A Yogi Influencer’s New Yoga App Is Getting Ripped Apart By Fans Who Feel Cheated

This week's newsletter: Why fans of Jessica Olie are more than disappointed with her new premium app (I check it out for myself), and influencers of all kind are pivoting to TikTok.

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Finding your inner peace starts at $20/month

Jessica Olie, a yogi influencer who posts bendy and nakey Instagram photos next to Rupi Kaur quotes to her 657,000 followers, has released a new app for meditation and yoga.

Unfortunately, the reception from her followers has been less than namaste.

The app, called Align With Olie, became available about two weeks ago. It currently holds an average of 2.1 stars out of 5 in the App Store. According to some unhappy customers, the guided yoga routines are pretty basic for the premium price (starting at $20/month).

“Having a large social media following and taking a couple trainings DOES NOT make someone a good teacher,” one user wrote. “The instruction is horrible. It’s very very obvious to anyone who practices regularly that Jessica has hardly taught. For the high price I expected so much more. Super disappointed. Do not buy!!”

Others claimed the app crashed and that there was no sound in some videos.

“I’ll stick to YouTube,” another added. “This app should be free.”

I reached out to Jessica on Wednesday about these complaints and have not yet heard back. This is the part of the reporting/newsletter where I remind readers she’s the same person I wrote about in August last year, when she did respond to me and tried to explain away why her “weekly giveaway” promotion was not, in fact, weekly.

I also downloaded the app to see for myself, and paid the $20 — which I will thankfully be reimbursed. I’m a touch-and-go yoga person. I will feel a burst of inspiration to get into it once a year and commit to practicing regularly before I fall off because yoga is very difficult and sweaty and requires lots of limberness. It’s a fun game I play with myself. Anyway, I was genuinely excited to see how Jessica could inspire me to implement it into my life.

Every other day, the app seems to offer yoga practices and stretching techniques, with nice mantras and places for you to log your thoughts and progress.

It does seem like the things noted in initial reviews have been fixed by her developers. The app never closed or lagged on me, but there were crucial functions that simply didn’t work. For example, a button you needed to press to complete building your routine didn’t do anything when I pressed it repeatedly.

There were several typos throughout the app, but this was pretty minor and easily fixable. My grammar heads out there, have fun spotting them for yourselves:

As far as the quality of her guided meditations and yoga routines, I’m in no position to critique. I will say, however, that I have watched free instructions on YouTube. In my opinion, there’s not much difference between her teaching and that of YouTube yogis.

But by far my favorite function of the app, which does separate it from its competitors, is its “unguided meditation” offering. Basically, if you want to meditate without Jessica’s voice recordings and help, you click in and it’s essentially a blank screen with a pause button. You do your own meditation and hit pause when you’re done. That’s it. That’s the whole function. I’m speechless.

I understand why fans are upset and feel ripped off. But herein lies the magic of an influential person who’s perhaps more famous for their persona than for their ~craft~. This is Jessica’s yoga app — and she’s banking on fans buying into her. The yoga is secondary.

For $20 a month, and their special rate of $155 a year, you can probably join a decent yoga studio near you. Or pay for any number of other yoga apps available nowadays. Regardless, to the disgruntled buyers, some of whom emailed me directly about this: I hear you. I see you. My mind’s eye sees you. This is Jessica’s very expensive yoga world, and we can opt to live in it or not.

—Tanya Chen

How do u TikTok, fellow kids:

I recently turned 30, and one of the hardest pills to swallow is that I am truly too old for some things now. I know, I know, it’s all relative, and if I want to wear a bandage dress or a really short crop top (I don’t) no one should stop me! But in actuality, I don’t want to desperately cling to my twenties — so I have to accept that some new trends are for the youths.

One such thing is TikTok. I love watching TikTok videos. It’s a truly delightful platform filled with pure, hilarious content (I’m sure it won’t stay that way). The user base is mostly Gen Z’ers, with some exceptions. However, I have enough self-awareness to know if I tried to copy the videos and get in on the joke, it would just look sad.

I have noticed that as TikTok becomes more mainstream, many influencers and bloggers have attempted to make the jump to this new platform. This makes total sense. Many influencers have been curating their online businesses since the early days of blogging, and they have only survived because they have been able to seamlessly jump from platform to platform as their audience’s attention has diverted. They have gone from blogs to Facebook pages to Instagram and newsletters.

Now they are trying to pivot to TikTok. Unfortunately, TikTok’s current culture is so entrenched in Gen Z memes and inside jokes, it’s hard for us Olds to acclimate. Still, some are trying, with cringeworthy results. I won’t call anyone out, because I’m not a bully. But this is my face watching lifestyle influencers try the latest dance challenge:

I’m not going to tell anyone not to do something that sparks joy. But I suspect a few of these influencers are pivoting to TikTok not because they truly love it but because conventional wisdom has taught them they have to continue to platform-hop to remain relevant.

I don’t think that’s necessarily the case anymore. The media industry, including both influencers and outlets like BuzzFeed News, is starting to focus less on trying to be everything to everyone, and focusing more on trying to cultivate a unique and close bond with its specific audience. You can see this shift in the rise of newsletters (like this one!) and membership programs that emphasize a sense of community within a media outlet. I can’t take credit for this observation, I heard it at a conference, but to me it seems to track.

So I would encourage influencers to focus instead on being themselves. Love TikTok and making silly videos? Great! But if you’re only doing it because of FOMO on a new platform, you may actually be shooting yourself in the foot. Readers can tell when you aren’t being genuine, and they are looking for authenticity and community more than anything else in this new landscape.

OK, bye, gonna go reflect on my wasted youth,

Stephanie McNeal

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