A Boss Babes Weekend in NYC
After a summer of hustling around the clock and zero travel, I felt like it was time to take a short but sweet vacation to NYC. Although my immediate intentions were to relax, have a spa day and sip on a cucumber mint mojito, I couldn’t help but remind myself I could do that in LA. Why would I spend thousands of dollars to the big apple to simply sit around? My focus readjusted to take this vacation to a new level of thinking: and that was scheduling photoshoots with top photographers in the industry and continue updating my portfolio. After all, if I want to get signed in New York, I have to start somewhere! And so a mini vacation turned into the perfect weekend filled with plenty of mixed drinks and a balance of proactive networking.
Building your brand in this industry is key. If you don’t have a solidified mission statement, clear “why” you do this and an audience that is on the same page, you’re not going to grow at the levels you wish to. As a aspiring model, it’s parallel that if I want to get signed in New York, I need to get a clear vision to agencies and other industry professionals that is what I’m looking to do. In order to build my brand and create a clearer purpose for my future as a model and blogger, I invested in flying to New York to make this vision a reality!
My girlfriend who recently aired on The Bachelor and Bachelors in Paradise, Bri Barnes, joined me on this mini vacation and did some solid investing with me. We both had the same goals: to shoot content in New York, eat some delicious food and have a couple mixed drinks. What could be a better vacation than to eat 5 star meals, have a mixed drink and invest in your future?
As we landed in New York, Bri and I were on cloud 9. Despite having two taxi drivers welcome us to New York by fighting over Bri’s suitcase and our driver almost rear ending someone on the Brooklyn bridge, nothing could shake our high moods. We were in NYC! Dropping us in downtown Soho, we met Garrett and left our bags at the hotel to head out for some Friday night food and drinks. We connected with some of Garrett’s friends from Pittsburgh who now reside in New York, and throughout the weekend they were the one’s giving us the best spots to eat and explore. It’s 10pm and my stomach is grumbling, we make our way into a hypnotizing front room, open a door on the far side and we are inside a gorgeous restaurant. Before I can digest what just happened, we run into Garrett’s friends and immediately start catching up over spicy Sergant Bell Pepper cocktails.
Vandal NY was probably my favorite spot of the weekend. It’s trendy, has hip hop music vibing in the background and a club underneath it. We ordered the miso soup dumplings, marinara meatballs and steak. We heard their dumplings have won multiple awards, and honestly, I have never tasted anything so delicious. Our entire meal was mouth watering, the waitress was a doll and our drinks were unique and delicious. This will be my top place to visit again!
Rolling over in bed, I squint my eyes at the red digits staring back at me. It’s 11am and I’m already missing out on my first day in Manhattan! All hungover, I get myself, G and Bri awake to start our first day in the big apple. G and I start our adventures through Soho on foot, with a camera in my hands and a large bag of clothes in his. Our plan is to get as many outfits shot as possible, grab some lunch and explore with no stress or pressure. On our way to lunch, I spot The Roxy Hotel and know that is going to be my first shoot location, but the light isn’t right. When I shoot my photos I like the outfit to match the background, so we arrive at Boqueria and order garlic shrimp and a basket of bread while I change into a new outfit in their tiny restroom. The day went successfully after having a hearty lunch, shooting 3 looks and the best part, finding a public bathroom I could change my outfits!
Here’s a sneak peak of what we shot.
That night, we connected again with Bri and had an Italian dinner at Cipriani. I ordered Leo Di Caprios favorite dish, the Chicken Spezzatino al Curry with Yellow Rice Pilaf, and G and Bri ordered the Filet minon. Once the waiter showed us the chocolate mousse and vanilla merengue cake, the look on my face told garrett we have to get both. Leaving with a $400 bill, it was a bit steep but very delicious!
It’s only my second time visiting New York, so the whole train thing isn’t really on my agenda. I don’t have a slight clue what to do, and I’ll wait until I have a friend show me how I can maneuver that- so I settled on the LA thing called Uber. My photoshoot the next morning started at 10am in Brooklyn. Based off waze I prepared an hour to make sure I wasn’t late to my first photoshoot in New York with William Lords. He’s worked with Vogue Italia, Vogue Ukraine, Glass Magazine, Flaunt Magazine, Hapers Bazaar and so many more. I don't want to fuck this up.
Arriving on time, I felt at ease to do what I came here to do: shoot! Arriving makeup-free, ready for hair and makeup, I was informed he didnt like makeup and wouldn’t be putting any on. Instead of the typical hour of hair and makeup with a full team, he simply tousled my natural straightish hair and brushed my eyebrows. For a minute I wasn’t sure how to feel: travel caused a breakout on my forehead with apparent red acne, my eye bags had no concealer and my features are super blonde, so I typically prefer at least light brows, concealer and mascara. But when you’re the amateur looking to learn from elites, you shut your mouth and trust it. Instead of stating your preferences, you adapt, absorb and grow.
We shot everything from Calvin Klein jeans to a high fashion black coat and slicked wet hair, I left the shoot feeling good and inspired. Now, I wait until I see the final images. On my ride back to Soho, I couldn’t help but reflect on how empowering it felt to shoot makeup free. I’d never in my entire 5 years as a model shot without makeup. Hell, when I was younger I wouldn’t leave the house without at least a touch of concealer on my acne! This moment felt like a growing curve. I could feel my confidence as I worried less about how my makeup looked, and more how well I was modeling.
The success from the morning rolled into the afternoon when Bri and I proposed the idea to shoot a mini campaign together. We both needed some content, and shooting content together would be ideal. Digging through our suitcases, she lifted up a cute black and white textured dress she had just styled- my eyes widened and I lifted a black and white suit I just pulled from ASTR the Label. “Perfect!!” We both agreed. That was our mini campaign.
Venturing through the array of photo-ops in Soho, I snapped some shots for Bri, and then Garrett snapped iconic shots of us. While we were shooting, every couple of minutes we were dodging out of the way for the cars or pedestrians to go by. It was hard to get more than 10 photos before we had to run back to the side walk. To add to the madness, every couple of minutes we would have someone ask us what we were shooting for (magazine, brand, etc). Smiling, we would admit this was just for fun, but inside I couldn’t help but dream that soon enough, it will be me admitting we are shooting for a special project- Vogue maybe? Trying to make that a reality.
Before we set off for a sunset dinner on the water I begged Garrett for, I had to ask something of Bri. Quickly explaining how to use our professional camera, I put her to the test to snap a couples photo of me and G. Besides, we rarely get a chance for one, so I have to take what I can get. I changed behind my blazer that Garrett held up while Bri stood to take the eyes off me in the corner of a random street. Sweating at the 85 degree weather in September, we rushed to find our last location to shoot. Not surprisingly Bri snapped us a bomb couples photo in Manhattan. Another memory for the books.
We scrammed back to the hotel with only 10 minutes to get ready for our 7:30pm dinner and Ubered to the water front. Stepping out of the car, we were stunned how beautiful the night was. Orange and pink streaking the city skyline is something I’ll never forget. There’s something so magical, so exhilarating about that moment. Dinner was served with wine and cheese at City Vineyard. I couldn’t have asked for a better second night; if the vacation suddenly ended here, I’d be happy. But the best has yet to come…
The NYC vacation was originally supposed to be during NYFW, but LA got busy and I ended up pushing it back. It worked out though because one of my boss babe friends launched her clothing line, Gergana Ivanova, and during NYFW she was buzzing around her pop-up unable to chat. If I would’ve came then, I would only have time to simply support her by snatching some of the clothes, but since I came this week, she was free not only to bring me some new goodies, but to shoot with me too! I met this girlfriend in Mexico a while back, and her genuine charm and hustler attitude attracted me to her immediately. Not to mention, she is a full time blogger of 6 years and I truly can learn so much from a veteran like her. So when she asked to meet up at Bryant Park for coffee, you know I was ecstatic to polish my weekend with a bang.
Remember how I said the train thing wasn’t on my agenda? Well, it caught up with me. We drove from Soho to Bryant Park, aprox 3 miles and left 45 minutes ahead of schedule and guess what? It took us a freaking HOUR to go THREE MILES. I was shook and felt so bad for being a half hour late, but she was an angel about it even though she left for Dubai the next day and still had to pack. All I can say it that I am SO proud and happy for her. The most fashion forward girl I know kick started a kickass fashion brand that is affordable, trendy and doesn’t compensate on the quality. I was surprised how well-made and detailed everything was for the price point she is selling at. Check us rocking her line!!! Go check it out here.
And for my last investment of the weekend, I connected with my favorite photographers of New York who have shot for Vogue, Issue, Elle, Harpers Bazaar, Marie Claire- do i even need to name more? Talk about industry elites. Getting my hands on a day that I can shoot with these Singaporean artists was a dream come true! I couldn’t help but buzz with questions like: “Do you like my posing?” “What can I do better?” “What is your critique?” Whether this made me look annoying or not, I know this is what it takes to stand out. I know this is what it takes to be different, to learn, to be better at your craft. After all, I was paying them for their time, so I was going to do whatever I felt was best to grow. Leaving a bit unsure of myself but very excited, I smiled.
As I was getting ready for Boucherie dinner and PHD rooftop drinks for our last night, I was lost in thought. Here I am, 5 years into moving to LA to pursue finding myself (no, I didn’t move here to become a model. I came here to try something new and find myself), sitting in a city I’ve barely been to with a book of lessons and memories, doing what I love, surrounded by boss babes like Bri (and G if we want to call him a boss babe), blessed af. I am sitting here reminiscing on the shoots I did this weekend, that were goals I’ve had for years, and that I just conquered them. I’m thinking about how grateful I am to be doing well enough that I can invest in a very expensive trip to NYC to shoot with photographers to ‘level up’ as a model. I’m proud of myself for taking my career so seriously, even in the moments of rest, I am actively wanting to be better. Even on my vacation I am networking and working, but just taking it slow and steady. I’m not over working myself, but instead I am creating opportunity and investing in my future.