I’ve stopped telling people I’m a blogger and it seems , so have all my peers. It’s better to say you’re a writer, a creative director, a photographer or an editor, anything dear God but a blogger. It’s not that being a blogger means that you don’t do all of these jobs simultaneously but blogging has become such a dirty word, on par with influencer, or Instagram model, sending people I’ve just met into disbelief, confusion or laughter. Unless they are under 25 and then it’s : how do I get into this game? : )
For those of you that have no background on me, I was late to this newfound career as a mum and model , 0 tech abilities, experimenting with writing and taking pictures. Hence the Empirical in My Empirical Life. If I had ever guessed this website would last this long, I would’ve gone for something way more simple. ( Me on the phone every day: no, it’s not Imperial, it’s Empirical, E.M.P.I.R.I.C.A.L. Uhuh, it’s a word that means something verifiable on the basis of observation and experimentation. You’re right it is an obscure word that no one can spell.) As luck would have it , it turned out this private blog I thought I was running as an experiment in finding myself was wholly public due to my lack of tech prowess . I was doing some interviews ,socials and travel but it was when I threw in an outfit post Vogue Australia noticed my stuff and asked me to become a part of their blogging team. Eeeek! So exciting and nerve wrecking! I really didn’t know how to use a camera properly back then and it was all shot by myself, on a tripod. I felt like a total impostor. There were amazing women doing this job as an actual pre-planned career, with goals and diaries. Talk about a steep learning curve.
In the background of all of this, my relationship with my partner of 11 years and the father of my child was crumbling as it became crushingly clear we wouldn’t be able to fix it. There was a point after we sold the house and split where I was trying to find a place for my daughter and cat Tiger, and it was proving difficult as nobody wanted a pet. While looking for our home, we moved around airbnbs ,even a hotel for weeks. All this time, however, my Instagram feed was perfect. It didn’t matter that my world was shattered, I was now a single mum who was working hard to feed my kid and provide her with everything she needed. Throwing myself into my job, I was fortunate to be supported by great opportunities. All of a sudden, I was working 9-5 at events, meetings, and shoots , then getting my kid from school and feeding her, putting her to bed and doing all the back end like writing, editing and posting till 2 or 3 am. The amazing portion of my job, the one that is Instagram perfect is incredible guys. I cannot tell you how lucky I feel whenever I walk into an event perfectly set up by a bunch of talented people, the excitement of putting on a beautiful dress or organizing a shoot with many cool components. In those moments, I am still a little girl playing dress ups ,imagining creating photo shoots and MTV videos, dreaming of a future in which I got to have beautiful things and an exciting life. No one saw the other side of my break up bar my closest friends; the struggle to keep it all together, the stress and pressure, the health issues.
Yes, I got everything I wanted when I was a little girl. The beautiful things, the exciting life, the opportunity to travel and have fun. I was a model for 17 years before this job so my life can truly be perceived as glamorous. Don’t get me wrong. I think fashion is art and I am excited to work in this industry. It brings me joy as any of my other passions do. I’m excited by it and I know you guys are too if you’ve read my blog before – fashion is a big part of my life that I love but to only talk about fashion when our world is in such a place of transition right now seems superficial. I get Insta DMs from women struggling with their relationships, families or careers and asking me for tips on how to look perfect whilst going through it all. It makes me cry because I feel like I add on to the illusion that this is possible or even necessary. I know that living with designer bags and clothes won’t make you happy unless you are happy on the inside because I have been there and done that. I know that Instagram isn’t real life because I am privy to how perfection is manufactured, but do others? There are many pertinent questions we should be asking ourselves right now. We all must be the change.
Once on a shoot in America long before Me Too as a young model, I suggested to the photographer that we shoot the other way, a little bit backlit, how nice that would look in a white dress and he loudly guaffed that no body asked for my opinion, that I should just stand there and look pretty as half the set sniggered. He put me back into my place and it always stuck with me after that, this fear of holding back my opinion in order to be liked externally, by the wider world. Even though I didn’t even admire this guy’s talent, for some reason I internalized this fear. Looking back on why I created My Empirical Life , it was to prove that guy wrong; it was so I could explore all the things I learn in this life, all my passions, joys and opinions that are constantly changing and growing. But what did I do when my perfect family life derailed ? I didn’t feel that my opinion on life was worth a mention anymore, so I choked down the hard parts and concentrated on the shiny sides of my life only, forgetting the difficult, messy, human bit. I may have gotten everything I had wanted as a little girl, but did I feed my soul as a grown woman? What message was this sending not only to myself but to the world?
So, in spite of fear, I am starting a new column called Nobody Asked For Your Opinion, or NAFYO for short ( yes, I realise this is a new spelling disaster in the making guys ). In this column, I will explore wide ranging topics in hope of sparking a conversation and discussion. Please be a part of it. Write to me about what you want to discuss. Write to me whether you agree or disagree. Tell me your opinions. We all learn if we are at the table together.
Now to address some of the most frequent DMs I get about blogging :
How do I get into blogging?
Just start doing it! Take pictures, write, express yourself and put it up for the world to see. Whatever industry you want to get into; get closer to it, immerse yourself in it. Start wherever you can, so that you can get an inside look and be educated on the intricacies. When you know something, then you can turn it inside out. Picasso was actually an excellent hand drawer and painter before he got into cubism. People that aren’t educated on the industry they work in give it a bad name ( cough cough, some Instagram models and Influencers )
What is the best way to gain followers?
I believe the new Instagram algorithm is geared toward constant interaction and frequent posting. I do feel for people that are starting now as it feels so much harder these days to get the numbers up, however it’s hard for people with large accounts too-once you cross a certain number threshold, Instagram only shows your content to 5-10% of your followers. You must create engaging content, engage all day across your channel, choose good hashtags and post at least 1-3 times per day- this gets you up in the feed. I don’t like it personally. In a time where we are supposed to be getting more mindful and screen free, Instagram seems to be pushing drugs. I can’t take it too seriously . I can’t bear to put #instagraminfluencer under my picture. So maybe people don’t find me. Oh well. I prefer beautifully executed content that takes time to create over quantity. Instagram doesn’t. C’est la vie.
Do you get to keep the clothes? Do you get a lot of gifts?
When I was first starting out in this industry, blogging felt like Christmas. All this stuff! All the time! It was amazing. Yet, I discourage people from gifting me things now that I expressly didn’t agree to receiving and I don’t guarantee exposure because I am too time poor. I appreciate it and I am grateful, yet if I won’t use it, then it becomes a liability that I feel bad about because I won’t post anything on it and someone lovingly created it. It is someone’s masterpiece and yet it is not for me personally. So I end up sending a lot of stuff back which makes me feel terrible, or I gift it to people around me. It’s really important to me that everything I post reflects my personal style and lifestyle and is a genuine reflection of my preferences. Because I have been in this industry for over 20 years, sometimes designers that are old friends will gift me something I like as a thank you for creating editorials with their clothes and I do appreciate this because it is stuff that I know I will cherish for a long time to come. I love receiving new make up because I love experimenting with it and don’t have much time for store shopping. I especially love it when people ask if I’d like them to send me organic beauty products, supplements or homewares, because this is the stuff that I love the most and spend a ridiculous amount of money on. I will also make a concerted effort to support new brands that I love with coverage, ones that don’t have money yet to spend on socials. The “stuff” part of my job is really amazing and I feel incredibly #blessed. Stuff doesn’t pay rent though!
Do you get paid for every picture?
No, I don’t get paid for every picture or every mention. I don’t even get paid for every blog post. Editorial jobs take about a week to source, produce, shoot, edit and post and if they are just a creative project and not sponsored, they don’t make money. I got into this business to be creative, so it’s important to me to create content that inspires me and my followers. I know my job is to show you new clothes on the market and how to wear them. My job is to create beautiful imagery ,support designers and get the word out. However my job is to keep me inspired too and I forgot that for a while. After my break up, I was so worried about being a single mum and paying all the bills that I took on a lot of paid work, yet after a while, I started feeling like I wasn’t happy or fulfilled. Some bloggers only do paid jobs. Some bloggers sell anything. And I get it- it’s a business. But for me; only paid work makes me miserable and selling something I wouldn’t use isn’t possible. I work really hard on creating quality content. So I get when people have influencer fatigue and feel like stuff is always pushed on them. However, if you enjoy what this person you follow creates, you should support them when they partner up with a brand- they are humans that need to make a living too. I will always add a #collab #allignment or #partnership notice to let you know what I am getting paid for and the brands that pay me will be ones I believe in promoting as well.
Do brands tell you what to say?
Sometimes brands will outline a message they would like to put out there but I always reserve the right to speak my own words and enforce it too.
Who takes your photos? How long does a shoot take?
I take a bunch of my own photos on my Nikon D750, a tripod and wireless remote, especially while travelling, but my friends are photographers and my daughter knows her way around a camera too ; ). I love working with new photographers though, so if you are one, send me your work! Usually, if a blog post takes longer than 3 hours to shoot, we are doing something wrong. I know how to set up a shoot and move fast, so if something isn’t working, I tend to move to a way that does quickly. If an insta post takes longer than 5-10 minutes to shoot, the idea is bad. I tend to shoot my posts with a professional camera as I feel it’s actually quicker to shoot pictures in which the light adjusting has been done. You’d be surprised how long some of those phone pictures that look like they are just shot off the cuff with a phone really took to shoot.
Wearing a Camilla & Marc top, Valet earrings, Avenue The Label scrunchie, Giorgio Armani Lipstick in matte 600, Ole Lynggaard and Jordan Askill rings
Watch out for more #NAFYO posts in the coming weeks