Danielle Gray’s award-winning blog, The Style and Beauty Doctor, focuses on fashion and beauty, but she has managed to incorporate travel into the mix giving her a very unique and successful niche. I met Danielle on a recent press trip to Ecuador and was very impressed with all she has accomplished. Today she talks with us about how it all started, how she managed to combine her passions and how she connects with her readers.
Tell us how you started your blog?
After college I really wanted to work in fashion or with magazines but couldn’t find a job in that industry so I ended up working in finance selling investments. Basically I was telling people what to do with their money – of course I had none of my own! But selling investments didn’t give me a creative outlet and I desperately needed one so I focused on my interest in fashion and took some classes at the Fashion Institute of Technology to become an image consultant. I started the blog in 2007 as a way to connect with people to help build my image consulting business. Shortly afterwards I realized I could reach more people if I made the blog about more general topics, fashion, skin care, beauty products, etc. As the blog grew I had new opportunities to write for other publications like Essence and Cosmopolitan for Latinas.
Your blog’s main focus is beauty and fashion, but you also write about travel. How were you able to incorporate travel into the mix?
I always loved to travel but when I was working in finance I only had 15 days to use for vacation, sick days, or personal days. And since I worked for a bank, ten of those days had to be taken consecutively. Since my family lived in other areas of the country, most of those vacation days were used to visit family. That job got in my way! But when I started writing my blog full-time, I was able to work from anywhere which gave me the freedom to travel.
Around 2010, the Polish beauty industry wanted American journalists to cover the Polish beauty convention so I was among the writers invited to Warsaw, Poland for the event. That trip was followed by Fashion Week in Colombia. These were the first big international trips I did where I incorporated fashion and beauty while traveling.
I found that my readers loved seeing where I was and hearing about the fashion and beauty trends in other destinations so I began writing about what kind of skin care products I would take for different climates, what type of beauty products other countries used, and what the fashion scene was like in these destinations.
Instead of just posting photos of the landscapes, I would post photos of me in these destinations. It became aspirational for my readers because they could relate to me. I, like them, have worked jobs to get me from point A to point B, but now I am out there showing them the world.
You do a fantastic job of keeping in touch with your readers through social media. What tips do you have for others to grow their social media platforms?
Even though I didn’t enjoy working in finance, I did learn some core business principles that I use in my writing. One of the most important things I learned was that people do business with people they know and like. In finance I used that principle to convince people to give me $15,000 to invest. Today I use that principle to connect with my readers. In travel and beauty, people like to see someone that looks like them doing things they would like to do. They want to see themselves in other people.
Also, I try to be accessible to my readers and share as much as I can about myself and my travels. I respond to as many comments as possible. I also pay attention to the times people tend to be on social media platforms. For example, on Instagram I typically post before 7:00am during the week. On weekends I will post throughout the day. It just takes a little monitoring of the various platforms and seeing when readers are most active and what types of posts they respond to more often.
How do you monetize your blog?
Initially I used one of the standard advertising platforms to begin to bring in some funds. But now I feel like people are somewhat trained to ignore ads on websites. Today I monetize more with sponsored posts. Also brands often approach me to advertise on my site. I think it is important to be sure all my content is consistent and professional so that I attract the right brands for my site. Recently, I have been doing more long term campaigns with various brands which is the best way to consistently bring in funds.
You have traveled all over the world and been to all types of places. If you had to pick three destinations to return to, what would those be?
Wow, only three? I tend to like variety in my travel experiences and destinations. While I love to shop and check out the local fashion scene, I also love adventure travel. I guess if I had to choose three I would definitely pick Ecuador. I know we were just there but it is so beautiful and there is so much history. I would love to learn more about the country. Plus the food was excellent!
Also I really liked Warsaw. The historic old town is filled with history – although much of it was destroyed in the war, it has been restored and has so much culture. But also, Warsaw is a very cosmopolitan city that is great for shopping. The blend of the historic old town with the cosmopolitan city was fascinating.
The other place would be Grenada – even though my family is from Trinidad and they probably won’t like that I’m saying this! But I think a lot of the Caribbean is touristy and I feel that some of the history and authenticity is lost. Grenada still feels authentic. Besides it is beautiful there. When you’re there you breathe better, your skin looks better, your hair looks better and the people are so nice. The story I wrote about Grenada got so much love from readers all over the world who had ties to the island. I would definitely go back.
A former finance girl, Danielle Gray is a New York City based freelance writer and fashion and beauty expert. She’s a Hofstra University and Fashion Institute of Technology grad with an obsession with fashion and beauty which she loves to tell you all about every weekday on her award-winning blog, The Style and Beauty Doctor. Danielle’s work and expertise can be found in print and across the web in Cosmopolitan for Latinas, StyleBlazer.com, and more! She’s also appeared as an on-air style expert on CBS New York’s “The Couch” and WPIX11’s Savvy Shopper segment.