The Best Fuel: Rejection

21 January 2016

Originally published on Stackstreet. 

let’s start from the beginning.

 Saturday, September 4th, 2010:

“Well, here’s my first blog. It’s pretty late at night, but I feel like there’s always a time to talk about fashion. No matter if you’re walking the streets at 5 am, or shopping (of course), no matter what, fashion is always surrounding you. It’s pretty amazing. Personally, I feel like fashion is my life right now. I like to be unique, and if I’m going to school in the pretty much same shirt and pair of jeans everyday, it doesn’t cut my crazy high standards. Even though the girls in my school really don’t think like that, there’s always a voice in my head telling me when I’m to boring. “

I wrote my first blog post when I was twelve years old. I didn’t know what a blog was or what my blog was supposed to be, but I had an idea. It all started with this idea that I could help other young girls overcome insecurities, through voicing my relatable life experiences. At the end of the road, if my blog enabled one or two girls to feel more confident, I’d have succeeded. I never anticipated being able to reach thousands.

I was visiting my older sister at her (now ex-husbands) beautiful, perfectly organized house in Staten Island, when the idea came. I was stuck in a small town, with people I couldn’t relate to, dying for a different life. Going to school meant going on the bus, being tortured about what I was wearing, and hiding in the bathroom instead of eating in the cafeteria.

The rain was pounding outside, and the world was still, with nothing but a trashy reality show blasting in the room next to mine. A girl named Tavi had recently popped up everywhere, and I googled her. She was a “blogger.” What the heck is a blogger, and why is she famous? My 12-year-old soul was intrigued. She’s from a small town in Chicago, and she started a blog called The Style Rookie around the same age I was thinking of starting mine.

I typed in to the computer, and up came a website where you can make your own blog, for free! So the idea began. I clicked on one of the random layouts, and started typing. The name “A Life in the Fashion Lane” came to me, and I decided to name the site I wrote for about an hour, and eventually clicked publish. As easy as it would’ve been for my blog to turn into a one-day fad, I woke up with a burning desire every day to write a new post.

If you ask me whether I grew up wealthy or poor, I’d lean more towards poor than wealthy. My parents work hard: my mom is a nurse and my dad is a sales rep. They’re average parents (sorry mom and dad, just being honest) who go to work, come home, make dinner, sleep, repeat. I didn’t want to grow up bored, or be someone who would eventually come home everyday and resent his or her career. How many people have you met in your life so far that simply aren’t happy? Everyone young is just trying to pass school and go to college, and everyone old is just trying to pay the bills and get by. Rarely do we meet people who aren’t waking up everyday thinking of how they’re going to afford the groceries tomorrow or pay the rent. In this day and age that mindset is inevitable.

I started blogging daily, trying to write and pass the classes I was doomed to fail. The first seven followers of my blog was the most exciting moment of my life. They were all girls from my middle school, but at least I knew there were seven girls in my school willing to give me a chance. That winter before, I convinced my parents to buy me Uggs for Christmas, which I photographed with my sisters old Forever 21 skirts. For a full year, I kept photographing, writing, and clicking “publish”, because I knew this blog was my only outlet. Writing was simply a way to escape the reality of my life. The bullying I endured through school got to be really rough sometimes. If I wasn’t being called a bitch (I’m just a quiet person!) they’d be calling me a slut, which was funny considering I thought the definition of a slut meant you talked to a lot of boys, which I definitely wasn’t. No part of me intended to turn this blog into a career.

One time, on my birthday in middle school, a group of girls destroyed a poster a few of my friends put on my locker by writing words like “skank” and “whore” and “bitch” all over it. I called my mom, who called the principal, who requested we go in and speak with her. I was pretty upset, and so was my mom. For girls I rarely spoke to, they had some strong opinions towards me. The principal told me the only reason the girls did this was because they were jealous of me. Why would they be jealous of a tall, skinny, awkward girl who had no friends nor boys interested in her? I think the principal felt bad for me. She could see how insecure I was and how badly I wanted to fit in. The more I was bullied, the more I learned to ignore the comments and the glares. Eventually, I slowly began to believe the principal because there was no other reason that explained why everyone hated me as much as they did. The only reason the girls could’ve been envious of me is because I was different.

When I turned fourteen, I came across the word “PR” through a Google search, and realized publicists were the people I needed to get in touch with. On an extremely snowy winter day when I was stuck home with the flu (and really just looking for an excuse to skip school) I looked up “PR BCBG” and came across a woman named Lalena. Lalena was the woman who put on the BCBG New York Fashion Week runway show. I sent her an email, explaining my desire to attend Fashion Week. Known for being one of the most exclusive events in the fashion industry, I knew I had to attend a show at the upcoming season. But how would I attend a show when I knew absolutely no one?

All of my emails began with “Hi! I’m a 14-year-old blogger and I’m a huge fan of your brand. I’m trying to inspire girls to follow their dreams, and I’d love to attend your Fashion Week show!” Lalena emailed me back within the hour, inviting me to the runway show in February. And guess what? She wasn’t even going to charge me!

I brought up attending Fashion Week to my parents, and they were strongly against the idea. My mom despises the fashion industry, since all she sees are the anorexic models that grace the covers of Vogue and W, photographed by even sketchier photographers. They said no. I cried. I ran upstairs, slammed my wooden door, and bought a bus ticket on a prepaid gift card my uncle sent me for Christmas. My bus left in five days from Hartford to Manhattan. That’s right Mom and Dad, I’m not the girl who accepts no as an answer. When they found out I went (and hitched a ride to the bus stop), they weren’t exactly smiling with glee. That was the moment my parents realized I was beginning to follow this dream…

Fashion Week gave my blog some needed publicity. I began to grow my LinkedIn profile little by little, accepting each connection as it came. Managing social media wasn’t an area I thought I was interested in, until a woman with a small glove wear company out of Los Angeles messaged me. She asked me if I wanted to take over social media/public relations for her company. She would pay me $50 per week, for about 40 hours of work. Here comes the word PR again! I knew my prior research on that word was going to come to use. I began working for Solfingers a week later, researching how to build a brand around Twitter and Facebook, as well as how to get editors and bloggers to reply to your email. I slowly taught myself how to use platforms like Hootsuite, so I could have posts scheduled during the school day, or if I wanted time off on the weekend to catch up on homework. When media people didn’t reply within two days, I would follow-up until I got a reply. Frequently, the reply was a “no, we aren’t interested, but keep in touch!” which lit up my face. Most people wouldn’t take no as a gateway to a yes, but knowing that the editor of Teen Vogue had seen my name in her inbox forced me to keep pushing. I was hooked.

I had a conversation with my dad following my first client, where he asked me why anyone would have “an immature, 15-year-old teenager run their business for them.” I adore my dad, but I slowly began to realize how much tougher my life was about to become as I continued to follow this unusual path. I’d have to prove myself even more. Him putting me down like that made me thirstier to succeed.

I was full of ideas. They couldn’t stop coming. I woke up in the middle of the night, constantly jotting ideas and blog posts down in the notebook that stayed at my bedside. Through another Internet search, I came across the producer of Fox Connecticut news, and emailed him about an idea I had for a school style segment. The producer called me an hour later, asking me to appear on the show two days later. During that September morning of my freshman year of high school, I appeared on Fox News in a $30 Gap Blazer and $40 pair of Aldo sneakers. I straightened my own hair, did my own makeup, and even brought my own clothes from my closet to discuss. Directly following the shoot, my mom drove me straight to school and I went back to class.

Throughout my freshman year of high school, I was running in and out of classes, taking phone calls in the school bathroom with my clients (I now had 7 clients whose social media I ran 24/7), skipping school with the “flu” to take a bus to NYC for Fashion Week (which my mom refused to help me pay for) and attempting to pass my classes. Soon, I was getting emails from small companies who wanted to send me clothing to feature on my blog, which I gleefully accepted. Why would I worry about school, when I could get free clothing!

Over the past five years, I have built a brand based on the platform of a dream. At 14 years old, I was managing 10 social media clients, as well as my own website. I was forced to ignore the bullying and my sinking grades because deep down, a part of me knew this would pay off. I wanted to give young girls a reason to wake up each day and fall in love with who they are, something I struggled with daily.

Fast forward to today: I’m sitting on a plane heading back from Nashville to Boston, where I recently moved to. This two-hour flight is my only two-hours of freedom away from work today. When I walk off of this flight and turn airplane mode off of my phone, I have a conference call, a meeting, an office to check in on, a suitcase full of clothes I have to unpack, and dinner with my best friend from high school tonight. Recently, a producer emailed me about producing a reality show, with me as the lead. For someone who failed out of high school and used to spend her Friday nights watching Netflix with a bowl of ice cream, a reality show sounds pretty impossible. Though lately, nothing is impossible anymore.

I’ve decided to hold off on going to college. College is an opportunity to network, and to eventually land your dream job. Luckily for me, I have figured out how to network and make my own connections without spending $60,000. I haven’t ruled college out; I just haven’t found a reason to go yet. I moved to Boston to surround myself with more working professionals, but even more to surround myself with my friends who are in college. Once 7 PM on a Friday hits (even though I work around the clock), a little part of me can pretend to be in college while I’m hanging out at a dorm or college party. That’s enough of a college experience for me right now. In an industry like the fashion industry, opportunities come quicker than you can swipe right or left on a Tinder profile. If someone needed me in London tomorrow, I’d be the first person to say yes. I’m not willing to give up a major opportunity because I have a math paper due the next morning.

I lack a sense of fear that many people have. A fear of change, a fear of failure, and a fear of the unknown. Occasionally, I wish I possessed that trait, but for the most part, I wouldn’t be where I am today if I was scared of new opportunities.

I’ve been asked, quite frequently, how I’ve come from nothing and made myself something. Hiding in the library to avoid the cafeteria became lunch meetings with editors, front row tickets to Fashion Week, and daily meetings with my clients discussing how I can help them build their company. Over a year ago, I moved out of my small Connecticut condo, away from my family and friends, to Manhattan. My parents didn’t enable me to buy plane tickets and bus tickets, or let me spend their money on designer clothing and expensive coffee. They didn’t support my dream until last year, and they definitely didn’t have the money to let me travel around the globe and wear expensive designer clothing. I moved to a five bedroom apartment in an unsafe neighborhood in Brooklyn with ten suitcases on my own at seventeen. I made many mistakes along the way… refusing to pay rent for a few months when I was broke, eating nothing besides pancakes made of banana and peanut butter, and frequently being scared to walk in my neighborhood past 10 PM, just to name a few. Most of my nights were spent writing and finding new clients to pitch ideas (and sell myself to) to cover my $800 rent. One client for one TV segment turned into another client for an Instagram takeover and eventually, I slowly began to cover my rent and have enough money to add eggs to my pancakes.

From Brooklyn, to an apartment in the Financial District, and finally, moving to Boston in September of 2015 for a change, the past few years has been an intense period of time. Looking back, I wish I hadn’t been as stubborn and convinced that New York was for me so much so that I was willing to give up everything and be practically homeless just to follow a dream. However, that’s simply the kind of girl I am. When friends or other teenagers ask me for advice on moving out, my only suggestion is to save up. Go to community college and transfer to your dream college after working for a year and putting all of your money in a savings account. Imagine how 1) wealthy I’d be today if I hadn’t been paying rent at seventeen 2) how much happier I would’ve been if I had waited and moved to a big city when I had the money to do so. Though if you’re like me, that advice won’t mean anything to you.

Living on my own at eighteen isn’t easy, but being able to afford a lifestyle people dream of being able to live shows me how far I’ve come. In a few years, I’ll probably be able to buy my parents a house, and bring all of my closest friends on every vacation with me. However, I never started blogging with the intention of becoming rich, or famous, and I guarantee you, success is born and bred with that mindset. I’ve come across too many girls who are desperate for private planes and designer clothing, with no intention of making the world a better place. There’s no meaning in a life full of empty hotel suites and expensive bottles of champagne if you’re not surrounded by a group of people who would drop everything for you if you were broke and homeless again.

In this industry, you slowly begin to realize who to trust and who not to trust. You’re going to get screwed over and taken advantage of, most likely simultaneously. Having friends who work in the industry are great, though I have a closer bond with my friends from middle school or childhood friends because they’ve been there through it all. The bullying, the bizarre outfits I used to put together, the first TV show, the first check…they never treated me differently. Traveling on my own as much as I do gets lonely, though I really enjoy my own company. Having a few extra days alone to explore a city means I get to meet new people to take pictures of me for my Instagram in exchange for me buying them a totally overpriced latte. #DoItForTheGram.

Two years ago, I hired my first paid intern, and received 15 applicants, one being a Harvard grad. Last month, I hired my first full-time employee and rented an office space on Newbury Street. It was both of these moments that I realized an insecure, sheltered, teenage girl could take over the world.


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3 thoughts on “The Best Fuel: Rejection”

    Your story is so inspiring to me because around the age I am right now, you’re not afraid to follow your dreams and putting yourself out there. I hope eventually that I’ll also be able to do that

    Alexa, this post was absolutely amazing and is so inspiring to me, an 18-year old girl with a passion for fashion who doesn’t know what to start studying in college next year. I wish I was still in Boston so we could collaborate and I could take pictures for your blog. Hopefully I’ll see you again some time in the future! Keep doing what you love!

    xoxo Eva (the other girl you met at Starbucks)