Colette LeClair - Instagram


Influencer uses smoky California sky from wildfires as backdrop to sell dress

Commenters noted a lack of awareness in the post.


Nahila Bonfiglio


Posted on Sep 10, 2020   Updated on Sep 10, 2020, 9:26 am CDT

A social media influencer is catching heat for using the smoky California beaches as a backdrop for a recent photoshoot.

Colette LeClair’s typical Instagram upload features the slender blonde in a variety of fashionable outfits. Her Instagram is filled with modeling shots for products, and each caption leads readers to an affiliate link on Amazon for the item, allowing LeClair to make a commission from sales. Each photo’s caption holds a link to the Amazon page each item can be located at.

It’s a typical formula for social media influencers. LeClair’s page has collected more than 30,000 followers over the years, many of whom purchase Amazon items based on her recommendations. The latest post to hit LeClair’s page is raising eyebrows, however, for her decision to model a dress on a San Francisco beach.

California is suffering from devastating fires that have already set records. Nearly 2.3 million acres have already burned this year, according to USA Today, and wildfire season doesn’t typically end until November.

Yesterday, residents of the San Francisco Bay Area woke to find their skies tinted an eerie orange. This hazy shroud lasted nearly all day, cloaking the city’s streets, sidewalks, and beaches in a thick, smoky fog.

It appears that LeClair saw an opportunity in the oddly colored sky. Despite the raging fires and, in some areas, choking smoke, she made her way down to a nearly-empty beach. There, she snapped shots of herself in an orange dress that emphasized the deadly inferno providing her with a unique backdrop.

The comments for LeClair’s post are turned off, but it didn’t take long for her photos to migrate to Twitter. There, users tore into LeClair for what they called a tone-deaf photoshoot. The fires across California, Oregon, and Washington have claimed at least seven lives so far, along with hundreds of homes. People are fleeing to shelters and sleeping on pavement as their homes and possessions are claimed by the still-spreading inferno.

“WE LIVE IN HELL,” Caroline Moss wrote alongside a shared photo of LeClair’s post. “This is an influencer who just posted a photo of clothing she’s selling by *posing in it* on the beach in San Francisco as forest fires rage around her.”

Commenters poked fun at LeClair’s choice of words in the caption for the shot. “Last days here! I found some gorgeous dresses on sale & they are all linked on in the most recent post,” she wrote in the original caption. She has since changed it to read “last day here! Wanted to say goodbye to the ocean and beach and do something I used to enjoy so much here-TRIPOD PHOTOS. Currently gathering a lot of clothes to donate-yay! this one will not make it with me to LA, but there is someone here who will adore it.”

“Last days are here!!….to get this dress,” one commenter joked. “And…you know save the environment and stuff.”

Commenters noted the lack of awareness in the post, and blasted LeClair for her “tone deaf” photoshoot. Several people noted that the post doesn’t allow comments, indicating to them that LeClair is at least somewhat aware of the optics of her post. Other commenters expressed their exhaustion with influencers in general. “Can we all just agree that the planet no longer wants or needs ‘influencers,'” one person wrote.

LeClair shared several more shots of the dress—and her apocalyptic setting—via her Instagram Story. In several shared videos, LeClair can be seen running up and down the vacant beach, with the waterline nearly obscured by smoke.

LeClair did not respond to a request for comment.

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*First Published: Sep 10, 2020, 9:01 am CDT