The balloon artist is fed up with influencers wanting freebies

Some social media stars are full of hot air.

LA-based Melody Pianga, known to its 61,000 Instagram followers as Feathered Fox Design LA, has been creating large-scale, cutting-edge balloon installations for lavish parties around Los Angeles, like birthday parties and baby showers, since early 2020. She typically quotes clients between $1,000 and $3,000 per job . But the 40-year-old said she was tired of “reckless influencers” trying to get her to work for free.

“These people are flaunting their fabulous lives with their fancy handbags and huge houses, and they want my work for free when they clearly can afford it,” Pianga said. “I run this business myself and I’m at a point in my career where I deserve more than a mention on Instagram.”

During the pandemic, Pianga has received many requests for “collaborations”, which is how influencers refer to each other and obtain goods and services in exchange for a tag. Over the past six months, Pianga said he’s received 30-40 collaboration requests from influencers and celebrities — and they tend to disappear when she says no, but offers to take the job at her usual rate.

Pianga charges between $3,000 and $5,000 for a display like this.
Courtesy of Melody Pianga

In June, Tohi, a 33-year-old Persian singer with 12 million Instagram followers, asked him “Are you collaborating?” in an Instagram exchange seen by The Post. Pianga replied, “I don’t do social commerce collaborations at this stage of my business. All of my clients are regular, paying customers. »

She got crickets in response. Tohi did not respond to the Post’s request for comment.

Tohi, a Los Angeles-based Persian singer, approached Pianga about a possible collaboration on a balloon installation earlier in June - then disappeared when she said she wouldn't be doing it for free.
Los Angeles-based Persian singer Tohi approached Pianga about a possible collaboration on a balloon installation – then disappeared when she said she wouldn’t be doing it for free.
Getty Images

A month earlier, the assistant of Maryse Mizanin, a WWE wrestler and co-star of the reality show “Miz & Mrs.” in the US, slipped into Pianga’s Instagram DMs with a request for a large installation.

“What [she] wanted – balloons falling from the roof of their house – would have cost between $4,000 and $5,000,” Pianga said. But before Pianga gave her the quote, Mizanin’s assistant asked her if she was doing discounted or free tag work.

“I said ‘No, but I would love to do this project!’ And she just never answered. Completely ghosted me,” Pianga said.

An assistant to WWE star Maryse Mizanin messaged Pianga on Instagram, hoping to get a giveaway for Mizanin's event last month.
An assistant to WWE star Maryse Mizanin messaged Pianga on Instagram, hoping to get a giveaway for an event last month.
Getty Images

Neither Mizanin nor his assistant responded to the Post’s request for comment.

“I don’t know if it’s complete narcissism or if it’s a bit of not being aware of what I’m doing or how hard I work, but it’s really frustrating,” said Pianga, a mother of three, adding that she spends about $3,000 a month on balloons and helium. “Every penny that I earn [goes] back to my business.

Asked by The Post about the names of other influencers hoping for free balloon art, Pianga said, “I’m so annoyed to get these requests for free work that I’m deleting them as soon as I get them. I can’t even remember who sent requests at this point because there are so many.

Pianga, a mother of three from Los Angeles, estimates she spends around $3,000 a month on balloons and helium.
Pianga, a mother of three from Los Angeles, estimates she spends around $3,000 a month on balloons and helium.
image copyrightJohn Chapple

But she remembers one particular beauty influencer who has over 40 million TikTok followers..

In the fall of 2020, Pianga’s friend and fellow balloon artist, Nicci Dewez, asked if she wanted to participate in a project to set up a display stand—for free—so complex it required multiple people. It was for a dinner organized for the TikTok influencer by the event planning service Partyology, which had contacted Dewez, the Orange County-based company founder of Sunny Bunny Balloons.

In an email seen by The Post, the planner told Dewez, “This is a great opportunity for our business and yours. Between the exposure of the brand, the media attention and the press that we hope to obtain, this is a unique opportunity. »

Pianga designed this creation for a prom.
Pianga designed this creation for a prom.
Courtesy of Melody Pianga

But Pianga declined to participate with Dewez, citing its principle against offering time-consuming and expensive creations for free. And she’s very glad she did after Dewez didn’t get the social media mention or tag she was expecting – meaning no one who saw the dinner posts even knew who designed the ball.

“None of us balloon artists who participated have ever been reposted or shouted out by [the influencer], which I think we all expected. An Instagram Story, something! I will definitely never say yes again,” Dewez added.

Pianga, in her LA studio, sometimes spends weeks planning her designs.
The designer said she was “so annoyed” by the posts asking for free work that she normally deleted them.
image copyrightJohn Chapple

Partyology could not be reached for comment.

Still, Dewez said, “I wanted the opportunity. It was a great party and I made some fabulous industry friends.

Pianga does not remove all requests for free installations, however. “I will be happy to donate my work to local churches and public schools because, to me, it is the people and institutions that deserve free art,” Pianga added.

“Whenever the Make-A-Wish Foundation calls and asks for a display, I happily give them one. They also always offer to pay me, but I never accept. If I donate my time and product to people, it is to those who need it.