Filter facade: The truth behind being a fashion blogger

‘Maybe people won’t like my posts, and then, you have a mini-anxiety attack’

Models, fashion bloggers and so-called influencers pervade our feeds, marketing their lifestyle, clothing and products through flawless images. However, making a living in this industry requires ‘thick skin’.

Fashion blogger Mel* who wished to remain anonymous during this interview, says that the reality of developing an online presence isn’t easy – you have to create relationships with brands, be constantly updating your social sites and deal with anxieties. 

Mel already had a substantial social media following (over 10k) and contacts in the fashion industry due to her career in modelling, and whilst she says Instagram has been a great tool for her career, she believes that mental health issues such as body dysmorphia and ‘why don’t I look like her syndrome’ would be less prominent. With likes a form of feedback in the industry, it’s inevitable that it can give rise to  comparitive behaviours. 

Blessed with perfect teeth, makeup and manicured nails – that aren’t chipped – at first sight you’d think Mel has no reason to be self-conscious. However, she tells me it’s hard not be insecure when you’re exposed on the internet. “I have had trolls before, leaving comments like ‘look at her fat rolls,’ ‘she’s too short to be doing fashion’ or critiquing my outfits,” she says. “But I have to remember it’s just some one behind a computer who most likely wouldn’t say this to my face.

“Obviously it gets you down, if someone’s criticising you, it’s hard not feel insecure about the choices you’ve made. Even when you put up a post, what goes through your head is maybe people won’t like it and you have a mini-anxiety attack. However, at the end of the day it is work and you’re going to face criticism regardless.”

Most of us are active on at least one form of social media, with thoughtful consideration going into the images we upload. Ass on the sink selfies to enhance what our mama’s gave us, sucking it in profusely whenever there’s a camera in sight (whilst trying our hardest to look candid at the same time) and forcing our lips into positions that make our parents cringe – we’ve all been there.

But our social media posts are a collection of highlights that don’t capture the pain and anxiety most of us go through to get that perfect shot, thinking of the heaviness that weighs on our consciences when we skip a gym session, or that reoccurring pang of guilt when a Victoria Secret model’s body comes up on our feeds during a lunchtime scroll. Whilst we can switch off and refrain such feelings from escalating, the nature of Mel’s job means they are inescapable. 

“Often I’ll be excited to post something, but if it receives a disappointing amount of likes, I start thinking there’s something wrong with the way I look,” she says. “Sometimes it’s helpful as you can identify how to improve, but sometimes it can upset you.”

She admits that she’s considered plastic surgery to progress in her career, believing that a certain look is required to garner interest from brands. “When I feel insecure I think, maybe if I was thinner, had bigger boobs and lips I’d get more work. Curvy figures are in at the moment but then again, so is being tall and skinny,” she tells me. “I notice that it’s going down the plastic route at the moment. Girls are feeling an increasing amount of pressure to get surgery just to look better on social media. I feel that a lot of fbloggers have had surgery purely to look better on the gram.”

Despite the industry fostering insecurities, Mel doesn’t regret a thing, her job is an expression of self. She wouldn’t want anyone to be put off by trolls in pursuit of their passion.

But how easy is it to make a living? Mel shows me a new app influencers are using, which directly links followers to sites where they can purchase their look. Companies can then monitor how much incoming traffic they gain from such sites and subsequently, remunerate the individual through either money or partnership. 

In a New York Times article, Tracey Manner, a PR spokesperson for handbag retailer Botkier, revealed that when it comes to marketing, “the digital girls” make higher conversions (web visits to sales) more than celebrity placement the brand might have paid money for. In addition, some influencers can earn up to £20,000 per post, Jenny Woods, Founder of the social media startup for marketing teams Zaapt, told Mashable. Whilst it depends on the brand they are working with the potential earnings are anything from £5,000 to £20,000 per post.

Whilst the attraction of fashion blogging isn’t going to dissipate anytime soon, with young women poised and ready to take the next surge of followers, Mel’s advice to those considering a career in the industry is to have multiple hustles – it’s tough, the market is saturated and you need to find your niche. “Don’t focus everything on it,” she says, “it takes a while to make money from it.”

I also ask her if it’s important for her to inject personality into her posts, so her followers can affiliate with a real person, not a distant clothes mannequin – a common perception of models. She believes it’s really important for followers to see you as an authentic and real person, that’s what they want.

“But I would say, for me, when I first started, I was worried about being judged,” she says. “I still need to keep my guard up a bit. When someone judges your looks that’s one thing, but when they start judging who you are, that takes it to a whole another level.”

Image courtesy of UK fashion blogger, ThatPommieGirl

Has social media normalised cosmetic surgery?

Millennials searching for cosmetic procedures are on the increase, with interest about aesthetic treatments up 16% on 2015, according to data collated by RealSelf.

So what has fuelled this rise? In a recent American Academy of Facial Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery survey, over 40% of surgeons reported that looking better in selfies on Instagram, Snapchat and Facebook was an incentive for getting surgery.

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Mount Fuji

In August 2015, I did something scary, challenging and new. I climbed Mount Fuji – also known as ‘Fuji-san’ in Japanese. This experience can be summed up by a bunch of emotions; fear, exhaustion, and awe.

We started our journey at the 5th station, which we accessed via a bus from Shinjuku station (Tokyo.) Here we ate a hearty rice based meal and geared ourselves up for the climb, which we started at about 8pm. Everyone I’d asked for advice said – just bring a head torch, extra clothes for the cold temperatures at the peak, a lot of water (as it’s expensive on Fuji) and to wear comfortable shoes. So with all of these in bag/hand, we ventured up into the depths and heights of Fuji.

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Our team!

The first hour didn’t seem too daunting, it was just like walking up a steep hill – until we passed two American women who were descending – they said ‘Good luck and buy a stick, you’ll need it as the climb down is just as hard as the ascent.’ I started thinking Damn, we’re not even halfway up yet don’t get me scared of coming down! But anyway, we carried on. Up until around the 6th station, it seemed like a steep walk and I thought, yes I can do this, until we were faced with steep rocky terrain. These parts were the hardest to climb. You had to use your hands to assist and steady yourself, and watch where you put your feet on the slippery, uneven rocks. In my head I was cursing everyone who said it was just a walk!

Anyway, after many more of those rocky steep bits which were tiresome and felt endless, I was expecting it to ease out a bit. And in some places it did, but we were often faced by the intimidating rocky patches, and it was getting quite dark and foggy. At points where I felt like I was going to fall or hurt myself, fear kicked in and I wanted to turn back, but my encouraging friends reassured me it would be fine and worth it. When we finally approached the 8th station, it was pretty cold and we were knackered,  and the hot chocolate I bought was the best thing ever – the expression ‘hug in a mug’ couldn’t be more spot on.

After many short breaks at each station (which provide toilets which you should bring change for, and snacks/water) we finally reached the 9th station. And that’s where it got busy. The last hour was probably the worst, I lost my friends and was amongst a bunch of also very tired but determined to reach the peak climbers. It wasn’t a nice experience, it felt like we were all fighting to a piece of flat rock to stand on and wait on until the queue started to move. It was around 3:30am at this point and I was just so fed up but knew I had to reach the peak – I was so close. I was impressed by the amount of old people  who were tackling Fuji too – I thought to myself ‘just man up and get to the top’.

4am – I got to the peak! Yay! After a gruelling 8 hours of climbing (bear in mind this as my first mountain climbing experience) we finally made it! I took a few photos of the sunrise, but to be honest, I was just too tired and cold to even appreciate the beauty before me – thank god for cameras! Our group reunited and went for some breakfast in a restaurant at the peak of the mountain (how surreal!) and got some of our energy back before going back down.

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How can I whinge when I got to see this?

Although I moan about the experience, it was a great one and probably something I’d never see again, so I don’t regret it at all. Once piece of advice is – don’t try to do it all in one evening like we did. As an inexperienced climber, I think if I had stayed in one of the huts on the way up it would have been a less tiring experience.

The descent – We chose to walk down the Yoshida trail. And that’s where the American lady’s piece of advice stuck me! Walking down was like walking on slippery ash/rocks, as it was so steep! You basically had to slide down which really hurts your knees. It would have been much more handy to have a stick to stop yourself. It felt like every step was just catching yourself before you fell.  After about 4 hours of struggling to get down, we finally made it! It’s safe to say I couldn’t be happier to finally be on a bus back to Tokyo saying Sayonara to Fuji  – my legs and feet were so worn out!

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Overall, there’s no way I’d like to do it again, but what an experience, the views were worth it. Until next time Fujisan…well not literally, although next week I plan to visit Fuji five lakes, but there’s no way I’ll be climbing anything again!