I moved to LA at 18 with the dream of being an influencer. I lost myself, and I can't wait to leave.
Rhegan Coursey
Rhegan Coursey moved to LA at 18 to pursue a career as an influencer and TikTok creator. She said the party culture and...

I moved to LA at 18 with the dream of being an influencer. I lost myself, and I can't wait to leave.

Rhegan Coursey moved to LA at 18 to pursue a career as an influencer and TikTok creator. She said the party culture and...
  • Rhegan Coursey found success creating TikTok videos and now has over 4.5 million followers.
  • She moved to Los Angeles to pursue a career as an influencer in early 2021.
This as-told-to essay is based on a transcribed interview with 21-year-old creator and influencer Rhegan Coursey. The following has been edited for length and clarity.

I was born and raised in a small town near Dallas, Texas, and I've been pursuing social media for as long as I can remember.

I made my first videos in fourth grade: I taught myself how to edit, got a professional camera, and posted all sorts of content online.

Growing up, I saw Los Angeles as the coolest place ever. I knew LA was the place where influencers lived, the place to be when you wanted to do social media.

One time in seventh grade, I told my dad, "I'm going to live in LA one day."

So when I "blew up" on TikTok and gained an audience, moving to LA was at the top of my mind. A video of mine went viral in March of 2020, and after that it was boom, boom, boom, back to back. I gained a million followers really fast. I didn't even have time to process it.

In January of 2021, I visited Los Angeles, and in the span of three days, I found an apartment and signed a lease. I had recently turned 18, and I went behind my parents' back.

I texted my mom about my decision to move while I was on my flight back to Texas, and she wasn't happy. She felt betrayed. I spent one more month at home, and then moved into my apartment in Los Angeles.

I feel horrible about it now, but I was ready to do whatever it took to be in LA. I felt like I wasn't going to grow as a content creator if I wasn't there.

LA is great, until it's not

On my very first night in LA, I got blackout drunk. I'm not mad at myself for that, it was my first night. But then I did it for three months straight. Every single night, I was drinking, going out. I lost all motivation for content creating.

I was hanging out with people I'd met on social media, we were going to parties in mansions. In LA, people use partying as a distraction from their responsibilities.

These usually aren't normal parties — there's a list, and you have to bring your ID to match the name on the list, and those who are not on the list will sometimes just jump fences and sneak in. A lot of people in LA want to live the celebrity life, without actually being celebrities.

Three months after moving to the city, I got contacted by a content house called "Go House." I would live in a mansion and create content with other influencers who were staying there. I ended up living in the house for six months, and a lot happened during that time.

I met my first boyfriend, my first love. I was not treated well, and within that, I met people that pretended to be my friends just to get close to my boyfriend. I had friends who hooked up with him behind my back.

That's when I started to realize I don't want to be around a bunch of people that are treating each other like their competition.

I moved to LA at 18 with the dream of being an influencer. I lost myself, and I can't wait to leave.
Coursey attending Coachella in April 2023, a few days before starting the fitness challenge that coincided with a wider lifestyle change. Rhegan Coursey.

I want to move back to Texas, to be with my family and live a normal life

In LA, everyone wants to be someone, and they're willing to go great lengths to get there.

A lot of people are struggling financially because it is so expensive. They want to live this celebrity lifestyle so they can post on social media that they spent $20 on a smoothie at luxury grocery store Erewhon. You're pretending to be someone that's not you, and then you lose yourself. That's the cycle of LA. That's what I did.

I became so disconnected from my family, I did not visit home for a year.

When I finally decided to go back, it was because my little cousin had committed suicide at the age of 12. The night before I was meant to fly, someone broke into my car and stole my documents, as well as $2,000 worth of clothing I had just sold on a second-hand website. That was the third time I had gotten robbed in three months. I missed my flight the next day because I was at the police station trying to sort my passport out.

All of this snowballed into a feeling of unease. Los Angeles feels dark. It never feels homey. As a 21-year-old woman living by herself, I rarely feel safe.

In April this year, I impulsively started a fitness challenge — waking up early, reading self-help books, doing two workouts a day, eating healthy. It kickstarted this cycle of wanting to become the best version of myself.

I documented it on social media, and gained hundreds of thousands of followers. It opened up the doors for me of making lifestyle content that pushes other people. It's not just for me anymore, it's a community.

The more I connect with my followers and work on myself, the more I'm realizing that there's so much more to life than getting blackout drunk until 4 a.m., going home and sleeping in until 5 p.m., and doing it again.

I miss my family, I miss being at home. I also think that my content would do better in Dallas because I'd be living a more normal life. I'm not a celebrity. Yes, I get to experience bits and pieces of that life, but at my core, I'm a normal person that likes normal things, and I don't want to shape-shift myself into a different person.

Not everyone I met in LA was a bad person, and I did build some meaningful connections. I love the nature in LA and I have a beautiful apartment. But despite the pros, I don't want to be just another LA girl.