I met with Minnesota blogger and photographer Rana Browning, who shares her story and the joys and challenges of discovering her passions, being an over-forty influencer, and learning the importance of finding happiness in everyday life.
Browning starts off our virtual interview with a little background on herself. “I’m from Minnesota. I grew up in Cottage Grove and now live in Woodbury. I went to college in Duluth, but I’ve been in this part of Minnesota most of my life.” Browning earned her degree in dietetics and has been working as a dietician for over fifteen years. She also has two teenage children, a son and a daughter, who she co-parents with her former husband.
While raising her kids, Browning always tried to maintain a healthy balance between work and family. She spent many years focused on her loved ones’ happiness and success, putting her own needs on hold. At the time, it was what made sense to her. It wasn’t until her kids grew older that she realized she needed to shift her focus.
“I love being a mom, and as my kids aged, I started to notice that I had some more idle time and that my anxiety seemed to be increasing; I started to get really bad anxiety. I was working with a counselor who recommended I start doing things I’m passionate about. They believed I wasn’t challenged enough anymore.”
Browning took her counselor’s advice without hesitation. “I’m a big believer in not letting your pride get in your way of getting help. There’s no shame in getting help from a third party.” Browning has always been an advocate for mental health awareness and even touches on the subject within her platform. With her counselor’s advice in mind, Browning decided to pursue photography, and in 2018 she launched her lifestyle blog and Instagram account, both titled “Rana Monet.”
At first, Browning partnered with her daughter on the project, whose middle name is Monet. However, shortly after launching, Browning’s daughter decided she didn’t want to be involved, and Rana Monet turned into a solo project for Browning. Now, Browning runs Rana Monet on her own. She handles all of the photography, content, marketing, and networking by herself.
We go to social media and are so inundated with the idea that you have to look a certain way or be doing something specific, so I wanted to create a space where people could go and slow down a little.
As Browning has gained more followers and as her interests have changed, her content has naturally evolved. While she discusses fashion, beauty, travel, and food in her blog, she takes a slightly different approach to her Instagram feed.
“My platform completely switched from when I started. It started exclusively as fashion and travel, but I got tired of having my picture taken. I wanted to be the one taking pictures, so that’s when I started to switch it to a lifestyle feed and people loved it. It was a natural transition that worked perfectly for me and my audience.”
When it comes to what she photographs, Browning looks for things that bring her a sense of joy. Whether it’s a plate of perfectly stacked waffles, a bundle of yellow sunflowers, or a sunset over a pumpkin patch, she chooses settings that are simple yet evoke a feeling of comfort. A lot of her inspiration comes from the word “hygge.” “Hygge” refers to the Norwegian word for a mood of comfort and coziness, and when you scroll through her feed, there’s no denying it’s there. You’ll even find the hashtag #hygge in the bio of her Instagram page.
Appreciating simple things, like a sunset or an ensemble of pastries, is a big part of Browning’s healing process, so including these everyday experiences in her content made sense. Not only does capturing these moments remind her to continue acknowledging the little things, but Browning hopes that through her photographs, she can inspire others to do the same. “Find joy every day. There’s always something to be joyful of, even when you’re going through tough times.”
While the meaning of “hygge” is certainly a driving force behind what Browning chooses to include in her feed, she finds inspiration from much more. “I love magazines, so they are a big part of my inspiration. I also love architecture.”
“Find joy every day. There’s always something to be joyful of, even when you’re going through tough times.”
Browning notes she especially likes boutique hotels, labeling them a “photography wonderland.” “There’s so much effort put into [boutique] hotels, down to every detail. If you’re a photographer, you notice and appreciate those little details. For example, their door-knocker might be an animal head.” Even though Browning claims to have “little knowledge” about photography, there’s no denying her passion for it. If you ask me, her passion paired with her appreciation of the little details makes for a skilled photographer.
With frequent hotel-stays, travel naturally became another source of inspiration for her. “I see different designs, fashion, and ways of living life. If I’ve traveled out of the country, I get to see a different mindset when it comes to living.”
Some of her favorite places include Central America and South America. “I love all of the heavy, rustic textures, especially in fall. I wish we had more of it in Minnesota.” Browning also enjoys traveling within the United States, with Utah being one of her go-to destinations.
“I love the mountains too. They’re beautiful, and it’s such a different vibe; it’s slower, it’s more genuine, and it’s what I relate to the most.” You can find most of her travel photos on her Instagram page and under the travel section of her blog.
Although Browning’s platform has evolved over the years, in a sense, it has stayed very much the same. She continues to focus on creating a space that brings her comfort. What has changed the most is the number of people who gain from it.
“It’s been a rollercoaster. When I started, it was for myself. Then I shifted into doing it all for someone else, and now I’m back to doing it for myself. If people benefit from that, that’s great! I couldn’t keep trying to please others; it had to ultimately be my vision in the end. I want it to feel comfortable and moody and include photos that evoke emotion. I want more depth within my platform, and I want to cover more real topics and dig deeper into things.”
Browning includes more real topics in her blog like divorce, dating after divorce, and what it’s like raising a blended family.
She recently got engaged to a man who has three children of his own. “My fiancé’s name is Brady, so we call ourselves “The Brady Bunch,” and I’ll sprinkle what we’re up to into my feed.” While Browning does all of the photography herself, her fiancé takes the photos she needs to be in.
Browning keeps pictures of her family to a minimum when it comes to her Instagram; however, she uses her blog to share the joys and challenges of making a blended family work.
“Social media always portrays this picture-perfect idea of a family, and I want there to be more reality in my content… I hear a lot from my followers that they really like that I normalize divorce and blended families.” Browning aims to show that divorce isn’t all bad and people are happy after divorce.
It is certainly refreshing to see how she transformed a topic often deemed negative into something positive and inspiring to others. “The Brady Bunch” is not just inspiration for Browning’s blog. When it comes to her platform, her blended family inspires everything she does. “My family is a huge force behind all of this. I don’t put them in my content often, but they’re the driving force behind the scenes. My kids are such a huge part of how I view life and love.”
My family is a huge force behind all of this. I don’t put them in my content often, but they’re the driving force behind the scenes. My kids are such a huge part of how I view life and love.
It seems as though navigating life as an influencer comes naturally to Browning. Considering she started Rana Monet just over two years ago and how rare it is to see a successful social media star over the age of forty, Browning has managed to maintain a massive following of nearly fifty-thousand followers and continues to expand on topics she covers as her audience grows.
Discussing her accomplishments brings up the issue of ageism in social media for Browning. “I don’t really know any over-forty influencers in Minnesota, and I’ve noticed ageism within social media and marketing. Just because you’re over forty doesn’t mean you can’t be fashionable, enjoy your home, and appreciate the things you’ve worked hard for.”
Just because you’re over forty doesn’t mean you can’t be fashionable, enjoy your home, and appreciate the things you’ve worked hard for.
Browning is so right. At what point did blogging and sharing photos over the age of forty become taboo? Perhaps it’s because social media didn’t exist until the late nineties. Still, Browning points out that social media needs variety so every type of audience can enjoy it. “I’ve gone to so many events, and everybody is in their twenties, so we need to have some balance. It’s nice to have people of varying ages, genders, and races.”
It’s evident Browning genuinely cares about creating content that is both relatable and real. Whether it’s mental health, divorce, family life, or social issues, she brings to light many relevant topics you don’t often see addressed on social media. And somehow, she does it in a way that doesn’t put any of it in a negative light. Even with the inclusion of these more complex topics, Rana’s feed and her blog still evoke a feeling of comfort and calm (or should I say “hygge”), which has always been her main goal.
When I ask what’s next for Rana Monet, she keeps her answer real yet inspiring in true Browning-form. “I just celebrated my two-years of being an influencer. I met some goals, but I didn’t meet all of them. There’s no real timeline; you just have to stick to yourself and be consistent. My goals are to ideally move out of my day career and move more into photography and blogging.”
I just celebrated my two-years of being an influencer. I met some goals, but I didn’t meet all of them. There’s no real timeline; you just have to stick to yourself and be consistent.
Her fluid approach to success is admirable. While Browning knows it’s essential to have goals, she acknowledges that things don’t always go as planned. Two years ago, she never expected to be where she is now and knows that the possibility of even more change is still there. “I honestly don’t know where [my blog] will go. It might help me more, or it might help others get to where they want to be.” She never ceases to maintain the same narrative; it’s clear that helping and inspiring others is what Browning wants to do.
As we conclude our interview, Browning finishes sharing her story with a piece of advice I believe everyone can gain from. “Don’t take things too seriously, and try to be present because it’s so easy to get too goal-oriented, and you end up missing things.”