She helps run a ranch, raises and home schools her kids, cooks, is an avid photographer but best of all, she has a blog that gets 23.3 million page views per month. Her name is the Pioneer Woman and I want to be her when I grow up.
Her name is the Pioneer Woman and I want to be her when I grow up.
I’m not jealous of the ranch, I have the kids – in fact even more than her (homeschooling is another blog post),I can cook (all be it my cuisine will never include a rib-eye steak, it will be Sag Paneer or Chicken Tikka Masala or Balela) and photography? Not so much – my daughter Stefanie is the photographer. But communicating stories and blogging successfully? Oh Baby – this is what I want to do and pioneer woman has done just that.
Since January 1st I have posted 114 times and to my delight and surprise I have received more views than ever expected. I think it’s more about luck than anything else. Soon after I began blogging I decided to do a short series on Flood Relief in Pakistan. It was well received and I ended up reconnecting with a number of people from my past. Soon after, January 28th arrived and with it the Day of Rage in Cairo, Egypt. My personal connections, both through living in the country for 7 years and through my daughter, Annie, enrolled in a Master’s Degree program at the American University in Cairo, allowed me a perspective that differed from many in the United States. Because of this there was more than the usual interest in reading an unknown blog.WordPress graciously awarded me “Freshly Pressed” Status and I suddenly enjoyed an audience of thousands of readers. This of course was short-lived! In fact, it lasted all of a week but the affirmation had deep roots and I began to feel this blogging world was a world I wanted to pursue.
I was feeling great about the slow but steady response to my daily posts – and then through the New Yorker by way of my husband I met Pioneer Woman. Pioneer Woman began her blog as a way to keep in touch with her mom. It was personal and practical. But she developed a following that grew and grew and grew to 23 million strong, a revenue of a million dollars, a creative site, a cook book and a movie deal. She is one creative business woman. But the reality is that she didn’t begin with that in mind. She began because she wanted to communicate. She communicated about life, her life. She didn’t try to pretend or be someone she wasn’t. She didn’t write Three Cups of Tea, she wrote a real life blog and it would be difficult to accuse her of being an impostor.
She began because she wanted to communicate. She communicated about life, her life.
Pioneer Woman took what was commonplace for her, and despite it being different and somewhat foreign to others, communicated in a way that resonated with people, made them feel as though they knew her and could connect. It’s remarkable but that is what good communication, a purpose, and the tools of technology can accomplish.
The New Yorker article chronicles an interesting story of how Pioneer Woman came to be. Ree Drummond, her real name, didn’t grow up on the ranch. Rather she was part of a fairly well-off family with a mom who stayed home with the kids and a dad who worked as an orthopedic surgeon. After college and a career that had her dressed in heels trying to get celebrities to come to trade shows marketed to senior citizens, she met a man she describes as Marlboro Man and married him and his ranch. In details that only the New Yorker can wrangle, a narrative is woven and the seven hours that changed her life, seven hours spent giving birth to the blog. The rest is the making of a case study for Harvard Business School for at heart it is a story of a successful business woman.
Pioneer woman does have her critics. Accusations that “she’s not really one of us” and one post, “I call bull $#@&: On the Pioneer Woman” crying out “Her charmed life is not the norm”, paint her as a ranch Pollyanna of sorts and enjoy using her story for satire, not inspiration. But haters can hate all they want – she’s got a pretty good gig going.
As I write this I realize I don’t really want to be Pioneer Woman – there is only one. Pakistan, Egypt, Arizona, Boston and all points in between would never fit on a ranch, nor do I want it to. I, like Eva Gabor, “get allergic smelling hay! I just adore a penthouse view etc.” I have milked a cow only one time on a beautiful but smelly farm in a German countryside, surrounded by lush green (and muddy) fields at 14 years old. I do not want to milk a cow again.
I do not home school and the mere thought of being in charge of my children’s education is terrifying. When I pick up a camera, my family immediately tell me to put it down. Strangers not knowing my failure as a photographer may want me to take their picture, but my family wanting to save them from heads cut off and blurred memories, interrupt and say “Oh you really don’t want that – we’ll take it!”
But despite my lack of ability in these areas, I do have a blog, I do have stories (oh so many stories) and I am loving walking this path of communicating through writing. In that way, Pioneer Woman is a great source of inspiration. She did it. She put a pen to paper and fingers to keyboard writing her story and gradually growing into her own, revealing her full potential.
So readers – I am no Pioneer Woman but thanks for reading my real-life stories, commenting when you agree and being extraordinarily kind when you disagree! Here’s to blogging and finding my voice.
- Amanda Fortini: The perfect creations of the Pioneer Woman. (newyorker.com)
- The Pioneer Woman Cooks (ncbookbunch.wordpress.com)