When it comes to lingerie, Cora Harrington knows her stuff. The Lingerie Addict started as a passion, but Cora turned it into a profitable business and built a community of cherished supporters around the idea that lingerie is for everyone and every body. At KIM+ONO, we couldn’t feel more aligned with this ethos. In this interview, Cora sheds light on the fact that good things take time and that communities that are dedicated to safe, positive environments are vital in this day and age. Today in the journal, we are thrilled to share Cora’s story, her advice, and her insights with you. Here’s what Cora had to say:
Your magazine, The Lingerie Addict, introduces the concept that lingerie is “more than foundation garments, lingerie is a way to express your personal identity and sense of self.” Why is self expression so vital to well-being?
I’m not a psychologist, so I feel I’m not super qualified to talk about “well-being” as such! But we do know that people need space to express who they are, preferably without judgement or censure. And we also know that when people are denied that self-expression, they become stressed. They become depressed. They become angry. None of that is good for our health and happiness. I believe lingerie can be an antidote of sorts to the constant pressures we face everyday. Not a complete one, of course. Wearing underwear won’t cure depression. But it can be a small way of making your life better, and those small ways matter.
During this incredibly challenging year, how has the mission to find “a place for you to be who you really are” deepened or changed for you?
One very direct and concrete way this mission has been amplified is through my private Facebook group, Lingerie Addicts. Living through a pandemic and its accompanying economic uncertainty is its own kind of daily trauma. Social media, in particular, both through constant exposure to frequently upsetting news and the sarcasm and harassment typically present on these platforms, can cause alarm. So you’re in this constant state of being keyed up and agitated. My group is a place where there are rules, not just around who we admit, but also how people can act once they’re admitted. I think creating places where harassment isn’t allowed, where slurs aren’t allowed, where discrimination isn’t allowed creates at least one small space on the internet where people can be who they want to be.
You founded The Lingerie Addict in 2008 while you were still working full time in nonprofits. What inspired or encouraged you to take the leap to TLA full time and what advice would you give someone looking to follow a similar path?
I reached a critical inflection point, which I think happens to all of us at some point. Was I going to stay in nonprofits and make that my long-term career (which would have likely involved a return to graduate school)? Or did I feel confident enough to take a risk and try a new direction? At the time, my site was making enough regular income to equal the take-home pay from my job. Since I was single, childless, and had no major responsibilities, I decided to take the leap. Fortunately, I’m lucky enough that it’s paid off.
As far as others following a similar path, I feel I first have to acknowledge that the world of blogging and social media in general is nothing like what it was back in 2008 when I started. My first blog was on Blogger and my very first post was essentially, “Hey! These thigh high stockings are cool.” I doubt that approach would be as effective today.
However, as far as general advice, I would say that it’s fine to start with passion, but passion doesn’t equal profit. Passion alone cannot sustain a business. More than that, many parts of running a business are deeply unglamorous. You have to be willing to do the “chores” alongside the fun things.
I would also say to give yourself time. I think a lot of people fall into the trap of expecting instant success, when most of the successful people you see started years ago. Obviously, hope for the best, but plan on needing at least a couple of years to develop your skills and achieve some momentum.
The creative direction behind your photos often feels like you’re telling a story with each image. How do you begin your creative process when you set out on crafting a photoshoot?
There is no formula, really. I would say my direction and narrative depends on my interests at the time. An item or a painting or sometimes even a concept will grab my attention. It generates that spark which makes me wonder if I can transform and adapt that feeling to my own work.
My editorials tend to take a bit of time to plan, not just for budget reasons, but also because I want to let my ideas and concepts develop naturally. I’m in the fortunate position of being able to publish my editorials directly to my site without needing to find another publication, so there’s no need to rush. And I’m doubly fortunate in having a Patreon where readers help fund my blog, which means editorials can stay true to my creative vision rather than relying on advertisers.
Who and what are some of the influences that have inspired your work?
There are so many! Visually, in the past year, I’ve drawn a lot of inspiration from Harmonia Rosales, an Afro-Cuban artist “exploring Black female empowerment.”
As far as my writing or my mission, I love Valerie Steele who’s written one of the seminal texts on intimate apparel, The Corset: A Cultural History.
In that same vein, I’m also feeling inspired by Shelby Ivie Christie, a Black fashion historian who does a lot of work around making fashion more accessible and also highlighting the contributions of Black Americans to fashion.
The Lingerie Addict has millions of visitors a year and over 300,000 followers on social media. Your community adores you and even creates artistic pieces of their own based on your own creative vision. How has your relationship with your readers impacted or influenced your mission with TLA?
As someone who’s grown my presence online organically, I appreciate my followers so much. TLA is what it is primarily due to word of mouth. People tell their friends who tell their friends and so forth and so on.
My relationship with my readers has done so much for my site and my general mission. Years ago, when I first hired columnists, I did so because I knew my readers needed perspectives I couldn’t personally provide. When I stopped accepting brand samples for review, I did so because I wanted my readers to be absolutely certain every review on TLA was unbiased and uninfluenced by brands. When I started my group, I made it explicitly pro-LGBTQ, pro-sex work, and anti-body snark because - apart from my own personal values - it’s important that my readers feel safe.
I take reader trust very seriously. I take reader feelings about my site and my work very seriously. While that doesn’t mean everyone will like what I do, it does mean people will know I’m trying my hardest...and that matters.
If you could go back in time and give some advice to who you were 20 years ago, what would you tell her?
Let’s see...20 years ago, I was a senior in high school. I think I’d tell my past self 3 things. 1) You are capable of so much more than you know. 2) You will learn to love yourself. 3) It doesn’t matter what speed you go at. You can change your mind at any time. You can start over at any time. Spend the next decade (or more!) exploring who you want to be.
What gives you hope?
This is such an interesting question because so many of us are struggling with hope right now. I think sometimes asking for “hope,” can be a bit too much, and what you have to rely on instead is persistence, strength, and resilience. When things get rough, surrounding yourself with the friends, loved ones, and relationships that have seen you through both good days and bad matters more than ever.