Have you seen Ellen’s Netflix comedy special, Relatable? It made me laugh so hard. I love her. She so perfectly dead-pan hilarious. She opens with how she had been so excited to do a comedy special but someone told her it wouldn’t work as she was no longer relatable to most Americans. Then she goes into this bit about how she was was expressing her outrage over this and how ridiculous it was to her butlers (emphasizing the plural). I think there was a reference to polishing gold bars and having her butler draw her a bath and feed her some pineapple. I’m not doing her bit justice but it was good… definitely watch it, if you haven’t!
It led me to think a bit about blogging though. Are bloggers and influencers relatable at this point? (I’d love to hear your thoughts here.)
When you think back to it, the reason bloggers (at least some of us) initially became popular is because it was a new, relatable media. As someone who still reads a lot of blogs, seeing an iPhone pic of a cute outfit on a body that looks similar to mine or a more personal post is more interesting than reading a glossy magazine packed with clothes I can’t afford, unrealistic beauty standards, or someone who is wayyyy younger than me.
Over time, as with everything, things shifted. In advertising, the money goes where the eyeballs go. With the influx of sponsored content, outrageous gifting, free trips, and whatnot, everything changed quite a bit. You can earn a living (or for some, not me, employee full teams of people) from blogging which is something I never would have dreamed possible when I started. There’s pressure to up your photography game or hire a professional photographer so that your site + content can look a certain way. And besides catering to your readers, your blog becomes a business and you’re also catering to advertisers.
It’s the smallest thing but what triggered this thought was thinking about beauty reviews. As a blogger, I have access to so much stuff. Boxes and boxes of product samples arrive every day. When compared to what comes in, the products that I actually write about here + use in my rotation feels small but I also know that for the average woman my “stash” is certainly not relatable. It’s my actual job (well, part of it!) to try as much of it as I can to report back with my favorites here, but I’m well aware that the average woman cannot keep five shower gels to go with her different moods in her bathroom (a definite single girl perk), have three favorite face scrubs, or just try out a new $150 face serum and then pass it along to her bestie if she doesn’t like it. I try to keep this in mind with every product I feature here and I never want you guys to feel like you are going to die/have bad skin/get the plague because you can’t afford or don’t want to buy something I show you here.
I think about when I started this blog. I was 28 years old and struggling to pay off my credit cards. To spend $100 on a pair of ballet flats was a big investment. Kiehl’s was a splurge brand. I bought most of my clothes at Gap and Forever 21 and started doing (and posting) DIY projects to make versions of designer pieces (mostly jewelry) that I was coveting.
Nine years later I am out of debt, have gotten a few promotions, quit my day job, and started working for myself. I’m in my late thirties, so things are different and my lifestyle probably isn’t relatable to the average twenty-something. The same could be said though for someone my age who is married with children. (No mortgage or private school to pay for, no husband to tell me I can’t buy that $300 sweater.) Or someone who works a more traditional day job. (Yoga in the middle of the day? L-O-Freaking L.)
I had an interesting conversation with a reader via DM’s a few weeks ago, brought on my something I’d said on the hashtag no filter podcast. She said, “blogging is unique in that you’re a normal person who has a very public persona, and that brings its own stresses… but the anxiety posts are at an all-time high these days and I think it’s becoming unrelatable to some of us.”
She hit the nail on the head with that first part. Blogging is funny because you’re basically a very normal person with a very public life. But your life is not really all that “normal” anymore as you attain more success you have access to all these perks.
At the end of the day I just try to be my most honest true self here and keep things real. But the combination of growing up, achieving more success as I’ve built a “following”, and the way that the industry has shifted can definitely make things interesting.
So how do we navigate that? I’d really love your thoughts on this as well. For me, it’s definitely a balancing act but I wanted to share a few thoughts of my own.
Photography. I’ll probably always use a professional photographer here – not just because I like the way it looks, but because I absolutely hate asking friends/family/boyfriends to take my photo. It disrupts the mood and makes a fun moment into a work moment. (Can you just take it from this angle? Lower!!! Ugh I need more lipstick – REDO!) It’s really, really important to me to be present with my loved ones. I’m not someone who enjoys looking at my phone and I’d rather just write down my outfits throughout the week and shoot them later with a photographer. Relatable? Maybe nah but it lets me keep work + personal life separate and that is EVERYTHING for me.
The free stuff and trips. I am saying no more and more not only because it’s hard for my readers to relate to but also because honestly I don’t want it. I’d rather work with advertisers who pay me money, disclose that to you, and buy the things I want to buy (or take the trips I want to take – with my friends, not strangers!) with my OWN MONEY.
I’ll always tell you exactly what I think. I’m never out to burn bridges or relationships, but if a product sucks (like the Quip toothbrush my dentist more or less told me to burn) or I see a company doing something shady, I will tell you because I would want to know. As a blogger, my word (and your trust) is the most important thing. All it takes for me to lose a reader (or hundreds of readers!) is for me to recommend one faulty product, have them try it and hate it and never want to come back here. That sounds dramatic but is very scary and is something constantly on my mind with every single thing I write and share here; sponsored or not.
Sponsored content. This blog is my business and I treat it as such. I’m really lucky in that you guys understand that and support my advertisers (THANK YOU.) I will always do sponsored content – it pays my bills and also lets me keep running my blog (you’d be surprised at how many expenses go into running a site!) BUT I will always be picky. Any beauty products here (sponsored or not) get tested for at least two weeks. And I say no to brands WAY more than I say yes. As I said above, your trust is the most important thing to me.
Keeping it real. I’ll always share my struggles here. Not for advice or sympathy (ugh to both of those things!) but because I want to normalize things and for you to come to my site and know you aren’t the only one struggling with something be it feeling lonely or dealing with dating nonsense, or being stressed out about stupid sh*t that doesn’t actually matter. We all do it but rarely do we talk about it, which is why I like to talk about it.
Want vs. need. It drives me crazy when anyone (blogger or not) says they NEED this shirt or these shoes or this thing. A thing can be awesome and you can really want it but you probably don’t actually need it. There is absolutely nothing wrong with treating yourself to something new but I will also always be honest with you guys about what you need (water, exercise, food, a roof?) and what is fun and awesome (all the frivolous things I tell you about here). I think that the word “need” is very very overused in this space. Let’s be clear – you don’t need most of the things I feature here. Does that make those things any less awesome? Of course not! But when we say that we “need” these things, it contributes to a negative mindset of having to have all these things in order to be whole as a person.
I think that about sums it up. But I’d love your thoughts – on the industry, on my content + site, what you’d like to see more of, what you’d like to see less of, what you can and can’t relate to, and so on and so forth! In the meantime, happy Friday! xo
photography by Carter Fish.