strategist, brand storyteller, purveyor of arts and internets
What drew you to this transformation project?
I kind of changed everything that I was doing with my career in the last year.
My background is in every aspect of sales, more or less. So I've done brand strategy, I've done events and experiential marketing, I’ve done digital and social campaigns for Adidas and things like that. I've also run a SaaS startup for an ad agency, but the entire past year and a half has been dedicated to politics — an industry I never wanted to be involved in, but can’t help but dive into now. I can still apply my same marketing brain to it, but I also have a lot of cognitive dissonance about my new role and new identity running a Congressional campaign.
Can I ask why you moved to L.A.?
So this is probably the biggest transition that I went through in my adult life — I was married and then I was not married. I got married at 25 to someone that I had been with for my entire life, and then decided that it wasn’t really serving me. And after that, at the startup that I was running, all of the founders and the people that were involved in funding it just started suing each other until it all fell apart.
I decided to buy a one-way ticket to Helsinki and then just travel for months, which is not a thing I had done yet in my adulthood. Then I moved to LA because I just didn't know if I could come back and feel the same about New York. I grew up in New Jersey and naturally transitioned to New York City after, because it’s where jobs were, where I wanted to be. But I hadn't really ever exposed myself to anything outside of that bubble. I was friends with all the same people I'd known my whole life.
So I just kind of removed myself from that to try to figure out what it would be like if I started fresh. I very hilariously moved into an Airbnb that I was renting for a month. I found this really cute apartment in LA when I was in the Philippines and I messaged the girl who was renting it like, “Hey, I really love your apartment. Crazy question, but can I stay there for a month? I'm thinking of starting over in LA I don't know what neighborhood I belong in.” And she was like, “Totally. I just posted this ad this week. So you're the first person to even reach out, and it's completely open.”
I went there and we wound up becoming close friends and I lived there for three years. But it's funny because, I think I like, picked her just based on like this weird “oh my God, my life would fit perfectly in her home” moment. I guess it says a lot about a person, but she was this really amazing artist that was 10 years older than me and just really, really cool. It was kind of the perfect little safe haven to re-figure out what I was going to be about.
So when I moved there I was doing just like random consulting work. And then about a year into living there was when I started my own agency with my partner Taamy who’s based up in Oakland.
Did you know anybody in L.A.?
I knew a few people, but I did the thing where you ask all of your friends from New York, like, “who do you know in LA?” And then you meet those people. And then you're like, “who else should I know?” And then you're like, “who else should I know?”
And so, very quickly I just met a whole ton of people and it was great because it was the first time that I'd really curated a new group that was reflective of who I was as an adult versus who I was when I was a teenager or in college. So that was a really amazing thing and I think I learned a lot about myself and who I chose in that period — people who were all much more proactive about making their ideas happen.
And that also gave me the freedom to make things that I was talking about happen or that I thought maybe were a possible happen. Because they were like, “Of course you can fucking do that. Oh, I'll help. This is easy. You should meet this person and talk to them.” And so all of a sudden I was just immersed in this new community of people who were just super supportive.
Sometimes now, just looking back at where I came from, that was 2014 when I left New York for the first time ever. And I started traveling and then I moved to LA in October of that year. It was only four years ago and I feel like a totally different person.
I don't even remember what it was like to be the me that I was before that. It's so distant. It's very strange.
How did you know when you were ready to end your solo travel trip and root somewhere else?
I was hungry to work. I love working, so I can't travel forever. And I was excited to get back into something, but up until I got back to America, I didn't know where I was going to wind up and I was kind of figuring like, “Okay, what are my options? I can go back to grad school and get an MBA or I can join a big company.” I interviewed at Google and did all this stuff where I was like, maybe I'll move to San Francisco, and maybe I'll do that, but it didn't feel right to me because I just don't work well within large organizations. My third option was that I could start a business. So with those three options that I saw before me, the starting a business one made the most sense just because of what I had done with the startup. I’d felt really dissatisfied about some of the male co-founders and knew that I could do something better on my own.
And when I was traveling around the world and seeing so many people who had more flexible lifestyles — this girl that I knew from Twitter in NY had moved to Singapore and was working for a company that did tech conferences in Europe and Asia. She was basically just like producing them, bouncing from city to city, and when she wasn't producing something, she would take these house sitting gigs from the Internet where she was like watching someone's cat and France or like, you know, just random stuff. I went to go stay with her when she was in Berlin for a few weeks, and seeing the flexibility that she had made me really be like, “Okay, she makes money, she has a job, she loves it, and she doesn't have to be anywhere in particular.”
So I think I was kind of drawn to living smarter, cheaper, so that I could try to figure out how that works for me because I didn’t feel like a future in New York was sustainable for me. Those are some of the things that informed that decision.
So one thing I've been curious only talk to people is sort of this “Aha moment” of whatever catalyzed the start of this big change or something that happened kind of sneakily overtime.
I think it's more of like a “sneakily over time” thing for me because I think every new experience gives you more information about yourself.
My roommate in LA would always joke that whenever I was up against a decision that I just hadn't collected enough data yet, and as soon as I collected enough data that I would know the answer. She was always right, and I frame a lot of things in my mind that way now. I used to be more frustrated or impatient with not knowing what should happen, not having clarity, and now I'm like “I just don't have enough information yet.” So I need more experiences, or to talk to more people, and then it will all make sense.
And I think that's kind of how my journey was throughout that transition — little bits of evidence here and there. Then there was this hilarious email that I got from somebody who had been an advisor of my startup who had just moved to LA, and he like laid out a whole bunch of bullet points. He was like, “Here's why you should move here, these are all the reasons why, because I know we have similar personalities and because I know that there's a stigma around moving to LA in the minds of New Yorkers.” Like, “Let me just help you get over that because it's really great here and you’ll thrive.” And I feel like that was one of the things that made me feel more confident about taking that leap.
I'm always curious how people make decisions because I too feel like I collect a lot of information. I'm working on trusting when I have enough. Can I ask how old, how old are you?
I'm 31 now. I’ll be 32 in a couple of weeks.
I've been around more people who care about astrology and it's totally like this Saturn returns idea. So it's something around this time...
Yes! Now, my astrologist says that I'm in my “setting roots” period. So I'm doing the things now that are like the foundation for what will come. I don't know what that means yet!
Do you feel like you're in the beginning of a new chapter?
Yeah, I'm definitely in the beginning of a new one. It’s really just been me post-Trump raising my hand to some friends who were in politics, which I had very, very few of, and saying like, “We don't even know each other that well, but put me in coach! How do I get involved?”
So I spent a lot of last year just trying to get up to speed, going to all these conferences, talking to all these people who had been in it and worked with people who’d been in the White House.
Last year was the true beginning of it all because it was such a completely new experience. I'm still having new experiences every day. Which is just so much to grapple with in real time.
So Trump getting elected, that touched a political bone in your body that hadn't been activated yet?
It wasn't even political. Okay— it is political, but it's so much more tied to marketing and it's so much more tied to storytelling, and art, and the Internet, and why all of these tools at our disposal are being used against us instead of for us. I got so set off just by seeing the way that Republicans use the Internet effectively, and not understanding why the best practices of digital marketing are completely lost on the party that I'm supposed to be excited about.
They did a really good job of using the same tools that we use to sell lip kits and laptops to like actual sell propaganda that was dismantling our democracy. To watch that happen in real time was devastating for me because I felt like I was part of an industry that contributed to building and perfecting the tools that allowed that to happen. So I was like, “What do I do now?”
What has been challenging for you?
I just have a nervous breakdown all the time. It's just been so hard. And I think the one thing that I didn't realize about politics compared to brands is that you have enemies when you start.
So it's like this really weird, new, hostile environment that as an entrepreneur normally, you don't really have much animosity towards you or your project. But you decide that you're going to arrive to politics all of a sudden and you hypothetically skip other people who are like “waiting in line” or whatever the fuck the Democratic Party wants you to do. There's just so much anger and people trying to accuse you of crazy stuff, people following you with cameras and recording you, people trying to like, instigate and get you to say things on tape. It's just crazy and I feel like we're getting TMZ’d all the time.
So you're working in a very different industry or arena where the rules are different.
The rules are different. And I’d also say I've had so much trouble just managing people because I've never had so many people directly reporting to me. So we’re dealing with the growing pains. We launched this as two people, and then before you know it, there's dozens of people working full time. There's like sixty interns and hundreds of volunteers, and it's amazing, but I’m not yet at a place in my career where I know what to do with all of those personalities.
What do you do during those really frustrating moments?
Work from home, or just isolate myself. I've found that if I show up less frequently, then I can concentrate my good moods into like a few hours here and there and just check in with people and keep it positive. There are so many teens that work for us — just about everyone is under 25, and it's amazing and I want to be there because I know that they’re excited about hearing our ideas and learning from us but I also struggle because it's impossible to really accomplish anything if I'm just managing. So it's been like this weird dance. And, the thing that I've found most effective, especially when I'm stressed or anxious — which I am a lot — is to just limit my exposure.
I think that things that weigh on me the most are just the mess of trying to figure out how to work with all these new personalities and be in a new industry and still somehow maintain the level of professionalism and composure that I actually haven't ever had. Like I have to fake it and learn it now, on the go, which has been impossible because of how sleep deprived we are.
Yeah, imposter syndrome is real.
It's totally real. Although I joke that when Trump was elected I was like, “Oh, well there goes that. If he can be President then I can do whatever the fuck I want.”
I think in the career realm, I'm particularly interested in how people handle imposter syndrome or what could be helpful. One time I heard, “if you're in a room or if you're at a table or you're invited to something, It's not because you don't belong there, it's because you do.” That was really important for me to internalize.
Is there any sort of like if you were to visualize this, this transformation chapter for you?
It's like...I don't know, like a spiral downward. I've just never felt so drained and exhausted and I can't wait until this is over so that I can take some space to regroup with myself because there's just been chaos every day. It's so hard.
I think all we can do is continue to seek those stories and seek those people so that you can keep yourself going. And know that even if things don't turn out the way you want them to, there's just so much learning that happens. It's so exciting.
I think that's what gets me like really hyped up about everything. We keep joking that if we don't win this we’ll just post a video on the internet where we’re all like, “huh!” and then just move on to the next big challenge.