Anthony Bourdain may be considered the punk rock rebel of travel hosting, but he’s certainly not alone, and it’s safe to say he has some stiff competition. Has Bourdain ever encountered aliens at a Tokyo fetish club, posed with Lolitas in Austria, or explored lip sewing body modification in Vancouver? No…not quite, but let me introduce you to someone who has…
Meet La Carmina–a gothic globetrotter with her finger on the pulse of all things dark and alternative. She blogs, hosts travel shows, writes books, and goes on countless underground adventures across the world. And while La devotes herself to a career that is unconventional, and not to mention, often unpredictable, she originally dedicated herself to a far more structured path–attending Yale Law School.
So how exactly does one make the leap from the world of law to a world of fetish bars, exotic restaurants, and international goth clubbing? And what are some of the obstacles to be faced and points to consider when making such an unexpected life transition? Here’s what La had to say about it all.
FV: As your fans see on your website and TV appearances, these days you travel the world–from Tokyo to Budapest–highlighting underground culture and chronicling your unique travel experiences, but ultimately, it all began with your blog. If you were to go back to 2007, when you first started your blog, did you ever imagine that this was the direction your life was heading? What you did envision for your future?
La: Never in a million years. In 2007, very few people had blogs, and the social network landscape was very different (remember Myspace’s dominance?). With a few early exceptions, there was no precedent for blogging being a path to something larger, such as doing books, TV and worldwide travel. Because of this, I had no expectations when I started — but I quickly found that I truly enjoyed blogging. (And not everyone does.) To this day, I get excited to create new posts and share my passion for alt fashion and culture. At the time, I hoped I would eventually find a creative career where I was my own boss, but I didn’t think blogging would be the key to opening so many doors.
FV: As new opportunities developed (i.e. book deals and TV appearances) and you began to build a career, as opposed to simply blogging for fun, how did you process these life changes? Did an unconventional career path always seem exciting to you, or was it daunting or intimidating at first?
La: It was a wild, wild west in 2007. Anything was possible, and bloggers initially struggled to get legitimacy. I remember when style bloggers were a rarity at New York Fashion Week; now, the shows are swarmed with them. Everything built up very gradually for me, one project at a time, so I always had a chance to reflect and figure out what felt right for my next move. Not everyone can live this type of life, where there isn’t a steady paycheque or schedule, but I thrive on it. I might as well go all-out while I can — it’s much harder to travel and take these types of risks when you’re older and settled.
FV: What are some of the most crucial lessons you’ve learned since starting your blog? Do you have any advice for new bloggers?
La: Be patient, publish regular content, and keep striving to be a better blogger in every possible way (photography, site design, writing, responding to readers). I would advise new bloggers not to be disappointed if they encounter critics or “haters” at first. Take note of any constructive criticism but don’t fire back or let it bog you down. As you establish your name and work, such as through press and partnerships, the legitimacy will follow. People will stop questioning your expertise and abilities.
FV: In all the work you do, you always manage to maintain your unique gothic flair. Have you ever felt pressure, either from yourself or people who have requested to work with you, to change or cater to a more mainstream audience? If so, how have you dealt with that?
La: At times, I admit that certain aspects could be easier if I were more mainstream (for example, I would have the type of fashion sponsors that you’d find in Cosmo or Vogue). However, I realize that this isn’t “me” — I wouldn’t feel right on this type of path, just as being a lawyer was not for me. Similarly, in the TV world, a “normal-looking” presenter could host a number of entertainment or style shows. But these girls are a dime a dozen, and I know my strength lies in my underground bent. By being “weird, unique, different”, one may attract a smaller audience, but these followers are extremely passionate and loyal about what you — and you alone — do. I only work with TV shows and companies that want me as I am, and understand there’s no one else who can fill my shoes.
FV: Do you have any advice in regards to staying true to yourself, both personally and professionally?
La: Readers can sense when you’re not staying true to the “DNA” of your site. There’s a balance between pursuing business opportunities — this is your career, after all — and maintaining integrity, a concept that’s highly subjective and personal. For example, I get turned off when fashion bloggers wear anything that brands send them: they become walking billboards, with no point of view. Other bloggers have been criticized for charging their readers for sub-par products. Myself, I’m extremely picky about my partnerships. Recently, I’ve worked more with tourism boards and travel companies because I feel it’s important to encourage people to see the world. Thanks to these partners, I can do the alternative coverage that I feel is most meaningful. For example, Eurail.com sent my filmmakers and me to Eastern Europe, which let me report on Belgrade Goth bars, Budapest music festivals and a Vienna Gothic Lolita community.
FV: When developing new content or making decisions about what projects to pursue next, do you ever face roadblocks such as self-doubt or creative fatigue? How do you battle these issues and stay creatively charged?
La: When it comes to content, I’m always backlogged! My blog is a personal narrative so as long as I keep traveling and having underground “adventures,” I have endless stories to share, and never lack for inspiration. Long flights can be tiring, so I allow myself time to recuperate, and then tackle the work head-on. Writing posts in advance, and not sticking to a strict schedule (I might blog about something that happened months ago) helps keep the stress down. When it comes to TV business decisions, my First Mate Naomi helps me to field calls with producers, write business proposals, negotiate rates and more. (We run a TV production arranging and consulting company, http://www.lacarmina.com/pirates/). Having her trusted opinion on these matters has been invaluable.
FV: On one final note, if you could choose just three destinations from your travels abroad–one restaurant, one nightclub, and one clothing shop–what places would you recommend to the Fashion Vandals readers?
Want to find out more about La Carmina? Her blog is the perfect place to start: http://www.lacarmina.com/blog/
You can also find her on a variety of social networking sites:
And take a look at her travel host reel to check out some of the highlights from her on-camera travel features:
So what did you think about this interview and the info and advice La Carmina had to share? Feel free to share your thoughts below! (^^)