Teen Mom Goes from Relying on Food Stamps to Supporting Her Family of 7 Through Social Media Posts
"I'm just sharing my thoughts and emotions rawly as it's happening," Bethanie Garcia says of her journey on an upcoming episode Under the Influence with Jo Piazza
When Bethanie Garcia first launched The Garcia Diaries in 2014, she avoided sharing the unpleasant aspects of motherhood by making everything in her life look picture perfect.
But those same realities she once avoided are now what has helped her build a successful career as an influencer and become the sole provider for her family of seven.
"It's literally the most empowering thing ever, that my business, that I've built with my own two hands from the ground up [is so successful]," Garcia says of her journey on an upcoming episode of Under the Influence with Jo Piazza, an iHeartRadio original podcast.
"I'm just sharing my thoughts and emotions rawly as it's happening, and all of these things were making my online presence grow, which was so crazy to me," she adds. "But you never know what other people are going through, that they can relate to it."
Long before Garcia was at the helm of her blog and social media pages, she was a struggling teen mom who had just welcomed a daughter Brooklynn with her high school sweetheart Anthony, according to her blog.
"We were 18 when we got married and got pregnant, and [were] literally on food stamps and government assistance and government insurance, and could barely pay our $500 a month rent," Garcia recalls on the podcast. "My family helped us pay for it [because we] struggled to buy diapers and to afford the formula that my daughter needed because she was allergic to cow's milk then."
Around that time, Garcia started The Garcia Diaries as "a journal of my motherhood musings" where she could discuss everything from birth to mental health, according to her blog.
After she and Anthony "struggled so hard" for the first few years of their marriage, Garcia began joining networks and reaching out to companies for sponsorships.
"It kind of just started growing slowly from there," she recalls to Piazza. "And I think in 2016, I probably made like $200."
But like many Instagram users, Garcia felt the pressure to make everything in her posts look flawless.
"I was kind of still in the whole Instagram aesthetic of everything needs to be white blankets and white walls and everything needs to be kind of perfect," she explains on the podcast. "I was doing things like telling my husband, 'Oh, we need to buy these white bedsheets so that it'll look better on Instagram,' or, 'Oh, we need to make sure we only take pictures of this part of the house, because this is the only part that looks good on Instagram kind of a thing.'"
"It was a few years of that before I really was like, 'Okay, this is not me,'" Garcia continues. "And it gets draining to have to be so curated and try to be someone that you're not online."
After determining how she wanted to portray herself, as well as her family — which now includes daughters Harlym, 6, Bronx, 2, and Ellis, 6 months, and son Deuce, 4 — Garcia says she began to "change her niche" on the internet.
"Not even on purpose, but to be just more real, raw, authentic," she says on the podcast.
Garcia even mustered up enough courage to speak publicly about one of the darkest times in her life: her miscarriage in 2017.
"[That] was another really big moment for me, sharing authentically what I was going through at that point, instead of hiding it and pretending like it never happened," she explained to Piazza. "And that was another huge growth moment completely on accident."
By 2019, Garcia says she and her husband "started talking about him quitting his job because I was making three times as much as he was."
They eventually decided it would be best for their family in May of 2019, and have relied on her blog and social media posts as their sole income ever since.
With over 138,000 followers now — many of whom often reach out about the posts — Garcia says she is mindful about what she promotes and what brands she partners with.
"I had a brand reach out last year that wanted to pay me $80,000 for a weight loss program, and $80,000 was very appealing to me," she admits on the podcast. "But there was no way I was ever going to recommend a weight loss program to my following, because I've done body acceptance posts for how many years? And I've talked about how weight loss is hurtful to my mental health."
"If I had posted that, my audience wouldn't trust me anymore," she adds. "And so that wasn't worth it to me."
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Reflecting on how far she's come, the mom of five says she can't help but feel "so blessed."
"We were at a place... where we couldn't pay rent and we were on food stamps and government assistance," she tells Piazza. "And now to be in this place where we are, I'm so grateful."
"But I also do know that it's because of the work that I've done and how hard I've worked," she continues. "And that is so empowering for me as a human being, as a wife, as a mom, to be able to do that for my family."
Under the Influence with Jo Piazza premieres on the iHeartRadio app and Apple Podcasts on Thursday, Feb. 4, and Piazza tells PEOPLE listeners can expect to "peel back the curtain" on mom influencers.
"Being a mom is hard work and so many of these mom influencers are using this platform as a full-time job to support their families while also raising their kids," Piazza says. "These women should be celebrated and held up as entrepreneurs and breadwinners instead of being ripped down by critics, which happens far too often."
"I'm excited to take readers on this journey into the world of mom influencers and hear from the real women behind the picture-perfect images," she adds.