Food For Thought: Don't Call Me Lucky
I've talked myself out of starting this segment on my blog where I talk about things that don't necessarily garner tons likes and positive comments for fear that people (you) would think I'm a dick. Well the truth is, I speak my mind in my regular life and for some reason being so public has caused me to shy away from that.
I'm starting Food For Thought where I dish on feeding the mind, and not the belly.
Don't call me lucky. Luck is hitting 21 at the blackjack table or finding a $20 bill on the floor. That's luck. I will say that in many aspects of my life, I have been lucky. Lucky to have been born to a family of hard working immigrants who've supported me my entire life. Lucky to have been born in the United States where I have opportunities to go to school and not have to carry sacks of rice for pennies like my dad did in Vietnam.
When I say, "don't call me lucky" - I'm referring specifically to my achievements in life that I have worked very hard for. Namely, Instagram and food blogging. I've been at it for about 5 years now and more seriously the last 2 years. On multiple occasions, people in my daily life have said that I'm lucky, identifying some of the perks of being an Instagram influencer/blogger. I didn't say anything at the time because I was taken aback. Not sure if I should be offended or just say thank you. I've given it a LOT of thought. Vented to Willy and best friends about it. And now I'm ready to address it.
"You're so lucky you get to eat at all these restaurants."
Do you remember the last time you ate a meal? Did you have to rearrange all the table settings and rearrange the plates a dozen times before it all fit into a the perfect 1x1 or 4x5 frame? Do you have to awkwardly smile at the waiter as they watch you deliberately not eat your food so you can get the perfect flatlay? Did you wait until the food was room temperature before digging in? Did you take 10 interruptions to Instagram story each and every plate, geotagging the location, adding a time stamp, meticulously placing each caption and racking your brain to think of something witty only to come up with - DINNER TONIGHT because your mind isn't working because you haven't eaten yet and you're starving and all your food somehow ended up on the floor because the lighting was better than on the table so now you have to get on your hands and knees while other patrons stare at you like you're literally Tarzan incarnate? Yeah that was last night for me.
I love my restaurant visits and I am so grateful that restaurants and PR teams invite me to try out new eateries and revisit some old time faves. It probably is the best perk of all of this. That being said, there is an expectation that as a food blogger, I will blog about it. I will share my favorite dishes with my followers and hopefully help bring more awareness to the restaurant. So yes the meal is comped (the tip is not; FYI fellow food bloggers), but it's not so that I can just relish in the abundance of food. It's so I have something to review and the restaurant has someone to review it. It's a win win.
"You're so lucky you don't have to pay for any food."
This isn't even true. I do pay for food and voluntarily as a matter of fact. For one, I don't want to be jungle dining every meal so sometimes it's nice to just order your food, have it arrive, and eat it while it's still hot. Ya know, that old school vintage experience. Also, not all the restaurants I like work with food influencers. I'm talking to you Sugarfish. I didn't start food blogging because I wanted free food. I did it because I love food and love sharing what I'm eating and enjoying. So if I limited myself only to media meals, I would never get to eat at some of my favorite restaurants again. Plus, I really don't think Alberto from the taco cart is on Instagram.
Also, if I did a media visit at a restaurant and loved it, I have no problem going back and paying to dine there. For instance, I love The Village in Studio City and had my rehearsal dinner there because I wanted all my friends and family to enjoy one of my favorites too.
"LUCKY! Brands just send you stuff?"
Stuff isn't just sent to me for kicks. Brands reach out to influencers with product in hopes that they will review the items, love it, and share it with their followers. When you buy a pair of jeans or get a manicure, there is an exchange of goods/services for your currency, in this case money. The concept of a brand sending product is exactly the same. They are exchanging their goods for our currency which in this case is review, photography, sharing, and/or our time.
It's great to have a different currency to play with but again, it's not "free" because let's face it, nothing in life really is.
"They just pay you to take photos? Lucky!"
Yes they do. Just as you would pay a professional photographer to take your wedding photos. Or take family photos at JC Penny. It's not a new concept for people to be paid for their photography. In the age where everyone's phones are armed with state of the art dual lens, depth effect cameras, I think we forget that photography is still an art. A career. Perfecting angles and studying lighting and editing. Everyone has a unique style.
Instagrammers and bloggers have been able to turn it into a lucrative business and that should be applauded. Also, cameras are expensive AF. All the lighting and additions are expensive. I just shelled out over $200 for a textured surface. A surface! Not to mention how many plates and utensils I hoard in my poor kitchen cabinets. So yes, they do pay us to take photos. Because we are professionals and that's what you do when you hire someone for their services. You pay them.
Calling someone who has worked very hard "lucky" discounts everything they've done to get to where they are. Trust me when I say no matter how well you may think you know someone on the internet, you couldn't possibly know everything. Everything they've struggled through. Their countless rejections or disappointments. Brands refusing to pay you for your work. The amount of time it takes us to edit a photo. The impending struggle of doubting your own work and creativity. Because we don't share these things. At least not all of them. Creative people poor their souls into their creations so when the content is rejected, it literally hurts. So please be mindful of how you choose your words. While the intent isn't to harm, it comes off that way. And listening to my good friend and fellow influencer, Corey Marshall's podcast interview, I know I'm not alone.
So what do I consider myself? Grateful. Grateful that I have a passion for creativity and expressing myself through photo. Grateful that my hard work has manifested opportunities I could have never imagined. I always take a step back, look at Willy and say, "When you met me, I had cataloged all the happy hour menus in the area because we were so broke and it was the only way we could eat out on dates." I really don't know how many more times I can say that I'm grateful - because I am. I'm excited to continue working hard, forging relationships with other creators and exciting brands, traveling the world to share my love of street food and culture, and growing myself personally and professionally.
So thank you for reading this. For following me. For supporting me. For helping make my foodie dreams a reality.