Influencing Change

This Ocala beauty and fashion blogger is ready to help other entrepreneurs find success.

Chante Burkett has declared 2021 her year to give back. After spending the past year and a half focusing on her health and well-being, the Ocala beauty and fashion influencer has decided to take her brand, My Chic Mastermind, to the next level: mentoring other bloggers and helping local Black business owners develop their brands.

“This year is about me pouring all my knowledge into others. It’s my giving-back year,” Burkett declares. “I’m gearing back up my mentorship―to really support and help others, especially around Ocala. Within the Black community, I really want to focus on helping businesses get their brand in a better place in the public eye. I have branded myself. I have branded other people. So that is my main goal―to use my experience to help my community this year.”

And Burkett has a lot to share. She has a lot of success of her own to draw on. But she’s also learned a lot of life lessons through hard times and heartache.

As an influencer, she lives her life in the public eye. Her job is to create content for social media and her website—to engage women in conversation, to promote brands she represents—and to look good doing it.

In blog posts on her website and Instagram feed, Burkett shares her personal experiences as conversation starters for her audience of more than 212,000. They’re mostly plus-size women, like her, she says. And when she writes about her life, they write back. Over the past two years, her followers have been “virtually” by her side through heartaches and breakups, the trials and tribulations of single motherhood and a tragic accident that would have caused many others to give up.

From Beauty to Blogger

From the time she was 13 years old, Burkett had a distinct passion. After graduating from North Marion High School, she went to cosmetology school at Central Florida Community College (now College of Central Florida).

“Hair was my thing,” she remembers. “I’ve always loved hair.”

However, after working in a beauty shop for just a short time, Burkett had her daughter, Alayjah. That’s when her priorities changed. Working long hours and trying to find someone to watch her daughter just wasn’t worth it.

“I was like, ‘No, this isn’t for me.’ My career in that field didn’t last long,” she reveals. “But I found another one.”

Burkett ended up going back to college. But by the time she was finishing her degree, she had discovered blogging. A new photocentric digital platform, Instagram, was just taking off and Burkett was along for the ride.

“I had just had my daughter. I didn’t know about fashion,” Burkett remembers with a laugh. “I was just posting what I liked on me. And people started honing in and I started gaining followers. I didn’t even know about the blog space. All I knew was I’m just sharing what I’m finding that I love.”

It didn’t take long for Burkett to find success on social media. Two years later she found herself at a career crossroads.

“I had just finished up school doing social work and my blog actually took off that year,” she recalls. “I told myself, ‘If I make more money this year doing blogging versus social work then I’m going to continue blogging.’ And I’ve been blogging full-time for seven years. I can honestly say I have made six figures from blogging.”

Life as an Influencer

As a digital influencer, Burkett partners with beauty and fashion brands to promote their products through her online posts and photos. Being selective about partnering with companies that fit her personal brand has helped her build lucrative alliances.

“People on the outside don’t understand exactly what we do. When it comes to brands, we are advertising dollars. We are marketing. So brands are willing to pour into us, if we have the audience; if we have the support. If we have the content that they like, they will pour into us to create content for them.

“One of my top brands that I actually have a great relationship with—I have had a relationship with them for about the past three to four years—JCPenney,” she reveals. “I love them. My first major job with them was the Here I Am campaign and it was basically a campaign about me being me and being a single mother just doing my thing. It started from there and I landed about three major campaigns with them since then. But I work with them literally every other month on small jobs. I work with them through beauty, fashion, especially with their beauty, with Sephora inside JCPenney. That’s my top brand that I work with.

“And this past year I was blessed to have a year partnership with Fabletics,” she continues. “I actually love Fabletics because, as a plus size woman, a lot of brands don’t like to give us nice, daring activewear. We’re used to boring activewear. Fabletics, they actually added plus (sizes) about a year and a half ago and they pulled in a bunch of us influencers and I actually love, love their items. I signed on for another year.”

Although Burkett says she doesn’t “claim the title of a model,” she was featured in Target’s 2015 Target Loves Every Body digital swimwear ad campaign.

“I go on set as myself,” she says. “They hire me to be me. They hire me to style the items the way I want to style the items. I have been blessed to be on major campaigns with Target—I was the first plus size Black influencer and the only plus size influencer on their campaign.”

Can’t Keep Her Down

In July 2019, a simple cooking accident could have irreparably derailed Burkett’s career. Second- and third-degree burns on her face, chest, hands and arms from hot grease sent her to the hospital for three weeks.

“It was really, really bad,” she admits. “I remember in the hospital, I looked at myself. I went to the mirror and I just cried. I was like, ‘How am I going to recover from this?’”

The answer was asking for and accepting help, something that doesn’t come easily to this self-made, independent single mom.

“That was the hardest part, asking for help,” she recalls. “Thankfully I had people who know I’m like that. I didn’t even have to ask; they were there already. My stepmother and my father are here, my sister’s here, and I have friends who came in and helped me out.”

Amid the physical pain and healing, Burkett was wondering how her injuries would affect her livelihood.

“It put me in a space where it was a confidence thing: am I ever going to have my looks?” she wondered. “Is this going to affect everything in my life, my looks, how I interact with people now?”

In true Chante fashion, she didn’t let it get her down for long.

“I was like, no matter what I’m still going to be Chante,” she told herself. “I’m still going to do what I’ve been doing. I pushed myself. I did not let myself stay down. I was like, I have been through so much, this cannot stop me.”

Just two months after her accident, Burkett was in New York for fashion week, on a job for JCPenney.

“I told myself no matter what, I’ve got to go; I’m doing it,” she recalls. “And I did it.”

Not only did Burkett keep going, she stayed in the public eye, posting on social media and sharing her trauma.

“This experience is teaching me a lot,” she posted just 11 days after the accident. “This experience is showing that it’s OK to ask for help and let others help me.” She wrote about learning a lesson in patience.

“This experience is like no other, I literally can’t even wash my own butt alone,” she admitted online. But all her heart-wrenching admissions took a positive turn.

“All I can do is stay calm (something I don’t normally do),” her post continued, “pray, and remind myself that this is temporary.”

She “had to dig deep,” she told her followers, to find “that girl who set out on a mission to show other girls that they can love themselves flaws and all.”

Sharing to Help Others

These days, many of Burkett’s social media posts start conversations with other women on subjects they know well, such as dating and motherhood.

“For me it’s very important to share my experiences,” she explains. “As I heal, I love to share what I’ve learned. I share the experience, what led me to that point.” Her Instagram stories draw hundreds of comments from other women who have had similar experiences.

“I try to put it all out there—from me being a single mother, from being an entrepreneur, being a single mother who’s dating,” she says. As she pens her thoughtful posts, Burkett considers the topics she tackles through the lens of her impressionable tween daughter.

“I always think about, ‘my daughter is going to go through this, so how am I going to handle this so I can later on show her how to handle it, teach her,’” she says. “She can actually see how I handled it. Because, you know kids, they learn by example.”

Burkett began 2020 announcing her motto for the year: “focus,” not realizing how prophetic that would be. 

“COVID made me focus,” she declares. “It made me focus on my mental health, it made me focus on setting up things in my life. And going into (2021) it’s all about me being consistent. Because I have the game plan. I know what I’m supposed to be doing. It’s about me adding on and being consistent.”

Now that she is “set in her career,” Burkett says, this is her year to give back, to use her experience to help others. That includes a planned partnership with Skill Day Learning Center Academy to teach young people about blogging and vlogging.

“Everybody’s saying (2020) was a big mess, but if you’re still alive you’re blessed to get that mess together. I was blessed to get my mess together,” she shares with a laugh. “I can go into the year happy, ready to conquer it and ready to really put myself at other people’s will to help them.”

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