Plus Size: Blogging versus Influencing...



The marvelous Jen Wilder (of Cult of California) was discussing on Facebook about how she doesn't consider herself a plus size blogger, but a "plus size influencer".  I feel like this is a powerful thing to think about in terms of the current state of plus sized fashion and bloggers. 

The current market is growing dramatically.  I've personally struggled with riding the line between being a voice for brands and being a voice for consumers.  The questions I have to ask myself are:  "Do I pimp out products I don't feel enthusiastic about to make money?" or "Do I talk about what I earnestly love and dislike to help influence change?"

Everyone's personal style is very different.  You don't have to look like me to wear plus sized clothing.  I can tell you why I make the choices I make style-wise in the hopes that you will figure out how to develop your own personal style.  But, I draw a very strong line at accepting money to promote brands and sites that I have never used (and that refuse to send samples for review). 

I was approached by a brand [who shall not be named] a couple of months ago.  They asked me how much I would charge to blog about their site and their clothes.  They also offered me a link where I would get a set amount of money for every time someone clicked-through to their site through my blog. 
These are ways that the blogosphere makes money.  There is no shame in any of that!  I have a large audience (which still baffles me, because I feel like I don't blog often enough and am not satisfied with my content quality, yet.  But, I still appreciate that you guys come here and check out my stuff.  It means a lot to me, actually.  I digress).
The issue with this brand/site is that once I asked them for a piece for review... and to model in... they refused.  Meaning:  This brand was completely comfortable with offering me money for a feature where I would have to pretty much lie to you... but, they weren't comfortable with sending me a product to review for you instead of paying me money (which would, in turn, make them more money if their product was the quality they claimed it would be).

There are a lot of very popular plus size bloggers right now who are being paid to promote Ava and Viv for Target, #ImNoAngel for Lane Bryant and other large brands.  These brands hire those bloggers because they are high profile within the blogging community and you respect them.  You've heard of them and they have backing... so, they must be trustworthy!  However, it doesn't mean that they will give you a realistic and accurate sense of the brand and the brand's quality.  That, to me, isn't a blogger... that is a model.  I know, because I've been paid to stand around and look pretty for a brand to help them sell stuff.  It's called "modeling".  I love doing it!  But, a blogger is something entirely different in my mind.  A blogger has the opportunity to have a strong unbridled voice in a world that is typically tethered by the need to please its advertisers and make money from those advertisers.

I lamented publicly to Jen Wilder about how it is really impossible to get brand support if you are honest about your feedback.  Case in point:  IGIGI hasn't asked me to promote their products since I gave a very honest review about the thin material and lack of lining in the Dominique dress I reviewed last year.  Since then, they've sent out LOTS of review garments to lots of bloggers... but, I've been left out of the loop entirely.

Now IGIGI is announcing that they plan to have better quality products and include larger "true plus size" models in their future campaigns!  Yay, IGIGI!  That's something I've wanted to see from you for years, now.  I'm glad you're going there.  I love your brand.  I love your style.  Your quality is hit-or-miss and your marketing leaves a lot to be desired.  Me saying those things doesn't mean that I think people should write you off or not want to buy products from you, IGIGI.  I just want consumers to be informed and I want brands to understand what plus sized women really want. 

One of my primary goals as a loud-mouthed verbose blogger is to ask plus sized brands that carry up to a size 26W and 32W is please include models that represent those sizes.  It isn't very hard!  There are a lot of models my size (I'm currently a 24/26 after steroids and surgery) that would be thrilled to work for big brands. 
And, that excuse of "Well, we go through agencies and agencies don't book models that big because there isn't a demand".  I call BULLSHIT, brands!  If you want to hire models that size... you either ask those agencies to find you models that size... or you find self-representing models yourself and you hire them directly.  Don't feed into the status quo by blaming agencies!
(In case you're wondering.  I've heard this line from Gwynnie Bee's founder Christine Hunsicker this last year.  She claimed that they only use agencies because they want to hire models that know what they are doing.  For a site that boasts inclusive sizing... they aim to hire the models that all of the other elite brands are using!  They could have used the images those brands already took... but, instead they re-hire those same models and re-shoot the same garments on them over again.  It's maddening!)

I fully recognize that my blog might not make me the most popular blogger. 
Yes, I am an affiliate for a few brands and I do make a (ridiculously small) commission if you purchase something.  Yes, I do accept products for review. 
Yet... I believe in a level of integrity.
I don't feel that you should EVER question whether or not my feedback is honestly my own or if it was purchased/bribed.  I understand that there is a ethical undercurrent to blogging where you're supposed to disclose "I mean what I'm saying, here".  If people actually wrote what they meant and spent less time trying to get free stuff and money for blogging... I think that readers could trust bloggers more and we wouldn't even need a disclaimer. 

I understand that this is a total TL;DR. 
I had something important to say, here. 

Honesty might not make me the most popular plus sized blogger... and it also might never get me a quality gig... but, I'd like to think that maybe I can be a strong industry influence.  

For over a decade, now, I've been giving plus sized brands hell for selling us cheap garbage to increase their profit margin.  I've been giving the plus sized world hell for not including *REAL* plus sized people in their catalogs and campaigns.  As a consumer these are things I want to see. 
I intend to keep promoting brands and products I believe in and push for change.


2 comments:

  1. This is such a good post and one I identify with a lot. I'm in the UK and I draw a lot of parallels to what you say. I'm known for being brutally honest (some might call it foot in mouth disease) and as such, I have limited appeal to some. ;) There's one brand in particular I've supported for years, before they had a website, before they even go under the name they trade under now, and I wrote a frustrated post about their horrible returns service about 4 years ago and have been persona non grata to them ever since.

    Some brands don't want honesty, they want a tongue so far up their back passage you can feel their colon. That ain't me, yet there are bloggers out there who will do that and more for free product. I promote what I love, and nothing else. Here's to integrity. *clinks glasses*

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thanks so much for sharing your experience!

      I think that experiences like that are important to tell. I mean... I bet their returns service, now, is far better than it was four years ago.

      As a small business owner, myself, (totally different industry) I think it was really hard for me to hear anything "negative" [read: constructive or opinionated] early on... especially mixed in with the hateful stuff out there. It was hard for me to parse the intention of the writer.
      I also didn't really understand blogging or how bloggers do what they do, when I first started. The feedback that I got from people was incredibly helpful, though... and listening to customers made them realize how much I cared about them and involving them in my brand's growth.

      I think that people, like you, are really important to the blogging world.
      You give a snapshot that showcases growth!
      And, well, there is always an opportunity to improve right? Even as a blogger I want to be better...

      Again... thanks so much for commenting.

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