Success can be well appreciated if we have rightfully earned it. This episode’s guest is a perfect model of someone who gained the top corporate seat from being a homeless person to a woman filled with strength and goals. She is Niké, the creator of SpecsandBlazers, and she is also a stylist, an artist, and an activist. What brings her more success is her altruism as she works alongside the United Nations and volunteers weekly to feed and help the homeless. Being an alpha female, Niké shares how to empower yourself and stand out from a crowd of wannabes and influencers. Being an inspirational person, she talks about monetizing her blogs, loyalty, perseverance, and breaking norms about how women should act in business.
Listen to the podcast here:
The Truth About The Blogging Industry + How To Monetize As A Blogger with SpecsandBlazers’ Niké
On this episode, we have my beautiful, gorgeous, amazing and talented friend Nike on here. Welcome. This is going to be one of my favorite episodes because it’s one with one of my favorite people. We’ve known each other for only two years.
It feels like a long-life friendship. I don’t see you not being in my life.
I feel like I know your soul.
Don’t you feel that?
We always have such therapeutic conversations that are so intense. We inspire each other and we support each other.
There’s no competition. It’s the only friendship I’ve made in this industry where I don’t feel I need to be calculated. That sounds so bad but that’s the reality of the industry that we’re in. When I’m with Greta, like which is so funny because I get all my friends to ask me, “Why do you always spend time with her?” I feel like I can be myself and I don’t have to work. I’m working when I’m even with other friends and I don’t have to work with you.
I feel the same way because I think to me, a real friend is someone that if you’re wrong they check you. We do that all the time.
She corrects the wrong out of me. She’s the only one that’s allowed.
I’m like, “You need to calm down. You can’t do that.” She’s like, “What do you mean? Are you serious?” I respect her so much as a person, as a hustler and as a businesswoman. I want people to get to know you. I know you in and out, but I want people to know you. If you follow her on social media @SpecAndBlazers, you’ll know that she’s very open and honest about her experiences, what she’s gone through in life and how positive she is, how they’ve impacted her even if it’s a negative situation, how she takes that negative situation and turns it into a positive. I want you to get to know her and then we’ll get to talking about blogging and monetization. Tell us about you, literally. This one’s going to be long but we’re going to try to give a recap. Walk us through the most important and most valuable moments of your life.
I was a miracle baby. I was born in Nigeria three months early. I was an incubator baby. The first ten years of my life, doctors always told my parents, “This is the last birthday. We want you to say goodbye now. She’s not going to make it with no guarantee medically she’s not going to make it until she’s ten.
Your mom is a doctor.
She believed that herself. It was very much like our relationship growing up was very distant I think because she was just waiting for me to die the first ten years. She kept trying to get pregnant because she knew that this baby wasn’t going to stay. I’m 31 years old and I’m still here. I’m still here because I’m a firm believer in God and I knew I was a miracle baby. I was always so strong-willed and I think even back, my earliest memory of like four, I could overhear doctors say that to my parents. I’m like, “Who are they talking about? Because I’m going to be here for a long time?”
That’s insane but I believe it.
People are saying that this is something I came up with. I was always so strong-willed and so stubborn.
It’s an innate instinct. It’s an instinct. That’s the best way for sure.
I knew myself from a very young age and my mom always says my very first sentence was like, “I can do it. No, I can do it. Don’t tell me what to do.”
Nothing has changed.
I’m still very stubborn. No one can tell me what to do. I’ve always been very sure of who I am and I’ve always been sure my path in life. I always knew that if I survived it, which you know I’ve been in the hospital even in the two years that we’ve known each other, I’ve been hospitalized at least six times.
She went back to Nigeria. She spent time with her family and attended a wedding.
It was a family reunion that was crazy.
Tell us what happened when you got back?
From childhood, I already have a preconditioned illness, a terminal illness as they say, which I won’t get into it because it’s still very personal and between me and God, but because I have this illness, it triggers anything. I had malaria and most people would have malaria and be able to survive it. Because I have a terminal illness already that was supposed to take me out already. The common flu or a common headache for me would be a blood transfusion. I had six blood transfusions and I was in the hospital for three weeks, but I came out alive.
I remember I was texting you and when you didn’t respond, I would panic.
Because I would go under and then I will be like, “I know she’s texting, other people are texting me,” and then I’ll come back. I’m like, “Give me my laptop. I need to write an article.”
She’s crazy. She’s one of those people that just doesn’t stop working. She doesn’t know what sleep is. She doesn’t know what a day off is. I always tell her she has to take care of herself and she never listens or she’ll do it for one whole day like foaming at the mouth that she can’t touch her laptop. That’s how hard it is for her.
Yes. Again, as you said, I think it’s nature, but I think it also came from the fact that I know that the odds of me being here alive literally is very slim. While I’m here I make the best of it. I want to make an impact. I want to leave a legacy. I tried to work as much as I can as much as God allows me to.
What do you want your legacy to be?
That girls that look like me and girls that were born in conditions that I was born in can come out and be fabulous. They can be whatever they want in life. People think like where you started in life is exactly where you’re going to end up. My mom is one and I am one but that’s not true. You are the architects of your own life. My dad always says that to me. You decide exactly how your life is going to turn out.
I’m a firm believer of that.
Me too. You draw out the map of your life and the times where my life was going like this is because I was a mess. I didn’t put my life together myself and the times where it was going up the path that I wanted because I sat myself down and drew out a map.
You were conscious of all the decisions you made.
Yes, I went with my gut.
I think that’s so important. I’m like that for us.
She’s an alpha female.
I am. We both are.
People think two alphas are going to be best friends, which is crazy to me.
No, I felt like two alphas should be best friends. I think we should be because we push each other, but then we also stop each other like two to alphas.
Yes, we stop each other.
We need to tone it down.
I’m a proud feminist but there’s this idea that men are our enemies, but it’s not true. Women are our enemies. We hate each other more than we hate men. I think until we love each other, until we become obsessed with each other, until we don’t compete, then we can teach our boys, when we have boys. You have a beautiful masculine boy. We have to raise our little boys to be feminist, but that’s only going to change when a boy sees a woman getting along and she sees, “Mommy has so many girlfriends and mommy can get along with girls. Mommy can help girls. Mommy doesn’t get intimated by other girls.”
I don’t know why women do this.
It’s terrible, in this world especially.
I think if they changed their perspective and they changed it to abundance and let’s help each other, they would not only be happier but both their businesses would thrive and they would get more respect because it’s so rare. I feel so bad even saying that, but it is. I do my best and especially with this podcast, I bring real women on the show because I want people to feel we’re all the same.
We all have struggles. We all have pain.
I don’t care who you are, how much money you make, your occupation or what family you came out of.
When that light turns off, all your pain and your struggle hit you all at once. I was telling you, I had five breakdowns, back to back. I don’t know what’s was triggering them and I was like, “This is it. There is a lot going on. I need to take a step back.” We all have it. No one is that strong. I’ve had girlfriends that would tell me, “Don’t dress up.” I’ve had girlfriends telling me literally, “Can you not come the way you normally come to events,” when I try to hang out with them.When something is so natural to you, it's about to be successful. Click To Tweet
What do you mean?
They try to tell me to belittle myself so they can feel more comfortable.
I swear to God.
Did someone told you to dress a little less fashion-y.
Yes or they’ll tell me, “Can you not just be so boisterous?” I love Greta because she doesn’t come to this fricking dinners because she hates them but I still go because I network.
I can’t be around those women.
She doesn’t go.
I can’t and I refuse to and I’ve stopped going to events.
I’m so proud of you. I wish I can get there.
Because I realized that’s not what I want to do and that’s not my destiny. These events bring these nasty bloggers and I feel so bad saying it because I’m a blogger. I say that to people when they say, “What do you do?”
I say, “I write.”
I write. I’m a journalist.
I say anything by the word blog or influencer.
Yeah, because it has a negative connotation as it should because these women are so catty and nasty. One time I was at an event and this girl had the cutest outfit and as we were leaving I was like, “Your outfit is amazing. You look so beautiful.” You should have seen the way she looked at me with disgust. I looked back and you know what?
You get one chance. One night, you get one chance. I need to be nice to you.
Yes and I’m not one of those people that’s like, “Think it to yourself.” No, if she looks pretty, I want to tell her she looks pretty.
That’s how we met.
I went straight up to you and I was like, “I’m obsessed.” I want to say this though, it’s hard to find people who you connect with but Greta is one of those. You’ve shown that it’s possible to be an alpha female and be nurtured, which I lack and I’m learning how to do it. My mom is amazing. I love her. She’s just amazing but she definitely wasn’t nurturing. It’s a friendship where I can be with someone that’s like a mother to me at the same time even though I’m older than you. I want to be hugged and touched and I want to be like a baby when I’m around you and you’ve shown me that vulnerability is okay.
It is okay because it makes you stronger. When you’re vulnerable, you let it go and you heal from that. One of the most amazing things is letting all those negative emotions go. I see no point in the nastiness in any industry. I was speaking about this on Instagram a while ago and one of the women wrote to me, “Yeah, but not in every industry.” I’m like, “There are exceptions to every rule, but why can’t you be nice,” just because you have a 9 to 5. Don’t forget, there’s a Higher Power up there and he’s watching every step of the way.
That Karma thing is real.
Karma is a B and it will come back to bite you. I’m not saying it for you to in genuinely being nice to people, but once you shift your perspective, your personality shifts.
I think I told a story. I don’t know if you saw it. I shared about a girl that wrote to me like ask me for step by step on how to become a famous blogger. I sent her all the articles I’ve written which are fifteen. I’m so dumb. I sat there and tallied it and sent it to her. She responds, “Why would I read that? I need you to give me step by step. I don’t want to read that.” I was like, “That’s the problem. You have to read it.” She was like, “Why won’t you help your sister out? You need to help a sister out.” Sisters don’t help sisters out. This is exactly the problem, “How do you block emails?”
People want you to chew it and put it in their mouth. When you’re being helpful to somebody, she was not receptive to it. She wants you to do it for her.
She wants me to give her ten years of pain and struggles, a year of sleeping in my car or showering at James. You want me to pack it up in a cute little ribbon and like, “This is how to get to where I’m at.” There’s literally no formula.
People just wanted easy stuff.
I always say, “It’s not me. It’s God.” God is literally directing every step. I lived in my car for a year and I used to call it Push to Start and because I had to push it off the hill for it to start. I will put it in neutral, I will get out and go to the back myself. It was a Nissan Altima. I bought it for $700. I would go to the back and I’ll push it, all 90 pounds of me at the time and I will run back and jump in and then drive it.
I didn’t know that.
I slept in that car. My windows were covered with a little tent and it didn’t have a lock on the door and I slept in it for a year. Do you think that was me? That was God. That had nothing to do with me. How do I package that and give it to you and say, “This is how.” You can’t.
I want people to know how you got started and I want them to see that getting to where you are now was not an easy road. It was a difficult one. As you said, you slept in your car for a year. How did you do that? How did you not give up without a home almost? How does that work because I don’t even think I’m that strong?
I don’t think it’s strength. I think it’s almost like a level of insanity. The people that make it in this industry, you have to have some level of it and I call that insanity but it’s faith in God. Again, it wasn’t me. I came to LA at 24. I left my parents’ home where that’s all I’ve ever known. My parents were the only friends I had and they made sure of that. They did that on purpose because they wanted to control how our lives turn out. I was the kid that was like, “No. I came to LA to visit because I love fashion and I wanted to see what it’s about and I stayed. I didn’t know a single soul in Los Angeles, not even a cousin of a cousin of a cousin, not a human. I said, “I’m going to figure it out.”
I checked into a hostel that was $25 a night. It was disgusting. You showered and after a while, I couldn’t do it there. I saved up. I bought a car and I said, “I’m just going to sleep in the car instead of staying in a hostel.” That’s disgusting. I’d rather stay in a car and shower and get a gym membership. At the time, I will blog on Tumblr. Tumblr was huge many years ago for all the depressed kids. If you were depressed, that’s where you need to be. I write. I love to write and I would write about how I deal with my depression and my anxiety. I mean I will go back and read some of my articles now on there and I would cry. I was in such a dark place, but the only thing that always gave me the light was writing and fashion. When something is so natural to you, it’s about to be successful.
When did you feel that this was it? When did you feel this is what you want to do?
When I When I finally got a good job and I would be in the bathroom writing.
That’s what you wanted to do.
I wasn’t making any money from blogging, but I will never be attached to my job. I was the worst. That’s why I went through a lot of Karma with my first few teams because I was literally the worst employee.
Where did you work? I didn’t even know that you had a job besides blogging.
I had many jobs. I did Lyft. I did it all. I was working at Nordstrom. I was working at this boutique on La Brea for this rich, white woman. I did it all. If there was a job out there, I did it. I worked on American Apparel, all in fashion because I wanted free clothes which are the second post on my blog. When you are not making money from something, but you are willing to do it anyway no matter what, that’s what’s going to work out.
Nobody makes money with blogging in the beginning.
The first four or five years are just growing pains.
When did you feel like it took a turn and people were willing to pay for content?
When I had a billboard up in Downtown Los Angeles.
You had a billboard?
It’s still there. It was there like six months at first. I had a huge billboard for FIGat7th. I was the face of the mall and I was still working multiple full-times and driving Lyft and it was weird to drive Lyft past your face. I remember going to work one day. I still had to make money from blogging, but I was the face of this mall and I was like, “Why are they not paying me? This is crazy.” I remember a brand paid me $50 to wear their shirt and that first $50 made me so cocky.
You’re like, “Okay.”
I’m like, “Something can happen from this.” I went to work and I quit. I quit both jobs. I quit Lyft. I quit it all. I was like, “I’m going to give it my all. I’m going to go hard.” I remember I started asking for $60, $70 and $80, just enough to eat.
That’s the problem with people now. People with 1,500 followers, and not that followers matter, but they’ll come to brands and be like, “I’m going to need to get paid $500 per post.”When you start feeling pain from your efforts, back up a little bit. Click To Tweet
“No, you’re not because that’s not how much you’re worth.” You charge based on experience and worth and what you can give. If you have 1,500 followers, it means you have 40 posts maybe, max. Because it takes so much time to produce real, quality content and you’re charging $500. They don’t know that it’s okay to start small. That if you start small, it will be steady. People forget that.
Social media has sold them that. I have a team of four, they’re all young. Seventeen-year-olds are asking me for a salary of $5,000 a month. It’s because that’s their reality. Their mates are making that in high school because they’re on Snapchat and TikTok. Does that make sense?
It does make sense.
To them, these things are accessible. We had to struggle; we had to suffer.
It was new and nobody knew you could do anything.
Some of the stars who were big, we didn’t even know they were getting paid. One was a lawyer, one was an architect, they had a real job until several years ago too. They all were working real jobs. We all had full-time jobs until it took off. For these kids, they don’t have to have a real job. They believe that they should leave high school and get paid $5,000 a month.
I think that’s so wrong.
We talk about this all the time, how education is so important.
It’s no longer important to that generation afterwards. If you go to high school now and ask them what’s their dream job, it’s all YouTubers. That’s all they want to be. That’s the only career goal in high school.
That’s so sad.
Remember back in the day when it was doctors and lawyers and astronauts?
I think it’s because it looks easy. I think that’s why for me, I’ve used my platform to show now that it’s not easy. There hasn’t been a Monday in three years that I didn’t work for 24 hours straight. From the moment that I quit my job, I’ve worked for 24 hours straight every single Monday.
No matter what we say, they still want it and they still don’t believe you. They think you’re lying.
That you work that hard.
Do you know how many people, friends and random people are like, “I want to start a blog. How do I do it?” I’m like, “Start a blog. Just do it.”
They think that you don’t want them to have more success. It’s the strangest dynamic.
I’m very real. I would be like, “Are you sure? Because you need to be consistent if you want to do this.”
“Do you think I’m going to do better than you?” I’m like, “If that’s where you think this is going, I’m going to tell you exactly what to do. Go on WordPress, pay for this, buy this and do that. Good luck.”
A year later you’re like, “What happened to your blog?” You’re like, “Did you not get the blog on?” They believe it’s so easy and I wish it was easy.
Nothing in life comes easy and people always forget that. Why do you pull this 24-hour shifts? What’s a day in the life of you like as a blogger, as a business owner and I don’t want to call it a blog? I’m going to call it a business because that’s exactly what it is. You wake up and what do you do?
I wake up and I grab my coffee. That’s the first time I come by at 5:00 in the morning and I go to bed at like 1:00.
Is that every single day?
Monday and Tuesdays.
Why those days?
We shoot all the content on Sunday and then on Mondays, they’re editing and I’m writing for the following. I try to write three articles in advance. In between that, brands will reach out or I reach out. I do all my own outreach. I manage myself. I do all my own invoices. I’ve tried managers and it doesn’t work for me. I write three weeks in advance because if a brand reaches out, then I have a slot for them. For example, Adidas, I have a five-year contract with them and at the very last minute they were like, “We need an article next week.” If I hadn’t written three weeks in advance, I have to put them in the middle. Does that make sense?
It does make sense.
Then I do these articles in between now that’s published. That’s going up next week, so I have to write in advance. On Mondays I do all my own invoices and you know you have to chase these brands.
Your hustle is unheard of.
You just cannot let brands walk all over you because they would if you allow them.
She’s the only people that when I was like super lost in what I wanted to do, I met up with her. We were crying together. I was like, “I don’t know what to do with my life.” She was like, “Since blogging is what you do, just continue with that and see how that goes.” She gave me the strength to do that and she was like, “Why are you waiting for brands? Start pitching to them.” I’m like, “What should I say?” She was like, “Keep it short and be persistent. Don’t give up.”
I can’t understand the word no.
It’s just not now for you.
When I hear a no, every time I write a brand and they’re like, “Not right now.” I literally say, “I just love this.” I was talking about next week. There’s a motivational podcast naturally, but he’s been around for 20 years. He’s from Tampa, Florida. His name is Les Brown. He is an amazing African-American guy. He’s literally one of my idols. It’s like Steve Jobs and then him. He talks about how he struggled so much and he always says, you cannot take no for an answer. When he wanted to be a DJ, he would come in there every day to the station and they will say no to him and he will say, “I’ll be back tomorrow with more coffee.” Eventually, he told the owners, which were all whites, he was like, “You can get a restraining order on me or you can give me a job. One will cost you money and one will make you money. Pick one.”
They gave him a job and he’s probably the biggest motivational speaker.
He just doesn’t give up.
When brands told me no, it’s almost stalker-ish especially if I love the brand. If I love the brand, I want to work with them. Eventually, there are some brands I will back out. When you start feeling pain, because you’re only human, I do back up a little bit. If I write to you and you’re the secretary and you’re not giving me a yes, I will write within above you until I get to the CEO. I’m going to get to the person I need to get to that will give me access.
Every time this never fails.
I asked my therapist why does it work because I feel like I get rewarded for bad behavior, which is like almost stalking behavior. that’s why I’m single because I try to do that for every relationship. It doesn’t work with guys, but in business it works, the aggressiveness. People want to live vicariously through people who are that relentless. For most humans, that’s not natural to them. They’re like, “Why would anyone do that?” When we see someone that does it, we’re going to hand them stuff because we’re like, “This is weird.” I would love to do it but I can’t do it so let’s just go ahead and give it to her.” Does that make sense?
It does make sense.
When Adidas and I first started, it wasn’t a good relationship. It was five years of me stalking them. Finally, I got six months contracts and they will not pay and it was a lot of back and forth. We fought a lot but I always stood my ground and every time they will fire me, I will go above to whoever fires me and just be like, “This is the reason why I am not going to give up on you guys because I know that this relationship is going to be amazing. If you guys can just treat me like a boss, a brand and I will treat you the same. Respect is reciprocal.” Now, we do yoga together, the whole team. We have so much fun but it took years of me being like, “You would not disrespect me.”
Adidas is huge.
Other than Beyoncé.
I was going to say they don’t do bloggers.Women, in general, are taught to never talk about money and not to ever be aggressive in business. Click To Tweet
It’s me and Beyoncé, the only black bloggers on their payroll.
They don’t do influencers like that.
There are six influencers and five white girls and me and then Beyoncé.
I’m so proud of you for that one.
Thank you. It took the pain. Women, in general, we’re taught to never talk about money and we’re taught to be not to ever be aggressive in business because this idea that if you are aggressive in business unless you’ve turned off the part of you that’s womanly. Any part of you that’s feminine must be turned off. That’s the only way you can be successful in business and it’s not true.
That’s so wrong.
It’s compartmentalizing. When I’m in my personal life, I want to be soft and sweet. In business, I will not be disrespected.
The way I speak when I write my emails is not the way I speak right now or husband or my son. I’m more straight to the point. It might not sound as sweet and loving.
I always say babe and love and darling because that feels foreign to me not to speak to people I know like that, but when I’m talking about business, it’s truly just business.
Business is a war zone. My mom always told me that. She’s like, it’s like going to war. You have to get up every morning knowing that you’re going to be attacked so you have to be on the defense all the time. Especially when I’m negotiating with brands, it is insane. There’s this idea in the blogging world that brands are just throwing money at me. I can guarantee you, I think maybe I get one brand to reach out maybe every six months. Every campaign I’ve ever gotten was me going after brands. It starts out with, “We don’t have any budget.” They never want to pay.
They always say that.
Think about it, if you own a business, would you want to pay? “No, nobody wants to pay because why take money out of your pocket?” Nobody wants to pay, however, there is always a budget because for you to have a business, there has to be residual money. I’ve understood that now. When brands tell me, “I don’t have a budget,” most bloggers would say, “Okay. Great.”
That used to be mean until you pushed me and said, “No, they have a budget.”
Their budget is insane. Influencer marketing is the only marketing left which means there’s so much money. Every quarters, Q1, Q2, Q3, Q4, you have to beat the quarters. Right before the quarters, they put money aside. They’re like, “This is the money for influencer marketing. Which influencers are we going to give it to?” You stand in front of them like, “I’m one of the influencers that you should give that money to.” When they tell you there’s no budget, brands are literally lying to you.
That’s their nice way of turning you down.
That’s their way of saying, “Try harder.” I don’t think they’re turning you down.
It’s your mindset. I’m not fully there yet.
I think they’re saying to me, at least, “Why don’t you give me a better reason why I should give you these checks?”
I don’t think of it that way. I’m like, “I just lost this contract.”
They tell me I don’t have a budget and I say, “When I do this for you with this amount of budget, with this $2,000 that you’re going to give me, here’s what I can give you.” They will say, “My earlier email says we don’t have a budget.” I’m like, “Yeah, but the budget that’s available for this campaign, you put it away for Q1. Here’s what we’ll get you.” Eventually, I’ll get that money out of them. If brands will tell you, “Let’s go see if we can find the money.” That’s what I hear. “Let’s go see if I can find the money.”
“Let me talk to, I don’t know who.
They have the money so now they’re like, “She’s not going to take no for an answer. Let’s just give her the check.” Bloggers in the industry that think I don’t want to share my tips, it’s not true. It’s because I know what it takes for me to get that one check. I have to pay for people and it’s because I have to hustle. I have to plead, I have to beg, I have to threaten, I have to yell, I have to scream. I have to be what you would call the bitch in our industry. I treat this industry as a man would treat. When a man is aggressive, they are boss.
When a woman’s aggressive, she’s a bitch.
When I first started acting like a man in this industry, first of all, bloggers don’t like it cause I would go to events and I won’t talk to anyone. I’m going straight to the PR person that needs to write me a check. Why would I have a chit chat with you? I don’t need to. I’m here to network. I’m here to get money. Let’s focus. PR goes, in the beginning will be like, “She’s a little intense.” What changed was I realized that everything I’ve ever gotten is because of the PR girls in this industry. They love me because they work in 9 to 5. Their jobs are not easy. They deal with hardcore bosses every day. When I’m around them, they see me as one of them. I don’t think PR girls see me as a blogger anymore because I’ve changed their perspective. I’ve been able to be like, “I can understand that you’re working.” When they wake up in the morning, I’m awake with them. I’m the first email and I’m like, “I’ll grab my coffee too. I should get to my office.”
You connect with them.
They go, “She works 9 to 5 like us. That’s what the bloggers I do with the other way, but I just cannot do that literally. In my business, it does not work. I know that I have to treat it like a business and I have to go home and be with my friends and my girlfriends and my parents. That’s how I’m able to turn it. I just wanted to rant.
No, but it’s so inspirational because I want people to know that persistence is important.
Especially when you want something. When you want something, you can have it. You have to be persistent and truly give them a reason why. If you were worthy of that $2,000 for a campaign, they wouldn’t give it to you.
No, they won’t. I produce great content.
Great content with excellent quality. You’ve write beautifully.
I’m going to say this, in five years that I’ve taken it seriously, I have never turned in work late ever. That sounds crazy to people because they’re like, “How?” I have six campaigns due in the next weeks. I had a mental breakdown on social media. I cry to everyone. I was shooting for Eucerin. I’m holding it in my hand and I started crying because I’m thinking of the other five that we have to shoot that same day. My photographer was like, “Do you like take a break? I’m like, “No, just keep shooting. Just edit it out. Just Photoshop the tears.” You’ll see the pictures when I post them, you can tell that it was not a good day because I was like, “Next one. Let’s just keep going. Just keep shooting.” She was like, “Nike, I don’t know how I can Photoshop tears out.” I’m like, “You’re going to have to figure it out because I’m not going to stop crying. I’m having a full mental breakdown so just keep going.”
We had two videos for Eucerin, six pictures and article all due. They wanted a 24-hour turnaround. They were paying sick money. I worked for Nivea and it’s under Nivea. They just treat me so well. They’re like, “Nike, I know this is rough, but I know you have a team. We need a 24-hour turnaround.” I said, “I got you.” I went to Beautycon all weekend. I woke up on Monday morning, I said, “We have to shoot this. We have to edit it. We have to turn it in by tonight.” Everyone’s like, “Nike, I don’t know how that’s possible.” I’m like, “We don’t do impossible at Specs and Blazers. We do it. We get it done.”
I think my last question is how do you pitch to brands? What do you feel is the most effective way to pitch to brands? Because there are those people that write an entire essay and then there are people like you that write two short sentences.
I say, “It will behoove you if you work with Specs and Blazers.”
What do you normally get as a response?
“She’s a little arrogant.” It’s usually like, “Why? Tell us more.” I think when I first started, I used to write the paragraphs too, but you have to think of these girls again. They have bosses, they’re working 9 to 5 day jobs. They check emails and their jobs are so hard. I want to say this. If any influencer is reading, please be nice to PR girls. Enough of treating them like crap. I sit at events all the time and we’re like, “Grab me water.” They’re not your slaves. They are your bosses. Imagine Kelly Cutrone was on cocaine. Their job is the hardest job in the industry. Make it easier for them. Make your emails as short as possible, as straight to the point.
When I send my first pitch, it’s, “Hello,” It says their name only in the subject, “Hello. It will behoove you to work with Specs and Blazers. If you like to learn more, I attached my rate sheet first, my press kit, my current stats and all my currents on Instagram for that week that I’m pitching,” because they need to know what’s going on that week. I tell them, “If you’d like to learn more, here’s my phone number. Let’s just go ahead and grab a coffee and let’s go from there.” It’s an immediate, “Let’s make it personal,” immediately. I go straight to like, “Let’s meet up in person.” I don’t want to do those three emails.
How many percentages of people respond positively to that?
That was about 45% and in the, 50% I have to work hard.
That’s a high number.
The 40%, they at least meet up for coffee It might not go anywhere but they would meet up. That’s why I take meetings and also be generous. In the beginning, you have to be a giver. I think that’s what I love about our friendship. Literally the first, I would say a year and until last week of friendship, she never let me pay for anything, literally.
It’s the Armenian in me.
No, it’s the you in you.
You are a giver.
It’s a cultural thing as well a little bit, but you’re right, it is.People think there's this idea in the blogging world that brands are just throwing money at influencers. Click To Tweet
You’re a giver. The more you give in this world, the more you get back.
I do it genuinely. I don’t do it to get it back.
You’re going to get it back, that’s just a fact. I wouldn’t be literally, I pushed my retreat to go seek God two hours because I love you as much because you’ve invested so much in me. Friendships, any ship, you have to invest in people first. It’s like a bank. You have to deposit money to take it out. Think about it like that. I know that sounds ingenious but it’s true. In any relationship, in marriage and in everything, you have to invest. People are afraid to invest. When I was dirt poor, when I was still struggling, I was dating a guy and every Mother’s Day, I will send all my PR girls flowers.
I was so broke, but I will send all my PR girl flowers, even the ones that don’t even have children. I’m like, “For your future children, here are flowers.” He will say to me, “But you’re poor. Why would you do this?” I’m like, “Because I’m going to get it back a million times.” Who do you think they’re going to call when they get that campaign on their desk? The person that didn’t send them flowers or the person who send them flowers, me? When I take them out to eat, I pay. I would not let them pay. I pay, even though they can expense it, I pay. I take it out of my money.
They can feel appreciated.
Have you been to any PR companies? If you saw how their boss talks to them, it’s like they’re slaves. I went to eight PR company and in the back, there was no AC. I told my teammates, “You guys are so lucky. They were carrying big boxes on their heads to go from upstairs, downstairs, getting paid $10 an hour.” In between that, they have to answer emails. When you’re the one blogger, I’m like, “I see you.” Because every human being wants to be seen. You’re like, “Take away the fashion, take away the beauty, I see you. Let me treat you. Let me take care of you. Come to this meeting and do not touch money.” You have to be a giver. You have to give and then when you finally pitch yourself, you have to just let them know that you are going to add value. Don’t go after brands that you don’t love. I will do Adidas for free. Does that make sense?
It does, because you love them.
I will do it for free because there’s a synergy there. I love them. I will do Nivea for free. There are brands that I will say, “Let’s keep going,” because I’m dedicated to them and so loyal to them.
Especially with Adidas.
That loyalty is reciprocated with the brands.
Yes. When the brands are like, “She will literally do this for free, let’s add more to her money.” That’s the human mentality. When do you know that you are not going anywhere, you’re going to stick with them no matter what, the good, the bad, the ugly and I would defend them if they are loyal to you. I think what makes Apple the greatest brand of all time is because they’re loyal to the cult, that is the people that use Apple and vice versa. We are all loyal to this man that’s long dead, Steve jobs. We’re loyal to him. In his death, he’s still so loyal to us and when a brand publicly humiliates you like that, you have to break up with them publicly and I had to public break up with them. I told them, “You are disloyal and I’m heartbroken.” I cried for maybe a week. I was so heartbroken. I started the brand. I am the brand and they ran away with a person I introduce them to who’s now married to a prince so I understand. I am the brand.
They started in the basement. I was poor. We will write to each other. We will FaceTime and I’m like, “Keep making those bags. Don’t stop. We’re going to get there together.” The moment they got their first huge break, I no longer existed. You have to be loyal to the brands who are loyal to you. FIGat7th gave me my first break. I wasn’t paid and they gave me my first break. If they haven’t called me again but my face still rotates there, if Daryl calls me and say, “We want your face back on the main billboard. We don’t have any budget.” The answer would be, “Yes, absolutely. Let’s do it. I owe you.”
People forget that unless it’s a cultural thing. It’s either you have loyalty or you don’t. I don’t even think it’s cultural. I think because it’s so rare, people don’t feel that warm feeling inside of loyalty, that feeling that you and both feel.
Everyone wants to be the one. They want to be the one that made it but there’s room for everybody. There’s room for everyone.
It doesn’t make sense because I can’t wrap my head around it. If I’m not loyal too, it’s because I don’t want to be.
Yeah, because I don’t like you and I would tell you.
I’ll never you fake signs that I want to be loyal. I’m very blunt.
I wouldn’t give you bread crumbs.
I’m not like that. You either get all of me or you get none of me. That’s my personality.
Again, I’m going to keep saying this, I’m so grateful for our friendship so much because when my blog picked up, people don’t want you to do well. That’s human nature. They don’t want you to bypass them. I lost, I would say 90% of my friends and you don’t believe it until it happens. It is such a very lonely place. I was making the most money I’ve ever made in my life and I was crying myself to sleep every night because I will call friends and they won’t pick up because they don’t want you to keep bypassing them. They’re like, “You don’t change. You remain exactly the same.” Everyone around you changes because they think there’s a new person of you. I have to act like this new person. I remember even like my friends from college came over, it was a safe haven. I could be myself and I needed a friend. I didn’t even realize that I needed a friend because all my friends had just fallen off or they just weren’t real or if they do show up, it’s because they needed something.
I just genuinely just don’t care about occupation or followings. I tell you all the time, “I’m losing followers every day. I could care less.” I could care less. I don’t care. I still talk about what I genuinely want to talk about. I share what I want to share and if people like it, they like it. If they hate it, I don’t care. I don’t live for social media. I live for my family.
I think that’s why we get along so well. I leave for especially because it’s my job.
No, but you don’t live for it like that.
I check out at 5 PM. I’m done.
She knows how to check and that’s important. When I’m checked in, I am checked in. I’m responding.
This sounds so bad. Other than you and my sister, I have my whole feed muted.
Muted? As in you can’t see anything?
I can’t see anybody but you and my sister.
I swear to God.
Can you do that?
Yeah. I have everyone that I followed muted because then I don’t get social anxiety anymore. I used to get it so bad. I will watch what girls are doing like, “I love this brand. Why did they invite all those girls to a getaway not me?” How can you feel that when you don’t see it? You can’t. Ignorance is bliss.
It affected you.
It was bad. I mean I was going to therapy and take medications because of like anxiety. No one wants to feel excluded. I will pick myself and my sanity over anything at any time all the time. If you trigger any sort of insecurity in me, any sort of like, “I need to compare myself,” I’m going to mute you. Again, you and I don’t have that relationship. When I see the bubble that she’s uploaded in her stories, I want to see her just like ranting. I get so excited to watch your stories. I don’t think I missed any story of yours.
I care about social media because I’ve met such amazing people who are my real friends now and I love it and I hold it close to my heart, but I don’t let it get to me.
You’re stronger than me.
I don’t let it get to me because I’m so grounded in my core values. When you lost close people in your life, that’s it. I was talking about this, it changes you to your core. All these minute little things like looking cute and acting cute, those don’t matter. What matters is your health and your family and the real, genuine people around you.
I even said that to someone. This is me telling someone that I met and I enjoy their company, but they were like a workaholic. Imagine me but multiply it by ten. Every conversation is about work. I was even asking like, “Do you have friends?” “I don’t believe in friendships because I just work.” This person was like Steve Jobs.
I feel bad for them.
It was the first time I’ve understood how it was to be in a relationship with me and I said to them, “What an empty life you have.” It was like talking to myself out loud to this person. This person is telling me all these dreams and the goals and then this. I’m just like, “It’s your birthday. Are you got to go to Palm Springs?” He goes, “No, I have to work through it.” I was like, “I almost died in December. I literally died. I came back to life and it changed my perspective.” What’s the point of amassing success when you don’t have anyone to share it with? If you don’t have your parents to share it with, your siblings or your closest friends?” “When I buy my G-Wagon, you’re going to buy a G-Wagon so we can roll around town together.” You want those close friendships that you know they don’t want anything from you. They want you but you have to nurture them. It was through hard work. It’s possible. I have to nurture this friendship.
We do. We water this friendship all the time.
If we go two weeks without talking, I’m like, “Let’s meet up. It’s time for hugs. It’s time to touch.”
We don’t talk every day.
No, we don’t.
We might see each other every two months.
It’s picked up a little bit because I’m needier.
She’s like, “I need you.” I’m like, “I’ll be there.”
I will drive down. I become a little needier but like in the beginning, like every two months or so.
That’s what friendships are. Sometimes I might be in that place where I need you. A good friend is someone who when you need them, they’re there. With that, we’re going to wrap it up, but I wanted you guys to listen to her and her story because she inspires me in so many ways. Her drive, her genuine personality, her love and her everything is just so inspiring to me. I love you and I’m proud of you.
I love you so much.
She’s launching her second jewelry collection.
I have a jewelry collection. I wore it.
Yes, it looks beautiful. I love it.
Thank you. We are launching a second collection end of the year and I’m super excited. Check me out at SpecsAndBalzers.com the blog, not the Instagram.
Thank you so much and we’ll see you in the next episode.
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