Matthew Grella didn’t set out to become Instafamous, but he shot to influencer status when he first became one of Instagram’s Suggested Users in 2014. Today the Saskatoon native known as @oneyoungboy shares his dreamy lifestyle photographs with 70,000 followers, but he’s also reflecting on how his personal brand is changing as he approaches a major milestone: turning 30.
Grella’s Instagram is the ultimate escape: Expect striking landscapes and blue skies, pink blooms, coffee, cozy minimal interiors, and remarkable architecture, all peppered with whimsical selfies. “I’ve always tried to see light and shadows and everyday objects in an interesting way and propel the eye into a space that is unfamiliar,” Grella says. His strong aesthetic and impressive following have led to collaborations with major brands like McDonalds, Grey Goose, Purdy’s Chocolate, Via Rail, NBA Canada and more.
But, like many millennials, Grella feels his relationship with social media changing as he gets older. “I almost feel like I need to rebrand because I’m turning 30. I’m not as young as I used to be,” he says. The challenge for Grella will be figuring out a way to evolve on his platform without losing his impressive list of clients or his longtime followers.
Grella would prefer to be “Switzerland” but he recognizes that social media can be used for positive change. He’s feels a responsibility to speak up: “Now is the time that we all have to collectively scream and use our voices.”
One of the causes that matters to Grella is mental health awareness. It’s an issue of personal significance to the influencer: “Battling depression and anxiety have been such a thing for me to overcome.”
Although social media can facilitate conversations about mental health, Grella points out that it can also be the root of the problem. “Instagram can be very overwhelming and I just have to take a step back from it because it can be a really scary world. Sometimes it’s very competitive and artificial,” he says.
Lately, Grella has been mindful to practice self care and isn’t posting as frequently. There’s a pressure to post only monumental moments online, and Grella is striving for a healthier, more realistic balance. “I really enjoy the simple quiet moments. I am very ‘stay at home’ club.”
@OneYoungBoy may be in flux, but Grella’s financial future is not. As a fastidious saver, he’s been contributing to mutual funds and an RRSP for the past 7 years. “I’ve always been mindful to pay myself first. It started by putting $25 into my account every month, and then I started putting in more. Over time it’s grown into a sizeable amount.”
“Moka is another way for me to save and invest incrementally,” he adds. “I like things that happen passively. It’s invisible and I don’t have to think about it. I like the idea of a collective whole: Tiny little things that combine to be very meaningful one day.” For Grella, Moka is the digital piggy bank for his emergency fund.
Grella spends on items that make his apartment beautiful, like two Siamese fighter fish for different rooms and a fiddle leaf fig tree, but he also knows how to spend thoughtfully. On a recent shopping trip to Winners, he scored a bathing suit and $15 Levis: “The deals are always good at Winners.”
Saskatoon is home and a great source of comfort for Grella, and living there also allows him to save more than he would in a bigger city like Toronto or Vancouver. He rounds out his income from brand collaborations by teaching French to civil servants and serving at an upscale restaurant. Plus, he gets a great deal on rent by living in his grandma’s basement suite. His grandparents are a big part of why he loves Saskatoon so much. He had very close relationships with both grandfathers—one passed on a love of photography, the other taught him to always be kind—and today considers his grandmothers to be a part of his friend group.)
Despite how much he enjoys his life there today, he has dreams of spreading his wings eventually. His ultimate goal is to move somewhere like Paris and maybe launch is own creative agency.
Grella never thought he would become a brand, and he knows he’s lucky. “I strongly believe in getting paid to do what you love and especially getting paid for your art.”
He also feels lucky that he has the freedom to navigate the future on his own terms: He isn’t tethered to a traditional career, any property or a relationship. That means he can pick up and go whenever opportunity comes knocking. This March, he’s taking off on a 5-week trip to Mexico, inspired by invitations to two weddings in the country, and he’s looking for collaborations between celebrations. We can’t wait to see the pictures.