04 Jul My #realfreelancelife True Story: Kaitlin Lott
I love to experiment and make things pretty. It’s just innately in me, whether it’s food, art, a house.
The first thing you notice when you meet Kaitlin Lott, a Cincinnati food blogger and artist, is her huge smile and bubbly personality. Her energy and positivity is infectious to be around! I first met her at a Mock Party event last year and liked her immediately. So when Black Lives Matter (BLM) took the world by storm recently, she was the first person I thought of that I wanted to hear her thoughts and support her business. And what I found out…is she’s a very objective person and extremely talented in way more ways than I ever knew!
Mandy: Hi, Kait! So glad we could meet and catch up. I know you’ve been staying busy during this time. What is a typical day like for you?
Kait: Normally, I would wake up at 7:45/8:00 and work with high-school juniors and seniors on their post-secondary plans, which could be college, trade school, employment, tattoo apprenticeships, all that good fun stuff. That’s what I do for my typical 9-5.
Now that Covid has come along, and we’re living in this different world, I usually sleep until about 9 or 10 and then I hit the ground running, working with students virtually. If you’ve never been on a Zoom call with a student arguing with their parents, I’m doing that for you. It’s a very weird adjustment and redirection.
Working with students, I am literally on the clock full-time. I get messages at 6am, at 12pm, at 7pm, sometimes even midnight. But also in the later hours of the day, I start getting messages from food companies, which is always fun. I’m finally in a place with my food blogging where people are reaching out to me. That’s really exciting.
M: Ooh, that is exciting!
K: Yeah, it’s a little bit of a weird environment right now because with the Black Lives Matter movement, I feel like there’s a microscope on me to make sure that I’m living up to other people’s standards. People are reaching out to me a lot more, which is great, but when companies haven’t made a statement or haven’t posted on social media and then they message me like, “When are you going to advertise for us?”, I literally can’t. I feel like, I’m Black, you’ve said nothing. So I’ve had a lot of weird discussions.
M: It’s so hard to stand your ground and hold to your principles, especially when it means turning people away for this business that you’re trying to grow!
K: 100%. I should say that I realize I’ve lived a very privileged life in a lot of ways. I have faced racism, but I have never financially struggled, I went to college, I had a job before I left college, I’ve traveled, and I’ve had a lot of opportunities. So I know that parts of my perspective are very shifted.
But I still face racism, it’s just in different ways. It’s more about how good you are in the workplace. I have to perform at the highest level possible to even keep up with other people. For example, in my full-time job now, there are only two Black people that are not janitorial staff, and I’m one of them. No one else realizes it, but I do. I think about it every day. I constantly think, Don’t say the wrong thing. Don’t do the wrong thing.
M: Do you feel the same thing with your food blogging and creative pursuits?
K: I recently realized that I don’t feel Black when I’m in a space with creatives. When I’m in an academic or STEM setting, I think about it because I feel like I have to perform at a certain level. However, in creative environments, people are just looking for me to be me. It tends to be a little bit more diverse, at least the environments that I’m in, so I’m processing a lot right now. I haven’t thought about that in years.
M: I love that you feel comfortable around creatives, but it sucks you ever have to feel otherwise too. ? I’m glad that you have some creative outlets in your life, like your food blogging. Btw, how did you get your start with that?
K: I’ve always had a really interesting relationship with food. Even when I was younger, I went to culinary camps. Soon my dad ended up getting a job in Florida, and I became the person cooking food for the family every night. I was a sophomore in high school, and I loved to experiment and make things pretty. It’s just innately in me, whether it’s food, art, a house. I just like to add little touches here and there.
I went to college for journalism and public relations, then worked in finance and fundraising, so the love for cooking kind of faded out for a while. Although almost a year ago, I had just ended a relationship and I wanted to create something that was my own thing. When I had first started losing weight, Saturdays were my cheat days and we’d go to 5 or 6 different places. I had all these snaps and I thought, These should live somewhere. So I looked up the food blogging community in Cincinnati and realized, Oh, this is a thing! There are tons. I can do this. And I started Kait’s Kravings.
And I just loved food again. I loved it from a new perspective. I could eat healthy and have these cheat days and see food in this extravagant and colorful way. And it helped me to learn more about Cincinnati and the culture and the places.
M: Being a food blogger is a world I know nothing about. What’s it like?
K: There have been a few times where it’s a real food blogger moment, where they say, “Order whatever you want, it’s all on the house” and you try lots of samples and take pictures of everything. The first one I did was at Parlor on Seventh, and I was there with a bunch of other food bloggers. It was so delicious and fun!
I get paid in free food and perks. It’s not really that lucrative as far as making money. Sometimes you might get $50 or $100 here or there, but I’m more in it for the free food and because I enjoy it. Usually you have to pay for your own alcohol, but the swag bags can be really cool. You’ll get stuff like gift cards, a cute tumbler, coffee mug, sweatshirt, etc. Nowadays they include things like hand sanitizer and masks!
I only like to advertise things that I’ve actually tried, so I’m only going to post what I’ve put in my mouth. Because one, I know that taste is subjective, and two, I don’t want to be like, “Ale-8 is so delicious!” and I never even took the cap off.
Also you don’t have to eat every bite of everything you try. If you just glance at my Instagram (@kaitskravings), you would think that I just eat anything. I’ll usually try almost anything, but I know my limits. I’ll space it out. If I have a dessert on Tuesday, I won’t have another one until like Saturday.
I struggled with my weight for a long time, and I had to reprogram myself to think, You’re eating so your body can function so that you can fulfill your purpose. It’s about taking care of myself so I can live a long life, do the things I enjoy and honor God with my gifts. It took me SO LONG to realize that eating can be fun, drinking can be fun, but that’s not the purpose of food.
However, I do love my cheat days!
M: Where do you want to see Kait’s Kravings go?
K: When I first started, there was a part of me that thought, Maybe I’ll get something out of this, but I didn’t think it would grow this fast. I’m not sure I know where I want it to go. It does freak me out sometimes, thinking I have to be responsible for this content and really be on top of it all the time.
Being authentic really helps with that. Like I’ll post a pic and my dad will text me, “Ew, were you eating your food in the car?” And I’ll be like, “Yeah, it was good! It was freaking delicious and I’m licking my fingers in the car.” I always want to be real real.
M: And you’ve started doing some art on the side as well, right?
K: Yeah, I’ve done art my whole life. I even got into art school, but I’ve always struggled with figuring out what my medium is. Abstract painting is a strength of mine. I sketch all the time, I probably have a sketch of Martin Luther King, Jr in my car right now. But, watercolors, pastels, I just enjoy it all.
Quarantine has allowed me to sit in my art, think about it and really start creating some pieces. I’ve been creating and selling canvasses, making marbled coasters. Because I’m already artsy, it’s more about tailoring at this point. I took an entire watercolor class on YouTube the other day for free. It’s amazing the things you can learn online for free these days.
Right now my art has no structure. It’s very much something that I just do when I’m feeling it and if I have a lot of time. And since I’m an educator, I feel like I have a lot of time right now. I’m still working with students throughout the summer, but not to the degree that I do during the school year.
M: What about your food blogging? Do you have a strict schedule for that?
K: It’s been a little wonky because of everything going on, but usually I set up two or three posts in drafts. I try to be on social media at least once a day. Not leisurely, but intentional posting and engaging. I comment on a lot of people’s stuff, especially if they’re food-based or Cincinnati-based or women. I try to keep it genuine, I just want to talk to people and get to know them.
And I love when I have interacted with someone online and then meet them in real life and they’re like, “I know you!” Such a simple, genuine moment. I love that.
M: Yes, I love that too! It really makes you feel connected. Do you have any other tips for how to grow followers on Instagram?
K: Before I launched @kaitskravings, I had three months of content prepared. That way, I could roll it out and post twice a day.
I also think it’s important to know who your audience is. I have about 2700 followers, most age 24-35, and 70% women.
And I pay attention to the times that I post. I think about, What are people doing at this time? There’s a global time to post, a national time to post, and then your own personal best time to post. You can slide on IG live, and it will show you how many of your followers are active at that time. It’s good to know!
I also try to comment on other people’s posts pretty quickly after they’ve posted. With the algorithm, content really needs to be interacted with quickly to show up on the Explore page and get that boost.
M: What has been challenging or disappointing about what you do?
K: One thing I have to be really careful about is when I’m not invited to influencer events. Or sometimes, because I work a full-time job, I can’t go to things. It’s easy to get so focused on the hype, and I have to check myself. Part of why I did food was that I didn’t want the focus to be about me so much, my image, what I look like. I wanted it to be about the food. But sometimes I get caught up in the image of being in the room and being included in that space. It sucks to not be included, but also I’ve only been doing this for a year and I do get invited to things, just not every single one. And I need to remember that I don’t need to be in every room.
Once I even deactivated my account for like a month or so. I just felt like Instagram had so much of my focus and it was becoming a “me glory” thing. So I got off social media, stopped wearing makeup and doing my hair for a month, spent time with family and worked on building my relationship with God. Instagram was just so consuming and I was spending so much time on it. It’s healthy to take a break every so often and put the world in perspective.
M: Did you lose any followers during that time?
K: I did lose a few followers, but it wasn’t as many as I thought. And when I came back, a lot more people were like, “OMG, we were wondering what happened to you?” or “We’ve been looking for you!” And I was so surprised. That felt really good, to know that people had missed me and my content.
M: Awesome! Although I’m not surprised, your posts are always so fun! Okay, now it’s time for rapid-fire questions. Just give me the first answer you think of.
What is your life mantra?
The greatest battles won are those won with a smile. I came up with that in freshman English class. We had to come up with a quote and I thought, if I face everything with a smile, then I always win.
Favorite song right now?
“Sussudio” by Phil Collins.
Favorite TV show right now?
“The Imagineering Story” on Disney+. It’s amazing! If you haven’t watched it, you absolutely should. My favorite quote is when Walt Disney died, they said, “Now we’ll know how much work he did for us.” Sometimes it’s that one person with a passion, with vision, who’s a really good leader.
The girl smashing her hand on her face…because that is me all the time.
Fave place you’ve traveled to?
South Haven Lake, Michigan. There’s something about the colored buildings, the lake…it’s a very simple life. I grew up moving around a lot, and there’s just something about living in this small little town, knowing the same people, feeling its vibrancy and being near the water but not ocean.
What’s something you’ve always wanted to learn?
Chinese. It would take me a long time to wrap my head around how to even begin to start that process. My dad, growing up, used to travel to China, Singapore, and other places in Asia for work. And I remember thinking, that’s so cool! It would be interesting to learn and a really good travel experience.
What’s your worst habit?
Oh gosh, my worst habit is probably saying “like” and apologizing for it. Now I’m thinking about how many times I probably said “like” during this interview!
Haha, I didn’t notice! I say it like all the time too ? Thanks so much for hanging with me, Kait! It was great to get to know you better and learn about all the cool stuff you’re into! Chat again soon!
If you want to follow along with Kait’s journey, follow her on Instagram!
And watch @therealfreelancelife on Instagram for a giveaway of one of Kait’s gorgeous paintings!