A successful lifestyle blog is often a yardstick against which women can measure their inadequacy. These blogs portray the carefree lives of photogenic women happily elevating domestic duties to an art form. They dispense advice on relationships and parenting as effortlessly as they prepare cozy gourmet meals for 10 of their BFFs. I usually scroll through these blogs around dinnertime, perusing recipes for the perfect primavera while my store-bought sauce boils to a solid on my stovetop.
We all know that life isn’t a pot of petunias, but these chroniclers of familial bliss do a great job planting seeds of doubt. They are society’s way of telling the everywoman, “It’s easy to be perfect! So… why aren’t you?” Which is why we like Westport resident Eva Amurri Martino of HappilyEvaAfter. Like all lifestyle bloggers, the surface is aspirational catnip for blog watchers. Eva’s beautiful and has lovely taste and an adorable family. Although she claims to be “no expert,” she’s an accomplished interior designer and stylist. She’s collaborated on capsule collections with designer brands Masala Baby and Dudley-Stephens and offers tips on marriage and child-rearing to grateful women around the country.
But scratch the surface, and you’ll find a soul, a real person who discusses her feelings on the darker half of the emotional spectrum and struggles with work/life balance. In her words, she’s “keeping it really REAL”.
Eva grew up a tomboy in New York City with six half-siblings and a famous mom. Her mother is Susan Sarandon, which she hesitates to discuss. Why? Discussing her mother is “a little cheesy,” she explains, “She’s not pertinent to my business.”
However, the lifestyle it created for her is.
“I had access to different cultures, traveled a ton, went to beautiful events, and it informed my aesthetic.”
Certainly, Eva’s colorful style reflects her experiences. But these experiences weren’t all sunshine and cotton candy. Eva admits she’s been stalked by clinical anxiety and depression since she was 9 years old. She writes, “I have felt many different permutations of anxiety… a roaming anxiety disorder that I have always had and that I continue to live with daily. Over the years, it’s manifested itself in different ways: fear of germs, panic attacks, fear of flying, body dysmorphia, inexplicable dizzy spells, attachment and detachment to people and places, disturbing intrusive thoughts, obsession with safety of my children… the list goes on and on.”
Admitting to mental health issues isn’t easy, despite its prevalence; it affects 1 of every 6 adults in America. But for someone whose career is helping others create joy in the day-to-day, it’s not only a difficult confession, but it’s also a risk.
However, intentionally or not, she’s made her vulnerability an asset. Despite the eye-candy of her elevated trappings, followers appreciate that she’s a genuine person they—and thousands of other women—can relate to on a personal level.
Thanks in part to this “realness,” her blog is booming, and Eva’s busier than ever. She’s recently incorporated and is hiring support staff (please contact her if you have a lead on a great executive assistant). She has a YouTube channel and, of course, still has the incessant hurdle of creating fresh and engaging content.
Further, she and her husband, Kyle Martino, are renovating a historic home, and she’s designing every inch of it herself. Oh—and we should thank her husband for dragging Eva here from LA three years ago. Kyle, an ex-soccer pro turned NBC Sports commentator, grew up in Westport and was coached by our own Dan Woog while at Staples. I could tell you more about Kyle and how they met, but you can read it in her blog. (Actually, you can read about almost everything in her blog. That’s the challenge of writing about someone who’s already written everything you want to write about.)
Happily Eva After, like most lifestyle blogs, treads a thin wire between life and reality. For instance, those effortless moments of her laughing with her kids, Marlowe and Major? Not so effortless (if you’re a parent, you understand.)
“A big misconception with blogging is that photogs follow you around—they don't! We shoot for 60 minutes once a week, but a lot of prep goes in to block shooting to cover events/pics for the whole week," Eva says. "There is way more planning involved with blogging than people imagine.”
So viewers see her modeling dresses in her bedroom or enjoying quiet time with her family. What they don’t see is that the second after the camera snaps and the scene is over, she’s frantically staging another shoot or racing to a meeting.
Unfortunately, these photos incite some viewers to mom-shame. If she’s at home, why does she need a nanny? Why can’t she take care of the kids herself?
“I can’t do all the things a stay-at-home mom can do,” Eva shrugs. “(I try to) not be down on myself when readers judge because they aren’t aware of my limitations.”
Further fuzzing the line is the unavoidable cyclicity of her business. The good thing about the blog, Eva says, is “everything you do can be a part of your business. The bad is, literally everything is work.”
When the way you live is what you do for a living, it’s tough to discern where lifestyle ends and life begins, what should be private and what can be public. Slowly, she’s figuring this out for herself. Chances are good she’ll blog about it when she has.