On Trend: The Unlikely Road to Becoming a Fashion Influencer
Emmalyn Love is changing what it means to be in fashion
By Elyse Notarianni

When Emmalyn Love scrolls through her Instagram feed, she’s looking at a life that seemed impossible only a few years ago.

The fashion and lifestyle influencer is known for her chic, sophisticated and upscale (but affordable) style. Her 93k+ Instagram followers would never know that there once was a time when she couldn’t have imagined wearing the Nordstrom, Ann Taylor and Abercrombie clothes she now routinely rocks on her feed – and get paid to do it.

“Growing up, my friends always asked me for fashion advice,” says Love, who lives in Burlington with her 5-year-old son, “but I was wearing 50-cent clothes from Salvation Army or Goodwill.”

The reality back then was clear: Her family did not have the money to spend on luxuries.

The Liberian-born influencer came to America at 9 years old as a refugee. In 1999, the nation’s 2nd civil war broke out.

“My dad had brought me on a business trip with him when everything started, and we fled from there,” Love says. “My mom and 5 siblings back home ran another way. We ended up in Ghana. They ended up on the Ivory Coast.”

Love and her father lived as refugees in Ghana for 2 years before they entered a resettlement program in New York.

“They had to drag me on the plane – I already hadn’t seen my mom in 2 years, and I was so scared of never seeing her again,” says Love, who wouldn’t reunite with her mom for another 9 years. “When we landed, it was not the America I saw on TV with big houses and nice cars. They brought us to a big government housing community. My dad made $7.25 an hour to support our lives in America and sent money to the rest of my family.”

But growing up without a female figure was hard for the fashion-loving teen. Her mom eventually moved to the U.S. in 2013, and she worked hard to rebuild a relationship strained by distance and infrequent communication.

“She was raising 5 kids abroad, and she wasn’t my mom the same way she was a mom for them. I blamed her for so long,” says Love. “Why would she let me go? Why didn’t she come looking for me? As an adult now, I understand it was something she had no control over.”

She hyper-fixated on fashion in part because she grew up in a house without any other female figures, she says. She quickly learned she didn’t have to spend a lot of money to look good.

“I used to walk around stores and stare at the billboards and ads,” says Love. “I poured over magazines.”

Love wanted to study fashion in college, but she knew it wasn’t possible. “As an immigrant and a refugee, you feel a lot of pressure to go to school and become a lawyer, a nurse, a doctor – something that makes a lot of money,” she says. “Anything else isn’t an option.”

Love attended business college for one year before dropping out to go to school to become a pediatric nurse.

“I thought, ok, if I’m going to do something that I don’t care for, at least let me work with people I love,” she says.

While in nursing school, Love started posting about fashion, although she never expected anyone to see them.

“I’d buy something from the Salvation Army and show people multiple ways to style it, or I’d write blogs about how to get your back-to-school wardrobe for under $100,” says Love. “This is what I knew.”

Her content resonated with people. It was the early 2010s, when building an organic and engaged following wasn’t plagued by algorithm hacks and SEO. In 2015, she launched her online clothing store, shopemmalynlove.com. Other brands took notice.

“When I got my first major campaign with Target, it was only $700, but I was like, ‘Oh my God, somebody’s giving me money to do this,’” she says.

But she couldn’t see the full potential until she met Louisa Moje, a New Jersey-based and Nigerian-born fashion influencer who started a fashion blog while studying to become a pharmacist.

“When I heard how much money she made from blogging, I was like, wait, are you serious? It was way more than I was making from nursing,” says Love.

So she focused on booking more campaigns. But as she started working with major brands, she faced backlash.

“For some reason, when you dress up and look nice, people think you’re stupid,” says Love. “People used to call my dad and say, ‘Do you see what she’s posting online? You brought her to this country, and this is what she’s doing with her life.’”

As she grew as a fashion influencer, the criticisms died down, and her blog really picked up when Covid hit, she says. When she found herself in the middle of a custody battle with her ex-husband with no one to stay home with her son, she left her nursing job to pursue influencing. So far, she says, it’s paid off.

“I never in my wildest dreams could have imagined this life for myself,” says Love. “I always used to look at ads and admire those girls and wonder how they did it. Now I see myself on the Nordstrom or Ann Taylor website.”

Although, she says, the influencing world is changing.

“In the beginning it was fun. I was providing value to people. I had a smaller following, but I really enjoyed it,” says Love. “Now I can’t connect with my audience like I used to.”

“But that’s part of being a creative entrepreneur – things change, and you have to learn how to adapt.”

 

View this profile on Instagram

 

Emmalyn Love | Fashion Blogger (@emmalynlove_) • Instagram photos and videos

 

You can see Emmalyn at the first panel of our Women’s Empowerment Series, “Algorithms, Haters & You,” on Oct. 11.

October 2022
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