The highs and the lows of what has been a truly whirlwind year.
As the title would suggest, we have just reached our one year YouTube anniversary and along with a special outtakes video that will be going up next week on the channel I really wanted to write a post reflecting on the past year. I'm sure most of you know the back story already but here's a little refresher. I started the blog 10 1/2 years ago and never in a million years did I think it would have got me to the position I now find myself in. The blog was my creative outlet, an online scrapbook where I could write about what I wanted and where I could document my style. Back then I had about 50 hits a day and I'm pretty sure 40 of those were my mum, but it didn't matter because it wasn't about the numbers. Instagram hadn't even been born yet, Twitter and YouTube were in their infancy and Facebook was still the highlight of everyone's social media lives, how the times have changed. As the blog grew into a business I became less able to handle everything that comes with running a business of this nature on my own. Only a couple of years ago I remember pestering Simon to come and work with me, trying to sell him the idea that it would be so awesome. He never really seemed that interested and I didn't want to push him, because I knew it was important for him to want to make that move, after all it would involve giving up his own career in a completely different field which he had worked on for the last 10 years. Lets fast forward to early 2017. I found myself in desperate need of help because I couldn't grow the business how I wanted to with only one pair of hands. In May I started actively looking for an assistant but my search ended quite abruptly one Sunday at the pub when Simon dropped a bombshell..."I'm going to quit my job, and I was thinking, maybe I'll come and work with you". WTF! It had been about 6 months since I'd last brought up the topic of him coming to work with me, I'd pretty much let the idea go by this point so when these words came out of his mouth, for once in my life, I was speechless (for all of about 10 seconds). We agreed it would be on a trial basis because first and foremost we are married, and we didn't want anything to potentially damage that relationship. We made the decision to start 'doing' YouTube, video content is a game changer in this industry and it's something I had wanted to do for so long but I just didn't have the time to focus on it. One year on and here we are, still going strong in business and in marriage and I think it's safe to say, this was the best decision we ever made.
The Love and the hate
Before starting YouTube I was shitting my pants about online hate because I'd seen so much about it on Twitter and a couple of girls I know who also do YouTube had been dealing with some horrific cases of online hate. Once we decided to take the plunge I was just preparing myself for the onslaught of hatred that I expected to come my way. However we've been very fortunate, we've not really had any online hate, and we've had an overwhelming amount of love and support from so many of our viewers. I found the volume of positive and supportive comments quite overwhelming at first, I think because it's the opposite of what I expected. But it now feels like we've got to know so many of our viewers just from an exchange of comments. Some viewers even sharing their own personal stories and experiences with us and it's an honour that so many people choose to share these with us. YouTube is such an incredible platform for connecting so many different people all around the world and without it we would never have met them. Even though it's just online, it feels like one big family.
This is still something I struggle with in certain forms. We ask our viewers regularly if they would like to see anything change within the videos, or if they like the format etc and we get some really helpful feedback which we are incredibly grateful for. After all the content we create is for our viewers to enjoy so we want it to be something they want to watch and although we can't please everyone it's great to hear the general consensus. However what I'm not a huge fan of is when it's unsolicited "constructive criticism" about something which we haven't asked for feedback on. For example this is one I had recently: "You really shouldn't wear your hair pulled back like that, it makes you look so old". For me that's just an unnecessary comment, and perhaps this is where I'm a little naive because I very much live by the ethos 'if you don't have something nice to say, don't say anything', but of course that's just not realistic in this day and digital age. People assume that they have the right to comment on whatever they like just because we have chosen to put certain aspects of our lives online. Dressing these comments up as 'constructive criticism' is a bit of a farce in my opinion because they aren't constructive at all, they're just plain rude. And what does it achieve exactly? Well for example, when I wear an outfit in a weekly vlog, I'm obviously wearing it because I like it and because I feel good in it, unless I state otherwise. When someone then writes a comment saying 'If I were you I wouldn't wear mustard because it really doesn't suit you, it washes you out and makes you look dead' that does has an effect on me, I'm only human. So in leaving a comment like that someone has just taken away a little slither of my confidence. Fortunately my skin is starting to thicken and this verbal diarrhoea that some people have has less of an effect on me now but I'd be lying if I said it doesn't effect me at all.
There's nothing like seeing your mug (face) on a 65" HD TV to make you realise what you really hate about the way you look. I did struggle with the first couple of months doing YouTube, I would say to Simon "no cut that bit I can see a double chin" or "delete that entire section because I look hideous". It's very raw and real, unlike photos where you can choose your best angle out of 500 shots, adjust the light to be more flattering and of course, add a filter to disguise a number of sins, video is the very harsh reality. I've mentioned this before but in this industry it's incredibly common to get sucked into a black hole of comparison. I try my hardest not to compare myself to others but from time to time it can happen. Being new to YouTube of course this was one of those times and I found myself hating certain things about myself. If you'd have looked at my browsing history on my laptop all you'd have seen is Harley Street this, Harley Street that. But as you might have seen from our progression on YouTube I stopped being so conscious about what I look like, because at the end of the day, this is me. There are still things which I would like to change, my teeth for example, and these will be things which I share with my audience when the time comes.
Again perhaps I was being a bit naive but this was something I was expecting and something which I found quite overwhelming at first. There was one day in particular that was a bit of a turning point and it's stuck in my mind ever since. It was about three months after starting YouTube and I was heading into central for a lunch date with a brand. I caught the tube and then I walked to the restaurant which was just off Oxford Street. After my lunch date I decided to do a spot of shopping and whilst walking back to Oxford Circus I thought I'd catch up on my Instagram DM's. I opened up a photo which had been sent to me and I remember feeling quite shocked. No it wasn't a 'dick pic', it was a rather tame picture of myself, but I was sat on the tube just minding my own business, completely unaware that this picture was being taken. The message sent with the picture read "I saw you on the tube today but I was too scared to say hi'. I remember feeling scared, and I can't really explain why because the message wasn't threatening, it was quite sweet, but I just felt scared that someone had been taking a picture of me and I didn't even realise. Over my 10 years being a blogger a handful of people probably came and said 'hi, I read your blog' or 'I follow you on Instagram', but nothing that I could call regular. I think it's harder to identify someone from having seen only pictures of them but once I put myself out there on YouTube, I guess people got to know my mannerisms, my voice and even my walk. On the same day as the tube incident a woman came and hugged me from behind at the big crossing in Oxford Circus. My first thought was that she must have thought I was someone she knew, maybe she was meeting them and I looked like them, but when she released me and I turned around her face was beaming, she squealed the most high pitched squeal and she said she was so thrilled to meet me in person. You can imagine my rather expressive face working it's wonders at this point. I remember feeling utter confusion and disbelief and I was completely mute for about 10 seconds which is quite a long time when stood face to face with someone. When I finally snapped out of my confused coma we chatted briefly and then went our separate routes. I head into Topshop, did some browsing, some trying on and then as usual went down to the shoe level. I was just browsing the shoes in my own little world when I heard a shriek, I turned around as you would and I saw a mother and daughter standing together staring at me. The daughter was clearly very excited and the mum just said "she watches all your videos". Her daughter beamed at me so proudly and broke her silence by saying "I can't believe that you've just walked past me, in Topshop, just looking at shoes like a normal person". Then there it was, the return of my expressive face and my stunned silence. I snapped out of it a little quicker this time and just apologised to pair of them for my weird behaviour and just honestly explained that 'this hasn't really happened before today and I'm just not used to it'. The mum leaned in to me and said 'well you better get used to it, this is only the start'. Those words haunted me for about 3 weeks. I remember being so paranoid on the tube on the way home, I just felt uncomfortable, like everyone that glanced at me knew everything about me and were watching me to see what I was doing. I got home and I cried, it was just too much for me, too overwhelming. Despite putting myself online for thousands of people to see, it was something I hadn't anticipated, something I hadn't even thought about. I avoided going in to central for a few weeks after that and instead if I needed to do some shopping I drove to Bluewater, but it happened there too and if I'm being honest I felt trapped. The funny thing is, it was just one or two people that came and said 'hi, I watch your videos', it was not a case of being mobbed, but it's just how it made me feel. However things have changed since then, maybe I've just adjusted and in some way got used to it, but now I love chatting to anyone that comes and says 'hi'. Our viewers have changed our lives for the better so if we have any opportunity to meet anyone that supports us and watches our videos then we really cherish that.
This is a biggie and this is something which over the last couple of years, with the continuing developments and growth of the industry, has become incredibly important. Because blogging is no longer as clear cut as what it used to be, and no there are many facets to this world of 'influencers', people are feeling mislead and uncertain about our intentions. I can only speak for myself but my intentions have never changed in the 10 plus years of blogging, and that might be why, because I started before this became a money and numbers game. From day dot all I ever wanted to do was share my style and what I was buying with people. Admittedly I've always been a shopaholic, but I'd always worked in retail so I was surrounded by fashion and ever changing trends and inspiration. Nothing has changed, I'm still a shopaholic, I love trying out new brands, I love buying into certain trends (there's nothing wrong with that), I just love clothes, shoes, accessories, jewellery...it's my thing. In my youth I even got sucked into the store card game and racked up a few thousand pounds worth of debt across about 8 store cards, I learnt from that lesson to never spend beyond my means. But not everyone has learnt that lesson. The era of store cards might have been squashed but now there's a new temptation, keeping up with Instagram. There are now millions of 'influencers' and it's a pretty overwhelming arena to be in, let alone to look at from the outside from a non-influencer perspective. I've heard many stories about girls and women of all ages racking up huge debts to keep up with the facade of Instagram, constantly having a new outfit, a new designer bag every week, luxury holidays, posing with expensive cocktails, pizza picnics in the park...and it's all for 'The Gram'. So I think there is a certain responsibility that lies with Influencers these days, to be honest with their audience. I choose to remind my audience with visible disclaimers on all my videos (plus every now and then on Instagram) that they don't need to keep up with Bloggers/YouTubers/Influencers. To spend within their own means, or to just take inspiration from my outfits, I wear a lot of basics so chances are they probably already have these items in their wardrobes, so there's no need to buy the exact ones I'm wearing. I'm not a saleswoman, I'm not trying to flog people shit, I'm just doing what I have been doing for the last ten plus years, talking about the things I love.
Alongside this there are some other factors which I've noticed people are expecting me to be responsible for. Fast Fashion being a very popular topic right now. I have and always will be a high street girl. That. Is. Me. Over the years I've shopped everywhere from Primark to the higher end high street stores like Cos, & Other Stories, Reiss etc. As my and age and income have grown I've also developed a love for certain luxury goods, shoes and handbags mainly but the odd investment piece here and there too. But for the most part my wardrobe is high street, spending within my means. As I've mentioned I come from a high street retail background and I will continue to support the high street and our economy. Of course I totally understand the point that the fast fashion industry has a massive impact on the environment and again, I do mention this within some of my videos (ie. I no longer buy anything made from polyester and I am shopping with sustainable brands every now and then) but there will always be some people that think I'm not being responsible enough and that I need to stop shopping at fast fashion retailers like H&M altogether to set a good example. It's tricky because I have been in a position where I didn't earn much money, and buying myself a new £10 top did give me a little boost if I was feeling down. I like to think that my videos don't alienate those who can't afford Gucci handbags and expensive leather jackets because I've always firmly stood by the motto that 'it's not about how much it's costs, it's how you wear it' and that fashion should be for everyone not just those with a never ending bank balance. That said, in the mindset of continued responsibility I will be creating some videos around second hand clothing and sustainable brands so that I can explore and educate on these topics as well.
I just want to thank all of you out there who have joined us on this journey, whether you're a silent viewer or an interactive one, we really appreciate the support and hope you continue to enjoy what you're watching xxx