Black Crop Top and White Shorts // Mimi Chenyao // Fake & Basic

There seems to be an unspoken rule in blogging: You can be smart, or you can be pretty, but you can’t be both.

Inevitably, someone’s going to read that statement and be all, “you’re wrong! How dare you insinuate that fashion bloggers are vapid, or that smart people can’t be attractive?”

Relax, Max. I’m not talking about the bloggers themselves — I’m talking about their content. There seems to be a huge discrepancy in it. Blogs seem to either feature beautiful photos with some fluffy words (“Black crop top and white shorts: I did this shoot for a boutique a while back and was sweating like a pig the whole time while old people passing by gave me strange looks, haha!”) or feature minimalist themes with deep, thought-provoking essays and little to no photos at all.

I’m really, really hoping that someone will read this and prove me wrong. Seriously, please bring me counterexamples, because I would very much like to follow a blog with both style and substance. I want more people who take pictures of themselves in pretty dresses and talk about doing things that don’t scale in startups, or how to do research in a strategic and efficient manner, or why our feelings matter less than our reactions to them.

But people don’t, because of that unspoken rule. “Welcome to the Blogosphere! Are you going to be Mx. Innovative Thought Leader Blogger, or Mx. Gorgeous Pictures Worthy of a Magazine Fashion Blogger?” [1]

Black Crop Top and White Shorts // Mimi Chenyao // Fake & Basic

Black Crop Top and White Shorts // Mimi Chenyao // Fake & Basic

“Your Pictures are Distracting”

I started blogging in the summer of 2016, and immediately hit a wall regarding the type of content that I wanted to publish. Shooting the photos was the easy part. Sitting down to write the stuff that went with those photos? Agonizing.

What was I supposed to write about? How cute the outfit was? Wasn’t that already implied, by the virtue of me taking photos in said outfit? How the outfit could be “dressed up or down” depending on certain events? My God, readers aren’t stupid and most of them have a more sophisticated way to choose their daily ensembles anyway. I wanted to say something, but I wasn’t sure what. Every second spent staring at those photo sets on my computer made me feel like I was suffocating.

I eventually realized that I was never, ever going to fit into the peppy OMG-blogger mold and abandoned that style of writing altogether. Now, I had a new problem. If I wasn’t going to write about my outfit or what I did that day, what could I say to go along with those photos? Was it better to say nothing at all?

Eventually, I just started writing about things I’d been thinking about for a while, like the limiting excuses I make and the fact that we’re all running out of time but no one seems to give a damn, and inserting outfit photos in between paragraphs at places that seemed like they needed breaks. This seemed like a win-win solution — both my aesthetic eye and my character were on full display.

I must have stumbled into the Mx. Innovative Thought Leader Blogger category by accident, because suddenly people were treating Fake & Basic (or Asian Barbie, back then) as an insight blog, and insight blogs, even the ones targeted at femmes, only offer style that was “on-topic” with their substance. Suddenly, it was the words, not the photos, that drew people to this blog. And, under that context, it didn’t really make sense for there to be ten random photos of me posing in a crop top and shorts against a yellow wall.

They were “out of place.” They were “distracting.” And it was a “good idea to keep my photos on-topic.”


Black Crop Top and White Shorts // Mimi Chenyao // Fake & Basic

You’re violating the dress code, please go home and change

I am forever grateful to all people who provide me feedback that I can use. If you resonate my content, why? If it offends you, why? I believe in lean production and iterating based on what people who read your shit tell you.

Many people voiced their concerns with the fashion photos in my articles. After a lot of thinking and going back and forth about whether or not to include them, I’ve decided that the photos are here to stay.

See, I could separate the fashion from the thoughts, but then all you’d get is a bunch of posts that are giant blocks of text broken up by generic “on-topic” stock photos (such as this one?) and a bunch of posts that are nothing but fashion photos. I would be swept up the same sea of people writing motivational shit. Meh. That’s not what I want Fake & Basic to be. If that’s what you want Fake & Basic to be, then you’re probably thinking of it in the wrong way.

Black Crop Top and White Shorts // Mimi Chenyao // Fake & Basic

Black Crop Top and White Shorts // Mimi Chenyao // Fake & Basic

Does this mean I’ve finally “niched down”, or …

I invite you to think of this site not as a specific tech blog or productivity blog or lifestyle blog, but rather a style and substance blog. I’ve been hating on niches lately, but if I gun-to-my-head absolutely had to pick one, I’d say “style and substance.” Or maybe “tech and lifestyle”, but that’s boring and predictable. The reason the fashion photos don’t seem to make sense is because not many blogs structure their content this way, and, as humans, we like what we’re used to.

I’m fully aware that my blog is less like Caitlin Covington’s or McKenna Bleu’s and more like Ryan Holiday’s or Mark Manson’s. I love all of those blogs dearly and am a regular visitor to each one. But I am not Caitlin Covington, or McKenna Bleu, or Ryan Holiday, or Mark Manson.

I am Mimi Chenyao, and I’ll put my dress pictures right along with my deep thoughts.

After all, that would be the fake and basic thing to do.

Mimi Chenyao // Asian Barbie

Can You Be Both Pretty and Smart as a Blogger? | Fake & Basic


[1] “Mx.” is a gender-neutral title that can be used in the place of “Ms.”, “Mrs.”, or “Mr.”