To learn more about Tommy, check out the MYBELONGING spotlight

Tommy Lei, owner and creator of MYBELONGING, has successfully grown his online presence as a “Styleteller” with a unique emphasis on androgynous, high fashion. With over 120,000 followers across his social channels, Tommy has cultivated a devoted following by developing his personal brand into “an extension of an interactive conversation on what it means to be essentially and unapologetically you.”

We wanted to learn more about how Tommy stays true to himself online. Check out his interview for more!

What inspired your blog name and content choices?

MYBELONGING was born out of a desire to document and find meaning amongst my material investments – hence the name. From the very beginning, I didn’t intend on it becoming something much bigger than the scope of a journal that would help keep tabs on my expenses while sharing products I particularly developed an attachment towards. I saw writing as a way to express my deepest passions and, sometimes, secrets. It gradually became an exercise in self-expression and it still is. I want my readers to know that my journey is a personal yet universal one in living life on your own terms and to the fullest. Style is a strong and major component of my life. In essence, MYBELONGING is an ever-evolving novel of curated lifestyle and sartorial experiences. It’s a conversation starter that evokes intrigue and fascination.

Your personal brand is incredibly… personal. You openly embrace your ethnic identity and your sexual orientation. How have you gone about staying true to yourself while building your online presence?

I believe it is important to embrace and keep the dialogue open about topics that make you stand-out. My culture, ethnicity and sexuality are aspects of myself that are near and dear to my heart. And the first step towards building credibility and a core audience is being true to yourself in its entirety. The power of attraction, particularly in finding like-minded individuals, is a crucial pillar of personal branding development.

You’re a skilled writer who uses the written word to paint a vivid picture on each post. What role does storytelling play in both your sponsored and non-sponsored content?

My blog continues to be an extension of myself and passions, so it is imperative that my storytelling is apparent in both my sponsored and non-sponsored content. I want it to be as believable and organic as I can, so much so that it all seamlessly blends and interwoven into a larger editorial entity. This is why I typically incorporate brands, products and services into story angles that are actually complementary — not the other way around.

For your Linqia post about Montblanc, you wrote a beautiful description of the product’s story, the scent’s notes, and how you use it yourself. What’s your secret to fusing beautiful photography and compelling writing to tell a complete story?

The majority of people tend to think influencers just snap a few quick photos and call it a day. I am here to stay that this is not true. In fact, I invest heavily into my photo and video equipment, as well as use the latest technologies when it comes to editing and producing my content. I also work with fellow, creative collaborators to really enhance and make a story come to life. The secret comes down to budget and being resourceful with it; you pay what you get for! Cheap is not always less expensive — let’s put it that way.

You use Montblanc regularly and were a fan of before collaborating with them on your Linqia programs. What’s your secret to staying honest during your sponsored posts?

Thankfully this comes very naturally to me. I am very discriminating when it comes to what I purchase and invest in. I’ve been a fan of Montblanc’s signature pens for as long as I can remember, and is a site I’ve frequented since my college years. There’s no secret here; it’s just pure integrity and how much you believe a brand is truly worth endorsing!

You currently have over 120,000 followers across your social channels. How do you go about deciding what to share about yourself on social media?

I pretty much share everything as it happens, while trying not to overshare. I try not to filter (too much), but you won’t see mundane trips to the bathroom or kitchen during my “office” hours. Some things are better left private. If there’s ever an issue or question, I prefer to address them directly over direct messages on Instagram + Twitter!

What is the most difficult thing about inspiring an engaged following? What are your top 5 tips for overcoming those challenges?

  • Reflect and do some soul searching to what makes you tick.
  • Take it slow. Don’t rush into anything.
  • There is no right time. The time is always now.
  • Show, don’t just tell.
  • Go with your gut.