Walking In Her Shoes: Fresh Lengths' Lesley Buckle
The Debrief: 'I’ve always been quite shy, so that was the main reason that I started doing social media, to put myself out there.’
‘Funnily enough, I’ve always found it really awkward’, 27-year-old Lesley Buckle says of having her photo taken. With near-to 128,000 Instagram followers across two accounts, this isn’t what one would expect of an ‘influencer’. ‘I’ve always been quite shy, so that was the main reason that I started doing social media, to put myself out there.’
Lesley, who runs the blog Fresh Lengths and works as an ASOS Insider, spends her days taking, editing and captioning pictures of herself and her life. What started in 2012 as merely a passion project about her hair has grown into a full-time source of employment for the Dagenham-based multi-hyphenate. ‘When I graduated it was just like a hair journal,’ she recalls, ‘and suddenly in the last two years it became more than a blog.’
With bodacious curls and eighties eyewear, Lesley stands out among the 20-or-so other ASOS-sponsored Instagrammers, but that wasn’t always the case. ‘The main reason I didn’t have curly hair for such a long time was because I didn’t want to stick out, I wanted my hair to be straight. I just wanted to be like everyone else.’ She candidly recalls. ‘All my friends had straight hair and I couldn’t understand why mine wasn’t like that. I didn’t understand why my skin was a different colour.’ In the process of growing her legions of fans, Lesley has also embraced what makes her unique.
For Lesley, the simple act of growing her hair was enough to find her an audience. In 2012’s white-washed world of social media, she wowed with her extension-free, healthy waist-length locks. ‘I had really damaged hair because I had used chemical relaxers to straighten my natural hair since I was quite young. It was really broken and damaged’, Lesley recollects. After research, patience and a lot of conditioner, it began to grow, and grow, and grow. Swishing behind her, she took photos, which went viral as the Afro-Caribbean online hair community kept asking her, 'How did you do that?'
At first she didn’t tell her friends or family that she had found digital fame. ‘It was quite strange really, I was completely private,’ she laughs. But, then the brands and money came calling and its viability as an occupation changed the course of her blog. But, this was also the moment when she decided, it couldn’t only be about her hair. Using the momentum of the internet, she expanded her focus and started talking about fashion and beauty. Afterall, Lesley has a background in writing as she has been working with magazines since graduating from university.
Letting her hair grow curly has been Lesley’s biggest leap of faith. She began to ask herself whether she was growing her hair straight for herself or for her audience and eventually decided to grow out her relaxed locks without topping up the roots. ‘At first I didn’t intend to go natural, but as my hair would grow, I’d wait longer and longer before booking relaxer treatments’, she remembers, ‘I was waiting for first four months, then five months, then six months until my next relaxer and then I thought "you know what, I don’t want to relax my hair anymore.”’ Rather than cutting it short, she let the straight hair grow off, so it was a slow process, but one that’s define her style.
As Lesley’s hair changed, so did her sense of style. ‘I used to dress quite old for my age a few years ago. I’d always be quite smart. But in the last few years, I’ve become more casual and wear a lot more sneakers,’ she reminisced. Now her wardrobe is stuffed with trainers, particularly Converse, Vans and adidas Gazelles. Whether it’s a special occasion or a day shooting for her website, Lesley always finds herself wearing trainers. Her trick is to keep them boxfresh, revealing she ‘usually keeps baby wipes’ in her bag for the just-in-case moments.
One of her most heart warming experiences came as she documented her evolving style. Though she regularly gets recognised wandering around Topshop, she received an extra special message from a fan recently. ‘The other day a mum said she had told her girls to follow me because they don’t have anyone that looks like them at school. They felt ugly basically just because they had curly hair and seeing me made them feel beautiful. I don’t know how true that is but it was just a really sweet message to get.'
Lesley plans to expand her website and inspire more people in the future. ‘I’ve become more of an Instagrammer,’ she says. 'I want to put more towards the blog and maybe move on to different subjects like travel and lifestyle - there’s just so much of myself that isn’t online.’
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