My FULL Work History – From A Not So Glamorous Start To A Girl Boss
I’ve been blogging for a really long time. So long I actually surprised myself, because since I was really young I got bored so easily and went through every phase under the sun. Through documenting so much over the past seven years I’ve come to know a few things about myself and my peers, and if you share those common traits or you’re feeling a little lost career-wise, this may just help you feel little less alone or surprise you in hearing my story. Times are tough in the job market, and they have been for a while. I know so many educated people who just can’t find work. I’ve heard of so many parents getting frustrated at their young-adult kids because they paid for their education and they just can’t get their careers started. It’s so easy to think myself or others get it easy or have always had life figured out, but so often there’s a whole side of people’s lives or history that’s not as fabulous as their Instagram feed. But I’m here to confirm, life really doesn’t work in a fabulous way.
To start things off you should probably know this about me: it’s never been beneath me to earn an honest living, and from my early teenage years already, I’ve put in the hours all over the place doing just that. At the moment, people think my job is easy, glamorous or something I studied for when really it was a long journey learning the skills that I now have, and often messing up along the way.
I’m going to start at the very beginning.
My Work History:
For starters, I have always really liked nice things, I mean, I’m a Libra. That being said my dad never spoiled us unnecessarily while we were growing up. I was often the last to get or do the coolest thing that was out, I had the least money when I went out with my friends and barely got new clothes. At the time, being a bratty teenager I didn’t consider the valuable lessons my father was teaching in me, nor was I considerate to think maybe that’s all he could afford. I thought life was so unfair. Tired of not being able to enjoy the wonderfully superficial things life had to offer, the second I turned 16, I started handing in my CV at retail stores. I adopted super fake confidence at my Lee Cooper interview and started working there the very next day as a shop assistant. From 2006 to 2009 I worked on and off over the years at other retail stores while I finished Matric (12th grade) and university, namely Denim Gallery (Fabiani), Levi’s, Hugo Boss, Armani Jeans and Blackbeard & Dare.
I worked super long hours and didn’t earn much, but nothing compared to the wonderfully independent feeling of earning my own money and the freedom of spoiling myself. It was a really unfamiliar feeling for me and I loved it. Independence is just generally in my nature and then I got used to and addicted to having money. As a result, studying or not, I always made sure I had a side hustle.
A brief synopsis of my other “ventures”:
2009 & 2010
While completing my Film, Media & Drama degree at UCT, I worked as an Orientation Leader and Trainer for first years at my university over the holidays, then got promoted to train new Orientation leaders after hours during the semester.
Fashion Breed was born and it went through about four different name changes! IT WAS TERRIBLE. The fact that I’ve made a career out of something that started so badly still amazes me.
I started a repurposed vintage clothing label with my friend and stylist, Gabbi Kannemeyer. We basically thrifted a ton of things, had my mom patch some of them up and sold it at 5 or 10 times the price at markets since vintage clothing and living your best hipster life was major back then. Gabbi also taught me how to edit photographs and helped train my eye more than she knows! At the same time, I landed a part time job as the in-house stylist for a stock photography company where I often worked from 4am until 8pm for days on end in the summer. Those crappy shoots I styled along with other “tests” actually eventually became an acceptable styling portfolio.
2011 – early 2012
I worked as the fashion intern for Marie Claire magazine, after my friend Raaziqa put in a great word for me. I learnt so much about how fashion media works, both digital and online, from sourcing to mood-boarding and networking. One of my highlights was being able to assist on a Chanel beauty story, shot with a full Chanel wardrobe and starring Grace Mahary who has walked for Victoria’s Secret and Givenchy. I kept blogging on the side and there wasn’t much of an industry in South Africa and getting paid for it was unheard of. Back then, there were only about 6 fashion bloggers in SA.
Mid 2012 – Mid 2013
Since I couldn’t find fashion industry work, and at 22 all I wanted was to travel the world and live on my own, I worked as a flight attendant for a year for Qatar Airways. Yes, I asked if people wanted chicken or beef. No I did not clean toilets. I travelled to over 35 cities in the world. I kept blogging, documenting my travels, shooting street style and and I would get strangers to shoot my outfits for me. It was also mid 2013 that I resigned from the airline and got my first paid blog job. I had already been blogging for three years by then.
In January I got a job as a copywriter for a leading online fashion retailer, and it was kind of depressing at first because all I did was write product descriptions! When the make-up artist quit, since my boss loved how I did my own make-up on my blog, they offered to send me on a make-up course to fine-tune my skills and do the make-up for the catalogues which were shot twice a week. I would then continue to do product descriptions in between shoot days. I jumped at the opportunity since I always wanted to do a make-up course, it was fully-paid for and it gave creative variation to my job. In that position I was able to practice my make-up skills on some of the best South African and international models in the industry, and I think it made me really good at it. I then decided to add a beauty category to Fashion Breed. It was a really weird phase though. My audience was growing, my wedding semi-broke the local internet as I knew it, causing around ten people I know of to replicate my very unique dress and overbook my reception venue and YET, I was still writing product descriptions. I was super sad; all that influence but I couldn’t influence anyone to hire me! For the longest time my goal was to be a magazine fashion assistant and then eventually a fashion editor, but even with a degree, a well-known blog and a packed styling portfolio I just couldn’t catch a break. My blog remained the silver lining and a creative escape, and I made a fair amount of money from it on the side here and there which was cool.
The second the year 2015 came around it was as if everyone had strategised that it would be the year to start to pay bloggers for work. It was overwhelming. I went from getting the odd job, to being constantly booked on multiple projects which I would do on weekends/after hours because I was still working my day job. I was also promoted at my day job to social media manager and campaign copywriter. All my paid leave and after hours went to blog work, and I was flying up to JHB every month. By mid 2015, in six months I was suddenly earning way more from my blog than I was at my job. By August 2015, I’d booked enough work until the end of that year to quit my job (could even afford two fancy overseas trips right after each other! WHAT!?), so I resigned, and I’ve been working for myself ever since. I also did some part-time, freelance work for afashionfriend.co.za, where I was their Contributing Beauty Editor for nearly a year. It taught me so much about content creation and made me aspire to have a team as amazing as theirs one day. Owned by ex-Cosmo Fashion Director, Robynne Kahn, she was an amazing mentor to myself and so many others. I also took on occasional make-up jobs which I stopped to focus on my blog clients.
2016 until now
The digital fashion and media industry is constantly changing, and for people like myself who do this full time, it’s an adapt or die situation, and you’re constantly having to up your game. Since I love creating content and shooting, writing, filming, editing, styling etc, I really love what I do.
Currently though, the blogging industry is geared toward YouTube, which I think is great. It’s a new challenge, and it really shows the people who are committed, since great videos are A LOT more work. Internationally, many bloggers have developed their platforms into a fashion/beauty related product eg: Huda Beauty and Rumi Neely, and quite a few have turned their websites into collaborative creative spaces eg: Zanita, Chriselle Lim, or in the case of Chiara Ferragni, she has done both, with the success of her shoe brand and since turning The Blonde Salad into an online magazine-type space.
As for me, I prefer to remain mum about my plans. What I can say though is that 2017, personally and professionally, has been the best year of my life, and I truly feel grateful to be doing something I love this much. You’re only young once, so I’m enjoying riding the waves of some of the many perks I get to enjoy. At the same time though, when people email me asking me how they can get freebies, get invited to events or assume my life is so glam I honestly can’t relate to the mindset because while working in fashion and beauty can definitely be glamorous, at the end of the day, a lot goes into the projection of that image. It’s late nights, getting changed in your car, running around chasing good lighting, constantly staying inspired, getting experience and so, so, SO much more. And after a while you get the freebies and you think, “okay that’s nice but now, where’s the money, honey? I can’t eat these shoes.”
I wrote this post because I think it’s important for everyone to see the other side of things, see the journey, and the importance of persevering. I want those struggling to find work/a job they enjoy to know they’re not alone, and that there is absolutely nothing wrong with earning a decent honest living, whether you sweep the street, intern somewhere, work in a store, or study something unusual it’s nothing to be embarrassed about. I remember people looking at me with pity when I worked in stores, and some people still pull a grossed out face when they hear I served on a plane, as if an honest living was something to be embarrassed about. I have a reeeeeally weird work history but I’m so proud of it! Everyone starts somewhere, and everyone has their role. Good things that are really worth it seldom come easy. I’m not going to say everything is going to be okay or that your dreams will come true, but what I will say is that if you take your pride out of your pocket, keep your head down, keep your focus, constantly equip yourself and work for the right reasons, most of the time you’re bound to end up somewhere in the right direction.
Image credit: Trevor Stuurman featuring me for a Hugo Boss South Africa SS17 social media campaign.