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Diamonds Are (Really Not) A Girl’s Best Friend

Even with the amount of energy that I have, I, just like most of the general population, feel like I’m struck by bricks when my alarm sounds at 6:30 on a Monday morning. But to actually make matters interesting, this is New York City, and no two days are alike. There is constant commotion, a story to tell, and something strange to see, instantly clicking our internal lightbulbs back on.

It wasn’t even nine AM before something strange and discomforting was brought to my attention by my friends at CityElla. Much like myself, these ladies value women’s views and goals. To see anything suggestive posted by them would result in an instant double take, but all for the right reasons. Standing in line at Starbucks, I was scrolling through Instagram and came across a photo that was posted by CityElla on my feed – one that is destined to spark controversy across many levels – of this billboard ad:

I don’t know how many outdoor ads real estate firm MNS has up across New York, but this one is placed in a prime location of 8th Avenue and 21st Street, where enough people will see it and stop – not just walk on by like it’s any other billboard.

We’re taking several steps backwards with this ad. I shouldn’t even have to say that this ad sexualizes women and kicks them down on the ladder. This woman is clothed in nothing but a button-up that clearly isn’t hers and a deviant glare that says, “I’m only here for the floor-to-celing windows and short walk to Central Park.” At this point, it isn’t even about real estate. It makes it look like women are skipping the “love” in storybook romances and are just falling for materialism, like a rich investment banking man who already owns the apartment a block from Bergdorf’s.

On that note, it also brings up an assumption that is so Little House on the Prairie-centric. Women have been carrying on with their own lives perfectly fine over time, but this ad subtly announces that women have difficulty flying solo – that is, they can’t function without a “man” in their lives, a sole provider, and they can’t afford to live in luxury on their own.

Lana Del Rey may believe that money is the anthem of success, and tangibly, that may be true, but success comes in different outlets for everyone. On my end, I don’t condone seeking success through someone else’s achievements – such as marrying or using someone for money, especially if he has all the complementary attributes (one being an apartment he bought through MNS).

When women don’t marry for love and prefer an invincible credit card over undeniable bliss, it throws us all into a pool of Courtney Stodden seconds. It makes all women out to be that they’re gold diggers who are more excited about the presents their men give them as opposed, well, their literal presence . Shouldn’t that be enough?

Don’t sacrifice your happiness for material items. That one night you spend in the penthouse might seem somewhat monumental in the moment, but will the great story really get any better?

Remember that your actions as a dignified individual do make a difference. If women keep acting like the model in this ad, more ads will be created because the social hypothesis is being proven true. And deep down, you don’t want to contribute to that assumption – do you?

Excuse Me, Miss, Should You Be Here?

It’s hard for me to argue that without controversy, entertainment would be a lot more difficult for us to find. But once a controversy turns personal, the lines are crossed and what was once entertaining turns into a nuisance.

And unfortunately, lines were crossed against Whitney Wolfe, the (former) VP of Marketing for the dating app Tinder. I, at least, think she was effective in her position – Tinder continued to grow and accumulate more members under her wing. But out of nowhere, she was suddenly fired from the company.

Why? Well, if you’re a tech-savvy feminist, don’t ask the former Tinder VP, Justin Mateen. His justification was that having a young female on the Tinder team made the company “look like a joke” and that other social media platforms like Facebook and Snapchat “don’t have girl founders.”

That statement right there is a problem in itself, a reflection of immature thinking on Mr. Mateen’s part. So a female didn’t come up with the concept of Facebook. Not every company has to operate identically to others, even if it’s in the same industry.

Some industries are more male or female-dominated that others. Fashion vs. sports are two of the most talked-about industries for gender favoritism, but in tech, there’s enough room in Silicon Valley for literally any idea. And if there’s enough room to consider all types of apps, websites, gadgets… why isn’t there enough room for women?

It seems that sexism isn’t just saved for back-and-forth messaging and right-and-left swipes, but it just gets worse and worse in office environments and outside everywhere else. Even though women are getting stronger, the argument against workplace sexism is constantly hanging by a loose thread. The funny thing is that it neither falls nor tightens – it just stays constant.

There’s no scientific law that proves men are smarter than women, or vice versa (other than “Girls go to college to get more knowledge, boys go to Jupiter to get more stupider”). Every person is unique and is stronger in some areas than others, which is an affirmation that everyone needs to be reminded of. What one may lack in HTML or CSS proficiency may be made up for in, you know, common sense and the ability to carry out a conversation. And, believe it or not, these are important field skills.

Whether you’re in tech, editorial, medicine, us ladies shouldn’t let anyone put out our flame. And if anyone tries to, keep burning and fire back – that’s what Ms. Wolfe is doing. She’s suing Tinder in a sexism lawsuit and has apparently been ridiculed for a significant portion of her career at the app. Mr. Mateen better hide, and not just from her, but from all of us.

I Am Weak. (And You Are, Too, Honey)

Ben & Jerry’s. The Real Housewives of New Jersey. Tumblr. What do all of these things have in common?

They all strike me and strip me down to the floor. They suck the energy out of me – and I let them do so. Simply put, they are my weaknesses.

Okay, so they aren’t that bad, but they aren’t completely good, either. The good thing is that it’s easy for me to point out what I naturally cling to. However, in a business environment, it’s not as easy of a question to answer.

This past winter, I had an interview for an internship at a website I would’ve given up all three of those weaknesses for; a website that I looked up to, both in personal interest and in the future of my career. I knew this was an interview I had to be prepared for. It was a competitive internship position – paid, even – that many, many kids were on the prowl for.

The conversation was off to a good start. Much like a normal interview, I talked about my interest in the company, the work I was doing at the time, all those typical points. But it took a turn when I was met with the question “What is your biggest weakness?”

Here, I couldn’t say that I bowed down to ice cream and Bravo. But being the prepared young professional I am, I did have an answer rehearsed. Sadly, it was one of my poorer decisions.

I had heard once in a TV show where a character was giving interview advice to someone else (or someone might’ve actually told this to me, but I’m sort of glad I can’t remember now), and something I took out of it was if an interviewer asked for your biggest weakness to give it a positive spin. For example, “I pay too much attention to detail!” “I’m a perfectionist!”

That was exactly what I said in this live questioning and the look on my interviewer’s face was priceless. She smiled and I could see her bounce like she was trying to cover up a chuckle. As soon as I saw that, I felt like choking and tried to justify myself. It wasn’t so bad, but it definitely wasn’t one of my proud moments.

Currently, I’m reading #GIRLBOSS, and NastyGal CEO Sophia Amoruso only confirms what I did was totally stupid. She says that if you give an answer like the ones above (I really just would rather not repeat them), you’re not being completely honest with yourself. It’s almost like you’re trying to disguise an actual problem. “A #GIRLBOSS knows where she excels and where she could use some work,” she explains, “so get to know yourself and your weaknesses.”

Ms. Amoruso hits it right on the nail. After that experience, I really pinned down what my faults were in a business setting. As negative of an activity as it may sound, try to uncover what your problem areas are – and then use that as fuel to improve. The first step to fixing a problem is admitting that you have one. And no, my Ben & Jerry’s addiction is not a problem, as much as my friends, family and Duane Reade cashier may tell me…

Where Am I Going With This?

I have a lot to say. A lot of the time. Lately, though, I haven’t been able to get any words out.

About 95% the reason I named this site “Where Do I Start?” is because, even though I love to tell stories, there can be so much I want to say, that I don’t even know where to begin. Storytelling is one of my favorite pastimes. I want writing to be my career. But the past few days, I haven’t been able to get past picking up the pen or clicking “New Blank Document” on Word.
There are two major challenges that I personally go through as a writer. Perfecting your skills is no easy task for anyone, but some are easier to accomplish than others. One of those is content development.

I haven’t had the experience yet of sitting in on an editorial staff meeting at a publication. But from my understanding from seeing movies, TV shows, eavesdropping in on conversation, the team gathers around in a circle, Duck-Duck-Goose style in a conference room, and pitches story ideas to publish. Some may be interesting, some may get shot down, and some may be written and then, at last minute, may not be printed. And no writer ever wants to be faced with that disappointing dilemma. So how, if it seems like there’s been something written on every subject matter ever, can we come up with fresh content that readers will actually be intrigued by?

I went to a conference hosted by Cosmo and the CFDA a few weeks ago and posed the same question to Editor-in-Chief Joanna Coles, the Man Repeller’s Leandra Medine, and the Style Reporter for the Wall Street Journal, Elizabeth Holmes. It’s a question I’m constantly looking for answers for and I figured this was one of the best ways to get professional feedback, but it was challenging for them to provide a response (half the other audience questions were “how do I get my start in fashion?”). They cocked their heads at each other and after a quick, yet semi-awkward pause, Elizabeth turned to me and said, “There’s a story in everything.”

Elizabeth had a point. Someone can walk by you and you notice the smallest thing – her shoes, for example – and you learn that she bought those shoes at a vintage store which almost closed down, but then got bought out by investors, who then took the store and turned it into a national retail chain. You never know where the next “big thing” could be. Story inspiration is all around us, it’s just a matter of being brave enough to dive into that pool of curiosity.

Once you have the story idea, you then have to actually start writing it. This is my second problem and the basis of the title of my site. Where on Earth do I even start?

Writing up a story doesn’t have a formula like the five-paragraph standardized test essay that we learned in sixth grade. And while most news stories typically follow a 5W format, it doesn’t work for everything, especially not feature pieces.

I have yet to discover the most effective and efficient way to start a story strong in the lead sentence. It’s where the hook is. It grabs readers in and actually encourages them to keep reading, which is so hard to do now. We’re impatient and looking for instant gratification – nobody wants the lead to be buried; we want to know the answer to our questions immediately. But isn’t that the mystery of the story? How do we keep people questioning before they even catch the headline?

I don’t have any secrets to share on writing the perfect masterpiece. I’m still trying to figure out what they are. The truth is, though, there might not be any secret doors to unlock the perfect article or feature. The best words might just fly out of our fingertips naturally and combine into gorgeous sentences. If that’s it, then it’s beautiful. But I don’t know yet. I might not never know. Until then, I’ll let the ellipses do the work…

No Bed? No Problem

Growing up watching TV shows such as “That’s So Raven” and “Zoey 101,” my adolescent mind was distracted by the environments that these cool (well, cool for 2004) personas had the chance to inhabit. Everyone can recall the outrageous “dorm” that Zoey and her clique lived in during their years at Pacific Coast Academy. Pink and orange walls with beaded curtains and a window view of the Pacific Ocean – yes, it sounds like a Dunkin Donuts that serves virgin pina coladas and vegetarian sushi, but Teenick curated the dream room of its entire 11-year-old viewership, including me.

However, emerging out of adolescence and into young adulthood, my interior taste has evolved. Watching my brother search for the perfect NYC apartment and living in a New York suite of my own, I’ve been forced to not only mature quickly, but to also discover the necessities that a 20-something girl simply can’t live without in her first solo space – at least, in my industry, that is.
Driving myself down a track for a life in online media and editorial, I can picture myself in my future residence just like I pictured myself decorating my room pink and orange and beaded curtains in fourth grade: running around on the hardwood floors, arguing on the phone with someone of higher authority (maybe my editor, but most likely my mom), emails popping up on my laptop screen, and my microwave alarming to alert that I have a freshly-prepared Lean Cuisine.

Picturing the dream bachelor/ette pad post-grad, most of my peers would put several household goods at the top of their shopping lists – big-screen TV, big fridge, and, yes, a big, cloud-like, full-size bed. And while a big bed may be a 20-something’s field of dreams, my dreams at the moment are just a little bit bigger. That’s why the necessities for my first apartment are much more specific and much, much more important to me.

1. A Big Window. One of my biggest dreams for any home that I get to live in in the future is to have floor-to-ceiling Frank Lloyd Wright-inspired windows. The most luxurious of homes inhibit these attributes. With clear windows and a clear view, I get caught up staring at the sky and daydreaming. It may not be beneficial when in class, but it always helped my mind stay active when thinking of stories and brainstorming things I could write about. The more I get to see, the more creative I can be.

2. A Big Closet. I’d like to call myself a Closet Curator. Any fashion-centric female could agree with me on this, but no matter how big or small the space, I insist on dedicating a lot of it to my apparel display. By the time I reach post-grad status, I may have to pick and choose my favorite pieces, but I want to show off my pro-Parisian style. It may not be Carrie Bradshaw’s walk-in wardrobe, but a rolling rack of clothes I’ve curated will look just as chic standing next to the sunset shining against the window.

3. A Big Desk. In The Catcher In The Rye, Holden was pleasantly surprised to find his younger sister in her bedroom, writing on a desk that took up most of the space. This description in the novel has resonated with me since I read it my sophomore year of high school and has since influenced the way that I refurnished my bedroom in New Jersey and, for absolute certain, will influence the way I decorate my future apartment. I identify myself as a writer. I sprawl material across my desk, from scribbled notebooks to multicolored pens to business cards. I envision my desk to be the defining piece of my apartment and definitely an important symbol of my adulthood, my story, and my career.

My dream desk? Glass, in front of my life-size window, and a sheepskin chair to seat me. I can picture all the other little details, too: a monogrammed mug filled to the rim with a skim latté (I would say it’s green tea, but it’s not nice to lie), my laptop open on one side, my iMac and bluetooth keyboard on the other, and a vanity set filled with pens and business cards I’ve accumulated over the years. And maybe a mini chandelier lamp.

My first apartment may be a few years ahead of me, but I don’t see anything wrong with planning my packing list early. But whether I’m dropped in the West Village, Gramercy, LA, even Paris, I’m not going anywhere without them.

Here And There

 

The term “boomerang” doesn’t just refer to a piece of sports equipment or a sister channel of Cartoon Network that plays reruns of “The Flintstones.” Today, “boomerang” is what my fellow Generation Y-ers have to endure after they graduate from college. One minute, they’re far, far away from home in the gated communities we call “college,” and before they can blink, they’re handed a piece of heavy paper delicately decorated in calligraphy, which serves as their ticket back to sleeping on the second floor of their cape-style houses in their hometown.

The house I lived in was the house that built me. Miranda Lambert doesn’t lie. But I’ve been fortunate enough to have the experience of attending college in the greatest city on earth (other than Paris) (which, by the way, I’m working on) and while it increases judgment among many attributes, it would be rude of me to take this opportunity for granted.

I don’t know what any of my situations will be when I graduate, whether it be socially or professionally. But what I may not be able to avoid is this boomerang effect. While many of my high school classmates may be excited to return home after our college graduations, it’s not the most appealing to me. What are my benefits? Mom cooks, does the laundry, and pays for my Starbucks. And I can go to the mall.

On one hand, sure, that’s all great. But from what I’ve experienced from going from living at home last summer to now living in NYC for this summer is that the boomerang may not be positive for my transition into true adulthood. It holds me back from growing – and I’ve grown so much this year. I don’t want to go back.

I’m used to cooking, doing my own laundry, and cleaning my own apartment. It’s almost second nature to me now. Yes, it may just be at the collegiate level as opposed to the “real world” level, like paying rent and electric bills (and credit card bills – *shudder*), but I think that I have a leg up on anyone that isn’t in my shoes and living here at 20 years old.

I love home. Home is great. But this room that I’m sitting in now that looks over a street in Chelsea has also become home to me. And when your apartment feels like home, you know you’re heading in the right direction. No boomeranging here, but maybe archery. I’m getting closer to the bullseye.

“I Know A Lot Of People.”

Aside from a career in online media, residences in New York and Paris, and a teacup Yorkie named Champagne, one of my goals in life is to establish a wide, well-versed social circle. Whether real or fictitious, I look to influences from Ari Gold of “Entourage” to Kyle of “Real Housewives of Beverly Hills” that establish fantasies in my head of a large Chanel-clad clique sparkling and stepping behind me as we enter a magazine launch party at some sophisticated meatpacking rooftop. It’s a dream life, but who can blame me?

They say that “if you can dream it, you can do it,” so I’ve begun to take the dream of professional and social success into my hands and turn it into the life that I’ve envisioned. And it’s happening, there’s no doubt. However, I’m not strutting around in fur shawls yet. But I look at and talk to people even my own age and they’re climbing up the ladders and building a hierarchy not based on talent, but more so on location, or, even more SMH-inducing, their “connections.”

I hate to say that a lot of small things irritate me, but nothing turns me off more than hearing someone say “I know a lot of people.” And then they roll their eyes, talking about the semi-socialite that they have to drive to McDonald’s, but then go hang out with them on the porch of their Long Island mansion. That’s wonderful for you. Can you see me clapping in your honor?

But I came into the city not knowing anyone in any industry that I envisioned a future in. And for a small girl striving for a career in media, it’s not easy to stand out and contact people. Although I’ve gotten it done, it’s almost condescending to hear someone say “I know a lot of people” or “I have connections” when you ask how they were selected for an internship position that you applied for (several times) and wanted so badly.

Meeting new people, connecting, and making new friends is one of my favorite activities. Being open, personable and relatable attracts others to you (even if you do so on LinkedIn, Twitter, what have it). But I have to create a circle and create connections all on my own. Getting what you want isn’t easy, but I’m not backing out any time soon, and my mom did always tell me I have an infectious smile.

This Is Your Life

What I’m doing right now does not feel like a chore. But what exactly am I doing? I’m sitting at my desk, tapping my fingertips on the keyboard of my new MacBook Air, sipping a venti iced coffee and banging out this entry. I could take a picture of this with my romantic chandelier lamp in the background lit up and want to jump right into it like it’s Narnia. This is my paradise.

I’ve heard time and time again that the hobbies you picked up as kids eventually come full circle with your aspirations. It’s like a circle of fate. When I was little, three things in particular became my go-to activities when I was bored: drawing, playing on the computer, and writing “books.”

These books were, if I may say so myself, kind of adorable. I wrote about cats, I wrote a “novel” about a family vacation, I wrote comic books about superhero athletes. And soon enough, I worked my way up to even write a musical, with stage direction and songs written by me. I took it a few steps further in high school in my journalism class and assumed a role on our school newspaper.

My biggest fear, though, was that my writing skills were not up to par. I was fortunate to earn high grades and good reviews on writing assignments from professors, but I was thinking very far ahead of myself. I looked into the future and my career very young and a twinge of fear that I wasn’t good enough for the big leagues (ie. national newspapers,Cosmo, even travel brochures) hit me like a moving car.

Still, I was (and still am) intent on achieving a career in media no matter what and wanted to take a route in TV production. And that I did for my first year in college. But when the opportunity arose for me to go down the path at my current internship, I took it. I started out just doing social media for Guest of a Guest, but I volunteered to make any type of contribution I could, and so, the responsibilities picked up. I started to do the tasks that I not only saw myself doing for a career, but already enjoyed: writing and reporting.

Writing is challenging, but I have a passion for it. The ability to tell a story and be creative in this fashion is empowering. My words are out there and I want people to listen.

On a small, student-level scale, I’m “living my dream job,” writing, reporting, and helping to handle a publication. I’ve never had more fun being exposed to a potential career. And when work is fun, it doesn’t feel like work.

Ladies First: Kourtney Kardashian

The average parent would object to their adolescent offspring taking part in the enjoyment of empty reality TV programming. Growing up in a relatively open house, it wasn’t much of a surprise that my parents condoned and sometimes even encouraged me to watch their favorite TV shows with them, many of which were in the realm of reality TV. From “American Idol” to “Jersey Shore,” we got a taste of it all, but a family favorite for several running years was “Keeping Up With the Kardashians.”

Much like fans can admire fictional TV characters (what girl doesn’t want a Chuck Bass? Really?), they can develop attachments to anyone through the small screen, and it’s a lot easier to do so when it’s through a reality show where the stars are the same (I’m saying this loosely in spite of the “reality TV is scripted!” argument, but let’s save that for another time) on camera and in person. And since KUWTK’s storyline is centered around the daily lives and debacles of the family, viewers can sympathize with them and find relations to the family-slash-cast members.

Even though one of the family’s biggest claims to fame was the success of the late man of the family, Robert, the Kardashians are a female-dominant family. Under the direction of “momager” Kris, all of the Kardashian kids have pooled into good fortune one way or another and continue to multitask different projects without breaking a sweat.

Whether you care about pop culture or not, you know about this family. You know about KimYe, Khloe’s separation from ex-husband Lamar Odom, Kris and Bruce Jenner splitting up, and Kendall’s rise on fashion runways. But we can’t forget where the next generation of the Kardashian empire first got its start, which was with the first-born daughter, Kourtney.

From the beginning of the series up until now, Kourtney has been in full command of expanding the family’s boutique business, Dash. While Dash is a collaborative effort among her, Kim and Khloe, Kourtney has taken most of the responsibility for the business, from seeking out the retail space to hiring staff to merchandising the store. This is the one project that has continued to succeed and brand the family while other members are taking care of their own personal brands, endorsements, appearances, the list goes on. But Kourtney never lost sight of making sure that Dash continued to occupy the retail and fashion world – and it’s still keeping up (pun intended).

And yes, everyone in the Kardashian family is a multitasker, but the other side of Kourtney’s life is another career all on its own. She’s the mother of two adorable tots and raises them with her comedian of a boyfriend, Scott. While the two have had their share of drama, her relationship with him now is where I see the most strength and inspiration in Kourtney. Scott bends over backwards to treat Kourtney like a queen, but as a mother, the first-born, and the undeclared head of a national boutique, she naturally toughens up around his actions. She doesn’t fall for his slick words and has to keep him on his toes to be the best man he can be. And when a woman can put her enjoyment aside to assert herself – and it proves to work – that’s where I find the power in a personal empire.

Might you be laughing when I say that the Kardashians are influential? Maybe. But for girls who envision themselves as double-duty women – career moms – Kourtney has proven to be successful at this.