By Keshia McEntire (Shorted version will run in Revived Magazine)

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The internet is abuzz with talk regarding the ways Instagram filters, photoshopped bodies and highlight reels of 2,000 of our “friends” lives can negatively impact our mental health. Some of this talk has come from the most unlikely of places — social media influencers themselves.

Tampa based lifestyle and fashion blogger Ayana Lage, 25, has been vocal about the importance of keeping it real on social media. While she’s not against promoting her favorite fashion brands and blogging about visits to restaurants, she balances beautiful photos of her Lilly Pulitzer duds with content about the messy parts of life. Lage shares stories about being hospitalized due to her mental illness, her past struggles in her relationship with the man who is now her husband and her personal battles with body image and self-love. Her vulnerability has helped her gain nearly 8000 followers on Instagram, Facebook and Twitter combined. She has been able to monetize her blog and social media outlets, reportedly bringing in close to $500 a month from her unique content.

Lage launched her website, ayanalage.com, on a whim. In the beginning her blog was simply a creative outlet for herself. She was working from home as a professional writer, and she wanted to create a blog that would allow her to write for fun.

“I’ve always been a very open person, and that translates to the Internet,” said Lage. “I don’t ever want to seem perfect, because then I become unrelatable. At the same time, my husband and family are private people and I honor that by being careful about what I share and running blog ideas by them. I view vulnerability as a healthy outlet, and I think my readers are able to relate and feel like they aren’t alone.”

Her content has evolved over time. At first, her blog was centered on fashion and retail finds, but she soon felt the urge to write about relationships, mental health and life. Her mix of honesty and humor gained her a loyal following online, but her outspoken personality occasionally made her a target for internet trolls.

On Twitter, Lage is not shy about sharing her thoughts regarding our nation’s current administration and encouraging her followers to vote. Lage says she has gotten nasty comments online after writing about social issues.  

“Honestly, it still bothers me, but the good outweighs the bad,” said Lage. “I think about the times I’ve been mean to people and realize that it’s often when i’m hurting the most, so I try to have compassion for people who are hateful.”

While compassion is key, she will not be bullied into silence. Lage says she doesn’t feel a responsibility to speak about injustice because she is an influencer, but rather because she is a human being.

“Life is more than pretty pictures, and I would feel disingenuous not sharing my heart about things i’m passionate about,” said Lage. “At the same time, I don’t ever feel like I have to post about something — i’d rather stay silent and educate myself.”

She says her faith is what inspires her to speak her mind and connect with her community.

“The Bible is clear about our responsibility for the poor, for foreigners and for people who aren’t like us,” said Lage. “My goal is to follow the Jesus way instead of the American dream.”

Lage has advice for others who dream of cashing in on their skills as a wordsmith.

“Figure out what sets you apart from the competition, and hone in on that!” said Lage. “Also, keep in mind that it takes a while for a blog to become profitable and it sometimes requires an upfront investment. Start it because you want to, not because you need a moneymaker.”

Keshia McEntire is a freelance writer residing in Indianapolis, IN. You can find her collecting more book than she will ever read and looking for the time and funding to travel the world. Connect with her at keshiamcentire.wordpress.com.

 

Bonus: Q&A with Ayana Lage

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Links:

Ayanalage.com

Instagram.com/ayanagabriellelage

Facebook.com/ayanagabriell

Twitter: @AyanaLage

Share a little-known fact about yourself.

I’m deathly afraid of lobsters

Who are some of the leaders that you look up to?

Rachel Held Evans, Sarah Bessey, my parents, who are phenomenal people and ministers. My pastor in Tampa, Tommy Phillips.

I’m sure running a blog has presented opportunities to explore your city. Where are your favorite spots to hang out in Tampa that you feel readers should check out?

Oxford Exchange, Armature Works, Buddy Brew Coffee, bartaco, Hyde Park Village … too many to choose from!

What was your first blog post about?

I wrote a blog post about my favorite Christmas candles in November of 2017.