I am served so many Instagram model accounts to my feed that sometimes I wonder what my Instagram thinks I do all day. It must assume I’m a real Spandex aficionado, or just a perv. I am a regular human non-model — decidedly and happily ordinary-looking in comparison to the digital combustion of painterly asymmetry and mathematical perfection — who is as entranced as anyone else by beauty. And there really is so much beauty. My discover page is an endless, scrolling, staggering reminder of how many beautiful (conventionally and otherwise) women exist in this world, on this app.
So many of these Instagram models, however, follow a similar, seemingly Instagram-prescribed aesthetic. It’s sort of the Kylie Jenner look: Spandex (see?), lots of neutral khaki tones, cropped sweatshirts, white sneakers and, most notably, spotless arched eyebrows without a hair out of place, filled in as though there were a prize for staying inside the lines. I admire their tenacious grooming habits, but I admit, it gets a little boring. I pass by them quickly without much thought.
A unibrow like Sophia Hadjipanteli’s, on the other hand? That made me stop.
Sophia Hadjipanteli’s two eyebrows are like one back-lit portrait of a wheat field silhouette. They weren’t born with this much drama: a few years ago, the business school student and unsigned model tried to tint her brows but left the left the color on too long. The result, paired with an increasing apathy toward plucking — including the middle bits — led, in all of social media’s mysterious ways, to her 114k follower count on Instagram. Her brother first compared the effect to that of Hey Arnold’s Helga G. Pataki, which Hadjipanteli took as a compliment.
I learned of this anecdote while on a call with her for some quotes to write this post. I was prepared to ask the standard thing one might ask a woman famous for her brows: How do you “do” them? (And we will get to that.) What I learned is also what I had hoped: that she is just as cool as she seems on Instagram. Below, our fast conversation.
You’re not signed to an agency yet. Have you been approached?
It wouldn’t make sense to be signed with an agency right now since I’m still in school, but I have been approached. The first thing they say is, “Hey, we love your look,” and then they ask your measurements. I was once asked for my measurements by an agency when I was going through a rough time and was pretty underweight as a result. I told them my size, and they wrote back, “We’re really interested in you, but any way you could work on your measurements?” I was literally underweight, like, “Hmm…”
Oof. Sounds like you made the right decision for yourself to not sign with them. Who takes all of your non-selfie photos?
My mom is a photographer and she knows my angles, so she takes my pictures. It helped growing up because I didn’t have any awkward pictures. She taught me how to shoot, too. I enjoy taking pictures of others more [than posing]. Photography is more about the piece looking like art than the person looking good in person, you know?
I have friends who are photographers and they shoot me, too. So does my brother. Anyone could do it, though. You don’t have to be Patrick Demarchelier.
Let’s talk brows.
I’ve always had pretty thick brows. My mom’s brows are insane, but they’re also really shaped. She over-tweezed her brows when she was young and regretted it. Hers came back, but even still, she encouraged me to leave mine alone. In middle school, everyone had thin brows. Before a school dance, I remember having a tweezer in hand as my mom randomly opened the door. I said I wasn’t doing anything, that I was “just plucking my nose hairs.” She didn’t believe me. I told her I didn’t like my brows, and she took me to get them threaded — but I’ve never gotten them waxed.
What made you stop plucking them?
I stopped while away on a trip, but it didn’t bother me. Then I thought to myself, Why would I keep plucking them if it didn’t even bother me? So I left them alone. I just liked the way it looked. I’ve never been the person to not wear something because it wasn’t cool. I used to wear eccentric outfits to school and would get bullied for the way I dressed, but that was my style. I wouldn’t leave the house if I didn’t like an outfit, but I’d never change because someone thought I should. I’ve been asked questions in the comments like, “If someone paid you a million dollars, would you pluck your eyebrows?” No. I would pluck them if I wanted to, not because someone else wanted me to.
Last year at the beginning of school was when I first had a unibrow [as a result of not plucking]. Now it’s reached its ample prime.
Do you do anything to them?
I don’t get them professionally done. No wax or anything. I do love the way they look when they’re full, but every so often I’ll pluck a hair that looks out of place — I’m not boycotting tweezers. Every day I brush through them. If I don’t, they look so bad. I use a toothbrush to do that. If I want to look extra, I’ll fill them in, which is like a big black bar across my face. At night, if I feel like my brows aren’t looking fluffy, I’ll put castor oil through them. It definitely does work. I tint them now, maybe once a month, whenever I see a white hair popping out. And I use brow gel. I like the Glossier Boy Brow but pro tip: I used to use brown mascara. That worked too.
Is it weird to be recognized for your eyebrows?
I thought it was awesome at first. As I’ve gotten more followers, I realized I’m no longer posting about stuff I care about anymore. I felt like I was losing followers when I didn’t post eyebrow selfies, and it frustrated me. But then yesterday I was talking to a friend who said, ‘There are people who follow you for who you are, not the way you look.’
Even if I change this look tomorrow, I still am who I am. I still stand for what I stand for. I would still look the way I looked even if everyone unfollowed me. I’ve made a conscious effort lately, within the past month or so, to stay away from my face. But you caught me at a funny time. I was crying last week because I realized this is not who I am.
Who are you?
If I were to describe myself, it would be as someone who has been isolated for the way she expresses herself. I don’t have a single friend from high school. I didn’t go to prom, but I still managed to stay true to who I was. I love looking back on photos of myself to see the things I’ve done, awards I’ve won, and feeling like I’d still do those things today. Although my eyebrows are a part of me, I don’t use them as a form of expression; that’s what I use my outfits for. I really like to change the way I look through clothing. If I were to continue on this path with my unibrow without ever being able to change it, then that would go against who I am.
I’m at a point now where I’m trying to explain where I’m at to those who follow me. I’m trying to find a way of explaining to followers who care what’s going on. Sometimes when you see those long captions, they’re from year-old Instagram posts no one cared about. It’s fun to take that old pic that got 15 likes, repost it and see the reaction. I really went through a transformative year. I got out of a relationship — and it was the only relationship I had then, really. When we broke up I felt truly alone. When you’re alone with yourself and your thoughts, you have to work through them and rationalize with yourself instead of ignoring your feelings. I’m learning to embrace feelings. I know how to identify them now, whereas before, I was just trying to distract myself.
How do you deal with Internet trolls?
This is probably gonna go against what everyone says, but I can’t ignore them. If I’m in this position because I inspire people, which I see from the comments — young girls in middle school who say, “I read everything you write,” I’m not going to let some troll say that I look dumb, because what if someone else sees that and it affects them? Sure, you shouldn’t give attention to negative thoughts, but I don’t want to ignore it. It’s the only way to take control of my life. I want to normalize this thing. I’m here to change people’s perspective. I’m supporting people who are doing this with me.
Photos via Sophia Hadjipanteli.