My Thoughts on Blair Eadie’s Halogen x Atlantic-Pacific Collection

Another week, another blogger launching a collection. Am I right?

All snarkiness aside, I love Blair Eadie of Atlantic-Pacific. She was one of the first fashion bloggers I ever followed and one of the only people I’ve ever actually referenced for “outfit inspo”. To me, she defined “street style” before I even knew that was even a thing and her surprising, ever-sunglassed style has always stood out in a sea of trendy bloggers.

Over the years, she’s stayed focused solely on fashion, surprising in the time of fashion-turned-lifestyle bloggers. I’ve been following her for years and know very little about her life and her personality beyond her clothes. Her personal style has always been the focal point and, despite the industry pushing bloggers for transparency and “authenticity”, I think it’s safe to say it’s really paid off for her.

Of all the blogger collections that come out this year (Chriselle Lim, Gal Meets Glam, etc.), Blair’s collection feels the most authentically her style. The pieces can be layered up to mimic her quirky, color-blocked blog looks or pared down for a more streamlined style.

When photos of the collection came out, I was wary of how wearable the pieces would be for everyday; Blair’s style is so fun and out there, but isn’t exactly what I would call accessible. I was pleasantly surprised, though, at the mix of hero pieces and basics in the collection. Of course her ultra-girly pieces and modern florals standout, but her understated workwear pieces and blouses make the collection accessible to those who aren’t ready to rock a tiered tulle maxi skirt.

I won’t be buying anything from the collection today (I’m currently on a shopping ban), but there are a few pieces that I think are interesting and really define the collection that I wanted to talk through.

The Glitter Booties

These are hands down my favorite thing in the collection. They’re arguably the most iconic piece and are certainly Instagram ready. Beautiful shape, sensible heel-height, and surprisingly reasonably priced these babies are the one piece from the collection I’m seriously considering breaking my ban for. They’re just so fun and would be perfect for the holidays coming up. It’s hard to resist these major Elle Woods vibes.

The Printed A-Line Dress

If I was going to buy a piece of clothing from the collection, this would be my choice. The shape is flattering and the colors are very autumnal, but it’s the details that make it a stand out for me: the front pleats and pearl button detail elevate the piece overall. I love the print, but does it remind anyone else of something from the Who What Wear x Target collection? Regardless, it’s a beautiful dress and I’m not shocked it’s already sold out.

The Size Diversity

I’m super glad to see that the collection includes a wide variety of sizes (0-24) and has both plus size and petite options. A special collaboration like this certainly didn’t need to include the size diversity to sell, so it’s nice to see bloggers walking the walking when it comes to inclusion.

Sidenote: I love the photos Blair did with Katie Sturino of @the12ishstyle showing the pieces on different body types. Their friendship is major goals!

The Undergarments

Okay, this sounds weird, but I’m so excited to see a collection include some beautiful undergarments! I’m a life-long slip wearer (I was like the only 13 year old wearing a half slip lol) and they’re actually surprisingly hard to come by so it’s nice to see both practical and fun foundation pieces.

Love this half slip, these opaque colored tights, and and this mesh polka dot slip.

That’s it from me on this one! It’s interesting to see different bloggers roll out collections, both independently and in collaboration with other brands, and the choices they make when pivoting to a design role.

Did you buy anything from the collection today? Anything you’re eyeing? As always, I’d love to hear your thoughts.

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Create & Cultivate Chicago 2018: What I Learned & Would I Go Again?

Blue Velvet Chair surrounded by Flowers at Create & Cultivate 2018

Woman Smiling in Sequin Jacket at Create & Cultivate 2018

Blue Velvet Chair surrounded by Flowers at Create & Cultivate 2018

Selfie with LaCroix and Lanyard at Create & Cultivate 2018

On Saturday, I attended one of the most talked about women’s entrepreneurship conferences in the country: Create & Cultivate. If you’re not familiar with it, it’s a jam-packed day of panels, networking, and instagram opportunities and boasts high-profile speakers like Shay Mitchell, Alli Webb, and Jennifer Hudson. It’s put on by a company of the same name that hosts events like this around the country and creates content aimed at millennial women looking to start their own businesses.

Honestly, I went because everyone goes and, this year, it was hosted in my hometown of Chicago. Yes, tickets are expensive (general admission costs about $350), but I made a promise to myself this year that I would push myself to cultivate my career outside of work and this seemed like a perfect opportunity.

So, was Create & Cultivate worth it?

It was definitely a unique experience so to answer that, let me break down the pros, cons, tips, tricks, disappointments, and complaints from my experience.

POSITIVES

  • It’s Instagrammable AF. If you’ve ever been to a blogger event, you know that high you get from being around so much Instagram fodder. Create & Cultivate knows how to set up a photo shoot and knows everyone is there for the gram. #content
  • You have real access to industry folks. If you’re brave enough to go up to someone you admire and introduce yourself, you will absolutely have the chance to do that here. This is probably the most valuable thing about the conference. Panelists and speakers are often just standing around in the crowd, so it’s definitely a great opportunity to meet people who may be valuable to your business.
  • It’s more than just a fashion-blogger conference. My fear going in was that it would be very fashion-blogger oriented and in some ways it was, but there was a huge range in the kinds of businesses represented beyond that, too. I was on Track One, which was focused on business and entrepreneurship, so I got to see a wider variety of people speak than Track Two, which was aimed more at social media and content creation. One of my favorite panels of the day featured successful women in the food industry actually, so don’t be turned off if you’re not a fashion person.
  • You meet pretty cool people. My goal for every event I go to is just to talk to one person. Of course over the course of 12 hours I talked to way more people than that, but I always think if I make one great connection with someone, it’s worth it. I met founders of furniture companies, social media managers for the government, business consultants, famous bloggers, tech company founders, etc. It was very cool to hear people be so passionate about a diverse range of projects.
  • So. Much. Swag. This is obviously not that important, but of course it’s fun to get a bunch of beauty products and cool stuff from brands! I got to do a little unboxing for my family when I got home, which was hilarious.

WHAT I LEARNED

  • On Pinterest: I thought Pinterest was dead, so I was shocked at how many people attributed a big part of their success to the platform. For many blogs and retailers, it’s still their #1 driver of traffic and one of their biggest drivers of sales. I believe it was Alaina Kaczmarski from the EveryGirl that made the point that Pinterest content lasts so much longer than any other platform and actually gains value over time. This is why it’s such a powerful driver of traffic. Plus, it’s totally passive – you post a pin and it does the work for you. A few other tips:
    • What performs well according to CEO, Ben Silbermann:
      • Showcasing a product in the context of real life
      • Vertical Images
      • Imagery and copy together – think text overlay
    • Focus on the number of views, not number of followers. People use Pinterest as a search engine and aren’t as concerned with following, so views are the real MVP.
    • Choose a few great photos from a blog post to upload to your Pinterest, instead of uploading every single photo. A few great photos will do much better than a bunch of similar ones.
    • Get a Business account because it signals to Pinterest that you want your account and pins to be discovered. And make sure to claim your domain so you can use the analytics tools.
    • People love Pinterest because it’s actionable – that’s why it’s such a hub for DIY content and recipes. If you have DIY content, it’s a perfect place to push that.
    • Tailwind was mentioned as a good app for managing Pinterest.
  • On Negotiating: The best advice I heard about negotiating was from Zoe Scharf of Greetabl. As an employer hiring people, she said that she not only expected everyone she hired to negotiate their salary, but it made her more confident in the abilities of the person she was hiring. If someone had the confidence and drive to negotiate for themselves, she knew they would bring those same abilities to negotiate on behalf of her company. I loved that. A few other good quotes:
    • If my value was 0, you wouldn’t have come to me.” – Blake Von D
    • Not related to negotiation, but I loved this quote from Zoe: “Design is the elevator pitch of the internet.”
    • “Time kills all deals.” – Reesa Lake
    • The quote of the session definitely was: “I’m not too expensive, you just can’t afford me yet.” – Blake Von D explaining that not everyone is going to be your customer.
  • On Feedback: On many different panels, I heard the old adage: stay connected to your customer. Of course I’ve heard it before and think that user testing is one of the most valuable tools out there. But I only ever thought about it in terms of product. What about for blogging? Who are my “customers”? I don’t create a product, but I do create content and I hadn’t really ever thought about doing ‘user testing’ for my writing. It definitely encourages me to solicit more feedback from people!
    • “Feedback is a gift.” – Alli Webb, founder of Dry Bar
  • A few other random quotes I loved:
    • One of my mentors, Patrice Yursik, tapped into my Marie Kondo vibes by saying “drill down on what brings you joy.” Joy can be active and productive.
    • Maxie McCoy (below), who is the perkiest human being I’ve ever met, said: “There’s a reason horses race with blinders on.”

Maxie McCoy at Create & Cultivate 2018

Blue, Pink, and Glittery Balloons at Create & Cultivate 2018

NEGATIVES

  • Women shaming. My biggest criticism of the Create & Cultivate conference was the very shallow concept of feminism that dogged the event. Feminism felt like a slogan – “women supporting women” – instead of an integral part of the event and the conference lacked the intersectionality and inclusivity necessary to make feminism work at all. At one point a panelist even said “women create their own glass ceiling”, which essentially sums up the low-key women shaming that was happening throughout the day. A lot of the rhetoric relied on the assumption that women are weak, “intimidated”, and don’t know their worth, which I don’t think is generally true. But even if women do feel that way, it’s not their fault! The conference made it seem like it was a personal failing if women were socially conditioned to be more quiet and passive than men. I would have loved to see the focus shift from “women, here’s what you’re doing wrong” to “here’s what we can do to change the system”. I understand that I’m at a social media conference, not an academic consortium, but if you’re going to make feminism part of your brand you should at least have a basic understanding of what it means beyond “women supporting women”. In general, I was pretty bummed out at the assumptions made about women in the workplace at this conference. I heard the phrases “imposter syndrome” and “know your worth” so many times I could scream. Yes, fewer women negotiate their starting salaries and there are fewer women at the C level, but there seem like more productive and actionable ways to talk about this then scolding women for not being “brave” enough.
  • Lack of diversity. Beyond the unconvincing feminism at the conference, diversity was another big issue. The main stage conversations were sorely lacking in conversations about race and not once did I hear a white panelist call for the elevation of the voices of women of color, trans women, or LGBTQ+ people. If you want to talk about “women supporting women”, you can’t assume that all women are coming from the same starting point. The price of conference itself acts a barrier to most women! There were more attendees and speakers of color than I expected, which was great, but the conference didn’t feel like a safe space to bring those kinds of issues up. That crowd was such a powerful group of women, so I was certainly disappointed to see issues of race, religion, class, gender identity, and sexuality skirted around or outright ignored.
  • The information was very high-level and basic. I was really hoping for at least a few deep-dives into topics like monetization, up-and-coming apps, and ways to effectively grow your audience. But it was a lot of the same information you see online – “growth takes time and consistency”, “be your authentic self”, “it’s all about engagement”. I wish there had been more information about how to do these things, strategies people use to do it, and tools that are helpful. A lot of the advice just felt very generic to me.
  • They do not feed you enough. I know it sounds silly, but when you’re hungry, you’re not paying attention. When you’re worried about getting enough food, you’re not paying attention. When you’re leaving panels early to go stand in line to get food, you’re not paying attention. And since you can’t leave and return, you’re pretty much trapped there. Plus, you can’t help but think they’re sending a message to attendees when they only hand you a salad for a lunch!
  • No one wears name tags. I just thought this was weird! You’re at an event where the primary activity is networking and you’re already wearing a lanyard – why don’t we have nametags?!

TIPS

  • Go in with a game plan of who you want to meet. You will get a lot more out of the networking component of the conference if you know who you want to meet. Then, basically stalk them until you have an opportunity to go up and introduce yourself. People won’t be weirded out – the event sort of gives you permission to randomly talk to people, so it’s a great way to make introductions you might not be able to otherwise.
  • Ask specific questions. Otherwise, you’re only going to get high-level, not helpful answers. I wish I had come in with a more specific list of questions or a better idea of what kind of information I was looking for from speakers and other attendees.
  • Wear a statement piece. I know this sounds superficial (and you’re right), but I found it really helpful to wear something that made me stand out. I wore a ridiculous sequined jacket and it ended up being both a great conversation starter and a way for people to remember me.
  • Bring snacks. See bullet point 4 above.
  • Go to whatever you want. There was a panel on Track Two that I really wanted to see, so… I just went. The event takes place in an open air environment and no one asked me to leave, so I just watched the panel and then returned to my track. They make choosing your Track seem like a big deal (it’s one of the only big differences between the GA and VIP tickets), but you can honestly go to whatever events you want.

A Small Bottle of Chandon at Create & Cultivate 2018

IS IT WORTH IT?

In my honest opinion, no. For $350 I didn’t feel like I got my money’s worth out of the Create & Cultivate experience. Yes, it was motivating to hear a lot of women talk about how they kick ass and I did really enjoy the people that I met. Plus, it’s always nice to feel pampered with swag. But the content of the conference itself was vague and generic, which was disappointing to me.

If you’re someone who responds really well to hearing other people’s stories, then you might have a much better experience. But I was hoping to take away some great tips to help my blog and my marketing work and I felt pretty robbed of both.

I would say that if you’re looking for a great networking opportunity and you are willing to pay that much to meet certain people in attendance, then it might be worth it to you. But if you’re going as a general attendee who wants to learn some things and meet some interesting people, there are other, cheaper events that you could go to. Create & Cultivate’s Work Party tour, for example, will likely draw a lot of the same people as the conference (minus the big names) without the giant price tag.

Of course, the most unfortunate part of the event, though, was the disappointing but unsurprising corporatization of feminism. Certainly the message was nice – I think we should definitely support other women! – but the conversation around it was not nuanced and inclusive enough to be relevant in 2018. I hope that Create & Cultivate continues to bring women together, but I also hope they more directly address issues that affect many women trying to develop their careers in this country.

Here’s to hoping…

 

Check out all my tips for networking (and how it make it not suck) here and, if you’re visiting Chicago this summer, check out my list of cheap and free things to do around town!

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Beyonce and Jay-Z’s On the Run II Tour was Really Heteronormative

Over the weekend I got the chance to see the one and only Beyonce perform in Chicago. Oh and Jay-Z was there, too. But what started as a chance to tick an item off my bucket list turned into a full-blown gender theory extravaganza.

If you’ve been living under a Beyonce-less rock for the past several years, Bey and Jay have been through some shit. Despite their best efforts to be private, rumors about their relationship have swirled and they have confirmed such events as Jay-Z’s affair, Beyonce’s miscarriage, and an altercation between Jay and Beyonce’s sister, Solange.

All of this has been made all the more interesting by the fact that Beyonce and Jay-Z are known for portraying their personal lives through their music. Between Beyonce’s Lemonade album and Jay-Z’s 4:44, we’ve been given some facts about what’s happened between the couple, but the two have mostly just opened a Pandora’s box of questions – most notably “Who is Becky with the Good Hair?”

So, when the Soldier Field stadium concert turned personal (showing footage of the two with their children, renewing their vows, etc.) I wasn’t surprised. This tour seemed as good a time as any to show Beyonce and Jay-Z’s unity as a couple and to prove they’ve moved past their turbulent past. And hey, good for them! They’ve been married for 10 years and have three small children, I’m glad they’ve worked through their shit.

What bothered me is the super heteronormative way they showed the strength of their marriage: Beyonce playing the demure wifey while Jay portrayed the unavailable tough guy. Beyonce stayed on stage for some of Jay-Z’s songs to stand a little behind him and mouth the words, a couple of her songs consisted of her looking lovingly into Jay-Z’s eyes while he looked kind of annoyed, Jay-Z had several opportunities to perform full-length songs while Beyonce’s were often cut off and mashed up. In the video portion of the performance, Beyonce was chased in the headlights of an oncoming car while Jay-Z was punching guys in backroom bars.

Let me be clear: I have no qualms with Beyonce and Jay-Z being happy in their relationship and using this tour to show everyone “This is Real Love” – a message that was projected throughout the concert. That’s great! But it felt like they chose to portray their relationship as “real” by fitting into the recognizable roles of heteropatriarchy.

Not only is this reliance on patriarchal gender roles generally a bummer, it also runs counterintuitive to Beyonce’s feminist brand: Who Run the World (Girls), ***Flawless, and Formation have become anthems and mainstream touchstones of feminism. Even the moments of feminism she did inject into this tour felt half-hearted: they were short snippets of the songs instead of cacophonous dance numbers like we’ve seen in the past. She had fewer dancers, less choreography, and Jay-Z was noticeably absent from any song claiming feminist roots.

 

 

It definitely felt like Beyonce had to dull her shine and water down her message to fit into the role of the supportive wife and the happy mother. Now, I didn’t go to the original On the Run tour, so perhaps this gendered wedded bliss is a reference back to that, but even if it is, Beyonce has come into her own as a performer since 2014 and the tour should reflect that, right? Her famous Black Panther Super Bowl performance, her ethereal Grammy’s number, and Bey-chella have all happened in the last 4 years. Beyonce is obviously the superior performer, so it was strange to see her take a backseat, especially when Jay-Z isn’t particularly known for his show stopping stadium numbers.

All this to say: as much as I was awed by the talent of both Beyonce and Jay-Z, I was disappointed at the way these dynamic and unique performers fell into such predictable gendered roles. I had hoped after watching the Apeshit video that we would see a power couple on stage, two equals who know their strengths and aren’t afraid to let the other shine. But we got googly eyed Beyonce and macho grouch Jay-Z, instead. Maybe third times the charm?

[Top photo from ET, center photo by NME, bottom photo from NYT.]

For more of my thoughts on pop culture, check out: Is Slow Instagram becoming a thing?, my guesses as to who the next Bachelor will be, and 5 books you should add to your summer reading list.

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Becca’s Bachelorette Recap + Who Will Be the Next Bachelor?

Becca standing in a white dress in front of the ocean

We did it, people! We made it to the end of Becca’s season of The Bachelorette. And let me tell you, it was… pretty boring. What courteous and respectful way will Becca let this guy down? What sub-par board of tourism paid them enough this season? Which square headed white dude will she choose?! Riveting stuff.

Unfortunately, in the end, Becca ended up with Garrett “I didn’t mean to like those memes” Yrigoyen and Blake cried into a towel on national television. It wasn’t the happy ending I was hoping for Becca, but, as much as I have a thing for Blake’s capable arms, I’m not sure he would have been a good choice in the end either. He really showed his insecurity and I wanted to swaddle him more than marry him. I think Becca was stuck between a rock and a bigoted place and she chose the guy with the red flag she didn’t know about.

Becca and Garrett kissing in front of a minivan

Speaking of red flags, I was sure they were going to give some vague apology for Garrett’s online behavior, so color me surprised when they addressed Garrett’s meme-gate in length on After the Final Rose. The apology was pretty lame, though: “he didn’t mean it” and he “never meant to offend anyone” are not really excuses for liking a lot of bigoted and racist posts. As much as I’m sure he’s “grown as a person”, I still don’t trust a 29-year-old man who thinks the survivor of a school shooting was a crisis actor.

Garrett’s meme scandal is particularly frustrating when put in context of the other contestants: runner-up Blake was a survivor of a school shooting himself and spoke publicly about it on the show and second runner-up Jason supported his gay brother on Men Tell All saying “love is love is love”. Not to mention Becca’s pretty public liberal views – she’s an outspoken Hillary supporter and has supported Planned Parenthood and the Women’s March publicly, too.

At the end of the day, though, if Becca is happy taking on that emotional labor in her relationship that’s her decision. Lord knows she’s a much more patient and understanding lady that I am. I just think the whole situation speaks to the politically neutral nature of the show and how that’s back firing more and more often for them. When your show’s audience is primarily liberal millennial women, it’s hard to champion a guy like Garrett and his views. This came up a lot during Rachel Lindsay’s season – who could forget when systemic racism was explained on Men Tell All – and I think politics is going to creep in more and more each season. In 2018, you can’t ignore the enormous political divide in this country and even Bachelor Nation isn’t safe.

Becca holding a sign that says "Keep your Politics Away from my Lady Bits"

But moving on: other than Garrett’s closely monitored Instagram account and Lincoln’s conspicuous absence from Men Tell All, there was just not a whole lot of excitement this season. Luckily for Bachelor Nation, there’s always another “most dramatic season ever” to look forward to. And they wasted no time with last night’s premiere of Bachelor In Paradise.

I boycotted BIP last season after their ridiculous we-don’t-want-to-get-sued speech about consent on the show, but have been lured back in with an all-star cast and a limit on contestants’ alcohol consumption. With lots of recent Bachelor alums including hometown hero Grocery Joe and villain power couple Jordan and Krystal, I have a feeling we’ll make up for the drama we didn’t get on Becca’s season. (I didn’t watch the premiere last night cause I have a LIFE, but I’ll post on Instagram when I do). I’m also excited just to get to know people more – Who are you taxidermy Kendall? What’s Eric Bigger been doing all year? Is Leo’s hair full of secrets?

The Bachelor in Paradise 2018 Cast

But the real question everyone wants the answer to is: Who will be the next Bachelor? And oh, do I have theories. But first, let’s talk a little bit about how they make this decision.

A lot of things can affect the selection of the next Bachelor or Bachelorette. I listened to an interview with ABC’s head of Alternative Programming, Robert Mills, recently where he spoke a little about this process and he touched on several things that they take into consideration when choosing a bachelor or bachelorette:

  • Relevance – Has this person been on the show recently? Have they stayed active in Bachelor Nation? Rachel Lindsay is a great example of this since she had just been on the most recent season of The Bachelor and was still very much on Bachelor Nation’s radar.
  • Story – Are we rooting for them? Do they have a great back story or did something really dramatic and devastating happen to them? Becca wasn’t an obvious choice for Bachelorette until she got dumped by Arie – then suddenly her story of redemption made her a perfect candidate.
  • Personality – Can they carry an entire show? This is why someone like Grocery Joe, although beloved by the public, could not be the Bachelor. He’s too quiet and wouldn’t open up enough.
  • Different from past seasons – Are they a different type of lead than the last Bachelor or Bachelorette? Juan Pablo wasn’t a natural choice for Bachelor, but after Sean Lowe’s pretty chaste season the franchise needed a little shaking up.

Keeping all the above criteria in mind, I’ve laid out 8 pretty agreed upon candidates for Bachelor. Obviously there are more and I have a feeling Paradise is going to play a role in who is chosen, but as of right now these are the people on the radar of Bachelor Nation. Let’s bring in the (world’s most crudely made) bracket…

Who Will Be the Next Bachelor Bracket

The Contenders:

  1. Wills. The most GIFable contestant ever and can pull off a romphim. Who wouldn’t marry him (besides Becca obviously)? He has a strong base rooting for him, but I think he’s ultimately too reserved to carry the whole show.
  2. Grocery Store Joe. An unexpected fan favorite. The world just couldn’t let Joe go after his night one exit this season, but I think Paradise is as far as he’ll go. He isn’t the most talkative of the bunch and I think would just pick some girl on the first night saying “she seems nice”.
  3. Eric Bigger. I think Eric has a really good chance of making a comeback. He’s on Paradise this season, he had a good story on Rachel’s season, and has a LOT of abs. I would not be mad to see an Eric season.
  4. Colton. As much as Colton has all the qualities of a great bachelor, I think he shot himself in the foot with the Tia drama, especially now that he’s on Paradise. I just don’t think audiences would believe he’s ready for love again after all of it.
  5. Blake. Sweet baby Blake. I love him and he’s a fan favorite, but I don’t think he has the emotional wherewithal to be the Bachelor. He also said something about Becca being “the only bachelorette” he’d ever want, so my guess is he’s a no go.
  6. Peter Krause. Ah yes, a mystical unicorn Peter Krause season… Will we get it? Probably not. Can I still dream about it? Definitely yes.
  7. Jason. I think they have a real winner in Jason. Top 3, but we still don’t know that much about him. Charismatic, believes in “the process”, and had a super classy exit this season. Barring anyone from Paradise stealing the show, I think it’ll be Jason.
  8. Connor. We didn’t get to know Connor too well this season, but he’s on Paradise and had a strong contingent of fans once they saw how hot he was in glasses. I think he has the potential to really shine on Paradise so we’ll see.

As of right now, I think it’ll be Jason – I think he’s a good candidate and I would definitely watch that season. I doubt they’ll pull another Arie, where they choose a lead no one knows, so I think it’ll definitely be someone we recognize. But I think we need to watch Paradise for clues – I wouldn’t be surprised if someone’s storyline from there carries over either.

So there you have it. More of my feelings about the Bachelorette than you ever wanted to read. If you’re looking for more of my pop culture ramblings, check out: what I thought about The Proposal, a theory I have about Instagram, and why I’m glad Mean Girls didn’t win at this year’s Tony Awards.

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Networking Tips to Help You Make Genuine Connections

As I’ve mentioned here before, I took about five months off from work this year and spent a big portion of that job searching. It was definitely exhausting, but, ultimately, I learned a lot about what I’m looking for in my career and how to get the kind of job I want.

By far the most effective (and most intimidating) tool for career development that I learned? Networking! I used to think networking was scary and fake, but I’ve actually had such a good experience with it recently and I think it’s really about finding people you actually like! Since I feel like there’s a lot of mystery and weirdness surrounding networking, I thought I’d write up some tips that helped me when I was starting out:

  • Start with people you know. This is the best way to warm up your networking chops! Talking to friends and family helps you practice your “elevator pitch” and they might even know people who can help you with your job search.
  • Find a mutual connection. After friends and family, the next group of people I recommend chatting with are people you have a mutual connection with. I find it easier to reach out when I have a conversation starter like a mutual friend or alma mater.
    • People connections: Friends of friends, friends’ siblings, parents’ colleagues, etc. are all great people to talk to once you have a good idea of what you’re looking for.
    • Place connections: Reconnect with people you went to school with, update former colleagues on your job search, join a local professional association, etc. Facebook and LinkedIn groups are great too if you’re not sure where to start! Also, some colleges offer career development resources, so check those out, as well.
  • Use social media. Having a social media presence and being active on it can be so helpful while you’re looking for a job. Use social media to share your portfolio, show personal projects, and put a face to a name. Follow people who do what you want to do and engage with them! Respond to their Instagram stories, reply to their tweets, and, once you’ve established a rapport, message them about their job. I’ve even had a couple of people pass along my resume to their company as a result!
  • Be open. You never know who might know someone, so be open to whoever people connect you with. Sometimes it won’t be helpful and that’s okay – think of it as practice, which is ultimately how you get better at networking. But sometimes you’ll meet someone who works at a great company or can give you a referral – you have to kiss a few frogs, right?

 

  • Go in with an objective. When going to a networking event, I find it really helpful to go into a situation with a goal. Sometimes that goal is to talk to ONE person and that’s totally fine. Other times it’s more specific: get the name of one company I should apply to, ask three people advice on framing my previous experience to better fit their industry, etc. This helps guide my conversations, gives me some questions to ask, and makes me feel like my time was worthwhile even if I don’t hit it off with anyone.
  • Ask “Who else can you connect me with?” I recently learned this tip from someone I networked with (Thanks, Meghan!) and it’s such an easy and effective way to keep the ball rolling: at the end of a good networking meeting, ask that person who else they can connect you with. People really want to help other people and it’s so much easier to connect with someone when you have a reference. LinkedIn is a great place to do this since new contacts can see who you’re connected to and they can skim your resume quickly, too.
  • Have fun! Okay, maybe that’s a bit of reach, but networking doesn’t have to be the most miserable thing in the world. Look for networking events that sound fun (or at least have an open bar) and try not to put too much pressure on yourself. If you’re meeting someone for coffee, go somewhere fun you’ve been wanting to try. Learn what you can from people and if you hit it off, that’s great! If not, no worries. Networking gets a bad reputation for being stilted and fake, but I think of it as an opportunity to find people you genuinely like.

 

A Few Don’ts:

  • Ask people for a job. This is the number one thing I needed to wrap my head around when it came to networking. It’s not about meeting someone once and getting a job, it’s about getting information that could ultimately lead to a job. It’s a marathon, not a sprint! Instead of asking if their company is hiring, ask them about their experience at the company, what they like about the industry, what frustrates them, etc. Get to know them first and see if they’re even the kind of person you want to get a referral from! If after a few conversations or interactions you want to ask them if their company is hiring then go for it.
  • Only network when you’re job searching. I learned this the hard way – network early and often! It’s a long game so don’t wait until you’re actively applying to meet people and see what’s out there. I know it can be hard to carve out time to chat with people while you’re working full time, but try baking it into your work routine. Now that I’m working again, I try to dedicate at least an hour a week to reaching out to new people, catching up with old connections, or researching companies that sound interesting.
  • Pay for LinkedIn Premium. I tried the Free Trial when I was job searching and honestly, I would not pay for this service. I could see who viewed my profile, but that fed my curiosity more than it helped me network. If a recruiter wants to get in touch with you, they will. Premium also gives you the ability to send up to 3 messages to people you’re not connected with, but the success rate of cultivating a great connection based on a random message is pretty slim. LinkedIn on it’s own is an amazing tool (and actually how I got the job I have today), but Premium just isn’t that helpful.

 

Are you guys on the networking grind? It’s definitely a lot of work, but in the long run I think it’s totally worth it for the insight you get from people and the chance at a foot in the door. And if you meet a few people you genuinely like along the way, that’s awesome!

Now that I’m back in Madison, my next networking move is to meet more people here! If you’re a Madison person and want to talk digital marketing, social media, or blogging, hit me up! (See what I did there? 😏)

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Is Slow Instagram Becoming a Thing?

Crusty french bread in baskets

In the world of social media, everything is instant: instant sharing, instant shopping, instant gratification. But is there a movement emerging on social media to slow things down – is Slow Instagram becoming a thing?

So, what does it mean for Instagram to be “slow”? I stole the term from Slow TV, a type of long-form television popular in Norway that shows ordinary events like train rides or knitting circles in their entirety. Slow TV is often of “marathon length” – a single ‘episode’ might go on for 8 or 9 hours – and it typically features ambient and almost ASMR sounds.

Slow Instagram isn’t an exact translation of Slow TV, but it shares some of the same tenants:

  • Long-form. Slow Instagram is typically much longer than average content on a certain platform (the way 8 hours is an eternity on TV, 5 minutes is a century on Instagram Stories). It also often takes place in real-time so there’s no editing or changing camera angles.
  • First-person. This applies mainly to Instagram stories, but by and large you won’t see someone talking to the camera. The story puts you in the place of the viewer.
  • With no discernable plot. Instagram today is all about telling bite sized stories, but Slow Instagram plays with the opposite. Walking through a meadow, making a salad, mixing paints are all very Slow Instagram. They might be part of a larger story or world the account creates, but the content itself is pretty pointless.
  • Very little #SponCon. Slow Instagram exists (for the most part) outside of sponsored content and brand affiliation. It creates content for the purpose of creating content.

The first account that inspired this idea was Jamie Beck’s @annstreetstudio where she documents her life as an artist in Provence. In a world of #ootd’s and in-your-face content, her account feels subdued and quotidian. Obviously her photos are of fantastical proportions – they look more like paintings than photos – but her subject matter is often every day objects, including herself, elevated into pieces of art.

But it’s her Instagram stories that really define Slow Instagram for me: a five-minute story of putting together a still life, ten photos in a row of flowers in a field, close up shots of items at the local brocante, a video of a baker pull baguettes from the oven.

This isn’t the glitzy, over-filtered Instagram we’ve come to expect; her stories require patience and a desire to slow down. Her stories examine beautiful, everyday things closely and for a long time – and I think that’s the key to Slow Instagram. It’s bring you into a slower state of mind that is uncommon in the instant gratification world of social media.

Plates of food in front of open windows

Another related account is @chateaugudanes, a chateau being renovated in France that features fresco renovations and tableaus of fruit in front of open windows. The account shares finds from the antique market and slow pours of sauce over food. Beck even stayed here recently, which was a Slow Instagram wet dream.

But Slow Instagram isn’t exclusively reserved for those in France, it can appear anywhere and on accounts that aren’t traditionally Slow. American Ballet Theatre (@abtofficial) sometimes shares long Stories of their rehearsals, animal Instagrams like @coogi.boogie share videos of real-time doggy mischief, fashion bloggers like @somethingnavy Instagram live their children playing.

There are elements of Slow Instagram everywhere and, honestly, it gives me hope that we still crave quiet moments and everyday joys in a fast-paced world. Slow Instagram reminds us to examine the items and experiences in our lives with a closer lens. Instead feeling the pangs of jealousy at other’s lives, Slow Instagram urges us to find the extraordinary in our everyday – we just have to have patience.

[Top photo by Jamie Beck of @annstreetstudio and bottom photo by @chateauduganes.]

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A Life Update from Madison!

Vines on a Red House with a Volkswagen Bug

Greetings from Madison, friends! In a whirlwind of events over the last several weeks I’ve found myself back in the Dairyland and, honestly, I’m so excited to be back. At first I felt a little weird moving back when I was literally just here, but I got a great offer at a small marketing agency and everything just sort of fell into place. So, why not?! Life is funny like that sometimes.

It’s daunting moving for a job, even if it’s back to a town you know and love. I felt a lot of uncertainty and fear after I committed to move back. What if I hate my new job? What if I feel like an idiot for moving back? What if I feel left out now that I don’t work with all my friends? It was paralyzing. Instead of being excited that I finally got a job offer after months of job searching, I felt so stressed and sick.

I think I just had such a tough time in my last job that I was terrified this would be the same way. But then I realized that it can never be the same way because I’m not the same person.  I’m so much more confident in the workplace, I know how to manage my work and time, I can speak my mind when I see something wrong. I will never be that nervous 22-year-old fresh out of grad school and terrified of making a mistake and I’m GRATEFUL for that.

Sure, I’m coming back to a city I’ve lived in before and I’m living 3 blocks away from my old apartment, but things feel different this time. I feel like myself again. I don’t feel like I have to hide who I am or dim my shine anymore. I feel a lightness I thought I’d lost. I feel a sense of control and direction that I didn’t have before.

Is this my dream job? Probably not. But it’s a step in the right direction, it’s a better offer than I had at my last job (if we’re being honest), and one of my clients has a raccoon in their office so it certainly has it’s perks lol. I also think I’ve let go of the “dream job” notion at this point and am starting to see my career in the long-term. It’s tough when you see people on social media with these really cool jobs right out of school (and fair play to them!), but for most of us it’s going to take time and exploration and a few office raccoons to get it right.

All in all – things aren’t perfect, but for the first time in so long I’m embracing being in transition and am feeling really good about it. I’m leaning into things that make happy. I’m baking weird shit. I’m decorating my bathroom with boob decor. I’m watching a lot of reality TV. And that makes me really happy.

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21 Free or Cheap Things to Do in Chicago This Summer

View of Chicago's The Bean and Lake Michigan

Chicago's The Bean in Summer

Since I’ve been job searching this summer, I’ve been watching my pennies a little more carefully than normal. Luckily, that doesn’t mean I miss out on all the fun, either. I’ve been doing a lot of research lately on free and cheap things to do in the city that actually sound legitimately fun, so I thought I’d share with you guys in case you’re looking for something to do!

Check it out and let me know if there’s anything missing that’s on your list!

Art & Culture

Concerts in Millennium Park: Various Dates, FREE.

Chicago SummerDance (Dance Lessons and Music): Every Wed – Sunday in Grant Park, FREE.

Art Institute of Chicago Free Nights: 5-8pm Thursdays, FREE to Illinois Residents.

Museum of Contemporary Art Free Days: Every Tuesday, FREE to Illinois Residents.

Lincoln Park Zoo: Open and FREE everyday!

Garfield Park Conservatory: Open and FREE everyday! (This would be a beautiful photo shoot location – looking at you blogger friends or newly engaged people!)

National Museum of Mexican Art: Tuesday – Sunday 10-5, FREE.

Half-Price Theater Tickets (or check out my favorite shows here): Various Prices on Hot Tix.

Asian American Theater Fest @ Victory Gardens: August 13-18, tickets start at $10.

Chicago Jazz Festival @ Millennium Park: August 30-Sept 2, FREE

Keith Haring Mural Exhibit @ The Chicago Cultural Center: Now through Sept 23, FREE

 

Food & Street Fests

The Taste of Chicago: July 11-15 in Grant Park, FREE Admission and only $10 for 14 Food Tickets.

Square Roots Festival in Lincoln Square: July 13-15, $10 Suggested Donation.

Taste of River North: July 20-22, $5 Suggested Donation.

Tacos y Tamales Festival (Pilsen): July 20-22, $5 Suggested Donation.

Wicker Park Fest: July 27-29, $10 Suggested Donation.

Randolph Street Market: July 28-29, $10 in advance or $12 at the door.

 

Sports & Workouts

White Sox Baseball Games: Various Dates, Tickets start at $7 – lol that’s not a typo. (Pro tip: If you show up around the 6th inning they’ll sometimes just give you a FREE ticket.)

Millennium Park Summer Workouts: Tuesdays, Thursdays, and Saturdays, FREE.

5K Timed Runs in Humboldt, Washington, and Warren Park: FREE, just make sure to sign up in advance!

Workouts at Gallagher Way (Wrigleyville): Mondays-Saturdays, FREE.

 

[This guide from Choose Chicago and this list of street festivals from LakeShore Lady were super helpful in putting this together, go check them out!]

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My Favorite White Summer Dress

Brunette Girl In White Dress in Front of Brick Wall

Brunette Girl In White Dress in Front of Brick WallBrunette Girl In White Dress in Front of Brick Wall

Brunette Girl In White Dress in Front of Brick Wall

Every summer I have one dress that I wear non-stop and this year it’s this beauty from Urban Outfitters. It’s the perfect summer party dress: cute, casual, and a little sexy. And with the balance of the deep V-neck and the midi length it totally works for both day or night. It’s just so easy to throw it on and feel put together. I’ve worn this out with my friends to the bars, hanging out at a street fest, out to a concert – you name the summery event and I’ve worn this dress to it!

On a potentially TMI note, I’m also excited about this dress because it’s the first dress I’ve ever been able to comfortably wear without a bra! It’s been revolutionary 😂 The top gives me enough support that I’m comfortable, but it still feels airy and light. The whole thing is lined, too, so it’s not see through at all either like a lot of white dresses at this price point. I’d definitely recommend this dress to my bigger busted friends!

Brunette Girl In White Dress in Front of Brick WallBrunette Girl In White Dress in Front of Brick Wall

Dress: Urban Outfitters | Purse: Urban Outfitters (sold out) | Shoes: All Birds | Sunglasses: H&M

 

Brunette Girl In White Dress in Front of Brick WallBrunette Girl In White Dress in Front of Brick Wall

And let’s talk about accessories for a minute: these shoes and purse are my other go-to’s this summer. In fact, I’ve never gotten more compliments on a purse in my life! It might look tiny, but it actually fits everything I need – phone, wallet, keys, sunglasses, headphones, etc. I just love the shape so much – it’s such a fun, little conversation piece.

Unfortunately, the purse isn’t available online anymore, but here’s a few similar white, box bag options if you’re looking: another affordable option from Urban Outfitters, a backpack version, and a hilariously over-priced version if you’re up to it lol.

As for the shoes, these All Birds are the best city shoes I’ve ever had. I’m walking everywhere these days and I’m obsessed with them. I didn’t even have to break them in – no blisters and they’re sooo comfortable. Plus, they are sweat wicking so your feet don’t get swampy. I’ve seen a lot of ads for All Birds lately and was a little skeptical when I ordered them, but they are easily the best tennis shoes I’ve ever owned. Haha my mom thinks they look like nurse shoes, but I love them!

And yes, I know white tennis shoes get dirty crazy fast, but these are MACHINE WASHABLE. I like to do a stain remover spot treatment on any areas that are particularly gross and then just throw them in a regular cold cycle. They come out looking brand new. I was really impressed. I’ve been wearing them for about two months now and washed them about 3 times – no piling or weird stretching out from the washing machine, either. I didn’t think they would live up to the hype, but they absolutely have.

 

Brunette Girl In White Dress in Front of Brick Wall

It’s honestly made my life so much easier to just have a few great pieces that go with everything and I can wear to all kinds of events. I don’t think I’m at full-blown capsule wardrobe status, but I certainly see the appeal. What are your go-to’s this summer? I’d love to hear what pieces you’re wearing over and over again!

Photos by: Hannah Schweiss Photography (Thank you, Hannah!)

And be sure to check out some of my other recent posts: Are you watching The Proposal?, 5 books to add to your summer reading list, and my thoughts on this year’s Tony Awards.

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I Watched The Proposal So You Don’t Have To

Contestants Standing on the Stage of ABC's The Proposal

If you’ve seen any episode of this season’s The Bachelorette then you’ve also seen about one billion ads for ABC’s new show, The Proposal. If you haven’t (and you’re lucky), here’s the premise: a mystery bachelor (or bachelorette as we’ll see next week) sits in a box and judges a ten-person beauty pageant and picks one of them to propose to at the end of the hour.

It sounds bad, right? Well, that’s because it is. And not in the “so bad it’s good” way. I’ll get into the specifics on why exactly that is in a little bit, but to truly understand how long the producers have been sitting on this shitty idea we have to take a little journey back to the turn of the century…

Contestants Standing on the Stage of ABC's The Proposal

A Reality TV History Lesson:

Despite claims that “nothing like this has ever aired on television”, this show is actually not that new. In fact, Mike Fleiss, creator of The Proposal and The Bachelor, produced an eerily similar show back in 2000 called Who Wants to Marry a Millionaire? This was a one-time special featuring a well-off bachelor, 50 women, and a 2-hour block of air time. And the premise was basically the same: Mr. Moneybags judges a pageant and chooses one woman of the 50 to marry on live TV.

Despite booming viewership, the show ended, well… badly. Critics tore it apart as a moral travesty and it turned out Mr. Moneybags was a known domestic abuser, which didn’t go down so well with audiences. The show was never revived as a result, but The Proposal doesn’t seem so far off.

There are obvious differences between the two: The Proposal is serialized, the mystery bachelor/ette isn’t a millionaire (probably), and it’s more ambiguous about the promise of a proposal at the end of the episode. But so much is similar that obviously Mike Fleiss just waited until America sucked enough to run this idea by us again.

(All of this information is from Amy Kaufman’s book, Bachelor Nation, by the way. Highly recommend it if you care about this sort of stuff.)

Contestants Standing on the Stage of ABC's The Proposal

But enough of the history of the show and onto the episode itself. Clearly it’s terrible. I love some great trash, but this isn’t even good enough. It’s just boring trash. For me, it doesn’t work for several reasons:

  1. There’s no story. Shows like The Bachelor only work because they tell a story and you’re rooting for someone based on their personality or situation, even if it’s not real. The Proposal misses all of that – it happens so fast, you don’t care who anyone is, and it’s hard to even remember the mystery suitor’s name. There’s nothing for an audience to connect to.

 

  1. The pageant style is too generic. Not only are people given just 30 seconds to answer questions, but they’re doing it in front of a live studio audience. It’s obvious these are just like normal people, so they’re nervous! The sound bites are rushed and generic (I was waiting for someone to wish for world peace) or they just don’t say anything at all. The whole thing is cringey and predictable and there’s really no opportunity to show their personality. Miss America at least has a talent competition!

 

  1. The proposal is not shocking. Maybe it was shocking to watch people get married on TV back in 2000, but now we see people do it all the time and we know that the vast majority of these relationships don’t last. So when the proposal rolled around it was just so clear it wasn’t real and they were just going to pawn the ring off to some stagehand afterwards. The whole proposal is just so unshocking that it really pulls the rug out from the premise of the show for me. Like we all know it’s a joke, so why even do it?

 

  1. Mike just kind of sucked. This one is pretty episode specific, but let’s be honest: Mike was the worst. He immediately axed any woman with a visible personality. By the time he got down to the top 4 he had sent home an Olympic weightlifter, multiple author/life coaches, and the woman who did the Wakanda Forever arms. The only woman he kept that had come out with a quirk was the baton twirling neuropsychologist, but she got axed as soon as she revealed she didn’t want children. Boooooooo.

 

Will I watch next week? Probably, but that’s not a very high compliment lol. I’m mostly curious to see how they treat the male contestants (bet you right now there is a talent portion and no swimwear competition). But after that I just can’t imagine the show will be interesting.

All this to say: The Proposal is all the worst parts of The Bachelor condensed into an hour. The objectification of women, the erasure of their intelligence and education, the reliance on female vulnerability to get good ratings. And it doesn’t even have any of the great drama, villains, or fantasy of The Bachelor franchise. It’s just sort of boring and awkward.

The women seemed cool, though, and way too good for this Mike guy. I hope they were all just sitting backstage drinking margaritas, befriending each other, and talking about their accomplishments. I’d definitely watch that show.

 

[Photos from TV Insider and Pop Sugar]

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