One of the U.K’s most successful bloggers, Lucy Williams’ style is shorthand for a particular brand of effortless cool with a side of wanderlust. For the past seven years she’s been blogging on her lifestyle platform Fashion Me Now and has built a loyal audience which follows her global jaunts avidly. Known for her salty hair, year-round summer look, she’s the girl that countless other bloggers aspire to emulate, with many growing up reading her dreamy travel diaries and shopping her chic, yet accessible fashion edits. Here she talks about the realities of travelling for a living, learning to be proud of her achievements and why—even as a #bikiniinspo pinup—she feels the pressures of perfection and comparison.
Climbing The Fashion Ladder
I grew up on a farm in Shropshire and I was—for want of a better word—a bit of a tomboy throughout my early childhood. I spent a lot of time by myself playing in the garden and I definitely wasn’t thinking about what I was wearing. When I did start paying attention to my clothes, it was a very normal noughties attitude—shopping for ridiculous Miss Sixty flares, Buffalo shoes and hoodies two sizes too small in Topshop with my friends—basically, a long way away from high fashion.
“Working at a fashion magazine was such an adrenaline rush–you’re doing fashion week for the first time, attending lots of events and making tons of contacts. But equally I’ve never been more stressed.”
I always hoped to be an author and write novels (something that’s still on my bucket list) and studied English Literature at University. While I was there I became a magazine addict and that’s where fashion came into the picture. I hoarded Vogue, Elle and all the other titles and finally decided I wanted to take my writing down that avenue. My blog started as a means of having something to talk about in interviews while I was trying to get a job on a magazine—ironic now that it’s become my full-time job. Initially it wasn’t anything like what I’m doing now; this was before the days of Instagram and Pinterest, so it was very moodboard-based—I think one of my first posts was about how much I loved the film Lords of Dogtown.
My first job was at Instyle magazine where I worked as a fashion assistant for a year, which was a baptism of fire. I didn’t really know what I was doing, but working in a fashion cupboard was the very best introduction to how the industry works. It was such an adrenaline rush–you’re doing fashion week for the first time, attending lots of events and making contacts. But equally I’ve never been more stressed. I’d lie awake at night worrying that we hadn’t got certain looks for shoots and feel anxious about where certain samples were, which feels totally ridiculous in hindsight. After a year I applied—and failed—to get a full-time position at the title. It was my first taste of proper career disappointment, but it was exactly what I needed and I’m so glad I went down a different path looking back.
I moved into trend forecasting at [pan-design service] Stylus.com. It was a very different environment and my job was focused on research, analysis and writing. It did feel slightly on the periphery of the ‘fashion industry’ as you’d imagine it, but after a year at Instyle I felt a bit burnt out (I’m an introvert for sure), so it was so nice to delve deeply into things that interested me. Three years later, I was coming to the end of my time there and the blog was gaining momentum, so I decided—after a lot of soul searching, tears, anguish and and speaking to various people in the industry who had done the same thing—to become self-employed.
So, you’re a blogger?
Blogging as a business still boggles people’s minds at times. It’s such a new industry so it inspires a lot of curiosity and like all new industries, it’s very easy to dismiss. It can be difficult when you’re surrounded by people who don’t understand it and maybe belittle what you do. Anyone who covers travel on social media gets used to people saying, ‘God, you’re always on holiday.’ Or, ‘I don’t need to ask you how you’re doing, I’ve seen it all online.’ I’m the first person to say how lucky I am to have so many opportunities to travel with my job and I’m incredibly grateful for the experiences I’ve had. But I’ve also deliberately made that happen. I went out of my way to focus on travel and made it an integral part of what I do because it’s something I’m passionate about. While I may work with hotels and travel companies now, at the beginning I fronted all of my own flights and accommodation for years, making that investment to build my career in that direction.
Images taken from: @LucyWilliams02
Travelling when you have a blog or a successful Instagram account isn’t like going on a traditional holiday. Just to be clear, I’m not moaning about having a terrible time in the Maldives—I’m so appreciative every time I touch down in a new place—but no job comes without its compromises or sacrifices. I shoot throughout the trips, both for the hotel and for fashion jobs that might help pay for the costs of flights or the extra nights I cover myself and I have to deliver great content in line with what a brand has required, which sometimes isn’t straightforward and requires a lot of time, effort and logistics.
“Some of my friendships have definitely suffered since I’ve been working full time on the blog. I have big groups of friends who see each other every week without fail, whereas I can only manage every few months, if I’m lucky.”
I rarely go on a regular ‘holiday’ where I could turn my out of office on. For one thing, I don’t have anyone I can hand over to while I’m away so anything urgent, emails or otherwise, has to be dealt with by me. Even if it’s an actual holiday, I rarely unplug totally because I’d feel guilty that I was missing an opportunity to take great photos and share the experience with my followers. I think that’s a sign I really love what I do, but switching off is definitely something I have to force myself into. Not only is it good for the soul and mind, but it actually makes me work better and more creatively in the long run. Nowadays, proper switch-off (as in my phone) time is when I’m at home with family. I’ve always been a huge reader and recently started a book club tied in with the blog which people are really getting behind. While I wanted to do it personally, I’ll admit it’s helped ease the guilt of taking time out to reading while I’m away.
Some of my friendships have definitely suffered since I’ve been working full time on the blog. I love travelling as often as I do, but it means I’m away a lot and I haven’t been there for every one of my friend’s birthdays, engagement parties or even those random nights in the pub. I have big groups of friends who see each other every week without fail, whereas I can only manage every few months if I’m lucky. Some friends have even admitted that they haven’t invited me along because they ‘thought I was away,’ after looking at my Instagram—when in fact I’m at home working till 2am, editing and emailing after getting back from a trip. It’s frustrating, because I would always turn down even the biggest job for a close friend’s wedding, for instance, but I’ll admit there have been some really hard moments.
A few years ago, just as things were really starting to get crazy for me, I flew to New York by myself for a 48-hour job with a horrible cold and completely forgot my mum’s birthday. I only remembered days later. I was so angry and upset with myself that I raced home and surprised her the following weekend, but it really made me realise I was starting lose myself and a grasp on what was important to me in my work. Now, I prioritise family, friends and my relationship as much as I possibly can, but there are often sacrifices to be made to keep paying the bills and growing my business. I know if you look at what I’m posting online you could think I’m swanning around carefree 24/7 or shopping for a living. And while I have become much better at closing my laptop and saying ‘no’ (I’m vehemently against work being your entire life), the truth is that working through weekends and nights in trackie bums while eating takeout is par for the course when you run your own business. It’s definitely not all glamour and missing out on social stuff is part and parcel of the job.
While it’s a complex contradiction, I’m also not someone who feels entirely at home in front of the camera. Throughout my teens I was never a, ‘look at me, take my picture’, kind of person and had to be forced into photos by my family. When I first started adding images of myself on my blog—in tandem with appearing a few times in InStyle and working with photographers I met at fashion week—I was so concerned that people would think I was a massive narcissist, or that I thought I was some sort of oracle of style because I was posting my outfits online. At the same time as I was worried about what some friends might be saying behind my back, I was also grappling with hating what I saw on camera and suddenly seeing the multiple ‘flaws’, bad angles and face twitches I’d previously been blissfully unaware of.
“Confidence doesn’t come from the numbers on the scales, it comes from acceptance—and that can be hard to find to no matter what your size.”
I’ve really come to terms with some of those feelings and feel much more comfortable in my skin now, but I do sometimes still struggle with that side of things. Of course, I realise that I created my blog and my Instagram, but the taking photos of myself (rather than say, cities or beaches or hotels) part of my job still doesn’t always come naturally to me. If I’m relaxed and in a good headspace, then I can roll it out more easily. But if I’m in a slightly more negative place or am being more down on myself anyway then doing what I do professionally becomes difficult because I start doubting and second-guessing myself. As soon as that begins, it’s a vicious circle of stress and worry. I went through a cycle of really bad skin last year and it was tough looking in the mirror, seeing a tonne of angry, bumpy spots and having to get myself together, put makeup on and take pictures because I was contracted to do so. All I wanted to do was hide under the duvet. And unlike with a model on a shoot, I’m the one going through editing all the images afterwards, so you can’t escape anything you’d rather not face physically. It sounds like a sob story and of course, it’s so small in the grand scheme, but I think it’s only natural to have those feelings of self-doubt.
Images taken from: @LucyWilliams02
Bikini Body Politics
In my early 20s I had a few years where I was pretty obsessed with my weight while also struggling with my hair thinning—it was literally breaking off at my ears on a daily basis. At University, I worked out four or five times a week and I was fairly vigilant about it. Amidst a bad break up and a rocky time with friends, I became even more obsessed and knew the amount of calories in just about everything. For a while, life was constant calculations and internally telling myself what I wasn’t allowed. Now, thank God, I’m the polar opposite to that. I might do some yoga or go on a two-mile hike now and again or go horse riding and fit in some squats when I’m watching the TV, but I don’t have a firm workout schedule or a PT. It’s not that I wouldn’t benefit from more exercise, it’s that I just don’t have the time right now. I’m generally healthy and balanced in the way that I eat, but I don’t cut out food groups or deny myself things (to a point; if I could get away with doughnuts for breakfast everyday, I would) because I really believe that restriction can fuel obsession.
“Amidst a bad break up and a rocky time with friends, I became even more obsessed with what I was eating and knew the amount of calories in just about everything.”
However, I can still be very self-critical at the best of times. I’m definitely guilty of focusing on that one negative comment or that one terrible photo rather than all the other good ones. Like everyone else, I am totally impacted by what I consume on social media and I look at those girls on Instagram with minute waists and endless limbs, comparing myself and coming up short—it’s impossible not to. Perfection is such a dangerous concept. I’ve definitely made conclusions that this or that person has a perfect life, perfect relationship, perfect wardrobe, perfect, perfect, perfect… but I’ve learnt as I’ve got older, that actually there is no such thing as perfect and if something seems too good to be true, it often is. And if it is all rosy? Well then they probably deserve it. Part of the problem with jealousy is that we want to hide it. Instead I try and admit that I’m jealous when I am; it really releases that inner green-eyed monster and helps you let it go.
There is no such thing as a perfect body and I am 100% not an owner of one even if it did exist. The perfect that people usually think of is basically the Photoshop look: no stretch marks, no cellulite, no rolls. I have rolls on my tummy, I have dimples on my thighs and the more women I hang out with the more I realize that everyone has the same to a certain degree. You could also be in totally different stages in your life, the same weight, the same measurements but feel completely differently about your body. Confidence doesn’t come from the numbers on the scales, it comes from acceptance—and that can be hard to find to no matter what your size.
“Perfection is such a dangerous concept. I’ve definitely looked online and made conclusions that this or that person has a perfect life, perfect relationship, perfect wardrobe, perfect, perfect, perfect…”
When people comment that my life, my body or my face is perfect, more than anything it makes me feel like a complete fraud. I’ve written posts about the subject to try and engage with it, but the overriding emotion I feel is guilt. When I post a bikini shot, what I know is that there are 50 pictures I’ve chosen not to share because I hated this or I didn’t like that. So, I then feel guilty that people are thinking ‘perfect,’ when actually I’ve just learnt how to stand in a way that makes the best of what I’ve got and have vetoed a dozen other options. Like anyone I take pictures that I like and pictures that I don’t like. And like most of us, I generally choose to post the ones I do like.
In the past I’ve tried to address the issue, for myself just as much as for others following me. Last year I took a picture in Corsica where you could see some lumps on my thighs and when I first looked at the image I actually felt physically upset. But then I decided to post it anyway to try and embrace the imperfection. It received an amazing reception, which made me so happy and I loved being able to add a positive voice to that conversation. But equally, while I would love to be 100% content with every shot ever taken of me, I’m only human and I don’t want to face my cellulite or an unflattering picture of myself every time I put up a bikini shot.
Shop Lucy’s Look:
Recently I posted an image of myself on the beach in Mexico which I captioned something along the lines of, ‘remember you’re ‘beach ready’ as soon as you have a bikini & some SPF–don’t let anyone else tell you otherwise.’ It was meant as a comment on the hype that’s built up around the whole ‘beach body’ concept and the media coverage about dieting and working out like crazy before you can feel confident. You’re meant to be body brushing two weeks in advance, living on some kind of Victoria’s Secret model regime, cutting out carbs…the list is endless. The caption was to meant to say, you know what? If you’re invited on a holiday next week and you’ve got the money for the airfare, you’re good to go. Whatever size you are.
A few comments were left on the image basically saying, ‘easy for you to say with a body like that.’ Their point being that I wasn’t permitted to project a positive body image message because I’m a size 8. Initially, I felt guilty again and started questioning whether I should have posted a picture where I looked bigger or you could see the rolls on my stomach. But then it started to wind me up. Who decided that my body type meant I wasn’t allowed an opinion on the way the media can manipulate our feelings and plant seeds of insecurity? Who decided I was immune that pressure because of my measurements? The truth is that I’ve been on the receiving end of numerous body-shaming comments such as, ‘do some stomach crunches and you might have a nice figure,’ or people trying to call out that I’m ‘sucking in my stomach in,’ in photos and while I’m much better at dealing with stuff like that now, I’m not unaffected because but the online space can be really judgemental.
“I love aspirational, inspiring Instagram accounts that offer escapism and wanderlust, but it’s unrealistic to think there are no bad days, arguments or failures amidst all the pictures of paradise.”
I do feel that no matter what your career you should celebrate your successes and what you’ve got going on. But when you work in the digital sphere, I also think it’s important to make people—especially younger women—aware that life isn’t always idyllic and nothing is one long holiday. I love aspirational, inspiring Instagram accounts which offer escapism and wanderlust, but it’s unrealistic to think there are no bad days, arguments or failures amidst all the pictures of paradise. It’s so key to share past mistakes and things that you maybe used to be ashamed of, because it’s almost too easy make things look eternally glossy online.
I often suffer from imposter syndrome and have a whole host of fears that hold me back from doing things I want to do—like launching video content or creating my own brand, for example. I never feel like the poster girl in that campaign inside—to me, I’m still the clumsy dork with food split down my top laughing at my own jokes. While I do know that perfection doesn’t exist, I’m just as guilty as anyone of working at home on a Friday night and thinking that everyone else is out having an amazing time. Whereas I guess other people look at me and imagine the same thing. Allowing people to see the you that doubts yourself isn’t easy and being vulnerable is really, really hard no matter who you are or what your life is like. But it doesn’t make it any less important.