Co-founders of the Reno Instagrammys, Chelsie Rose Kern (left) and Natalie Handler (right) pose for a portrait along the edge of the Truckee River on Wednesday, Aug.19. The Reno Instagrammys is a charity event that raises funds for the nonprofit of their choice.


By Marcus Lavergne

Taking a selfie, making a six-second Vine or snapping a quick food pic for Instagram can get you much further than you think. At least, that’s what the founders of the Reno Instagrammys are trying to get people to understand.

According to co-founder Chelsie Rose Kern, the Reno Instagrammys is a free photo and video competition for all ages. Participants can submit as many entries as they want through Facebook and Instagram. Contestants’ entries will be judged in categories like “Selfie His” and “Selfie Hers,” “Home Means Nevada,” “Pet Portrait,” “Photo Bomb,” “Risky Buisness” and 15 others.

Kern and her close friend and partner, Natalie Handler, are working to put together this year’s Reno Instagrammys, an event that they hope to make larger than last year’s. For them, an idea that sprouted from joking among friends quickly became something more.

“At first we were just making fun of ourselves and our friends,” Kern said. “But, we’re on the board for the Holland Project, so we had fundraising requirements. We were just like ‘let’s put on the Reno Instagrammys.’”

Handler, who also joked about the endeavor at first, admitted that the 2014 event ended up being a huge hit, bringing in over 5,000 entries and making $6,000 toward fundraising.

“It kind of blew up way larger than we thought it would,” Handler said. “We had an idea and it seemed kind of wacky at first, but then we just rolled with it. It snowballed into something that kind of made sense to everyone else, [and] it worked out really well.”

Kern and Handler both express passion for the art, and the art scene in the Truckee Meadows community. Their zeal for serving the local art community shines through their fundraising work and partnership with The Holland Project.

“I think Natalie can agree that we pride ourselves on creating a fundraiser that’s unlike anything that Reno [has ever] seen,” Kern said.

According to its website, The Holland Project is a nonprofit, volunteer-run organization that hopes to show the public that Reno is becoming a place imbued with a culture of artistry and music.

“The Reno Instagrammys are an independent, charitable program that we are using as a platform to raise funds for the nonprofit organization of our choice,” Handler said. “We both care immensely about The Holland Project.”

Kern and Handler’s largest challenges involve the business and monetary implications of the competition, but after managing to raise over $6,000 last year, they have set their sights towards a goal of $40,000 for 2015.

They also point out that another challenge is getting people to apply for their $1,000 scholarship. They are pushing people from underrepresented groups who are pursuing, or would like to pursue, a degree in the arts at Truckee Meadows Community College or the University of Nevada, Reno, to apply. It involves creating a photo essay that consists of five to 10 photos along with 300 words that tell a unique story as an underrepresented person.

“As we grow and as we gather more funds over the years, we’ll just bring in larger scholarships,” Handler said. “This is our first one and we’re really excited, but we’re just having a hard time getting people to apply.”

Last year’s Instagrammys had about 5,000 entries, and that number has nearly quadrupled according to Kern. The rise in participation has also helped bring more attention to the fundraising while making it possible to hold the actual award show in a larger venue than last year, the Pioneer Center for the Performing Arts.

“It’s a red-carpet, black-tie awards show with a twist,” Kern said. “It’s a killer award show with crazy talent, kind of like a Grammys meets MTV awards show. It’s safe to say that last year people’s minds were a little bit blown. They literally come in on a red-carpet, there are photographers taking everybody’s photos, and everybody’s a star. It’s going to be so fly.”

The red carpet affair is set to be held on Sept. 19 after the award nominees are announced on Sept. 4.

When discussing the future of the event and what’s to come, both Kern and Handler expressed their excitement and the great potential to spread it across the world. Handler even encourages people who don’t live in the Truckee Meadows area to participate.

“People ask that question like ‘if I don’t live in Reno can I play?’” Handler said. “It’s like yes! Reno shines worldwide, and we want to have that kind of global identity.”

Ultimately, the two have the long-term goal of having the Instagrammys across the globe.

“Reno Instagrammys could be anywhere,” Kern said. “It could be the Seattle Instagrammys, it could be Los Angeles Instagrammys [or] it could be London Instagrammys. It’s a worldwide platform, and it connects so many people!”

For more information on the scholarship, rules and the awards show go to www.

Marcus Lavergne can be reached at and on Twitter @mlavergne21.