Southern Belle in Training

Fashion, Travel & Lifestyle Blog || Est. 2012 || Virginia Beach, VA

March 15, 2021

Inspiring Woman Interview: Meet Jenn of Style Charade

     Welcome back to my Inspiring Woman blog post series. This is something new that I wanted to start on Southern Belle in Training in 2021. There are so many women that I enjoy following and connecting with who inspire me- both those that are killing it in the radio industry (what I do for my day job), and fellow bloggers and content creators. 

     My first Inspiring Woman interview was published in January, featuring a friend of mine in the radio industry. Today I'm honored to share the first blogger interview for this series. I am so honored to share that it's with one of my very favorite bloggers, Jenn Lake of Style Charade! Jenn is a phenomenal content creator- her personal style and photography on her blog is always top-notch. In addition to her success with blogging, she's managed to keep (and succeed at!) her day job in PR in Chicago. I have been so inspired by Jenn for a long time, and was delighted when she said yes to this interview. I'm sure that a lot of you already follow Jenn as well, but if you don't yet- I'm so happy to be the one to introduce you!

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Photo Courtesy of Style Charade

1. Introduce yourself (Who you are, where you live, your day job and blog):
     Hi! My name is Jenn Lake, and I’m a Chicago-based public relations executive and the blogger behind Style Charade (Instagram @JenniferLake). In terms of my full-time job, I’m currently the Senior Vice President of a Chicago-based integrated communications agency that offers PR, influencer marketing, and social media services for a range of consumer, travel, fashion, beauty, retail, real estate and design clients. I’ve lived in the city of Chicago since I graduated college, and I grew up in the North Shore suburbs of the city.

     2. What made you want to pursue a career in PR? What are the most noticeable changes that you've seen in the industry in the years since the creation and rise of influencer marketing? 
     Growing up, my parents really encouraged me to pursue my passions but also to understand what I’m great at. In my humble opinion, part of succeeding in a long-term career rests in balancing the skills you’re born with along with those that you refine over time. Public relations was the perfect fit with my love of writing, working closely with other people, and developing ideas that are both creative and help to solve problems. The public relations and integrated communications industry has seen significant changes just in the past year alone (much less the past 17 I’ve worked in it)! Magazines have shuttered, major media publishers are consolidating, we’re seeing a big shift to online and digital content with traditional editors opting for freelance and content marketing roles. Thankfully, influencer marketing and social media have become invaluable prongs of the communications constellation, and I truly believe they’re only going to get bigger (and hopefully better).

Photo Courtesy of Style Charade

3. What have been a few really memorable or special projects that you've gotten to work on through your day job? 
     Gah! There are too many to count. A few highlights include leading the Getaways (#LTKGetaways) to two of our client’s hotel and resort properties. Another was a 15-person “Blogger Drop” with Visit Finland and Finnair. Our agency has also led a lot of major retail openings, including TOPSHOP on Michigan Avenue in Chicago, Kiehl’s Since 1851, Ted Baker London and LA PERLA to name a few. Overall, I love the ability to work in multiple industries. Plus, no two days are alike. One minute, I’m focused on a global airline strategy and the next, I’m planning an affiliate-focused marketing campaign for a travel client. Later that afternoon, I’m building out a 12-month earned media strategy for a luxury real estate development company followed by analyzing qualitative metrics and ROAS for a home design brand. I never get bored! 😊

4. What tips do you have for college students or women in their 20s who are newer in their careers? 
     Be solutions-oriented. In every career, you’ll come up against roadblocks. I’m a big believer that you must be part of the solution, not the problem. Often, one of the best ways to show value to your job and team is to contribute actionable ideas. I always tell my teams, “Action, not reaction.” Don’t get stuck in the muck. Stay positive. Toxic team members lead to subpar work and even worse results. I’m a big believer that positivity yields productivity. In my experience, staying positive allows teams to thrive and focus on delivering their best work. Choose to remain fiercely positive. 
      At the same time, there’s a difference between being positive and being too nice. When you are fortunate enough to be in a managerial role, there are times you must remain firm and draw lines in the sand with your team. Listen, it’s never fun to be seen as the bad guy or to be the one to deliver constructive criticisms. However, I’ve learned that when you gloss over feedback, tangible takeaways go in one ear and out the other. Be direct, but always remain rooted in being fair. Pick your battles. I’m still working on this one! No matter where you’re at in your career, when conflicts arise, prioritize which challenges are truly worth addressing in the moment. 
     Expect the unexpected. 2020 made this lesson loud and clear for all of us. It’s okay to reinvent yourself and your career path. Be open to change, and don’t be afraid to take calculated and informed risks along the way. In meetings, try to listen more than you speak. Being a sponge is key no matter which stage of your career. Do your best to “read the room” in every room. What is a person's body language in meetings? How is their mood? What’s their tone/inflection and eye contact? Some of the best moments in my career rested in analyzing non-verbals, not verbals. Often, it’s what people aren’t saying that matters. 
     Value collaboration over competition. Sounds like something you’d wear on a t-shirt, right? Haha. However, it’s 100% true. Don’t burn bridges or hold grudges. You (and those around you) are going to make mistakes along the way. Own up to yours, apologize often, forgive quickly and mean it. Expect others to do the same in return. One of the biggest lessons that I’ve learned is that no two careers are alike, but the single most important personal characteristic to help you in your career? Being resilient. Very resilient. Sometimes, your career will feel like you’re taking one step forward and eight steps back. Honing the ability to bounce back when it feels like your back is up against a wall is extremely important. 
     Lastly, I read a phenomenal letter from Redbox founder, Greg Kaplan, to his son. I strongly encourage everyone to read it! The takeaways are amazing, and I found myself nodding along the entire thing. He wrote: “If there is no other lesson I teach you, let this be the most important: you are largely accountable for the decisions and actions that happen in your life from this point forward.” Therefore, I leave you with this - take control of your future, and be ready for a wonderful, challenging and beautiful road ahead.

5. When did you start blogging? Was the plan always to monetize it, or was it just a hobby for you at first?
     My first blog, Third Coast Bride, launched back in 2008. It was a bridal blog focused on my wedding planning process. I ran the blog until 2011, and decided to close it down after getting married (and didn’t have any more planning to do!). To be transparent, back in 2008, brands didn’t really understand blogging, and the influencer marketing space wasn’t even fully formed yet. In 2014, I decided to establish a new site, Style Charade, and spent a year developing the brand and site. During that year, we worked with a designer to build the site, a graphic designer to create the logo and I wrote about dozens of pieces of content to get us started. In March 2015, I launched the blog, and it’s been going ever since! In the case of Style Charade, I knew I wanted to monetize certain aspects of the site. In fact, I ended up launching with rewardStyle already integrated on the blog from day one. To this day, I’m still amazed the team wanted to work with me after only seeing a few photos on Instagram. I’m very thankful they took a chance on me!

Photo Courtesy of Style Charade

6. Do you have any time management tips for balancing your career in PR, your blog Style Charade, and your personal life? 
One of the greatest gifts you can give yourself? Time. In many ways, that starts with a good work/life balance. Striking a solid balance will greatly aid in both your mental and physical health. Therefore, I’ve made it a top priority. If I ever feel overwhelmed at work, I’m proactive and talk with my boss about actionable ways to streamline my efforts or delegate certain tasks. When blogging or developing social media content, if I feel like I’m drowning, I give myself the grace and space to take both short and long breaks. It goes back to my lesson of action, not reaction. If I’m upset about something or feel overwhelmed, I don’t wallow in stress but actually do something about it.
     Furthermore, Amber Venz-Box of rewardStyle taught me the valuable lesson of delegating and outsourcing things. She explains, “if someone can do something 70% as well as you, delegate it.” Therefore, I’ve spent a lot of time over the past few years outsourcing things personally and for the blog itself. I’ve hired managers, an SEO/SEM specialist, a web team, and I’m starting the process of looking for my first assistant for Style Charade. 
     Personally, I hired an interior designer to take care of the decor for our home. It’s been amazing, and it’s saved us so much time! Some additional things (and resources) that have helped with time management:
     ● I use Teux-Deux to organize my weekly to-do lists. The list includes personal andprofessional to-do lists, and it’s even an account shared with my husband so that we can update things accordingly.
     ● Tailwind for Pinterest - super helpful for content creation!
     ● Instacart for groceries - it’s saved me hours of going to the grocery store when I want to focus on other things.
     ● Peloton - the at-home workout has saved me hours of commute time to/from the gym. Time = money, and I easily save six hours of driving per week.
     ● An editorial calendar - I just use Excel to organize my upcoming blog and social media posts.

7. What's been an unexpected life lesson or skill to come out of Style Charade? 
     Oh wow, I’ve learned so many new skills along the way - Lightroom, coding, video editing, affiliate marketing, SEO/SEM and beyond. Blogging truly helps me so much! The life lessons have been endless (many of which I listed above!).

     8. Last year you launched your first clothing collection with Sail to Sable! Congratulations! Tell us more about how that began, and what your plans with it are for 2021 and beyond. 
     Thank you! The Sail to Sable collaboration has been a dream come true. Since our first collection launched back in the Summer 2020, I’ve been honored to work with their team! Over the years, I’ve seen brands trying to become more like influencers and influencers trying to become more like brands. In my hope to become a ‘brand,’ I’ve been extremely careful about the companies that I’m aligning with. Sail to Sable is one of them. For those who may be unfamiliar with the company, Sail to Sable is a small, independent, women’s owned business based in Connecticut. Jen, the owner, and her entire team are extremely talented. I love the fact they pay attention to details from manufacturing and production to fabrics and beyond. We’ve worked extremely hard to curate small, meaningful collections of apparel that women will love having in their closet. Every Sail to Sable x Style Charade capsule collection is available in sizes XXX - 3X, and all styles retail for under $250.You can currently shop our Holiday and Resort 2021 collections, and stay tuned for our next launch later this spring! :)

Photo Courtesy of Style Charade

9. Anyone that follows your blog or Instagram knows that your love and loyalty to United Airlines runs deep! What are some things about United that you think sets them apart as a company? How did your collaboration with them happen?
     Aw yay! Yes, I’m proudly United’s self-proclaimed #1 fan. In fact, one of my all-time favorite photo shoots for the blog was the United 787-10 launch from Los Angeles (LAX)to New York’s Newark (EWR). It was epic! 
     I sincerely adore the airline and their team more than I can put into words. United’s quality and caliber of service is just incredible. Plus, their fleet of aircraft are world-class, and their pilots and crew are the best in the business (which always puts me at ease when flying!).This past year, they announced their environmental commitment unmatched by any other airline to be 100% green by 2050 by reducing their greenhouse gas emissions 100%. SO good! This is just one of a billion reasons why I love United.
     Lastly, I sincerely appreciate the Star Alliance. I’m a big proponent of their MileagePlus program, which is completely free to join and the perks are fantastic from upgrades to free flights. Yes, there are a TON of airline programs, but I’ve found MileagePlus to be the most fruitful. Listen, no company is perfect, and United (like all airlines) have a mountain of challenges to manage on top of mitigating risks for pilots, crew, passengers and beyond. At the same time, their entire team from gate to galley needs to be at the top of their game every day, all day. They are one of the select industries where they can’t afford to make a mistake, which also means they need grace in the process. If a flight is cancelled, I assure you 99% of the time - there are sound reasons for it. Plus, I’d rather be on the ground wishing that I was in the air vs. being in the air wishing I was on the ground. Their main job is to keep us safe! Try to give airline workers grace from tarmac to your tweets.

Photo Courtesy of Aesthetiica

10. Leave your blog URL and social media handles here so people can connect with you! 
     Amazing, I hope to connect with so many of you! Thank you so much for reading.
    Blog: Style Charade
    Instagram: @JenniferLake
    Pinterest: @Jennifer_Lake @JenniferLake

     I hope you enjoyed this conversation with Jenn as much as I did! Her career advice and time management tips I find especially helpful. Such an honor to feature Jenn as my first blogger for this interview series!

     God Bless,

     xoxo Annaliese



  1. This was so fun to read! I have followed Jenn for years and truly love her content. She is one of my absolute favorite bloggers. I also love how she takes the time to respond back to comments.

  2. What a wonderful post! I have looked up to and admired Jenn for years- her content is so creative and she is such a kind person! Im so glad you got an up close conversation with her!


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