There are New York City apartments smaller than Rachel Lynch’s closet. Home to a vast collection of colorful clothes plucked from her extensive modeling and traveling around the world, it serves as a gateway between Lynch’s massive bedroom and equally grandiose bathroom in her loft in downtown Manhattan. With a better selection than most Fifth Avenue boutique shops, there are enough leather jackets and sky-high heels, faux fur and sequined blouses to sate any fashion icon’s appetite for several seasons.
Not all of it is purchased by her, of course. In fact, there is an entire space dedicated to sunglasses that reaches back nearly ten rows Lynch doesn’t often touch.
“I never wear most of them,” she affirms, picking through and selecting a pair of white cat eyes to play with. “Brands just send them to me.”
This is part of everyday life for Lynch, a model and fashion blogger with nearly 150,000 loyal followers on Instagram, some of whom have followed her since she started her blog, ihateblonde, as a teenager in 2009.
At 26, Lynch now posts to Instagram on a daily basis, showcasing portions of her life on the platform’s Stories feature so her followers can get live updates on what she’s up to. Her main feed is where she publishes stunning portraits of herself, shot by the many photographers she works with. Her blog features vulnerable creative writing alongside pictures that often borders on poetry.
“Modern sliding glass and a shower like a waterfall, this place will do just fine,” Lynch writes of her recent trip to Spain with an unnamed companion. “A bottle of Spanish red, and I’m shower-fresh singing love songs on the balcony.”
Scrolling too long through any of it can leave even the most well-endowed and affluent amongst us feeling a few shades greener with envy, though — both Lynch’s blog and feed showcase a cosmopolitan life filled to the diamond-encrusted brim with everything anyone could possibly desire: champagne, fine dining, exotic beach scenes, luxurious petal-laden bubble baths. But it wasn’t always like this — and it doesn’t paint the full picture, Lynch says.
“You post the romanticized version. [Followers] think that your life is beautiful moment after beautiful moment,” she says. “They don’t see the 10,000 hours.”
Lynch hails from East Lansing, Michigan, and possesses a type of humility and reservedness rare for Manhattan, even though she considers New York City her absolute home — “I feel like it’s essential to my being” — and has wanted to live here since she visited with her father at age 11.
She also has an unusual combination of experience, digital prowess and entrepreneurial edge that could’ve landed her in a different field. She earned a degree in science journalism from the University of Illinois at Chicago and was weighing a career in medicine when she decided to go all-in on ihateblonde, which she’d already monetized.
“Do I want to be in debt?” She recalls asking herself, looking at the extensive time and money she’d have to put in to pursuing an advanced degree in forensics. It’s counter-intuitive to anyone who continued their education as a path to add extra commas on a paycheck. But in the booming age of blogging, affiliate links and the birth of new social media platforms, Lynch already had the blueprint for her business sketched out.
“I was also so creative I couldn’t contain it,” she says.
She doesn’t have to anymore. In six years, she has graduated from sleeping on an air mattress in a tiny room into her grandiose, sweeping downtown loft. A large, inviting kitchen begs to be cooked in. An oriental rug stretches across her living room, her left-handed electric guitar perched against her couch for easy access. A voracious reader, evidence of Lynch’s love for books is scattered throughout her apartment, and she has a seemingly endless reading list— last week, she wrapped up Dale Carnegie’s How to Win Friends and Influence People and Portia de Rossi’s memoir Unbearable Lightness. Just before that, she made her way through some of Maya Angelou’s most celebrated works, including I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings and The Heart of a Woman.
An outsider would know none of this just from scrolling on her Instagram.
“I’m still a little mysterious, I think,” she says. “There are things I’ve kept private. ‘Who are you dating? Are you straight’?”
Many would think it a vulnerable place to be, posing seductively and sometimes with barely-there clothing for all the world to see. But Lynch says she knows what she’s doing. “I’ve really refined my art and my vision for myself,” she says, describing her aesthetic as one that evolves.
There’s the “sort of bad girl, sugar baby, Lana del Rey caricature” who might don lacy lingerie. This is different from the bohemian artist, or the one who’s exercising and managing physical and mental health. Lynch also says some of her style is androgynous and queer, which her LGBT followers connect with.
“Sometimes I like dressing like a boy,” she shrugs.
People have a lot of opinions about women who post suggestive photographs. Saints cheerleader Bailey Davis says she was fired from her position after posting a picture of herself in a bikini on Instagram. Earlier this year, Alejandra Campoverdi ran for a seat in the U.S. House of Representatives in California more than 10 years after she modeled for Maxim, but almost all of the coverage of her campaign focused not on her experience or issues, but on the single time she stripped down for the magazine.
Lynch says that when she gets negative feedback on her accounts, it’s almost always from men, some of whom make multiple accounts to harass her from. Sometimes, a male photographer she’ll work with will have a negative viewpoint of the very women he’s photographing.
“I feel like a lot of men assume that women who take sexy photos aren’t intelligent,” Lynch says. “Oh ‘she’s just a this or that.’ [She’s] a whole person.”
Posting modeling photos doesn’t come without risks, either. Lynch recently stopped adding geotags to her Instagram posts because of a threatening message she received from a follower while at a Pilates studio she frequently tagged on the platform.
“Some dude was like oh, looking so beautiful, and look to your right,” Lynch recalled, noting that the man knew another model was in the class at the same time as her.
“I was like, ‘he could be waiting for me downstairs.’ As much as you feel like no one would show up…you’re posting exactly where the f-ck you are,” she recalls.
At the end of the day, Lynch says she knows when it’s time to power down, and finds much of her inner peace from practicing a type of art that doesn’t involve painting, posing or photographs. She loves to run. She’s spent months training in the snow and rain to gear up for the Women’s Half-Marathon that she competed in on Sunday, and says it’s “special because it’s taken so much hard work.”
“I relish being alone,” she adds, noting she tries to put her phone down from 9 p.m. at night until after Pilates the next morning. “Running is a metaphor for a lot of things. It’s life at its simplest,” she says. “Not technology or followers. Not anyone else.”