This Woman Turned Her Stoner Instagram Feed Into a Career
Before Caroline Goldfarb posts a photo to Instagram under the handle officialseanpenn, she sends a group text to three of her closest confidants. Many are images of celebrities with a strong gay following, such as Barbra Streisand or Kathy Griffin, and her informal board—all gay men—is quick to tell her when one isn't funny. Goldfarb, a 25-year-old living in Los Angeles, calls the system "gay quality control." Not everyone would subject their social media account to such careful vetting, but not everyone has the 105,000 followers Goldfarb does.
The 2012 Northwestern graduate is one of many young people winning a social networking fan base by appealing to niche strains of Internet humor. Goldfarb's posts are hard to scroll past, even in the most crowded feed. Her style is a mix of captioned celebrity photos, campy collages in the style of Lisa Frank, and enthusiastic marijuana shout-outs. She has sold buttons, stickers, and cakes decorated with her collages. Bloomberg asked Goldfarb how she plans to leverage Instagram fame for a career in comedy, how she deals with her online customers, and whether embracing stoner culture is good for her professional image. The transcript below has been edited for length and clarity.
You are an animator by day, right?
I wouldn’t call myself a full-on animator, but basically I am like a daytime collage maker and Photoshopper. Which sounds so ridiculous, and only in L.A. would I ever get a job like that. I literally had the worst jobs after graduating college, and I was fired from the most mundane jobs.
What were you fired from?
I worked at Variety doing data entry, and I was fired because I fell asleep on my desk. I was an assistant for people. I was a terrible assistant. But then, through the grace of officialseanpenn, I got a job doing what I like to do for fun.
How did that happen?
I followed this company Fox ADHD [an animation studio owned by Fox] on Instagram and they posted GIFs based on the news, and I cold e-mailed them, sending my résumé, and then finally they were like "We have something open, come in for an interview." I literally went to Kinko's and printed out a bunch of my collages. I bound them really nicely in a binder and put a lot of stickers on it, thinking I was so professional. And they loved it and they hired me. I had less than 1,000 followers at the time.
Do you see the account helping your career long-term?
I don’t want to be some weird lifestyle Instagram star, posting weird stuff like "I am going to be at this club tonight." It's more like my friends think it's so funny and that makes me happy. It's not getting me any writing gigs, but maybe people who want to hire me will know about it, and it will add to their opinion of me.
How does the store do?
The store is my first entree into running a business, so I have been terrible at it. ... I don’t see it growing that big because people are so annoying. They’ll give me the wrong address and then complain [that a shipment] didn’t go to their house. I feel like all of my customers are stoner girls, too. They are like "My buttons didn’t come, but it's because our mailbox got hit by a truck, but it's back up now so you can resend it."
Do you think posting a lot about weed is a liability, or do you think it might help with your career, since Broad City and other shows have made the idea of stoner girls more mainstream?
I would like to think that it could be a good thing because of Broad City and because I think that being a stoner is genuinely marketable now. I am afraid it will go out [of style] and then I will be a sad drug addict, but for now I feel like weed is here to stay. Just being anything and a girl is really good right now. Ladies are in.
In general, or ...?
In comedy. This feminism thing is really getting big. All the best shows I watch are [written by women], like Broad City, and I don't watch Girls but I love Lena Dunham, and there just need to be more [shows written by women]. I want to write amazing shows and amazing screenplays about young 20-something girls. I love messed-up girls that own being messed up—they are amazing and messy and super funny, they are funnier than all guys ever. I'm not a man hater, I just love women.
What are your favorite Instagram accounts?
How did you come up with the name officialseanpenn?
It actually was a bunch of different celebrities before. It was Official Meryl Streep for a while, and then I changed it to my favorite, which was Official Sonia Sotomayor, the Supreme Court justice. I don’t know how I settled on Official Sean Penn, but he is so serious and has no sense of humor and it seemed like a perfect blank slate.