Starter Packs of NYC Knows Scenesters Better Than They Know Themselves
She has run the beloved Instagram account Starter Packs Of NYC for four years, but it takes 24-year-old Sasha (she keeps her full identity private) a few minutes to come up with a starter pack for herself.
“You’ve got to have the Canterbury Tales in there,” the medieval English literature grad eventually decides, speaking to me over the phone. That, and “a bottle of natural wine, and a set of gift cards to various New York City restaurants.”
The account—which boasts over 50,000 followers, including Justin Theroux, and has picked up a few likes from Lorde—has taken the starter pack, a Twitter meme that first began circulating in 2014, and used it to create a sometimes savage, always undeniable taxonomy of New York City’s myriad scenesters. Where ”the crazy cat lady” and “I smoked weed once” starter packs tend to be broad and play off stereotypes, the Starter Packs of NYC are razor-sharp and well informed. The definition of IYKYK is a caption like, “Omg just spotted @leandramcohen thru my @poppylissiman’s and almost spat out my matcha.”
“It's the kind of account that really feels like an inside joke,” Sasha says. “It's an appealing follow to a lot of people cause it's need-to-know, but it's also not that niche.”
By day, Sasha is a freelance writer working “a mix of odds and ends,” but her tendency to people-watch means she’s always on the Starter Pack clock—and it’s paid off. The account has created starter packs in collaboration with brands like Supergoop, Bumble, and the TV show Killing Eve.
As for further aspirations, the account’s bio lists just one: “Somebody give me a real job already…” Sasha does have some plans for Starter Packs, but for those who keep asking about a podcast, there’s some bad news: “I don't personally think that this will end in a podcast,” Sasha says. For now, you can enjoy the influencer-inspired starter packs she made for nofilter, embedded below.
How did Starter Packs come about?
I started the account in my junior year of college, which was around the end of 2017. I made it as a finsta for my friends and just to make fun of a couple types [of people] that I was seeing around a lot. [But] because it wasn't personal content, I never made it private, and people just started sharing the packs cause they're funny.
I guess I didn't appreciate how often people share memes. So very quickly people I didn't know started following it and sharing. And now if I look at any given starter pack, tons and tons and tons of people are just DM-ing it to their friends. I know that's so obvious, but I'm not a person that has a background in social media as a professional field. I was not really well versed in how to work the algorithm or anything like that. The weird and best kept secret of Starter Packs is that there is very little strategy other than just trying to be funny and honest.
What’s the process of creating a Starter Pack?
In undergrad I studied film and English. My goal has always been to be a screenwriter. I've been writing scripts since I was like 14 or 15. So that storytelling, character-driven part of writing is something I've always been into. And I guess I'm just kind of a people watcher and sometimes eavesdropper. They just kind of pop into my head based on people I know, or I'll just notice a trend. Some of them are more aggressively of-the-moment than others. Like I did recently the “stocks BF and astrology GF” [trope] ‘cause that's just like a meme that was going around and so I wanted to do my version of it.
A lot of them have been based on boys that have ruined my life or people I run into. I did one a really long time ago for someone who's now my very close friend, but at the time was a guy that didn't let me into a club. I made one making fun of him and then he got tagged and that's how we became friends.
Has a starter pack ever caused any controversy in the comments? Content about being a New Yorker can be a lightning rod.
Usually those comments, other people shut them down. They're just annoying. They're often kind of bad faith, like "This isn't what New York is like, these are all transplants." And it's like, Yeah, the point of the account isn't to portray the beautiful tapestry of all the diversity of New York. It's more like, These are the most annoying people in New York.
How did the pandemic affect what you posted?
It was hard to figure out how to pull it off at first. I didn't want to be insensitive. When it first started, I did one for quarantine and then a "I miss New York" one and then I did one when Chloë Sevigny had a baby. And then protests started over the summer for BLM. For a while that really took over the account. I'm part of a New York community and that's the unifying factor in all my content. So I felt that that communal priority was going to take precedence for the time being. Because I had the followers already, I felt like it was a really sensible, logical use of the platform.
Pretty quickly with the fall, I'd just take whatever jokes the internet was doling out. I would never joke about Covid, but I think I found ways to joke about the ways that New Yorkers are dealing with it. Like outdoor dining creates all these new kinds of opportunities for people watching and there are all these pop-ups that have really specific clientele that are memorable and recognizable because of the nature of how big a role Instagram plays right now in the going out scene.
What do you think is next for Starter Packs? Maybe a podcast?
People have started asking this a lot. I guess I don't personally think that this will end in a podcast. Not that I don't love the idea in theory, but I don't think I really want to take the reins on that. People have suggested that I do some sort of book, like a coffee table book. So I was thinking of something like that. The reason the account is funny to people is because I am a writer, that's my niche. So I think if I were to do a book, it might be the starter packs paired with little extended blurbs about the types of people or something like that. And I think it would be really fun.
NYC Influencer Starter Packs, Made Exclusively for nofilter by Starter Packs of NYC
The Fashionisto, The Last Days of VSCO, and The Foodfluencer