Why do I have an obsession with lifestyle bloggers?
My high school was all-girls and Catholic. Throughout my freshman year, I was fixated on a group of senior girls. People called them The Barbies or The Tan Clan. Most of them were blonde. But they were all tan and beautiful. Even in school uniforms, they were fashion forward. They had UGG boots before I knew what they were. On free dress days, they sported Juicy Couture sweat suits before anyone else. They were so beautiful. They didn’t wear make up and their hair was always in a perfect messy bun. All of which just impressed upon me how much more beautiful they were.
I loved them. Quietly and from afar. I could not tell my friends because a lot of them were their sisters or knew them from grade school. They did not share my infatuation. I found out their screen names and looked at their AIM profile. I stared at them when I passed them down the hall, taking note of their new handbags. They were so perfect. I wanted to be them.
Flash forward to 2015. I joined Instagram, late to the game, and did not really understand how to use it until late 2016. This is when I found lifestyle bloggers. It took me awhile to understand who these women were. I started following them because one of their beautiful photos was recommended to me.
At first, I didn’t get it. But I slowly started to realize these women were a part of an elusive club, much like my Tan Clan. But instead of seeing them in the cafeteria, I watch their lives through a series of high quality photos of their perfect kids, gorgeous homes, exquisite outfits, and an unbelievable amount of beautiful travel. Supplemented with the periodic #ad post.
I follow about two dozen women, who identify as lifestyle bloggers. The term lifestyle blogger is ambiguous and almost anyone with a blog can identify as one. But who I am talking about today are the women with followers amounting somewhere between half a million to over one million. They post perfectly curated photos of their daily life: their families, vacations, outfits, and other things that are mostly mundane from anyone else.
They are all different and I’m not here to make any generalizations about all women bloggers or lifestyle bloggers. For the most part, they grew their strong following by starting as something more specific, i.e. hairstyle tips, mommy life, or photos of their toddler take naps with their new puppy went viral. But they’ve all evolved.
When I’m in bed late at night, I stare at their gorgeous photos on Instagram, long after I’ve double tapped. Most often their posts feature themselves. The women are always white, beautiful, thin, and have perfect skin. When they show off a new outfit, it always looks good on them and I always like it – even if it is not my style. I find myself admiring their fit bodies in bikinis, then I look to my right at my night stand and see my glass of wine and the clean plate from whatever I just binge ate.
They are always married. The younger ones are engaged. Their husbands are always very handsome. If I have found out their husband’s profession, it is always a professional and prestigious job, like finance or doctor. When I find this out, I take a big gulp of my wine thinking about how the only men who seem interested in me quit college because he “makes so much money at his serving job/selling weed”.
Usually they have kids, if not, they will soon. And their kids are gorgeous. Blonde and tan babies in diapers at the beach. I don’t even want kids but this shit is freaking cute. The aesthetic is too much to hate.
Something else they all have in common: they travel a lot. Weekend trips to Hawaii with their husband and three kids. Two weeks in Australia with the whole fam. Couples getaway to Paris. Japan. Europe. Jamaica. They can afford to go anywhere. I have traveled a lot the past couple years, so I don’t know want to sound like I am bitter and jealous because I’m not. I want them to travel – travel more, please! I want to see more photos. I love gazing at their family photos, they look so happy. The scenery is beautiful and she looks great in a bikini or a beach maxi dress, holding a baby on her hip, all of them ankle deep in the ocean.
The women I’m talking about are not posting photos of anything resembling my life. They aren’t posting day drinking pics, or making jokes about being broke, or mention anything about their love life other than their “perfect hubby”. I can’t relate to their family life, and I only aspire to pieces of it, but I love looking at it.
All of the photos, the babies, the beaches, the hairstyles, along with strategic branding, creates beautiful imagery. This is why I love these women so much. Most of the time they are not selling me anything. They don’t do “unboxing” or “hauls”. They might have started out blogging about organization or makeup tricks, but they don’t do that anymore. Their content is purely for my eyeball’s pleasure. Their #ad or #partner posts are sparse and always done well. I can never tell it’s an advertisement unless I read the whole caption. They are legitimately showing me their beautiful lives.
Only 2% of the time do I stop to think, who took this photo? This type of thinking pulls me out of the fantasy I fall into when I look at their feeds. Their lives are magical and I don’t want to know how they pull it off.
While I appreciate the veil they provide for me, I know these photos and captions are their jobs. They work hard. I am often impressed with a women’s hustle, strategic vision, and passion. They started with a simple blog, years ago, and grew it. Like the blogger who got her start doing hairstyles on YouTube, after six years, she has launched her own hair extension line, which I know is doing very well because the product line expands every month. She is crushing it. And of course, I look at her Instagram stories updating me on the new stuff she’s launching, with no intention of buying her extensions.
Other times, I’m confused at how/why they make money doing what they do. Their pics are fine. But they don’t post much on their blog anymore. And it wasn’t anything super interesting. Generic takes on food, family, fun. I’m hating a little. Don’t get me wrong though, I thought a lot about this. Some of these blogs are just not interesting enough to deserve the kind of partnerships they are getting, in my opinion.
Most of the lady lifestyle bloggers I stumble upon are truly impressive to me. Yes, their photographs and seemingly perfect lives are great. They also just have a hustle and entrepreneurial spirit I don’t see in a lot of women I know. They work hard to expand their brand.
And they make a lot of money. This is not hard to figure out based on their lifestyle. Companies pay handsomely to #partner with. They don’t worry about money like I do. I know they don’t share the same anxiety I have when I hand over the gas station attendant my credit card to buy cigarettes. One because I know they don’t smoke (their skin is too good) and two, because they don’t worry about their credit limit when buying a $7 product.
Either way, I look with some envy. But the envy does not come from hate or anger. At least not focused on her. It’s on me. I’m mad at myself for not having a successful business. I’m mad at myself for not getting into this game earlier. For jumping around careers. For not being successful at all. Luckily, I shut that part of me off and continue to scroll, getting to more pics of floral bouquets on top of a Pottery Barn dining room table that costs as much as one year of my grad school tuition.
I envy everything I see that they have. Except the kids. But I envy the joy and stability they find in having kids and how it adds to the image of the perfect life. I want that. I want their bodies. I want their husbands. I want their outfits and make-up. I want their houses. I want their vacations. Yes, I travel, but I want their trips. I want their photographs of the trips. I want their money! I want their lives. More than I’d like to admit.
Why though? I so clearly don’t fit that life. I’m kind of a mess. Clearly, I can’t land a dude like they can. I definitely don’t have their bodies. I don’t want kids. I blog about depression and figuring out what I am supposed to do with my life. I drink too much. Their lives are so clearly not me.
Sometimes, I wonder if I torture myself going on deep dives into their lives. Why am I so obsessed with them? Do I secretly want that life? Do I secretly believe deep down I don’t deserve it? Do I just like to see that life like the other one million people who follow them?
I don’t know. I don’t have the answer. Just like I can’t answer why I was obsessed with the Tan Clan 15 years ago. Except back then, I can probably attribute most of it to teenage pressure to conform to beauty and popularity. But maybe now I’m facing the same thing. I am still aspiring to be thin, beautiful, rich, and perfect. Don’t get me wrong. I love myself and my life. But I am realistic about feeling self-doubt and not always feeling confident compared to our society’s standards.
I know that these women are problematic and can perpetuate racial/gender stereotypes that are not helpful/terrible. I also know that they can be kind and loving, to their families and the world, and advocates for humanitarian causes. I know that their images can tell women all sorts of shitty things, (be skinnier, richer, a mom, more successful and a mom). But I also know that they can be inspiring to women aspiring to be entrepreneurs or working moms. I could go on and on.
Am I going to continue to follow these women’s lives? No. Do I like their pictures? Yes. Do I want to be mindful of how it impacts me? Yes.
Like anything else in life, it’s not black and white.
Stephanie DeLacy unapologetically shares what it’s like to navigate the world as 20-something white girl, with humor, profanity, and raw vulnerability. Stephanie recounts stories of her travel, mental health, and the journey to loving her body. Her descriptions of dating are bawdy but incredibly relatable. She courageously describes her dysfunctional childhood, healing from trauma, and how she’s evolved as a survivor of sexual assault. At times, heart wrenching, her stories will evoke raw emotion and connect to you on the most guttural level. She hopes to inspire authentic living and human connection.