Mastermind behind the #UnibrowMovement Sophia Hadjipanteli has turned social media from a harsh, critical environment to a platform of empowerment. With her movement going viral, she still found time to finish college while impacting thousands of people via Instagram.
Show me a millennial who hasn’t been cyberbullied. Both a platform to express an opinion and a blockade to put distance between the speaker and the opinion, the internet can be a very dangerous place. We’ve all seen the cruelty that can surface when people are given both anonymity and a voice. Even still, Sophia Hadjipanteli has seen some of the best and most uplifting of humanity in her experiences going viral via Instagram.
The 21-year-old embraces her less-than-conventional appearance and has used her personal Instagram to demonstrate that self-love is a lot stronger than cyberbullying.
“It’s all about what you like as an individual. If you’re so influenced by what someone else thinks then, you lose your sense of identity,” Sophia says. “I don’t want people to look at me and think they need a jet-black unibrow because I have one. I want people to pick out what they’ve always loved and never felt they could do or pull off or dared to do.”
Sophia has always had a unibrow, and about two or so years ago, she decided to stop plucking it. And no matter how many people might not understand this, there was no catalyzing factor behind Sophia’s choice. “It wasn’t for anyone else, it was always for me,” she says. “It’s a massive misconception that a lot of people say it was for attention.”
Given Sophia’s unique choice in appearance, and the internet’s affinity for negativity, the positivity surrounding Sophia and the movement she’s sparked is inspiring, to say the least. “I think with social media there is a lot of criticism, but there is so much acceptance,” she explains. “The whole arena of being able to reach people you have never seen in your entire life from across the world with one picture is just fantastic.”
Whether it’s her marketing major or inner positivity, Sophia has a way with reaching people. She is no stranger to the idea of being bullied (“I’ve dealt with so much that nothing phases me, but it annoys me when I see others being bullied,” she says), so once she began to go viral, she took advantage of her newfound platform to spread an empowering message. That message, #UnibrowMovement, is not a movement to bring unibrows into the mainstream. Rather, it’s a mission to encourage people to look how they want to, style themselves how they want to, and groom themselves how they want to. It’s about following your own personal preferences instead of fitting into society’s conventions. It’s about promoting self-acceptance and discouraging people from forming opinions on other people’s appearances.
“I want [#UnibrowMovement] to be a space where people don’t have to hide,” Sophia explains. “It’s a hashtag because if you’re going to participate or see what someone else is doing, you have to be vulnerable to see others’ vulnerability. The unibrow movement is definitely about preference, and it’s not always specific to the unibrow or eyebrows. It’s specific to the individual that is using the hashtag, and that’s the key element of this movement.”
Sophia’s objective is simple, yet stands to shake conformity—she’s out to challenge the notion of “beauty.” The movement is about ideas, not appearances. Her unibrow just acts as the example, the catalyst that can hopefully provoke an inward reflection when Sophia raises her question of beauty.
She tells, “When people ask me what I consider beautiful, I never answer it. If I say X is beautiful, then someone reading will start looking at X in a certain way from now on and disregard all the beautiful things around it.” Sophia wants to help people to look at something that shocks them and not instantly resort to judgement or disgust, but to instead consider a new perspective. “I hope they look at something and say, ‘wow, that’s different, I’ve never seen that before,’ or ‘I’m lucky to have seen that.’”
Sophia acknowledges that part of the problem with social media is that it causes a bandwagon effect—people see other reacting a certain way and feel that they should then feel the same way. She hopes that #UnibrowMovement can help people to keep their own senses of self and understand that if they like something, that opinion should be final. They don’t have to like that thing any less because someone else disagrees. “Social media is excellent at influencing people, but I never want to influence anyone so much that they lose their sense of identity,” Sophia says.
That being said, it’s no surprise that Sophia’s biggest pet peeve are social media influencers that try to paint themselves as perfect in all of their images. “It’s very frustrating when someone is doing a #Nature campaign, and they’re airbrushed but put a grain over it to look natural,” she says. “It’s frustrating because social media [should not be] about fooling people. It [should be] about expressing your art, enriching people, and connecting with people.”
This type of perfection culture within social media makes it harder for the “real people” to fit in.
“The people that decide to show something that isn’t perfect are instantly attacked because around them is a swarm of perfection. If they don’t hide their flaws, they’re attacked for it, and the people who hide their flaws just seem like they don’t have them.”
Despite the rays of positivity Sophia shines into the social media realm, the critical comments still make their way to her. But she doesn’t let it get to her. “Of course it stings every once in a while, but it’s never hurtful when you can look at yourself, believe in yourself and genuinely like what you are looking at in the mirror.”
The highs from her experience definitely outweigh the lows. She’s been messaged by thousands of Instagram followers impacted by her message. And she reads every message—every single one. Some may find that hard to believe, but Sophia assures that she reads her messages of thanks, screenshots them, and keeps them in a folder on her phone called “Inspo.” These inspirational notes are really the only thing that can keep the “real people” afloat in the harsh world of social media.
“Social media is so hurtful, but it is also powerful and helpful,” Sophia believes. “You can change those hurt people into people who are coping, eventually growing, and ultimately helping others.”
“It makes me feel incredibly blessed to have a purpose because growing up, I never felt like I fit in,” Sophia continues. She explains that she always used to feel “dusty,” as if she was just there, sitting like dust. “But I always had a lot to say, to help people.” And now, Instagram has become her platform to say the things she wanted to, and to make a difference.
And Sophia is going to stick with #UnibrowMovement as long as she needs to for that difference to be made. “Until things around me start changing where we see girls in Vogue or Harper’s Bazaar with something that is unique,” she says. “I’m hoping to keep the ball rolling, and whatever the ball is, I hope it leads to a pile of other balls where I get to meet like-minded individuals who are also making a change.”