#BYOC, Real Talk

#BYOC – Julia Hembree: Smart, Young Thing

Sunday afternoon in the West Village seated in overstuffed chairs at an al fresco pizza place. I’m testing out the voice recording app on my phone, making sure that my co-diner can be heard across the enormous wooden table. She leans forward:

My name is Julia Hembree. I am 22 years old, I just graduated this spring – I live in NEW YORK CITY, the Big Apple. Life’s great, Life’s grand.

Julia Hembree, a quiet mega-talented photographer who, only a few months ago, sent me a quick note asking if I needed a photographer for my blog. Having just finished discussing the fact that my images were a little weak with my then-photographer (my still-husband) literally moments before, I freaked out and sent back one of my infamous ALL CAPS replies. It read something like this: YES YES YES!


Up until this pizza date, our shoots have consisted of micro photo-sessions. Julia peers up at the sun and then back at me and starts snapping. At the end of about 30 minutes, I’m checking my watch and Julia’s saying, “No. I feel good. I’ll have these in Dropbox tonight.” and then one of both of us is off running to the next thing. Then I get home and check my Dropbox and scream with sheer joy and thankfulness that Jesus has placed this angel into my life.

jules montage

If I’m being honest, she’s really just doing me a favor. Julia is a curator of light and stories and aesthetics. Rewind to her first few months here and we are grabbing lunch at Grey Dog in Nolita. Upon her arrival to the city, this girl had initial internship opportunities with some of photography’s most esteemed and accomplished. But she passed up the chance. She tells me of these options and how amazing it would be to work (for free) under these celebrity-in-their-own-right creative minds. But then she casually mentioned, “I think I’ll have to work about 22 hours a day though.”  My eyes widen and I try my best to be as equally casual when I say in not so extreme terms YOU CANNOT DO THAT. But now, a few months later, she’s able to reflect on why passing up an insane work schedule was the right thing to do:

JH: When I first moved here, I was a little naive. I just thought I’m going to live in New York and shoot for VOGUE. But to get to shoot things like that means taking a really hard path. 

HHA: What do you mean by that?

JH: It means working a ton. [High profile] photographers are managing so many other people at one time. There’s assistants, lighting crews, makeup and hair, and producers, while you’re talking agents and pursuing new jobs. You’re constantly having to be aware of so many elements and forgetting one thing may mean ruining a whole shoot. These people are so stressed out – most high profile photographers I’ve met have been uptight and stressed out. Annie Leibovitz and Steven Meisel are not, like, chilling out on a Friday night. Their lives are very, very busy.

HHA: Do you want that life?

JH: (Very decidedly) No, I don’t. I want to stay creative and be able to support myself, but there are other elements that are important to me, like hospitality. Everyone to a certain extent has to figure out what that balance looks like for their own job and own family.


HHA: Every day, New York City asks us the question, “What’s it worth it to you?” We’ve moved here to “do” our dreams and do them in the biggest way possible. But so often it isn’t the movie that we had playing in our heads. It takes time, it takes networking. Do you feel pressure to meet people and network?

JH: I feel pressure to learn a lot more at this stage. I have a lot of skills that I need to pick up, which often means free work. So I have to find other professionals who are willing to let me borrow their equipment, learn and still do a good job for them. Assistants who aren’t experienced really have to fight. But, I find networking relaxing actually. The fashion world seems exhausting because I don’t know everything about it yet. I don’t quite know what I’m doing in that realm, so that stresses me out. 

HHA: Has your time in New York looked like you thought it would so far?

JH: I told myself it was going to be hard and planned to not even focus on photography my first year here. But then the opportunities came. I thought I would network more and I’ve networked less.

HHA: What’s your end goal for photography? Fashion or fine art?

JH: Whatever I fall into. When I’ve reached out to others in the industry, I’ve found that there’s no set answer. So many photographers in fashion are considered fine art photographers. If you devote your life to one craft, then yeah, you’ll get really good at it. But the photographer I currently assist (Daniel Castro) began as an industrial designer and only later realized that he was passionate about production and lighting and photography. And he’s been very successful.  

HHA: What do you get most excited to shoot?

IMG_0306JH: I get excited if the images turn out and they make somebody happy. I get most excited about creative expression. Finding a narrative, following a narrative, interpreting it. Creating a whole set of images that have a tone and a feeling. I’ve recently been looking into art direction and what a job like that entails.

Julia’s most proud of the We’re Making It shoot, a 5 day online art show. Each day was a different theme; she produced a shoot based off of Wildwood and ate up the producing aspect.

“I’m open,” she says. I love Julia’s career outlook because she isn’t afraid of change, she isn’t afraid of falling out of love with photography (she won’t, I bet). “Why force yourself to do something you don’t enjoy?” Fair point, Jules.

“I’m gonna keep shooting what I enjoy and see where that takes me.” And I’m willing to put money on that fact that she’ll be taken onto big things.


Cheers, Julia. And thanks for the pics.

You’ve got to see all the amazing images this girl has created. If you’d like to follow her more closely and see her work, please visit her site!

xo – Haley

#BYOC, Real Talk


Today is my first BRING YOUR OWN COFFEE (#BYOC) and I’m featuring a talented, graceful writer named Kelsey Miller who epitomizes gumption and self-love. She is a Senior Features Writer for Refinery29.com, a fashion and lifestyle website that makes my very short list of dream places to work. Kelsey writes a weekly column called The Anti-Diet Project that chronicles her journey of self-acceptance, intuitive eating, and rational fitness. So yea, we’re going to jump right into the deep end of the Fashion-Related Issues pool and talk about body shaming. A few months ago, while perusing the website, I stumbled across this article and, in particular, this quote:

” Just because it doesn’t feel like success doesn’t make it a failure.”

My world was rocked. As someone who has struggled with disordered eating, some severe body-shaming, and a relentless pursuit of perfection, (which, for the record, is a TOTAL racket) I felt a wave of relief wash over me. I had to talk to this lady. So I sent an email. And I got a reply. A few weeks later I was sitting in the ping-pong table-laden staff lunch area with Kelsey at Refinery29 HQ, geeking out a little, (alot) and discussing this revolutionary little idea called The Anti-Diet Project.

Hihaleyannie: This series, and more specifically your piece about shame-based language, really resonated with me. What has the response been at-large to The Anti Diet Project?

KM: When I put a post up, it always resonates with somebody. Even if it’s just a few people, then that’s really rewarding. The whole point of (this) is to put myself out there in an exposed, raw way. I try to put this through the lens of my own experience.


Kelsey Miller | Author of Big Girl, Senior Features Writer, Refinery29.com

HHA: Talking about struggles with food or your body is incredibly vulnerable; it’s one of the things I admire most about The Anti-Diet Project. When you began this journey, did you start it just for yourself?

KM: Yes, absolutely. It was two-part decision though. A – I really wanted to do this for myself, I had really hit a bottom. I also knew I couldn’t be the only one.  B – I also needed structure. That’s something that people love about diets; there’s structure and somebody to report to. Maybe it’s not the healthiest impulse, but I still felt like I needed that. I didn’t feel capable of standing on my own two feet alone. I really wanted to create a feeling of community and kinship. I’m just so thankful that people responded!

HHA: Right, because it totally could have gone the other way..

KM: I totally could have gotten, “You’re an idiot.” I get plenty of that, believe me.

HHA: Why would anyone say that to such a healthy idea?

KM: The culture is still very much in the other direction. You’re supposed to weigh a certain weight and you’re supposed to get there through a certain, specific method. They imply that if you’re not eating on a diet, you’re going to be eating junk. I was never a junk-food person.

HHA: Sometimes it’s hard to balance a hectic work schedule and a healthy lifestyle. You end up feeling like you can’t win.

KM: You can’t. I still really struggle with eating mindfully. It’s really a constant battle. Doing anything mindfully, especially while doing five other things at one time, feels almost impossible. When I’m more stressed, I definitely gravitate toward comfort food. It’s a little antithetical because I don’t restrict myself from that, but I do try and recognize what’s going on when I crave something really powerfully. Sometimes it’s PMS, but other times I could be going through a stressful period. That’s when I recognize, “Okay, something’s going on here.” It doesn’t make me bad for emotionally eating, but it’s a signal that something’s going on that needs to be addressed….The point of it is is NOT to feel like I MESSED UP. Beating yourself up is what perpetuates the cycle.

HHA: How big of a part does The Anti-Diet Project play in your life?

KM: It is my lifestyle. In the last two years, it’s been one of the biggest focuses of my life. What’s most interesting is that while I was going through this lifestyle change, I was also writing about it and then while I started writing about it, I started writing my book. It’s not always easy to balance the doing with the reflecting though. I don’t think anything is finished here. I had to change my mind about that; when you’re on a diet, you get to finish. This really is the journey.

HHA: Have you seen a change in your world upon taking on this mentality? Has this affected your friends and family?

KM: Oh yea, but everyone does their own thing, which is why I try to not be too preachy. While I think everyone should just learn to eat what’s right for their body, many people just want to try something else. I was judgmental about that for a long time because I was burned by dieting and it led me down a really dangerous path.

HHA: We are surrounded by skinny-culture in the fashion industry. Does working in an editorial (fashion) environment create a struggle for you?

KM: People here know my deal. They get it. I’m kind of the go-to person when it comes to body-positive fashion. Sometimes people come by my desk and tell me, “I wanted a burger, and I got one and I wanted to let you know.” And I think that’s awesome. R29 covers fashion in a really innovative way; I’ve really admired the way we’ve covered fashion in that we don’t just defend everything that fashion does. We talk about the ups and downs of the industry.

HHA: This last year, curves were a big deal in pop culture. It almost seems that the mentality swung the other way, like that everyone should have curves and a booty. What’s your take on this?

KM: Just another thing that we’re supposed to have, but we don’t. It just makes it harder for women! It’s a little counter corrective, but we need more average sized bodies. Skinny-shaming still isn’t okay. I don’t subscribe to the idea that there’s a “Real Woman”, like that “real woman” have this or that. I struggle with that too. Early on, I wrote about super-skinny models. But I shouldn’t have been judging them saying that so and so has an eating disorder. You can’t see health in a picture and wagging a finger like that, doesn’t help anyone.

HHA: Every time I meet someone who truly LOVES themselves, I’m totally blown away. It’s so hard to openly, genuinely love yourself. KM: And this is where the trollers and the haters come in. People don’t like to see somebody who is confident in their body and open about it. People want to see our shame and our self-deprecation. When you put yourself out there in a loving way, it’s always going to get under someone’s skin. That’s because of their own insecurities.

HHA: How do you deal with that?

KM: I’m an open door. I read everything. I went through a phase where I also responded to everything and that was my fighting instinct. But then I had to really think about the person that I want to be; I don’t want to be the kind of person who engages with that. I don’t need those messages in my mind and I don’t need to validate that. When it comes to the jerks, I try and recognize that a lot of times there’s big pain behind the mean words. It’s a goal, I don’t always achieve it. But really, that talk also gets boring. That’s compassion, you guys. And wish you could have seen the look in her eyes as she told this to me. True grace and true love of people in this girl. She takes “being mindful” to a whole new level. Thanks again, Kelsey. Keep following Kelsey & The Anti-Diet Project; be sure to pick up her book Big Girl when it drops in January. Do books drop? Not sure.

Here I am loving life whilst chatting with Ms. Kelsey Miller of Refinery29.com

Loving life whilst chatting with Ms. Kelsey Miller of Refinery29.com

I’m not sure that I’ll know what to do with this blog after this post goes live today because for as long as I’ve been building this site, I’ve been thinking and praying about writing this piece. Typically food/weight/body issues can be filed under the VANITY category, but hear me when I say that rarely are these issues stemming solely from a need to be the prettiest. Often times, self-hate and body issues deal with not feeling like ENOUGH; emotions are tightly woven into a tricky web of confidence and performance issues. If you’re truly struggling with a problem, reach out to a friend or click here for more direction and guidance.


– H

All photos courtesy of Kelsey Miller, taken by Harry Tanielyan.

Real Talk

Let’s Begin

W E L C O M E to my new Z O N E.

You came! You made it! I made it. It’s been a little bit of a journey to get here and I have that weird feeling of tentative success that one might feel when hanging the first picture up in an otherwise empty apartment wall. This could look terrible or amazing, but it’s honestly too soon to tell.

I decided that it was time to launch a new space for myself largely for selfish reasons. I want a space that reflects me and hopefully acts as a little emotional vehicle for me to ride around in while this weird, weird time called my mid-twenties is happening. This is my house, my space; we are gonna get honest and thoughtful and hilarious up here.

For me, writing (and blogging) has been such a satisfying way to navigate life, share what clothing and trends I’m completely in love with (or scared of – that means you, crop tops!) and enlighten others about the wide world of fashion. This industry has a way of transforming lives and totally shaping the way a person views the world. If you’re in the industry – you either fully accept this (moi) or are totally oblivious to this bubble in which you reside. If you’re NOT in the industry, you  most likely think we’re all crazy to consider investing a small fortune on bags/shoes/denim and simultaneously have no idea what we do on a daily basis.*

*This part is dedicated to my mom. I know she has no idea what I do for a job.

I won’t be alone in this enlightenment process either. THIS IS WHAT I AM MOST EXCITED ABOUT. Each month, I’ll be grabbing coffee with a comrade in the fashion or entertainment industry to learn more about what their little slice of pop culture contribution looks like. I can not give you internet coffee, but I will definitely be reporting on the conversations had at said coffee meetings. Wait til next week – you’re going to LOVE my first guest interview, seriously, it’s gonna be good. smp (111 of 121)

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#BYOC (Bring Your Own Coffee)

So that’s the rundown. New space. New outfits. New chats. All this and more peppered in with tales of the city and how I constantly manage to inappropriately over or under think normal situations.

Really, really excited you’re here. Cheers.


Key Pieces // Top + Bottom – Fashion Pills | Shoes: The Kooples | Jewelry: Anthropologie, JCrew X BaubleBar

All photos taken by the amazing Julia Hembree.