Bloggers and social media personalities gain popularity because of their unique take on the world, their outlandish humor, or superhuman model features. Many young social media influencers have gained their popularity by becoming celebrities first.
Then there are exceptions. Today I had the opportunity to sit down with a young woman who made it in the lifestyle blogging world before turning 18. Did I mention that she is also superhumanly smart, inspiring, and all around a great gal?
Read on to meet Tara, the face and voice behind The Whole Tara and so much more.
ZJ: Your blog is picturesque and inspiring. I notice your mission: “I used to obsess over healthy food, but now I’m all about balance.” Can you share what that means for you, and why you changed the name of your blog from SkinnybyTara?
TM: I’m 21 years old now, but began my brand, Skinny by Tara, at the age of 17. I was really preachy about healthy foods but I was developing an unhealthy relationship with food. It wasn’t until more recently that I’ve worked on my relationship with food. That, combined with the obsession we see in social media (Instagram, etc.) about extreme diets like raw, vegan, and so on, fueled me to shifted my blog’s focus. I’ve learned that not everything has to be healthy, not everything has to be vegan. I feel like Instagram (and social media) has helped create this unhealthy obsession with food, and a beauty focus related to food. I found this to be so untrue, and it wasn’t me, so I changed it.
Now my focus is one of balance- lifestyle, travel, and occasionally posts about balanced food.
ZJ: Your focus is a healthy, balanced lifestyle, and you are based in Miami. Do you find it’s difficult to maintain that focus there or does living in Miami inspire and drive you to write about balance?
TM: I have just moved back to Miami after living in New York for 3 yrs. New York is worse than Miami [regarding unhealthy focus on the physical]. It is workout focused, and there is a new, trendy juice place popping up every day. We have that in Miami, but it’s not the main focus.
The shift for me [from SkinnyByTara to TheWholeTara healthy balance focus] was more than location. My blog had been solely based on clean eating, and I started to feel too much pressure from my own blog to adhere to a strict, clean eating lifestyle. It felt very isolating and too clean. Clean eating for me meant I let go of a lot of food groups; no cheese, no this, no that. It became impossible to go out with friends or on a date and seem normal. I was trying to fit into this mold that I myself had built up [through my blog]. It was a lot of pressure.
ZJ: What got you started blogging about travel/ lifestyle/ balance/ food?
TM: I graduated high school at age 15. I wanted to travel and be a tennis player, because I played in high school, but then I started blogging at 17 during college. This was a while ago and I only had a Facebook page – that was when FB pages were still really cool. I gained a lot of followers on FB, then I made an Instagram page which gained a lot of followers, so then I created a blog. I did it all backwards.
ZJ: What made you start writing your new section on inspirational posts?
TM: Prior to that I was really into the food posts. When I saw posting quotes and they received so much engagement, it sparked something in me: I’m doing this whole balance movement. Body love & self love flow together with inspiration.
ZJ: At what point did you start gaining massive amounts of followers, and what did you think?
TM: It was a gradual process, but the majority came in May 2015 because that’s when I started to post pics of myself and no one knew what I looked like before then. I started writing more personal stuff which people liked. I received a lot of great feedback from followers, which inspired me to keep going at a crucial time that I was unsure which direction to take with my work.
ZJ: Do you consider yourself a marketer? Can you give me an example of what you market as an influencer?
TM: At my core I am, because I like to create different stories for brands and take pictures for them. I like doing this for things that feel authentic to me and that I know my followers will connect to.
One example is when I did marketing for Dirty Lemon Water, a trendy and cool lemonade water with charcoal. After learning about the product by marketing for them, I began stocking my fridge with Dirty Lemon water on the daily and I love it.
I have done marketing for Chobani Yogurt, but before doing that I already ate Chobani every single morning.
ZJ: Is blogging/ social your only job, or do you have a job outside of that?
TM: This is my only job.
ZJ: Do you get paid for your travel posts?
My trip to Thailand was organized by the tourism board of Thailand, so it was a sponsored trip. I brought a photographer traveling with me for 3 months, during which I blogged and
worked regularly. There were some sponsored posts because of the nature of the work.
ZJ: If you were to give someone advice that wanted to get into this, what would it be?
TM: I would tell them not to worry about what other people are doing, or how many followers other people have. The key is to do everything with passion and authenticity, or nothing at all.
ZJ: Why do you think people find you or follow you?
TM: I think everyone has their own reason, but I think it’s because I share a lot of inspiration, a lot of quotes, and a lot of bright, happy, good vibe pictures. People want that for themselves. They want to be inspired and to live a certain lifestyle. They want food recommendation.
ZJ: What is your favorite thing to do outside of blogging and social media?
TM: That’s a good question! I like to do a lot of things. I love photography – taking pictures of things that aren’t going on my blog. Weirdly, love crocheting – it’s really fun and therapeutic.
ZJ: What does your family think of your social media fame?
TM: My family still doesn’t understand it. At the beginning it was the craziest thing to them, and they said I need to go get a real job. I was like, “No”. Now they see it more as my reality, but they still think I’m crazy.
ZJ: If you had to give advice to yourself 5 years ago, what would you say
TM: I would say to dive into everything full-on. Back then I was dabbling with blogging, kind of scared, and I wasn’t sure if it was real. I would have told myself to make this my livelihood and do everything to make that happen.
ZJ: Tell me about a time when you really impacted someone’s life with your blogging. What was the result?
TM: I was at a friend’s baby shower and I didn’t think I would know anyone. A girl who I had never seen before comes up to me crying. She was crying because she had a lot of struggles with weight, and had been following me on social media and was so excited to see me in person. She told me she found a lot of inspiration and self love thru my photos. We had a whole conversation and I was really inspired. Now I talk to her on Facebook regularly.
ZJ: Your book, “The College Girl’s Guide to Skinny” – What’s that about, and what does it book mean for you?
TM: That was a very long time ago. I was still in college and I think I used the word skinny because of my brand, Skinny by Tara, but now I regret that. There were a lot of positive messages (like navigating the dining hall, avoiding drinking), in the word “skinny”, but also a lot of negatives. Looking back, I should have used the word healthy.