When I reach LaTonya Yvette, she was listening to her "getting-settled-after-drop-off" music. That morning, it happened to be "Ritual Union" by Little Dragon. Yesterday, the social media influencer was out from morning until night, but today, her plans are cozier: work a bit, clean up the house, stir up a soup in her Brooklyn home.
LaTonya Yvette is a busy lifestyle blogger, stylist, and writer, who started her career as a freelance stylist. She's also an activist, committed to honestly representing women and mothers across social media. Her Instagram is one of the best I've ever seen — nailing the balance between the strikingly inspirational and the decidedly real.
It all began after Yvette's daughter River was born, when she was just 21. Being a young, ambitious, literary mom left her wondering where she fit in. She wasn't feeling the stay-at-home life and bristled when others told her what to do. So she started a blog, documenting her experience of young motherhood, while continuing to help women find their personal style. From closet cleanses to post-pregnancy wardrobe revamps, Yvette "wanted to work with women, no matter where they found themselves."
No, I’m not hopping around taking my kid to music classes. That’s not happening. Because I need to work. I need to take care of myself, to take care of them.
Six years since her blog became a hit, Yvette, one of Romper's 2017 Made It Award honorees, has over 45,000 Instagram followers and is sponsored by Mustela USA. Her style is impeccable, she lives in a gorgeous Brooklyn brownstone, and her two kids — River, 6, and Oak, 3 — are about as charming as kids can be. Nevertheless, she's passionate about authentic representation, and my favorite photo of Yvette doesn't come from her Paris series, or highlight her pitch-perfect interior decorating. Instead, it features Yvette standing next to a yellow school bus, holding up a homemade sign that reads "representation matters." (She still looks awesome.) "Women are so layered," Yvette tells me, and finally that complexity is getting some acknowledgment and appreciation. "I feel like when you looked at media representations of women six or seven years ago, it wasn't like that."
Yvette is also vocal about something all working moms know — that #momlife isn't a sparkly crystal kitchen:
Yvette's work speaks to women who feel the pressure, after having a baby, to follow a prescribed path. For her, images of an idealized motherhood do more harm than good. "No, I’m not hopping around taking my kid to music classes. That’s not happening," she tells me. "Because I need to work. I need to take care of myself, to take care of them."
The lifestyle blogging world is saturated with white women. We're not allowed to branch out, or think outside the box, because we have to keep it all together.
When she first came on the scene, Yvette didn't feel like her experience of work and motherhood was represented. Even today, "the lifestyle blogging world is saturated with white women," she explains. The reason? Women of color often feel immense pressure to play it safe. "We're not allowed to branch out, or think outside the box, because we have to keep it all together," she says. While many of her Instagram followers are white, Yvette finds that women of color are the ones who thank her on the street.
In essence, Latonya Yvette documents her life to show that motherhood isn't monochromatic, but rather, a riotous symphony of color. Her work paints a picture of a self-made woman — an ambitious writer, a loving mother, and a determined advocate in one. She embraces her many sides, and her advice to women who want to start a business or find a new path is to do the same. "Motherhood shouldn't be at the sacrifice of your own self," she explains, and that's a truth she lives, and works to represent, every day.
To get to know Yvette better, check out her Romper Screenshot below:
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