Some hats are fun, some hats are not

As a small business owner, I'm used to wearing a lot of hats — publisher, editor, client management, community management, web developer, tech support, etc. These last couple weeks, however? I've stepping way WAY outside of my comfort zone and tried on these hats: event co-coordinator, party hostess, master of ceremonies, Seattle meet-up host, NYC meet-up host, photoshoot art director, Russian model handler, photo shoot producer, shoot location manager, and just for good measure, stiff/awkward Neo-Victorian fashion model. Whew, that's a lot of hats.

Some of these hats I wore last week for the Offbeat Empire party and Geek Girl Con. They were different for me, but fun. Sure, I hadn't done Offbeat Empire events before, but I've been producing the Salon of Shame for six years, and honestly? Big group things like that are fun for me. Geek Girl Con was an exhausting weekend (next time, I'll pick one: remote staff retreat, big party, OR convention — NOT ALL THREE AT ONCE) but wearing the different hats felt fun enough that I'm considering doing future events. (Oh, KellllliiiiiiiThey ♥ OBB; we ♥ them…..)

But then this most recent weekend, I flew to NYC to coordinate a photoshoot with Pushba, my Russian goth style icon who's in town from Moscow. See last month, on a whim, I decided to use some frequent flyer miles to plan a trip… and then was all Oh hey, Pushba: let's do a photoshoot for fun! It was a great idea, but officially launched me WAY out of my comfort zone. All of a sudden I was in the position of assembling a shoot team, with a photographer and a studio and wait, what are we going to wear? Am I supposed to be the wardrobe stylist for this thing!??! SO MANY HATS!

Thanks to some hardcore networking, I was able to find a gorgeous studio space (Thanks, Hello Super 8They ♥ OBB; we ♥ them!), a photographer (Nelson LaurenThey ♥ OBB; we ♥ them, an Offbeat Bride sponsor who was willing to drive almost three hours from Boston and bring a full studio set-up with him) and an amazing wardrobe stylist (Evelyn Kriete, a preeminent Neo-Victorian aesthete known to say things like "Yeah, you know Steampunk? That whole thing is kinda my fault.").

I fielded questions from all involved parties that I was totally unprepared for — will there be food at the shoot? How much time is budgeted for hair/makeup? Who will own the publishing rights of the images? What circumfrence is Pushba's head with her dreadlock extensions? Who'll be responsible for set-up and break-down? What's parking like at the studio?

Thanks to a lot of emails and video chats, the plans for the photoshoot all came together (despite my being across the country), and somehow yesterday happened: Megan from Hello Super 8 showed me into the studio at 10:30, we moved some furniture around before I helped Nelson carry his equipment up three fights of stairs, I ran up and down the stairs a few more times letting Evelyn and her assistant/handy-dandy in and getting their stuff up the stairs. Then I sat down and Evelyn did my hair and make-up (right, because not only was I organizing the photoshoot, I was also pretending to be a model!? WTF.) while we waited for Pushba. She was almost two hours late, thanks to subway construction and chaos, and arrived starving and exhausted. Coffee! Pizza! Hair and make-up for her! Test shots with the photographer! Where is the dumpster? I have no idea! Can you show me the bathroom!? Yes! Pushba doesn't understand the directions she's getting from the stylist, so I wave my hands around translate One: make-up. Two: clothes. Three: hair. Ooh, the sun through the windows has changed — retest the lights! Wait, Pushba needs to nurse her son! Evelyn has to leave by 5! HURRY! Then it's all flashbulbs and me realizing how bad a model I am for an hour or so and then it's all break-down logistics and where's the dumpster again and can you move the furniture back where it was, please? And oh shit: the photographer got locked out who's got the keys? Pushba, in her Russian way, informs me that she needs a hamburger and the baby needs formula. Meanwhile, how is she getting home? Am I going to make her ride the subway again for 2.5 hours? Hamburger! Walking to drug store for formula! Coordinating with Megan! Feeding Foxy! Calling taxis for Pusbha! Taxis driving away because we can't get the stroller down the stairs! Finally getting in the taxi and Pushba can't find her phone! Back up the three flights of stairs to the studio to find the phone and I realize I've had to go to the bathroom for an hour and still don't have time because it's back down the stairs to deliver the phone and wheeze pant pant gasp!

I'm not here to whine — the photo shoot was amazing. My point isn't that it sucked or went poorly or that anyone should play their tiny, brown Neo-Victorian violin for me and my hard hard day, but just that OMG y'all: those particular task hats were not fun! I realize that there are millions of women for whom working in fashion is a dream, and coordinating fashion shoots with Russian models would be the apex of amazing. I am not one of these women.

Sure, I like dressing up and photography and Pushba… but I have to observe that by the end of the day, what should have been a fun day felt instead like I'd been run over by a truck full of bustles and neck corsets. While it was certainly a glamorous task, ultimately it's waaaaay more fun for me to sit in front of my laptop, review post pitches and answer emails and IM with my staff and look at gorgeous photographs — not make them happen or be in them. Bloggers who like being the star of their own high concept fashion shoots: YOU CAN KEEP THAT NICHE. It's all yours. Have fun with that.

It was a great exercise, though: I think all small business folks should aim to step WAY out of their comfort zones to try on a few different hats to find potentially awesome fits. In this particular case, the answer was NO, this hat is not a good fit — but the results are still pretty awesome.

Photo by Nelson Lauren
Photo by Nelson Lauren Photography

I'll have the full set of photos to share on Offbeat Bride and Offbeat Mama next week. In the meantime, I'm going to go do this, and after next week I'm going into several months of digital hermitude. This last month has been HIGHLY visible for me, and I'm super excited to get back to my quiet, mostly-invisible nerding behind the scenes.

  1. Damn, what a production! Glad you survived, definitely sounds like how I imagine a NYC shoot would be like 🙂 I have found that the two best reasons to push my boundaries are to either expand them, or barring that, validate them.

    The pic you shared is delightful, it's like a movie poster – perhaps for a film called "Steampunk Czarina" (стимпанк царицы?) or something similar.

  2. Hehe this cracked me up Ariel!
    But you're right not all hats are for everyone–me for example, i am quite the opposite of you. I kill computers. By looking at them. But direct an event, a photo shoot, or put a shin dig together? I got ya there lol
    AND i cannot WAIT FOR NEXT WEEK TO SEE ALL THE PICTURES!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  3. I love love love reading every second of that adventure. IT IS that crazeeo! I've had folks come over to my house (not even coordinate something on site) and accessories have EXPLODED on my living room floor. The outcome is always amazing, but the pre-journey of gathering…OH WOW the horror! but love of it all. 🙂 *smile* Can't wait to see the rest!

  4. I'm so glad you did it! I can't believe you did it the week after geek girl con though. That's crazy. Good job. Now go on vacation.

  5. WOW. You are a FORCE. And nothing awesome is ever easy. It's just not. I think as women we just naturally want to be all things to all people & that often manifests in our career lives too. WTF is wrong with us?!!!! ; )

  6. Good for you! I am looking to do more things out of my comfort zone. In the midst of everything I'm sure it was crazy, but was worth it. Look at the photo. The next time, it'll be a breeze.

  7. I can't wait to see the rest of the pics. If that one above is anything to go by, you fucking killed it!

  8. It sounds like it was a hell of a day, but that picture alone – OMG awesome.

  9. "Run over by a truck full of bustles and neck corsets." HAHAHHAHAHAHA. You have totally just described the end of the photo shoot day. In my experience as model/stylist/photo editor, I can totally relate. Lovely anecdote, can't wait to see the pics! Great job!

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