The most that followers ever get to see of influencers' lives is a tightly-curated feed of highlights, with maybe a few less polished, behind-the-curtain glimpses on Instagram Stories. Danielle Bernstein, the blogger behind We Wore What, is changing that with her new memoir, This Is Not a Fashion Story, debuting May 12.
The book follows Bernstein from her youth as a starry-eyed Long Island kid dreaming of the Big City through to where she is today: an influencer and entrepreneur reportedly worth millions of dollars. And as the title might imply, she doesn't just dish on the fashion — there are revealing anecdotes about her parents' divorce, the awkward teenage story of how she lost her virginity and no-holds-barred analyses of adult relationships gone wrong.
Fans of Bernstein might be familiar with the broader timeline of her life, but in This Is Not a Fashion Story, she gets into the gritty details. It's by now a well-established part of the We Wore What lore that Bernstein left the University of Wisconsin after a year to attend FIT, where she'd ultimately drop out before obtaining a degree, to launch the blog that made her famous. Here, though, she fills in the finger points of the story, including a doomed long-distance relationship and a hindsight-induced realization that she'd made a mistake thinking she could fit into a small college town to begin with.
If it sounds revealing, that's because it is: According to Bernstein, This Is Not a Fashion Story started as a very different book, after a brutal breakup about five years ago. But the timing wasn't right back then. Now, rounding in on the 10th anniversary of We Wore What, Bernstein wants to connect with her community on a new level.
"I feel like I'm finally ready to share all the different sides of me, the parts of me that people don't really get to see on social media every day," she says. "It felt like one big therapy session. I definitely learned a lot about myself and how I want to be seen in the world, and who I want to impact along the way, but it was really difficult and time consuming."
Make no mistake: Bernstein is still in control of the narrative here, which means that the book represents a curated view of her life. But she worked with writer Emily Siegel, who has worked for outlets like Forbes and Harper's Bazaar, on getting the tone and pacing of the book just right.
"She had covered me for her online magazine and I felt like our voices really aligned," Bernstein says. "I had written a bunch already by myself and then we spent hours on the phone together; as she would help me write the chapters, we would go over them literally line by line. It was almost like our voices became one."
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Of course, fashion plays a big role in Bernstein's life, and she gets into the nitty-gritty there, too. But those hoping for juicy bitch sessions about her fellow influencers or the fashion industry will be disappointed by the politely withheld names: This Is Not a Fashion Story is less a gossip-fueled romp behind VIP ropes and front row seats than it is a how-to guide for building a business.
Considering that she was one of the first influencers to publicly discuss her rates, it should come as no surprise that Bernstein doesn't shy away from sharing both her successes and her failures. (Remember her short-lived shoe line, The Archive? You'll get the full story on how that crashed and burned.) Still, even fans of We Wore What might not realize just how savvy Bernstein has been in her career. "I think people have this misconception about influencers, and misconceptions about me as a person," she admits.
It's probably not the big book release Bernstein was hoping for; she details her love of a good party in This Is Not a Fashion Story, and the coronavirus has put a pause on any flashy celebrations for the time being. For now, she's hunkered down in the Hamptons, where she finished recording the audiobook version — fans requested that Bernstein voice it herself, naturally — and teases a forthcoming charitable venture. "I feel like I have this newfound sense of community to myself and to New York and to people with small businesses, to lend my platform to them, and my voice and my resources," she says.
It may seem curious that a woman who hasn't even yet hit her 30s would release a memoir packed with both career and life advice; her audience has, in a lot of ways, grown up alongside her. But, both in reading the book and in talking to Bernstein, it's clear that This Is Not a Fashion Story marks a maturing point in her life.
"I learned that vulnerability is one of my weakest points, and I definitely learned that how I want to be perceived by the world is a lot different than I thought," Bernstein says. "I want people to see the sensitive side of me that I never show in business, and hopefully does a good job doing that — while remaining strong, at the same time — by sharing more and admitting to my mistakes, acknowledging them out loud."
Now all that's left to do is score that coveted Chanel invite. Want to know more about that? You'll just have to pick up the book.