Reflections / by Emily O'Brien

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This is the raw and unfiltered story of The Emily Look. Over the years, I have learned how to tell this story in essays, over small talk at events, and in 30 second pitches. However, I have never been able to reveal the entire thing. So, here we go.


 

It was 6:49 am on that bitter cold October morning my freshman year. I remember this vividly because my bus came at 6:48 every morning and  I routinely got on, sat down all by myself in a two seater and listened to Lorde on full blast. I looked out the window, kind of dramatically, and thought, how the f*** am I going to do this for another four years? At that point in the school year, I felt kind of lost. I didn’t really have any friends in my classes, I was not part of any clubs, and I felt absolutely no motivation to do anything. The thought of college was so distant that I kind of disconnected myself from my school work. The only thing that got me up in the morning was the thought of picking out my outfit for the day. Stupid, right? That's what I thought.

Fast forward to February. I made a couple new friends besides the friends I had had since middle school and I started getting a reputation because I had yet to, for lack of better terms, “dress down.” I don’t know why, but I told myself I would never wear a sweatshirt or sweatpants to school that year. Ironically, I met one of my closest friends by doing this. 

 

 

 

My mom and I were sitting downstairs watching a reality tv show of a blogger one day and my mom, out of the blue, asked me if I had ever considered making my own blog. Honestly, I had. I just didn’t know how. Or if it would be worth it. I mean, how could a 14 year-old possibly know anything about fashion? All I did was pull inspiration from Tumblr and magazines. Also, I didn’t really follow any rules. I would dress bohemian one day. Preppy the other day. By the end of the week, I found myself wearing ripped jeans and an edgy jacket. I just kind of wore what I wanted to wear.

 

However, I became nearly obsessed with the idea of my own blog. I started thinking of names. My mom loved the idea of either Plain Emily Jane or The Emily Look. However, someone had already owned the domain Plain Emily Jane, so we went with The Emily Look. I doodled logos in my notebooks at school and made lists of places I wanted to shoot at. For the first time, I was motivated to do something other than just going to school. I was feeling so inspired, but this was all still in my head. I was kind of scared to share it with someone.

 

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A couple weeks later though, I finally did. We were sitting in her room and I told her everything. The blog, the name, the website I had just put together. All I needed was someone to help me shoot the photos. She agreed to help me and about three weeks later, I found myself sitting in a Starbucks editing all the content we had just shot. I was about to hit publish on the first post when, for the first time, I felt alive. Everything was kind of just happening, I was doing something, and I had no rules to follow. That night when I announced the launch of The Emily Look on Instagram, I got an overwhelming amount of positive feedback from my friends, family, and peers.

 

 

You see, at this time, fashion blogs and fashion photography were just becoming relevant. Teenagers were not spending their free time running around in a field with a maxi dress on taking pictures nor going to New York City to shoot on rooftops. Looking back, I was so clueless as to what I was doing. I just loved getting inspiration from the internet and then recreating the looks back here in Freehold. I was able to take all my imaginations and make them a reality.

 

 

 

However, even before I had started the blog, my parents and I decided that I would transfer schools sophomore year. It was bittersweet. Everyone at my school accepted The Emily Look and supported me. It was scary going to a new school where no one knew what I was doing or who I was. My plan was to continue shooting with my friends back home but I was not really going to talk about it at my new school. I deleted a lot of the photos from my Instagram just so no one would ask me about it, either.

 However, doing this, I was kind of running away from who I was. The Emily Look was essentially about accepting your true self and your unique look. I felt really lost come November as I was trying to juggle fitting in and standing out. I remember the first photo I decided to post that kind of revealed this secondary life I had and I got such positive feedback again. Yes, I had to put with some ****oles in the hallway, but I found that I was much happier being open than shutting myself off from the rest of my school.

 

 

With high school, there will boys and then there will be heartbreak. Yes, The Emily Look was becoming successful. I started to get  paid to post photos and I worked with a couple start ups to both further my success and help out a new company. It was a perfect harmony between fashion and business. Yet, I felt like I lacked this same harmony when it came to guys. All my friends started getting into serious relationships while I was just bored with half the guys I talked to. Instead, I found myself working harder on the blog. I started to travel more and I started to shoot my friends who were models. I told myself, I would rather be doing this instead of wasting my time, you know?

 

And then, I fell in love. No, not with a guy, but with New York City. I don’t really remember when I did, but all of a sudden, I found myself going there every chance I could get. I realized that this is where I wanted to go for school, so I spent the first half of my junior year devoted to the SATS. I ended up getting a better score than I had planned and I was ecstatic. I then pushed myself to not only take more chances with the fashion part of the blog, but also with the business side.

 

 

I ended up moving to the city that summer and attending a business program. These, by far, were the best two weeks of my life. I met such incredible human beings from all over the country and the world. I had an amazing professor who not only pushed us as business students but as women. 

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I realized that The Emily Look could be bigger. Better. I could use this platform to have a voice.

 

It’s funny. I think I made my best friends from high school my senior year. Sometimes, I wish they would have been there with me the entire time. However, I realized that it was important that I was who I was when we met because I knew what it was like to not have them in my life.

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I was almost in the city once a week at this point in my life. I started to shoot with actual photographers and for the first time, I felt completely independent from my parents. I would go into the city without them. I would go out of state without them, too. The Emily Look had become a platform for young and ambitious individuals to capture the beautiful and to create the impossible.

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I experienced A LOT of rejection my senior year. However, I used this to push myself to do better. Sometimes, I pushed myself past my limits, though. I learned how to take a step back and enjoy life, appreciate the amazing people in my life and forgive those who had hurt me over the past couple of years.

You see, I have absolutely no idea what I would be doing right now if I didn’t have The Emily Look. I thank the universe every day for that Sunday morning my mom pushed me to create the blog. I thank the universe every day for my friends who have helped me, who have supported me, and who have been my adventure buddies. I thank the universe for showing me what it’s like to be uncomfortable with your true self and for helping me to overcome that obstacle. 

 

I believe things happen for a reason. I owe the blog some credit because I currently have two internships doing exactly what I love and I will be going off to business school in the city this fall.

I love everyone who has been apart of this journey. I can’t wait to see what's to come!

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XOXO,