Kale in one hand, champagne in the other.
This is the ethos behind The Skinny Confidential, the lifestyle site Lauryn Evarts built in 2009, while she was a student at San Diego State University. She wanted a place where all the women on campus could come together to share tips and tricks for wellness. What she didn’t expect was that her blog would end up reaching women around the world, amassing a cult following.
Lauryn parlayed the success of her blog into an influential IG account (with more than 700k followers!), a namesake fitness book, a YouTube channel, and now, a podcast with more than 25 million downloads. But amid her success, Lauryn humbly reminds us—this empire took work, and she’s not done yet. Read on to hear her thoughts on branding, over-sharing, and the art of execution.
Tell us what prompted you to start The Skinny Confidential.
There was A LOT of untapped white space in the online world. There were a lot of bloggers out there talking about their life, but I didn’t see a lot of sites connecting like-minded women. I was interested in that, you know? I was interested in other people from around the world, what made them tick, what they were doing and what their tips & tricks were too—whether it was a model, an actress, or an everyday girl, I had this desire to connect and talk with other people. Having this sort of resource full of women’s tips & tricks didn’t exist at the time, so I set out to create a brand and blog that was pretty, pink & cheeky.
When launching, I knew that the blog would be the foundation of the brand. How I rolled it out was very thoughtful and strategic—I didn’t just throw up a site without planning. I like a plan.
Being broke (lucky if I had $80 in my bank account to be honest), bartending, teaching Pure Barre & Pilates classes, living at my godparents’ for free & attending San Diego State full time, I knew that if I did this I had to do it right. The Skinny Confidential needed to come out with a bang.
I found a web designer and made a huge poster board with the design I had in my head. The best way was to draw out what I wanted instead of telling him. I had this pink Trapper Keeper (which I still have today) full of ideas and clippings and research that I wanted to share with the world. Lots of questions too.
Talking with doctors & experts and tweeting with models helped me to really get started in creating a space for women to share tips & tricks when it came to health & fitness. Niching down was a no-brainer because I didn’t want to overwhelm the audience.
Also, you should know the name The Skinny Confidential has nothing to do with being skinny. I was writing down all these cheeky words when I was thinking of a name and skinny & confidential kept coming up. It was everything that I wanted because it means “get the skinny.” You know, “get the juice.”
You can pretty much get anyone to buy anything. How did you build that trust with your audience?
When I find something I like, I cannot shut the F up. There’s something in me where I just have to get other people involved, like a natural over-sharer. If I find a great shirt at Forever 21 for $13.99 I have to tell everyone and their mom. TSC readers need to know where it’s from and WHY THEY NEED IT—very specific over here. I’m very much about details & specifics.
If someone is telling me about why I need a Hydro Flask, I want to know what color to get, what to put in it, if it’s for warm or cold drinks, how it’s cleaned, the proper straw to use—every detail is essential. Every single detail has always been important and interesting to me, so I do that with my audience when I talk about products too. It’s just very important to the overall brand.
When I talk about something that I think my readers will love, I want to take them from A-Z. If A-B is talking about something and a reader decides to buy it, then A-Z just goes so much further. Is my reader going to buy it and absolutely love it? Are they going to use it every day? Is that person going to recommend it to 10 of their friends, then those friends are going to recommend it to 10 of their friends? I think of my audience very inclusively—everyone's an influencer no matter how many followers they have.
When I feel that kind of correlation with a product, that’s when I feel comfortable selling something.
When did you realize you could make a business out of your presence online?
The second I had the idea I knew it could be a business. My whole life I’ve known that I’d work for myself. There was no other option. I’m such a horrible employee—the worst of the worst. I like to do things my own way, on my time, so this was always the path I knew I’d take. I like and thrive off being an entrepreneur. There’s never been a plan B. I try to find that confidence from within, because no one else is going to give it to you.
Focusing on propelling forward and 100% believing in yourself is so important. That mentality comes from my childhood. I always had to make things happen for myself because there was no other option. Getting creative and finding angles to get things I wanted was just part of my life. That’s something that has fueled my entrepreneurial side. I believe anyone can do anything they put their mind to with proper execution, patience, consistency, & focus.
Your branding is so on point. Everyone has an image that comes to mind when they hear the words “The Skinny Confidential.” How have you built and maintained your brand so well over the years?
I hope that the image is pink clouds and pink nails and pink cotton candy—LOL but really I like to keep it pink. Every single thing I do is an opportunity to brand. From Instagram captions and the upper and lower-case format I use, to the colors & fonts of Instagram stories, to the “&” that I use in my blog posts—every single opportunity is a branding opportunity. If anything ever went wrong with The Skinny Confidential, I'd probably be a branding consultant. Branding is one of my favorite parts of this career. Nothing is too little to brand.
Keeping the same fonts and colors is crucial (C & C is genius at this by the way!). You also really need to commit and write the way you speak in person. Like I want my readers to feel like we are drinking spicy margaritas at happy hour.
Sometimes that’s hard because you’ll see something someone else is doing and you’ll want to shift your formula, but I think you need to stay true to the brand you’ve built and not stray too much.
To me, a brand should evoke a feeling in the audience. What I want people to feel when they’re on the site is that it’s this cheeky resource where they can get all the juice in this really pretty, pink way. When they leave, I want them to take what they like, leave what they don’t—but ultimately apply anything they like to their own life and feel they had a valuable experience that was worth their time. That’s my goal with everything from the blog to Snapchat and Instagram.
Respecting the audience’s time and making their visit fun, flirty & girly is the goal.
What are some of the biggest challenges and rewards you’ve faced by displaying your life online?
It’s difficult to know when to shut it off. Anyone who works for themselves can tell you that it’s hard to know what to share and what not to share. You gotta know when to put the phone away. I try to do that when I’m at dinner with family and friends. I’m an over-sharer by nature but still, letting people in on your private life feels...bizarre sometimes. I’ve talked about everything from my sister’s heroin addiction to my mom’s suicide and the death of my grandma—which all really affected me. Putting that out there is really scary but I hope it is helpful to the readers.
I’ve rolled out these personal posts over the last 8 years though, over time. I’ve been careful with my content so my audience has gotten to know me gradually and I’ve gotten to know them too. When I decided to share these things, I felt I was in a very comfortable spot. It’s still intimidating though.
The rewards are incredible. When a girl comes up to me on the street, says she was working 9-5 pm and quit her job to start her own business because she was inspired by our podcast, it gets me off. Also, it makes me so happy when I go into TSC secret Facebook group and all these like-minded women are connecting, planning meetups and doing things without me. They’re all hanging out in this non-judgmental space and it’s so fulfilling because that’s why I started The Skinny Confidential in the first place.
How do you decide which brands you do and don’t work with?
Well actually liking the brand is a must. I have to use the product or brand for at least a month and preferably I will have already used it. I think a lot of people don’t talk about the brands they truly use because they don’t want to give out free publicity. What’s worked for me is the opposite. I’m super transparent with what I use, and the best partnerships have come from me finding a product, loving it, talking about it, then being approached by the brand to collaborate. I’ll tag the brand, talk about the product on all my channels first, then some really purposeful, meaningful partnerships come out of it. The best collaboration for me is one that happens very organically.
As far as brands that I haven’t tried that come to me, it really needs to fit with my audience and The Skinny Confidential. Everything I do is for the long-term, not the short-term, so working with a brand I don’t absolutely love, and don’t think my audience will love, isn’t worth it. We all know those brands that can feel “sell out-y.”
What characteristics make you successful as an influencer?
To me, being successful means you’re waking up and creating your own future on your own terms. It’s liberating to wake up feeling like that and know that you’re in charge of your day. You really are the creator of your own future and once that clicked, I realized that’s what success is for me. The Skinny Confidential has been successful so far because what you see is what you get. We talk about every single subject, there’s no judgement, everyone is just doing them, and the reader is so focused on ideas & growth.
Readers come for the taboo subjects, to hear from experts we bring on the podcast, and the valuable & honest takeaways. It’s not about me. The community is key.
What about your job makes you feel the most fulfilled?
That I can design my own future and the sky's the limit. There are so many different angles that The Skinny Confidential can go and the community that’s come together is now doing things with each other all over the world.
What’s the best piece of career advice you’ve ever been given?
Gary Vee told me: “You have one fucking life do something about it.”
What’s been the biggest surprise or highlight of your career to date?
Nothing has really been a surprise. My growth has been slow and strategic and everything that’s happened has happened because I planned it out carefully.
Some cool highlights have been The Skinny Confidential Book launch, the podcast hitting 23 million downloads, the people I’ve had access to & sharing them with the audience, the meetups of 500+ women & meeting the community in person. The Victoria’s Secret fashion shows have been really fun, and the secret Facebook group has been very rewarding as well.
You have a large presence on social media. How has it impacted your career?
Social media has been everything for The Skinny Confidential. It’s given me access to women all over the world from Japan to Australia to Finland. It has and continues to bring so many people together in a way that we’ve never been able to do before. Without social media I wouldn’t have been able to gain access to a lot of the people I’ve had access to. It’s badass.
Where does your passion/drive come from?
It definitely comes from when I was little. I grew up in a very wealthy community where kids were getting Ferraris for their birthday and that’s just not where my family was at. We were regular class and not on the same level as the families around us. If I wanted something my parents would say, “go figure it out.” I had to get creative with bargain shopping and finding ways to make it work—whatever it was. I had to do the work, find tips & tricks and creative angles to get what I wanted.
When a door closes or something doesn’t work out, I find another door to go through. If one way doesn’t work, I find another way. Passion is great but for me it’s always been about strategy and execution. I like to go “do” instead of talk about the things I’m going to do.
What are the common misconceptions you’ve heard about influencers?
There’s so many—I feel like it’s a scroll. A lot of people think bloggers just take a picture, write a little post and that’s it. People think we don’t have to do a lot work but it really is like baking a cake. You have all these different elements that you need to make things happen. There’s photos, writing, editing, distribution, execution, promotion, the emails, the organizing, the meetings—there are so many things that go into it to make right.
When you hit a bump or hurdle in your career, how do you find a new road and switch gears to find success?
I’m OBSESSED with bumps and hurdles. People ask me what my failures are and I really don’t look at it like that. You have to go through hurdles to maintain success in any industry—it’s part of the game, and life. I feel like you have to get uncomfortable to get comfortable. I switch gears by going through a different door. If I can’t get in through the front, back or side door then I’m skydiving in through the ceiling. Finding different ways to make things happen is one of my favorite parts of the job. It’s sort of creative if you think about it.
What’s next for you in 2019? What are you most excited for?
Writing another book that really makes sense for my community—something that’s really useful for my audience and it’s not going to be a replica of the blog. It will provide a ton of value that is also entertaining. We’ve also been working on product for the last 2 years so definitely more on the product side.
Hopefully a lot of in-person meetups, maybe a podcast tour, more interesting podcast guests and continued valuable takeaways on all of The Skinny Confidential platforms is what’s coming up in 2019.
Photography by Annie McElwain Photography
Photoshoot skincare provided by Dermalogica