THE OUTNET’S Content Editor, Jess Wood, got to catch up with digital entrepreneur, author and continuous source of inspiration Xenia Tchoumi. In case you missed their live conversation about Xenia’s book Empower Yourself, her journey to where she is now and her mild obsession with shoes — we made sure to save some of the best bits…
Xenia loves… Shoes, shoes, shoes!
“THE OUTNET shoe selection. I feel as if I literally would have 20 pairs! I don’t even want to mention one because I think they’re all so Instagrammable."
Jess: Xenia! Hi, how are you?
Xenia: Hello! I made it, how are you?
Jess: Yay! I was just telling everyone you have launched your book today. It’s called Empower Yourself. You’re a digital entrepreneur and you talk a lot about female empowerment and confidence in general. So, tell us a bit about what’s in the book…
Xenia: I am a gender-equality advocate. I believe that we should all have the same rights at the start and then it’s up to you to make your own path. There are these structures and roles we conform to and we don’t even realize sometimes. For example, why is a girl associated with playing with dolls and wearing pink, while boys should play with Legos and wear blue? Gender equality is very important to me, but I also speak a lot about motivation, practical tricks and tips on how to shake off society’s expectations of you, whether you’re a man or a woman, and how to really find your own way, your own opinion. It’s good at times to be able to just quietly stay alone with yourself and shake off everything else, to actually find yourself. So, the book speaks a lot about very practical ways to find that path and to empower yourself.
Jess: You’ve got a very interesting background — you speak 6 languages! You’re of Russian heritage but raised in Switzerland, is that right?
Xenia: Yes. My first language is Italian, I was raised on the border between Switzerland and Italy, not too far from Milan, so for me Italian culture, television, songs, are my world. Then of course I have Russian origins in terms of my family’s background.
Jess: Was your mom a feminist? Did that conviction about gender equality and that thought process of ‘this is not fair, everyone should be equal, and I’m not being treated equally because I’m a woman’ come from your background or was it from being a model? That’s how your career started, isn’t it?
Xenia: Yes, when I was very young, but I left it very fast because I realized that I didn’t like castings, I felt objectified. I’ve tried a lot of hats in my career but I didn’t really know where I was going. I did economics, I tried my way in finance and parallel to that I had work as a model and TV presenter, writing for magazines. I was just, you know, developing and trying things but none of these things really satisfied me. The less you have an opinion, the better it is. And I’m very opinionated so for me it was really hard. As a model, I just had to be like a doll, and I couldn’t do that. Also, there was the whole patriarchy in terms of the structure of showbusiness. In Italy it’s run by men and I would never, you know, go to dinner with a man to get a show or a casting. So, at 17 I was already, like, ‘I’m never gonna do that.’ I tried acting and that was also similar…
Jess: Essentially, with all these different industries, you would go into them thinking, ‘oh this looks great, this looks like an opportunity.’ And then you’d discover very quickly that in fact, you had to just shut up?
Xenia: Fully, fully. I want my work to speak for itself. Honestly, I got lucky. The internet and social media came by and it was revolutionary. All the skills I learned – whether it’s presenting, photography, video — I could use online, independently. So, at that point I created an online magazine, I started a blog, I started a Facebook. So, all of that was really new and I thought it would maybe look a bit ‘homemade’ compared to what I was used to, but it opened doors to a very respectful way of doing business. I didn’t have to conform to any structure, the structure was being created online by these young people that just wanted to be creative and work and do business. The more I created and the more content I put out, the luckier I got. So, it just changed my life.
Jess: It’s interesting because social media’s often denigrated for opening the floodgates for all sorts of negative things but actually what you’re saying is it’s created this whole new industry. People can be their own brand directors and editors of their own magazines, a whole new generation of businesspeople able to make all these decisions for themselves. Do your followers ask you for advice about content creation and how to do it well?
Xenia: Very often, yes of course. If you want to do something, just start and don’t be a perfectionist or you won’t go far because you need to put out a lot of content. Get inspired by people in your industry — whether it’s cooking, or a fitness blog… See how they do it, copy them, and then find your own voice while you’re copying. Your own personality will always shine through, even just in pictures and images. The best thing you can do is be as honest as possible and do not be afraid of bullying. Hate is still interest. So, it means they are provoking an emotion and that usually translates into more success.
Jess: I suppose by being an influencer and creating content, you’re in one sense opening yourself up to be commented on aren’t you? How do you switch that bit off and not care about that?
Xenia: My professional life is completely separate from my private life. It’s very easy for someone to hide behind an avatar and just give hate, but imagine this person having to take responsibility for what they’re saying — they would probably have no courage to do that. So, in my opinion, the best way to deal with hate, is to just ignore it. Lastly, sometimes hate is useful for other people to see. Sometimes I get hate on the fact that I’m a feminist and I like to expose it, so people can see that there are still these subjects in society, and it is important to see that they exist.
Jess: So, we’re on THE OUTNET and we have to talk about fashion! I know that today you were checking out shoes on our site, is that right?
Xenia: Yes, I’m in love with THE OUTNET shoe selection. They’re all so Instagrammable, that’s the right word. I was like ‘oh my god, this would look amazing in my pics, and this would look amazing in my pics, and this.’ I wanna buy them all now… I’ve decided to sleep on my little list.
Jess: If you’re a feminist, there’s a perception that you shouldn’t also be fashionable and fabulous and wear high heels for example.
Xenia: That’s an important subject to me. I want to say it out loud. A woman can wear whatever she wants and be respected. It doesn’t matter if she wants to wear a burka, if she wants to wear a hijab, or if she wants to go out in a bikini. That has nothing to do with her dignity as a woman and her achievements and what she does in life
Jess: So, you love heels! How would you describe your style, what are your favorite things?
Xenia: Yeah, I think accessories can really make a look. A pair of nice shoes, a pair of nice earrings and then a bag can make or break a look. So, you can just have a wardrobe of basics, classics, and just switch accessories and they’re gonna change the game for you. I’m a girl of extreme opposites with style. I do like the super done-up, beautiful, elegant outfit — like a nice dress and a heel — but I also like to be very street style and I like that, I love that.
Jess: Ok, so this Christmas when we’ll sadly all be having staycations, will you be going for it or will you be embracing the casual lounge vibe?
Xenia: I am lucky that I can dress up at home for my content creation. But, I think everybody can do that. I think it’s worth it sometimes, even if you’re just in your pajamas for a week and then one day just dress up like you were going to a red carpet, even if you’re at home. I will definitely be playing with outfits. Like, I don’t care if I’m home or at a restaurant, I just want to enjoy the creativity of changing outfits, being able to show them for myself. After World War II I think… red lips became extremely fashionable, because it was an inexpensive way of cheering yourself up.
Jess: It’s an uplift! Uplift your mood. It works. It’s really important.
Xenia: Now, I’m going to go onto THE OUTNET and keep looking at the shoes I want.
Jess: Yay! Thank you so much for talking to us, I’ve really enjoyed it and good luck with the book!
Xenia: Thank you for having me! Thank you so much, I appreciate it.
Getting inspired by other influencers
“I just adore the beauty influencer Anna Sarelly. She’s so classy, so fashionable but at the same time so transparent and fully honest with who she is. Her followers really feel her energy and the way she’s honest with them and that’s why she deserves all her success.”
“I’m passionate about Latin dancing! I wear pieces like leggings and crop tops that are sporty and comfortable but they’re also quite sexy in a way. They need to be tight-fitting so you can show the movement and see if you’re doing the right steps or not.”