Fillerup Clark did not originally intend to make Barefoot Blonde a career. She created the site while volunteering at an orphanage in Fiji when she was 20, so she could update her family back home; after returning to Utah, she transitioned to posting style inspirations and musings on college life. The blog’s early popularity earned her a gig with an alarm-system company that paid her to wear a T-shirt with its logo around campus. But school failed to keep her interest, and after a year she transferred to a yearlong hairstyling program; she went back to college for a second year before dropping out. During their first year of marriage, she and Clark made ends meet by donating plasma at a blood bank and living in his parents’ basement. Then, in 2014, the blog got its first big break: a sponsored campaign with the hair-care brand Tresemmé. Before the year was up, Barefoot Blonde was profitable enough that Clark quit law school to become a “blog husband.” Today he serves as the go-to photographer and manages logistics for the hair-extension line. The Clarks declined to tell me their income, but Karen Robinovitz, a co-founder of Digital Brand Architects, the agency that represents Fillerup Clark, said bloggers at her level can earn between $1 million and $6 million a year.
The following afternoon, I joined all four Clarks for a photo shoot in Central Park. Fillerup Clark, Rosie, and Atticus wore matching jean jackets—freebies from a boutique—and Fillerup Clark tossed leaves above the kids’ beaming faces while the photographer, a friend hired for the day, snapped away. Like other successful parent bloggers, the Clarks have been accused of exploiting their children for financial gain. They counter that Rosie and Atticus are never forced to do anything, and that Barefoot Blonde allows the family more time together than would any traditional job. As the shoot continued, the toddlers appeared largely oblivious to the camera and delighted to be feeding ducks with their parents.
Fillerup Clark says she juggles about five photo shoots a week, not including impromptu picture-taking when the family happens to be doing something photogenic. It was the Clarks’ second visit to Central Park that day; the earlier trip, which they’d deemed a casual family outing, not an official shoot, had generated content for an Instagram photo, a Snapchat video, and a blog post.
The seemingly effortless grace with which the Clarks are living the American dream appeals to their fans, who are overwhelmingly female, largely in their mid-20s to early 30s, and concentrated in New York and California, according to Clark. Twenty-nine-year-old Gena Baillis, who lives with her husband and their infant son in Charleston, South Carolina, has followed Fillerup Clark for three years and looks to her “to help me become a better version of myself.” On Fillerup Clark’s recommendation, Baillis has bought nail polish, camera gear, sports drinks, healthy snacks, and workout equipment. (For her birthday, Baillis said, her husband “bought me a spinning bike because Amber takes spinning and I swore that’s what would work.”) “My husband’s like, ‘You aspire to be like her, so this is what you need to do,’ ” said Baillis. “They kinda seem to live a fantasy life, but they seem pretty down-to-earth. It doesn’t seem fake at all.”