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An Honest Letter

I started writing this blog when I was a freshman in college. I was taught to write things embellished. Because they made me sound better. I wrote about how I stayed motivated, how I flawlessly managed by bad days, random bullshit about how well I understood the human consciousness, my infamous breakup letter with photography, how I never get burnt out,  and finally, my biggest fluff piece, how I conquered my insecurity. 

I had a tendency to write about what I wanted others to see in me. It's hard to admit your flaws or hardships. And it's a hell of a lot harder to own them. 

As you get older, you tend to shield yourself from the world or you become vulnerable. Maybe I spent the past four years reading too much Brene Brown. Maybe trying to be perfect inhibited my creativity. For whatever reason, I opted to stop pretending. In the past year, my posts have reflected some degree of honesty. 

Here's everything.
No fluff.

I'm 21 years old, I go to school full time and I'm the supervisor of a print shop full time. Hate school, love the print shop. I adore my customer base, creating things, analyzing my financials, consulting, and working with vendors and third parties. I think I'm beyond fortunate to have a talented staff. And I get really excited when I get to watch them grow as people and not just my associates.

I started off my life wanting to be the tooth fairy, a dentist, a graphic artist, a historian, a photographer, And now, I want to be a copywriter. Which is funny because I still don't understand when I should use "a" and when I should use "an".

When I was in High School, my class took a trip to an advertising firm. And I knew that was the world I wanted to exist in. Advertising felt like magic. Advertisers had the power to do anything. Most importantly, they had the power to reflect the world around them. One of my biggest goals in life is to bring diversity to advertising. I want to create ads that reflect minorities, different abilities, genders, sexual preferences and economic communities. I don't want to have whitewashed ads or the appropriation of other cultures as cheap selling points.

I keep telling people I want to win a Cannes Lion by 25 and a D&AD pencil by the time I'm 30. Those were just random numbers I picked out of the blue. Because I like to assign time constraints to my goals to push me. Then I change them as I see fit.

My biggest passion project in my life is the nonprofit I'm trying to start. I want to bring dental care to low-income areas of the country where there are government mandated shortages and blackouts. When I was 18, I learned less than 30% of the country has access to affordable dental care and over 30% of the country lives in communities where there isn't access to dental professionals. And my heart pretty much broke. I haven't shut up about it since. (You can read more about it here).

My passion for dental care has caused everyone in my life to think I'm obsessed with teeth. Which is completely justifiable. And my $200 toothbrush and expensive floss selections, don't help steer people otherwise. 

Despite never shutting up about dental care, my only insecurity in life is my teeth. When I took a psych class, I realized I may have Body Dysmorphic Disorder. But I'm a little too paranoid to get it confirmed by a professional. So I just say I have BDD tendencies.

I have a playlist of Andrew McMahon on my phone that I listen to when I'm having a horrible day. It has never failed me yet.

I spent the past year writing all my transparent articles on Medium under a false name. It's easier to be transparent when people can't identify you. I ended up opting to start putting everything on here instead. I decided to start identifying with myself.

I'm a firm believer in putting as much love out into the world as you can. The world has a way of putting people against each other or fueling hatred. I'm not afraid to fight every battle I'm invited to. But I think the world is better off when we give more love than we received. 

Andrew McMahon

I used to listen to Something Corporate when I was about 5 years old. At the time, my older cousin was dating a guy who was into "Pop Punk". So it was all she listened to. Due to the fact she practically raised me, I did too.

I remember when my cousin broke up with her boyfriend, I took all her punk albums and added them to my collection. She moved into listening to classic rock. I blasted Something Corporate. At the time, I didn't really know about anyone in the band. I didn't really care. I  just loved the music.

My parents weren't too thrilled about their daughter listening to "evil punk" (as my uncle would call it.) But being my parents, they let me blast it everywhere I went. I remember crying a few years later when I got North for my birthday. I once got kicked out of class for teaching one of my classmates the words to "Punk Rock Princess". (Their parents thought it was the Devils music.)

As I went into Middle School, I realized Something Corporate wasn't going to make me the "Cool Kid". And I wanted desperately to fit in for once in my life. So I traded Something Corporate, The Acadamy is..., Relient K, and Taking Back Sunday, for Hannah Montana and The Jonas Brothers. Lord knows how I survived.

Disney pop didn't fulfill me.
It didn't make me cool either.

As Middle School went on, I became the target of bullying and I fell into a clinical depression. Two weeks before Middle School ended, I made a plan to end it all. It's hard to want to exist when you can't see an end. In my mind, my family wrote me off, I had no friends, and teachers didn't do much to better my situation. I went from a straight-A student, to being placed on academic probation.

When I was in the process of ending it (to avoid being as graphic as humanly possible), I was listening to an 8tracks playlist (like a true punk kid). During the dark days of Middle School, I always found comfort in music that was depressive. I was numb to the entire world around me. Depressive music gave me an excuse to feel sad. Almost glorifying my lack of emotion.

At some point the depressive playlist I had on ended. And "Holiday From Real" by Jack's Mannequin came on. It caused me to put the knife down. I remember sitting on the bathroom floor, in the dark, crying as I listened. And for the first time in so long, I felt something that wasn't anger, sadness and a hate for the world. At 12 years old, I didn't know how to respond. So I replayed the song. Then I played the album, Everything In Transit. I stayed in the bathroom the entire night, playing Jack's Mannequin on repeat until I could fall asleep.

The following day, I skipped class to listen to Everything in Transit in the library. Then I listened to it on my way home, and at home, and so on. Until I could slowly come back to reality.

 Jack's Mannequin became my favorite band. However, I had no idea Andrew McMahon lead both  Jack's Mannequin and Something Corporate until much later.

As I entered High School, I was met with a new form of bullying and an entirely new sense of loneliness. But I could start each morning listening to  Jack's Mannequin. It was my sort of meditation. I did it as I needed to. At least until I could build up enough confidence to not hide behind my ipod.

I would skip class with my best friend to dance around the hallways singing Miss California. We rocked out to Dark Blue at lunch. Annoyed our teachers as we quoted Doris Day instead of answering questions,

"I saw your man, fast car and a dark suntan You said he's in a punk-rock band But baby, punk-rock's dead"

 To this day, I only refer to my friend Amy as "Amelia Jean"...which she doesn't find the least bit funny.
When my best friend had his first heartbreak, I didn't know how to fix it. So I made him a mixtape. With Mixtape being the first song and "Holiday From Real" being the last. To me, it was fitting.

By the time I went to University, Jack's Mannequin ended. And Andrew McMahon in The Wilderness was in existence.

I didn't plan to enjoy the band as much as I did. I had other music I found comfort in and by the time I was in University, I didn't need Jack's Mannequin to give me courage or strength. I found my own footing into the world. I just assumed Jacks Mannequin was a phase, like Something Corporate. It was something I loved and found comfort in, but I wasn't going to have it on an everyday playlist.

That was until I had a breakdown in my car when a girl convinced my entire class to call me Snaggletooth and Vampire. I didn't know how to fix myself. In my attempt to put myself together, I  played an old playlist and "Holiday From Real" was the first song to come on. I decided to purchase Andrew's latest album in that moment. Thinking maybe it'll offer me some comfort.

The first song to play was "Maps for the Getaway". In that moment I was lost in the music. Nothing that happened to me mattered. Just like I did in Middle School, I listened to the entire album over and over again. Until I could compose myself.

The music made me feel something that was not anger or hate. At the time, I needed that. I needed something to remind me why I didn't end it when I had a shot.

I originally only told this story to my Best Friend, Adam, when he purchased a signed poster for my birthday.

Then I told my other friend at the Andrew McMahon in The Wilderness show when they played in Grand Rapids. I wanted him to know why it was a big deal for me....and why I may cry during (I did).


Something Corporate, Jack's Mannequin, and Andrew McMahon in The Wilderness all found me in different spots of my life. The music has changed and stories don't always fit my life. But it's still the music I listen to when I do my homework and I want to tune out the world. And it's in the playlists I send my best friends. (Mixtape will always start off my playlists.) And if I ever hear "Doris Day" or "Me and The Moon" I'm going to sing along.

I don't know if everything happens for a reason. I'm not big on fate. But I know I'm forever grateful for Everything In Transit and everything after. Because it got me through a time where I couldn't see the end. And it gave me something to hide behind until I could stand on my feet.

The Type-Rendition

One of my favorite poems is The Type by Sarah Kay. I read it when I was a senior in High School and it never quite left me. 

The thing with being an artist, is nothing is ever perfect. We want to make our own version of everything. It's an idea stemmed from the fact that we feel too deeply. Rarely do things feel right to us. We're lucky if we get "just right".

My just right isn't everyone else's. That's the beauty of art. Everything is open to our own interpretation. Sometimes it does no one justice, except for us. 

The Type

If you grow up the type of women men want to look at,
You can let them look at you.
But do not mistake eyes for hands or windows or mirrors.
Let them see what a woman looks like.
They may have not ever seen one before.

You'll grow up the type of women bystanders glare at,
Put down your armor,
You're only giving them reasons to justify hating you.
Sometimes, it's easier to call you enemy than Women.
You are not responsible for the way other people view you.

If you grow up the type of women summed up by lipstick and mascara,
You are more than a Barbie Doll,
Your ambition is not measured by glitter and overpriced foundation.
Let them assume you don't know a word of Shakespeare,
or you've never balanced a checkbook in your life.
Let them pretend you don't know the definition of Hustle.
Take over the world & take them by surprise.

If you grow up the type of women people paint cold,
Crown yourself an Ice Queen and laugh in their faces.
You are more than the lack of emotion in your face.
Not everyone knows what a warrior looks like,
Show them how warm and welcoming you can be,
But do not let them take advantage of you.
Fire and ice can soothe,
But they can also kill.

Women, you will grow up the type not everyone can love,
Still put out as much love as you can into the world.
You do not need love to exist, 
Others do.
Be an example.
Omit kindness,
Redefine how they view you.
But never apologize for your image.

You will be the kind of Women men will hurt.
As a Barbie Doll, you're not expected to have enough depth to process emotion,
As a Ice Queen, you're not expected to be able to display emotion,
When they hurt you, cut them off.
When they betray your trust, eat them alive.
When they try and come back, set their car on fire.
Make them regret the day they hurt you.
You don't owe your kindness to anyone.

But don't hoard your kindness.
There are those who need a smiling face.
Your laugh will bring light to someone's darkness,
You have the tools to turn someones entire life around.
Do not hurt those who have not hurt you.
Fix those who have been hurt.
You share the same story.
Do not let them stand alone.
Not everyone is a warrior.
Show them what one looks like.

Why Advertising


I get asked this question. A lot. Advertisers are cold, cut-throat and eat their young. They work like maniacs, they don't take shit and you are not allowed to screw up. Why would anyone want to be in advertising? 

"She may have seen herself represented in the school district, but not the community as a whole. "

When I was in 5th grade, I don't exactly remember where we were. But my class took a trip. Many schools from the area had students attending. My best friend at the time, who was one of the few black kids there, turned to me and said she felt uncomfortable. Being a little white kid, of Eastern European descent, I had no idea what she was talking about. We lived in a diverse district, I felt like we were diverse. I didn't understand at the time she wasn't represented in our community. White people were. She was a part of this little segment of our community. She may have seen herself represented in the school district, but not the community as a whole. 

My first instinct was to laugh because I had no idea what she was talking about. I didn't see an issue. Just because I was privileged enough to not see an issue, doesn't mean there wasn't one.  I even remember telling her I thought she was being dramatic. Still, I wanted to understand because I wanted to make her feel comfortable in the situation. But I didn't see an issue.

And I should have. I should have been her person.

My best friend was the first person in the world to teach me about racial inequality. I made it a decade before I realized I won the genetic lottery. I was privileged and my best friend who I did everything with, wasn't.

As we got older, I was the kid who did horrible in school. She excelled at everything she did. 

I was horrible at music, she could sing a symphony, play piano, play viola. Needless to say, she's a badass. 

I was moody, she wasn't. She was kind to people and built them up. Still she is the kind of person who will make people feel as if they could do anything. I am just getting to that point. 

I spent most of my life shutting everyone down around me. Because it was easy. I always took the easy route. My best friend, never did.  

The entire time I have known her, she is the epidemy of strong. She's take no shit, if-you-don't-like-it-get-the-hell-out. She oozes patience and love. We need more people like her in this world. My best friend would juggle student government, theater, a job, grades, and a social life. She made everything look effortless. I spent most of my life in a depressive state, filled with negativity. I was only alive when I held a camera. 

I walked my way to graduating with honors, but I didn't do shit to deserve it. People told me I was accomplished. The only thing I did my entire life, getting out of bed. Everyone handed me opportunities because I looked the part. I didn't do anything to deserve them.

I had my entire life handed to me and set up for me. All I had to do was walk to it and not bump into the walls too much.

It was a privilege. One I was born into. One people like my best friend deserved more than me just based on merit alone.

"I was told my entire life I had a place in society. Not everyone has that fortune."

My entire life, I opened up a magazine or flipped on the TV or shopped in a store and everyone looked like me. I saw myself looking back in the advertisements with white soccer moms and kids who ironically listen to punk. I saw myself in movies and TV and books. I was the Bella in Twilight. The Sharpay in High School Musical. I was the season's IT girl with beautiful long curly hair. I was told my entire life I had a place in society. Not everyone has that fortune.

My heart broke everytime my best friend hated her looks. She was never too fat, her hair was never bad hair and her cheeks made her look like she was filled with life and joy. When you're the underweight kid, with straight hair, and a sharp jaw, you can't talk about beauty. Because you are the epitome of beauty that was created by marketing firms.

My point is she was and is and always will be better than me. This isn't a contest. She's smarter, funnier, wittier, and she made me who I am today. I wouldn't be powerful and strong if she wasn't part of my life. She deserves a world that is set up to see she is amazing and deserving. The world shouldn't be set up for me to win because I'm a white European. But, it is. And that's heartbreaking.


I was 15 when I learned about advertising. Advertisers were the real magicians. They made us want what we didn't need. They defined beauty. They put the pretty white girls on the cover of magazines. They told my best friend she wasn't beautiful. When our entire lives, I envied her looks.

15, when I took my first advertising class. I learned about Art Directors. They were in charge of everything visual in an ad. At this point I had people telling me to model. I was tall, skinny and europeanly white. I wanted to be the boss. I wanted to make sure little girls never told their best friends they didn't fit into the world. Because nothing ever broke my heart more than that moment.

16, when I started photographing black girls like white girls in magazines. I thought I could get published and start a ripple effect. I got published, no effect.

17, when I sat in my first college class about Advertising. I knew from the first class, this was the only way to make a difference.

17, when I told an art director I wanted to change the advertising industry to lessen racial inequality and oppression. She laughed at me and told me the market doesn't go that way.

18, when my college professor told me advertising would never change and I was better off giving up. She suggested I drop out or study accounting. I simply took up space in her classroom. She failed me on every paper I wrote about inequality. So, that's all I wrote.

19, when a professor told me if anyone could do it, it would be me. He used to be an advertising executive for Marlboro. And he hated how ads whitewashed the world. 

20, a professor told me I was biting the hand that fed me. I was only where I was because I was white. The only way I would survive in advertising he told me, was if I was white and talked like a man. But he wished me a world of luck.

"Because I saw diversity, I assumed it existed." 

I'm two weeks away from turning 21. I graduate this year. Since I started University, advertising has changed slightly. The market has shifted to be diverse. But not really. The market is whitewashed diversity. Similar to when I didn't see an issue when there was one. Because I saw diversity, I assumed it existed. To my best friend, it didn't. She didn't see herself in the world around her, that isn't diversity. 

Advertising is telling one side of the story. You only see a portion of the picture. Diversity right now is showing the Mona Lisa. It's beautiful and iconic. But there's an entire Louvre that no one's taken a look at. It's filled with beautiful stories and works of art. Some may make us uncomfortable, others may scare us and make us sad. Maybe we don't connect with most of them. But, if we focus on the Mona Lisa, we're missing an entire world of beauty that can help us grow and inspire people to do better.

My best friend was the most beautiful, talented, and the smartest person I have ever met. She has made me better because she exists. We rarely ever talk now, but she has shaped me into the person I am today. She has given my life purpose and made me question the world. Trying to understand the world from her point of view has taught me how to be an Advertiser.

"That little girl see's the entire universe in her friend. And she wishes the world would just fucken see it too."

When someone asks me why I picked advertising, it's not because I'm cold hearted or because I'm cut throat. Don't get me wrong, I am those things. But I never want a little girl to tell her best friend she didn't see her place in the world around her. I guarantee you, that little girl see's the entire universe in her friend. And she wishes the world would just fucken see it too.

It's important to mention, I'm not writing this because I want to save anyone. In my life story, do not make it sound like I'm trying to be the white girl saving the god damn world. I simply learned I was privileged and I was handed a destiny. I have a chance to fix the system within. I'm using my privilege to change the way the industry is systematically run. This isn't a I'm saving the god damn world story. It's a, I've benefited from the system and I didn't deserve to story.

I'm sick of seeing other peoples cultures get used for profit. Rap and hip hop are only "trendy" when it involves the Jenner clan. That makes zero sense to me.

Or why in advertisements, the black guy is always the clueless best friend. Or ads for black-owned hair care companies feature white girls. Yes, white girls, we can use the products. But these companies are missing their target market entirely. 

Sari's are not fashion items. Henna isn't a "cool trendy" festival trend. Headdresses do not belong to your culture. It's perfectly acceptable to admire them for their beauty and tradition and to own them. But they are not an accessory. You do not dismiss entire cultures only to steal what you want from their culture and throw the rest away like it's trash. Simply because it does not benefit you. 

"I had rage over a glorified cardigan. Imagine what everyone else feels when we make their customs into trends."

Different cultures are not tools to success and they're not trends. I saw a zubun in Vogue once and I was slightly irritated and offended. My culture wasn't a fashion accessory. When I saw girls who mocked my last name wear them, I was over the moon outraged. I had rage over a glorified cardigan. Imagine what everyone else feels when we make their customs into trends. Sacred ceremonies are jokes on TV. The music of their people getting butchered until it's white washed into something "culturally acceptable". We mock dreads when it's not on a white girl. Braids are only cute when you get them on your vacation. Natives are not your goddamn vacation photo op. We stereotype people because it's easy, then we want to be the stereotype without any of the stigmas. So we call it trends and fashion. We make it cheap and meaningless. 

We dehumanize the beauty of other people. We rewrite their traditions. Erase what we don't like from their stories and call it Disney. It's one thing to respect a culture and become emersed in it. But there's no respect. We're selling pieces of other people to the highest bidder. We want so badly to look cultured and well traveled but have no interest in learning about other people. 

It's ok to like rap. It's ok to burn incense and own saris because you think they're beautiful. You can wear as many zubuns as you want. It's ok to braid your hair or to collect arrow heads. But you can't take from a culture and then oppress those native to the culture. Lindsay Lohan and Angelina Jolie wear head scarfs. But they respect Islam and Middle Eastern Culture. No one says you can't adopt bits and pieces of other people. But you cannot oppress people for doing the things you are doing. 

When I tell people I want to work in advertising. I'm not doing it because I want to make pretty pictures in magazines. Or I want my name on a Cannes Lion. This isn't the world I want to see 10 years from now. I was given this privilege at birth, I would be foolish to think I deserved it. 

Marketing 101: Cognitive Dissonance

marketing advice

The simplest way I can describe marketing is the following. It's what happens when Business, Art and Psychology has a lovechild. One of the most important concepts in Marketing is arguably Cognitive Dissonance. Otherwise known as the discomfort from contradicting ideas.

Cognitive Dissonance is eating solid coffee cubes. When marketed properly, it's a novelty. And it can be a lot of fun. However, the first time you heard of the idea, you were probably turned off. Simple reason, it went against everything you believed about coffee.

Coffee should be served hot or cold, in liquid form, and served in cups. Coffee is only to be eaten when it's in cake or ice cream. Coffee is not solid. But, GO CUBES are a real thing. When the product came out, people freaked out. It went against everything we knew about coffee. It was weird. Even Buzzfeed made fun of it. The founders of Nootrobox, who owns GO CUBES, were recently featured in Forbes 30 under 30. The point being Cognitive Dissonance can be a strong marketing tactic, when used appropriately.

But, would you drink a doughnut for breakfast? Probably not.
But if I told you there was a protein bar that tasted like a chocolate doughnut, marketed it towards athletes and had it placed in gyms, you wouldn't think twice about trying it.  

Consumers react to advertisements in ways that are comfortable to them. They will change their behavior just to justify their thoughts.

From a marketing standpoint, this means consumers change their buying behavior. So marketers change their behavior. We reframe the situation, so it will be comfortable for consumers. We limit our competitors to avoid customers from spending time regretting the decision of choosing our product. Service industries do follow ups and thank you notes. As marketers our goal is to make purchasing decisions as easy for consumers as possible. 

How to avoid  Cognitive Dissonance as a marketer

  1. Understand your market: Not everyone is your target market. Meaning not everyone is going to like your product. In fact a very small percentage of the population will be interested in your product. 
  2. Under promise & over deliver: When I started training for my current job, this was the advice my boss gave me. And it is how I run my department. Always under promise and over deliver. This allows the consumer to not have buyers regret. But also allows for your chance to "wow" the customer. 
  3. Follow up: This is especially important for small businesses. Follow up with your customers and ask for feedback to improve your service. In some cases that feedback is the only feedback you get on the item you are selling. This is also a great way to further your presence in the consumers lives. To some marketers this is sending a thank you card with a giftcard or coupon. To others it's sending out an email with a coupon for the next purchase.