I just love people to feel real. That’s what I love to see and I want people to get that from me when I’m posting my stuff. Meet 25 -year-old Chicago blogger bae with cutest name, Ymijan Baftijari. She currently juggles her own blog, Ymijan.com, while working as the associate editor for the Latina based blog Vivala.com. Despite having graduated with a BS in Advertising from the renown University of Illinois Urbana, she never thought her life would take a turn towards journalism. It’s a good thing it has, because she continues to promote self love and reaches out to those every day Around The Way Girls. I’m not trying to shy away from how my body is or how my face looks…I feel like just being me and accepting this is who I am and what I look like.
Tell us about Ymijan.com.
There’s kind of a lot to it ’cause it’s under mad construction right now.
Really? Cause it looks so damn good. Got us wanting to revamp our page.
[Laughs] Yeah, I’m just getting my content in order right now, but there’s a lot to [Ymijan.com]. I started it because I’m super shy, unless you know me. Like you know me so I can talk comfortably and be fine. But I was like ughh okay I wanna blog and try to get out of my shyness. I started posting outfits and started talking about what I wanted to talk about. Then I got bored of just writing, so I started shooting more photos on there, which people started reacting better towards. Then I took a break from that and started doing YouTube, which really pushed me out of my shell. I started posting my YouTube videos on my blog and cross promoting them. So yeah, my blog really started off because I’m a little shy person, but I was still was interested in the things I wanted to talk about. It just felt too awkward to talk about with people so I was like, I’m gonna put it online! [laughs]
What do you talk about on YouTube?
Ooof, I had stopped that too. [sighs] Oh God, there’s reasoning behind that too. But, on YouTube I actually just talked a lot about products that worked for me and didn’t work for me; because that’s the kind of content I seek out. I did a lot of look book videos just because I felt like I didn’t see a lot of girls who kinda looked like me weight wise. So I was like, look I’m gonna put myself out there and put up how I’m getting dressed and stuff like that. It was a lot of lifestyle fashion more than anything.
So back to your name, it is amazing by the way. Do you always get asked questions about it?
[laughs] Yeah. That’s where the whole revamp for my site came from. So back in high school, that’s when a lot of people were like, oo your name! ‘Cause in grammar school, people couldn’t really say it so I let it roll off, but in high school is when I started getting a lot of questions about it. I was getting, oo what’s your name, where is it from, how do you say it, what are you? That was really cool back then but now I’m like exhausted from having to say the same story over and over. I actually got my name from my dad’s mom, she died two weeks before I was born. So if that didn’t happen my name was gonna be Estefania, which is SO WEIRD! [laughs] Like NOO! Could you imagine? No shade to that but just from who I am I could never relate to that.
Does it have a meaning?
So my dad told me it meant moonshine, but he’s never confirmed if that’s what it really means in Albanian, if that’s a direct translation, if that’s how he interpreted it, whatever. So, yes, technically to me and in my life it means moonshine and I’m gonna keep preaching that till the day I die [laughs].
Currently you work as an associate editor for Vivala.com by day and blogger by night. What does an average day look for you.
I don’t even blog as much anymore because it’s all about work. I work remotely. I have an office downtown but my team is in New York. So my day is literally always on the computer. I have like 20 million different tabs open ’cause we always have to pitch different stories for what’s trending. I’m constantly, constantly, writing which I never thought would happen because I didn’t major in journalism and my grammar is not the best. So I’m just glued to a computer. My day is usually two meetings that I would have throughout the day through Google Hangouts, and me writing stories while monitoring everything that is happening on social media. Then every week I’m filming a video for our multimedia post, editing that then making it go live. So my hours are bananas.
Give us some background on Vivala.com?
It’s a fairly new site, and it’s more with the target of content made from Latinas for Latinas, but it doesn’t try to stray away from anybody else looking for content either. It’s more of a multicultural place for people of color to see content that their not getting, but with a focus more on the Latina community.That was interesting because before I worked for them I was in advertising, and I worked for the company that actually was the umbrella company of this Vivala site. So they were in the beginning stages of starting it up, and one of the sales ladies who knew me was like, Hey I know you have a blog, they’re looking to tap into people to contribute content here and there. So I started doing side videos for them while I was still working in advertisement, and then I asked if there were any full time positions available. I fell in love with the fact that Vivala is an all women team, from the top to bottom it’s all women, and it was just a completely different experience. It tapped me into the part of my culture that I hadn’t really looked at. My mom is Mexican and my dad is Albanian, but I never really fully identified strongly with either until now. So this company is really cool for that. We do a lot of cool content stuff, a lot of social media, dope interviews with people; it’s really really interesting and completely different from what I’ve done before.
Do you ever get overwhelmed with work?
Yeah. It’s definitely a problem I’m trying to fix ’cause I think it does fall on me just as much as the company. I’m not blaming my job or anything, we just pump out so much content because that’s what we do, but I think I need to learn how to do the work life balance. It’s mainly because I’m in love with my job that I’m like, I’ll keep working, I’ll stay up, I’ll crank this out I can do it! But yeah, it can get exhausting.
On your blog you mentioned you had gotten out of a serious eight-year relationship which inspired the revamp to your page. You were very open about your heartbreak and feelings. What made you want to share that personal part of your life?
That was a really hard post to write. It was a really weird time in my life because I had stopped blogging for that reason, and I stopped YouTube-ing for that reason too. The breakup kind of came out of the blue, and so when that happened a lot of stuff in my life was shifting around too, like with work. I was looking for a new job because I wasn’t fully fulfilled with the job I had at the time and it wasn’t in line with what it was I wanted to do. The breakup happened so I had to look for a new apartment and there was a lot of family stuff happening. It just felt like everything was just balling up into one so I just distanced myself from everyone. But what really prompted me to write that post was because after I distanced myself and reconnected back with people, everyone kept asking about my ex. I felt like I had to tell the story over and over and it was like reliving the breakup over again, which was kind of hard. So to help me with closure and to let people know, I just put myself all out there which I never have done on my blog. It was very weird because I didn’t ask my ex if it were okay to do it, which I contemplated, but this was my process of healing and I felt that maybe others could relate. Once I did, the response was not what I expected because people I hadn’t talked to in years and even people I didn’t know were messaging me saying I went through the same thing!
You take some bomb ass pictures on your blog and on Instagram. Can you share your secret for us photographically challenged folks?
[Laughs] Oh I’m so photographically challenged! I’m still trying to figure it out but there are tips and tricks that have always helped me. So my Instagram pictures, the app that has be feeling one hundred is VSCO app. That completely changed my life. I could take the shittiest picture and just edit it on there and it’ll look like I set it up all nice with great lighting and all. Also lighting is my second thing. Other than that, a good camera is necessary. I’m lucky enough that with my last job they helped fund me a camera because I was doing videos for them and they let me keep it. So that’s why I’m trying to revamp my blog to have better things on there. But I don’t think I’m anyone special. I just say, if you have a clean background, good lighting, and a great editing app then you’re fine.
Do you have your own personal photographer?
No, I do try to coerce my friends into helping me out [laughs], ’cause photo outfits are so hard! I have a tripod and I have a camera so I try to take ’em myself but otherwise I’ll get them to do it.
Who are some of your style inspirations?
I don’t even know if I have any style inspirations. I honestly feel like I only wear a lot of neutral tones, a lot of baggy stuff, and hats, and that’s just me. I guess I would say a lot of YouTubers that I watch, you know, more realistic people . I watch Samantha Maria, ItsMyRaeRae, she has a completely dope style. There’s some other bigger bloggers that I also watch sometimes like Fashion Toast, but she wears stuff that is way out of my price range with a tiny little body that’s not like me. But yeah, I just watch a lot of average YouTubers and take bits and pieces from what I like.
You’re not shy about being what you call a triple threat “woman, Latina, and lesbian,” have you ever experienced any challenges or discrimination being this triple threat?
I don’t that I have out-rightly so. Like I was never denied a job or been refused an interview, or snubbed at a restaurant or anything like that. I definitely feel like I’m more in tune though with people and the way that they say certain things around me. I thank my job for that. With my sexuality I don’t think I’ve ever been faced with too much of a challenge, but in high school there were some people and faculty who would make some crude ass comments, especially after the hate crime.
What?! Hate crime?!
In high school my girlfriend and I had a hate crime happen. It was after school and we were getting off the train, on the brown line, and we were cutting through an alley ’cause that’s where she had parked her car. So two random people that went to Lincoln Park [H.S] that I didn’t even know, they were drunk mid-day ’cause you know, that’s what would happen [laughs], but one of the girls started yelling at us saying, This is America, get outta here with that gay shit, and just getting rowdy. So my girlfriend turned around and started yelling back, she was about that life. I was like no lets keep walking so we did. Once we got to the end of the ally and to the sidewalk, the girls approached us. The rowdy one was trying to come at us and her friend was trying to calm her down. So my girlfriend looks at the calm friend and was like, We don’t have any problems right? And she’s like, No we’re good. But then as we walk away the rowdy girl out of nowhere just punched me, so then my girlfriend hit her and it just went back and forth. Girl, these girls lived right on the corner. They left and came back with a damn shovel from their house. So the girl came out swinging neck up. They didn’t want to hit our bodies, they wanted to knock us out. They got me pretty good. She hit me in the back of my head and ran away after they realized what they had just done. I went to the hospital and girl, they said had it had been a centimeter to the left, I could have died.
You wrote a post about some of the dumb shit people have asked you about being a lesbian, can you share?
I think the most stupid one that I always get is, “you don’t look like a lesbian.” I guess people try to play off stereotypes but I follow up with, “what am I supposed to look like?” And then they have nothing to say. I also have people who try to argue with me saying that I’m not really a lesbian. For me, as a human being, knowing who I am, and knowing what I identify with at this age, think that is the dumbest thing EVER. I also love it when guys are like, well you’ve never had a penis, so how do you know? And I’m like, really? This is how you’re trying to approach me? Bye.
How do you deal with this kind of ignorance?
Before it use to get me really upset but now I’m like, you don’t pay my bills, you have no significance in my life. I think it’s also because I’ve come into my own which made me more confident in how I approach situations and experiences. I don’t have to educate everyone on these situations because I do believe that there are people who will forever be idiots. I’m learning how to pick my battles.
How do you feel about Latina women in the media today?
So this is where a lot of my job comes into play. I think there are improvements but I also think there could be more. I think just a lot with people of color, it’s a bigger situation than just Latinas. But for Latinas, I do feel like a lot of people live up to the Sophia Vergara expectations and being the sultry Latina. I think it’s amazing that they are showing girls like Gina Rodriguez but it’s not enough. And I say this for women of color in general. I love this whole #oscarssowhite thing because it sparked a conversation and people need to wake up and realize that not everyone is a white blond with blue eyes that can play every single role in media. That’s not the correct depiction of what this world looks like.
What do you want readers to take away from your brand?
I just want to be more authentic in the way that I present myself. I want people who go on my blog, Instagram, or Vivala to connect with me and know who I am. Like, this isn’t some facade that I’m putting up there for views or likes; that isn’t the goal. I just love people to feel real. That’s what I love to see and I want people to get that from me when I’m posting my stuff.
You said that you don’t see many girls that look like you in the fashion blogs. How are you representing for those girls?
I just feel like I’m not trying to shy away from how my body is or how my face looks. I’m not trying to Photoshop myself, and people can do that, that’s fine, but I’m just tired of hating my body. Before I felt like I had to look a certain way. Now I feel like just being me and accepting this is who I am and what I look like. One time I did this YouTube look book and this one girl comment and said, I’m so happy there’s a shorter curvier girl who looks like me! I just wanna be happy, look as good as however I’m looking that day and hopefully find others who can relate.
What advice do you have for young girls who want to start blogging?
Do it. Just start and do it. Do not be scared. Don’t think you need all the perfect equipment. You can start slow or you can post 50 million posts, as long as you’re doing something that makes you happy, people will gravitate towards that. Don’t let fear stop you because it has stopped me so many times until I let it go.
Is this what you saw yourself doing at this age?
No. Not at all. I think at this age I saw myself at a corporate job but I didn’t know what I’d be doing. I think I saw myself doing a 9-5 in a cubical, doing office work? I don’t know. I do know that wasn’t what I wanted to do but I thought that’s what I was supposed to do. My life has made interesting turns but I’m grateful.
What advice would you give to your 20-year-old self?
Learn how to be confident with everything that you say and everything that you do. Trust your gut 100 percent ’cause it’s always right. Don’t let people think you’re crazy because you’re not [laughs]. And everything is gonna be okay.
What’s your favorite thing(s) about Chicago?
Oh my God what’s not to love about Chicago! Jesus. From the food, to just going into different neighborhoods and feeling all that cultural explosion, to even simply riding the train. You can just hop on [the train] and be like oh my God this is Chicago! You can walk past a high school and hear kids talk about some stupid shit and be like yesss I remember that! It’s the simple, little, gritty, things. Chicago man.
Be sure to check out Ymijan’s blog Ymijan.com as well as Vivala.com! Also stay updated on Ymijan’s moves on her personal Instagram account @ymijanbaftijari.