours a week to fast-track her chef apprenticeship at Feral, before later taking a job at Taylor’s Cafe in the Swan Valley.
Though the life of a professional chef wasn’t for her, Wolfie cites cafe owner Caroline Taylor as a significant influence over her career.
“She pushed me and encouraged me to start my own business, making raw, healthy vegan treats,” Wolfie said.
It was posting photos of these healthy treats on Facebook that first taught Wolfie the commercial potential of social media.
“It went crazy — so many local people, cafes and even gyms were ordering cakes and my raw, protein bliss balls,” she said.
She was also playing competitive basketball in the WABL, until a serious knee injury forced her to spend a considerable amount of time in the gym rehabbing.
“I started posting a lot of workout videos on Instagram, not only to motivate myself to get better and work out more often, but hopefully to inspire others to do the same,” Wolfie said.
“There are a lot of squats, I know what my audience wants to see. You can never skip leg day.”
By 2015, her account had nearly 10,000 followers, of which nearly 80 per cent were young men, as is still the case today.
The majority of these are likely from the US, attracted by her rare combination of Kardashian-esque proportions, impressive basketball skills and love of hip-hop.
Take away just one of these factors and the soon to be 28-year-old might just be another one of the many Instagram users posting workout videos to a modest following.
“I could have always been just a fitness chick but I had to stand out and be different, plus I was always passionate about basketball, so that was always going to be a part of my social media,” she said.
When the basketball videos started to go viral, Atlantic Records in America came knocking and Wolfie realised it was time to put the health food business she had started as a 22-year-old on the backburner.
“Let’s say Atlantic Records has Cardi B’s new song to push, they’ll say, ‘Jem, we want you to put this on your next video’, then when Cardi’s team has approved it, I hit post,” she revealed.
While this level of success is beyond the wildest dreams of most social media influencers, who hve been known to sell their soul for a box of free goodies, Wolfie was hungry for more.
“Young kids care about free s**t, adults care about making a living,” she said.
“I made it very, very clear to almost all the brands I work with from the beginning that, ‘I don’t want you to send me boxes and boxes of supplements or a s**tload of leggings, I want to be paid’.”
But even with millions of followers, how do you get paid big dollars on a Web 2.0 platform such as Instagram that is built on the premise of giving users content for free?
“I wanted to bring more exclusive content to my fans and have them pay for it because I believed my content was of value, and so many people were getting this content for free for years.”
A Google search last August led Wolfie to OnlyFans, a UK-based social media platform that allows content creators to charge followers a monthly subscription fee.
It has become particularly popular with professional and amateur producers of explicit content, who see it as a way to cut out the middle-men of the adult entertainment industry, but it is also used by YouTubers, reality TV stars and fitness influencers.
Wolfie said she can earn up to $30,000 a day on OnlyFans — the platform takes 20 per cent — for photos and pre-recorded videos that aren’t dramatically different to the ones she posts on Instagram.
“People complain and say ‘Where’s the nudity’, but where are you going to go from there — you’ll be in full-blown porn before you know it,” Wolfie said.
“Anyone who tries to make me think I’m being exploited or objectified is so f**king wrong, that’s not how it is because I’m empowered and I’m the one making these choices with a strategy in mind.”
According to OnlyFans founder and CEO Tim Stokely, Wolfie was the platform’s biggest star within weeks of signing up.
“Jem currently has the highest number of fans, with around 10,000 fans paying $15 per month to view her content,” Stokely said.
“Because the content is exclusive compared to that on her Instagram, Jem has earned over $2,000,000 since joining OnlyFans in August.”
Stokely said there are currently 60,000 content creators on OnlyFans and more than seven million registered users, and the platform is growing exponentially.
“We are currently on-boarding over 3,000 new content creators every week and have around 1,000 users registering every hour,” the tech entrepreneur said.
However, social media fame is not without its pitfalls, and Wolfie said she is regularly targeted by online trolls, who attempt to “slut-shame” her for the images she posts.
“I guess how I look on the outside has helped my career a lot, I can’t deny that,” she admitted.
“But I have a line for OnlyFans and I have a line for Instagram because I believe that there’s a certain amount that should never been shown, and I keep that for a potential partner I’d be with.”
The social media star said trolls who criticise her “thicc” curves are equally off the mark.
“So many people think my body is fake, I get people saying that every day,” she said.
“I’ve never had any work done anywhere, I’ve never altered the way that I look other than colouring my hair. There are exercises that you can do to obviously grow your glutes, to create a tapered waist, a thicker top of your back, so you have the appearance of an hour-glass figure — there are ways to do it naturally without resorting to the extremes of surgery.”
Wolfie is more likely to talk about the intricacies of running a proprietary limited company than name-check the NBA players and Formula 1 drivers that message her but she had some advice for any famous blokes that might mistake her for a groupie.
“Unless they want to come here and settle down and have a humble life in little old Perth, no, I’m not interested,” she laughed.
“I love Perth and I’m not going to leave Perth, I don’t see myself anywhere else.”
Her first health food business all those years ago taught her the importance of diversifying her revenue stream, so Wolfie now produces eBooks on food and social media strategy, as well as a line of Wolfgang merchandise, which delivers part proceeds to a US wolf refuge charity.
Though she lives a lifestyle that belies her rapidly growing wealth, Wolfie allowed herself one “flex”.
“I’m going to buy my mum her dream car and I’m going to make sure that my parents are looked after by me personally for the rest of their lives,” she said.