Shay Tucker of A Thick Girls’s Closet Reveals her Fashion Blogging Journey & Secrets
Shay Tucker (ST): I was a senior in college. I needed something to do with myself. I didn’t want to do homework. What was I going to do with my time? I went on Tumblr and created A Thick Girl’s Closet. It all started with me re-blogging pictures of plus-size women that were fashionable. To me, just because I’m bigger doesn’t mean I can’t be fashionable. I do not believe in that. By the time graduation rolled around in May, I had 300 followers. They were egging me to do my own thing. They wanted to see what I wear.
That summer I put more energy into it. I was just going with it. I went from 300 to 1,000 to 2,000 followers. It just kept growing and that’s where my traffic was coming from. That’s where I was learning about the blogging world, what it means, and who does what. Three years later, I’m at 26,400 + followers on Tumblr. On Blogspot, I get about 30,000 to 31,000 monthly page views. I’ve also expanded to Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram (which recently broke 10,000) so I’m excited about that. I’m learning something new every day about the designers, about the plus-size industry, the good and the bad. We have some not-so good sides.
RC: What are 3 tips you have for individuals who want to start their own fashion blog?
ST: Find your niche. What is it that you want to write about? Whatever it is that you want the world to know, know what it is. Know what you want to talk about. New bloggers have a blessing and a curse. You can be creative. However, once you have some years in, you are locked in to whatever it is that you are doing [and it’s harder for you to make that switch]. As a newbie, if you want to talk about fashion, you can talk about runway or couture or whatever it is. You have time to play and see what people respond to which is why I say you don’t necessarily have to pinpoint it because that will come as time goes. If what you try doesn’t respond well, don’t do that anymore.
Have patience. Not everyone is going to be like Nadia Aboulhosn who blew up over night. Not everyone is going to be like Tanesha Awasthi of Girl With Curves who in six months, was balling out of control. It takes time to build a following, meet people that are in the industry, and to meet the designers, creative directors, public relations professionals, [and decision makers]. In six months, you are not going to be known. Literally, it’s three years later and I still meet people. Give yourself time to grow within your realm.
Be genuine about what you do. If you’re in it because you want free stuff or you want to go to events, you are going to burn out quickly. It takes times to build connections with people. Be genuine from the heart that you want to post content, have people to relate to you and like what you do. If you are genuine with what you write, do, and feel, traffic will come, which means everything. People ask me, “How did you start?” Honestly, I say, “Just write and see where it goes.” You don’t need to have this in-depth inspiring story. I was a procrastinator. That’s what inspired my blog. If you don’t have a [deeply inspirational] story that’s okay. If you want to talk about fashion and what you like and what you don’t like, no one is stopping you but you.
RC: What are some challenges of working in the plus-size blogging?
ST: The one “not-so good” thing about the plus size blogging world, is that sometimes I feel stifled in my opinions. A lot of people feel like if you aren’t “pro-plus” all the time, you’re anti-plus. Sometimes people are upset when you post a picture of girl that doesn’t meet their definition of plus size. Or if you mention shapewear they assume you hate your body, if you work out they assume you want to be skinny, you can’t have an opinion that goes against the “body positive” movement because then you’re against the movement. Sometimes the plus industry can be just as exclusionary. It can get stressful and frustrating because you want to say how you feel but you aren’t allowed to on any of your platforms.
RC: What are some struggles you face as a blogger?
ST: It’s hard for me now. When you’re “unemployed”. I am unemployed but I get to do different things. Being on Good Morning America, The Today Show, and different magazines. Meeting different people like the buyers from Lord & Taylor, and Presidents of different designers. If you would have told my 14 year-old self this, I wouldn’t believe it. I didn’t love my body that I had. It took me growing into my womanhood to love my body. I said to myself, “Hey, you got stretch marks and back fat and all of that.” I said, “You better work it!” It took time. It’s because I blog that I was able to build that type of confidence in myself.
I’ve been unemployed since August 2012. I was working in media planning, I’ve been trying to get back into that field. I’ve put countless resumes out, and I’ve been in interviews however I always get passed over for those positions. I’m a full time blogger based on circumstance, I do love having my days be so open, but I also do miss having a job. And I’m starting to believe that my calling isn’t in media planning. I would love to work in social media or PR whether on the fashion side or consumer side. That would be my ultimate dream job (I have references lol)
RC: What would you say to the individual that has a lot of interests but doesn’t know which avenue to pursue?
ST: Sometimes you just need that one avenue that is going to allow you to branch off. I started only in fashion. Now I’m doing hair and makeup and that’s because I had such a response from people that said “We love your hair!” or “What lipstick color is that?” You can very easily start something and let that be your focus for right now, but you could always toss in something different here and there. That’s what I did.
RC: What branch of fashion isn’t being addressed for the African-American fashionista?
ST: There are a lot of African American bloggers but a lot of them are hair bloggers. Where’s the girl that is 20, 21, 24 that is finding her first job, starting her career and she doesn’t want to look like her mom? She still wants to feel like her age. But she may be in an environment where she can’t have hemlines and she can’t be in bright florals every day. I used to work in media. I could be laidback. You can’t do that on Wall Street. But there are girls who have to be dressed like that based on where they work. How do you put things together? Women need that inspiration and that advice. I think the opportunity to have a fashion blog focused on black women and careers is something that hasn’t been done.
RC: What are some of the challenges you face covering “plus-size fashion” and how do your respond? ST: I posted about wearing American Apparel. People were like, “Do they have plus-size clothing?” I said no they don’t. I shop in American Apparel. There is a difference. Every time I post about my disco pants from American Apparel, I get tons of questions. No they are not plus-size. Depending on how clothes fit your body you can shop at stores like this. I explained to my readers that because no one has ever seen that done before. Or, if they have, they haven’t had an explanation. So they ask me how I wore it and I break it down.
RC: Is financial success feasible in the fashion blogging world?
ST: This is kind of a loaded question because there are many different ways to go about it. That is something bloggers have to research for yourself, because the needs of your blog and the needs of your prospective sponsors will be different. It absolutely possible, but that goes back to my point of patience. In order to on a level where you can live off your, your traffic has to be at a certain level (pretty much through the roof). There’s also post sponsorships, homepage takeovers etc. But again, this is something can only be done once you as a blogger have established your footing and have certain level of traffic. If you only get 5,000 page views a month, what will the brand sponsoring you get out of the deal? Whereas another blog has 100,000 page views a month, they help create profit etc. brands can expect an ROI.
RC: How important is “being different” in the blogosphere?
ST: We think of the passing of blogger Karyn Washington, no one did what she did. With the #darkskinredlip trend, no one was doing that. And then here she comes. Even in the plus-size world, when you think of top bloggers you think of Gabi Fresh , Nadia Aboulhosn, Nicolette Mason, there’s so many of us but everyone is different. Everyone reaches a target audience but we all have a different reach.
RC: Metrics is a huge driver for brand and blogger collaborations. When is the best time for bloggers to start reaching out and partnering with brands?
ST: I would say wait until you have a decent following and that could be different for everybody. When you collaborate with companies, they want an ROI (return on investment). When I work with particular brands, they know that when I post, they are going to get a certain amount of views, a certain amount of posts, which ultimately leads to traffic for them. Same thing with other bloggers, the companies know that when they post they are either going to sell something or their traffic is going to go up. When you have content and traffic, it’s a good for the both of you. If you’re networking and you’re new, there’s nothing wrong with exchanging information with social media directors or creative directors. Talk to them. Let them know you. Let them know you are new. Now you are on their radar. They know you are there. When you do have that amount of traffic, you already have that connection. For me, I didn’t really do a lot of connecting until about a year in. I wanted to grow me first. Now [people] know who I am. Now when I send my media kit, I have something to show.
RC: What should a blogger always make sure to include in their media kit?
ST: You need your numbers. You need to know where your traffic is monthly, how long people are interacting with your content. Google Analytics tells you everything. You need to have your traffic numbers for all of your social media platforms. List their numbers.The more you do, the numbers are always going to change. You want your demographics. Who are you reaching? How old are they? Are they soccer moms? Companies want the basics of who and what your blog is. Keep a connection. When you grow your blog, send it to them. Let them see when you have been doing and what you can offer them. Ultimately, for brands, it’s like why should we go with blogger M when blogger B can give us more? You need to think, “What can I bring to the table?” I thought about that when I worked with Ashley Stewart. Ashley works with a lot of [the big name plus-size bloggers]. Why should they email me over [the next blogger]? That’s what you have to figure out. Send media kits out. Let them know why they need to work with you. That may take some time and networking. Always have that ready to go. If that means you have to update that every couple of weeks, do that. Mine is about six pages long. One page should be your basics, your traffic numbers, platform numbers, features. There’s no right way to do a media kit, but those are the basics. Let’s say you meet someone from Sketchers and you say my name is XXX and I’m a blogger and they say, “Okay, send me a media kit.” That next day she needs to have a media kit. When I attend meetings, within 48 hours, they will hear from me. That way when they have something big and something going on, they can say, “Oh that girl reached out to me, let me talk to her.”
RC: How often should you update your media kit?
ST: I update my media kit once every two weeks. If you have good features, let people know where you’ve been featured. Don’t give them your whole resume. Give them the important ones. If you were in Redbook, Ebony, etc., the big ones.
RC: What would you say to people who don’t think that blogging is worthwhile?
ST: It works out. Some people think that you can’t trust bloggers because they get free stuff. I hate that thought process. There are some bloggers who aren’t shit and just live off free stuff. I legitimately wear what is given to me because I don’t want it to seem like I am using companies or I am just trying to step up my entire wardrobe with free stuff. That’s not why I do it for. Some girls never heard of Rafaela but they have great jeans for the curvy girl. Now those girls have a place to go. That’s when it comes down to being genuine and putting in your work. I can’t stress that enough to people. A lot of the bloggers I know have been blogging a lot longer than I have. They put in that work. Once you put your work in and really show that you can do this and you are a consistent blogger and that you bring traffic then that’s when companies say “we want her.”
RC: How do you manage blogging on your site versus other media platforms?
ST: I write for Ty Alexander of gorgeousingrey.com and sometimes I have to think, “Do I want to put this on Ty’s blog or on my blog?” It is a balance of two worlds. I have to think “Do I want that traffic for me or for her?”
RC: Should more brands offer plus-size clothing?
ST: I honestly am indifferent to this. I feel like when it comes to designers it’s their vision & what they want to create. As for more general brands/stores, I think it would be nice, but I also rather they make that choice on their own, and not forced. When brands come to that decision on their own, they tend to put more time and thought behind the construction of the plus size line.
RC: What’s made some of the top plus-size fashion bloggers so successful? Think Nadia Aboulhosn, Gabi Fresh, etc.
ST: All three have very different beginnings, but the one thing they have in common is they each were doing something that has never been done before. Nadia carved out her own niche. There is no one that looks like her, no one has a body like hers, and her very aura is something that is rare. She’s daring, she’s bold, & she’s fearless. She’ll wear things that no one else will wear. People gravitate to that.
When Gabi & Nicolette started blogging, the plus size blogging & fashion industry wasn’t as saturated. They created a space that allowed for many of us to be here now. No one was really talking about plus size fashion, or plus size acceptance a few years ago until these two. Gabi had her stint with MTV and Nicolette made her own mold in fashion but again as plus size women, they were really the first.
RC: What’s the best part of your experience as a plus-size blogger?
ST: It’s the young women that say I inspire them. When somebody says, “I love your blog”, “You inspire me to be better”, “You inspire me to love myself”, or “You inspire me to try something different,” that means I did my job. If I die tomorrow, I’ll die happy because somebody said I inspire them. Someone in my past inspired me and all I want to do is pay that forward. I also get to meet some great women.
My blogger buddies are really amazing. They do a lot of different things. They are teachers, working in HR, working in hedge funds, and moms. They are all these different things and they still have time to be bloggers. We are all different. Just because we all wear the same skirt, we all wear it different. That is truly what I love about being a blogger.
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