How To Make It On the Internet with 'The Lingerie Addict' founder Cora Harrington
So you want to turn your Internet hobby into a career. How do you get from posting your work for your family and friends to actually supporting yourself, getting new projects and contracts, and making a name for yourself in this hyper-digital world? HG editors Sulagna Misra and Lilian Min interview Internet-based creatives about how they “made it” in the new series How To Make It On The Internet.
In 2008, the blog boom was well underway, but while certain areas quickly reached saturation (e.g. food and cooking, street/personal style), conversations about lingerie, both indie and mainstream, were still happening on the fringe. And before body positivity took off as an online activist movement, before diversity and representation in depictions of lingerie and intimate wear became a regularly-explored topic, there was Cora Harrington’s The Lingerie Addict, a destination for lingerie discussion that expanded the industry’s traditionally thin, white image. The site signal boosts indie lingerie designers, examines ongoing body positivity initiatives, and of course, provides a repository of information about which brands hold up to the needs of the modern lingerie enthusiast.
Now, The Lingerie Addict is one of the largest fashion blogs on the Internet, with over 600,000 page views a month, write-ups from Today, Time, CNN, Vogue, and Jezebel, and extensively researched recommendations about just about every kind of lingerie need out there. (From nursing bra suggestions to how to dye lingerie to what to wear under cosplay.) It’s a huge resource for lingerie enthusiasts and tentative explorers alike — and its weekly sales roundup makes it easy for readers to check out the brands written about.
HelloGiggles spoke with TLA founder Cora Harrington about how she turned her niche blog into not just a business, but an inclusive and critical safe space to discuss the culture and products that, after all, are only now moving beyond the bedroom.
HelloGiggles: What originally drew you to write about lingerie and the culture around it?
Cora Harrington: It happened very organically. I didn’t set out to talk specifically about the culture of lingerie or even necessarily to have a lingerie blog (which I think is super apparent in my early blog posts). I wanted to buy something nice for someone I was dating at the time, and I couldn’t find any reviews or shopping guides or even general advice about what to buy.
I started by writing reviews of things I purchased, or, alternately, short little posts about lingerie I saw that I liked, and the blog expanded gradually (and quite slowly!) from there. At first I was very guarded about my identity, but I’ve always been interested material culture, and once I became more comfortable blogging and found my online voice, it was a natural expression of my own personality and interests to discuss what lingerie says about people’s bodies and the society we live in.
HG: When was the first time you realized that your “hobby” could actually be your actual job?
CH: When it started to bring in as much as I was making from my day job at the time (which, to be clear, was not as astronomical amount . . . I used to work in nonprofits). I was in my mid 20s and thinking about my career and my future and what I wanted to do with my life, and I realized I wanted to give TLA a real chance to be the kind of site I wish I’d had access to as a young adult.
HG: Did you get any pushback from your friends and family when you decided to run your own business? Any resources/advice?
CH: I didn’t get any pushback, but I will say a lot of people are confused about the business part of running a blog. I think it’s a hard thing for many to wrap their minds around, especially since TLA isn’t even a ‘normal’ fashion blog. That said, despite the confusion, my friends and family are incredibly supportive. Independent Fashion Bloggers was a huge resource when I started (though they’ve since been purchased by another company). I also recommend the archives of ProBlogger and CopyBlogger for lots of timeless advice related to writing and marketing.
HG: When it came time to “become your own boss,” what resources did you draw on to help with your site’s expansion? (Adding ads and staff, for example.)
CH: One of the first things I did (aside from registering legally and all that other stuff) was bring on a team of writers. I’ve always wanted TLA to represent a multiplicity of voices, so having an editorial staff is also inline with my site’s mission. I also brought on a web developer and graphic designer, and moved my blog from Blogger to self-hosted WordPress.
Lingerie still has a lot of stigma, especially in America, so once I decided to do this full-time, I realized I need to have complete control of my site’s hosting and its ability to stay online. Finally, establishing a presence on multiple social platforms was a major factor in TLA’s growth. There are people out there who want a space to learn and share and discuss lingerie without all the other baggage it seems to attract, and I want TLA to be a resource for them.
HG: How has your relationship with lingerie changed as your blog has risen in profile?
CH: I’ve become a lot more laid-back about lingerie “rules” and bra fit advice and telling people what they ‘should’ own or ‘have’ to wear, while simultaneously becoming a lot more vocal about the homogeneity of the lingerie industry and how alienating it can be to WOC, LGBTQIA persons, and plus sized women. I still have my tried and true favorite brands, but it’s become increasingly important to me to spotlight those smaller industry players that don’t have startup funding or fashion industry connections.
The real innovation is happening on the indie level, and I want to make sure those brands that are coming from outside traditional industry pipelines or are taking unconventional risks still have a champion and an advocate and a site that believes in what they’re doing.HG: How would you say your voice and the site’s voice evolved as you’ve grown?CH: My voice has become a lot more confident as my site has grown and as I’ve gotten older. I don’t feel the same kind of reticence I used to when it comes to tackling the big issues. I also don’t feel the need to please everyone. It’s really exciting because when you’re less worried about making everyone happy, you have a lot more energy to do the things that matter. HG: Is there anything you wish you knew when you first started writing on the Internet?CH: One of the most important things to learn about writing online is that you can’t be all things to all people. The entire Internet is not your target audience, and it’s impossible for any one website or YouTube channel or blog to fulfill everything anyone could possibly be looking for. So you need to think about your target audience. Who do you want to read what you’re writing? And then write for them. Related to this, you don’t have to talk to everyone. I think there’s this idea, especially if you’re a woman, that you have to be accommodating and nice and open to everyone . . . even abusive people. But you don’t. If someone is treating you like garbage, you don’t have to engage with them. Block, mute, ignore, delete, ban, it’s okay. No one is entitled to your time and energy, especially when they’re being abusive.
HG: What’s your biggest piece of advice to people who want to talk about lingerie but feel like they either can’t or that there’s no place for them in that conversation?
CH: First of all, I just want to validate those feelings because I get how hard it can be to feel like an outsider and wonder if there’s a place for you or people like you in the world of lingerie. I’ve been writing about intimates for over seven years now, and I still feel the same way a lot of the time. It’s hard, and those feelings are completely valid. Second, I’d say to find and/or carve out your community. The world of lingerie blogging is small, but there are a few of us out there who identify as WOC or LGBTQIA individuals or disabled or older or plus sized or what have you, so try to hook into those websites or stores bringing the perspectives you want to see.
Finally, there is always, always, ALWAYS space for more conversations about lingerie. If there’s a topic you haven’t seen covered, write about it. Start a blog. Start a Tumblr. Reach out to me and submit a guest post. There is room for you, and I would love to hear your voice.
Images courtesy of Lydia Hudgens/The Lingerie Addict.