This is the story of Quinoa, a small, trendy child who wears haute couture and a model’s aloof expression. It’s also the story of how a hilarious Pinterest board for a fake child blew up this week on the interwebs, growing its follower base more than 100-fold in 24 hours, from around 100 to almost 11,000 (at last count).
First, the child: More than a legend in her own playroom, Quinoa is an icon in the fashion world who always has the perfectly accessorized outfit no matter her mood or activity: She wears a chevron maxi for a stroll through a field of wildflowers; an outdoorsy kilt and cloak for a damp stroll by a bog; and totes a spare “urban outfit” in her mother’s purse in the event they’re going to be around a lot of chain link fencing. Pleather crushes her tiny soul. So does the poverty, which is why she recently embarked on a humanitarian mission to give Haitian orphans much-needed make overs. Quinoa is also the over-the-top imaginary daughter of Pennsylvania copywriter and mother of two boys, Tiffany Beveridge.
Now, the Pinterest board: Tiffany started a Pinterest board a year ago to record the ridiculously fake lifestyle and over-the-top fashion choices of the fictitious Quinoa (bear with me here…) and her imaginary daughter’s imaginary fashion-forward friends – among them, Houndstooth, Gaultier, Hugo, and especially her BFF Chevron. She called it My Imaginary Well-Dressed Toddler Daughter (MIWDTD). I should point out that Quinoa isn’t always the same child or the same age, but instead is any number of children culled from fashion ads and stock photos. (Are you still following?)
Yesterday, my friend Teresa Basich shared it on her Facebook wall, which prompted me to share it, which prompted at least 39 other people to share it, too. This is how viral works, of course. And that viral thing delivered (as of today) 10,900-ish new followers to Tiffany’s imaginary daughter’s fictitious lifestyle board.
Which prompts the question: Who is this person? What’s going on here? And (if you are a content person like me), what lessons can we learn from fake Quinoa’s very real success?
Tiffany, it turns out, is as surprised by her fake daughter’s success as much as Quinoa (if she were real) would be nonplussed. Until this week, the board had roughly 100 followers – Tiffany isn’t exactly sure how many, she said, because she didn’t track it all that closely. Then suddenly, and unexplicably, people started to pay attention when (Tiffany thinks) a few people with a wide audience found it somehow and started sharing it. “It’s been funny to watch the numbers grow today…” Tiffany said. “My son asked if we could get pizza if I hit 8,000 followers on the board before dinner.”
In real life, Tiffany is a freelance copywriter in the greater Philadelphia area. She blogs three times per week for Mrs. Fields in addition to handling some agency work, proofreading and editing. She’s also a mom to her (average-dressed) real sons.
What follows is more of our conversation:
You have two sons. What gave you the inspiration for the MIWDTD?
My two sons couldn’t care less what they wear. It’s a constant parade of t-shirts and basketball shorts around here.
I kept seeing cute things on Pinterest for girls on my feed, but felt I had no claim to them. Then I thought, why not? Why can’t I pin cute stuff for girls? So I named the board for my imaginary daughter and started re-pinning clothes from friends that I thought were cute and fun.
When I started searching for little girl clothes on Pinterest myself… I discovered the over-the-top photos and looks. And then I guess my sense of humor got the better of me. I mean, come on, if I’m going to spend time dressing an imaginary daughter on Pinterest, why not go all the way?
So you named her… Quinoa?
It was also around the time that quinoa (the grain) was hi-jacking Pinterest. I felt I could barely scroll through a page without 12 new quinoa recipes (that were deemed THE! BEST! EVER!), and I remember thinking how funny it was that a grain had become trendy.
Like, so trendy somebody was probably going to name their kid Quinoa. (And then I probably gave an evil chuckle and started pinning.) I guess you can see where things went from there.
The board is hilarious. But the more recently stuff is funnier. When I read your early entries you definitely seemed to be still finding your voice. This isn’t really a question. It’s just an observation, I guess.
You’re exactly right. The whole look and persona of Quinoa has definitely evolved. She used to be much more altruistic. Now she just thinks she is.
One of the reasons I loved Quinoa’s board is that it’s a fun take on the over-the-top consumerism of Pinterest. Did you envision Quinoa’s board as a post-modernist commentary on a consumer-driven society punctuated with the inevitable longing for a flawless, flaxen-haired, coifed and polished offspring? Or was it just for, you know, fun?
I think my subconscious is much smarter than my conscious self. I can see the social commentary in there (now that you mention it), but it really began just for kicks and giggles. I also lived for a long time in a very image-aware area and culture. I’m sure that influences me.
Does Quinoa know Honest Toddler?
Not in person, but I’d love to arrange a play date. We could invite the Jolie-Pitt kids to join us.
* * * * *
I can’t help but consider some content lessons. Here are two:
Use social platforms to share a story. To get noticed on the noisy, content-rich internet, you have to create something inspired. In Tiffany’s case, she created the unexpected, by both celebrating and gently skewering over-the-top toddler fashion frocks and the culture that spawns them.
So the question becomes: What if a fashion brand like Burberry or Juicy Couture showed a similar sense of humor and humanity about its clothing? Or, conversely, what if a brand like the uber-organic Small Plum or ever-practical Target created a board like Tiffany’s to highlight its own, more sane alternatives? Perhaps the bigger question is: Use social platforms and social tools to tell a story, not just shill your stuff.
It takes a while to hone your voice. As Tiffany said, it took her and Quinoa a while to hit their stride, because it took Tiffany a while to develop Quinoa’s persona.
The bigger lesson for content creators of all types is this: A point of view and voice won’t magically appear as instantly as a pair of Hunter boots on Quinoa’s tiny feet during a sudden downpour. Instead, good content – like a solid fashion sense – takes time to develop.
UPDATE: The Best Pinterest Board Ever Is Now a Book!
How to Quinoa comes out in June 2014. Pick up a copy now because, well, it’s in vogue!