Updated December 2015 -- My good friend Connie Zhang interviewed me for Her Campus USC:
A CONVERSATION WITH HAS ALEXANDRA: HOW DID SHE BUILD HER FASHION EMPIRE?
Before you go deep into this interview, which I promise you will find lots of inspirational thoughts and useful tips, I want to share a piece of good news with you! I was recently hired by Her Campus Media and work as a freelancer. I will mainly write for USC Chapter featuring hard news, campus-related stories, lifestyle pieces (covering beauty, fashion, health…), and many others!! Yeah, I am super excited! SO from now on, you can expect at least one blog post from SweetConnie every week lol!!
My first post is about an interview with Has Alexandra. She was at the same Web Design for Organizations class as me last semester. I have to say, she is someone who I really admire!!!! She is fun, creative and inspirational!!! I love reading her blog, and I had so much fun interviewing her. I spent eight hours drafting this article, but not for a second did I feel bored because her words were so powerful! Ok, anyway, this one is gonna be posted on Her Campus USC this week, but I just can’t wait to share it with you guys first!! If you are interested in fashion/art/photography or consider yourself as a creative individual, promise me you would read till the end!!! Thank me later
Has Alexandra is a creative marketing strategist, photographer & writer. Born in Armenia, raised in Los Angeles. She earned her Bachelor’s Degree in Communication Studies from CSUN. She is currently working towards her Master’s Degree in Communication Management with focus in Marketing and Branding from USC Annenberg School of Communication and Journalism.
Has has an amazing career path with experience in marketing, public relations, fashion, writing and photography. She has also been a freelancer for a while. As an artist and a blogger, Has influences people with her unique and stylish work. Today we are fortunate enough to have an opportunity to snag a quick interview with Has Alexandra and see how she started her fashion empire.
When and why did you start your blog?
I had to do an internship during my senior year as an undergrad, but I had no idea where to start. I always felt like I was intelligent and well-rounded overall but I didn’t feel that I was particularly talented in anything. I had decided to be practical and pursue a career in public relations purely because I felt I had the skill set for it. When I began emailing my cover letter to companies I realized that I was subconsciously selecting a bunch of streetwear brands. I got an internship at Obey, a streetwear brand with huge focus on street art, music and skate culture.
Day by day, I found myself excited to go to work because their brand really resonated with my interests. Then it hit me – there are industries of people making full-on careers using their skills to create for brands with purpose. From there, my curiosity rose.
Someone suggested I start a blog to curate the work I’m doing to show future employers, sort of like a marketing/pr portfolio. I came up with a concept and just started creating content. It was an urban lifestyle blog (HasWestCoastSoul) where I would do features on different artists, musicians, brands, etc. Then I began writing personal pieces as well and somehow it resonated with people and spread. It really inspired me to see how many people it reached. I realized how much I love writing and creating, I had a message and I wanted to share it. Then came photography, I realized I love translating my thoughts into tangible visuals; I went from taking pictures with my iPhone to shooting with a DSLR camera and it kind of snowballed from there.
Over the years, my tastes in fashion and art evolved so I made a new blog on my portfolio website you see today (HasAlexandra) where now I mainly post personal pieces or interviews I write.
How much time do you spend on your blog?
I haven’t been inspired to write lately, a lot has happened over the last year, I don’t know if I’m ready to write about it. I do want to get back into it, it could be therapeutic, both for me and my readers. Photography has been something I’ve been experimenting with more. I have a full time job so I try to shoot every weekend. I truly enjoy finding a unique model and coming up with a concept to shoot, seeing how it all unfolds.
How did you get into photography?
I guess I’ve always been a visual person and I just didn’t know how important it was to me because I hadn’t found the right outlet for it. When I began my blog (HasWestCoastSoul), I’d take photos with my iPhone and post to Instagram. When I realized I could create images the way I saw them, not necessarily how they look in real life, that excited me. The more I got into it, I realized there was an entire community of photographers posting creative content and being supportive of one another.
I came across my dad’s old Canon camera so I picked it up and started teaching myself. I was still just experimenting and getting comfortable with it when people started referring to me as “a photographer.” One day, someone asked me if I wanted to do a fashion shoot with a model. I had never shot a model before, so it was really nervous, but I was thought “Okay, why not? Let’s try it.” I don’t think they even knew that was my first fashion shoot. So I did it and when I looked at the pictures, I was surprisingly stoked. I thought, “Wow, this was actually good. I want to do this again!” It was like a door to a new world of creating.
How did you learn photography? Can you walk us through the whole process?
Ironically, I took it as an elective in high school and I got a C. I didn’t remember much from then, so I just I taught myself. I didn’t go to school for it or anything. I’d just Google stuff and go out and experiment. But nobody tells a beginner the hardest part is getting through the middle. Like when you begin something, you’re so excited and inspired, you want to see what else you can do. When you think about the future, you envision yourself at the peak, you’re excited and inspired. But, when you’ve made it past the beginning and you’re not at your peak yet, that middle phase, you feel stuck at times.
It’s like that quote by Ira Glass, think of it this way: The reason you got into the game is because you have a strong vision. You have the eye for it – not everybody has that. You have good taste; that’s why you judge yourself so hard because you want it to be that good. You know what good work is and it bothers you that you are not there yet. But it’s okay because it’s something everyone goes through. You have to keep producing work and growing in each project until you are proud of it.
For me, sometimes I get sick of stuff I’ve written or shot. I don’t want to look at it again. But a few months later, I’ll look at it and think, “Oh, this was actually really good. I didn’t know I said that. I didn’t know I made that.” Sometimes you have to step out of it for a second, and stop being your worst critic. On the other side of the spectrum, you can totally go back to an old project you used to love and now you can’t even look at it.
I remember one of the first shoots I did, I thought that was great at that time. When I look at it again, I feel like it’s terrible, but that’s because I’ve grown and my taste has evolved. So each project, you just need to learn from it, not pick at it. Like I’ll think, this photo shoot the lighting was off, so next time I’ll make sure to focus on that. Or I’ll think, when I wrote this piece, it didn’t flow well, my sentences were too chewy, next time I’ll be sure to edit down some more. That’s the way you learn. Don’t let it discourage you. Remember that you have the 2 most important things: the passion and the vision. The way I think of it, is like I have to use that and grow, I have to be successful fulfill my vision, there is no other way. I am not going to stop because I think “If you stop halfway, why did you even start?”
Have you ever experienced fear? How did you cope with that?
Honestly, it’s always scary. Art is a strange career path. You get to a point where you realize it doesn’t just have to be a side gig, you can make it your entire career. Then comes thoughts like “How do I monetize this? How do I get them to pay me the full rate I’m worth? Will I earn enough money to live off of?” That’s when people stop. You just have to keep yourself balanced and keep your vision focused, keep producing work and trust yourself to know it’ll work out.
Have you ever worried about being famous?
I would never want to be famous like that. I just don’t. I don’t care about it. It doesn’t interest me and I don’t want that kind of pressure. But I do think there is a difference of being “famous” and being well-respected in your industry. That’s something I definitely want to be. I want to be a strong name in fashion and art where people can look at my work and recognize me. That’s why being true to yourself is so important because you can totally start going off track if you just focus all your energy on what’s trending.
Trends can be important to a certain extent, especially for commercial projects, but it can water down your work. Everyone you can think of right now whose work you admire, you admire because of their particular style, tone and aesthetic. They do something that differentiates them, and that’s cool.
Sometimes we make it such a big deal, you feel like you have to do things a certain way or gain all these followers and make sure you work with this person and that company, etc. No! Just create content you feel passionate about. If you keep thinking “I need to write like this because that’s what people like” you’re holding back. Just like shooting something in a style that’s “on trend” – you’ll probably end up hating it because it’s not a true reflection of you and your potential. Do what you actually want to do, be sincere, have good intentions, trust yourself – something good will come out of it. If you feel passionately about it, chances are somebody else will too You’re not alone. The world is a big place, that’s the beauty of it.
What makes you become a freelancer? How did you start your career?
The way I saw it, I came to a point in my life where I had enough academic and professional experience to get a comfortable well-paid marketing/pr job in corporate environment, like a toothpaste company, but that’s just not what I want. I literally have a physical urge to do something creative. So I decided, even if I have to start at entry level and intern or assist somewhere that allows me to do that, it’s okay for now. I have a lot to learn and I know I can grow. That’s why you have to simultaneously continue making time to pursue personal creative work as well.
Of course everyone has to pay their dues and learn, but you should still be harnessing your creativity and working towards building your personal portfolio. That way, when you do see an opportunity to get a higher position, you can back it up with your portfolio. That’s why I started my blog and that’s why I continue writing and doing photography. It’s all a process. Keep your head up, keep working. The better caliber of work you produce, while showing you’re willing to get roll up your sleeves and get your hands dirty at any level of a job, the more people will start believing in you.
If you’re at the beginning or you’re in a temporary slump, don’t let your current professional position discourage you. You may feel fear, or judge yourself or have doubts – all these things are normal. Every creative experiences these things. But you have to keep doing it, even if you are tired. For example, I went to work this afternoon, tomorrow I have a meeting, but when I go home, I still I don’t want to sleep, I want to do something. I want to keep pushing myself to be great. I don’t want to be comfortable or settle. I don’t want to work for a generic toothpaste company, even if I’m making a ton of money, it’s just not worth it to me. I want to work in fashion and the creative industries, make an impact on the culture. I believe in my vision and I am going to hustle as much as I can to bring it to life. We all need to stay consistent and stay humble, work as hard as we can to get there.
What kind of books do you regularly read?
I’ve been reading a lot of books about consciousness and creativity lately, a book I recommend to every creative person is “Creative Block: Get Unstuck, Discover New Ideas. Advice & Projects from 50 Successful Artists” by Danielle Krysa. I also read a lot of biographies/autobiographies about people in the industry whom I admire. I love reading about the journeys they experienced to get them to where they are now. I keep learning, everyone feels the same emotions. I recommend “The Woman I Wanted to Be
The Woman I Wanted to Be” by Diane Von Furstenberg to both men and women. Finally, I read a lot of Bukowski. His writing tone is so raw and unapologetic, it’s vulnerable and distant but still edgy – that’s been a big theme in the work I try to create as well.