Getting To Know You: Lesley Buckle of Fresh Lengths
Now an established beauty blogger, 27-year-old Londoner Lesley Buckle originally struggled with choosing the right career path after university. Upon finishing her history degree, she unintentionally created a niche following for herself online as she began blogging about hair - a world away from her day job working within social services. Here she shares more about her journey into full-time blogging, her gradual transition to natural hair and why blogging isn’t just about the money (although bloggers deserve to get paid).
Let’s get one thing clear from the get-go, Lesley does not spend all her days taking pictures of herself in her bedroom, an unfair assumption made of bloggers like her by the press. I learned this over the 2 days I spent interviewing (read: stalking) her and was blown away by her conviction in getting the appropriate respect for her work. I girl-crushed even harder (if humanly possible) when I realised that Lesley is actually my long lost twin. Like, for real. Both half Nigerian, obsessed with food and sharing similar experiences working within the health service, as well as developing a relationship with our natural hair, the list of parallels piled up rather quickly. I was fascinated by her fluid approach to trying different jobs, something I’m learning to become more comfortable with as a freelancer. You see, Twins! While neither of us can even remember how we came across one another, I’m pretty certain I found her first and liked every single one of her pictures (twice if I could) before sliding into her DMs with a polite but pushy hangout request. She obliged and I not only got the chance to understand more about her life pre and post launching her blog, I’ve also started the beginnings of a friendship with a truly lovely, intelligent and drop-dead-gorgeous girl.
The Journey into Blogging…
I’m not one of those people that always knew what I wanted to do in life. When I graduated university, unemployment was really high and thought to myself, what do I do now? I knew I liked to write so figured if I started a blog, I could get an internship at a magazine. In 2012, because I was obsessed with hair, I started my blog and used that to secure a position interning at a hair magazine. I remember during the interview, talking about all these ingredients for hair care that they had never heard about. I think I just talked my way in and so got the position. Although I enjoyed the internship, I was aware of others who had been interning at other magazines for years without much progression. I continued writing freelance for a few years after the internship but I eventually decided I prefer writing for myself, as blogging gave me more creative control.
I still didn’t know what to do but fell into a role working in social services in 2013. I enjoyed working there and loved my colleagues but I stopped feeling inspired after cuts were made within the organisation. After 3 years I again decided to leave. I had every intention of finding another job but deep down, I hoped that I would be able to blog full time. For me, the blog was my creative outlet and while I had always felt creative, I never felt good enough to pursue a creative career. I knew I had to be realistic but while I looked for jobs, I never applied to one.
I found that by investing more time into my blog, I felt inspired and focused and so it started to grow. Technically, I didn’t quit my job to start blogging but I figured that I would be working for the rest of my life and so would rather spend the awkward phases of my 20s figuring things out.
The Love of Hair…
I don’t remember ever knowing what the natural texture of my hair was because it was chemically treated since I was 5, but I grew up wishing my hair was different. When GHDs were really popular in school and everyone had stick straight hair, I wanted hair like my friends. I’d look at magazines and not see any girls like me or I could relate to so, I relaxed my hair with all these ideas of what straight hair would be like yet I still didn’t like it. It got to point - at university and straightening my hair like 3 times a day - that my hair became so badly damaged and gradually kept breaking off. I realised something was wrong so, over summer, I googled how to take care of relaxed hair. It took roughly a year but it grew back very long. At the time, it was unusual for someone with relaxed hair to grow it back long, so people started asking me about how I had achieved that. That was when I started my blog about straight, relaxed hair and as a result of it being super niche back then, it quickly spiralled.
I went natural with my hair for the first time a year and a half ago but because I didn’t feel like had the authority to give advice on natural hair, so I started to move away from it and expanded into blogging about beauty too. I wanted to show off other interests I had as I felt really trapped only talking about my hair. I’d read stories about people having their hair cut and feeling renewed and free but I didn’t have those feelings for a year. At first, I felt like I had lost myself. I felt ugly. I looked in the mirror and didn’t recognise myself. I felt like an outsider within the natural hair community because I started off with straight hair and sadly, there was a huge divide between people who had straight or curly hair, based on an unfair assumption that if you had straight hair you were rejecting your culture. For me, it’s been a really gradual journey learning to love my hair again.
The Blogging Perks…
The process of going to events and meeting people who share similar interests has been the best thing for me. I feel really comfortable engaging with new people now, something I would never have felt like before. When I was in college I couldn’t look anyone in the eye, let alone talk to them. At university, I skipped classes because I was terrified of having open class discussions. I was super shy and found it really hard to connect with people.
Being an influencer and going to events forces you out of your comfort zone. It thrusts you into situations all the time where you encounter people you don’t know. It sounds cheesy but the person I’ve become has been a really big perk of blogging.
The Tricky Bits…
Being alone a lot of the time and keeping up with an aesthetic that is ‘Instagram friendly’ is tricky. The reason I get into creative ruts is because I work and sleep at home. Doing everything in the same place makes me feel wired and I wish I had a separate space to do all this work.
The Monetisation of Influencer Industry…
I still feel like blogging isn’t taken very seriously. Brands are getting to grips with the importance of influencers for marketing but as a culture, we’re still not accepting of what influencers do or how much work we put into our platforms. So when it comes to money, it can be tricky to properly valuate yourself. As a new blogger, you need to really think about your content first, creating good examples of work before you start charging brands. There’s no rhyme or reason to when or how much you should start charging, so you’ll need to use your intuition in the beginning. Always, ask if there is a budget to help gauge how much to charge and stop you from pitching too low. Remember that when negotiating prices, it will depend heavily on the brand, their budget and what you have to do for them.
Don’t worry too much about your following. Brands are more interested in the type of followers you have and how that coincides with their target audiences. Also, if you have good quality content, brands will be more willing to pay because ultimately you’re saving them money in the long run. It’s costly for them to shoot content themselves so bloggers help. However, not everyone can pay huge amounts of money and I completely respect that. I wasn’t looking to make a business out of my blog initially, so I did loads for nothing or free products - something I still do today.
Although I get more paid opportunities now, it doesn’t mean I jump at every offer received. It’s easy to get blinded by the money but I don’t take on any collaborations or push any products that I don’t like. You don’t want to lose the trust of your followers because if people don’t believe you, then you’re nothing as an influencer.
Keep focused on what’s really important to you and think about your audience. Identify the brands you would like to work with, but it’s just as important to highlight the brands that don’t fit your aesthetic.
Be passionate about what you’re doing. People always ask about ways of gaining followers but although you might be able to grow quickly that doesn’t necessarily equate to making money immediately. Do it because you love it, not because of what other people think or want from you. I’ve fallen into that trap before - trying to keep up with what’s popular - but you can’t maintain it. You’re better off posting about stuff you’re genuinely interested in.
Shoppers are much more sceptical now because they know that they are constantly being advertised to, therefore the work we do as influencers must come from an authentic place otherwise the audience won’t buy it.
Also, keep focused. People don’t realise how much work goes into running a blog. You’re going to have to play every role so if you can’t do something, outsource it to someone else. Be realistic about what you can actually do and have the time for. Then, be comfortable with the things you’re posting because once something goes up on the Internet, it stays there. Definitely, take caution with how much much information you share too.
People always ask me about my 5-year plan and the truth is I don’t have one. As a child I expected to be married, starting a family with my own house by the time I was 24 like my mother was. That has been and gone and I’m no closer to any of those things. I’ve come to realise that there isn’t that much I want out of life other than to enjoy what I’m doing. People seem to make goals for the future which they think will bring them happiness but we need to be content with now. My end goal is to just be happy in the moment; to stop worrying about the future, especially as a blogger. Who knows how long we’ll be doing this for? Who knows what the next big things will be? I’m not scared of change because I’ll adapt and pursue another creative career.
Makeup Products… I find it really hard to pick favourites with makeup but I’m in love with the Fenty line atm - especially the gloss and Killawatt highlighters. The Iconic London Illuminators are also really good. Benefit’s brow range is great, particularly the Ka-Brow and I really rate Laura Mercier Flawless Fusion foundation.