‘Mom-fluencers’ are cashing in on lucrative brand deals — but not without some controversy
Written by ABC Audio All Rights Reserved on May 19, 2023
(NEW YORK) — A year after “soft swinging” allegations embroiled a group of Mormon TikTok influencers in Utah, one of them is opening up about the aftermath of being unwittingly swept into the ensuing scandal, and the effect it had on her mental health.
“I experienced my first real panic attack, which I had never had before, just like rocking back and forth hyperventilating,” Miranda McWhorter said in a recent “Impact x Nightline” interview on Hulu. McWhorter denied participating in the alleged swinging.
The episode explores the industry known as “mom-fluencing” — where mothers amassing huge social media followings by sharing an often curated version of their families’ lives, posting everything from their kids’ hair routines to back to school hacks, while monetizing their content with lucrative brand deals.
Influencing is a multi-billion dollar industry, and moms are said to make up about 30% of that total, according to data from the Center on Digital Culture and Society at Penn’s Annenberg School for Communication.
“When you have a mom influencer who has over a million followers, who is incredibly dedicated to her content creation, that’s when you can really start seeing the big money and the million dollar a year contracts. They’re essentially running media empires,” Piazza told “Impact.”
But there’s more than meets the eye with some of these seemingly perfect lives. The big business of influencing also goes hand in hand with the scandals and controversies going on behind the screen — something McWhorter knows firsthand.
When fellow mom-fluencer Taylor Frankie Paul announced she was getting divorced last May, Paul claimed she and her husband had a non-monogamous lifestyle and seemed to implicate other Mormon “MomTok” influencers in her group.
“I don’t know what you would call it, if it’s like soft swinging, but you don’t fully switch if that makes sense and go all the way, and to be honest, I did. We had an agreement, like all of us, and I did step out of that agreement, and that’s where I messed up,” Paul said during a livestream. She added, “No one was innocent, everyone has hooked up with like everyone in this situation.”
All members of the group targeted by the speculation quickly denied their involvement, including McWhorter, who posted that she had “nothing to do with [Paul’s] divorce” and “never soft swapped” with anybody.
McWhorter now tells “Impact” she has since moved away from Utah back to her hometown in Idaho.
“I’ve seen so many people say, ‘Miranda just moved out of Utah to get away from everything and everyone in Utah.’ And though that wasn’t the sole reason, I’m like, ‘I have no shame admitting that I was, like, ‘See ya. This is toxic for me and my mental health,'” McWhorter said.
Paul did not respond to a request for comment.
“Impact” also explored the controversy surrounding 31-year-old mom-fluencer Kathleen Sorenson, who was found guilty after falsely accusing a Latino couple of attempting to kidnap her children in 2020.
Meanwhile, a growing movement of mothers on social media seem to be ditching the idea of posting pristine images of their “flawless” family. Breaking out of that picture-perfect mold are mom influencers like Rosie Nguyen, who’s creating content about the “invisible labor” some moms take on, cracking jokes and writing skits about the messy side of motherhood.
“What blew my mind was that brands started reaching out. And they were like, ‘We want you to be just you.’ And I was like, ‘Stop. And you’re gonna pay me?'” Nguyen told “Impact.”
But when Nguyen first entered the mom-fluencing world, she says she didn’t see many moms who looked like her.
“Being an Asian creator, and an Asian mom content creator, I definitely see that we’re not represented well. There are brands who, you can scroll through their feed and it’s like, not a single diverse person is on there,” Nguyen said.
ABC News’ correspondent Janai Norman spoke to attendees at a conference called “Mom 2.0,” including Jill Smokler, who founded the popular site “Scary Mommy” in 2008.
Smokler, a mom of three, said she created the blog with the goal of documenting “the real side of parenthood.” She sold the blog to a major media company in 2015. Now that her children are older, she’s working to create a new brand called “She’s Got Issues.”
“It’s sort of where Scary Mommy left off, with where we are, where I am now, with older kids, with aging parents, with physical changes,” Smokler said.
But the rules have changed and Smokler is just trying to get back in the game.
“I felt like it shifted from natural, organic content into more calculated content. And my life is not that way. So I couldn’t even — even if I tried — could not portray that type of image. And I wouldn’t want to,” Smokler said.
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