Dynamic duo doesn’t even begin to cover today’s PLANOLEADERS feature. If you’re a fan of food, fashion and fluff then we encourage you to read on to meet the truly creative Diana Yen of The Jewels of New York and her furry friend, fashion influencer and produce specialist Cleo the Bunny. Nestled away in their bright downtown Manhattan studio, Diana and Cleo work on creating fun content that satisfies their clients’ appetite for both fashion and food – in short, their Insta game can’t be matched! Luckily we were able to steal a few moments of their time to learn more about their unique paths and more specifically, how Diana has carved out a specialty niche in the food/content space and what it’s been like to craft Cleo’s persona both online… and off. Read on for the full scoop.
Please introduce yourself!
I’m a food stylist and Cleo is our studio produce specialist. We both adore seasonal vegetables and try to head to the farmers market once a week to get inspired. Entertaining and having friends over for a home cooked meal is what we love most.
From the wildly successful Jewels of New York to launching Cleo into full on Insta-fame, what have been some notable moments throughout your professional journey?
Diana: I started my food blog in 2009 and it was always an avenue for me to share recipes and ideas with people. I think that the lifestyle aspect of food was new on blogs at the time. We would go upstate apple picking and make a whole menu with apples, it was a way to journal life. People seemed to gravitate towards the storytelling along with the food inspiration. I wasn’t using any other social media at the time, but when my cookbook came out a couple years ago I realized I should probably start an Instagram account to promote it and capture a wider audience. I was attracted to the spontaneity of Instagram and started focusing on it more. Once I got Cleo as my pet and people started demanding more bunny photos, I knew it was time to start her own account. She has an active life being an NYC bunny and it’s fun documenting it for others.
“When my cookbook came out,
I realized I should probably start an
Instagram account to promote it
& capture a wider audience.”
Let’s talk food and content – two industries that now seem to go hand in hand. As a professional food stylist and photographer, how has Instagram played a role in your approach? What advice do you have for those looking to effectively break into the food space both online and off?
Diana: Instagram has completely changed my work life. Luxury food companies and food publications will often commission me to make content and come up with fun food collaborations with them based on my account alone. It’s opened me up to clients I wouldn’t have acquired if I didn’t have my social media account.
Some of the photos I make for clients are iPhone only, which makes it so much easier! With technology, anyone has the accessibility to pursue a creative profession with dedication and practice. There’s no longer a need to have technical knowledge as long as you have vision. I think that is so cool! Before that, you had to take a clear-cut career path like going to art school as a photographer and work your way up the ranks.
My advice to anyone wanting to break into the food space is to cook a lot, have fun and document it. Make it public, and if people like your work then they will call you.
“Instagram has completely
changed my work life.
It’s opened me up to clients
I wouldn’t have acquired…”
“Anyone wanting to break into food:
cook a lot, have fun & document it.
Make it public & if people like
your work then they will call you.”
With regard to Cleo, what has been the most interesting aspect of essentially fostering a “personality” online and how has running her account helped to sharpen your approach to planning content that is engaging and dynamic?
Diana: I think a lot of it started as a joke and somehow it began to shape her persona. When we would finish a food shoot, we’d put her next to the produce or food as a bunny chef. We even made a little chef’s hat for her to wear. Part of who I am melded with her and she became known as an NYC tastemaker. She has smokey eyes that appeal to the fashion industry and is often booked for shoots and ad campaigns.
There isn’t too much planning as far as her account; basically, she comes along wherever I am. If I’m in Malibu, she comes with me to the beach, when I’m in the city she’ll go to gallery openings. I wanted her to experience life outside of a cage and it’s fun to share her life with her audience. It’s exciting to see a pet that is outside of our perception of how they should be living.
So Cleo, from fashion shoots to snacking to lounging, what’s a day in the life like for you? How often would you say you’re on Instagram?
Cleo: I’m on Instagram quite a lot! Like most of us, I wake up munching on my morning carrots and cruise Instagram to see what other animals are up to. Especially Karl Lagerfeld’s cat Choupette! She’s always on a private jet or at a fabulous photo shoot. I’d love to meet her one day.
After I take a leisurely morning, we pass by the markets to pick up produce and groceries for our shoots. I’m in charge of picking out the best and weeding out those wilted greens. We cook and shoot the rest of the day. If things are looking good, I’ll snap a couple pictures to post on my account. I live a healthy gluten-free lifestyle so you’ll usually catch me drinking a green juice before an early bedtime.
What are your 3 tips for brands who reach out/want to work with you on Instagram/digital projects?
Cleo: 1. Tailor your emails to me, showcasing why we’d be a good fit. 2. Keep work to a minimum. I’m usually pretty busy so if you make the project easy, I’m more likely to pursue it. 3. Make it fun. At the end of the day, we just want to make playful content together.