Someone You Should Know: Rilee Chastain

By Heather Scroering

Rilee Chastain, a 21-year-old journalism graduate, just left Columbia in May. Yet,  her four-month-old blog,, is already making headlines.

CBS Detroit announced 2011’s Most Valuable Blogger Awards on Sept. 16. Not only did, Chastain’s side project, score an Editor’s Choice award in the Lifestyle and Family category, it won People’s Choice too.  Chastain’s blog was the only blog to win both awards.

Chastain is a web content writer for a marketing company in Michigan. The Chronicle sat down with Chastain to talk about her post-graduation success.

The Chronicle: Why did you start the blog?

Rilee Chastain: It started off as a class assignment. I took Entrepreneurial Journalism with Dan Sinker this past spring semester, and basically the idea for the class was we had to come up with an entrepreneurial journalism project that we would actually like to make into a thing. It started off as a simple WordPress blog and developed over an entire semester. I launched the site just after gradation, on Memorial Day Weekend.

The Chronicle: What type of blog is it?

RC: It’s a lifestyle website for girls who are in their 20s or who have just graduated from college or are basically just trying to live on their own and are looking for the tools they need in order to get there.

The Chronicle: What kind of content do you cover?

RC: It’s essentially relationship advice for serious relationships; we have home decor advice for your first apartment or your first house. We have food and decorating tips on a budget. We have fashion advice that’s a little more grown up, like things you could wear to your first job or how to transition [outfits] from going out with your friends to going to an interview. It’s basically everything you would want when you’re first graduating from college and you’re too young to go to Better Homes and Gardens and read it there, but you’re too old to look at Seventeen.

The Chronicle: How do you generate ideas for the site?

RC: I allow my staff members to come up with their own ideas. I try to write at least once a week, but with my regular company, I write 20 blogs a week, so getting one more in is just mind-blowing. For me, personally, a lot of it has to do with what’s in season. If something is troubling me in my own life, that’s usually a great topic to blog about because I am literally the audience for my blog. So if there’s something like, “I have no idea how to dress for this company meeting,” there’s a good chance other girls are in the same spot. So I’ll try my best to figure it out, or I’ll do it and do a blog on what not to do.

The Chronicle: How is the blog operated?

RC: It’s built on top of Google Blogger platforms. It’s a free Web hosting site. All of our writers are volunteers. Not one position gets money. Everything that’s made goes into the website. We have six writers who write full-time and four editors. Writers submit two posts a week.

The Chronicle: Do you have any writers from Columbia?

RC: They’re from all over the country. We have writers based out of North Carolina, one other person from San Francisco [and] Chicago, but no Columbia writers. We have a guest contributor who’s from Columbia.

The Chronicle: How stoked were you after you found out you won the award?

RC: I was super excited. It’s only a few months old. The fact that other people read it and like it enough to nominate it for an award is just a little bit insane, but I also have a huge, amazing community around me. People’s Choice is awesome because that just shows how devoted all of my writers and their fans are to it, and just how awesome my own community is, especially all of the people from Columbia I know voted for it. Those people are great.

The Chronicle: What’s the goal for the blog?

RC: Right now the next biggest thing we’re going to do is start a YouTube channel for video blogs. They’ll basically be do-it-yourself instructional videos or a cool find of the week, something that’s cheap or [or it will be] just an advice blog. It’s just once a week to get our face out there because YouTube videos are huge right now,  and so many people are turning to YouTube videos rather than reading articles just because they don’t have the time to read. We recently started a channel. It’s like a Formspring, but with videos. Girls can ask questions and answer with mini videos. I’d love to take on more advertising opportunities and pay my staffers. That’d be great.

The Chronicle: Though you don’t have Columbia writers, is there anyone at Columbia who has played a major role in this?

RC: I don’t think there’s any person that has had a bigger influence on it other than Sinker and that entire class. I can’t even explain how much of their influence [was] on it. I wouldn’t even have a blog if it wasn’t for that class, so Dan Sinker is the main reason I have a blog, and I can’t thank him enough.