We’re taking a break from the usual Resident of Wellington this week to dive into a profile of a ‘proper’ London Blogger - who has become one of my favourite content creators online. Meet Kristabel Plummer, a black British blogger from London who has been blogging for over 8 years on her website iwantyoutoknow.co.uk.
The world is getting smaller every day, at the same time as it can feel we're getting further apart. With one message on Twitter or Facebook, you can connect across the globe with people you've never met who inspire you, from New Zealand to London. And so to find it more about blogging in an international context, I contacted Kristabel. I’ve been following Kristabel Plummer since reading an article she penned in an issue of Blogosphere magazine (we both happened to contribute to the same one). From small beginnings in her university flat in Nottingham, ’I Want You To Know’ has blossomed into a trusted source of information for lifestyle tips, fashion inspiration and life chats. I personally rely on it frequently to learn more about the blogging world and to lust after Kristabel's personal style. Kristabel honestly and eloquently unpacks her life philosophies, blogging tips and lessons from the perspective as a twenty-something experience as a digital native. Not only is she relatable, but she's very attentive to her audience, which is how we got chatting after I messaged her over Christmas time last year on Facebook (ironically one of her least used platforms - and also clearly the main reason I felt ballsy enough to reach out).
"She met Mary Berry"
On Instagram, she has over 18,000 followers and over 278,000 on Pinterest. Her career highlights include working with major brands such as Boden, YSL, Etsy, Kate Spade and Bare Minerals, travelling to Singapore and the southern states of America, and meeting Mary Berry from The Great British Bakeoff. She counts major London bloggers Carrie Santana De Silva, Lucy Nicholls and Olivia Purvis (and many more) as her oldest friends and can regularly be found getting stuck into many events such as ‘The Bloggers Market’ - and luckily, she took a Saturday night to sit down with me over Skype so we could connect the dots across the blog-dots from Wellington to London, satisfying my curiosity about what it is really like to be a ‘proper’ full-time London blogger.
The Only Way Is Essex
Kristabel was born in Essex in a place called Barking, just outside of London. She grew up in East London. She was creative as a kid, making her own magazines when she was 8 or 9 years old. She would write stories on her mother’s temperamental computer, printing them out. When the family got a better computer, around age 13, Kristabel began to play around with the internet. “It was around then I created my first Geo-Cities website. I called it reverse logic,” she recalls as we chat over Skype together, me on a New Zealand morning in Wellington and her on a Saturday night in London. “I’d go on chatrooms and forums - I literally was so naughty - and someone suggested to me to call it inverse logic. It is quite weird because I was used to talking to strangers even at that young age.” Blogging was never cool. “It's only now that being on a blog or Instagram is a thing. It was really quite geeky” Kristabel says.
“I’d go on chatrooms and forums - I literally was so naughty"
Inside Voices: Differences Between UK and NZ Growing Up?
Kristabel didn’t feel pressure not to be on computers and to play outside with other kids because in London it wasn't encouraged as much as it is in New Zealand. “I was a chatty kid at school and always being told to be quiet” she laughs “but we didn’t really play outside growing up in London as much because of safety. If I went to friends houses, we’d draw - or if you’d come home from school you’d do your school work and then eat dinner and by then it was nearly time for bed.” This gave her plenty of time to navigate the internet and familiarise herself with the world online.
Beginning Blogging: “Don’t do it for the free sh*t”
Kristabel remembers reading blogs in the mid-two thousands. She remembers finding out about fashion blogs, such as Style Bubble, Fashion Robot and Flying Saucer in 2007, from reading Teen Vogue. “I was part of some fashion forums online and people used to link their blogs” Kristabel explains. She decided to set up her own blog in 2008 after being inspired by a sale from a famous costume designer in London ‘Angels’ “BBC and every big production would get costumes from this place. I was at Uni in Nottingham studying fashion so I came down to London for the sale. I went and bought these 50’s dresses and was so overwhelmed, because I was so dedicated to fashion, and I had no one who really understood my excitement so I set up a blog, wrote a post about the pieces (worst picture ever!) and left a comment to the blog post about the sale in the comments section of Style Bubble. People wanted to see me wearing some of the pieces so I wrote a post about that!”
"In London, we didn’t really play outside growing up in London as much because of safety"
Kristabel knew early on not to expect too much from blogging. In 2007, blogging was already taking a turn towards luxury - for example, Susie Bubble of Style Bubble visiting Channel’s apartment in Paris. “I read a post from a blogger called Queen Michelle from ‘Kingdom of Style’ blog. She said you shouldn’t get into blogging expecting too much, looking for free stuff because that wasn’t what blogging was really about. I thought to myself ‘Yeah I am ok with that’. So I started blogging and that’s what I did!”
Better Blogger: “Show Your Personality”
Kristabel acknowledges that blogging has evolved a great deal from 2007 to today, becoming more deliberate and strategic from when she was blogging at University. “I started and it was literally like an online diary. I would write at University about my frustrations and it was quite self-indulgent in some ways. These days I try and think ‘what would be helpful for the user’. I knew I wouldn’t be able to rely on my looks to turn my blog into a thing- not that I think I am bad looking - but I needed to be able to write, communicate and be funny and get my personality across. I wasn’t comfortable to have beautiful photos with just a line of text like some others were. I wanted to show people who I was.”
In 2017, Kristabel has been drawn to talking more about her experience being a black blogger. “It’s hard to know what to write sometimes - do I call a post “6 Black Street Style Stars” or just “6 Street Style Stars”. I’ve learnt I need to be direct sometimes because people don’t realise there are issues going on stilIt'sunderstandable because people don’t always want to talk about race but we actually need to. We need to get somewhere to where it's more positive.”
Becoming A Blogger: “Use the appropriate Platform”
During University Kristabel moved to New York for an internship working in knitwear. She continued to blog which she admits was continuing her online diary style. “Back then, in the late 2000’s, people were happy to read about your stream of conscious stories.” When she arrived back in London and started working for a company on knitwear, she started going to a few events. She remembers how she’d blog every single thing she’d go to, which she now looks back on as a bit mad. “Events back then were so novel. I’d blog about a Tampax event for God’s sake! In the early days of blogging, you’d shout it from the rooftop if there was a blogging event and what you had in your goody bag. Today maybe you’d put it on Instagram stories if that.”
Friends helped refine Kristabel’s vision for her blog. She would meet fellow bloggers like Carrie from WishWishWish.net, Lucy from www.shinythoughts.co.uk and Olivia from WhatOliviaDid.co.uk who’d huddle together at events in London, and eventually after some blogging get together they told Kristabel that it wasn’t right for her blog ‘iwantyoutoknow.co.uk' to write about press days. “But WHYY?” Kristabel laughs, recalling her reaction. Today, Kristabel notes she splits her content out as relevant over Instagram, Twitter, YouTube, Instagram Stories and her blog. “Knowing your platforms and being able to assess which is the appropriate one to use at any given time is an important part of being a blogger now,” says Kristabel.
Her Own Drum: “In private, I’m trying to get everyone else’s drum!”
Although Kristabel admits that in public she appears to be dancing to the beat of her own drum, in private she says “I’m trying to get everyone else’s drum!” She notes markets can be different. “You can be Bjork or Beyonce. Beyonce is huge but Bjork is still highly respected and has her own market. You just have to be secure in yourself. You have to believe in yourself. There’s no point in changing yourself and if you didn't it wouldn’t be you. It’s not you that’s the problem that's the system. Not everyone has to be Zoella!”
“You can be Bjork or Beyonce. Beyonce is huge but Bjork is still highly respected and has her own market"
What the market wants changes all the time too. Being young and attractive alone isn’t enough to break through in the world of media and blogging. “A few years back, retro and vintage were extremely popular whereas these days it's moved on in the popular imagination.” Right now, for example, Kristabel notes that the Kardashian look is popular, so people who fit this mould have been thriving in the world of social media. “You can be successful if you have a niche but if you have that mass-market-Kardashian look you can do VERY well.”
Her Most Asked Question: “How do bloggers make money?”
Above all else, Kristabel finds herself being asked constantly how she makes money living in London and working as a full-time blogger. To others, Kristabel explains blogging as being a publisher, like a magazine - where ads are placed and a commission is made from some sales. “I consider myself a freelancer, not just a blogger. You’re always pitching content, networking and consulting, running other people social media. It isn’t as weird as people think. It is a mix of things, from public speaking to indeed writing sponsored blog posts for brands.” You also need to build relationships with brands, she notes.
The core to a successful blog, like all careers, is relationships. For example, Kristabel built a relationship with British brand Boden when after an event she attended in 2013 she eventually asked to be paid for a piece of work, incrementally building trust over several years. At first, when she was paid for her first sponsored post in 2012, it seemed novel. Over the years, she was paid and then approached by an agency who she now no longer is. “I’m self-managed” she explains “Paid things are my priority because it allows me to do other things, to build my business and my life. You need the right mix of people who will pay you with those who won’t. It’s a juggling act.” She also says consistency is key to a successful blog, although admits she’s not perfect herself.
However, Kristabel notes that real life means that blogging isn’t always accessible to everyone straight away. “I had to wait until I got my first job to buy my first camera” she admits, noting that London bloggers have varying levels of help getting off the ground depending on factors such as family, accommodation and connections in the industry. “There are so many different things people may have that can assist them which may not be apparent on the outside from one's blog.
Disclosure: “Saying when you’re paid is a thing”
Unlike New Zealand where it is still quite vague around disclosure laws (there is guidance in the Advertising Standards Guidelines). In the UK however, it is now the law to disclose if you are paid for blog posts, something which Kristabel notes. “People slip through the gaps though. Blogging is a murky area, although most bloggers now disclose on Instagram. It's a battle between making the post look attractive so people read it and also being honest. I tend to disclose in the blog post and at the end. It’s tricky though!”
Get into it:"I never had a plan"
“I never had a plan”, says Kristabel. “With blogging, you can work things out as you go along. The best thing is just to get stuck in. You learn by doing. If you get invited to an event - go! Don’t just stay home because you don’t know anyone. You’ll meet people. That’s howI got started. Just go for it.”
And so, that's what I...and I hope all of you after reading this...intend to do...