The past 8 months have been eye-opening. I experienced a lot of success that I am incredibly grateful for. But even with the success, I almost quit being a fashion blogger. I would consider this period of time my biggest area of growth. A lot has been happening in the world in general. Which forced me to take a step back and re-evaluate how I was contributing to the world, how I wanted to contribute to the world, how I could help make a difference and how I can be a better person.
In July 2016, Philando Castile was shot and killed by a police officer in St. Paul, Minnesota. My hometown. The stories of innocent people being killed for no reason, regardless of race, always struck a chord with me. But when it hits close to home, it’s just different. Every person has a different experience, but I never felt like my race was an issue back home and here I was now reading that he was shot because he was black and thus considered a danger. This scenario was different because Phil went to my high school. All of my old friends knew him and were close friends with him. I remember seeing him at school, but I didn’t personally know him. To see so many people I did know be affected by this crime was and is heartbreaking. My hometown was becoming divided. I would read how Interstate 94 was shut down by protestors or how protests became violent. I had always strived to stay away from politics. But is it really considered politics as opposed to humanity and simply doing the right thing? This is when I decided to speak up more. To say something, anything. I participated in #BlackLivesMatter marches. I began contributing my time to giving back. I was a part of the Women’s March in Downtown LA. I helped Adrienne Bailon with her Besos Care Packages initiative where we passed out basic necessities to the Women’s Center and the homeless in Skidrow. I had to do something outside of myself.
I began to feel guilty. Not just guilty, but uncomfortable. Posting pictures of my Gucci shoes or Chloe bag made me feel superficial. Is that all I had to offer to the world? Is anyone going to be inspired by the material things I post? I don’t believe it will all the time. I think sometimes it may just make people feel envious or bad about what they don’t have and I don’t want anyone to feel like that. I don’t want to be envied. Please believe me when I say that you don’t need material things to be happy. I don’t want to contradict myself here, because I do love to have nice things and will continue to buy the things I like (I’m a Leo afterall) but I want to stress that it’s not everything. Don’t go broke trying to be like the next big blogger. I’m sure many have noticed that between November and even more recently, my posts have been far less frequent. It may be a week or two or even three weeks before you see me post. Blogging is unfortunately a superficial business. Let me re-phrase that, fashion blogging is a superficial business. I say fashion blogging in particular because it’s vastly different from the world of YouTubers and Beauty Bloggers where it is heavily diverse and inclusive. But in fashion and style, it simply isn’t as much. It’s about image. On top of not feeling good about what I was posting, I was also dealing with trying to figure out why some (not all) brands and agencies don’t regularly support black and brown bloggers or girls who aren’t the supposed standard of beauty.
I want to reiterate here that I am not complaining. On the contrary, I am thankful to the brands that chose me to work with and I do consider myself to have been fortunate to have garnered some success. I have been given opportunities that have been utterly amazing. To be able to work with brands like Burberry, Abercrombie, Paige or to have brands like Puma and Levi’s acknowledge my existence and like my content enough to want to gift me items is an absolute honor. I have also met some incredible girls and guys in this business. Bloggers, Influencers and Actors that I admired from behind the scenes were suddenly becoming friends or I was getting the opportunity to meet them. I am actually able to make a living off a career that I fell into by accident. I can say that fashion blogging has changed my life. But there’s such a fine line. I am becoming more and more aware because I’ve been forced to become aware. Money and material things are great to an extent. Trust, before the Gucci, Chanel, Chloe, Golden Goose and whatnot – I was poor. I once could only afford shoes from Payless. I came from a broken home. I never had the luxury of my parents paying all of my bills. I was a college dropout. I’ve been homeless. I know what being at rock bottom feels like. I have struggled in every sense of the word. I work extremely hard to be able to have what I have and to be able to do what I want to do. But because I am a women of color, I have to work 10 times harder to be respected and recognized for my work. That’s just the way it is not just in fashion but also in entertainment. Which is why it’s such a hot topic and celebration when we see actors and directors like Viola Davis, Barry Jenkins and Mahershala Ali win Oscars. And it’s also why you see pioneers like Gina Rodriguez and America Ferrera so dedicated to making sure positive, non-stereotypical stories that represent the hispanic communities be recognized on film and tv. I want to be able to do that too.
I admit, I have dealt with my own insecurities regarding the color of my skin, my mixed race as a Puerto Rican and Black women and feeling as though I did not fit the typical beauty standard. These insecurities were self-imposed but it begins to manifest when I don’t see girls that look like me. To not be able to see girls that look like me not be recognized or not on one of those fancy #RevolveAroundTheWorld trips makes me feel down at times. Because if they support Black or Latina celebrities to make appearances or wear their brand, why can’t they support my people? Why aren’t these brands and agencies making diversity and inclusivity a priority? Shouldn’t they be helping to embrace diversity and shaping a more supportive community? Why don’t they care enough to embrace the differences in women that shop their site? And then I wonder, how often do these girls that go on these trips and have the opportunity to walk a Dolce & Gabbana show or attend a Dior party look around and ask why they don’t see a black girl or a girl who’s plus size? Why are these kind of girls not being included? It’s a bit mind boggling to think about. Black girls. Brown girls. Plus size girls. Girls who don’t look like the cookie cutter image. Girls who don’t necessarily fit the standard. Transgender girls. All of them should be included in more brand opportunities. It’s inspiring to see that celebrated and not something to shy away from. Instead we see the same thing over and over. However, I know a lot of those girls work hard for their opportunities. It would just be great to see brands build up success for those up and coming and to be the example. I once saw a young black girl comment that “sometimes smaller bloggers feel like there’s no hope”. That is the message we are sending these girls? We have to do better. Go to the Instagram pages of ShopStyle, Revolve, Storets, OOTD Magazine or one of those inspo pages that just repost blogger photos – do you see enough diversity? Think of diversity in a much broader scope (not just ethnicity and skin color). And if you do see it, how long has it been since that post? I have come across some where it had been 7+ months. 7+ months since a women of color was posted or no posts at all of bigger women. Why is diversity not the norm and why is no one talking about it? In a way, this one track mind has been discouraging and is a silent form of bullying. What these brands represent, is not representative of the real world for the average girl. But there are many brands that 100% support diversity (Abercrombie, J. Crew, Madewell – for example) and I have been more willing to do business with them as opposed to brands that do not.
With all of that said, this is why I seriously considered quitting blogging.
It dawned on me that I have come this far for a reason. It is all of our responsibility to fight. So at the beginning of the year I started thinking differently. Instead of looking at the lack of diversity as an issue and being upset about it, I could use it to my advantage. I could use it as a way to encourage change. I am going to chalk it up to brands not being aware and not thinking outside of the box. I would like to help change the perception that black girls, brown girls and girls bigger than a size 2 aren’t valuable. Because, we are.
In everything that I do, I just want to do what’s right. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again – I want to inspire. I want to be a good example. I want to speak up for others that are afraid to do the same, in hopes that it reaffirms their purpose. To make them feel like, if she can do it then I can do it too. That’s why I refuse to stay silent. I want to give you something more valuable that can truly make a difference for you and instill hope. I imagine most people need access to resources and networking opportunities, a new camera or a laptop, or even a few extra dollars to be able to be the successful content creator they want to be (all of which I will be helping creatives do with my new company LOVE/CREATE. More on that soon).
With all of the social issues occurring, sometimes it makes me feel a little bothered that bigger bloggers aren’t saying anything. Some of whom I know (and dearly love/respect, so please don’t take any of this personally). Why aren’t they using their influence to make a difference? Why aren’t they standing up for others that are affected, even if it doesn’t affect them? I get it and understand – to remain silent is better for your brand and potential sponsorships. I respect that decision. As uncomfortable these issues may be to talk about, they need to be discussed. It affects me and so many others. Awareness needs to be spread. If a 17 year old, such as one of my favorite people Yara Shahidi, can use her influence to fight for youth, human rights, women’s rights and diversity – then shouldn’t I?