If my online presence isn’t pretty, do I even exist?

I wrote a blog about people of colour (POC), and I touched a nerve. A nerve that I want to soothe because it’s detracting from the real issue. If you haven’t read the post, please do so and then pop back here and let me dive straight into sorting a few complaints out….

I don’t see the problem Shante, except with you disregarding white bloggers

A few folks felt very threatened by my blog post about celebrating POC bloggers , thinking that I was slagging of white bloggers and making their work look easy. NOTHING could be further from the truth, and in no way did I mention white bloggers in my piece.

I also read comments stating that this whole POC exclusion thing wasn’t an issue and I will admit that I was so angry upon receiving that feedback because it completely disregarded the purpose of the post. If a group of people, a large group, feel ostracized, who are we, as white people, to say that they are lying? It makes a mockery of people’s feelings. I liken it to folks who tell those suffering with depression to “suck it up”.

To those who felt upset by my post, be you a blogger, or a brand, ask yourself, have you ever supported any of the people on the list by sharing their content or by offering them assistance to grow? I know I’m guilty of not always showing my support.

But Shante, why did you mention teepees?

If anyone thought it was direct attack at a particular brand, it wasn’t. I used teepees because they are such an “in” thing. I could have used shoes, bikes, wooden shelves, prints, nursery rugs, organic food. Do you get me? The product used wasn’t the point.

Are all bloggers putting in the effort though?

One of the issues was that the folks on the list I posted might not displaying great imagery and content, or putting enough work into their blogs…

I want to put my blogging journey under the spotlight:
-I set up my blog whilst working in a company that gave me a lot of free time – not many people can claim that.
-I also set it up before I had a child – and a lot of us know how much energy those little miracles take up.
-My husband blessed me with my first camera, and when I quit my job, I had time in the week to watch YouTube videos to learn photographic skills.
For those who don’t have these luxuries, it makes progress slow, not for lack of trying, but because it’s bloody hard work – we can all attest to that. What’s more, most of us don’t get assistance from prolific bloggers because honestly, it’s a huge issue in the blogging community, not just in the parenting realm. I can name on one hand the brilliant folks who have supported me on my journey (Pregnant In Cape Town & Ever After, 3 Kids, 2 Dogs & 1 Old House, Caffeine & Fairydust, Tyranny Of Pink). Others don’t step out of their sphere unless you also have an audience the same size as theirs.

Before you shout profanities at me, I’m not saying that other bloggers don’t work hard, those few listed just now work their arses off for their content. We all do. It’s hard work to stay “online”. Those beautiful mums who keep their social presences looking so amazing whilst balancing two or more kids – HOW?  I’m merely stating a privilege that I have had, that many of us have had when setting up our blogs.

Okay, did that clear some ticket items up?

It’s not the purpose of this post though. I want to address one of the most interesting matters of debate that has reared its head:

Do carefully crafted images & an elegant blog mean you deserve to be on more PR lists/getting more brand collabs?

No. And yes. Oooh, cryptic. Here’s why this question does not have a simple answer…

Are all heavy weight parenting bloggers sharing perfect photos?

There are a number of mummy bloggers who don’t always post good, clear photos. Whose Instagram feed looks “lived in”, yet they are ridiculously well-known, with great engagement and a loyal fan base. They get great campaigns, consistent comments and likes, and they often receive press drops and freebies.

This is because I believe that content will always be king. I’m not just saying this as a writer, I’m stating this as a mum who has watched a make-up free InstaStory and resonated with it, wanting to buy the product used in the story because it felt real to me. I love seeing how I can include said item in my life. I love reading authentic, honest pieces on life, on what works, what doesn’t. Experience is key.

But a picture speaks a thousand words…

As someone who enjoys taking photos, I like things to look good. As someone who worked as an editor of a fashion and lifestyle magazine, I NEED them to look good. I have a really hard time with blogs that don’t state categories, or don’t have a clear About section. Why do that to yourself? If you can’t take pics yourself, try as a starting point for sourcing royalty-free stock images.

As someone who has worked in an advertising agency, I know what brands are looking for, and yes, a lot of the time they want to do a product drop and receive some great free photos in return. If you are that brand, and that’s the only reason you’re sending an item out, man, you’re missing out. A pretty picture is a wonderful thing, but sometimes it can make me feel so far removed from the product, as if its not meant for me because it’s too clinical, it doesn’t fit me. A nicely taken, clear, homely shot has its merits, and I do believe it would also drive sales.

But what about flatlays shante?

Those folks who can do flatlays with such a grace and ease, hats off to you. You have a serious gift. When I try and create a flatlay, it always looks like I just tripped whilst carrying a random assortment of items I sourced from my dog’s kennel.

Again though, depending on the product, I can struggle to click with the post. Take for instance a pair of shoes. If a blogger posts a flatlay with them, that’s great, but how do they feel on your feet? What items of clothing do they go with? Will it make my chunky legs look bigger? Will I look like a Medieval Jester in them? These are all important questions to be answered.

A way with words

As much as I enjoy the art of great photography, I do crave reading heartfelt stories. I love beautiful flatlays, but I can’t hug them. They won’t comfort me. When people share about their life, they are creating a healing space.

But, when it comes to writing, I can’t stress how much paragraphs, font preferences and headers are key for making even the longest story bearable. Again, it’s about aesthetics. You need to be looking at your blog from a reader’s point of view and, if you want brands to play with, you must answer the question ,”why should they work with you?

Are there bloggers who have actually found a middle ground?

Is it too much to ask to have a curated Instagram feed and a deep, meaningful blog?

I believe you can have a great look, both on social media, and on your blog, without forfeiting your real, honest voice. I believe that great brands don’t just want nice photos, they want genuine, honest feedback that will inspire a following. Getting that perfect medium requires diligent grafting, and these are just a few of my favorite examples of folks getting it right on a large, and small scale:

Following The Bean
Beautiful photos, authentic moments galore.
Cath was someone who I thought would never interact with me. I held her on this super tall pedestal and deemed her to be untouchable – she seemed to have it all. When we connected on Instagram, I don’t think I’ve ever liked someone so instantly. She’s freakin’ hilarious in her InstaStories, she makes product reviews fun, and she takes the most outstanding photos. She will, however, never convert me to green pancakes.

For The Beauty Of It
Chereen is as elegant and warm as her online persona. Her blog reads like a dream, with a healthy dose of product review and personal matter.

We Are The humans
Clear, concise, easy to navigate. Lovely personal posts to get stuck into.

Green Lydia
This whole set up works for me because everything looks like it belongs together. Travel is her thing, and you don’t doubt that. Coupled with a few honest Instagram posts, you trust her reviews, her experiences, because she feels human.

Glitz & Grammar
Damn this girl is funny. She is ridiculously good lookin’, with a killer sense of humour. What’s not to love?

Know any others? I’m sure you do, we could go on for days. I just wanted to showcase how good copy & design can make such an impact on your reader’s experience.

What about the brands?

I need to confront the possibility that local brands are feeling affronted.

Dear, wonderful brands, you who worked tirelessly to take your dreams to the public, if you felt insulted by my post, was it because there was some truth in what I said? Or was it because you agree with it and want to see a change?
Personally, I find that we often get our backs up when there is honesty in what is leveled at us. Anyone else feel that way? BUT, the beauty of the post is that it is a great list to gain more marketing opportunities – how exciting is that? You could be tapping into a new market! We should all feel a little buzz about that. If you felt attacked, as a brand, take that anger, turn it into positive energy, and think of this as just another exercise in understanding audiences.

Now, let me not forget those amazing local children’s brands who are wonderfully diverse in their marketing:

Just Chillin’
Oh my goodness, their clothing is gorgeous and their styled shoots are phenomenal.

Schnooky Pie
For the street-wise kids who play hard and want to look good whilst doing it.

Rue de Lapinou
These beautiful classics make my English heart so happy.

Flynn Jaxon
Modern & bold patterns for trendy kids.

Cherish by Carita
Offering stunning pieces for the princess in your life, the detailing is exquisite.

Please, let me know if you want to celebrate any other SA brands that have got a killer marketing groove, I want to know them all! (I’m just focusing on children/parenting because that’s where I am right now)

In closing, I need you to all know that I did not want to start a war….

I started this year with some personal resolutions, one of them being to use my voice to help others, and I invest so much in the race issue because I am a secret coloured. Secret in that you wouldn’t be able to tell from my tone – I owe that to my mum – but, I am the biological daughter of the most handsome coloured man that God has ever made. Hailing from the Transkei, my father has been subject to terrible racism; his faith, upbringing, education, all questioned because of the colour of his skin. Through it all, he has remained a pillar of decorum. How many people would smile and nod when shouted at in a supermarket, whilst holding their daughter, to go back to where they came from, you are unwelcome here?

We can keep pretending that society does not pit us against each other, that we don’t avoid topics of equality, or we can look at our fellow bloggers and ask “How can I assist you today?”

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  • Reply Maz January 11, 2018 at 12:06 pm

    It is too hot to write a proper comment, but loved this post and love your face.

  • Reply Melissa Javan January 11, 2018 at 12:10 pm

    Loved this 🙂

  • Reply Luchae Williams January 11, 2018 at 12:23 pm

    Girl, start a war man, start a friggen war! lol Only kidding.
    Look, I must admit, I bite my tongue A LOT because I’d hate to have a large group of people not like me. But like, this is 2018 and it’s time to keep it REAL.
    Is there an elite group of bloggers? Uhh, yes. Are they are all white? Uhhh, yes for the most part. Have I ever felt personally victimised by Regina George? Definitely! (Added that last one for nostalgia).
    I don’t own a DSLR camera (4 kids, and all that) and I dont spend my pocket money on blog redesigns (4 kids… like I said)… Do I blame it on white privilege and the fact that I want my farm back? No. But I sure do love saying stuff… and I love that I have a blog to say stuff on. So say it I will.
    I probably wont get all the campaigns, but thats okay. Coz, hey, a brand is a business and maybe the “business” wants to work with a blog that looks like a magazine, and mine looks like an old Readers Digest that someone used to prop the backdoor open with. Okay. That’s fine. But how about we all start being a little bit more aware of each other? Maybe that will help to ease the current discomfort. (and yes, if you’re still sitting there going “huh? what discomfort” then you need to reread yesterdays post). (p.s. I think that flat lays are from the devil) (Im kidding guys)
    Thank you for being brave enough to say things that other people arent!

    • Reply Shante Hutton January 11, 2018 at 12:34 pm

      Damn girl, I love your writing so much! Please get your farm back, I would like to visit. Thanks

    • Reply Ali January 11, 2018 at 1:26 pm

      Your writing! Wow! Love this comment!!! especially the ‘and yes, if you’re still sitting there going “huh? what discomfort” then you need to reread yesterdays post’ hahahaha! and the flatlays part, because they really are the devil, I spend hours doing the dam things, but 5 seconds to do a candid shot of my lil gremlin! Why flaytlays, why do you choose to torment me! xx

  • Reply Simone Cameron January 11, 2018 at 12:59 pm

    I read the teepee example in your post, but in no way thought you were attacking any teepee making company. Amazing what some people focus on and the messages they take away from the very same article…..just interpreted so differently.

    I also never read anything about disregarding the work and more so, the hard work that white people put into their blogs.

    My initial comment on the first post was that it becomes unsettling and sad to wonder if you’ll ever get a break. If your work will ever speak for itself. And to sometimes think that break won’t come because of the colour of my skin…’s hard, but many of us keep going. A lot of the bloggers in your previous post have been blogging for years…they are putting the work in…but for some, the break will never come. I removed my comment though, because I didn’t want to offend anybody.

    Another lovely post, so well written. And a secret coloured….who knew??? lol. Thanks for sharing some insight into your life as well.

  • Reply Ali January 11, 2018 at 1:31 pm

    Shante, you are the best! Thank you for being brave enough to just say these things! And the secret coloured part, wow, who would have thought, my Grandfather was a Cape Malay, and when my very white granny fell in love with him, she was disowned by her family. People suck, but they can suck less if they are just open to having conversations!

    Have the best day!

  • Reply Dhenis Stafford January 11, 2018 at 4:44 pm

    From Shante’s father

    What my daughter didn’t mention is that although her dad, that’s me comes from the Transkei, he, that means me, came from 10 different nationalities…including from two extremes; Xhosa and we were neighbours to Nelson Mandela…how’s that for name dropping, not that any one remembers…except me when I am depressed and instead of test driving a Mercedes or an Audi or a BMW, I name drop the Xhosa thingy…neither works mind you…and Portuguese…Oh and talking about Portuguese, my great and I mean very great grandfather was a prisoner of a Portuguese ship that was shipwrecked off the Port St John’s coast…Am I famous or what…

    On with the story…Most people would be excited coming from 10 different nationalities, but, not me…You see, when the then Apartheid Government introduced the Nationalization Act way back when, and many folks will remember that Act, one of the most divisive, derogatory, dehumanizing and debilitating acts ever to be introduced by supposedly humans…my family and millions of colured families were completely and utterly divided and segregated…by an act that decided who was what because of their colour and hair type and where that what should live…
    Because of being of different nationalities, the then Apartheid Government, could not decide which race camp my family should or could belong to, my dad, and he looked like Anthony Quinn the Actor…was declared unclassified….yep you guessed it, he was a non anything…So what did that mean, each of his kids, that’s the four siblings, were non classified…How’s that for an identity crises.??

    Every day I wished that I was either white or black or even Indian, at least I would be someone…But, as time went on, and as God became real to me…mind you it took him quite a while to get thru to me, cos I had tried just about everything to discredit him, and many white Christians, to my shame, will tell you how much they suffered and crumbled at my arguments that God did not exist and my treatment of them…On a wonderful, some of them are my closest friends to this day and i am blessed to have them in my life.

    Moving on…I decided to leave South Africa because I did not want to fall in love with some beautiful women only to find out that she was my cousin, as that had happened a couple of times…just one of the consequences of the Nationality Act…So off to the UK I went, for surely, I would find a women who was not related to me…I found her – a blond white from somewhere near London…and married her
    Upon hearing that Emma was pregnant, I was ecstatic, and could not wait to see our child…Shante was our first born – maybe you might like to ask her why we named her Shante??? Now you would have thought, being off colour, our daughter would have at least some or one off the ten nationalities in her…but not a chance…a total blond curly child…a real Shirley Temple….

    I hoped that as the days went by, this little blond thing would get darker…but God was not listening to me..he was looking at a much bigger picture….All four of our kids were white…but each with very noticeable and distinguishing features from the Ten Nationalities from me…Listen to Shante sing and you will hear a Whitney Houston and a Aretha Franklin voice…not to mention her justice and don’t suffer fools gladly attitude…gifts from her father…But look at her gift with words and creativity and you will see her mom…
    Ok i thought, they not like me in colour, but lets hope they marry a black person cos that way i would at least have dark grandchildren…God is still not listening to me..and i am so glad he isn’t…os i would just mess things up terribly if i had my own way…Now we have a gorgeous granddaughter who we love so very much…But she could get dark later on…hehehehe

    I have over time, come to realize that nothing in our lives is arbitrary. It’s all for a purpose and most amazingly, God decided how you would be born. Regardless of the circumstances of our birth or who our parents are, God had a plan in creating us.
    It doesn’t matter whether our parents were good, bad, or indifferent. God knew that those two individuals possessed exactly the right DNA genetic makeup to create the custom “you” he had in mind.

    Yes, I am aware that some of us might wish that we had different set of parents, “how could God have chosen them”?, you may well ask!
    Maybe my own kids ask that, all I can do is make sure that they learn to feel loved, accepted and believed in, so that they never ask that question but become proud of the choice of parents that God had for them.

    But, it’s not just down to me, I must and want to credit Shante’s extraordinary mother – Emma, my amazing wife, for the incredible balance and dept of purpose she brings to each of the kids…the way she enables each to know how special they are in a world that might take umbrage coming from a man of Ten different nationalities…
    To each of my kids…see what you are meant to be and pursue that with all your hearts…but in doing so, always be mindful of others who would do with helping hand in reaching for their dreams in a world that will always try to hold them back because of what they light look like or what they might be or from where they come from….So whatever you choose kids, choose well

    We could never be more proud of our daughter Shante…for all that she has become – never love her husband, Brett more – for al that he means to Shante and never be more grateful to God for our extraordinary granddaughter, Lily Rose, whom we just adore….Last but not least, never be more thankful and humbled for the incredible gifts in the lives of our other children, Jhordan, Rohan and Adehles – all precious in the sight of our Heavenly Father

    • Reply Mandy Lee Miller January 12, 2018 at 9:42 am

      And now we know where Shante got her beautiful way with words and people 🙂

  • Reply Tracy Dawson January 12, 2018 at 6:25 am

    I would LOVE to start taking pictures with an amazing DSLR but unfortunately it hasn’t reached my budget as yet!! Thanks for writing this post and clearing things up, Shante.

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