KATHERINE MASON - FITNESS MODEL & HEALTH GURU
Brook Pifer: I’ve heard so many stories about how people move up here. Anything from months and months of planning to spontaneous on a whim moves. Even horror stories about the physical process of moving. What was your experience like?
Katherine Mason: Well I’ve been thinking about moving to New York for a while. It’s kind of been a natural progression. But I had a friend who had a lease on a place in SOHO and I knew it was my opportunity to finally get here. Overall it went from a thought to moving up here in about a month. When I first arrived I had 5 big bags packed full of clothes. Thankfully I didn’t have to move any furniture because I’m subleasing. But I had these 5 big bags, the cab dropped me off half a block away from my front door and I thought how am I going to do this? Luckily my roommate happened to be home and she helped me lug them to the apartment. But we had to leave a few of them behind and make multiple trips. And I kept thinking I hope no one steals my bags. Needless to say it was an adventurous first day.
BP: Ok that’s pretty trusting of you. I have to ask did you live an easy life prior to NY?
KM: I’ve always dreamed of living in a big city like New York. Prior to New York I lived a pretty comfortable life in North Carolina, then moved to Atlanta. I guess you could say that was the next jump. But it was pretty easy to live there too. After being in Atlanta for a year I started getting this gut feeling that I needed to go and do something that would push me as a person and not only make me grow but also allow me to have a lot of adventures. The timing felt right, my lease was coming to an end and I started to get into fitness modeling. What better place than New York to find such opportunities.
BP: What attracted you to fitness modeling. Have you always lead an active lifestyle?
KM: Growing up I played a ton of sports, soccer was my main pursuit and I was very competitive. I also played field hockey, ran track, things like that. So I always had something sports related in my life that was an outlet for me from school, social things. Once I ended up going to college I really missed out on that. I made the decision to not pursue sports in college because I was a little burnt out. I also had a boyfriend at the time who played football and the amount of dedication it took to play at the collegiate level was something I needed to step back from. It was a hard decision to make but at the time it was the right one for me. I had to be all in or nothing. Playing division 2 or 3 wasn’t going to cut it and if my heart wasn’t into playing division 1 then I knew it would be unfair to my coaches and teammates.
BP: When did health and fitness enter your life again? How did you find your way back to something you love?
KM: I really searched for something after high school and college to give me an outlet because by that time I missed my competitive side. I struggled to find something that connected me with my roots but eventually I started working with a personal trainer. I was able to re-connect with myself through fitness, group classes and bootcamps. Having that really brightened me up as a person again it served as an outlet, almost therapy for me.
BP: I can relate to that, there is nothing like a good workout to flush out mental chatter.
KM: Exactly! You know I grew up in the south so it was almost like I needed a total overhaul. Learning about proper nutrition. You know BoJangles was a regular thing after soccer practice.
BP: Sweet baby Jesus!
KM: (Laughs) And you know family sized mashed potatoes, family sized everything. And that is one thing I want to teach girls and women how you can eat well and have a balance at the same time. You can’t be too serious and restricting yourself, making yourself miserable. But to try for a balance in life with fitness and nutrition where it benefits your mind, body and soul.
BP: What kind of music are you into right now, any good motivational tunes for working up a sweat?
KM: I’ve always been into high energy music. Top 100 hits are my go to (I know, so out of the box). Songs with 125-140 beats per minute have been shown to reduce fatigue and increase endurance and strength during a workout so I try to load playlists with those songs to take workouts to the next level. There are a few great places to find music for your workouts. Fit Radio is a free app where you can turn on a radio playlist by genre. Runhundred.com is also great. Its a website that takes into account the most popular high intensity songs and at the end of every month they create a playlist and send it out to subscribers through an email. You can also search music by beats per minute, by genre or get the top new remixes. Gym DJ is also worth checking out for some new music.
A few songs on my latest playlist:
Kanye West- Black Skin Head
Miley Cyrus- We Can’t Stop
Fergie- A Little Party Never Killed Nobody- 130 BPM
Carly Rae Jepsen & Nicki Minaj - Tonight I’m Getting Over You (Remix)- 126 BPM
Jennifer Lopez & Pitbull - Live It Up - 128 BPM
Porter Robinson & Mat Zo - Easy (Radio Edit) - 128 BPM
David Guetta, Ne-Yo & Akon - Play Hard - 130 BPM
Bubble Butt- Major Lazer
BP: In terms of diet, what are your must haves and must avoids? Do you follow a strict regimen?
KM: I definitely don’t follow a strict regimen because I love food too much (laughs) but I do try to eat really well Monday through Friday and then let loose a little more on the weekend. Without a few cheats I wouldn’t be able to keep it up thought the week so giving into your craving some is very healthy in my opinion. I’ve also found that finding little ways to alter your diet to make it healthier (like eating complex carbs and low-fat proteins and drinking whey isolate protein smoothies with almond milk as snacks every day as well as portion control) can make a big difference and you will notice your body responding.
BP: There may not but such a thing, but try and describe your typical day?
KM: I usually wake up and make a big breakfast (pancakes made with Clutch baking mix topped with peanut butter and fruit or Greek yogurt with granola and fruit). I try to work out within two hours of breakfast so that I can be finished for the day. It’s also the best time for your body to perform and will keep your body burning the rest of the day. On days that I have to pump out a workout before work I make a protein smoothie packed with flax seed meal, peanut butter, fruit and whatever else I want to throw in there. Barry’s Bootcamp or SLT are my go to workouts. On lighter days I go on a run or bike around the city or Central Park. When I don’t have a packed day I love to walk around the city and explore new restaurants, shops, etc. New York has so much to offer so I try to get out and about as much as possible.
BP: Any parting advice for girls and women who want to adopt a healthy lifestyle?
KM: My biggest advise is to envision what your goals are, write down what you want to accomplish and come up with a plan to make it happen. Find a high intensity workout class that you really love and go to it three times a week. Try to fit a lower intensity or pilates or a yoga class in a day or two as well. If you can go on a run another day, good for you! The other important factor will be to find a base of healthy foods that you really like and always have them stocked in your kitchen. Try to eat in as much as possible during the week and then enjoy a meal or two out on the weekend. Keep sugar free treats and fruit around to curb those sweet cravings. Have a cheat meal or two a week so that you can stay on track Monday-Friday. Envision your goals when you start to get sidetracked. Read fitness magazines to get inspiration. Go shopping for a few cute workout outfits so that you get excited about wearing/working out in them. Make playlists for your workouts to keep up your momentum going. Find balance, meditate, stretch and have fun- after all a healthier lifestyle is supposed to make your feel great!
BP: Favorite restaurant?
KM: I have to say Beauty and Essex
Megan Pursley (Production assistant exttraordinaire): I love that place!
KM: Its walking distance from where I live. But its tapas, so you get to try a lot of different bites. It has kind of a Great Gatsby feel to it, you walk into a pawn shop and then the pawn shop opens into this beautiful champagne lounge. I’ve always like having bites of all these different dishes and experiencing different flavors as opposed to one big plate of food.
MP: The kale apple salad and pretzel are amazing!
KM: That salad is great! And the grilled cheese too! And I love the complimentary champagne in the ladies room.
BP: Hmm, I wonder what complimentary items are being served in the men’s room?
(we all laugh, then head out for our shoot)
BENJAMIN STONE – FASHION PHOTOGRAPHER
Brook Pifer: Let me just say your work is breathtaking, just incredible! What attracted you to fashion photography?
Benjamin Stone: Growing up I was always interested in drawing and painting. Playing with color pencils and charcoal and things like that. I never really finished much that was the thing. It was a chore because I always wanted realism and I would constantly try to make that for days on days on end. What drew me to fashion photography, the aesthetics. I like fantasy and surrealism. My drawings weren’t fashion focused, they were more fantasy but that lead me into the fashion world.
BP: It might be hard to pick one, but what was your favorite shoot?
BS: One of my favorite shoots I did was for this fire dancer / Belly dancer. She lives in Brazil and travels around India with a troop of dancing gypsies. She’s friend with a makeup artist that I work with named Candace. I’m not sure how they hooked up but I was doing a shoot where I needed some jewelry and she also designs jewelry and clothing so she had all of these brass and copper pieces that were covered in gems. She was incredible and I didn’t have to give her any direction. Completely incredible. Flawless.
BP: Same question, only tell me about your commercial work.
BS: Lately I’ve been doing a lot of work with a company called Storey Threads. We’ve actually been shooting together for about a year since last July. The store has been doing really well so I’ve been shooting with them four days a month. We’ve been on the same page as far as taste level is concerned. They pick up where I leave off creatively. I genuinely love vintage and the fact that she has the same taste that I do, we almost always agree with each other as far as styling is concerned. And when we don’t we quickly find a happy median.
BP: Does your creative process differ much from personal shoot to a client shoot?
BS: It doesn’t matter if it’s a personal shoot or a client shoot, for me the production level is around the same. I try to take every shoot as seriously as possible. I don’t like to be constricted and at the same time rules and guidelines for art direction are fun. It’s fulfilling to overcome that challenge of making whatever it is look interesting. That’s my job to polish turds.
BP: Polish turds, I have to use that. When you aren’t working what do you do for fun? I know you used to be a big dancer way back when.
BS: I don’t do anything other than work when I’m in the city. I have to escape the city to get away from work. I have no social life here. The way the workflow goes and having to be on set at 8:30 AM everyday I can’t stay up all night.
BP: I hate to admit it but I can relate. Fact or fiction, is life here like Sex In The City or Girls? Set the record straight.
BS: When you first move to New York, expect the exact opposite of Sex In The City. Expect to be depressed and poor for at least two years. There are plenty of good things and lots of good experiences that’ll happen but the transition is very rough. But it’s a healthy rough. There are lots of amazing things here to reap from the time spent but you need to be properly prepared for it.
BP: I think you nailed it. Struggles bring about change, if you were coasting what do you learn. What are some of the challenges you face in this business?
BS: The hardest part is trying to get recognized and noticed. Everything and everyone is so busy. I’m not an attention seeker or someone that’s always trying to get noticed so it was difficult. It takes so much time. You have to build a name and bust your ass everyday. Networking I can do but I’m not someone that can kiss ass or fake that I like you. I feel like New York has tons of people out there like that. There are so many amazing artists that don’t get the work they should be because there not callous monsters or shit talkers busy sucking up to other people.
BP: Switching gears, tell me the most shocking thing you’ve witnessed.
BS: When I first moved to New York I worked for MAC as a makeup artist. They put me in a location in downtown Brooklyn that was very notorious. Anytime I would mention it to anyone in the company regardless of position they we’re all apologetic like ” I’m so sorry you got put there.” One day I look over and I see a lady screaming and I wonder what she’s screaming about. I pan down and I see a rat that this long [10 inches] chewing her leg and there’s blood everywhere. That was one of many stories that happened over the course of three months.
BP: You’re kidding. Ok, now tell me about your perfect day off in the ciy.
BS: When I’m not working the perfect day off would be grazing macaroons at Lauderee. It’s on Madison and 71st. It’s originally a French store and they brought it over here about two years ago. Their packaging is beautiful! The macaroons are just top quality. Then stopping for a good Cambodian sandwich, good corn on a cob. Catching a performance of Sleep No More. People think that I live this extravagant life when I talk about traveling and things. I believe in having experiences opposed to having material possessions. I live like a fucking pauper so I can travel.
BP: Last question, what would most people be surprised to know about you.
BS: I think most people would be surprised to find out that I’m black. It’s true. Leave that as an opened ended thing at the end…
ARIKIA MILLIKAN – WRITER, BLOGGER, & ASPIRING CYBORG
Brook Pifer: For people that don’t know, tell me how you came to live and in New York and what your background is.
Arikia Millikan: I moved here to New York from Michigan right after I graduated with two suitcases and no idea of what I was going to do. I was supposed to work at the New York Hall of Science and then got a call the day of my flight saying, “sorry we just lost bunch of funding from the government so good luck in New York but we can’t hire you.”
So I got on the plane anyways and starting working at a cyber cafe called the Internet Garage. And I just started blogging, not knowing if anyone would wind up reading my blog. It got pretty popular so I used that motivation to jump into a career of journalism. From there I went to various publications in New York, Seed Media Group, Psychology Today, Wired. I was editor at Wired for almost three years, which was something that was my end-of-life goal.
BP: You achieved this career status so young in life, that’s amazing! What are some of the struggles you’ve had to overcome along the way?
AM: Being a women in a man’s industry has always been a challenge. I’ve been so grateful that I’ve had so many motivational men around me in my career, but there is a big discrepancy regarding actual and ideal gender ratios in the tech journalism field. The industry still views technology as a man’s hobby, man’s profession, man’s landscape. At Wired they would market the publication the same way you would market GQ, completely not acknowledging that women are the biggest consumers of at least the top ten fastest growing technologies in the world. I’m focusing my journalism career on incorporating women into that picture. I’m creating a space where women can equally shape the conversations that we are having about technology and contribute to the process, and run the process.
BP: I like the focus of brining more women into the conversation. What’s next on your plate?
AM: I’m happy to announce that the company that I’ve been wanting to start for the past year is finally getting it’s moment in the sun. I am launching LadyBits on Medium, the new content management system started by Evan Williams, the founder of Twitter. It’s being managed by Evan Hansen, my former editor at Wired. LadyBits will have a collection on Medium that will focus on personal narrative stories about women in technology and really focus on getting women’s voices into the technological landscape online.
BP: You seem to be filled with a lot of passion. What inspires you to write?
AM: I’ve always had a deep interest in human beings and what motivates them and the things that make exceptional people, successful people, kind people stand out from their peers. That’s pretty much the driving process in my journalism. Just investigating every facet of someone’s personality, tying that in together with whatever their success story is.
BP: You obviously love what you do, describe your perfect workday in the city.
AM: Being a freelancer, I totally make my own schedule. My perfect workday in the city would be going to co-work at one of the companies that I write for. I really like the space at Vice. The space and the crew there are fabulous. I would get some legit Brooklyn coffee at The Verb. They have super strong latte’s and great espresso, it’s fantastic. I’m a pretty big night owl, some night’s I’ll work until 1 AM when the writing kind of flows naturally out of me. So many Friday, and Saturday nights I’ll lock myself in my apartment and not go out to the big thing that everyone’s at because I’m working. But there are days where it’ll be a Wednesday but I was out until 5 AM the night before and just decide I’m gonna hang out and not work on anything and just give myself that time to relax and walk around the neighborhood, maybe catch a movie. That’s the luxury I have that comes with a really competitive, and sometimes frustrating industry.
BP: I feel like being a freelancer you can tolerate a bit of risk, not knowing when or where the next gig will come from. What advice can you share with other people on the fence about quitting a stable job to pursue a dream?
AM: In the freelance world you’re definitely trading stability for freedom. You have to be confident in yourself and know that you can pull through to secure those gigs and sometimes work around-the-clock to finish a project. There’s a lot of self-discipline that goes with this industry. You have to believe in yourself and know that the work you are doing is meaningful and will be valuable to the world.
One of my friends Lauren Wolfe manages a website called Women Under Siege that explores the war crimes that women face all over the world, both in direct combat situations and more institutionalized crimes against women. It’s so tragic, and I want to shine a light on to the dark corners of the world and create a better understanding of how people live. People have a tolerance for how much sad stuff they can see on a daily basis, but I think it’s the responsibility of the press to keep pursuing these stories even if they are going to get half of the clicks compared to a story about celebrities. People need to be aware of how we exist as a species.
BP: I couldn’t agree more, mainstream media really can miss the mark on social issues. There’s no way to top that but let’s switch gears, how has living in New York shaped your life? I know you’re heading off for some major travels abroad, what is the driving force behind seeking adventures elsewhere?
AM: In New York, everyone has their thing that they are working on, their chance at success, the reason they came here in the first place. It’s a lot more stressful than other places but the quality of interactions that you find with people living here are so genuine and so rewarding. The friends that I’ve met in New York City are life-long friends who I know that I’ll be talking with and working with and growing businesses with well into the future. Pretty soon, though, I’m going to give it a bit of a break and give myself a chance to miss New York and then come back.
I’m ready to fall in love. It’s something that I put on hold since I’ve been living here because I’ve been so driven to meet my professional goals that I never allowed myself the time for meaningful relationships outside of friendships. I’m open to that now. I’m ready to give myself the spiritual nurturing that I have not been getting in New York. I’m excited to reconnect with nature and just experience humanity outside of the bubble I’ve been living in.
BP: For extra credit, check out this essay by Arikia about life and leaving New York.
ROBERT GAAL – CO-FOUNDER & CEO OF KARMA
Brook Pifer: Robert, what’s your back story pre-Karma?
Robert Gaal: I moved to Amsterdam when I was 20 and when I was 21 I quit my job and started my first company, a social network for software users. We had companies like Google, and Wired or TNS ask us if they could use that data to track which applications they like or what websites they visit. It was an alternative to Comscore, or an alternative to Nielsen. I was tired of making stuff that happened yesterday instead of building something that can change what’s happening tomorrow.
BP: So it sounds like you were ready for a change. What motivated you to take on such an ambitious and competitive industry?
RG: I was ready for something new because the direction was going B to B. One of the biggest frustrations I always experienced day to day was the need to get online right now, how do I do that? Then I started researching mobile providers, the plans that they offered and what kind of advantages they had for me. Then I went to the U.S. so I bought a U.S. phone and I was super shocked because you have this pricing table with four columns and three rows. And trying to find out which one fits me was frustrating.
Me and my co-founder Steven thought hey wouldn’t it be cool if we can reinvent the mobile provider but based on things that we think are important like design, and customer service. I’ve been a programmer most of my life, and Steven came from a design background. My other co-founder Stephan who is our CTO also is a programmer by trade. We wanted to build a simple and honest way to get online.
BP: How did you take your company from Amsterdam to New York? Why not Silicon Valley?
RG: While we were figuring things out and doing research and a big hole of opportunity opened up. We were introduced to David Tish who runs the TechStars program in New York. And he said I want to invest but you should also come and join TechStars and you have two days to decide. At first we were thinking we’re going to go to Silicon Valley. I met a lot of people from San Francisco that I highly respect, and I met a lot of people that I thought were full of it. There are always startups that can serve different communities and fit different ecosystems. What we found was that New York fits a little better with what we’re trying to do. I told my wife that we’re moving back to the U.S. and the other guys breached their rent agreements so we could all be in New York.
BP: Seems like TechStars really jumpstarted the momentum. Do you think you made the right choice in picking New York over the west coast?
RG: Because of TechStars we were able to meet so many amazing people. Not living here would be a waste. Everyday you’ll have 4 meetings and it’s not like meetings with the guy that owns the butcher shop around the corner. It’s a meeting with the guy who helped invent Twitter or the guy that funded four square or something.
BP: I know what Karma is but can you explain it for people who aren’t aware of the product or service?
RG: Karma is a mobile hot spot. It’s a device you can carry with you and connect any wi-fi device to it. It also delivers high speeds with a 4G connection. Karma is a simple and honest way to get connected because you pay for data as you go. The cool thing about it is you can open your wi-fi signal and allow other people in to accumulate Karma. The more you share the hotspot the more free data you earn. So anyone around your mobile hotspot can connect to it using wi-fi and when they do you get 100mb for free as the owner of the hotspot and the guest also gets 100mb free for signing up. It’s really fun to share your connection and keep it open instead of you hoarding your own bandwidth so we call it social bandwidth. Karma is available in 80 markets here in the U.S. and we want to double that coverage by the end of the year. You know we’ve launched successfully: you can actually buy a product. But that isn’t where we’re going to leave it. There’s a lot of consumer behavior here that’s interesting. We now have to kick in the door a bit some more and really reinvent how people get connected.
BP: If you weren’t a part of Karma what would you be doing?
RG: There’s always this point when you’re in between businesses. Your trying to really figure out what you enjoy and I think I went to Karma because what I enjoy is talking to people who make the Internet work better. It could have gone a different way. I’m very interested in space exploration, astronomy and astrophysics. Look at what happened on Mars with Curiosity. You’re following them on Twitter, it has it’s own voice. It never used to be like that. It used to only be a headline in a newspaper. Another thing that interests me is how people watch TV. I watch a lot of TV shows. I love Walking Dead, Suits, Mad Men, House of Cards. Right now in the U.S. that content is approachable but back home in Europe there’s no way to watch Game of Thrones. Yet everyone’s seen it. What does that say about the status and state of that market? I always believed there could be a better delivery model for that.
BP: What would people be surprised to know about you?
RG: My inner secret is that I love weekends of me and my xbox. I fucking love that. I used to be a writer for a gaming magazine back home so it kind of stuck around. Like the other day I was playing a game on my iPhone called ridiculous fishing. You should really check it out it’s great. I was doing that in the subway and then I got home and it’s like 5 hours later and I look at the clock and it’s 2 AM. As a kid I used to lock myself in the attic and play nintendo. Another thing you may be surprised to know is that I was a boy scout for about 10 years of my life. Some people might think of that as weird but it taught me a lot about building stuff and working together with people.
KEITH JENSEN - GRAFFITI ARTIST @PAINTPENART
Brook Pifer: I hear you have quite the following on Twitter, can you tell me how you came up with the concept behind giving away your paintings for free?
Keith Jensen: The idea behind the free art project is to make it look like street art that you can take home. I had about 15 paintings stacked up in my room. They weren’t even mounted on the wall. They were just lined up in front of each other. No one was even enjoying them. I don’t really like my own work – I mean, it’s okay. But after I’m finished creating it I don’t need to see it anymore. The last thing I want to do is get on Facebook and post “Hey this thing is for sale.” It’s such a weird thing for me to do. I didn’t want to sell them but I wanted to keep painting. So I started thinking about it. One of my ideas was to put a price on something and say “you’ve got a week.” Then after the week if nobody buys it, I’ll burn it. It’d be funny to do that but I hate the idea that I’m coming off like “If you don’t buy this painting, I’m setting it on fire.” I’ve had offers up to $2000-$3000 for a piece and I love saying no to it. I just don’t want to make this hobby into a job. I love my job – I don’t need another one.
I came up with the free art idea late one night. That’s usually when I’ll do my best thinking - right before I fall asleep. I remember taking notes on my iPhone about leaving paintings on the street for people to find. I circled around the idea a few times and finally revisited it and said “okay let me see what the sign would look like.” So I made a sign. I had a painting of Paul McCartney with song lyrics coming out of his head - it was about 18” x 24”. I stuck the sign to it and walked right around the corner and left the painting on the street. I went to get a sandwich, came back and it was gone within 10 minutes. I got pretty excited about that. That made someone’s day. So I decided to start a Twitter and continue with it. I tweet when and where free art will be left – I have followers on there and some will say “I want this one - I’m coming to get it.” If I know someone is coming to get one I might put it somewhere a little more hidden. And If I know there are a lot of people interested in a piece, I’ll make it a little more complicated. A painting I left out recently had a series of three clues and people had to find them. I made them a little more difficult because I knew a lot of people were interested and I didn’t want the fastest person to get it.
BP: I love that you equal the playing field. I have to ask, what is your motivation behind giving your art away for free?
KJ: There is a very good-willed honest component to the free art project and there’s a very selfish component. So let’s go with the selfish one first. I hate to paint things that I don’t want to paint. If I start taking money to paint things that I don’t want to paint then I’m going to burn out on it and I’m not going to want to do it. For instance, when people ask me if I can paint a picture of them and their dog. I would love to do that for them because they’re friends of mine, but; A.) I really don’t want to, B.) It’s a hobby so I don’t want to take my time with that, and C.) what do I even charge for that? If they’re a friend, and you do it for free, then where does it stop? It’s a slippery slope. Even if I charge them it still feels very weird to me because I don’t want to make my friends pay. The best thing about giving away art for free on the selfish side is that I can say “no, sorry I am not doing any commissioned work. I’m only doing this free art work. You can go find one, if you’d like and it’s free.”
The good-willed side is that I really do believe that when you do a good thing for somebody, it’s exponential. If someone has something good done for them, they’re going to do something good for someone else. And I don’t think of it as a “pay-it- forward” mentality - it’s just that people are inherently good. And I think it’s really nice to stumble upon a free painting that can really make someone’s day. If I don’t want to be quoting prices on stuff and I don’t want to keep it for myself, then why not just leave it out for someone who would enjoy it? There has to be about 40 to 50 that I’ve left out so far.
BP: When you drop them off you don’t really stick around, are you going for a Banksy thing or do you just prefer to stay behind the scenes?
KJ: I had only been painting for a few months and Steph Wood asked me if I wanted to do a show with her. I said “sure” because it sounded cool. It wasn’t at all what I expected. It went fine but I found that I hated being at the show where all my friends were around and all of my stuff was on the wall. I’m not going for any kind of Banksy thing where you’re hidden and no one knows who you are. I post pictures up on social media so I’m sure people know who I am. It’s a very awkward thing to put myself out there. I’d just rather not be there when people pick them up. Painting is just a little escape.
BP: Speaking of escape, how do you spend a day off in the city?
KJ: My favorite way to spend a day off is going to a gym further up near midtown and walking all the way down the West Side Park and people-watch, listen to music. Where I can just walk and be alone. Yeah I like to be around a whole bunch of people and not have to talk to them.
BP: Too funny, I can relate to that at times. People might be skeptical about this free art project, why not sell your work and donate the money to charity. How do you respond to people not grasping your concept?
My day job is a creative director for a healthcare company. I guess art is a component of that. Our CEO is so passionate and such a great speaker. I respect him so much that I remember him saying that good deeds are exponential - and that really struck a chord with me. Whether it was conscious or unconscious, I believe that was one of the main things that got me to start leaving art on the street for free. I always say, “If I won the lottery today my life wouldn’t really change at all.” I might live in a bad-ass apartment, but I still would work for the same company I work for now and put in all of the long hours. And I still would do the charity stuff and the free art work. I’m happy. Money really isn’t going to change my life - so why should I ask people to pay for my work? Especially when the reason I’m painting is just to see if I can do it. It feels better to me to just let people have them for free, especially if it will make their day better.
AARON HARVEY - PARTNER & ENGAGEMENT DIRECTOR @ READY SET ROCKET
Brook Pifer: You seem to always be busy working on cool stuff. Speaking of, how is the Rihanna project coming along?
Aaron Harvey: The Rihanna project is a part of a whole new campaign for her nude fragrance. We’re working with the fragrance teams. And so she just kicked off this tour and a small part of this campaign is a partnership with Roc Nation for the live concert series. It’s a really cool and really fun installation. It’s a fully custom three sided 12’ frame that features an interactive mosaic of Rihanna made out of realtime instagram photos and tweets. It’s rare to see your work in the physical space when everything you do is online.
BP: So cool! Rumor has it that you were a Rockstar in your former life. Do you care to comment about your evolution from Rockstar to Entrepreneur God?
AH: I certainly don’t think I would be where I am now without music in my life. I definitely learned more about business being in the music industry than I ever learned while I was in school obviously. I think music is a great introduction to contracts and relationships, and licenses. It kind of allows me to see how the bigger machine moves. And the music of the song is just a small part of it. It’s no different than a brand or product that you’re marketing. I think the other part of it is, at least when I use to play music, the Internet and social media was such a new thing. And it was something that you would get blown away by because nobody knew how to utilize all of it. I remember the first tour we ever did and it was a self booked tour across the U.S. and with a couple of friends that were in a band. Back then you would sleep on people’s couches and they would book a VFW for a hundred bucks. I just remembered playing our first show in this tiny town near Edinburg, Texas. There were like 200 kids singing all the words to our songs and we had no idea that would happen. It was really the start of sharing music in a social way. Ratings, and charts you know. The anti radio scene.
BP: So how did you end up starting a business in New York City?
AH: Well coming out of the music scene, we put out an album that I was able to live off of for about a year with my bandmates. I needed a job so I got one at Chipotle. I had a bachelors and was wrapping burritos at Chipotle for people I graduated high school with. They were looking at me as if I was crazy. Then one of my friends that I had played music with had a company called purple rock scissors. So he says “Dude come work for me I’ll pay you more than Chipotle’s paying you.” So I started there as a marketing coordinator. There were about four people and I was just able to do what I had to do in order to grow the business. I was able to fail and try things quicker and essentially grow a business with them. Ultimately I moved up to New York with a consideration of starting a branch of purple rock but Bobby and I we’re just tending to our own things and we decided to split off.
When my partner Alex and I started READY SET ROCKET we rented a shared space in DUMBO. It was just a two seater space and we pretended like we had a huge conference room and a fifteen person team and all of this stuff. And managed to do good work and not piss people off. So It kinda grew from there. When we got started the main drivers were to get it started now in the bad economy. Huge demand. And a really small supply of people who can link digital marketing with good creative. I think that was the missing link. I think it still exist today.
BP: You guys went from a two desk shared space to a dope office and brilliant staff. Tell me about your team now and how you grew that seed.
AH: The first two years was largely Alex and myself hustling to do full client services and also source good talent and make sure we’re delivering great product. But last year it’s literally our third year. We were able to build a really solid team by hiring really seasoned good talent starting with a marketing director, creative director, and technical director. And those people have so much ownership and so much knowledge in terms of the digital world. And I’ve become more of a facilitator because we have people that are smarter than me at each of their niche. So it’s sorta like a balancing act of keeping clients happy and keeping the team excited about their work.
That whole exposure to social media is funny because people ask how long you’ve been doing social media. Pretty much have been doing it forever since that was pretty much the only way you could promote your band when you don’t have any money. Another crazy parallel is like we brag as marketers about how we can target somebody who’s 24 years old and visits these websites, likes these type of bands, and likes these movies. But that’s essentially the same stuff we were doing back with Myspace a long time ago before it got filled with spam. But we have much more sophisticated tools now.
BP: Speaking about tuning out and tuning in, how do you filter through the noise? How do you get your clients message across?
AH: A lot of times we’re working with a larger branding and campaign messaging initiative that’s been developed by a good brand or more traditional agency. So what we’re really tasked with is coming up with digital pieces and maximizing engagement. Where they’re doing a lot of awareness building, and we’re doing a lot of engagement building. Everything that we do is tied to metrics performance. It’s usually tied to conversions like is this selling? Are we getting shares? Are we getting more email sign ups? What is it worth for us to spend to get a email sign up vs. a sale. It all becomes very tangible. Very tactical.
BP: What are some of your creative interests and how do you nurture a creative culture within your company?
AH: We’re also doing some cool stuff at the office. We’re about to roll out a new perk where we’re renting a creative space in Bushwick and it’s going to be a free space for anyone who wants to go paint, play music, and hangout. It has no agenda and it’s not a party space. It’s more like come hangout. We’re also trying to do cultural events. For me it’s music, surfing, art, sports. All of those things impact the state of being that I am.
Surfing inspires me the most I think. I try to surf as much as I physically can. For me it’s finding that center where I can come back and carry that different energy with me. When I get to go surf people can tell because I return in a happy mood and it clears my mind. A perfect day in the city would be getting up at 5 AM, get in the zip car, and go out to Rockaway beach surf some perfect head high waves. Come back go to my favorite coffee shop in the east village. And take my puggle out on a walk. Observing the city in perfect weather with my dog and some coffee is my best day.
BP: That’s so cool! What are you currently listening too?
AH: Some of the bands that I’m listening to now are Tallest Man On Earth, First Aid Kit. I’ve been exploring theres so much new music out there. I’m really excited about the idea of creating an info-graphic that shows how music spreads now in comparison to before. I mostly find out about new music through sharing it’s all about digital sharing.
BP: Okay fair enough. If you weren’t running READY SET ROCKET what would you be doing?
AH: I would probably have a small coffee stand and live on the ocean in Costa Rica. I would surf everyday and I would have my friends as my customers and I’d have a sign that says gone surfing and hang out all day. I’d just sell enough coffee to survive.
BP: What prohibits you from doing that now?
AH: That’s a great question. I think the timing of our upbringing in our society. I think we were pre programmed to aspire for something that is unattainable. For people that are driven and hungry there is no cap. So when do you shut down? And when are you comfortable enough with your success to stop climbing the mountain and look down at the beauty of everything around you. I think everyone has their own internal point and time when they realize that they are there. But I do think that If you ask anyone like me or yourself or professionals in New York City what they would be doing, it’s usually tactical hands-on and very tangible. Involves a product or earth or something you create. Can you imagine how brilliant small business will be in twenty years if its all the people like us that know how to run major campaigns? It’s already happening. There’s like a million microbreweries.
JORDAN MCFADDEN - ACTRESS
Brook Pifer: Many people go through life never discovering their passion or a calling, how did you know acting was for you?
Jordan McFadden: From the second I was born, from my earliest memories I knew there wasn’t anything else I wanted to do with my life. That’s the great thing about being an actor, its the one occupation where you can completely immerse yourself in something then move on to the next thing. You get to live in these different worlds, but when you move on you still have the memories of that experience, I love that.
BP: Where did you grow up and how did you end up in New York?
JM: I grew up in Denver Colorado in a family of six kids, we were all home schooled. Growing up I wasn’t allowed to watch tv, no reality tv or information junkfood as my family likes to call it. I grew up on the classics, Gone With The Wind, Casablanca, A Streetcar Named Desire, Sunset Boulevard. My mother instilled that love in us. I ended up in New York because, one, I wanted adventure and I knew what was in Colorado by the time I was 18 and two, my older sister Alaska had moved here and was going to Pratt. I had just graduated from massage therapy school and I was going to work at the best hotel in Denver, had a great apartment, great boyfriend. But one day she just asked me to move and I knew I had to go right away because if I didn’t then I would stay. In a matter of weeks I packed up and moved, I had never been here before! (laughs) My first time arriving in the city, I’ll never forget, I took the midnight flight and there was this red sunrise over the city, really exciting. I was never scared to move here what scared me was staying the same.
BP: I hear a lot of actors when the first enter the biz they have to hold down another job until income becomes steady. Did you experience that?
JM: I worked in high end fashion at L.A.M.B. for 3 1/2 years and I quit my position as assistant VP of sales because I wanted to focus on my art. Don’t get me wrong there were things about it I really liked, I loved fashion week, I loved the style outs, I really enjoyed the creative aspect of it. But it took my 3 years to realize I love style and hate fashion. I like seeing how people express their personalities through what they wear, but I dislike the idea of buying something because someone else says its in. I got my first lead in a short that premiered at RAINDANCE in London 2010. It was a sold out screening and I couldn’t go because of my job at L.A.M.B. That was a turning point for me. I really had to reevaluate my life and I always knew I would focus on my acting, but I kept saying one day, one day. After I couldn’t go to that screening I wrote out a 5 year plan, wrote out the pros and cons of having a job where I was making tons of money, more money that a 20 year old should make. But after looking at the list I knew I couldn’t get what I wanted from my craft unless I went all in. So I quit and went back to waitressing because it would give me not just the flexibility to go on auditions but to go away and do a film for three months. I got more film work that next year than the three years prior, all because of that decision, taking that risk. It was literally like being on a highway stuck in traffic and then all the sudden everything just opens up. My focus cleared. I knew I couldn’t have one foot in and one foot out.
BP: I think that is brilliant and an approach that can apply to any field. So you have this renewed laser sharp career focus, tell me about some of your early experiences in this industry?
JM: The first time I was being considered for a feature was by the guys who did The Blair Witch Project. Out of 350 girls it came down to me and one other girl. She was tall, skinny, blonde, total opposites. And you know in my first audition I felt like I really nailed it, then eventually I got sent the whole script and felt disappointed. It wasn’t creatively stimulating, there was a bunch of nudity and I am not a prude at all. The first time you photographed me I was topless, so I’m not shy. There was some nudity I didn’t agree with but I really wanted the part because it would mean I could quit my job. I told them I would do the nudity here, here and here, but not in scenes where it made no sense. They told me they wanted shock value and ended up giving the part to the other girl. Part of me was disappointed but then I met with my coach at the time Sheila Ivy Traister and she helped me come to terms with this decision. She told me those first few roles you do are what define your career. I felt, for the first time, I was starting to learn how to shape my career and what I want it to be like. You know I have no problem with nudity if the content is something I believe in. There was a scene where they just got married and are in the bathroom, yes, fucking in the bathroom I totally get. But running around killing a 5 year old naked in a forest - no.
BP: Why am I not surprised? Whether they want to be or not, women in cinema are so influential in shaping young girls self-esteem. How do you see the current state of the industry responding to this topic?
JM: The women I love in cinema and the women I admire represent what real women are like. Julianne Moore, Anjelica Huston, Meryl Streep, Diane Lane. The types of women who don’t get tons of plastic surgery. Kate Winslet for example started a whole society of women against plastic surgery and I like that because I think it’s important to promote what real women look like. Nowadays there’s this obsession with weight and looks. It is a problem what we are being force fed in the media. Kate Winslet was one of the first women to come out against a magazine for photoshopping her thighs, she said I don’t look like that and girls at home shouldn’t feel that’s what their supposed to look like either. I think it’s important for younger girls in our society to not feel that unrealistic pressure and I really respect women like Kate Winslet who speak openly about it.
BP: What are you reading right now?
JM: Right now I’m reading Songs My Mother Taught Me by Marlon Brando, I love it. You know what’s funny, I bought the book on eBay started reading it, moved, then started it reading it again… just to find out it’s signed! Signed by him. He is one of my top five favorite actors. That’s why I went to Stella Adler. Lately I’m also really into astrology and a lot is going on cosmically for Pisces right now. I know this might sound silly, but it’s the first time in 169 years that six planets will enter the house of Pisces, including Pisces ruling planet Neptune, so apparently the next two years are going to be the most creative and intense years of my life.
BP: Speaking of creative and intense, want to tell us about your big movie coming out?
JM: Just last week DUST OF WAR, my first lead in a feature film screened in Berlin for the distributors screening, so exciting! It was my first time working with big actors and being able to learn from them. Tony Todd, Doug Jones, Gary Graham, directed by Andrew Kightlinger. I was interviewed recently and they asked me how did you know you wanted to play this role. I told them it was the second I read through the script. My first time reading it I was immediately in the world, my heart was beating faster during the chase scenes, when the character cried, I cried. I felt connected to it right away and deep down knew I would whatever it takes to get the role. I auditioned for 3 1/2 months and couldn’t have been more excited when I got cast. I’ve always done psychological thrillers which I love but after doing Dust of War, all day long riding horses, shooting guns, riding in a ‘69 mustang, its kind of addicting. Normal life just doesn’t compare, not gonna lie.
BP: That sounds bad ass! Must be fun taking a break from your normal life to play something fantastical. Moving forward what kind characters are you hoping to play? What roles inspire you?
JM: I want to play characters that people can connect to. Where you watch it and learn something new about yourself or the world. That’s my main goal. Example, when I saw Philip Seymour Hoffman and Andrew Garfield in Death of a Salesman it broke my heart, in the most beautiful way. They just nailed it. When Andrew Garfield fell on the stage and wept you felt it through the entire theater, it made you feel alive! Moments like that inspire me and shape the roles I want to play.
BP: If you could play any one person or role, what would it be? Dream job, go.
JM: My dream, I want to play Elizabeth Taylor in Martin Scorsese’s biopic of her and I’ve been working on that for a year and a half, I recently gave him my packet in person. Since then I am starting to train with coach Elizabeth Kemp from The Actors Studio to bring my portrayal to the next level. Elizabeth Kemp is an incredible artist and has worked with some of my favorite directors and writers, including Elia Kazan and Tennessee Williams. I am really lucky to have her willing to coach me and am very excited about it.
After giving Martin Scorsese my Liz Taylor packet I felt a complete shift in my energy. I knew right then and there anything was possible. You can never have a goal that is too big because if you say “oh I can’t do that” you’re right darling, you can’t do it. I realized the only thing getting in the way of my potential was myself.
DOUGLAS WIDICK - ACTOR & COMEDIAN
Brook Pifer: You continues to amaze me about this city, how busy everyone is. I’m so glad we could finally connect for this.
Douglas Widick: The thing with New York is that it is a busy enabler. People who are a workaholics are even more so. To a bad extent at times. Some people don’t let it all marinade, they just constantly book themselves and don’t let it all sink in.
BP: Well this is the place to be for your work. Tell me about your experience at NYU?
DW: I first came to New York to study acting and improv at the Stella Adler Conservatory. I did it through the NYU program so I could also get a liberal arts education. The NYU drama program that is composed of several studios, there’s about 7 or 8 you audition for, and then they place you. So I got put into the Stella Adler Conservatory, which is a more classically based program. They are very into classical text, and for me that was a really good companion to the work of the improv community which is focused more on impulse and comedic game. It was great because I had these contrasts studying at UCB then I would be doing Richard III and text heavy projects. I felt it gave me a good approach to style.
BP: In regards to your style, how did you develop it? I know that is something actors and artists alike have to discover along the personal creative journey.
DW: When I first started I felt like I had a hard time grounding myself in the work. I kept trying to be somebody I was in the acting. It took 2 or 3 years for me to come to terms with the fact that I had to be the best version of me. I had a couple difficult moments in acting class where I would be schmaltzy and over the top and they would grill me. The acting teachers could smell the fakeness so they would respond to that in a very harsh way, they would just attack it. I had to earn the right to be over the top, by going back through it and finding myself in the work again.
BP: What made you move here instead of LA?
DW: The reason I knew New York was right for me was I always came here to see shows, so why wouldn’t I go to school in New York? Yeah it’s absurdly expensive, but that’s just the way it is. I didn’t want to wait around, I wanted to expedite the process of becoming acquainted with New York City. And when I was on the Rosie O’ Donnell show at 9 years old I saw signs for NYU and it blew my mind, like, “there is such a thing as New York University!?!” I was 9 and I thought, “That is fabulous, that’s what I want to do.” In high school there were major signs pointing in the direction of being a guitarist but I knew I wouldn’t be happy sitting in the pit of an orchestra or being a session guitarist. Would I be better off financially, probably. But I would only be medium-happy. Acting is my passion and my bliss. Even though this is a little harder, and there is more competition, it feels worth it.
BP: I can relate. What are you working on now, both personal and professional work?
DW: I’ve graduated and now what I’m trying to do is turn out consistent work that is of somewhat a high quality, I release a video every two months with several different groups. I work with Boy Drama Productions, Forklift Comedy, or I do something solo like "Hipsters (Are Roaming The Campus)", or "lemme eat that off yo abs" was just me as well. Video is a big part of my approach, but I also do about 4 improv shows a week. And I’m not fudging that number, once you get involved in the improv community there is always a show to be doing. In other places you aren’t able to fully integrate yourself into seeing improv the way its actually done, you have to wait until you move to NY to really see how people are doing it.
BP: I have to ask, what is an audition like? Are there other resources for getting work in the city?
DW: Auditions are great but a lot of them can be pretty degrading. You don’t see the same people all the time because a lot of people quit. They are good but until you have an agent and a union you are not really seen the same way. So my big thing is I try to get up in other venues as much as possible. In the past decade the three improv theaters PIT, UCB as in Upright Citizens Brigade and Peoples Improv Theater, and the Magnet have been tremendous resources for actors that don’t necessarily go the typical route of EPAs, submissions, and open calls, which are completely valid and I do as well, but these resources are a great way to get seen by the industry in a non-traditional manner.
BP: We’ve talked about creating your own work. I think that is crucial to my industry as well. Can you tell me about why you put in the effort to create your own content for your industry?
DW: My biggest piece of advice for this generation of artists would be that auditioning is important, but, just as important, is creating your own work. You have to create your own opportunities because people almost don’t want to give you that opportunity unless you’ve done that same thing for yourself. They want to see that you can make something that is almost professional quality, all on your own, so that once you are on a set with big guns, you know what’s going on rather than you having to learn it all then. There’s a much higher standard now for people who create their own work, they are just as willing to give those people jobs, than people who solely audition.
BP: Time to brag, what are some of your career highlights to date.
DW: I’ve done improv with people who have been on 30 Rock, I was on the Rosie O’ Donnell show when I was 9 years old, and my video P-P-P Paul Ryan with Anna Callegari was on Inside Edition. I was also in a viral video about Chris Brown and Rhianna that was on ABC News and the Tyra Banks Show. My friend who used to intern at a casting office emailed me and said “do you know anyone who plays an instrument and can sing who can audition for this show?” So right there from my phone I sent over my headshot and resume and I got the audition. And its for an off broadway show, which you don’t usually get from an email. For the audition I came in and just sang Bruce Springsteen on a whim, I was prepared and I really committed to the fact that it was Bruce and the fact that it was a rock audition. Two call backs later they offered me the role - insane! They kept asking me to send in videos of myself playing instruments, like drums and bass.
BP: I’m curious how did you get the drive to create your own work? Are you a natural born hustler?
DW: Creating my own opportunities, a lot of that comes from impatience. My dad gave me the bug. When I was 6 years old and I got my first guitar my dad was like well you could practice tomorrow but you just had your lesson so why not practice now. After my very first guitar lesson. I was like whoa, I never thought about it that way. I was only 6 but the idea of totally blowing my guitar teachers mind was something I hadn’t thought of. So it was kind of this, “make it good now” drive that he gave me.
But you know if your drive and your talent don’t meet up you are kinda fucked. I know some really talented people that never leave the house and on the flip side I know people who have all the drive but have trouble delivering on the spot. When talent and drive meet up, its special. Meryl Streep had that. She was this 28 year old actress out of Yale grad and she hired a PR firm! No one hires a PR firm at 28 years old…unless you know that’s what you’re going to do for the rest of your life. So she hired the best PR firm in New York to start bugging casting agents and directors about her, like oh “have you heard about Meryl Streep?” Now she’s Meryl Streep. So she knew she had the talent but on the other hand she also knew she would be nothing without the drive. I feel like she’s a very good example for all of us. She hasn’t stopped, she’s consistent, she created her own opportunities and she not too cool for any of it.
BP: Finish this sentence, five years from now…
DW: Five years from now I’d like to be doing similar things to what I’m doing now, just on a higher level. Sketch, musical, improv, web series, sitcom, maybe even features. And I’d love to integrate my sensibilities as a musician into something comedic.
I hope my answers aren’t loopy, those were good margaritas.
KEONI HUDOBA - CREATIVE DIRECTOR @ CYC METHOD & 2012 BEST TRAINER IN NEW YORK BY VILLAGE VOICE
Brook Pifer: When you first moved to New York did you plan it out or did you just pick up and go?
Keoni Hudoba: Moving to New York was definitely a spur of the moment thing. I was very happy with living in Florida, but I booked the Champion campaign for athletic gear, and finally had the financial stability to move to my dream, New York City. So I moved here and my first few weeks were memorable in a bad way. I came up in a U-Haul, got here, and the apartment that I had signed on via online, was anything but desirable. There was a heating pole in the middle of the room that wasn’t on the photos, they photoshopped them out! So, I get to the apartment and you couldn’t fit anything in the apartment, you couldn’t fit a bed, a futon, nada. So I had to think fast. I posted on Facebook “does anyone know of or have a spare bedroom that I could sublet for at least a month, I have all my shit here, I need a place asap.” Then I was saved, my friend Stephen had a 4 bedroom on the Upper Westside, and one of the bedrooms needed a tenant, $700 a month and I scooped it up!
BP: Nice! I love that you just trusted your gut and moved here. What happened next in your journey from small town to big city?
KH: I stayed there for about 3 years, started auditioning everywhere, but then the recession hit and every single show was closing. I mean everything. I needed to find a job because this money I moved here with was gone “faster then a ny minute.” I started waiting tables at a restaurant called 44 & X, gave myself 8 months to wait tables. I knew how easy it was to get sucked into waiting tables because it was easy money, and I did indeed get sucked in, but at the 8 month day I quit. No job, or even glimpse of where the next paycheck would come from but I knew I had to stick to my plan.
BP: Mad respect. Most people wouldn’t have the courage to face the risk. How did you go from wanting to be an actor to a fitness god?
KH: I was working out and taking all the group fitness classes at Club H, which is closed now. The Group Fitness Manager, Blake, said why don’t you get certified and start teaching. You are amazing at what you do, I love watching your energy in class. So I got certified and started working at Club H. From Club H went to Boom Fitness, from there to Equinox then to Reebok, Derek Jeter 24 Hour Fitness with DRENCHED, then to Barry’s Bootcamp, Barry’s to Soul Cycle, to being a spokesperson and sponsored by Under Armour, and now having my own thing CYC. It was and still is crazy seeing how far I’ve come since then. I would say over the last 3 years is when it really came together. I miss performing, I miss being on stage but for me any studio or any training environment is a stage it’s just a totally different venue and athletes as my audience.
BP: Ah, that’s a good point. Seems like you have a lot of drive.
KH: You have to be driven in this city. I knew I had to give myself goals and deadlines, if I didn’t I would get sucked into the nightlife of NYC, you can only guest host parties at clubs for so long. You know what I’m saying? And don’t get me wrong, I did it, I did the hosting of clubs. But one day I was like I want to get into health and fitness, this doesn’t match with my career choice. I want to get up at 6am and train people, getting in at 4am it didn’t make sense. So I decided to pursue health & wellness. I knew I had a powerful story of transformation, I became public with being obese. 327lbs to now. Its crazy, I have so many ”aha” moments I can’t believe I do what I do now for a living. I was that guy who was afraid to wear a bathing suit on the beach and had a t-shirt on. I was so uncomfortable in my own skin and now doing this for a living was only a dream but now my reality.
BP: Are you kidding me? What an inspiration! I can see that you have truly found your passion in life.
KH: In any of my training or any of my classes I’m very hard but I don’t call it hard I always call it passionate because I know exactly what it took for me to change my life and if you are not ready to change your life then don’t waste peoples time or your money. You know, even last night when I was teaching, these people can’t do 30 seconds of push ups, I’m like WHAT ARE YOU HERE FOR? I yell and they are always like “God you are on a roll tonight,” and always respond with “why would you pay this much money for an hour when that is like food for the week in suburbia.” Get in here and really bust your ass for an hour, be greedy, don’t watch other people do your work.
And that’s why I’m extremely passionate and driven about fitness because it completely changed my life in 2003. I gained a lot of weight because I was dealing with my sexuality, my sister was gay too and it was a big thing with her coming out. So I just ate all the time because I didn’t want anyone to find me desirable to be honest with you. It’s taken me years to get used to this new me. But being heavy I was really able to hide behind the layer and deal with it that way. I was living a lie. After I came out the world was at my feet. Right now I think I’m on a great track in life. With that and the weight change I knew I could do anything I set my mind too.
BP: I love that. Do you find yourself taking it all in or are you just sort of shocked with the success you’ve achieved along the way?
KH: The power of the universe, once you put positive thoughts out there they will find their way back to you. I don’t ever expect anything. Last year my biggest surprise was when my agent called and said oh by the way congratulations, and I started getting all these tweets, The Village Voice voted me best trainer in New York City 2012. I’m so honored and blessed when I receive honors like this. I almost get recluse my mind usually goes something like this “holy shit, the fat fucking kid that loves spam and rice haha.” But then part of me is I never expect it and I feel that’s why things come. The same for Under Armor. Was at the right place at the right time, doing what I do best, and I was asked to sign with them. Recently, my funny one, the February issue of SELF magazine chose 6 amazing male instructors and I was honored to be one of them. But to my surprise I was the “ab guy”. SAY WHATTTTT!? What has happening in my life. I remember sitting there with a box of Krispy Kreme donuts and literally putting a whole box of easy mac in the microwave and eating the whole thing in my dorm room. And that was it. It’s just so crazy to me where I’ve come from and how drastically my life has changed.
BP: Now you are changing other peoples life with CYC, tell me about that.
KH: As Creative Director for CYC, I had the opportunity to create my dream. The studio is dimly lit, there is a huge stage with a drum and state of the art sound system. It’s built for pure entertainment. We call our instructors CYCologists, its all about them giving a 45 minute show on a bike. One of the reasons why were are opening them on college campuses is because if I had this safe haven of this studio that is black lit and no one is looking at me when I was loosing my weight in college, this would have been a lot easier. And seeing the people who come through that studio daily, big, small, guys, girls, seeing that big girl or that big guy coming in on the bike literally solidifies why I’m doing what I’m doing. I would love to continue doing this, I would love to open my own studio in New York. I would love to reach as many people as possible. Not so much fame, I don’t know if I want to be famous because I don’t want to loose my sanity. I’m still very much a private person but whatever the outlet is to reach as many people as I can then yes I want to do that. And take care of my family and help them in any capacity they would need. Just being happy in what I’m doing and being able to touch people fitness wise, that’s it and that’s the truth.
BP: You have really hit your stride in life. What advice can you share with people who might be struggling with their own issues, be it fitness or otherwise?
KH: Just remain true to who you are, its ok to not be ok. When you strive for perfection that is when your imperfections show. So many people loose themselves in this city because they become who the city wants them to be and not who they want to be. And I think that would be my biggest piece of advice. I’ve seen it with my own friends. It is really sad to see and everyone has their own path, everyone has to find their way.
BP: Any closing remarks?
KH: New York city is going to be my home forever. I love traveling for work but there is nothing like the first curse word in a cab.
AMBER MUNDINGER - ADVERTISING/MARKETING GURU & TRIATHLETE
Brook Pifer: I think it takes a certain type of person to live here, work here, thrive here. What attracted you to New York?
Amber Mundinger: I don’t know about you but it sounds like you felt the same way, I just always felt I needed to be somewhere where I was more challenged and there was something bigger I was supposed to be involved in.
BP: Did you always want to move here, was this a methodical plan or did it happen organically?
AM: Moving here happened organically. Dana and I had been together about a year but we did everything backwards. We started dating, then we got a dog 2 months into dating and would transport the dog between our condos, our winter and summer homes as we like to call them. Then 6 months into dating we move in together, but I asked him to move into my place because if this doesn’t work out I’m still going to be ok. Survivalist. I think we had been together almost a year when this New York opportunity came up for him. The funny thing is about a month before this he had met my grandmother and she asked if he would ever like to live someplace else. And he was like absolutely not. She was like what about a big city and he was like never in a million years, don’t want to move, don’t care, don’t want to be there. Then this offer comes. The opportunity for him to make such a huge impact in a big corporation, the money didn’t hurt and I think it was also knowing that I was willing to move to New York if it would be the right fit for my career as well made the decision to move easier. It was like I’m not going to move here just for our relationship – it has to be the right thing for both of us – personally and professionally – for both our relationship and our careers otherwise someone is left feeling unsatisfied, you know a girl has to be careful, you know. Now almost 4 years later we are still together, we are loving life, we are thinking about getting married, enjoying our life together, life is good. Here’s what it is, it takes you 6 months to feel settled here and a year to fully feel like you have a community, a home. Now its 3+ years later I have a real connected group of friends, things I do all the time and I love my career.
BP: That sounds great Amber! But I’m sure you faced some bumps along the way. What have been some of the rough parts in your transition to living in this mecca?
AM: The worst was when you just move here and you realize how busy everybody is. Say in Orlando you want to grab a beer after work, not a big deal. You just call up your friend and at least one friend will grab a beer with you. Then you move here and it’s like sure that’s cool are you available in 3 weeks? Literally. So I think it was our first month here Dana had messaged me and was like I’m gonna be late. I had just gotten home from work and I started crying, like I have no friends. I had a few but I wasn’t use to that, I was used to being one of the busiest people out of my friends so it was weird to be like I just don’t have anybody to go have a beer with or a glass of wine. So Dana comes home, I’m crying and he is like what happened? Sobbing I tell him I have no friends. But he was like you have me. But that’s not enough, I need girlfriends as well! He was totally like ok we can go have a beer. And I was like it is not the same but thank you. That was the hardest moment, really, you are starting from scratch, you really have to be ok with being alone and to be alright with that.
BP: I think all my close friends faced this at one point or another. Now that you are integrated into rhythm of life, what is your favorite way to spend a day off in the city?
AM: My favorites are those days when you don’t have anything planned here, it’s such a big deal now. From that moment to now it’s like your schedule is always full, time is so precious, you are working you are traveling, you just don’t have a lot of free time. The perfect day is when you go downtown, say the West Village and you have brunch, you walk around, and maybe you walk to Soho or the Lower East Side and listen to music at Rockwood Music Hall then you have dinner in the East Village then you head back home.
BP: Sounds perfect. Now I know you are into triathlons, were you worried about the training scene up here? Where is your favorite place to ride?
AM: I think being obsessed with triathlons and working out and stuff my biggest fear was that I wouldn’t have that here. But its totally the opposite. There is so much access. The cycling is amazing, you just hop over on the GW bridge and you’ve got all of New York and New Jersey to ride in. Its amazing. You can do a 30 mile ride, stop and have brunch then head back home. There are massive trees all around you, its really pretty. That is one of the coolest things. You are in this big city but you can break out.
BP: I think a lot of people who aren’t familiar with the scene will be surprise to know that. Coming full circle, have you had any moments where you are like hell yes I live in New York.
AM: And I realized I think it was in December, going back to the friend thing I realized how many girlfriends I now have because I hosted a girls only cocktail get together at my apartment. I invited 30 women and had 20 women over. At the end of the night I was telling Dana just how thankful I am, I know so many cool, intelligent, driven, smart women around me. You know 3 years ago I was crying that I couldn’t have a beer. There were lots of bumps along the way but I think we all go through them. That was my moment where I was like ok, I’m finally here. I live in New York and I have a life here. And I can see this great life. Where before it was like what is the next thing that is going to hit me in the face? (laughing)