Catie Li is here to inspire the masses all around the world. Calling herself a “workaholic,” the Bay Area native is the definition of a multi-hyphenate, someone who has a wide array of talents and is now stepping into her own as a plus-size model and fashion designer. Catie shows no plans to slow down from interning at BET to getting hired to helping grow The Shade Room as CMO, now leaving all that behind and focusing on her new role in front of the camera.
Boasting 317K followers on Instagram alone, Catie seemingly figured out the cheat code when it came to building a presence both online and on social media. Taking advantage of the Reels feature the moment it hit Instagram, she was able to gain over 200K followers through posting her real-life adventures in the realm of fashion, beauty, fitness, and everything in between.
Fast forward to today, Catie is excited as ever to be designing and creating her OWN clothing line with Amazon The Drop. The goal is to promote size inclusivity while having fun with the process of creating amazing staple pieces for females all around the world to wear, appreciate, and love as well.
Sheen Magazine spoke with Catie Li virtually to discuss her time at BET, building her social media presence, fashion sense, designing her own clothes for Amazon, the wedding planning with her fiance, and more!
What did you learn from your time at BET?
I learned everything PR: how to run a red carpet, be a publicist, and produce a red carpet for events and shows. BET immersed me into the business just as an intern. The other intern jobs that I did at notable entertainment companies would have me look at magazines and cut out top news and talent. It didn’t require any brainpower or what it would be like working in PR.
As an intern at BET, my boss immediately threw me in with writing press releases, media alerts, etc. She would, of course, proof it and give suggestions. It was exciting to see if she would include some of my sentences or phrases in the final release that would go out to all the publications. BET immersed me into how PR works, how to write things, who should be on the carpet, where outlets should be placed on the carpet, how to handle problem-solving issues– all those things mattered in the PR world. BET really was the first job that developed the work ethic that helps me today as an entrepreneur.
Talk about building your social media presence and stepping into this new territory in front of the camera.
Instagram was only a few years old when I became a plus-size model. There was tons of interest from people on what a plus-size model did, who I modeled for, what life was like etc., so I had a decent amount of following from that. When COVID hit, I found it was a perfect opportunity to grow and gain more social media presence. Social platforms saw a huge spike in viewership time on their platform since we all were working from home on lockdown. I would work on my weekends and after work and push out content to see what would hit.
I was testing everything out on TikTok first, and then when reels hit, I shared all my content on the platform. I posted A LOT. I knew that IG was pushing reels, and I saw that. Some of my videos were getting upwards of 500-1M views. My styling content, ” This Look In A Size 14,” did the best. I would recreate celebrity looks in my size. I gained over 200K followers during that time frame.
Pro tip: anytime Instagram, TikTok, or any platform says “hey, we’re launching something,” get on it at that moment because that’s when they’re pushing content out to the explore, it is the best way to grow and to grow fast! It is really hard to develop nowadays, it tends to be easy to grow on Tiktok due to their algorithm, but it will be interesting to see what happens when IG brings back the chronological order.
Talk about your love for fashion. How would you describe your fashion sense?
It’s hard to describe my fashion sense. I try to be trendy and as timeless as possible, but it requires a lot of “research” on my end. It’s hard to describe it because I never really had clothes that were my size growing up. I always had to be creative, so I can say my fashion sense is creative! I always had to research and be creative on achieving similar looks that people were wearing that I liked. I was traumatized when I was younger when I would have to shop in the Missy’s department to find proper clothes that fit me as a middle schooler. I wasn’t even that big! The word Missy’s would drive me insane. After a while, I had to learn not to care where the clothes were coming from and try to be creative and craft the look I wanted.
Some creative things that I do are shop in the men’s department and get belt hole punchers to punch extra holes in belts that I love.
How’s the designing process been? It’s so dope that you’re creating these pieces.
The design process has been great! It is a fast turnaround, though! The Drop works with influencers to turn around small capsule collections. Amazon holds your hand along the way and gives you trends that will occur whenever your collection drops and color palettes. From there, you can get creative and go wild with it. They make about 30 sketches from the ideas that you’ve discussed with them. Then they help with the next stage of sampling. The annoying part is they’ll go, “Okay, you have 30 selections, now you have to go down to 15 to sample. Then you have to go down to 8 for production.” It’s really hard to choose after a while because you love everything.
How has the reception been?
I just posted the samples yesterday, and everybody loves it, so I’m pretty excited. The quality is good. It’s not like fast fashion quality, and amazon has experts for fit. I’m thrilled because I didn’t know what to expect, it’s my first time having a collection like this, but it’s been a great partnership.
I love seeing your relationship online. How’s the wedding planning?
It’s the worst. [laughs] Whoever says planning a wedding is fun they’re lying to you, especially during COVID. There are so many planning parts, and when you work, it is hard to get it all together!
Especially during a pandemic!
Yeah, it’s so stressful with the pandemic. For me, in LA, you can easily spend $100K on a wedding, and that’s so ridiculous to me. I’d rather put that money into something else. We planned our wedding about 2 to 3 times already and had to change it due to COVID, but we have a place now and will hopefully get married this year.