Material Girl: How Dana Weiss became Possessionista

Per usual on the morning after an episode of ABC TV’s “The Bachelorette,” Dana Weiss wakes up to more than 300 emails—sales alerts from stores, brands pitching products, women wanting to buy those products, and readers chattering in a hundred different directions.

And Weiss will deal with all of it later in the day, along with an unending march of calls, texts, tweets and emails with publicists, agents, stylists, retailers, brands and readers. That, plus four hours of television show monitoring; random postings; and sundry family responsibilities throughout the day.

But first, there’s the obligatory “Bachelorette” recap to write and get online, two young sons and a husband to help get out the door, two business appointments, and an hour in the gym. “Yes,” smiles the 39-year-old Deerfield resident, “it gets really crazy.”

And truth be told, really crazy is just fine with Weiss, the creator and high octane force behind the hugely popular blog, possessionista.com. The blog, a spirited roux of fashion, television, and good old-fashioned materialism, seasoned with irreverent straight-talk, tracks celebrity style and looks seen on popular television shows and movies, and gives her readers daily postings on where to find them.

Six years in, Possessionista has blogged about well over 100 TV shows and now averages roughly 160,000 unique visitors and close to a million page views a month. The blog also has more than 58,000 Twitter followers, and growing status in the fashion and television communities.

“I don’t sleep. I’m just not a sleeper. I will be up until 12 or 1 every night working on the blog and I get up at 6,” says Weiss, by way of explaining how she manages single-handedly to pack the site each day with content that is informative, entertaining, salty, and, on occasion, deliciously snarky.

Weiss grew up in Ohio and Bethesda, Maryland, graduated from the University of Indiana with a degree in journalism, then moved to Chicago, where she worked in public affairs for various companies. She married attorney Steven Weiss 13 years ago, and they have sons Jack, 10, and Harry, 7.

Factoring in the cost of child care, she decided to become a stay-at-home mom when Harry was born. Shortly thereafter, possessionista.com also came into the world. “I had started the blog out of boredom,” she says. “I would be watching ‘Entourage’ and would like something Sloan was wearing on the show and I would Google and Google until I found it, and then I would post it.”

Her “aha moment” came when she fell in love with a yellow shirt worn in the movie “I Love You Man,” and e-mailed Lisa Evans, the movie’s costume designer, to ask where she got the shirt. “She e-mailed me back and I thought, ‘oh my gosh,’ this is how I can get this information. I don’t have to just Google and Google and look at every single yellow shirt. There is somebody who already has this information and it is matter of pulling it all together and making it accessible to people.”

Having come to the realization that costume designers were a virtually untapped resource, Weiss next discovered through a friend that by becoming a retailer affiliate, she could monetize her work. Her blog helps sell their stuff, she makes money.

“I just applied and I was accepted by all of them,” she said. As her numbers started rising, companies began coming to her. And what was once a fun hobby is now a successful business, incorporating a growing list of collaborative ventures and celebrity tie-ins.

“My mom always says this is my dream job because I was able to match my two favorite things, shopping and TV, and create a business out of it,” says Weiss, who typically works and watches shows on a laptop while sitting at the kitchen counter.

Success aside, a look inside Possessionista is a look inside the sense and sensibilities of Weiss herself, starting with her sense of humor.

“TV Watcher. Professional Shopper. Occasional Hater. Cheese Fry Eater. I’m not here for the right reasons,” states Weiss, in part, by way of describing herself on the blog.

“It’s all tongue in cheek,” she explains. “But it is the tone of the blog, and if you read it and are off put by it, you probably aren’t going to like the blog and that’s OK. I am not for everybody.”

“I’m talking about TV and fashion,” she further reminds, of the nearly 100 TV shows she has blogged on. “I’m not talking about politics. I never touch religion or touch social issues. And when I talk about reality TV, if you are watching it, you don’t get to stand on ceremony, either.”

Nor do TV personalities get to stand on ceremony when she makes fun of their scripted character. When they do, she says, “I respond, ‘Are you new here?’ This is what I do. I am a satirical commentator on TV. I am responding to the person I am seeing on TV with heavy editing,” she says.

Weiss’ serious side is also on full display on Possessionista, whose market is women 18 through middle age. “They are savvy and smart and they can tell the difference between  editorial and advertising,” she says.

To that end, the blog prominently describes how Possessionista makes money through affiliates and advertisers. When she enters into a partnership, participates in a sponsored post, or receives a product gratis, she discloses that. She also states that advertisers and affiliates do not receive preferential treatment when considering items for the blog. Two years ago she stopped letting the “Bachelor” give her their video ahead of time because she felt it might oblige her to be unconditionally supportive of the show.

“I don’t ever want to lose the editorial integrity of the blog. I think part of the reason people like Possessionista is that it is objective,” says Weiss.

Maintaining a personal connection with readers is also a priority, which the self-described “mom in a mini-van” does in part by closely following the shows she blogs about.

“I don’t want this to just be a repository for clothes. I want this to feel like you are sitting on the couch with your best friend and we are having this insight into what is happening on this show.”

While Weiss loves clothes, she is definitely not brand-obsessed.

Nordstrom is her “happy place.” But she also shops at Nordstrom Rack, Target, outlet shops, shopbob.com, and retailers from whom she gets discounts. “I love the thrill of the hunt. I love to mix high and low. To me, it’s not about who has the highest Neiman Marcus credit card bill at the end of the month.”

“I am definitely materialistic. I love clothes,” says Weiss. “But you have to understand that I love clothes and then I sell my clothes and then I use that money to buy new clothes.”

On this day, for the record, she is wearing 7 For All Mankind jeans, J.Crew top and jacket, and ShoeMint shoes. Oh, and shades by Ray-Ban. “They were my husband’s ex-girlfriend’s. I found them in his closet when we started dating and I never gave them back.”

As much as the hunt thrills Weiss, so does ownership of Possessionista.

“I am somebody’s wife and I am somebody’s mother, but this is mine. As women in our thirties, sometimes we give up that identity. This is solely mine. I created it. I own it and I think that is really satisfying. And I’d be lying if I didn’t say that I get a little rush when I get an email from somebody, or a celebrity tweets me. Or there have been times when somebody comes up to me and says, ‘You’re Possessionista.’ That is really cool.”

About the author

Alan P. Henry is a New York Times bestselling author, six-time national fiction contest prize winner, and thirty-five-year newspaper veteran with the Chicago Sun-Times, Boston Globe, Boston Herald, and now, 22nd Century Media.

More From Chicagoly

JOIN THE DISCUSSION