Jan 29, 2024 - News

Utah's Ballerina Farm influencer controversies churn amid tradwife scrutiny

Illustration of a pitchfork with money on the end.

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

A popular rural Utah influencer and beauty queen is facing controversy over what critics call an unrealistic depiction of postpartum life after she competed in the Mrs. World pageant about two weeks after giving birth to her eighth child.

  • The dustup comes amid growing scrutiny of the wealth and conservative politics that support some "tradwife" and "farmfluencer" content.

Who she is: Hannah Neeleman, aka "Ballerina Farm," has attracted nearly 9 million followers on Instagram and 7 million on TikTok with her idyllic content depicting her life as a homemaker at her family's farm near Kamas.

The latest: Neeleman finished among the top 17 finalists at the Mrs. World contest on Jan. 21 in Las Vegas.

Context: She had announced the birth of her daughter Jan. 4 with a photo, later posting a video of a home birth in a candlelit, clapboard bathroom.

What happened: The backlash was swift, with commenters and other online personalities complaining that Neeleman was setting an unattainable example for women who are in a vulnerable and exhausting stage of life.

  • The counter-backlash soon followed, with Neeleman's defenders accusing her critics of being insecure and unsupportive of women's choices.

Catch up quick: Neeleman's postpartum glow-up isn't the first time the superstar has been accused of painting an unrealistic picture of her rustic life.

The big picture: Neeleman has been described as the "ur-Tradwife," a type of influencer content that valorizes motherhood and domesticity — some laced with overt or implicit messages that women should serve and submit to men.

  • A piece this month in The Federalist argued that Neeleman's success shows the triumph of traditional gender roles over the "girl boss" ethos.

What they're saying: "You cannot tell me that it is accidental that in the two years since we lost more reproductive rights than in previous decades, all of these tradwives have been gaining insane traction online," said culture critic Caroline Burke in a TikTok video viewed about 640,000 times.

The other side: The controversy over Ballerina Farm's "authenticity" is a "case study of the 'damned if you do, damned if you don't' hellscape" of influencer criticism, wrote Jaclyn De Candio, an agriculture marketing expert.

  • "Neeleman and her family made an attempt to showcase their real selves, their real business – and saw nothing wrong with it," De Candio wrote. The Neeleman family hasn't told their audience they are realistic or relatable, they merely exist in their own world."

Neeleman did not immediately respond to an Axios request for comment.

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