This week, we're throwing it back - and we mean WAY BACK. Our President, Christine and The M.J. Elle met in high school and the rest is history. Just kidding, as things happen, they lost touch for a little, but the 'gram always brings people together and they stumbled upon each other again through the good ol' social media platform. M.J. runs a KILLER feed, is an inspirational content creator and lifestyle blogger and just a super cool person in general. But she'll tell you more about what she's really about!! Here we go..
1. First off, tell us about you! Who is M.J.?
If I had to “define” myself, I’m a freelance content creator and lifestyle blogger, a true Torontonian born and raised. Although I can’t lie being French Canadian, I totally have a soft spot for Montréal. I focus mostly on style, beauty and lifestyle content - but mainly just focus on showcasing my authentic tastes and life. I started creating content and blogging around 2015-16 after a big life shift, involving my health and career. I worked as an executive assistant & projects coordinator since the age of 19 at some of Canada’s top companies, mainly in business operations or top executive offices. As much as I always loved my job, and I was good at what I did, I always found it to be so far out from who I really was. I’ve always been a creative at heart (I went to Humber College for Fashion Arts) but never really had an "art form" or talent that I excelled in - I cannot sing or play an instrument if my life depended on it, and other than stick figures I’m not that talented with a pencil. It wasn’t until much later in life that I realized my passion for taking anything and creating something visually stunning was my art form.
2. We love that you describe your blog as a “creative portfolio” - what do you love most about being able to share this with your audience?
I started out creating visual content all by fluke; I just didn’t wake up one day and decide “okay, so today I am going to be a content creator”. I was bored at home while on leave from my career, literally getting hives (okay not actually) due to my need to keep going. I started taking pictures of my life, style, eats and more for my Instagram as a way to keep me mentally stimulated anyway I could. The blog kind of came to be in a similar way. I’ve always been gifted with writing (and with the gab for that matter) but always dreaded it. But as my visual content began to take off and my following began to grow, I started getting questions on my favourite products, beauty recommendations and style tips. All these questions just couldn’t be answered in a caption so I began writing on my blog as an extension of my visual content.
I call it my creative portfolio, because it not only gives my friends and followers and chance to learn more about my content, but it also gives a chance for brands and a wider audience to see my full capabilities. It could be from growing up in a corporate setting, but I’ve always seen myself as my own brand and learnt to always put your best foot forward for any opportunity that may come. And this couldn’t be more important in the freelance world. My current career “goal" if you will is to end up writing for a top publication here in the city, and my blog is my way to showcase my written content. As of right now, I’m currently a contributor for Style Nine to Five’s blog, and hoping to grow that list of publications!
3. Your style is so effortlessly chic - what inspires it?
I have always been a style chameleon ever since I can remember. I’d like to say my style is classic & edgy. I take a lot inspiration from the 70's, 80's, and 90's rock scene, but what I wear also totally depends on my mood that day. Sometimes you can find me in Chelsea boots, jeans, a t-shirt and a biker jacket, whereas other days it’s athletic leggings, a hoodie and Timberland boots. You’ll most likely find me in neutral tones unless it's blue denim and you’ll never catch me wearing pink, like ever. I like to play around with trends, but as much as try I usually look totally ridiculous in them. For example, dad shoes? Yeah my dad actually still wear those, so when I throw on those Balenciagas or Yeezys sneakers I literally look like my dad, and I just cannot.
My grandmother is my style inspiration and is literally the chicest women I know. Growing up, I always cruised the stores at Sherway Gardens or the shoe department at The Bay on Queen Street with her. She literally never leaves the house without being perfectly put together with accessories from matching jewelry to silk scarves, but always does it tastefully and to the times (no old lady vibes). Like she doesn’t own slippers - she wears Italian made leather loafers around the house. So from her I learned the key too always putting together a complete outfit, whether it’s casual or formal.
4. You’ve grown a following of over 20k on Instagram, and we can totally see why! Do you have any tips to share for people trying to expand their own reach?
I get asked this a lot, and now or days with the ever changing Instagram algorithms there really isn’t one “right” way to grow your reach. But if I had to give advice my three top things would be:
a) Stay true to yourself. Create content that speaks to you and your tastes, and represents who you are as a person and creator. I try and create content that is realistic to me so I’m not overselling a lifestyle I don’t actually live. But to be honest everything is obviously staged, even shots of my morning latte - chances are I took that pictures 3 times before nailing it and purposely placed my sunglasses there.
b) Focus on high quality content, and post regularly. As an audience I’d much rather see 1 beautifully created image every couple days, than 4 average posts daily. Now, with that said you want to stay relevant and not fall off your audience’s radar. I recommend posting anywhere from 1-3 times a day, all depending on what you feel comfortable with. Space your posts out to avoid flooding feeds and potentially loosing followers.
c) Engage back with your followers. I hate when I see influencers not responding to comments, or never replying to DMs. Even if it's quick and simple, interacting with your audience is what will make their experience with your content feel more personal. I acknowledge almost every comment I receive and try and reply with something that invokes dialogue, rather than a quick 1-2 reply. But if comments left aren’t robust, a quick “thanks” and emoji or a liking the comment is enough for me. This interaction with your audience is what will make them more likely to follow you in the long term. Like I had Bethenny Frankel reply to a comment I made on one of her posts the other day. And I DIED. If Bethenny has time to reply, so do you.
5. What has been the biggest lesson you’ve learned from building your business not only as a blogger, but an influencer as well?
I’ve learned to take criticism about me personally, rather than my work. When you work any job, whether its at the corporate level or entry level working retail - you’re judge by your work performance not so much by you as a person. With blogging and putting your entire life out there on social media, you’re pretty much welcoming direct judgement and criticism on you, your preferences and your work. I’ve always welcomed professional criticism, but it’s definitively helped me grow a tougher skin when it comes to personal criticism.
I’ve also learned to not take myself so seriously. Starting my professional career at 19, I always given the title of a “lazy Millennial, who expects everything handed to her with no work ethic". So from 9-5 Monday to Friday, I had no choice but to stay serious, professional and show the least amount of my individuality as possible. Now that I work freelance, it’s okay for me to let my hair down, be true myself and use a curse word every now and then, because that's who I am. And I’m still adjusting to that.
6. What Toronto feeds should we be following right now?
There are so many talented people in our city from other content creators, to designers and photographers. It’s kind of hard to pick, but I decided to nail it down to people I not only admire for their work and hustle, but that I've had the chance to either meet or interact with!!
I’ve followed @JaclynGenovese for years (lived for Jacflash on West Queen West through my teenage years) and she’s not only a total babe and powerhouse, but she’s extremely down to earth! I love her feed for all things fitness, fashion and home decor related, as she’s really been expanding on her @SpacesByJacflash portfolio!
When Toronto got its own Real Housewives franchise I died, it’s one of the few reality TV shows I am obsessed with (New York, Bev Hills and New Jersey are my favourites). I immediately crushed on @LuxuriousRoxy and literally everything about her. More importantly, I loved her message of self acceptance and her #MySizeRox movement that is slowly taking over!! She’s extremely real with her followers too - showing not only her positive messages but being truthful when her days are tough, which is refreshing!
If you’re looking for another great content creator to follow, I swoon overtime @CarletonEckhardt posts. Her feed aesthetic is to die for, she’s totally stunning and I just love her overall style. I had a chance to meet Carleton at an event couple months back and loved her energy - we’ve kept in touch since!
For my coffee lovers out there, you need to follow @YYZCoffee - I shouldn’t really have to explain why: a feed of beautifully curated coffee shots from cafes around the city? I mean...
7. What are you the most excited for this year?
For once, I am excited for the uncertainty. I’ve always been someone with a hard set plan, especially when it comes to my career - 3-month, 6-month, 12-month plans like clockwork… you can thank those corporate development programs I guess. For the first little while as I went out on my own, I was terrified of having no plan, no structure and no set direction. But I am starting to enjoy it. This year I'm focusing on my visual content, my blogging and working towards landing some writing opportunities, and the only real plan that I have is to hustle hard and stay true to myself. And I’m super excited about that.
8. How do you #workit everyday?
I wanted to have this super spiritual and moving answer for this like I chant mantras in the mirror, or write in my positivity journal daily. But the truth is I #WorkIt everyday with the help of good coffee, good music and a good work ethic: always pushing myself to do better than the day before. I also cannot do anything that I do without the support of, and spending quality time with my partner, and my two dogs. Anyone that that says they have “balance" in life is lying, there's really is no such thing. What you can do though is make sure you fit in what’s important to you - that email in your inbox or project due for work will always be there tomorrow but friends, family and making memories won’t.