After briefly discussing haul videos in class, I was excited to research this thriving and complex empire that was intertwined with the idea of prosumption.  ma3130 in his blog post, Haul Videos: A New Dimension of Use-Value, implicitly discussed this very role of prosumption, highlighting how the creators of haul videos are actively engaging with these products by creating new value, which they in turn use to gain cultural and social capital. As I searched through the overwhelming plethora of videos, I unexpectedly stumbled upon a grocery haul that illustrated and revealed these same ideas that I couldn’t wait to analyze.

Whole Foods Grocery Run is a haul video by Elle Fowler, an established beauty and style YouTube guru/blogger who has over 500k subscribers. Elle has hundreds of videos covering everything “girl”, ranging from shopping hauls and makeup tutorials, to basic vlogs updating subscribers on her daily life. Elle’s subscribers and fans not only count on her for advice and tips but they are also dutifully invested and interested in her life. Elle has reached “celeb status” based on the identity she has established, which she carefully curates and grows while continuing to relate and help her fans.

Understanding the relationship that the subscribers have with Elle, due to her identity and social capital, illustrates the reasoning and success of the Whole Foods haul. The video raked in over 300,000 views elucidating the fact that her fans are sincerely curious and trust her opinion even regarding food and drink. Elle began the video clarifying that though beauty is one her main passions and focus; her healthy lifestyle is also an important element of her identity. Ultimately, Elle’s decision to create a grocery haul displays the dominating role and inherent connection between identity, lifestyle and consumption. Her fans are attracted to her “beauty expert” identity that compels them to learn about her other consumption practices that define her lifestyle. Elle, is as Featherstone states, one of  “the new heroes of consumer culture that make lifestyle a life project” (Lury, 95).

“Lifestyle”, as we discussed in class, is a sort of narrative that we’re creating about ourselves based on our decisions. Our lifestyle and our identities are shaped and enhanced by our consumption practices, through which we are attaching, creating, and producing meaning. Elle’s  lifestyle choices to be fashion forward and eat a healthy, balanced diet coupled with her decisions to shop at Whole Foods develop her identity as a modern and knowledgeable role model. Like many other “YouTubers” she is without undoubtedly a cultural intermediary for beauty and fashion, (bringing brands closer to the consumer by diminishing the stress and intimidation of style) but she is also transforming herself into an intermediary for food and health as she starts to promote her whole way of living, her lifestyle.

Interestingly, as Elle clearly recognized her primary role as a beauty intermediary, she decided to go grocery shopping with her friend, a certified nutrition coach. Elle is already seen as a connoisseur of beauty and fashion, but by adding her friend’s presence in the case of her grocery haul, Elle increased her credibility and is able to talk about the groceries she bought with a little more expertise. This element was very necessary as to be a cultural intermediary it is essential that cultural capital and social capital exist with expertise to establish trust and interest.

Ultimately, Elle is a very effective vlogger. She doesn’t make a single appearance in the haul as only her voice narrates her purchases. As she shares and describes her purchases, the viewer truly gets to know her (and like her) and witness her lifestyle.  The first purchase Elle shared was her eco-friendly grocery bag that as she stated, “it spoke to me”, demonstrating the personal and dynamic nature of consumption that makes it so intriguing to her subscribers.  Consequently, all of Elle’s purchases in the video are all healthy and sophisticated, much like the store she bought them from and the identity she hopes to demonstrate. Her decision to buy kale with lemon vinaigrette, La Croix, Kombucha, and cranberry tuna along with her choice to shop at Whole Foods, maintain and define her identity and lifestyle. Lastly, as Elle discusses her bought items with a focus on aesthetics, for example mentioning the “pretty pink” color drinks, we’re reminded not to forget her role /identity as a fabulous beauty and fashion guru.

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