If you were to describe what you do for a living to a small child what would you tell him or her?
I am a model, but I also have my own website and business. Whenever people ask what I do I always tell them I work in fashion. First of all, when you say “I’m a model” people get judgmental or they just think of you just differently, I guess. When you say “I’m a blogger” well, people don’t really get it (she laughs really hard). A lot of people do now actually because it has become such a big thing. To a small child I’d say I tell my story through photos and writing, he’d probably get it.
When was the moment you realized that the blog could become a career?
I guess when brands started reaching out to me shoot for them, not just as a model, but as my name. I started styling the shoots and I had more creative direction. I had more say on what job I was gonna do. That was when I realized “Oh, people are actually taking note and reading my website!” That’s when I knew that people in the industry were actually reading my blog, not just fans or young girls. When those opportunities came up I thought “Cool, I am actually doing something right, I guess!” (she laughs).
How did the idea started?
Well, my sister had a blog, one of the first ones. She wanted to shoot me “Oh, you’re the model!”- she wanted to take some photos, style them, post about them and write about them. So that was it, I got really into it. I started reading a lot about blogs that were just coming out in 2009 and I started mine. I was thinking something ‘model off duty’ because modeling was what I was doing full time. So Natalie Off Duty came up! I started my first posts with my outfits, then some travels. Eventually it became more personal.
You are a California Girl and you moved to NYC. Why NYC?
Ever since the first time I went to NYC when I was younger I was obsessed with it. It’s just a dreamy city, very magical. I guess growing up in LA and staying in California doesn’t feel as exciting as living on the East Coast. Especially for work. I already had done a lot of the skate/surf brands, the denim, the California thing, which was cool, but I was ready for a change. So when my agency asked me to go to NYC for the Summer I was “Sure, why not?” I rented a place, tested it out for the Summer and realized “I love it here!”. The whole blog world and social media was kinda exploding too, about five years ago, 2010/2011. Both things kinda went hand in hand. It was the perfect time to move there.
There are so many blogs right now, some are bigger than others. Some bloggers have more followers than others. Do you ever feel some kind of competition? What’s your approach to it?
Yeah. At the beginning, when you are first starting out, you feel “Oh shit, I need to have more followers!”. You know, everyone cares about the numbers, so people are very competitive. I had my blog, but I was very late on Instagram, because I was more focused on my website. When IG exploded “What! Now I have to jump on this other wagon? I have to do what everybody else is doing and catch up!”. At the beginning you feel the stress of numbers, but I feel is changing over the years. Quality over quantity. Brands will use you because of your niche and because of who you are and not because of your numbers exactly. Right now everyone has a lot of Instagram followers and it feels kinda fake. I always just kept it real and true to myself. I never really changed, and I think that is why I have my following crew. But I never try to compare myself or try to be like the other girls because simply there is no point. If everyone is trying to do the same thing it just ruins the industry. When it’s not about being your own person, then it becomes about making your IG or your blog exactly how the most popular one, which is stupid. So I’m always trying to do something different.
What current project are you excited about?
I’m doing a lot of traveling. I’m going to Italy for a few days in January for Firenze Forever. It’s some big gala, something very fancy, which is normally something I never do, it’s new for me, so that will be fun. I am also speaking at this conference called Create and Cultivate in Dallas. I am basically gonna tell my story, from modeling to now, how social media kinda changed the world and all that stuff. And then I’ll probably road trip around there. So it’s that and a bunch of other brand collaborations that I am always doing.
To some degree you work with your sister, what’s that story?
She has her own thing, she’s more a photographer so she does more her own stuff. She has her own blog Dylana Suarez, but we shoot everything together, she shoots me, I shoot her, so we’re just always together, it’s funny.
Do your parents get what you guys are doing?
Yeah they totally get it! They always knew I was into fashion, but I studied business economics in college in LA before transferring to NYC where I was already getting the education I needed for what I wanted to accomplish.
If you were to give a piece of advice to your 15 year old self what would you tell yourself?
Always be yourself and don’t be afraid to voice your opinions. When I started out I was super young and I was very kinda naive. You know, you learn as you go. I’d tell myself to go with the flow, I guess, and make good decisions. Think more, be more thoughtful about everything you do. Now I feel I am a lot more thoughtful. And also be careful to who you put into your life. You meet all these crazy nut cases that want you to do things, so…
How do you see your brand growing? Is Natalie Off Duty what you want to do when you grow up?
I definitely see it growing into something else. I would love to have my clothing line eventually. I’ll always want to have my own business. Having the blog is already so much work because you are always planning, figuring out the content you are gonna create. Brands are coming to you and you have to come with ideas of how you are gonna shoot all the different projects. There are all these different parts to it. Maybe, eventually, I’ll get a bigger team. Maybe I’ll work on fewer special projects, but on a bigger scale.
What’s you favorite Instagram account to follow?
Oh my, I don’t know (she laughs) is that weird? I guess I follow all my friends, you (we both laugh)! And then I guess I like travel and photography accounts, just inspiration.
What’s the quality you like the most in people?
I love when people are genuine. I feel that it’s so hard to find really genuine people. Everybody has a mask and everyone is such a weirdo. Even with dating. Sometimes you just can’t even tell almost who is real and who isn’t right away.
There’s also such a lack of consistency in manners: one day someone is totally nice and the other day they barely say “Hi!”…
Yes! Total fakes. I know. I think now I have better judgement with people, I don’t know, I guess it’s also growing up.
When people are younger sometimes they seem to want to be liked more than when they get older.
Now I am like I don’t even care what anybody thinks (she laughs).
What’s the quality you like the least?
I hate when people are really selfish. And judgmental. That is the worst.
What’s the best quality about you and what is your biggest flaw?
I guess I am really genuine, I’m really kinda me. My flaws? Sometimes I worry way too much. I’ve always taken stuff really seriously, which is good for work too, but growing you realize it’s ok to just kinda go with the flaw. Don’t be so stressed.
What’s the most important moment in your career if there was any?
I guess going to New York when my agency in LA asked me to. I met Fenton in NYC, they are much smaller than usual agencies. I thought “Let’s try it out this boutique agency.” and it was probably the best thing that ever happened. Going to NYC was the best. And also working with Free People back in the day, doing one of their first catalogues where they were featuring real girls doing stuff. That kind of put my career more on the map. People knew who I was and started to follow me. That was the transition.
Most bloggers are not models. They started a blog and sort of become models later.
I know, it’s funny. It’s a totally different lifestyle.
You love garage sales and vintage. What’s you favorite place to shop?
I guess in Brooklyn there’s this place called Stella Dallas. Lately I haven’t had time to vintage shop, which sucks. LA it’s easier to vintage shop. I’d go to Brentwood and Beverly Hills. It’s a lot cheaper than New York, and then you have your car (she laughs). Over there’s only a few select good stores in NYC and of course they are really expansive.
What would you never wear?
I guess I would never wear harem pants. You know those really drop-cropped, they are not even in style (she laughs). I mean I wear a lot of weird shit…
Biggest turn off in a guy?
I love Erin Wasson, I freaking love her. Because she wears weird stuff and she puts it together, but she always looks cool. That inspires me to experiment more, although she would look good in anything. I like Jane Birkin. The whole Franch minimal style too.
How would you describe your style?
So I guess my style is a mix of eclectic and funky stuff mixed with the french minimal. A uniform? High wasted jeans and t-shirts. Simple with California earthy, city meets where I’m from, Cali. Yeah. That would be it.
This interview has been edited and condensed.