It wouldn’t be amiss to say that the local blogosphere has exploded of late. Every aspect of life in Pakistan boasts its own range of blogging celebrities; whose shot to fame is familiarity with said topic. No one, not even early naysayers can deny the appeal and influence of this new generation of opinion makers. Their unfiltered and entirely personal insight into subject matters, and that they are untouched by mainstream media make them a force. But the issue of solvency is still a protruding question mark. Are these vibrant young people decided part timers, with a flair for penmanship but no business sense? Or, is blogging in 2016 as enjoyable a career as it is a read?
Enter Shehzeen Rehman. The thirty something beauty and brain behind The Desi Wonder Woman, Shehzeen has no qualms about what her site is, “I don’t see it as a hobby or as something I’m doing ‘on the side’…” A popular read amongst Pakistani locals and expatriates alike, The Desi Wonder Woman has made a name for itself because of it’s witty, self aware content, boasting a colorful array of regular uploads and a loyal fan following.
But amongst a multitude of fashion and lifestyle bloggers, Shehzeen stands out with the dash of red lipstick. Hers is not a singular interest, and her blog does not cater to one topic. Shehzeen’s site is about all things lifestyle, with dollops of culture and politics added in for good measure. She describes it as an ‘extension’ of her personal life, and the causal air and minimalistic aesthetic only add to this claim. The crisp white interface is intertwined with splashes of bright color, much like the master blogger herself.
Perhaps her biggest charm and secret weapon is a mixture of nonchalance and daring. She is at once willing to take risks and unwilling to glorify her risks.
Take her view on fashion for example. Refusing to identify herself as a fashion blogger, she nonetheless admits to dabbling. Her playful ‘Style for Dummies’ segment is an example, and what seems effortless and lighthearted at first glance is also reflective of her personal and professional ethic. “I never saw fashion as elitist,” she says, and her blog goes out of it’s way to project this notion. Nowhere on this site will you find glorifications of luxurious pieces. Instead she articulately pokes fun at the idea of a right kind of style, while still dishing out helpful styling advice. Through her vibrant play on colors and trends, like an immaculately dressed best friend Shehzeen encourages her readers to experiment with fashion. “I consciously don’t shop, accept or write about things that are very high end,” she clarifies further, “fashion isn’t exclusive if you don’t let it be.”
And this consciously carefree quality extends to all aspects of her blog. She doesn’t shy away from bold stances or controversial subject matter; she just addresses them with a pleasant ease.
“fashion isn’t exclusive if you don’t let it be.”
‘The Desi Wonder Woman’ is clearly a thinking person’s lifestyle blog. A typical reader can expect write-ups on a range of topics, from a tutorial on how to style bright shoes one day to a satire about Karachi’s infamous politicians the next. Every topic is penned with a unique angle in mind and everything fits into the site like a puzzle piece. Take her new segment on wedding prep for example, instead of focusing on floral arrangements, centerpieces and lehangas, Shehzeen forewarns that the typical is not what she’ll be discussing and uses the first post to discuss sexual health. Yes, that’s right. She took a rishta auntie’s favourite subject and used it to break societal taboo (we can just see their botox heavy jaws drop.) But like everything else on the blog, it isn’t heavy. Partnering with a fertility clinic, she somehow manages to make it friendly and conversational, even shooing the morale brigade away with a polite, “if you could keep your religious views to yourself that would be great.” Keeping the tone friendly is her niche, because it encourages readers to really listen to her and gasp, ‘hey I never thought of it that way, but I think she’s right!’ And the second you feel yourself agreeing with her you know she’s got you hooked.
The only thing that she does stay away from is wasting space. Being well aware of her brand, Shehzeen attaches value to each one of her posts. Everything has a purpose, and as minimalistic as the ambiance is there is nothing easy about what goes on behind the posts. As she herself describes it, “…you’re creating a tiny production everyday which includes a bunch of things like concept visualization, styling, shooting, editing, brand meetings, accounts, and a bunch of back-end stuff,” and it is this attention to detail that has helped catapult something she started ‘just for fun’ into something she could commit to full-time.
It is not surprising that companies would pay to market themselves to a successful blog’s readership, but as Shehzeen explains it, the bloggers in question need to put in the hours before this can happen. In the three years that have elapsed since it’s inception, The Desi Wonder Woman has expanded to include advertisements, partnerships with brands and most recently internships, and Shehzeen credits her content for this success. She recalls the myriad of emails she gets from new bloggers who eye her success as inspiration, citing that they want to bring in the money but don’t want to put up regular content, exclaiming, “No brand or business will put money into you until you deliver on numbers and consistency.” For a year after she started Shehzeen blogged five days a week with no monetary benefit, understanding that building a following would be gradual. Even when the money did start coming in, there was the constant need to chase her salary every month. Because blogging relies so heavily on how much content you have and how responsive said content is, it is actually impossible to slack of for a week and still get the same amount of money. As she explains it, “there are multiple channels for bloggers to monetize content but there needs to be the drive and discipline to first deliver that content.”
“you’re creating a tiny production everyday which includes a bunch of things like concept visualization, styling, shooting, editing, brand meetings”
She feels that people often misconstrue the effortless theme of a website into assuming that blogging itself is easy. They forget, she says, that in order to make something look easy you actually have to work really hard at it. In her own words, “If it looks seamless it doesn’t mean you woke up at noon, worked a couple of hours and then chilled out in your jammies for the rest of the day, that just means you did your job the right way.”
In the case of The Desi Wonder Woman at least, all the hard work is definitely paying of. With a steady influx of followers and a signature knack for humour, the site’s journey is proof that coupled with diligence and commitment, writing a blog can actually be more than a hobby; it can be an exciting way to do what you love for a living.