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Like Pinterest? Some of the top pinners are in Oakland - who are they?

Pinterest boards of Oakland residents Christine Martinez (left) and Maia McDonald.

Pinterest boards of Oakland residents Christine Martinez (left) and Maia McDonald.

Three of the top pinners in the world with online following numbering in the millions reside right here in Oakland - and recently shared with the unexpected reasons for their online success. 

Pinterest is a new and emerging online platform headquartered in the SOMA district of San Francisco. It lets you organize and share images you find on the web. People use boards to plan their weddings, decorate their homes and organize their favorite recipes. Users can browse pins and boards created by other people as a way to discover new things and get inspiration from people who share interests.  

The following top pinners share how they started, what keeps them pinning and why Oakland is such a great city to do it in:

Vanessa Correa

Correa is a creative director and self-described flaneuse, bon vivant, dilettante, creative director, curator, mom, wife, wine lover, curious fellow traveler, lover of {specific} things + people + the good life.”  Correa began using Pinterest in the winter of 2010 and it was her own visual interests in industrial, interior and furniture designs that served as her primary motivation.

“As soon as I saw it, I saw how much it worked for me," Correa said. "It was non-linear and connected things visually. My husband really didn’t get it. He’d ask me, ‘Are you relaxing? Should I get you book?’ and I’d respond, ‘Yes, I’m relaxing,’ and I was pinning away.”  

Correa noted that she was featured on the Pinterest blog a couple of times and her followers increased, but that was unintentional on her part. 

“I pinned for pleasure,” she shares. “It was a pleasurable enterprise to curate the craziness of the web. People don’t realize how intimate it is, even though its public and some public comments indicate that. I was doing it enough that I think I just accrued a lot of followers because Pinterest itself likes to curate new users and pushed me forward as an example. It hasn’t changed for me. I still pin as much as before and it’s still deeply relaxing.”  

Correa moved with her husband and daughter to Oakland nearly four years ago. 

“I can’t imagine living anywhere else ... even in the Bay Area,” she said. “People are willing to try things. Its inspirational from a perspective of warmth and openness. 

"Because people are so open to new ideas, like Pinterest, people are open to new experiences.”

Maia McDonald

McDonald moved to Oakland about a year ago. As a graphic designer she also considers herself a “visual nerd” and “visual junky,” pairing her blog and Pinterest page to work in tandem. 

“To be a good graphic designer, you have to be looking at so much,” she said. “Part of why I use Pinterest is to make myself a better designer, to have a better visual eye. Pinterest allows me to see things in a way I might not have, or see it differently with comments that I didn’t necessarily pick up on. It helps me to see things in a specific or different way.”

McDonald’s blog conundrum hosts a regular feature called Pintastic People, wherein she profiles other pinners she connects with through the Pinterest platform and community. McDonald started pinning in summer 2010 when Pinterest starting getting mentions in blogs she was following. Pinterest was very helpful with conundrum because at that time the community was still small and featured McDonald in the Pinterest blog. 

McDonald got engaged about a year ago and was featured again in the Pinterest blog for having one of the top 10 wedding boards and noticed her numbers going up. 

“I definitely would not have called myself a social media star,” she confessed. “It wasn’t until Pinterest started getting press that I realized that this is not just my personal thing to put my favorite things on. I started meeting amazing people and some of my closest friends through Pinterest.”

Recently featured on ABC’s “Good Morning America” as a top pinner with 1.8 million followers, McDonald is originally from Wisconsin. At the time she moved for a work opportunity and it was a conscious decision on the part of McDonald and her fiancé to move to the Bay Area. Since being here, she describes herself as having “a love affair” with Oakland. 

“It’s true for the Bay Area in general that there is an atmosphere of collaboration and action. People are always doing stuff, I love the energy people have here," McDonald said. "I don’t know if it’s the startup mentality or coming from the Midwest, if there’s a difference sense of what is possible. People testing what is possible is strong with Pinterest.  

"I live downtown in a pop-up ‘hood and love that people are always doing stuff.  It’s very exciting!" she added. "People from home make fun of me like, ‘Oakland?’ And I’m like, ‘Yeah, Oakland. It’s awesome.’”

Christine Martinez

Martinez “was a die-hard West Angelino” until seven years ago when her then-fiancé and now-husband began a doctoral program at the University of California, Berkeley. The couple settled near Lake Merritt and one day when Martinez took her dog, Miles, for a walk, noticing the sunlight sparkling on the Lake, she “melted a little.”

Martinez was user No. 8 on Pinterest, there at the beginning. At the time, the cofounders were roommates of her husband in college. 

“You don’t know at the time what's happening, you just think, 'okay, your friends made a website, I’ll try it out,’” she said. “For me, it made a ton of sense because of everything online and in a visual world, I found use for it. I was instantly hooked, but I had no clue Pinterest would ever be a platform like Facebook or Twitter.”

Also featured in the same "Good Morning America" story as McDonald, Martinez now runs a Skillshare class on brand-building with Pinterest. 

“I started my Skillshare class in November 2011 and at that time, Pinterest was still sort of just picking up popularity. One of my followers contacted me and told me of Skillshare, saying, ‘Hey, it would be really cool to share what you do.’ But I didn’t realize that I had a lot of information to share. It quickly became one of the most popular Skillshares ever, so I’m now teaching a hybrid class because Skillshare was an offline platform and now it’s on and offline.

"It’s great to help other people understand their brands and how to promote them,” Martinez added.

Originally a retailer with an e-commerce shop, Martinez ran her own business, LAMA Desgins, short for Latin America in the Modern Age until last June. She credits Oakland, in part, for the brand’s success. 

“I worked from our apartment for seven years!” she remembers. “I’d take my dog out in Oakland and we’d look for cafes so I wouldn’t be alone. In Los Angeles, you can feel alone because you spend so much time in a car. I felt more community in Oakland; I felt I could work from home and still be connected. 

I was nominated for an Oakland Indie Award in 2008 and felt embraced by the city and other nominated owners," Martinez went on to say. "I don’t think I could have done what I did in any other place.” 

With 2.8 million followers on Pinterest, what Martinez has done is make a decision to be herself. 

“After many lives on the Internet, I decided to have fun with it and take full advantage ... what I write is lighthearted, me and my dog. My dog is my business partner," she said. "I spend time thinking about what is pretty and how do I make that beautiful. It’s easy to feel inspired here in Oakland."

Editor's Note: Oakland Local loves Pinterest--and we'd like to feature more Oakland pinners! Let us know if you

See our boards:
Oakland Local by susan mernit

Oakland Local boards, including

Goapele, Kev, Too Short & more

Oakland Cafes We Love--Oakland, CA

About Maria McMath

Maria is originally from Oakland, California, and resides there today. She graduated from St. Jarlath Elementary School in the Diocese of Oakland, and The Head Royce School. She enjoys reading, cooking, spending time with family, and arts of the language, culinary, visual, aural, healing, literary, and martial varieties. Maria is also a doctoral candidate in the Department of Anthropology at Princeton University.