The root of the woman I am today may lie in my persistent- and sometimes obsessive- nature.
When I was a little girl, I would play dress up until my mom begged me to go to bed. I would stuff myself with sweets until I puked, and I would cling to my dad's torso until he truly could no longer take my body weight. I’m an intense person; a quality which lead to many passion-filled phases as I grew up.
Phase 1- more or less: the blogging phase at age 14, inspired by Tavi Gevinson. If you can manage to dig up ‘Crumpets & T’ on the web, you’ll find all the information my preteen self has to offer. This was closely followed by a "Pirates of the Caribbean" period, in which I wanted to have fingers stacked with rings (still not quite out of this phase). This was also the time in which I decided to pursue a career as an Art Director for feature films. Next, I chased around the Jonas Brothers and convinced my mom to take me to 16 of their concerts until I managed to meet them.
At 17, I became obsessed with Tumblr and taking pictures to post on it. I would scroll for entire weekends straight, filling up my feed with delicate beds, outfits I wanted to copy, hair I wanted to have, and places I wanted to visit. My parents bought me my first DSLR and I would photograph my friends in my backyard, sporting looks I had styled.
While exploring my extracurricular interests, I was in a highly competitive academic environment (cue the acne). In high school, my peers and I would try to beat out a 95% with a 98% on tests. I would spend every lunch hour sitting in classrooms trying to get ahead and fully understand concepts. I took about 20 SAT practice tests until the Princeton Review told me they didn’t have any more tests. It seems stressful, but the truth is, prioritizing my education and taking advantage of my accessibility to a great learning environment truly paid off; there wasn't a semester that I didn’t get a GPA lower than a 3.8 (AKA my B in math class ¯\_(ツ)_/¯).
During this time, I was also putting in hours as a volunteer, doing community service, having internships and jobs, all while trying to figure out who I was and who I wanted to be. I was stressed, and I took it out on my skin. If my complexion could talk, it would tell stories of the abuse it endured. You can read more about this on the "My Skin Journey" tab.
(As I’m writing this I’m thinking, ‘I totally wouldn't be able to do that $#!+ again. Like, DAMN GIRL! SHEESH!’)
Thankfully, I was able to balance all of this with my creative side. I lead an art club, kept on Tumbling, and rather exuberantly accepted the fact that I would never be "popular". Don’t even get me started on how toxic social constructs are when it comes to high school, but anyway… I. Was. Not. Popular.
Instead of drinking Natural Light at house parties, I watched a new movie every night…at home. I got hooked on seeing new worlds. This is how I began to get more serious about the idea of working in film as a career. I remember typing into Google, "Best Film School in America". The result brought NYU into the equation. Hmmm, was I “smart” enough? I applied to 22 universities hoping to have a solid batch to choose from when it came time to make my final decision. In the end, I got into 17 colleges. My final decision was to select between Berkeley and NYU! I chose NYU Tisch because, very simply, it was in New York. I had fallen in love with the "Big Apple" a few years prior when my mom took me on a trip to see the American Girl Doll store. (LOL. My doll was Josefina, naturally.)
Once at NYU, I got an itch -- maybe even a rash. Perhaps it was a hive infestation? I became SO eager to get involved with whatever New York had to offer. It truly felt like some type of burning sensation! I applied to dozens of internships every semester. I wanted my own “Devil Wears Prada” moment and I lucked out with my first internship being at NYLON Magazine (RIP). There, I edited videos I’d shot alongside a team of videographers lead by Blair Waters, who introduced me to my first Fashion Week. I shot some footage of an Alexander Wang show at the tender age of 18 and shook the whole flippin’ time.
I got to know the beauty editor of NYLON, Jade Taylor, and that is the moment my obsession with skin care truly manifested itself. Jade and I shared the same passion for lotions, cleansers, makeup, and the like, and loved exploring and nitpicking through every bottle, palette, and tube that arrived at NYLON’s doorstep.
While interning at NYLON twice a week during the summer, I also worked as a showroom intern at Jill Stuart. Let me tell you -- this was a tough job. My freshman summer at NYU I had two internships AND I worked at American Apparel. (If I knew then what we know now about American Apparel, I wouldn’t have worked there - just saying!)
Again, my skin could tell you horror stories about this time in my life. My diet took a hit, too. However, I learned a lot! At Jill Stuart I got a firsthand look at what the fashion industry was all about. How clothes are made, how a brand is built, and how a fashion show is planned.
I started to realize film was not as satisfying for me as fashion and beauty was. I still conducted my own shoots for my own pleasure and to share on my website. i-D magazine saw my photography worthy enough of a feature, and wrote about it in 2016. My next big break came at Milk Makeup. I was hired as the brand’s FIRST INTERN EVER. When I started, it was my job to pitch the faces and vibe of what the brand could be. I was knee deep in beauty and loved every second of it! I learned what went into the formulas, how the colors were chosen, and I even got to name the highlighter "LIT". I was in makeup heaven.
However, I didn't want to put my love of photography on the back burner. So, I left Milk Makeup (reluctantly!) and worked as a Photo Intern at Refinery29. I know it sounds like I just knocked on the door and they gave me internships, right? Well, no. I applied to scores of others and was rejected, but of the many online applications that went into the black hole, I got one yes! At R29 I was given the opportunity to conduct my own photo shoots. To my surprise, I was asked to shoot a series for "See the 67 Percent" campaign that now lives on Getty Images.
I truly think that the key to my "success" was interning. As you can imagine, I was also a disciplined student in college, but whatever I learned in my books didn't really translate into actual work in the industry. My film classes helped with my photography, without a doubt, but interning got me ready for the work place like nothing else.
I get asked very frequently how I was able to get all of the internships I had. The truth is I started gathering experience in high school. Besides my academic record, leadership roles serving my community, and jobs, I also had a portfolio of photography and video already made prior to interning. If you’re a reader who hasn’t yet applied to college or landed your first internship, my first piece of advice is that you should arrive to college with a full resume.
Once I got my first internship, it was a matter of working hard there in order to be presented with more opportunities (NYLON kept me for a whole year. I worked there and also went to school.) Similar to how I applied to universities, I also applied to a number of internships in the hopes that something would stick. So… APPLY, APPLY, APPLY! I cannot stress that enough!
Do Google searches. Set up your LinkedIn profile, and search for internships there. Use your university’s career center and website. Go to the website of a brand or a company you want to work for, and go to their career tab. If they have a listing for an internship position, APPLY. Then go on another site and APPLY again!! What's the worst that could happen? You get rejected or never hear back from them. YOLO.
I’ve been asked for advice countless times on this topic, and my answer is just one truth, one that I’m sure you’ve heard many times. I have no trick up my sleeve. Very simply put: hard work pays off. I’ve been lucky to have the advantages and privileges in my life to even apply to college, move to New York, etc… but none of that would matter if I didn’t seize every opportunity possible.
I’ve been living my dream, and you can, too.