I don’t mean to arrogantly boast about nice things I’ve been given or that have happened to me, though I can see this post is going to come across as just that. The second half of 2017 was a real low point in blogging for me, mostly because of problems with my blogging platform (a post coming soon on that drama), but I also saw a decline in opportunities coming my way and thought I was old news to PRs and the like. It made me feel a bit better to see a much bigger blogger than me Tweet in December “remember when you used to be able to use all your PR gifts as Christmas presents? This year I’ve actually had to buy stuff.” Non-bloggers amongst you might also see this as hideously arrogant, but it was a joke, one with the sad truth behind it that all bloggers in the mid-size range are suffering due to the massive influx of bloggers in recent years. There’s just less ‘stuff’ to go around, as well as less spaces at events. I certainly don’t just blog for the free stuff, but it’s been good for me to write this and take stock of times when I was taken seriously by brands, and to allow myself to be astounded and grateful that so many fantastic life-changing things came my way just because I started this blog.
1.) Having my tattoo removed
I absolutely hated my horrible little Japanese symbol, tattooed in a moment of drunken madness when I was sixteen. It went against everything tattoos should be – meaningful, beautiful, something you’re proud of. And I had it in the worst place, right on the front of my shoulder. Laser removal was an expense I could never prioritise, so I just had to live with it. I was ecstatic when Pulse Light Clinic got in touch and asked if there were any treatments I’d like to review. They were happy for me to select tattoo removal, so long as I documented the progress. The treatments took just over two years and would have cost over £1000. Having this for free has been so amazing, and it’s actually been something I’m glad I could advise people on, I’ve had a lot of enquiries about this. See part one here.
2.) Changing my skin forever
This is something only people with bad skin can appreciate. I suffered with acne, not the cystic kind with big pimples, but horrible rash-like small spots that cropped up on both cheeks overnight and immediately turned in to red scars. A doctor said it must have been a surge in hormones, and there was nothing I could do but let the red scars fade and turn into pockmarks. For over two years I had to keep covering up the red spots, and had people ask me everything from “did I have an allergic reaction to something” to “is that rosacea?” I’d heard about expensive laser treatments and things like Dermarollers that could help with acne scarring, but again, these were expenses I just couldn’t prioritise. The first time a cosmetic surgery clinic reached out to me as a beauty blogger I was over the moon, and couldn’t believe it when other clinics did too. I’ve had lasers, Dermarollers, acid peels, microdermabrasion – thousands of pounds worth of treatments all free in return for reviews (you can read about them all here, but spoiler alert – my skin is SO much better and I’m so happy). The best thing was having appointments with some of the most respected dermatologists in London, and getting advice that will stay with me – those alone would have cost a few hundred pounds each. There seemed to be a time when clinics were really on board with working with bloggers, but that’s died out since mid-2016 really. Shame, as they’re still some of the most popular posts on my blog from organic Google searches. I think if people are going to invest money in their face, they want to do their research. Having the chance to improve something I was so unhappy with has been so incredible.
3.) Changing my attitude to exercise
God I’m so lazy with working out. Being invited to review a luxury boot camp (above) was something I was both happy and hesitant about. I mostly went out of curiosity, and on day one of the eight-hours-of-exercise-a-day regime I wanted to leave. By the end of the seven night stay in Devon I was so glad I stuck it out, and the things I learnt have really stayed with me, especially about pushing myself. I may not be a gym bunny-fitness fanatic, but this month I’m doing a workout DVD every day throughout February, and it’s because of my boot camp experience I can face this kind of challenge. I was also introduced to the marvels of assisted stretching, I go on about it here, and it’s something I now do every day. This boot camp would have cost just over £2000 if I’d had to pay for it, and I would never have been able to afford this. If I had that kind of spare cash, I’d probably travel abroad somewhere and just lie down and stuff my face, so it was probably fortunate for my health to be gifted this experience and to learn from it.
4.) Walking the red carpet
I mostly get invited to film screenings, the type that journalists go to so they can review a film before it’s released. I’m so grateful for this, I get to see films for free and earlier than most. Occasionally I get invited to proper big film premieres, where you walk on the red carpet at the same time as the stars of the film. I know this must only happen when numbers are low because big bloggers and YouTubers are too busy, but again – I’m not complaining. I know my place and it’s absolutely amazing to be able to do this, even though the crowds and press just ignore me when I walk by, and then start getting more enthusiastic because Jude Law or someone is behind me. Look at the people on the left (below), lol, they might as well be chanting “who are ya!” to me.
5.) Getting to speak
A blog, of course, gives anyone a chance to have their voice heard, and that’s a wonderful democratic thing about the internet (shame, though, about all the people who spend their time making nazi blogs and such). The Prosecco Diaries has lead to other amazing opportunities to have my my say, including being a guest on BBC Radio, being asked to talk at the South Bank Centre’s Web We Want Festival, and giving talks to household name brands about working with bloggers. I’ve worked with brands to design and run workshops for bloggers, written about blogging for magazines like Cosmopolitan, and had the chance to speak to school pupils about blogging as a career. It’s amazing that blogging and social media are being taken more seriously, though of course there’s still a way to go. I suppose blog posts like this won’t help, as people in the press or those who see bloggers as freeloaders will think we just love blogging for freebies and boasting about it. These opportunities have been amazing for my confidence, my CV, for networking, and for being a part of a wider discussion about the power of blogging.
6.) Really seeing London
I’ve lived in London for a while, and admittedly saw pretty much the same bits by hanging out with the same people and always going to the same places. It’s easy to stick to your neck of the woods and only occasionally venture elsewhere, you forget that London is a big and beautiful city with so many amazing things to see and do. Being invited to events and experiences as a blogger has not only helped me meet some fab people and have some crazily memorable times (the restaurant that caught fire during a blogger dinner, the street art tour with Nokia that ended at a famous artist’s studio), but I’ve also seen just about every nook and cranny of London and got to try things I wouldn’t have even known about. There’s been foraging in a forest, dancing at rooftop bars in Shoreditch, a yoga retreat in Bethnal Green, a burlesque dancing class in piccadilly, open air cinema at Battersea Power Station, Secret Cinema and Future Cinema with behind the scenes press passes, prosecco with penguins, immersive theatre in tunnels, the launch of a London festival, Christmas carols in a cathedral, and a trip round London in my own private Black Cab for the day.
7.) Money-can’t-buy experiences
I’m very lucky to have been given opportunities to review restaurants, museum exhibitions, afternoon teas in hotels, theatre plays and films, things I’m so grateful to have been offered but can have access to as a consumer. Then there are absolute money-can’t-buy experiences you get offered as a blogger that sometimes you need to pinch yourself and check your camera roll the next day to make sure they actually happened. One of my all time faves was a trip to The Clothes Show Live in Birmingham with Olympus and getting to stand in the press pit at the end of the catwalk to take photos (picture above). It was something I thought I’d never have the chance to do, and probably won’t again, so much fun. There’s also been breakfast at Fortnum and Mason with famous artists, a private cooking lesson with a TV chef, another cooking lesson in the home of an award winning chef, a blogger party on a pink bus on the Southbank, a trip to Cornwall with Hertz, the BooHoo Christmas dinner party, parties at YouTube, Twitter and Pinterest’s London headquarters, a celebrity packed Diet Coke party, and hanging out in Soho with Rita Ora
Sorry for the boasting, but as I say, it’s more for me to boost my spirits and have something to look back on when I think about how fun blogging can be. You can’t expect amazing things to fall into your lap if you start a blog, but if they do – you can have a small revel in the absolute craziness of it all without it going to your head.