Aimee Song started her blog, Song of Style, 10 years ago, long before the term “influencer” was invented. Still, she is one of the most successful fashion influencers in the world today, with 5 million Instagram followers.
Take a quick scroll through her IG page and you’ll see her globe-trotting, sitting front row at fashion shows for Dior and Louis Vuitton, and sharing her day-to-day love affair with avocado toast. It seems as though she lives an idyllic existence, but as with everything, there’s always more to IG posts than meets the eye. Song is grateful for her life and never takes any of her followers for granted, but she wants to do more than just be “known as a girl who dresses well,” she tells Yahoo Lifestyle. “I want to be the girl who changes lives.”
Ahead, on the heels of the release of her second book, Aimee Song: World of Style, Song talks to Yahoo Lifestyle about her journey to becoming the woman she is today, her thoughts on inclusivity in fashion, the importance of mental health and the legacy she wants to leave behind.
Yahoo Lifestyle: What did you do that made you stand out from others to become such a successful influencer?
Aimee Song: I think the biggest thing for me was when I stopped trying to be like other people and really embraced who I was. I tried too hard in the beginning. I wanted to be like that girl, like this model, like this celebrity. That’s who I wanted to be, and I tried to emulate that. But then I realized — I’m so different from them, and I really have to embrace what’s special and unique about me. That’s when I became a little bit more confident and comfortable in my own skin.
Who is the person that you became?
I think it’s just somebody who’s more comfortable and confident in her own skin. I know what I want, and I think that helped me with my own personal style as well. I remember when I first started coming to fashion week, I wore really uncomfortable high heels. I’d dress “super extra” when that wasn’t necessarily my style, but what I thought was trendy. And now, I think some of my best outfits are when I’m just comfortable.
What is the biggest misconception about your job?
That we just have fun and we don’t do anything else. But there’s so much more to that. And if it looks easy, then anybody can try it right?
What has been the biggest teaching moment for you?
It has been understanding other people’s culture and different points of view and perspectives. The fact that everybody’s not cut from the same cloth. We’re all different, and we all have different things that make us unique and beautiful in our own way.
Your book is called World of Style. You’ve traveled the world, and your fanbase spans the globe. Have you had people from different cultures reach out to you and tell you how much you influence their lives?
Yes. I’m also really big on the LGBTQ community. It’s very important for me. When Barbie Mattel reached out to me and said they wanted to make my own Barbie, it was very important for me to use that platform because I knew it was going to be everywhere. The Barbie wears a T-shirt that says “Love Wins,” from my T-shirt line that I have with my sister. I wanted to make a statement, and Barbie hasn’t made any stand on whether they were for or against equal rights. I use my platform in my own small ways, trying to make a difference.
Proud to wear this “Love Wins” shirt with @songofstyle! Did you know that her exclusive t-shirts benefit different causes and non-profits? Such an inspiring initiative and fabulous few days I have spent with Aimee, she’s a doll! 💖 #barbie #barbiestyle
A post shared by Barbie® (@barbiestyle) on Nov 21, 2017 at 2:36pm PST
Throughout your success, how do you stay grounded and humble? Do you have a support group of good friends and family?
I don’t have a lot of friends, but the very few I have, they’re very supportive. And then the way I stay grounded is, well, I have a lot of s*** in my life. So that keeps me grounded. Sometimes I get ahead of myself, and I’m like, “Oh, my life is so fantastic and perfect.” And then something happens, and I’m like, “OK, never mind.” But I stay content and try to be positive and happy, despite certain circumstances.
Ten years ago I started from zero, and here I am now. I’ve also seen that being nice and kind goes a long way. I think I got to where I’m at because of the help of other people. I didn’t get to where I’m at just by myself. A lot of people have helped me in small ways, even if it wasn’t significant and obvious. In some ways, their kind gestures, comments, and recommendations have helped my career. I realize that I have to give that back. Because every single woman that I know, we are where we are because of somebody else.
Taking a quick scroll through your Instagram feed, it looks like you live a picture-perfect life. Every photo is amazing. But obviously it’s a ton of work. Can you walk me through a typical daily or weekly struggle that you have to go through to make all of this happen?
My biggest struggle is managing people and also giving other people work to do. Delegating is the hardest thing for me, because I started the blog and I was just so used to doing things my own way. But then again, as you grow, you need a team. I’ve also realized the best thing I can do for myself is hire my weaknesses. I’ve been trying to do that.
My day-to-day is very different because I travel so much. I try to think about what business deals or partnerships make sense for my brand. A lot of times, I don’t want to do things that are just one-off. I want an actual long-term, existing relationship. And then I also think about what’s next for the Aimee Song brand. What is going to be my legacy? I want to be that person who’ll use her platform to do better things.
There’s a greater call for inclusivity on the runways, in street style, in editorials and advertisements. I want to get your take on that. Where does inclusivity stand right now, and where do you think it needs to go?
I feel like in the fashion and beauty industry, we are forward thinkers. We are that one industry where we’re able to try a lot of different things and then the rest of the world follows us. So it’s very important for us to be more inclusive and speak up.
When I was growing up looking at traditional magazines and media outlets, I never saw representation, which made me not want to live in my own skin. I always wanted to be somebody else. I always wanted to be different and compared myself to other people. Now, I see so much representation — of course there can be more — but we’re heading into the right direction.
I think it’s very important for people like me who have a larger platform to speak up about inclusiveness and diversity. Not just in race, but body shape and mental health as well, many different things. I think we have a responsibility. I don’t take that lightly. I don’t take my following lightly, ever.
I think social media has allowed all of us to speak up and people need to continue to speak up, because if there’s no demand, then this is going to all die down again. Don’t shop at certain retailers and brands if you feel they’re not representing people like you. Instead of complaining, you have to show in action.
You said that you want to use your voice and influence to change lives. How do you hope to do that in the future? Are there specific issues that you really want to take on?
I’ve been slowly starting to use my platform for the greater good. A couple years ago, I raised $83,000, and we donated all of that to Charity Water, where 100 percent of the proceeds go directly to water projects in under-developing countries. Recently, when I was in Kenya, I was with this charity called WE, and they empower women to make a living. So we went into these different tribes, and these mothers, they’re called “mamas,” make beaded jewelry. Before they would do it as a hobby, but now this charity is making a social enterprise where they’re empowering these women to make a living, so that when this charity leaves, they’re still able to sustain themselves. So that their kids can go to school.
Spent the afternoon with the women of the community, called mamas. The art of beading is passed down from mother to daughter in Maasai culture and through @metowe they’re able to earn a sustainable income through beading. If you’re interested in purchasing socially conscious beaded products like the Rafiki bracelets I’ve been wearing, you can purchase via @metowe where the proceeds go directly to the mamas. #metowe #metowetrips #paccares
A post shared by Aimee Song (@songofstyle) on Oct 20, 2018 at 11:51am PDT
Spent the day with the ninth graders at the school @metowe has built here in the Mara. They were so excited to show me around their school and to share. I love how curious they are and how excited they are about the future. They asked me if I always knew what I wanted to be. I told them about my story of being an Asian girl in America and the job I currently have didn’t exist when I was growing up so to dream big. Asante sawa for sharing your day with me, ladies. ❤️
A post shared by Aimee Song (@songofstyle) on Oct 22, 2018 at 1:30pm PDT
I think my job here is to document that and share that with my audience so that people know. People understand what’s going on in the world. On my platform, I try to be as transparent and authentic as possible — [even] if I’m having a mental health crisis, which I’ve had. Sometimes I have anxiety attacks. Sometimes I have mental breakdowns. And that’s totally fine. I used to be so ashamed of it and I would never talk about it. I would always blame myself, “What’s wrong with me? Why can’t I be happy?” But understanding now that it’s totally fine, I’ve been openly talking about it. So that if there’s a younger audience or somebody who hasn’t sought help yet, they can have the tools to do so now, because I’ve talked about it.
I started therapy about six months ago and I shared that with my audience on YouTube, on Instagram and on my blog so that people know that, “Hey, it’s totally fine to do therapy.” My only regret, actually, is not starting therapy sooner. I talk about that as well. So that’s what I’m trying to do more of with my platform.
Purchase Aimee Song’s new book, Aimee Song: World of Style for $17 on amazon.com. If you order today and choose one-day shipping, you can still receive it by Christmas.
This interview has been edited and condensed for clarity.
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