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Features Mississippi influencers share their journey

Mississippi influencers share their journey

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Photo by Lauryn Bohn

Upon reaching success, bloggers like Kelsie Bynum, Mary Leslie Pajarillaga and Victoria Strickland reflected on how social media helped shape their brands and create the platforms they use today.

Kelsie Bynum has been a role model for fashion-forward women all throughout the South, but especially in Mississippi. Although she resides in Laurel, Bynum travels throughout the world in order to shape her brand and continue her journey as a blogger. With more than 62,000 followers, she says Instagram is her favorite social media platform.

Since Bynum was a little girl, she has been obsessed with fashion, as well as using it as a way to express herself.

“I always say my favorite childhood memories include tutus, plastic high heels and clip-on earrings,” Bynum said.

Bynum attended Mississippi State University with a major in fashion design and merchandising. She began her blog, Sassy Southern Blonde, in 2016, but during her last semester in 2017, she truly saw a future in it. Bynum said that semester was when she decided to see where her blog could go. She explained that her main sources of income are from brand partnerships and rewardStyle, an affiliate program.

“The best thing about my job is connecting with my amazing followers,” Bynum said. “Everyone is always so kind, and I truly love receiving messages from people telling me that I’ve helped them find something they love—or just inspiring them to step outside their comfort zones.”

Bynum said her main goal is to effectively manage her time throughout her busy schedule.

“In total transparency, time management is something I’m still working on,” Bynum said. “I never understood how people were obsessed with their jobs until I began running my own business.”

Fellow blogger Mary Leslie Pajarillaga began her blog, Mississippi Momma, as a creative outlet and used photography as her main source for reaching followers. After graduating from Belhaven University and Indiana Wesleyan University, Pajarillaga began thinking about her future as a social media influencer. As she was getting back into photography, Pajarillaga began to blog, and it wasn’t long until brands started reaching out to her on a product exchange basis.

“Companies and businesses are turning to platforms such as Instagram to market to millennials,” Pajarillaga said. “If businesses have not utilized this tool, they are really missing out.”

With more than 11,000 followers, Pajarillaga said she gains income through the content she creates. She believes that the best thing she has gained from her blog is her followers. Pajarillaga has connected with many women and mothers, regardless of how far away they live. 

“Social media can be a negative platform that drives disconnection,” Pajarillaga said. “But it can also be a great network of women supporting each other and each other’s businesses.”

After graduating from Jones County Junior College in 2019, Victoria Strickland knew she wanted to begin her journey into blogging immediately. Inspired by famous influencers, Strickland stepped out of her comfort zone and began embracing her style. She started posting her outfits, hosting try-on sessions and interacting with her followers. Strickland hopes to encourage other women to be themselves and to welcome various senses of styles, just as she has.

“Fashion is all about unique styles, so everyone should be proud of who they are, how they look, and how they dress,” Strickland said.

Although she is just starting out as a blogger, Strickland would eventually like to turn her hobby into a source of income. She agreed that social media has a large impact on influencers, as well as their followers. Strickland said that her mom inspires her to continue pursuing a career in blogging and to keep God in the center of her busy schedule. Strickland said she also finds inspiration in Bynum.

“She’s a local, and you don’t see many bloggers from around here,” Strickland said. “But that has not stopped her one bit.”

In regard to time management, Strickland said that with a full-time job, she finds it hard to make time for her blog. Ultimately, she tries to set aside time to read her Bible and focus on getting the more important things done first. She said that this practice allows her to rest as well as lighten her workload. Strickland continues to look to other bloggers for inspiration with the hope that she can be just as successful.

“So many women are thriving based on their platforms,” Strickland said. “I hope to be there someday.”

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