Gerona is often a double minority: a woman and a person of color. She hardly ever saw someone who looked like her in these meetings—at the beginning of her career, as a young entrepreneur, and even as recently as at Revolve’s IPO road show. It can be a constant exercise of reminding oneself that you’re in the room for a reason, she says: “We tend to underestimate ourselves a lot as women, and especially as women of color. ‘Am I good enough? Do I deserve to be here?’ That was the first personal hurdle: reassuring myself that I’m good at my job.” Then there’s the fact that she’s representing her female-majority team, and that she’s carrying the opportunity given to her by her parents, who moved the family from the Philippines to Los Angeles when Gerona was 7. “I think that spirit and that gratefulness stretches a long way. It makes things less intimidating when I’m in a room full of men.”
The day-to-day of Gerona’s role—of identifying, partnering with, and helping grow influencers—is something that didn’t exist a decade or two ago. And that can be a challenge, both personally (“my parents didn’t even understand what I did for a living,” she says) and professionally, as when she was out with her fellow executives trying to persuade investors to get behind Revolve and its marketing strategy. “Some of them didn’t even know what an influencer is,”she says. “After doing seven or eight meetings that first day, it quickly became very clear to me that it was going to be an educational process, as opposed to a pitching process. Either I give them enough information and they understand exactly what I’m talking about and why it sets us apart from other brands and retailers, or they’re just like, ‘I have no idea what you’re talking about, I’m not buying it.’”
As we now know, Revolve has been successful not in just implementing and innovating on influencer marketing, but also in getting money behind those efforts. But there has been some criticism, especially in regard to who goes on its trips and attends its events. (It even inspired a hashtag, #RevolveSoWhite.) Being on the front lines of the company’s social strategy, Gerona is obviously aware of this.
“Everything that has happened the last year or so around how we choose influencers has really opened up our eyes to making sure we’re working toward inclusivity and trying to be better,” she says. “We work with over 3,000 influencers from all over the world. We felt like we were doing a solid job in representing our customer base.” But the feedback has made Revolve further expand its pool of partners , she says, to be more representative of the site’s fan base. “Our customer will always be our guiding light, whether it’s in influencer marketing or in the brands we carry on the site and the locations that we go to: Where is she, who is she inspired by, how do we relay the brand in the most authentic way?”
And influencers will continue to be a part of Revolve’s winning sauce, because, as Gerona puts it: “No matter what, at the end of the day, people are always going to need [other] people to look up to for inspiration.”