How The Skinny Confidential Conquered Media (and Kept It Real)
Lauryn Evarts Bosstick’s pretty, pink-hued posts and sassy, tell-all approach to topics like kegels and boob jobs have amassed her a cult following as The Skinny Confidential––first a blog, then a book, and now a wildly popular podcast dedicated to “putting it all on the table,” she says. “The juice, the scoop, the answers to taboo questions women have shared in a real way.” For the past ten years, the San Diego native has built a community around her personal, colorful, uncensored content, which ranges from light, trendy stories about fitness and beauty to intimate, revealing moments about family trauma; in February 2018, she shared the story of her mothers’ suicide.
Now based in Los Angeles, Bosstick has three full-time employees and 15 freelancers who help her manage her vast online presence, including her Instagram (982,000 followers); YouTube (63,000 subscribers); blog ("a million-plus views a month"); and podcast, Him and Her, which she hosts with her husband, Michael Bosstick, CEO of its production company, Dear Media (75 million downloads). She’s also got an an array of glossy, six-figure brand partnerships. But the bubbly platinum blonde, who became a mother in January, is loath to get too comfortable. “I’m always thinking about what’s next,” she says. She’s currently gearing up for a pretty dramatic career shift––one that adds some “longevity and purpose” to her brand––and plans to bring her devoted audience along for the ride. “I feel like I’ve been setting myself up for this next chapter for a decade,” she says. “I’m ready.” Read on as one of the original influencers reflects on a decade at the forefront of social media and shares a glimpse of what’s to come.
Getting the Scoop
I was going to San Diego State University and pledging a sorority, and when I got in, they asked me to pay an exorbitant amount of money. I just felt like it was silly to pay for a community, you know? There had to be a way to do that online for free with women everywhere instead of being so exclusive and expensive. I knew that in order to build a brand, I had to have a strong foundation, and I saw an opening in blogging. There were all these women posting pictures of their outfits on style blogs, but there was no takeaway for the reader. It was such a missed opportunity. I wanted to make it more conversational and bring in more perspectives––from the New York supermodel to the midwestern college girl to the famous actress––so that the site felt inclusive and 360. The concept around “The Skinny” was always about valuable takeaways. The juice. The scoop. The answers to taboo questions, shared in a real way. It was never about being skinny, it was about getting the skinny.
I wasn't nervous because I had nothing to lose. I was bartending and going to school and teaching pilates, and had realized that I wanted to be an entrepreneur. The only thing I felt was drive. On my podcast, we always say, “Launch fast and adjust to consumer feedback.” Because when you feel that momentum, you have to ride it. Back then, most people didn't get what I was doing, and when people don't get what you're doing, that usually means you’re onto something. I would tell my customers at the bar that I was starting a blog, and they’d look at me like, “What? How are you going to make money?” Sometimes, that’s a good sign. It can mean that you’re a few steps ahead, that you’ve found an area with opportunity. That urge has stayed with me as I’ve evolved. One of the reasons I have a 21-year-old working for me now is because I want to make sure that we're constantly ahead of the curve.
Ration the Goods
I am a huge believer in not giving it up too quickly––this applies to every area of life. Whether you’re dating someone or charming an audience, don’t give it all up at once. When I started my blog, I introduced the characters in my life gradually, one at a time. My husband didn’t make a cameo for more than a year. My grandma wasn't introduced for a year and a half. I started by simply talking about fitness and slowly expanded outward. And because I didn’t give it up all at once, my audience got to be along for the ride.
I’m making it sound like the build-out was so smooth and effortless––believe me it wasn’t. There were hurdles every day, the biggest being that I was a solopreneur. I did it by myself. That had its benefits in the beginning, because I was on my own terms, but it made expanding difficult. I suddenly had to answer to more people and I had people on my team who needed things. I had to learn how to be a leader, a boss, a delegator... and I had to learn how to work with my husband [the two co-founded the female-focused podcasting network Dear Media]. That has been interesting. I could write a book on that. For now, I’ll put it like this: As gnarly as it's been, there's been so much good because we’re both committed to the same vision. We’re pushing the same boulder up the same hill.
Beware Easy Money
A lot of people in this space expect to make money too quickly. I didn’t think about money for the first three years and I was blogging seven days a week. If you're going to try to make a career out of your craft, you have to be patient. It takes a lot of discipline and intense routine. I made a schedule for every single day, and did the same thing every single day, and finally, after three years, deals started to come in.
The deals themselves can pose their own challenges, because it’s as much about knowing when to say no as it is finding people who will say yes. You need to turn down jobs that aren’t right for you––whether they aren’t a brand fit or they aren’t enough money––and that’s hard. It’s its own kind of work. I probably turn down 95% of the people that reach out because I want to make sure I’m not saturating my brand. You have to be your own soldier.
"I’m not going to sell a Flat Tummy Tea because everyone else in the world is selling it."
I follow a multi-tiered approach. First I ask, "Would I use this [product]?” Then, “Why would I recommend this?” And then, instead of “How can I sell this?" I think, “Will my followers actually use this, or is is this product going to sit in the back of their drawers and collect dust?” The last question is key. Only when I find those gems that I know my followers will constantly go back to do I say yes.
Recently, for example, I said yes to Daily Harvest and it was a no-brainer. We're all in quarantine, we need a quick meal, you get one delivered to your door. I’m obsessed with selling time––it’s why I love podcasts, because my audience can get their nails done or feed the baby while they listen––so healthy products that buy you time, I'm all for. On the other side of things, a large protein powder brand approached me recently with a six-figure deal. As enticing as the opportunity was, the powder had soy and other weird ingredients that I frankly wouldn’t eat, and that I wouldn’t want my daughter or husband eating. So I had to say no. I felt like my audience would take one look at the label and go, "What the fuck? Why is she selling this to me?" So usually, it's pretty black and white. I’m also not going to sell a Flat Tummy Tea because everyone else in the world is selling it. Yes, they come to you with a huge figure, but it doesn’t feel like a strategic long-term decision for me.
There are disruptors out there that know the market and can help you get what you deserve. Digital Brand Architects, who manage me, changed the space for influencers by taking us and our businesses seriously. And my husband's podcast network, Dear Media, went from selling one-off ads to huge, 360 partnerships that include multiple ads, social integration, swipe-up content, and so on. Companies like that can be important allies. They understand that when it comes to actual influence––in getting people to buy or consume something––influencers are now more powerful than celebrities. Because you don't believe Jennifer Aniston is actually drinking that Smart Water. But influencers are closer to reality. The whole point is to put yourself in their shoes. It’s believable.
Give 'Em What They Want (Time and Taboo Topics)
Sometime in late 2015, we were drunk in Cabo off ginger margaritas and Michael said, "Let's launch a podcast. We need to evolve the brand. How can we give our audience some of their time back?" The thinking was, every single medium on the planet besides podcasting takes your time. Instagram, YouTube, Facebook, Snapchat require you to scroll and watch. Podcasting is the only one that allows you to feel productive because you’re learning or entertained while also getting something done. To us, that was very empowering. We put together a plan that put the audience first––not the guests, not ourselves––and was built with the same intention as The Skinny Confidential. Providing value. It helped that we were early; we explored podcasting before it became mainstream, and I talked about taboo subjects before that became mainstream. When I got into this no one was talking about Botox, boob jobs, kegels, shaving your face, and coconut oil lube. Now, everyone is talking about those things, which is great. But back then, people really weren’t going there. We filled a void.
Occasionally, I feel pressure to evolve my content now that the space has become more crowded, but generally I try to not to look at what everyone else is doing. I’m really careful about over-consumption because I need to have clarity about where I’m going. I only watch three people's Instagram stories every day. It’s only when I consume too much content that I start to feel pressure.
The Mommy Quandry
I decided, out of respect for my husband and daughter, that I’m not going to share every single aspect of motherhood with my followers. Sharing here and there feels fine, and I’ll show enough to tell a story. Also, I have to keep in mind that a lot of my readership aren’t mothers, so I don’t want to inundate them with baby content. I try to read the room. I check my comments and DMs daily, and I always try to respond since I'm pretty hands-on with my community. I ask them questions, I do surveys, I want to hear what they want from me.
Funny enough, it turns out they love the motherhood content! That shocked me, because I wasn't consuming any baby content before I became a mother. I didn't Google one thing when I was pregnant. I just listened to my intuition and I didn't want a thousand other opinions. The Skinny Confidential’s audience is different; many of them want to see everything, from the exact brand of diapers to her sleep schedule. But I know that there are also readers who want to be moms in their own ways. My brand is about doing you on your own terms. I always say, “Take what you like, leave what you don't.” So with motherhood, I never want to be preachy or to act like there’s only one way to do it. I just share what's working for me.
One of the most common misconceptions about influencers today comes from influencers themselves, which is this idea that the market is too saturated. That’s just not true. This isn’t a gas station across from another gas station on the other side of the street situation––this is the [whole] world. There is room for everyone. There’s room for the girl who wants to talk about her rabbits, to the guy who wants to blog about sea monkeys, to the person who wants to do a whole site dedicated to pickles.
That being said, the game has changed a lot since I started playing 10 years ago, and it changes as you get older. People aren’t going to want to see a mirror selfie of me when I'm 50 years old, so I’ve been trying to figure out how to transition what I've built into something with longevity and purpose. For me, the answer is in products, philanthropy, and live podcast events––formats that allow me to get out and connect with my community in person rather than just online. It’s going to be a huge shift, I can feel it. I can’t share many details on the product, but it’s coming out later this year, and it just feels right. I've been doing this for 10 years. I’ve talked about so many different people's products. Soon, it’ll finally be time to talk about the product I've created––the one I’ve built with my community, from their input. I feel like I've been setting myself up for this for a decade. I'm ready to do something that's just The Skinny Confidential.
Lauryn's brand breakdown
- Blog: The Skinny Confidential [“We don’t sell ads on the site.”]
- Book & E-Book: The Skinny Confidential: A Babe's Sexy, Sassy Fitness and Lifestyle Guide
- Podcast: TSC Him & Her
- Side-hustle: Blog-Doo [“My consulting company with Erica Stolman, where people can get their website built out like mine.”]
- Partnerships: Brand deals, partnerships, and collaborations
- Product line: To be announced