WHO: Tommy Lei
WHAT: My Belonging
WHERE: Los Angeles
Tommy Lei is the Hong Kong-raised, LA-based creative behind ultra-sleek fashion, travel and hospitality blog My Belonging. Tommy’s unique vibe is evident when you spy his beautiful blog design, and the content behind the aesthetic completely sets him apart from other menswear bloggers. He combines personal narratives with unisex fashion pieces to create a brand of content he calls “styletelling.” As a digital consultant and photographer, he has collaborated with leading brands such as Hugo Boss, Montblanc and Farfetch and is constantly innovating what it means to be a fashion blogger. All of this becomes evident when you he .
1. When and why did you start your blog?
“My Belonging came to fruition as a result of a strong, passionate desire to discover my personal identity amongst my material investments. Initially, I was only documenting and reviewing items I was purchasing with no intent on having it become a fledging business (I worked full-time in corporate PR up until a year and half ago). Gradually, the site evolved into more of a platform with an acute editorial eye and stylish voice for lifestyle stories.”
2. How did you come up with the name? Are you glad you didn’t use your name as your blog address?
“The name My Belonging really came about as a hybrid between finding meaning in relation to personal style. I believe everyone has a way of communicating their story, their background—without even speaking a single word—to the people and environment around them. This visual language is what bonds us all, hence forming a sense of My Belonging.
And yes, I am happy I made that choice since Tommy Lei is now my portfolio page (www.tommylei.com)!”
3. How do you divide your time between your blogging and other projects?
“To be completely upfront, there is no such thing as work-life balance (for my fellow American Millennials, this is sadly an everyday reality). I try to prioritize and focus on one thing at a time, whenever possible. In the ideal world, I’d be multi-tasking and bouncing from one project to another with ease. Multi-tasking, as I’ve personally learned and experienced over the years, is the ultimate myth.”
4. What was the biggest mistake you made in your early days of blogging?
“First of all—there is no such thing as a mistake, as Oprah once said. Those words of wisdom had stuck with me ever since.
Although I will openly admit: Working with every brand, every person that came along the way muddled my aesthetic and message became increasingly muddled. This was during the time when I started garnering some major press from prominent media outlets globally. It set me back quite a bit. You live and you learn.”
5. What keeps you motivated when you feel burnt out?
“Whenever I start feeling unmotivated or burnt out, I stop and step back immediately. Uninspiring and sloppy work is the worst kind of work you can deliver (for yourself and your clients). I take my personal wellbeing very seriously, so I try to meditate either at the beginning of the day or when the rare opportunity comes up between consecutive meetings. I’ve been seen meditating even in the car, when parked safely of course. Meditating has helped me re-calibrate myself mentally and creatively.
For those of you who are interested, I highly recommend using the Meditation Studio by Gaiam app!”
6. Which social media platform drives the most traffic back to your blog?
“This may surprise some of you, but Facebook, Twitter and Bloglovin are heavy drivers of traffic back to my site —same goes for search engine inquiries through Google and other major press outlets (WhoWhatWear, The Fashion Spot, Refinery29 and Buzzfeed, to name a few)!”
7. Is your blog still your #1 effort, or is a social media channel becoming more important nowadays?
“The site represents my body of work, so yes, it is still my number one priority. I pour my heart and soul into my writing and the visual content I produce with my collaborators; whereas, social media can be rather ephemeral and engaging only in short spurt of time.”
8. Where do you find most of your revenue is coming from? Sponsored posts, advertising, or something else?
“My sources of income are generated through multiple streams: Creative content produced in partnership with brands, in the form of photography, video and ethical writing as well as digital brand consultancy for a host of both established and start-up clients.”
9. How much do you think the design of your blog influences reader engagement? How did you come up with your aesthetic?
“During the course of redesigning my site, I worked from the bottom up. I asked myself and others how they typically browse their favorite sites—the prevailing factor is scrolling modularly. We live in a digital world of top down feeds. I wanted to create buckets of content that’ll catch your eyes aesthetically and emotionally.”
10. If you could describe the look and feel of your blog in one word, what would it be?
11. What unique challenges do you face as a male blogger?
“Being a triple minority (Petite, Chinese and gay), I don't act or look like the mainstream male you see in Westernized media. This is a challenge I face everyday.”
12. How did you develop your blogging niche? Did it happen organically or did you have to actively set topics and themes?
“I never had the intention of being part of a niche—I had every intention of being myself, however. Your personal identity is the important niche. There’s an audience for anybody (for the better and the worse).”
13. What male and female bloggers inspire you? Who would you like to have a drink with?
“Margaret Zhang for a pressed juice cocktail to talk shop and pick her brain on pushing the envelope of new media content.
Nick Wooster for an old-fashioned for romantic and flirty purposes.”
[Photos via My Belonging]