An interview with Audrey Kitching: on the making of a personal branding powerhouse

Audrey Kitching editorial Slasher mag

10 years ago, way before the golden days of fashion blogging and Instagram models, Audrey Kitching was already making a living by sharing her daily life with hundreds of thousands of fans, who logged on daily to see her outfits, comment on her latest photoshoots, and admire her glittery lifestyle. She was Myspace royalty. 

But the rest of the world quickly caught on, and soon she was judging on Germany’s Next Top Model, appearing in magazines such Zink, Vogue Italia and Elle, stealing the show on red carpets, and anchoring her celebrity in the mainstream in ways that her counterparts couldn’t.

Today, after a sting designing celebrated fashion brand Coco de Coeur, and a few months after leaving her duties as Buzznet.com's Style Editor, the pink-haired New Yorker is as relevant as ever: boasting 263K Instagram fans, she stands at the forefront of one of the most exciting upcoming wellness trends with her crystal shop, Crystal Cactus. 
So how does she do it?


We caught up with Audrey Kitching to shoot an exclusive editorial and figure out the secret of her longevity, and came back with her solid advice on how to build a social following, how to develop your brand, and how to make money living life on your own terms. 


 It’s very exciting how you have really switched gears in your career recently.

Audrey Kitching: I did, it’s kind of like a 180. I was very heavily into this celebrity culture.  and now it’s kind of like more spiritual based, which is how I’ve always been, but now it’s something that I’m doing around the clock because it’s authentic and I think people gravitate towards that. And also I’m a model, obviously that’s how I started as well.

I remember you describing yourself as a beauty school dropout, so how did you build such a career for yourself?

Just not giving up. I’ve had so many doors slammed to my face! I never finished high school, I actually got out of high school in 11th grade. When that happens, your family kind of disowns you, and you know, you’re a loser. But I kind of have always been a little bit of an entrepreneur. I’ve always worked really hard and I’ve always liked to create things, and I just didn’t give up.

Audrey Kitching editorial Slasher mag
 
I moved to Hollywood with one suitcase and $500 in my pocket; I had nothing. I was there for five years and by the time I left, I had a beautiful apartment in the Hills, all this really nice furniture and this wardrobe.

I’m not going to lie, Hollywood is a very hard place; to be successful out there, you kind of have to like play the Hollywood game and I didn’t do that. I didn’t social climb, I didn’t pretend to be people’s friend. I did it in a way that I could live with myself. After I lived out there and I actually did work in the industry I realized like, "this just is not for me at all". Sometimes you have to learn the hard way, you know. I don’t regret it, I’ve had to live out there to know who I was and what I did want.

 
You know I think people have it backwards. They do things for money rather than because they love them. And if you’re doing it for the right reasons, the money will come.
— Audrey Kitching
Audrey Kitching editorial Slasher mag

 

Do you feel that technology has helped to grow your popularity?

Definitely. I was a teenager when the whole internet thing started, it was like AOL 1.0 dial-up, you couldn’t even phone call someone. Super old school. I had a blog on a site called Melodrama and it was kind of a public diary. I had a really rough upbringing, and it was an outlet for me. I would go on there and just be able to pour my heart out and write about the things that I was going through that no one can relate to, teenage angst stuff. 

People followed me as I switched to other platforms, and it kind of snowballed. But it all started as a way for me to scream. It was never something that I looked for.


Now is the whole social media aspect of things something that only comes natural to you because you like expressing yourself, do you see it more as you know a business tool or is it like a mixture of the two?

I recently have kind of learned how to integrate them. For a while,  my publicist would call me and would be like "your social media is getting off the rails", it was because it’s my social media, but it’s also my career, so it was this big mix. So recently I’ve been able to pull back and keep my Twitter and my Instagram professional while still showing my personality, so I’m not going to complain about my personal problems on them. But I do have a Tumblr which is kind of private - I have like 30,000 followers on it, which compared to my other social media is, you know, a little more private.

Do you find it hard sometimes to walk that tightrope between showing your personality in doing what you want to do and still keeping it on brand?

Yeah, I mean I’m just planning my career. When I first came to LA, I had to do jobs for the money, and I’m at the point now in my career where if it's not something that resonates with me, I’m not going to do it. I get offers every day from different brands and companies, and I turn 99% of them down because I’m not really standing behind the statement of what I’m selling. When you can get to that point in your career where you can be authentic, I think your following really appreciates that.

Audrey Kitching editorial Slasher mag

Absolutely. What would be your tips to building an audience be?

I think the most important thing is just - I mean it’s so overplayed but it’s so true - that you have to be yourself. I think where people go wrong is they look at what everybody else is doing and what successful people are doing, and then they want to emulate that. But that’s already been done! Being yourself and not trying to do what everybody else is doing is what’s going to make you succeed.

The people, the musicians change their everything every five minutes, and then people think they have to do that and keep up with it and it’s not financially even possible to do and it confuses people and they’re afraid. They don’t know who they are anymore and I just I’d say forget all that just do what you want to do.

It’s striking that if we look at pictures of you from like 10 years ago, you already have the pink hair and a similar kind of carefree attitude. Is this something that you considered a part of your branding from the beginning?

I was with a friend last night, we’ve grown up together. We were looking back at photos of us from 10 years ago, and obviously we were 19 years old being crazy, and experimenting, and doing bad things and, you know, running away and going on tour, but we were still the same people. It’s like what you’re saying, you’re who you are but you grow up and you evolve. When I was 6, I used to tell my mom that when I grow up I’m going to have pink hair, it was just something that I always felt. 

Audrey Kitching editorial Slasher mag
 
I always say most people’s awkward finding-who-they-are years happened in family photo albums, mine happened on Google Images and I can’t get away from it. I’ve had to just accept that they are always going to be there.

Is there a part of this evolution that you wish you could just delete from Google Images, and just keep it in your mind?

Yeah, when I was younger I went through some hard times, and I made some mistakes. Sadly, I was a little crazy and there are photos of me smoking cigarettes and being drunk, just being kind of crazy and that’s obviously not who I am today, but it’s part of growing up and we have to accept it. I mean I could erase it but it’s who I am.

Yeah. And it's probably because you did that when you were younger that you don’t feel the need to do it now.

Exactly! I stopped drinking at the age of 23, because I was so crazy growing up that by the time I was 23, there was no need anymore. Which is good because I could focus on my career as I got all that superficial stuff out of the way.

Audrey Kitching editorial Slasher mag

I can definitely relate to that. Could you describe the evolution of your style in the last couple of years?

When I started, my style was very like "rock and roll punk", because I was heavily into the music industry and touring all the time. But recently it’s kind of more realistic because I’m traveling all the time and I run my company. So I’ve grown out of my angst and harshness and evolved into more of an ethereal-like, pretty, kind of flowing style. Right now fashion is kind of letting women be women and I like that.

In the MySpace years, everyone had a super cool screen name, but early on you decided to ditch yours and use your real name instead. What motivated this choice?

I don’t even know if there was a thought behind that. Because everyone has fake names, people didn’t realize that that actually was my name. It took them a while, which I think is hilarious. People would meet me and ask me what my real name was and I was like “What do you mean?”

You left Buzznet at the end of last year which kind of seemed like you know the end of an era for people who have been following this for so long.

Yeah, I think when you work for a company in any industry where there’s other people involved (like, if you’re a musician, you’re under a label or if you’re an actor, you have agents), you end up kind of forced to do things that you don’t necessarily really want to do, but you don’t have a choice. Because that’s part of the game. I just wanted to be more authentic. It got to a point where my soul was hurting from it. I don’t know how to explain what writing about, like, what celebrities wore last night, and things that I really don’t care about, and trying to tell my readers that this stuff is important… It felt like I was living a lie. I had to do it for me. 

I’m still grateful for the time I’ve spent with that company, it was very good for me for a long time, and I believe it has also been a great opportunity for me so now I really get to focus on my art, my business, and creating products. We just got picked up for Urban Outfitters. They’re going to carry our products which is very exciting. We’ve partnered with the Nylon shop to sell all our products. And I’ve just booked a movie in London. So it’s a new chapter and I get to be myself a little more, and a little more honest, so I’m excited.

 
It’s different to be 100% on your own, it can be scary at times because you know you’re not going to get that check in the mail at the same day every month but it’s part of the adventure and you know, I trust the universe.
Audrey Kitching editorial Slasher mag

 

 

It makes a lot of sense. It is weird looking at it from the outside because most people who maintain blogs on social websites like Buzznet are there on their own terms, whereas for you it was a job, and it wasn’t something readers knew.

Exactly. I never got to write about what I wanted because it’s all based on traffic and SEO, and all these things that are behind the scenes that people don’t know about. So, that’s why the fact that I have a Tumblr is so special, because this is the first time in my entire life (other than when I was 16 and had just found the internet) that I can write whatever I want. For 10 years in my life I was never allowed to write about what I wanted. Now, I have this freedom. Everyone has a blog and had it their whole life, but to me it’s like this new thing and you know, it’s fun.

Photography: Ally Lindsay / Model: Audrey Kitching / Beauty & Styling: Audrey Kitching