Power Is the New Black: Success and Likability in the Fashion Industry

Bryan Grey Yambao, aka the luxury fashion blogger Bryanboy, is infamous for his fractious persona. His blog is rife with comments that are flattering to himself and unflattering to others, with a good dose of profanity. He seems to thrive on controversy, happy to be seen as a narcissistic brat who puts out cigarettes in designer handbags. Perhaps predictably, his attitude inspires strong feelings, many of them negative.

He’s also one of the most powerful fashion writers in the world. Bryanboy sits in the front row at New York Fashion Week. And evidence of his influence is clear in the social media world: In 2015 alone, he had almost half a million Twitter followers and more than half a million Instagram followers, and his blog saw more than 1.4 million unique hits a month. How does this person have the power to define what is chic for the rest of the world when he seems to eschew the norms of likability?

As a matter of fact, research suggests that those people who are self-promoting, angry or narcissistic are exactly the ones who are seen as having higher status and who rise to power. On the other end of the spectrum, there’s a correlation between people who are seen as “pleasant” or “agreeable” and who have lower salaries. Bryanboy’s confident and contentious personality may actually serve him well.

The preceding is adapted from Darden Professor Peter Belmi and Senior Researcher Gerry Yemen’s article “His Brand? Making It Fashionable to Be Scorned,” which appeared in the 12 June 2016 issue of The Washington Post as part of the Darden School of Business/Washington Post Case in Point” series.

 The article is based on the case Bryanboy (Darden Business Publishing), by Peter Belmi and Gerry Yemen.

About the Faculty

Peter Belmi

Belmi seeks to understand why rich people are rich, why poor people are poor, and why social disparities between the rich and the poor persist over time. To answer these questions, he examines the social psychological forces that contribute to the reproduction of hierarchies and social inequality. In one line... Learn More