Alumni

Alumni Profile - Zlatina Jekova, aka La Elegantia

Through my blog, I want to show my audience all the incredible places around the world that I travel to, but because I am just as interested in fashion, I always take a lot of different outfits with me to expand my audience’s perspective on fashion too.

18 December 2019

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What did you study at Queen Mary and what are you doing now? I studied International Relations for my Bachelor’s Degree and International Business and Politics for my postgraduate studies and right now I am a full time blogger. I have my own fashion and travel blog called La Elegantia.*

What made you decide to do both your undergraduate and your postgraduate study at Queen Mary? I really enjoyed my Bachelor’s Degree here and the course that I wanted to pursue at postgraduate level was only offered in a couple of universities around the world. It therefore seemed natural to stay at Queen Mary; I also loved the fact that my postgraduate course was still connected to politics which was relevant to my undergraduate studies, but that it had a business component too. I really wanted to switch to another topic and challenge myself as well so Queen Mary provided the perfect combination.

What made you choose to study Queen Mary? The main reason I chose Queen Mary was because of its great rankings and the fact that it is London based – the location was very important for me as I wanted to leave Bulgaria to pursue my studies abroad. I was sure that I wanted to study International Relations and there are not many other universities that offer this course in London.  I was also keen to study at a campus university as I felt I would get to experience student life properly.

How does it feel that you get to pursue your passion every day and as your full time career? Incredible! I started my blog as a hobby and I didn’t expect it to grow into a full time job but it really has been a dream come true to watch how my blog and my following has grown and evolved over time. I am so grateful for the opportunity to do what I love for a living as fashion and travel are two things that I am really passionate about.

What inspired the name of your blog – La Elegantia? I wanted a unique title, something that didn’t already exist on the internet. ‘La’ is Spanish – a language that I have always admired - and Elegantia is actually the Latin word for elegant and I have always thought that elegance is the most important part of a woman.

You’ve amassed a huge following on Instagram (759K) how does it feel that people are actively keeping up to date with your life and that they admire your work? At first the thought of publishing your whole life online for everyone to see can be quite strange and scary, but it is important to remember that you are in control of your content and what is visible to the public eye. Of course you don’t have to publish every detail of your life, but you do have to let people into your life to a large extent so as to keep them engaged and to allow them to feel like they know you and that they can form a connection with you. It’s certainly something that you get used to but sometimes it can be difficult for the people around you and the people who are closest to you. I am sometimes recognised when I go out and this can be difficult on the days when I want to live a normal lifestyle independent from my blogger and social media persona.

There are different societal concerns surrounding social media and its negative impact on the youth of today and on mental health. What is your opinion on social media, especially considering that it forms such a huge part of what you do every day? My main opinion about social media is that it can be beneficial in many ways. For example, if you are doing something that you want to show to the world or if you are a creative person creating beautiful content, then social media is a great platform to get a lot of exposure which in the past would have been very difficult. Social media further allows you to easily connect to a lot of brands and media outlets, as well as giving you the chance to express yourself and to grow and reach a large audience of people around the world. But at the same time social media can be endangering for young people, many of whom spend a lot of time on social media and compare themselves to other people. I don’t think this is right. Instead they should be spending time with their friends and their family, living in the real world and in real time. It gets very competitive for young people as they can feel very insecure if they upload a picture and they don’t get many likes or comments. This can in turn affect them mentally and emotionally which is the darker side to social media.

You get to travel a lot as part of your job. Where are some of your favourite places that you’ve travelled to and why? My top three favourite places are certainly Japan, Lapland and the Caribbean. Japan is unlike any other place I have been to; there are so many beautiful places and things to see and do there and the culture is so unique. The food is incredible as well! Lapland is a place that I have recently visited and that I also found to be very unique in terms of the nature and the lifestyle. It was so refreshing to go somewhere that was isolated from the rest of the world. It is super quiet, super clean and super fresh to just be surrounded by nature and to explore. There are so many lovely places in the Caribbean but if I had to choose one it would be Cuba – it is a very different culture and lifestyle and the people there seem to really enjoy themselves and life in general, they often dance in the street! The beaches are also incredible…

What are some of the challenges you face as a travel and fashion blogger? Definitely one of the biggest challenges is that I don’t really get to see my family and friends a lot; this is frustrating as I am often unable to attend when plans are made where I am in a different country. Another challenge is that being a blogger demands a lot of time, energy and organisation; for example, every day I have to balance shooting content, editing content, keeping in touch with brands, replying to emails and replying to my audience. Another down side is that I don’t really get a holiday despite travelling to all these lovely places around the world; I am never able to disconnect as I have to be posting every day for my audience.

Of course it is incredible to visit all of these places but you do end up working the entire day because you are constantly exploring to seek out the best content and once you get back to your hotel room you need to start editing and posting this content. It is nonstop. Fortunately I do have an assistant and a photographer who help me as it is impossible to do it all myself.

To flip the previous question on its head, what are some of the rewards of your job? I get to meet a lot of incredible and creative people and travel to all these beautiful places which I understand not everyone can afford to do either because of money or time. When I travel I really do try to take the people with me so that through my stories and my photos they can really experience what it feels like to be there as well. Another huge positive is that I get to work with brands that I really love and admire and I also get to structure my own time and workload where I am my own boss. It is great to have this kind of freedom.

Do brands often approach you or do you approach the brands that you feel best represent your image and values? It really depends. Usually brands approach me but if you have a great idea of a particular project you want to do with a brand then you can also approach them. However, you would have to have a very exact and detailed idea of what both sides could get out of the collaboration, especially so that brands can see that you are passionate about the project and willing to devote your time to it.  

Are there any brands that you have been approached by that you have turned down? Yes, certainly. There are a lot of brands that don’t fit with my image; it is very important that you stay true to yourself. Of course as a full time job you have to make a certain profit per month to be able to sustain your business but ultimately you want to work with brands that express who you are, what you do and what you believe in.

What is the particular image that you want to convey to your audience? I would say... ‘travel in style’. I want to show my audience all the different combinations of the clothes that they can wear around the world. I want to show my audience all these incredible places around the world but because I am just as interested in fashion as I am in travel, I always take a lot of different outfits with me to expand my audience’s perspective on fashion too.

After graduating, I understand that you actually worked at Queen Mary. Was it scary to leave a more ‘traditional’ career path to pursue your dreams? What gave you the final push to leave this kind of life behind? For sure it was scary at first; when I started my blog I didn’t expect it to grow into a full time job. What really pushed me to take the leap was that my audience started growing and collaboration proposals came flooding in which made it hard to keep both things running. It was a bit risky as I didn’t know how well it would go or if I would be able to maintain my blog as a profitable business. But I certainly had to try as it was the thing that was making me happy in my day and therefore it wasn’t worth letting go.  

What did your former job role at Queen Mary involve? I was working in the International Partnerships office as an International Partnerships Office Administrator; I would visit universities outside of the EU where we wanted to set up corporations and partnerships. In some countries where we already had partnerships I would go and speak to some of the students about the University and introduce them to some of the programmes we had here and tell them how they could get involved. Or I would visit new universities where we were in the process of setting up an agreement to see how we could work together and how it would be beneficial for all the students involved on both sides. 

How did you find it different being a student of Queen Mary, compared to being an employee? As a student you don’t realise that there is basically a parallel universe of people who put in all of the time, dedication and effort so that you can experience the best student life possible. It was quite interesting to be on the opposite side and to see how much effort it takes to run the University and to have everything so well organised.

What was so special about your time at Queen Mary? I felt really secure and at home here which is very important for a student who is not originally from the UK. Everyone – staff and students – was super friendly and welcoming. I really loved the fact that we also had a campus because even though the University is in London which can get really hectic, especially in the centre, the campus itself is slightly removed and can provide a relaxed atmosphere. I met some incredible friends here who I am still in contact with today and who I will remain lifelong friends with. I was also involved in some of the sports and more general societies and the fun that I had here overall will stay with me forever.

Do you have a favourite spot on campus? Definitely. My favourite spot is the canal. My kitchen window in my student accommodation overlooked the canal which I found so peaceful and quiet. I loved that when it was a nice day you could eat lunch alongside the canal (we had a lot of BBQs there!) or you could take your books outside to do your studying.

How has your time and study at Queen Mary had an impact on your career and development to date? Queen Mary taught me how to be independent, organised and to chase my dreams because during my time here I was always encouraged to try new things and to challenge myself. My undergraduate studies really taught me how the world and different countries operate. When I travel I work with a lot of different countries’ travel boards so it is very important that I understand the backgrounds of different countries and why they are a certain way. From my postgraduate degree I got the different perspective of the business world which has really helped me in terms of setting up my own business and knowing how to run it properly.

Have you got any advice for current students or recent graduates? I would tell current students to enjoy their time whilst they are students and to not get too stressed about finding a job or figuring their way out in life because everything will fall into place at the right time. I would also tell current students to strike a balance between studying and having fun; of course it is very important to get good grades and to study hard, but don’t forget to have fun too!

What three fashion or travel tips would you give to your audience or anyone reading this? Fashion – it is better to keep it simple than to go overboard with combining different colours in the same outfit. Never combine more than three colours in one outfit; it is better to be minimalistic. It is also better to have ten outfits that are very nice and really good quality, than to have 50 items that are very poor quality and that will run out of trend in one season.

Travel – definitely go and explore as many places as you can but only travel to safe places. Always be careful and never do anything that you wouldn’t do in your own country. Also don’t forget to get to know the culture and the people in the country you travel to- this will make you more culturally aware and enrich your perspective on the world in general.

*Here is the link to my blog - http://laelegantia.com/