Popular Instagram influencer moved to Arizona amid COVID-19
When Naomi Davis of the popular blog Love Taza fled out West in an RV at the beginning of the pandemic, she shocked fans who knew her for picturesque portraits of a young Mormon family living in a New York City apartment.
The 34-year-old Davis, who goes by @taza on Instagram, later revealed that she, her husband Josh and their five children were settling down in Arizona “for the foreseeable future” after living in New York for more than a decade.
A year after they left the city, her images of the Brooklyn Bridge, Central Park and urban streets have been replaced with a suburban life filled with cactuses, open blue skies and a luscious green backyard with farm animals and citrus trees.
In an August blog post, Davis explained their move to the East Valley as a “drastic change, brought on by the current pandemic.”
She wrote that this “pushed Josh and me to reevaluate our current set up and future set up for our children. It pushed us to say goodbye to New York City without actually getting to say goodbye.”
When Davis bid farewell to New York City on March 28, 2020, she did so in a public way — a decision that garnered thousands of comments and some negative media coverage. Under a photo of her family standing in front of an RV, Davis announced they were leaving the Upper West Side “for a little while.”
“My heart is breaking for what is happening in New York where I live and around the world right now. And after two full weeks in the apartment, we made the family decision to drive out west so we can have a little more space (namely some outdoor space for the kids) for a little while,” she wrote in the caption.
“Hopefully a little change of apartment scenery will be just what we need — for everyone’s physical health, for my headspace which is spiraling lately — and for our kids’ own mental health.”
How Love Taza became a popular blog
In 2007, “Taza and husband” started blogging about newlywed life to share with family and friends, according to their website. Before Love Taza, Naomi Davis’ blog went by the name the Rockstar Diaries.
Taza, as Davis explains on her blog, is a nickname from her husband. Davis, who was raised in Utah, met Josh Davis in college while she was attending The Julliard School and he was studying at Columbia University.
Within two years of starting her blog, Davis was recognized as a prominent blogger and was fielding interviews from online media outlets. In a 2011 article in The Guardian, journalist Jenny Stevens describes the couple as “the peak” of the “virtual mountain” of couple bloggers.
“They now have numerous sponsorship deals and a fervent global following — even a picture of their baby’s eyelashes (yes, it’s that intimate) attracts over 150 comments, with daily comments often running into thousands,” Stevens wrote. “It’s saccharin sweet and utterly addictive — like reality TV, but with cupcakes.”
Davis has shared her experiences in motherhood, family travels, guides for New York City tourists, favorite eateries in the city and tips for living in smaller spaces. Over the years, she has earned an income by posting sponsored content from companies such as Capital One and partnering with stores like Target to release exclusive collections.
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‘New York City was like the eighth member of the Davis family’
Stephanie McNeal, the deputy breaking news director for Buzzfeed News, started following Love Taza around seven years ago and found Davis’ persona “intriguing” despite not being particularly interested in reading about parenting.
“They were these really young, almost like Zooey Deschanel-type hipster-looking people. And at the time that was really cool,” McNeal told The Arizona Republic.
McNeal often writes about online culture and explained the backlash Davis experienced in an article published March 30, 2020, titled “An Influencer Is Getting Tons of Hate Online for Fleeing NYC With Her 5 Kids for a Cross-Country Road Trip Amid the Coronavirus Pandemic.”
“I just feel like she’s one of the original mommy bloggers — which I think some people say is a pejorative term, but I don’t really think so — but she definitely was one of the first in that space (who) really became prominent,” McNeal told The Republic. “I think that she really has the right style for the moment, and I think she and Josh were very strategic in recognizing that she had stumbled upon … something big.”
The Davises have added five children since starting their blog, but one element has been consistent in their content almost from the beginning: New York City as a backdrop to their growing family.
“New York City was like the eighth member of the Davis family,” McNeal said. “It was very much part of her shtick.”
Leaving NYC during the pandemic sparked backlash for Love Taza
When Davis revealed her family was heading westward, she disclosed that “we’ve been diligent about self-quarantining and social distancing,” were not exhibiting COVID-19 symptoms and had rented an RV to ensure that they would “stay away from others during our trip.”
Her posts usually garnered a couple hundred comments. That March 28 post has accumulated nearly 4,000 comments. Some agreed that this was the best decision for the family, while others criticized the move as selfish.
One user named @resgoldsmith wrote, “I fear your influence encouraged others to take similar, risky actions. I hope not.”
Two days later, Davis followed up with an update in a nearly 400-word comment under the post.
“We are NOT like some people who ignored advice while in New York and then traveled in crowded public spaces to somewhere with fewer restrictions so they could pretend like this new coronavirus isn’t happening,” she wrote. “So many of you have supported our decision, and for that I sincerely thank you. A lot of you have also shared your confusion and frustration and feelings about this and I feel a lot of that is valid and helpful.
“I understand that as a public figure anything that I say is going to be ripped apart and that’s something I accept in my position. I see where you are coming from. We are all living in such uncertain times and I’m scared as anyone else.”
The day after Davis’ Instagram post, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention issued a domestic travel advisory for New York, New Jersey and Connecticut that asked residents to “refrain from nonessential domestic travel for 14 days effective immediately.”
In a series of Instagram Stories, Davis detailed her family’s precautions, adding that “During our next phase of quarantine, I want you to know we will not be going out, not to stores, or parks, or even around the block.”
‘A lot of the criticism was out of fear and anger’
McNeal believes the criticism had to do both with the pandemic and the Davises’ seemingly abrupt decision to leave a city they professed to love.
“I think it got so much backlash because, one, it was just a really fraught time in the city. There was a lot of tension about people who felt like they have the means to leave,” McNeal said. “She was (also) someone who would champion living in New York for, like, a decade and made it such a big part of her brand.
“Then for her to just leave like that, kind of under the cover of darkness — when there was this fear that New Yorkers could be spreading the virus across the country — I think that confluence of facts is what led to this big uproar.”
What some media coverage and people who didn’t follow Love Taza did not understand, McNeal said, was why this was “such a big deal.”
“They just kind of grabbed on to it as ‘She is a selfish blogger.’ But a lot of the fans originally were criticizing her for fleeing New York City … as many people saw it, at the first opportunity, when things weren’t fun anymore,” she said.
“I think a lot of the criticism was out of fear and anger, trying to find someone to be mad at, too, because as we’ve seen a lot, there have been a lot of people since then who have done a lot worse, and it got a lot less backlash.”
Love Taza’s departure from New York City was part of a larger trend
While the Davises might have been one of the more prominent examples, they are among thousands who left as New York City became an epicenter for COVID-19.
According to the New York Times, around 5% of residents, or 420,000 people, left New York City between March 1 and May 1, 2020, according to smartphone location data analysis. Many were from the wealthiest neighborhoods.
An article published May 16 titled “Where New Yorkers Moved to Escape Coronavirus” reads, “In April, a little more than half of those (mail-forwarding) requests for destinations outside New York City originated in Manhattan, led by neighborhoods on the Upper West and Upper East Sides.”
Phoenix was one of the more popular metropolitan destinations for New Yorkers, according to the article. In February, Republic reporter Catherine Reagor wrote that as metro Phoenix grew by about 90,000 people in 2020, “The median home price is poised to hit a new record, and rents climbed faster here than in many other big U.S. cities in 2020.”
Other notable social media personalities who moved to Arizona around the same time as the Davises included YouTuber Lauren Giraldo and author and podcast host Nora McInerny. Neither appeared to receive backlash as Davis did.
Life in Arizona, one year later
Though Davis continued to share photos of her family in the month following the backlash, fans expressed concern about how the family was doing in the comments. Davis had not posted on her blog or shared anything substantial in her Instagram posts.
More than a month after posting the RV photo at the end of March, Davis revealed on Instagram that her family would be gone for more than “a little while,” as she initially posted, and in fact, was relocating to Arizona.
She explained that she had gone “back and forth” on how to announce this update because “I want to be sensitive to the hardships many of you are going through during these challenging times, and I would hate to diminish or distract from the overwhelming physical and emotional struggles and tragedies you and others we know are going through.”
According to social media monitoring platform CrowdTangle, Davis has experienced a steady decline from 468,000 followers to 441,000 followers in the year since her move. That’s after initially gaining 3,000 followers in the week following her announcement and only posting twice in June.
In August, Davis published her first blog post since March 26, in which she shared how she achieved a “triple bunk bedroom.” She revealed that their “new setup” in Arizona was an old ranch-style home they would be renovating. In a November blog post, she detailed the demolition and renovation process for their three-bedroom house, the first home the couple has owned.
“I’m overwhelmed like 70% of the time, especially since this renovation often feels last on our list right now with Josh’s new job here and life with kids plus schoolwork and navigating the drastic changes 2020 has brought us by way of a new state and community and chapter of life,” she wrote.
“But I feel so very thankful for this house and surrounding yard we get to call home and for the memories we’ve already begun creating in this new state and new space and new chapter of life.”
This new chapter of life includes Davis’ first book, “A Coat of Yellow Paint,” which published this month through Harper Horizon, a nonfiction imprint of HarperCollins Focus. It is “a book full of the most vulnerable stories I’ve ever shared publicly,” she wrote on Instagram. Some topics she touches on, she wrote on her blog, are “dealing with the Internet, growing my family, my struggles and heartache with unhealthy friendships and body issues over the years.”
Among the fans and influencers who celebrated the book’s release is fashion designer Rebecca Minkoff, who wrote a review of the book and spoke with Davis in a livestream on Instagram.
In a recent Instagram post promoting her book, Davis emphasized the importance of family in making a place home.
“Anyone can create this sense of home, whether you live in a city apartment where your children share a bedroom or in a large home outside the city with plenty of room to spare,” she wrote. “Because it isn’t about the space— it’s about what’s taking place inside of it.”
Reach the reporter at [email protected] or at 602-444-4968. Follow her on Twitter @kimirobin and Instagram @ReporterKiMi.
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