Sometimes Insta-stalking can lead to something… magical.
Sure, it’s sadly too common to sit at a dinner table where each person is head down in their phone, paying more attention to the lives and likes on their devices rather than the people actually in their physical presence. But this downside of technology has a valuable yet sometimes elusive flip side. I can’t imagine how many lifelong you-really-get-me relationships haven’t existed because we just didn’t know that someone that had our same interests, that lived on our same frequency was out there, not necessarily in our vicinity, but out there.
This was the case for Vanessa Wright and Luna Juliana, known to their (as of now) over 8,000 Instagram followers as Nessa and Luna. Luna, who lives in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, and Nessa, who lives in Atlanta but is originally from California, connected with each other online. When I spoke with them, they both were in Atlanta and it was only their second time meeting in person. But you wouldn’t have guessed that by perusing the colorful photos of their Instagram page.
I had learned of the two through their photos—I had stumbled upon vibrant pictures of them on Tumblr and immediately wanted to know who these two cool looking girls were, and what #projecttribe, as the picture was tagged, was. I reached out to them, and soon after, we spoke for over an hour about who they were, how they met and the platform they created.
Luna, the Brazilian half of the pair, shared how Project Tribe came about:
Project Tribe was actually something that came out of both our intentions of making sure that women were out there doing what they love, and [us] trying to inspire them to actually connect with each other, like we did. We started out just by connecting through Instagram and that’s what inspired us to make [Project Tribe]…
When me and Nessa connected we both had our separate brands. I had Crowns of Nyanga [an online head wrap boutique]; she had The Bazaar Bohemian [an online boutique of unique pieces found while travelling] and behind our brands there was always a philosophy, which was making sure that women know that their essence is more valuable than whatever society tries to tell them. Their looks are not so important; it’s all a consequence of who you really are. So that’s what we decided to spread: light and love among women like us that are trying to do what they love and sometimes get a little discouraged by the circumstances.
At it’s early stage Project Tribe was Project U(nicorn), or simply Project U, because as Nessa explained, “we’re all magical beings.” But the two would eventually recognize just how connected they were and ultimately changed the platform’s name to Project Tribe, “…we realized that what we wanted our platform to be was people coming together and cultivating all the things that make them magical,” Nessa further stated.
I asked how they, themselves, had found each other and came together; Nessa responded:
We were kind of Insta-stalking each other’s lives. You know how there’s just someone on Instagram you click with and you’re always commenting on each other’s stuff. And at the time Luna was just coming back from Africa and she wanted to send me one of her crowns because she said, “I love your prints and your vibe,” and we clicked. So after she sent [me a crown], I took the photos for it and we just stayed connected. We had such an open energy with the way we communicated and the way we were that, initially, when I had this idea for Project U… I just sent it to her as a way for me to be like, “what do you think about if I did this?” And she was like, “No, we totally need to do it.” And I was like, “Oh, we? Oh,” and then from then on it’s been we ever since.
Despite living in different countries and each having full time jobs, the two have been able to bring to life a platform that brings other women together. It’s almost like Luna and Nessa are your cool well-connected girlfriend that wants to put you in touch with the cool people in her network. You’ll see them highlight people on Instagram or on ProjectTribe.org. But they take things a step further and literally make introductions when it makes sense to. As Luna shared, “[we want to] get people to interact with each other because sometimes what you really need is someone to support you. …That’s what happened with me and Nessa.”
Besides connecting people, Project Tribe is also dedicated to inspiring women, and they do this through their “Aspire to Inspire” initiative. The team wanted to get a message circulating around the world. So they asked women: “If you had the opportunity to send an inspirational message to women all over the world, what would that message be?” Respondents send their message along with a photo taken in a meaningful place, wearing a crown (a head wrap), which, as Luna stated, is a “connection point in our project.” The pictures are also visually tagged by an official Project Tribe sticker, which they send to you. The imagery and messages Aspire to Inspire has generated has a global reach, with women from as far as Serbia and Australia sharing their inspirational messages.
“The question we’re asking is not a question that the answer is going to come to you immediately.” Nessa said about Aspire to Inspire…
It makes you take a step back and it makes you think: if I had to send one message, what would I want to say? …So it really makes you tap into yourself and sit with yourself. …What would that message be? What would I want people to know about me? What would I want to say to inspire? And once you pull that out of you, it stays in the forefront because now you’ve brought that out; you’ve brought that to your attention and you’ll live through that message…
Although, the beautiful pictures of two girls that appear to have a super close friendship and killer style is probably what attracts most people to Project Tribe, the level of encouragement and warmth the platform has created is likely what keeps their audience with them. They’ve been able to create a destination without a physical location that anyone can belong to, anyone can feel a part of. The two also attribute the authenticity of their relationship to Project Tribe’s speedy popularity (they launched in February of this year). About their following, Nessa said:
…people can feel the love and the genuineness. So they know that the photos the words, everything, they feel that it comes from a natural and authentic place and they connect with that. …there is something there that’s just an authentic energy that we have for each other and that just shows…
I feel like the energy that has been built through Project Tribe, we can’t measure it. Sometimes we’re walking down the street and people come to us and are like, “wait you guys are from Project Tribe.” We’re like, “yeah.” People are really into it and it’s not because we’re selling something. We’re literally just telling people it’s okay to be you…
Luna and Nessa’s relationship is one made possible through technology but I suppose the humanity in their dynamic, the good will and global sense of sisterhood that they’re building is what is making their relationship grow, not only just between the two of them but also among the 8,000 people that follow them.
Photos provided by Project Tribe