When a post on your blog clocks about 40,000 views in under 24 hours, I think it’s safe to call you a highly successful blogger. Tabitha Tongoi creator and owner of the Craving Yellow blog, still gets astounded to know that she reaches that many people with her effervescent nature and views on life’s ups and downs.
The 26-year-old Kenyan, natural hair enthusiast and lover of all things yellow has been blogging for over two years now. Tabitha touches on everything hair, beauty, lifestyle and of course, finding yellow i.e. finding joy in life’s simple pleasures. She has lived, worked and studied in four continents, her current home being Melbourne, Australia.
Tabitha is currently on holiday in Nairobi and SLA contributor Diana Odera caught up with her to get to know more about life as an African blogger in the diaspora.
Who is Tabitha outside of the craving yellow moniker?
Personally, I feel like I’m a thinker and I’m a writer. In my free time, I’m always thinking of new ideas, researching on creative projects etc. I love the mind space. I’m always engaging with my mind so I guess I’m a bit of an introvert; I spend a lot of time observing the world and people.
When it comes to my extended life – I’m the last born of 3, I have an older sister and an older brother who just got married last year.
Career wise – I am getting into the blogging space, I studied Political Science, which was never meant to bring me here but here I am.
I’m a bit of a nerd, I love to read and study, I‘ve always loved school. I also love to give and I love to encourage others and see them succeed.
How did the Craving Yellow movement begin?
It started when I was in my last year of uni. I had just come back from England, which was an amazing experience that made me grow into myself, learn how to formulate my own ideas and be confident in myself. Once I was back in the US with that mindset, I took a class on the power of documentary photography in telling new stories that are untold.
I had just finished reading Americanah and I was so inspired so I decided to turn the camera on myself and tell my story because I felt there weren’t enough women in the diaspora who’s stories were being told, if any. So I started off on that premise, I knew I loved hair and people would talk to me about hair so that was a constant conversation starter.
Hair was the hook but I also wanted to talk about other things e.g. who are you? When you go home what type of conversations are you having with yourself as a young African woman living abroad? It gradually took on a life of its own from there on. I saw a lot of my friends get into depression, addiction and just losing themselves so it was also about touching on these types of conversations and experiences that women face.I was so inspired so I decided to turn the camera on myself and tell my story Click To Tweet
Your blog focuses on your natural hair journey as well as beauty and lifestyle topics. How do you go about creating great content that is relatable and consistent?
The premise has always been my hair because that is what I can teach people about as a skill I have. I haven’t been as regimented as I’d like to be because I have a full-time job and run the blog on the side.
On average I make sure to release 2-3 youtube videos, mostly on hair and hair reviews. On the blog, I put out two posts a month on hair and for lifestyle topics. I think that because I write from my own personal experience, the type of content stays consistent. I don’t write what everyone else is writing about so it just comes to me naturally. When I’m not able to write, I don’t force myself at all just to appear like I’m writing.
At any point, have you felt the pressure from trolls online or any negative feedback that you may get on your blog – pressure to make you change from your premise?
In terms of hair care, in Kenya as compared to abroad, I have only felt pressured when I’m compared to fashion bloggers who have a very different production process and different content. Sometimes people blur the two.
By default, because the hair blogging field here is very small, it’s easy to be compared to others. But I think in terms of my own journey, one thing I really appreciate is having lived abroad and having had to be in my own mind space and create this blog with no outside interruptions. I admire what people do but I’m very clear in what my message is and what my premise is, I’ve never been threatened or intimidated.
Having lived in four continents, how have these diverse environments contributed to your personal growth, your professional and academic career?
I’ve really had to learn who I am and to be fine with that. I always stand out everywhere I go, so I’ve been forced to really look into myself and ask myself internally – who am I and what do I stand for, what are my passions, what drives me? etc.
As a whole, it’s allowed me to have a very clear vision of who I am as a young person, more than I would have if I had stayed in Kenya. I’ve learnt to be my own island. Adaptability has been another strength I’ve gained, great work ethic as well.
What keeps you motivated?
I think about young girls out there who are probably struggling with a lot and need just a bit to encourage them to push on and keep at it. A lot of women struggle with issues on love, lifestyle related issues, family, loneliness etc.
Whenever I feel lazy I remember that maybe someone is watching me and this is what’s keeping them motivated. That’s a privilege to be in a position like this. I put myself out there, not afraid of the risks or the negativity, I believe if my mission is true, people will see it.
When did you know it was time to monetize your site?
That actually just happened on its own to tell you the truth. When I set out to blog, I never really had a template, especially blogging internationally. Brands started reaching out to me about eight months after I began blogging and that was brand reviews.
In regards to monetization, that began a year and two months into blogging. It’s just happened gradually and sporadically. I’ve never approached a brand, they usually get in touch with me first because I do have a full-time job so I was never doing this for the money aspect. If it’s something that I know will be interesting content for my followers then I will consider it.
I’ve mostly just been testing the water, it’s not anything that was formalized, in fact, the job I‘m doing now, I got it because of my blog. I’ve never had a steady, livable amount of money come only from blogging. The thing people have to note with blogging is that it’s a journey and a step by step process.
So if you go out looking for money, people smell that on you and turn away and subscribers/followers get bored. You end up losing your personal touch. I’m still learning the ropes with this section but it’s looking more plausible as the blog grows.I’ve never had a livable amount of money come only from blogging, it's a step by step process Click To Tweet
What skills does one need to become a successful global blogger like yourself?
Blogging seems to be the in thing right now. I don’t think I’m as successful as you say but I think it starts with who you are. You have to really know what your purpose is and it has to be unshakeable. If you start blogging for Instagram likes, you’re going to die out real quick.
So for starters – know what story you want to tell and always write from where you want to write from. Don’t do things because it’s popular, don’t imitate other people – just do your own thing. By doing that, you establish your niche and your followers who will be reading other blogs as well will see why they should stick around with you and love you for who you are.
Authenticity matters and confidence in your message is very important. You’ll always find someone who’ll listen to your story.