Before Live Journal, there was Open Diary. A platform that OG, now Brooklyn-based blogger Keiko Lynn, used as a personal outlet. Today her blog KeikoLynn.com is a space where the self-proclaimed "restless adventurer" shares her take on fashion, beauty, and her daily life.
We caught up with Keiko in anticipation of CreateCultivateATL where she'll be joining us on panel.
After more than decade in the blogosphere (shout out to your 1999 Open Diary) how have you been able to stay true to yourself?
Since the primary focus of my blog started out as a personal diary, it's actually pretty difficult to not stay true to myself. I named my blog "Keiko Lynn" before I ever intended for it to be more than just a personal outlet, but it still maintains that personal feeling. If I ever strayed from my true self, I'd have a lot of friends and family and loyal readers to answer to.
You didn’t set out to build a brand, but that’s what you’ve done. How do you feel about person as brand? Did you ever have any hesitation?
It happened so gradually that I didn't really contemplate it, before or as it was happening. I am the opposite of an overnight success. It was little things here and there, starting with blogging for Cingular when I was on LiveJournal, or having a magazine featuring me in a photo shoot, etc. I would just think of them as solitary opportunities that I couldn't pass up, not as stepping stones in my career path. It was years before it became a career, and by that time, "Keiko Lynn" had been my online (and real life, of course) identity for long enough that I didn't think I should change it. I still don't think of myself as a brand. I never think, "Is this on brand for me?" I just know what I do and do not like; I know myself.
Do you consider yourself an early adaptor? What are some other important traits to have as a blogger and influencer?
When I started my current blog, I was a young and perpetually broke independent clothing designer, so everything I wore was handmade or from a thrift store, and most of my photos were taken with a self timer. That was what blogging was like, back then. We were remixing what we had in our closets. Now, we have bloggers who are starting out with a whole creative team behind them; they're coming in with photographers, beautiful web design, and a closet full of current, contemporary and designer clothing. I think that's amazing, and if you have the wherewithal or creative contacts to start a blog as a legitimate business platform, why not?! That's what's so cool about modern blogging -- you don't always have to go through the awkward growing stages that many of us went through. But I probably wouldn't have had a fighting chance, with my wide-angled, self-timer photos and second-hand clothing, if I weren't one of the early adopters. Even now that I have an actual closet (I didn't, back then), at least half of what I wear is vintage or thrifted...and I still take many of my own photos. I'm in a very particular niche, and I'm well aware that I was lucky to have early exposure.
The most important trait to have as a blogger is tenacity. I've known many people who started blogging and gave up after awhile, when they didn't see immediate growth. Overnight success stories usually only look like overnight successes. You have to be willing to put in the time without any immediate return, and keep going until you build yourself a base. It will come, but you have to keep going.
What are some shifts you’ve been hesitant to adopt, but eventually jumped on board?
I am famous for being late to just about every social media platform. My very first tweet was something along the lines of, "Let's see how long this lasts..."
Do you ever feel like, enough! No more apps, no more sharing, I can’t possibly add one more “must” to my social lineup?
I feel like that almost every day of my life. I drew the line at Periscope. I won't do another one...I can't!! Although Instagram just added their very Snapchat-like feature, and I might end up giving that a try. I'm trying not to be the last one for that.
We’ve talked to a few bloggers about unexpected difficulties and the BTS realities, but what are some BTS unexpected joys?
I have made some wonderful friends through blogging, whether bloggers, readers, or people in the fashion and beauty industry. When I moved to NYC, I barely knew anyone. I had one friend and a LiveJournal friend, and my roommate and I had only met a few times before living together. Making friends in a new city is so difficult, and the blogging world really opened me up to a whole community.
How do you come up with creative ideas?
With style, I look to the past. With makeup, I look to both the past and the runways. But mostly, I just garner inspiration from everyday life, whether it's someone I pass in the streets or a page from a current read.
What’s a business aphorism you live by/what’s one you don’t think rings true anymore?
As trite as it sounds to "stay true to yourself," it's something I live by in both work and in my personal life. But I also think it's important to let yourself evolve naturally; the two are not mutually exclusive. 31 year old me is not exactly the same as 19 year old me. Part of staying true to yourself is allowing yourself room to grow and evolve. What doesn't ring true anymore is that you have to always be number one. Staying power can be just as valuable.
"What doesn't ring true anymore is that you have to always be number one. Staying power can be just as valuable."
What do you think you’d be doing without the advent of social media?
I think about this often, because when you're in this sort of career, you have to be on your toes. What if it all went away, tomorrow -- what would I do? I imagine I would go back to my roots and start a new clothing line or invest in starting a makeup line, which is something I've always dreamed of doing.
How do you feel about the term influencer?
What do you think is the future of influencer? I prefer the term when referring to other people, and don't mind when others use it to describe me -- but referring to myself as an influencer feels strange and boastful. The truth is, we're all influencers in some way. Some just have a larger audience.