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Beautifully curated pictures of exotic destinations juxtaposed with stylish #OOTD portraits exude a sense of independent, youthful and free-spirited individuals. These are the elements that twin sisters Maria and Elizabeth Rahajeng try to project through their Instagram posts.

“I always want each of my posts to portray independence since that’s an important aspect in my life. I want to send out the message to young girls out there that you can do whatever it is you want and you can’t let anyone hold you down,” said Maria Rahajeng during our interview, and she was echoed by her identical twin sister Elizabeth. “That’s what I tried to explain through my captions and my images on Instagram.”

The twins as digital influencers marked their online presence in 2012 with a blog (www.mariaandelizabeth.com) that they created during college exchange programmes in Europe. “We started our blog as a travel diary,” said Maria enthusiastically. “It’s our way to document our travels and keep in touch with our family at home. But as I kept on doing it, I realised that I could channel my love for photography and fashion through the platform.”

As time passed, the long-legged beauties, who effortlessly turn heads with their million-dollar-smiles, gained fame through Instagram. Maria, who has more than 95k followers, signed up for Instagram during their time in Europe, but stole the spotlight after she was crowned Miss Indonesia in 2014. Elsewhere, Elizabeth, who previously worked as a marketer, has an impressive 48k followers. The two posted pictures, separately or together, with subjects ranging from fashion and travel to other lifestyle elements.

“We never thought that people would contact us to endorse their products,” said Maria. “We posted pictures on Instagram because we love fashion and photography. We just need to express our creativity, and Instagram gives us the right platform.”

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How to make one’s Instagram feed attractive? “You need to have aesthetics and personality. For me, I like bright and clean palette images. People need to get a sense of who you are while they browse your Instagram feed,” said Maria. Elizabeth believes that people need to also pay attention to their captions. “I feel that people respond more when the captions are engaging. You can also try to be educational, like give tips and tricks to your followers,” Elizabeth continued.

Although Maria and Elizabeth didn’t spend too much time editing one picture (Maria said it ranges mostly from 15 minutes to two hours), the amount of dedication and determination given to one picture is, nonetheless, admirable.

So what have they learned throughout their years of blogging and being social media stars? “It’s not as easy as people think. You have to be consistent and creative with your posts,” stressed Elizabeth. “I have also realised that people looked up to us and I feel responsible to send out message regarding women empowerment and gender equality. Those are the topics that I am very passionate about.”

As the morning sun rose higher into early afternoon, our chat topics turned serious. We discussed the side-effects of fame and social media. “We did get negative comments on Instagram when we started, but we have learned that everyone is entitled to their opinion and you shouldn’t think about it too much,” said Maria.

Working in the fashion industry can also make one prone to self-doubt, while posting selfies on social media for the whole world to judge is also not an easy feat. “I personally believe that you have your own journey, and life isn’t about competing with others. You have to love yourself and value yourself and be grateful for what you have,” said Elizabeth.

Granted that it’s easy to credit Maria and Elizabeth’s classic beauty as the reason for their successful career as digital influencers, but spend more time with these two and you will realise that they are as poised as they are talented and as charming as they are intellectual. Ask them how they keep such a positive mindset and they will thank their reading habits.

“We have always loved reading since we were young. For me, I love reading because it’s one of the best things in the world; reading is a window onto the world. Reading has taught me that the world is not only about you or your Instagram feed—it’s so much bigger than that! And I think that because we understand this, we are better at controlling our insecurities and choose to focus our minds on our work instead of self-doubt,” said Elizabeth, who added that What I Know For Sure by Oprah Winfrey is their favourite book of all time.

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Born into a Javanese family, Maria and Elizabeth Rahajeng spent years in the US before heading back to Bali to complete their high-school studies. Despite their keen interest in fashion, the girls didn’t get permission from their parents to pursue careers in the industry. So the two decided to enrol in Broadcasting Communication at Universitas Pelita Harapan, which later came in handy as the two became the first Indonesians to become E! Channel hosts for Southeast Asia.

Elizabeth was the first sister who collaborated with E! News Asia way back in 2014 when she covered New York Fashion Week as part of her collaboration with hair beauty brand TRESemmé. The experience left an impact on her and led her to introduce Maria to the producers. “Since there were no Indonesian hosts for E! News Asia, I thought why not? It was not an easy thing to convince the producers, though, but I was so persistent and would never take no for an answer, so they gave us a chance,” said Elizabeth, laughing.

Their first gig was to interview fashion legend Diane von Furstenberg at Singapore Fashion Week. Afterwards, the twins were appointed as E! News Asia’s official correspondents and have their own show called ‘All Access Indonesia’, a three-part segment that covers different topics in Indonesia ranging from food, fashion, lifestyle and travel.

Maria and Elizabeth are always keen to broaden their horizons, and when asked about their future projects, the twins gleefully said that they are writing a book. “We are writing a book inspired by our blog post entitled ‘Perseverance’ and its importance,” explained Maria. “Because after we posted that post we received overwhelming positive feedback, and we realised that we have a lot of things to say and we want to share them with the world.” Their first book is schedule to be published next year.

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As reading has so shaped their personalities and mindsets, it only seems fitting that Maria and Elizabeth wanted to publish a book. “Beside our love of reading, we also realised that our purpose in life is to share and to help others, and we want to do it with a book. Especially in this day and age where there are still pressing issues regarding women empowerment and gender equality in our country. We want to give our positive input and what are our contributions to the issue,” said Maria.

“Take it as a love letter from us to all of the Indonesian girls out there who don’t believe in themselves and who were told not to pursue their dreams. If we can do it, so can you,” said the 26-year-old Maria and Elizabeth, concluding our interview.

See also: Reza Rahadian Talks About The Theory Of Acting And Instant Fame

Tags: Society, Lifestyle, Profile, Maria Rahajeng, Elizabeth Rahajeng, Digital Influencers