The penthouse was designed to give social media stars an "optimal canvas" for content creation. Picture: Instagram

Washington - In a photo posted on her Instagram page last month, Natalia Levsina relaxes in a nest of plush white bedding, a book in one hand and a cup of coffee in another.

At first glance, you might assume the New York City-based social media influencer with 126 000 followers is holed up in an upscale hotel or luxuriating in her multimillion dollar apartment on a lazy morning.

The truth is a bit more complicated.

Levsina hasn't spent a night in the comfy bed and doesn't even live in the 2 400-square foot penthouse in Manhattan's SoHo neighbourhood in which it resides. Nobody does. Levsina - like dozens of other social media influencers who have begun flocking to this particular abode - was there to create content for marketing products (in her case, bras, as her Instagram post notes).

Welcome to the newest trend among social media influencers, one that is blurring the lines between fact and fiction, authenticity and advertising as Instagram becomes the go-to platform for enhancing someone's image, regardless of reality.

Rented by Village Marketing in August, an all-female agency that connects social media influencers to brands like Soul Cycle, Warby Parker and Equinox, the penthouse was designed to give social media stars an "optimal canvas" for content creation, according to the agency's 36-year-old founder Vickie Segar.

The $15 000 (about R207 000) a month rent isn't hard to recoup considering that a single shoot in the space can cost a brand anywhere from $3 000 to $10 000, Segar said. The home includes a kitchen, two bedrooms, and a roof deck with views of Lower Manhattan. The space is on the top floor of a building to maximize photographic light and is already booked though December.

Like the photos that emerge from inside its walls, everything inside the penthouse was meticulously planned, down to the glistening gold silverware and inspirational messages aimed at women on the wall.

"There's a lot of millennial pink, furs and velvets, with gold accents, which is very on trend," Segar said, noting that it took her team nearly a year to locate and design the 100-year-old space. "We wanted a very harmonious vibe to start as you walk through the space - a lot of tans, whites, marbles and different accents."

"At moments there are a few pops, like a loud wallpaper in the bedroom" she added. "We wanted influencers to have options."

The lives of social media influencers look enviable from the outside. They jet-set to exotic destinations, feast on tantalizing spreads and - when they're not doing planks in the gym or drinking rosé at a rooftop gathering - always seem to be unwinding among perfectly ruffled sheets.

Despite looking breezy and blemish-free, social media influencers have begun to carefully curate their images, especially as brands increasingly rely on them to reach potential customers.

Already estimated to be worth at least $2-billion, the market could reach $10-billion by 2020, according to some estimates.

The Washington Post