If beauty bloggers were movie stars, Karla Sugar would be Leonardo DiCaprio. She's highly respected by her fellow bloggers, is both a seasoned pro and still in her prime, and up until last month when she finally posted a photo of herself on her blog for the first time, she also had an air of celebrity mystique surrounding her. She keeps the details of her outside life private, yet connects with readers as arguably the first blogger to dedicate an entire site to swatching (and if you think swatching isn't that hard, you try making perfectly symmetrical stripes of makeup on one arm, then photographing it so every color is evenly lit). This month, karlasugar.net turns 2-years old—which, in blogging years, is quite the milestone. I spoke with Karla about her rise to online fame.
1. Why start a blog dedicated to swatching? Two years ago, a good friend of mine moved from Dallas, where I still live, to a smaller town in Tennessee. She's a big fan of Giorgio Armani Cosmetics, but there's no Armani makeup counter near where she lives. When she heard that Armani was launching a new lipstick line, she asked me to go to the department store, swatch all the shades on my arm, then send her pictures so she could figure out which colors to order. She loved the photos so much that she asked me to do it again the following weekend for another line. After that, I thought, "I could make this into a blog." I figured my site could serve as a supplement to other beauty blogs—readers could learn about the products on those sites, then come to mine to see the swatches.
2. Your swatches are so well done. How did you perfect the process? With lots of practice! I've been swatching makeup every weekend for the past two years. When I look at photos of my earliest ones, I’m horrified by how amateur they are! The more you do it, the more you learn what works and what doesn't. For example, I started out using cotton swabs to swatch eye shadow, but found that the color goes on more evenly if I apply it with the little sponge brush. And I learned to take photos outside in bright daylight so you could really see how the colors look on skin.
3. What do the salespeople at your local makeup counters think of your blog? When I first started blogging, I didn’t tell them what I was doing. I was afraid maybe it wasn't allowed. I must have appeared so sketchy back then—I mean, who goes to a makeup counter and tries every single color from a lipstick collection on her arm? Eventually I had to come clean because I knew my behavior must have seemed ridiculous to them. Once I did, however, they were all so supportive! Now I have my regular counter girls who always let me know when a new collection comes in.
4. How did you build your audience? I started by reaching out to other beauty bloggers, who in turn linked back to my site and that helped my readership grow. They also taught me to tag the brands in my posts so my site would come up in online searches, and they helped connect me with the makeup companies. When I was a newbie, senior bloggers such as Afro Bella, Roxy at For The Love Of Beauty, Annie at Blogdorf Goodman, Karen at Makeup and Beauty Blog, and Michelle Mismas from All Lacquered Up were all so good to me and really helped guide me.
5. What advice would you give to aspiring beauty bloggers? To me, blogging is the American dream. All you have to do is start producing content and people will find your site. Years ago, I thought no one would want to learn about makeup from me—I'm not the kind of person who does wild, adventurous looks. Then I discovered swatching and realized it was the something different that I could bring to the table. So don’t get discouraged—yes, there are a lot of other beauty blogs out there, but there's space for everyone online. Don't worry if someone else already has a blog similar to yours. Every blogger has something unique to say, so just stand behind what you believe in.
PHOTO FROM KARLA SUGAR