Influencer And Designer Chelli Johnson Exudes Good Cheer On Social Media And Off
In a social media universe so often phony, influencer and designer Chelli Johnson’s passion is unfiltered. She pops onto Instagram to sing her favorite tunes, give props to icons, document her everyday adventures, provide inspiration, and present relatable outfits and beauty looks that make her all the more endearing. Behind the digital scenes, Johnson refines the images of retailers, restaurants and brands to produce lasting impressions. “I help demystify the process of visual representation both in person and on the web,” says Johnson on her website. “I design and create to solve problems creatively and help others build businesses that they love. If you don’t love what you do, why do it?” Beauty Independent connected with the entrepreneur to chat about her background, adoration for one of green beauty’s biggest stores, bond with indie upstarts and conducting business with genuine motives.
Where did you grow up?
I am from Dallas, born and raised. I had opportunities to live other places like Austin for school, and I also lived in Turkey on a foreign exchange program, but this is where I feel most home.
Did any of the places you’ve lived impact your idea of beauty?
Definitely Turkey. It was obviously very different from what I was used to culture-wise, in all the best ways. It was amazing to see firsthand how we are all very different. Our cultures represent things that are so intangible to us: our outlook, our struggles, our uniqueness. I have darker skin compared to others there, but, to hear that they thought my tone was so beautiful and to see myself through their lens, it really was such a striking feeling that developed my ability to see beauty in all forms and appreciate differences.
Austin was another contrast. It was very different from Dallas, which can seem very corporate. Austin is more artsy. I saw beauty pan out in a way that was more fun and relaxed, more personal expression. That was what was most beautiful to me, people being themselves. Nothing is really off limits and the expressions had a story, and I love that.
Which came first, the business or the blog?
The business came first. When I was 12, I was on the entrepreneur train. I was learning graphic design and creating for anyone who would let me. As I grew older and honed my skills, I just began servicing the needs in the marketplace and, as I became more financially empowered, I really ran with it and got esteemed clients. Then, I decided I needed to increase the value of what I offered. I not only wanted to do the design work, but I wanted to help them with personal development, which led to my blog.
People came to me for design, but they were also looking to grow aspects of their business and life. We would inevitably talk about them, so I started sharing articles and content that related to their growth, and it grew from there. A blog was such an excellent way to do that and develop as an extension.
Did you think you would be considered an influencer?
At first, I really had no idea. I didn’t even know what the term really was. I love giving advice. I’ve been doing it my whole life. So, it’s a normal thing for me to share my stories and experiences, and connect with other people. Once I got in the beauty sphere and started to take care of myself, my hair, my health, what that embodies, I began to understand that the platform was something I needed to take more seriously because, every time I would share products that worked for me, there would be reader response. When you hear that it also works for other people, it is such a good feeling to have given that to someone.
What do you wish brands knew about working with influencers?
I wish brands knew that we want to work with them, too. It means a lot to us when there is a product or service or anything they offer that is transformative. We want to be the gateway and connector between what they create and those who are hungry for it. We’re an important bridge for that, helping people know who to trust. We develop this love with the influencers we follow and, as an influencer, we want to provide that same love in return. This is our expertise, getting it to the right people. As a brand, your work is incredible and important, and we want to share it how it deserves to be shared.
Does your design background impact how you choose products/brands to feature?
Not necessarily design, but the way that I conduct business. I’m always trying to be in tune with my clients. It works the same with brands, wanting to provide them with a solution. In design, I want to completely knock their socks off and, for [a] brand, I want to shout it from the mountaintops. I treat them the same in how I choose products and recommend things based on what my audience needs.
What do you think the indie beauty movement has gathered so much momentum?
So many things: the quality, the passion, the story, the connection, the understanding, the perseverance and the creativity. We have these big, big brands flanking the shelves that have been around a while. Not that they aren’t important, but they are distant. You have a hard time feeling connected to what they do. Indie beauty gives us that in a stunning way. We can hear the story, know why things were created and exactly how it impacts the lives of who made it. The stories being so available makes everyone feel so passionate about it. We are able to become loyal to it quickly and easily and, because that has been forged, you believe in and advocate for these brands. That is the most special thing that leads to the momentum. We don’t want to give our money to just anyone. We want to know its facilitating someone’s dream, and they’re giving us something that makes us feel good. It’s a unique and powerful bond we all crave.
What are brands you are crushing on right now?
Right now, I really love Honey Belle. They are so awesome. I can honestly say their products have impacted me positively. It’s easy to think of organic as bland or expensive, but theirs is affordable and made with love, and they work.
On a bigger scale, Credo is something I’m really in awe of. They are connecting indie brands to consumers, and I just love how curated it is, which is so valuable when you are looking for products that work. The “How do I know what to buy?” and “Is this really good?” or “Will this actually work?,” you don’t have to question that. Their attentive curating process eliminates any doubt.
What’s next for you?
The next big step for me is changing people’s perspective on marketing and sales. It’s a big one, I know. Basically, we pay money in exchange for services, but it doesn’t have to feel slimy or that you’re not getting a return. I want to do this in a way that incorporates love, trust and value. I want to help business owners and creators that have transformative products or packages get in front of the right audience that is going to receive the most benefit from them.
Whether in business or as an influencer, I want to the connector for people who are looking for the next step, how to elevate, how to close the sale, how to present themselves, who to trust. It all comes down to marketing and merging it all by helping them find that sweet spot.