I started @ifstyledanced one year ago today, thanks to some persuasive friends.
“I always think about how you’d style something I bought,” said one friend.
“I changed my shoes 3-4 times just based on what you might have done with this outfit”, said another.
Their comments probably make me sound more like a bully than a friend, but both told me that I had influenced their style and that I should do something with that ability. I was defensive at first; I didn’t believe them.
“What if people think it’s stupid? What if they think that I don’t really know anything?”, I worried.
“Who cares?”, they said, “You gotta try.”
The very next day, one of my friends posted a photo of herself in an outfit with a caption that said “Styled by @mnair518”. I thought it was silly that she had written that using my personal Instagram handle, but I also wondered what handle would I actually want her to have used instead?
So I messaged my husband and a few friends, who reminded me that my love for fashion was just like my love for dance. And just like that @ifstyledanced was born.
“Baby steps”, I told myself. I needed to allow myself to morph and be flexible with the results of my actions. So I started.
The following weekend, on a routine trip to Toronto, I packed a few outfits and dragged my oh so fortunate Insta-husband with me to start shooting. I had no idea what I was looking to capture, but I began playing around. I showed my husband what angles I wanted him to capture and finally came out with a bunch of pictures that I was willing to start posting. If I was going to give it a fair shot, I owed it to myself to make this a habit so that I’d feel guilty if I didn’t do it. So I decided to start with a daily post cadence and then see where to take it next.
A few weeks after I started, a good friend and her fiancé were walking around NYC and randomly walked into a retail incubator called Flying Solo. They quickly messaged me to check it out because the store was hosting a blogger brunch. My first thought was “How would I even introduce myself??”
Since day 1, I’ve been asked questions like “What is the blog about? What’s its purpose? Are you going to make money with it?”
Most folks identify themselves with what they do with majority of their time:
“I’m a student, consultant, physician…”, etc. For the longest time I identified myself as a “consultant”, “product manager”, and/or “in sales” and all kinds of blends in between. It was easy to identify myself in these ways because some of these roles existed before I came into them, or I had a hand in establishing them. But now, I found myself exploring a new industry, a new network, a new fill-in-the-blank, that I had no idea how to describe to anyone. How do you talk about a new identity that you’ve only just started exploring?
Moving to NYC introduced me to a lot of firsts, especially with regard to hobbies and side-gigs. My very first side-gig was teaching at Doonya as a fitness instructor, and my second (still current) was dancing with The Sa Dance Company. Suddenly people referred to me as a fitness instructor and a professional dancer. Both felt so awkward for me. I used to think it was just because I had just never looked at myself that way, but then I realized that it’s because I just wasn’t confident enough to add those two terms to the list of things I was.
Being comfortable with my new @ifstyledanced identity had a lot to do with owning it just like the others, I just had to decide what it was that I wanted to own.
I finally mustered up the confidence to walk into Flying Solo in Oct/Nov of last year, and was lucky enough to meet Jenny Lai from NOT, who eventually became my first collaborator. In hindsight, I don’t think that it was luck at all, but the result of saying “yes” to an opportunity regardless of how unsure I was about myself and my new identity.
Since working with Jenny, I’ve continued saying “yes” to as many opportunities that make sense for me and because of this I’m able to explore aspects of blog-life that I both enjoy and dislike. The best part however, is that it’s allowed me to meet a network of amazing, supportive bloggers, designers, and photographers whom I hope to continue to work with as much as possible.
I still have so much to learn and a long way to go. I still am not completely sure with where I want this to go, and what I want this to be, but I have realized that this is an integral part of who I am. I’m on a journey to express and to tell stories about what I love and have learned from style. This is my story on what it would look like, if style danced.
Blog edited by: Betty Ho