It’s hard to believe that I am already featuring another great fashion-minded lady here on the Renowned Women of Chicago series. I am having so much fun interviewing some of my favorite ladies, who I’m also happy to call as personal friends as well. Thank you so much to everyone who has participated so far – and been subjected to some thought-provoking questions!
Today I am featuring a true gem – the awesome Maya McDonald of Charmingly Styled and co-founder of Midwest Bloggers. Maya and I quickly became friends via social media, and then hit it off immediately once we met in person at an event a few months ago. She is truly genuine, good-hearted, and extremely passionate about her blog and who she is as a person. Enjoy this great interview with Maya!
The Epicurean: Maya! Yay! Thanks for joining me today! Can you tell the readers a little bit about yourself? Who you are, where you are from, and what you do for a living?
Maya: For sure! I blog at Charmingly Styled, a Chicago based life & style blog about the little charms that make life so good. I recently moved to Chicago a little over a year ago from Wisconsin, and I’m loving living in the city! By day I work in social media at an advertising agency, and by night I’m usually found at my computer writing for Charmingly Styled, Midwest Bloggers (which I’m a co-founder of), or Beauty Bets, where I’m a contributing writer on all things beauty related.
The Epicurean: Wow. Plenty of work to keep you busy! So your blog, Charmingly Styled – how did that come about? When did it start?
Maya: I started my blog back in Wisconsin after I started working in social customer care and insights. Before the new job, I had been at a smaller creative agency, and I missed taking photos, styling and writing for other companies. I had a friend who was a fashion blogger, and I thought it would be a great way to find a little creativity outside my cubicle. Needless to say, it’s been quite the journey almost two years later, but it’s been a lot of fun!
The Epicurean: Two years? That’s amazing! Do you remember a time when you got into fashion?
Maya: I’ve always been enthralled by the fashion world, but I think I really started to pay attention in high school. People who know me now wouldn’t believe me when I say that I was pretty shy back in high school, so I used fashion as a way to express myself. Granted, back in the day I was clad in Abercrombie & Hollister, but I thought I was pretty cool
The Epicurean: Pretty shy back in the day? I can’t believe that! Ha ha! How do you think being from Wisconsin, influenced your fashion sense? If at all?
Maya: Haha! I don’t know – that’s a good question! It definitely annoyed me that so many people outside of the Midwest thought that us Midwesterners lacked style. That’s one of the big reasons we started Midwest Style Bloggers. We wanted prove that the Midwest was full of stylish and talented guys & gals!
The Epicurean: Yes! Midwest Bloggers!. Can you tell us more about that? As well as your involvement?
Maya: Yes! It all started with a coffee date with one of my now blogger BFF’s Lauren of La Petite Fashionista. We were both bloggers living in Wisconsin and we thought, “how awesome would it be if there was a group for Midwest bloggers?”
The Epicurean: That’s how it started huh? Awesome. Was there any other inspiration for Midwest Bloggers?
Maya: Well, we knew that there was one for the South and California, but we had no idea how many bloggers were in the Midwest. We assumed if we got 50 bloggers we would be killin’ the game, and now over a year later we have almost 500! Soon after we started getting the blog together Sam and Katelyn joined the party and we’re SO happy they did. Now the 4 of us help run the blog and network and it’s been a great experience. It’s so fun to get emails of people saying, “I had no idea there was another blogger in my town, or even state. And now we’re grabbing coffee or brunch on the regular.” It’s just the beginning and we’re excited to continue to grow and add value to those in the network.
The Epicurean: Congrats on that success Maya! Who would you say are some of your biggest influences when it comes to fashion? Favorite designers?
Maya: Oh man, I love me some Jenna Lyons & J.Crew – I’m always about classic style (especially French fashion) with a twist. I’m also inspired by celebrity style too, Emma Watson, Jessica Alba, Sarah Jessica Parker, and recently Shailene Woodley. On the total opposite side of the spectrum, I also love boho chic looks as well – I’m especially inspired by the styling of photographer Alexandra Valenti.
The Epicurean: And what do you think is the most difficult thing for you when it comes to blogging about fashion?
Maya: Honestly, probably myself. I have a lot of self doubts, which I think most bloggers struggle with at times. Am I good enough? Is the time worth it? It undoubtedly always answer, “yes” but it takes me awhile to get there. Also the technical skills that I’m always working on – HTML, photography and design are hard, but totally worth the time investment in the long haul.
The Epicurean: Yes, absolutely. Every blogger should know how to code for sure. So, you are obviously one of the more well-known bloggers in these parts. Did that kind of sneak up on you? Did you see it coming?
Maya: First off, that’s so nice of you to say – I’m totally blushing! I still think of myself as a newcomer, and I find a lot of inspiration from those bloggers who’ve been around far longer than I have. I think everyone’s looking for the “secret sauce” when it comes to blogging – but there really isn’t anything I’ve found that you can pinpoint as to what will make you successful. I’m a big proponent of working hard and being nice to people, so hopefully that will work out to my advantage in the long run
The Epicurean: Humility definitely goes a long way. That is probably the biggest thing I have learned so far, when it comes to blogging. I’ve met your boyfriend Brian. He is a pretty cool guy! How does he feel about you blogging about fashion? Everything that you do with your blog and attending so many fashion and social-related events?
Maya: Poor Brian, I subject him to my blogging torture on the regular. He’s such a good sport about taking my photos from time to time, letting me Instagram our food even when he’s starving, and being just an overall supportive force in my life. He’s an actor, so while he’s in rehearsal I can be found behind my computer blogging or attending events, so it works out pretty nicely overall. I’m pretty sure he thinks I’m crazy, but he admires my hard work (as I admire his!)
The Epicurean: See, I knew I liked him for a reason. What a swell guy! Finally, since my site focuses on men’s fashion, what kind of advice can you give to men to help them improve their approach to fashion and style?
Maya: Ummm….read The Epicurean in the Windy City, obviously. But in case you decide to retire anytime soon (please don’t!) I’m always finding inspiration from street photographers like The Sartorialist, or even just flipping through magazines of brands I like (J.Crew mens magazine? Hubba hubba!) Also, Chicago is a very chic city when you keep your eye out for fashion – so walk around downtown and be inspired by the fabulous people around you!
Thanks so much for the kind words Maya – and for taking the time to sit down for an interview with me! I hope we can do this again soon, and probe you with even more questions. I do like to ask questions! Make sure you read and follow Maya via Charmingly Styled and Midwest Bloggers. Until next week!