Last week we attended the Vuelio Online Influencer Awards in London – a prestigious event for the blogging and ‘Influencer’ industry; recognising those who are leading by example. This was my second time attending the event, and Sharon’s first, however this year it was a whole new experience as we were nominated for an award.
The Best UK LGBT+ Blog Award.
Being nominated was a shock in itself as there are now dozens of LGBT+ bloggers (in comparison to a few years ago) or ‘Instagrammers’, sharing their experiences and lives on their blog or grid. Plus, looking at the caliber of queer content creators that now exist, there was no way I would ever have imagined being nominated for an award if you were to ask me.
Let alone win.
If you aren’t already aware, Vuelio are sort of like a expert body. Whilst they don’t govern what happens in the industry like the CMA (Competition and Markets Authority) or ASA (Advertising Standards Authority) do, they certainly report on ‘Best Practise’ and what trends are happening within the industry.
Also, because they aren’t an agency as such where their sole role is to connect bloggers with brands, they are seen as pretty impartial. Their voting process isn’t centralised on getting as many votes (aka traffic) as possible, but instead chosen by a large panel of experts; ranging from their internal workforce to independent bodies and event sponsors. They simply recognise those who are making a difference, as opposed to those who are more popular or those with the biggest numbers!
This year, there were almost double the amount of categories as well as a few new ones, including our category; ‘Best UK LGBT+ Blogger’. In addition, the nominees selected were probably one of the most inclusive and diverse I have ever seen in the 5+ years that I have been blogging. For example, Kelly & Zoey from Our Transitional Life were nominated in the ‘Best Newcomer‘ category – which is an absolute first for the industry.
Which pretty much leads on to the subject I wanted to discuss…
The Importance of DiversITY in Blogging
When we were first nominated for an award I was somewhat miffed that we had been segregated into our own category as opposed to being placed alongside the ‘Mum Blog‘ nominees. We are more than just our identity, and whilst being LGBTQ is a huge part of our lives there’s more to me than being lesbian. I have difficulties with my Mental Health, I like to play board games, I’m bit of a nerd, I like to travel, and I’m a parent. Plus, the last time an LGBT+ person was nominated, let alone awarded, was a few years ago, when My Two Mums won an award for their vlogging. Since then, there’s been very little – or certainly not equal – recognition.
However, the more I thought about it, the more I realised that, actually, what we write about is solely unique to us – the same way only dad bloggers can only talk about being a dad. Even allies can’t speak for us. Therefore, it’s actually vital that communities like mine are given a platform and an opportunity to speak from our perspective, because it’s certainly not happening elsewhere. In a world saturated by straight, cis-gendered, able-bodied, white, middle class people, there is very little room offered to communities like mine or other marginalised groups. We’re too divisive or not as popular. This is reflected in the events I see on Instagram and the campaigns I see being pushed on blogs. As well as not being an accurate snapshot of society, it’s just wrong.
So to be nominated in the ‘Best UK LGBT+ Blog’ category actually made sense, because although I do speak about travel, parenting, and games, I speak about it from an LGBT+ perspective, and only I – as a member of that community – can speak from that viewpoint. Not only that, being recognised for that perspective and being allowed the room to say it is a wonderful message to receive.
Alongside us were also some amazing writers and content creators; The Guy Liner, Daddy and Dad, and Queer Little Family, which pretty much confirmed that we would not be going home with an award. They all have such unique voices, and at least two of them have almost triple my numbers!
Nevertheless, it was wonderful to be nominated and spend the evening not only child free and looking relatively swish, but with some amazing writers and creatives. During our night, we met and chatted to several who we now class as friends as opposed to colleagues, this list includes but is not exclusive to; Tim from Slouching Towards Thatcham and John from Dad Blog Uk (both of whom were nominated for ‘Best UK Dad Blog’. What these chaps don’t know isn’t worth knowing), as well as Kelly & Zoey from Our Transitional Life (who we were lucky enough to have sat at our table as well) and Ian from Dad’s Delicious Dinners (who were both nominated in the ‘Best Newcomer Award), and Tom and Jamie from Daddy & Dad. Amongst the other nominees were also a number of other talented writers who I now proudly talk to on and offline.
Sitting at our table, the atmosphere was electric, and not just because there was free alcohol being served and a gorgeous three-course meal. There was an excitement in the air. Everyone was just happy to be there and wanted to have a good time. It’s not often that bloggers and influencers get seen in a positive light – certainly not in recent times – therefore it was exciting to be a part of something so positive. I certainly sat there feeling inspired.
As the categories went by, each winner was awarded and congratulated on their work – with a running commentary (think, This is Your (blogging) Life) as winners took to the stage to receive their award, and then it came to our category. By this time, I was nervous. Although I had told myself that there was no way I was going to win, I was still anxious at people I don’t know seeing my blog up on the four rather large screens that had been showcasing coverage from throughout the evening.
Each nominee had been called, and then it came to announcing the winner:
I was elated and promptly started clapping at the winner, who didn’t appear to be standing up. Hang on, why was Kelly shouting at me? Oh! They’ve just said our name! What? They’ve said our name? I couldn’t believe it. They’ve said our name? Our names? Our blog?
Eventually, I had to stand up and make my way to the stage. I was numb. I had to pass a lot of people and a lot of faces. Everyone was so lovely. Please don’t let me throw up.
After receiving our award from our category sponsor – LGBT Podcast ‘A Gay and a Non Gay‘ – we then made our way to the lobby to give a brief interview as to what the award meant to us. Recalling the memory is now a distant memory, like trying to remember something from a decade a go, but I’m hoping it went a little something like this;
Receiving this award means more to me than anything right now, especially in this current climate. It’s validating what I have to say and it’s accepting me for who I am. As a minority, we are rarely included and we’re certainly not recognised for the work we produce. We’re often silenced, called aggressive or noisy when we challenge injustice, and we’re only welcome when it’s popular or safe to do so. Vuelio have given me the encouragement to keep going and being my true and authentic self and I am in their debt for that. I hope this is something that other bodies within the industry will recognise and use as something positive and a way to move forward.
What it likely sounded like, however, was an hysterical banshee high on drugs brandishing and waving around a piece of plastic heavy enough to concuss Mike Tyson. I was a little excited.
But in all honestly, I was on cloud nine. I couldn’t believe it and I still can’t quite believe it now. Every day I walk past the award and every day I stop and look at it as if the name on it is suddenly going to reveal the true winner. To say I feel like an imposter is an understatement.
What you see is what you get
The thing is with us is that what you see is what you get. There’s no agent, PR, or social media manager. There’s no photographer following us around or even a fancy camera (we take every photo on our phones!). We don’t play games to raise our stats or buy our followers, although I did once join a pod and realised it was too much work for the little return.
We’re just two women, documenting our lives, and giving our two cents worth when we see fit.
When you’re chatting to us online, you’re chatting to us. When we’re engaging and supporting other content creators, that’s us. We choose the brands we want to work with based on whether we like them and we aim to be open and transparent as possible. We may schedule a post or two and use the occasional filter to cover up the eye bags, but that’s as far as our efforts go when it comes to. The rest of it is just us.
Therefore, to think we’ve been awarded for this is absolutely astounding. It’s certainly made the late nights / early mornings worth while!
So, thank you, Vuelio for giving me this award and offering me a platform to continue what I do – it’s certainly given me the encouragement to continue what I’m doing – and congratulations to all the other winners.