Dulce Candy

I’ve talked about Youtube a little bit on this blog before (check out my post on Sorted Food), but I haven’t really gone into why I love it so much. I think it’s an incredible platform that’s taken its time coming into the mainstream (in fact, many would say it’s still not quite there), but has somehow, quietly, become one of most powerful messaging services in our world today. Youtubers, at their best, are real people who talk directly to real people. They show who they are, share their interests, and get conversations going.

A prime example of this is Dulce Candy Ruiz. She started on Youtube as “DulceCandy87” in 2008, fresh out of a military tour in Iraq. She was one of the first of a large population of Youtubers known as “beauty gurus”, sharing tips and tutorials on how to apply makeup, do hairstyles, and put together outfits.

Dulce Candy Ruiz

Dulce Candy Ruiz

When I first discovered her, I was fascinated by the tutorials she and other girls were putting up. I learned so much about makeup just from watching them. As time passed, I felt like I got to know them better, and in my loneliest hours in college, I came to rely on their videos almost as friends. This sounds sad, but I think it’s actually a positive thing that has helped millions of viewers over the past 8-10 years. When I was at my lowest, I was able to watch people who were working hard every day to make their dreams come true and, slowly but surely, their dreams were actually coming true.

Dulce’s newest video: The Evolution of Dulce Candy | The Sweet Life

Dulce's note in my copy of

Dulce’s note in my copy of “The Sweet Life”

Yesterday I got the opportunity to meet Dulce at the launch of her first book, The Sweet Life, at the Youtube Space NYC.

The set-up for the Youtube livestream, before it began

The set-up for the Youtube livestream, before it began

“The Sweet Life” by Dulce Candy Ruiz (yes that is her real name!)

It was incredible. It really only struck me how long I’ve been watching her when I was there. I realized that I hardly watch her videos for make up tips anymore. Instead, my viewing interests have shifted to decor, filmmaking, and vlogs. However, I’ve continued to avidly follow Dulce because, as I mentioned to her, even as her filming, presentation, and editing quality has improved drastically with time, she still comes across as completely genuine. In fact, I think in some ways she seems more real now than she did 7 years ago. She speaks honestly about her failures and mistakes and explains how she had to change her mindset to overcome the roadblocks she put in her own way. It’s a powerful message for anyone, but I think it speaks to me especially because the biggest obstacle in my life is my tendency to internalize and overanalyze doubts other people have about me. Fear is a hard thing to overcome, but Dulce is an example of someone who has worked toward overcoming it little by little, year after year, (and continues to do so) to amazing success. One of the things she said was that “you can really achieve anything you want to achieve”, which sounds like a cliché, but when I look at the trajectory of her life and think about how she got to where she is today, it’s clear that there was nothing really involved besides her hard and continuous work.

During the livestream, I got to ask Dulce what advice she would give to creative people in terms of focusing their passions. She responded that it's important to know and do what you enjoy and just keep working on improving that.

During the livestream, I got to ask Dulce what advice she would give to creative people in terms of focusing their passions. She responded that it’s important to know and do what you enjoy and just keep working on improving that.

Dulce watches

Dulce watches “The Evolution of Dulce Candy”

One of the things I love about Dulce’s book tour is that she’s paired it with a sort of “good will” mission. At each book tour stop, she’s working with a local organization to do a bit of good in the area. For example, in New York, she had an event working with kids through the Police Athletic League on Monday. (I wanted to go but had to travel for business!) Her comment on it was, “I feel like if God blesses you with something, he does it for you to give back to people.”

Another bit of thoughtfulness – providing a delicious dinner from Los Tacos No. 1! (Not pictured: an on-theme

Another bit of thoughtfulness – providing a delicious dinner from Los Tacos No. 1! (Not pictured: an on-theme “Dulce de Leche Martini”)

A sweet treat – see what I did there? ;-)

A sweet treat – see what I did there? 😉

The event sponsor, Shea Moisture, sent everyone home with a goodie bag of their Fruit Fusion Coconut Water shampoo, conditioner, and body scrub

The event sponsor, Shea Moisture, sent everyone home with a goodie bag of their Fruit Fusion Coconut Water shampoo, conditioner, and body scrub

When I got to speak to her for a few minutes, I told her how much I appreciated how real she is in her videos. I mentioned this blog and she immediately looked up from signing my book and said “oh wow! What was the inspiration for that?” I told her that a lot of it was about the things she’d talked about – overcoming fear – which in my case was connecting with new people and sharing my writing with others. She told me she’d read and follow when I sent her the link which was unexpected but so sweet. When I mentioned my blog, she could have just given the obligatory “oh send me a link” response, but instead she paused to have an actual conversation about it. That was pretty cool.

It's a very cool thing to get to talk to someone you've followed and admired for so long

It’s a very cool thing to get to talk to someone you’ve followed and admired for so long

Dulce speaks to another viewer, and a new friend I made, Liliana :)

Dulce speaks to another viewer, and a new friend I made, Liliana 🙂

I’ve started reading The Sweet Life now and it will most likely be my next “Books I Read” post (even before Go Set a Watchman) because I’m zooming through it.

Do you watch Youtube? Have you gotten a chance to meet someone you truly admire? What was that experience like for you? Let me know in the comments below! 🙂

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Hillary Clinton

It’s taken me a few days to figure out what I want to say in this post. All week, when my friends have asked me what it was like to see Hillary Clinton, I’ve told them it was “amazing”. In fact, I even posted this Instagram picture and caption:

And seeing Secretary Clinton was amazing – in that it was very cool to see a woman whom I’ve admired and supported for so long in the flesh. It was awe-inspiring to be in the presence of someone who has traveled so much and represented the U.S. on such a massive scale, who has weathered a world of scandal thanks to her husband and come out on top, and who, somehow, still managed to seem like someone’s wonderful grandma.

But in terms of an event, or a chance to get to know your candidate, it was disappointing. The event was three hours long but Hillary was on stage fore barely half an hour of it. Most of the time it felt like we were at a strange concert where DJ Cassidy was playing great music but most people felt too awkward to really dance. Olivia Wilde came out to introduce Hillary, which was awesome in theory (House, M.D. is my all-time favorite show), but again felt stunted and “campaign-y” – she could have been acting out a role.

Olivia Wilde (aka Thirteen) introduces Mrs. Clinton

When Hillary finally came out, I did love everything she had to say. She talked about issues that are very much in the national spotlight, but also highlighted issues that aren’t talked about enough. That’s what I liked about her in the last run for presidency too – she doesn’t only speak about the “hot-ticket” items. She talked about having universal pre-kindergarten, which would make a such a long-term difference in the development of this country and its people. She spoke about how excited she was to meet her granddaughter, Charlotte, but she felt that, “you should not have to be the granddaughter of a former president or a former secretary to have opportunities.” She talked about the need for mental health issues to fall into the realm of open dialogue – for the crazy healthcare system surrounding it to be cleaned up and simplified, and for the stigma to be wiped away. She spoke about how people often feel embarrassed asking for help so she said,  “So during this campaign I’m going to talk about substance abuse. I’m going to talk about mental health.” She spoke about how this country is built upon basic bargains – like if you work hard you’ll have opportunities. The themes of the Clinton Global Initiative (making long-term commitments) and her own book/phrase (“It Takes a Village“) rang through her message without her overtly mentioning them. “At the end of the day, what really matters is how we treat each other. I’m going to try to remember that, I want you to remember that.” That was my favorite thing she said, because it’s such a simple a true message, and not the kind of thing you’d necessarily expect to be the message of a campaign speech today.

So if Hillary was so great, why was I disappointed?

“…and God Bless the United States!”

It’s because as much as I wanted to hear and did agree with Hillary’s campaign platforms, I didn’t want to just see “campaign Hillary”. Attending the event felt like I went to a sad concert and then watched Hillary Clinton give a speech on TV. I had thought that for $100, on the night of the first fiscal deadline, I would get at least a longer speech from her, or at least more speeches from her supporters. Everyone who spoke kept mentioning that Zach Braff and Uzo Aduba were in the audience – why didn’t they speak themselves? Why didn’t we hear more from the volunteers who work in her campaign headquarters, especially given that it’s based in New York?

I understand that in today’s world, political advisors (and politicians themselves, in turn) are extremely wary of doing anything where they can’t control the outcome. Any situation can be spun. But what I feel like they (and a lot of people trying to use today’s instant, Internet-driven culture to their advantage) fail to understand is that its authenticity and honesty that works. An example from the fashion/beauty world – sure those air-brushed models get a lot of admirers, but look at how the untouched, un-photoshopped pictures that occasionally come out are celebrated!

This is not to say that Secretary Clinton came off at all as artificial. Just… tailored. I kept feeling like there was so much more she could have said on any given point and so many questions the audience could have asked her that would go deeper than any interview she’ll give in the coming months. Now I’m not sure if this blog post will ever reach the right eyes or if the political pundit behind those eyes would even care, but here is my challenge to Secretary Clinton and to all the candidates running for office in 2016:

Give the people a chance to actually talk to their candidates. Let them interact. Let them ask questions. The beauty of today’s world is that the lay person has the ability to talk to anybody in the world, regardless of whether they are famous or powerful. People love that. Take advantage of that. I realize it’s scary – what if someone asks a question you don’t have a perfectly scripted answer for? What if someone says something awkward or embarrassing? It’s the world of the internet – every video clip lasts forever! But you’re running to be the leader of a great nation. You’re running to represent this country on a global scale and you will (and have) faced unexpected questions from world leaders and swarthy media-people – much more intimidating, I would think, than your average constituent. I’m sure any question I could ask you would be easier than what Brianna Keilar will present you with tomorrow. Don’t just talk to the people, speak with them. Have real conversations, in person. Don’t try to play the internet game – just be real and the internet will automatically love you for it.

Readers, please let me know what you think in the comments below. If you agree and would like this election to be about real dialogue and not just constructed sound-bites, please share this post on your own social media and with the candidates you want to have dialogue with. I think it applies no matter what your political leaning. Thanks!

Sorted Food

This past Sunday, Sorted Food, one of the most popular cooking channels on Youtube, hosted a meet up in Central Park. It was a grand conclusion to their #LostAndHungry tour across the US and was done in the typical Sorted fashion – lots of British banter, lots food talk, and lots of real, engaged interaction with viewers.

Me with the iconic Sorted mini-fridge!

Me with the iconic Sorted mini-fridge!

The day was supposed to start around 10 am, but Ben, Barry, Jamie, and Mike arrived around 9:30 to a handful of viewers. I was glad that I’d gotten there early too because it meant that I was able to have a conversation with Ben about their journey through the US. Ben is the actual trained chef of the group, so it was also cool to talk to him about things like a great dish versus a great dining meal and how your experience of food is so predicated on things that surround it – whether you cooked the meal or bought it, who your company is, what setting you’re in, etc.

Me with Ben Ebbrell, the chef behind Sorted Food

Me with Ben Ebbrell, the chef behind Sorted Food

“If you asked me what my favorite dishes on this trip were, I could probably list five, but if you asked me what my favorite dining experiences were I could probably also list five, but they would be an entirely different list than the first set.”

At 10 am, the guys gave (and filmed) an intro for the crowd, which had now swelled to probably about 80. We all split off into four groups (one with each member of the Sorted team) and we went off on an adventure to find food. I was in Mike’s team, and our task was to find something sweet. We were in my neck of the woods on the Upper East Side, so I immediately thought of taking the group to “O Merveilleux“, a darling little French café and pastry shop where Proma and I often like to go to work during the day. As we walked, I got to meet some of the other attendees. One lady was visiting with her husband and daughter from San Francisco and happened to be in town for the meet-up. She told me she had grown up in France and taught me the correct way to pronounce merveilleux (Proma and I always just call it “the bakery”) and recommended a pastry called chouquette from Maison Kayser. As the day went on, I also got to talk to other viewers and find out about their favorite food spots in the city. One viewer, Emily Tan, is a food photographer and gave me tips on using my new DSLR. It was cool to meet people over this random shared interest that we had all come to independently.

Once we got to our destination, Mike bought us all some macarons and gingerbread cookies to share.

Mike examining the fare at O Merveilleux

Mike and some viewers examining the fare at O Merveilleux

Mike and I showing of the macarons

Mike and I showing off the macarons

As the day went on, we went to more local spots including Two Little Red Hens (where we sampled a divine Brooklyn Blackout Cake), Orwasher’s Bakery (where we admired their display of freshly baked breads), and Maison Kayser (where I finally got to try the delicious little chouquettes).

Beautiful, mouth-watering pastries at Maison Kayser

Beautiful, mouth-watering pastries at Maison Kayser

We also stopped by Cascabel Taqueria for my favorite spicy guacamole and tostada to balance out all the sweetness and went downtown to check out the Pride parade that was happening that day.

We were only at the Pride parade briefly, but we spotted Lea DeLaria from Orange is the New Black

We were only at the Pride parade briefly, but we spotted Lea DeLaria from Orange is the New Black

Along the way, I got to talk to Mike about his experiences in the US. He talked about driving through the western part of the country and trying a proper Louisiana crawfish boil in a viewer’s home (see the video). He told me he used to be a school music and drama teacher. He said he missed a traditional British breakfast, so I recommended Jones Wood Foundry for their bangers and mash. He was planning on visiting Boston on his own after NYC so I told him to go to Quincy Market and have a real clam chowder. (The guys had tried it in San Francisco, which, to a Boston girl, really doesn’t count.) It was very cool to be able to have real conversations over a few hours with Mike, instead of just a quick hi, hug, and a selfie like I imagine most meet-and-greets are. (I’ll try to post about my experience meeting Marcus Butler soon.)

With Barry and Jamie at the end of the day

With Barry and Jamie at the end of the day

It was incredible to me how friendly and easy to talk to all the guys were. I feel like if I were in their shoes, I might be nervous about meeting and having to interact with so many unknown people at once. When I stepped back, it was odd but awesome to have someone who I essentially think of as a ‘celebrity’ I watch on a show interacting with me, in ‘my space’, just because I brought him there, like it was normal. In the moment, though, it felt completely natural. I guess that’s the magic of the Sorted mission though. It’s just good people coming together over good food. What does it matter if they know each other or not? Why can’t we just meet some strangers with a common interest and have a good time? It doesn’t and we can. Good people + good food = good time. Simple and delicious.

Proma, Radhika, and Rads

I came out of college feeling like I didn’t need any more friends. I’m not sure if that sounds conceited or tragic, but I felt that I had a few really good friends, and while I was happy to meet and hang out with other people, I didn’t need to keep searching for people to share everything with. I spent my first year and a half in New York operating under this plan. I met some great people but, for whatever reason, didn’t allow myself to get close to anyone new. Life tends to work in funny ways though, and last summer, I met Proma, Radhika, and Rads.

I have been dancing with Ajna Dance Company since I first moved to New York. Last summer, two new girls joined – Proma and Radhika. Proma, I had actually met when I was 16, through some childhood friends. I had always felt we would get along (largely based on shared obsessions with Harry Potter and dance). Radhika was bubbly and came over to learn the Ajna choreography. We met Rads through Proma and together, the four of us quickly became friends.

Proma & Radhika posing for me as we make our weekly connection through Grand Central Station on our way home from rehearsal.

What I love about our little ‘crew’ (we call ourselves “Uptown Funk” – sorry not sorry) is how easy it is. We’re different ages, but all mid-twenties, we have very different personalities, yet we tend to be on similar wavelengths, we have a variety of interests, but we all push each other creatively. (Writing about Jasmine and my psychic experience was largely thanks to their encouragement to keep writing.) Best of all, I know I can rely on them.

We’re in such constant communication that in some ways, the most difficult part of my trip to Chicago last week was not being able to unwind with them at the end of the day. (Naturally, I saw them as soon as I got back, hah.)

Rads taking a mirror selfie of us the night before I left for Chicago.

I realize that we sound like typical 20-something’s from NYC – all inside jokes, texting threads, and cutesy group names. But these girls encourage me more than any of my other friends ever have to chase my creative goals, and that makes them really special. Plus, I swear we’ve only all gone for mani-pedis together once. 🙂

I’m interested to know what other people’s experiences have been. Have you made an unexpected connection or a new friendship recently? Do you expect to or do you think you’ve already made your “lifelong friendships”? Let me know in the comments below!

The Retailers

I currently work as a product executive for a software company. If you’ve read some of my blog posts, you might understand that that’s a description I never thought I’d have. Our clients are major retailers, primarily in the grocery and pharmacy business. As a result, over the past year, I’ve met quite a few people who fit in a very select demographic – retail pricing analyst/manager – basically the guys who figure out how much to charge you for that banana you bought at the grocery store. It’s a complicated business, grocery retail – so much so that there are entire conventions dedicated to it. I’m at one such convention now. 

These “roadways” are where I’m spending most of my time this week. During the exhibition hours, the grey pathways are bustling with retail executives .

The floor feels like a marketplace and we’re the sellers with the stalls. It’s like a cross between my high school science fair and a street vegetable market in India. People are dignified and poised, but just under the skins of those crisp suits are eager salespeople. The retailers I’ve met have typically been in the business for a long time. They are mostly men, with some women, trying to coax their businesses into the modern world, shifting from paper and Excel spreadsheets to advanced analytics. They like sports metaphors and speak in regional accents. They’re hardworking, experienced, and savvy about their competition.
 

Our Booth at FMI: The other side to my dual-natured life

 
Sometimes, when I step back, I realize it’s an odd dynamic – I’m selling retailers a system that helps them decide prices for the groceries I will later buy from them. It’s a world that is all about numerical analysis and making profits. It reflects part of my nature, in that I’m interested in technology and small business, but it’s so very different from my creative, passionate-about-dance-and-writing side. The two don’t converge often, but on some occasions (like creating the materials for our booth or even writing this blog post) I get to use my creative skills at work. 

Me

Home is a funny concept. For most of my life, “home” was wherever my parents and brother were living. India was also referred to as “home”, especially by curious white Americans who wanted to know where I was “really from”. Now, home is starting to feel like New York City. (I try not to say this outright to my mother too often.)

Mummy in the hotel room: We are currently on a trip, and she is a familiar sight in an unfamiliar place

 
I knew relatively few people when I moved to NYC. It’s a place where my friends are truly just mine, and my apartment is just filled and decorated with my whimsies. None of it has been curated for me by family members or a school. I realize that for some people this is the exact opposite of “home”, but I’m really loving meeting new people with fresh thoughts – it just feels right. I have a wonderful little niché of friends (we call ourselves “Uptown Funk” – hah) and I like that I’m in a place where I can meet people from so many different walks of life. 

This blog was created because I want to take full advantage of that. I find that in life, and especially in a large city like NYC, it’s easy to get stuck in your own social bubble. I’m hoping that by keeping this blog, I’ll be more inspired to go out and explore the world, meet new people, and keep writing. In that vein, I’ve decided to take on the challenges of Blogging 101 and Photography 101 – a blog post and a photograph every day. I’m hoping it will get me back into the swing of writing for the public – and that it will help me create a little “home away from home” on the Internet. 

Are you taking part in Blogging 101 or Photography 101? If so, comment below and I’ll check out your posts! 

The Week of Celebrities

The week started out fairly normally. I had heard that the movie “How to be Single” was going to be filming 30 seconds from my apartment so I knew there was the vague chance of a celebrity sighting. I’ve seen a couple famous people in New York before, so although I was excited, I wasn’t freaking out. The only person I really cared about seeing in the HTBS cast was Rebel Wilson, but I figured the chance of it happening was slim since she’s Pitch Perfect 2 came out just last week and she might get mobbed. The filming was supposed to happen Monday morning but I was wrapped up in work all day and didn’t end up stepping out until 6 pm. Lo and behold, I walked out of my apartment and there was Rebel Wilson happily smiling and taking endless selfies with a mob of middle-schoolers. Just as I paused to consider trying to take a picture with her, she was called away by the film people. It was just perfect lucky timing that I saw her. 

The next day, when I was traveling on business and sure the high point of my week had passed, I got a message from my dance company’s director, Minila, about a special opportunity. We had been invited to NBC to dance with Nick Cannon for Red Nose Day. My mind was blown. Ajna has been offered some cool opportunities in the past, but this to me was a sign that people are really starting to take notice of us.

I flew back into the city on Wednesday evening and switched immediately into dance mode. We were at 30 Rock until late in the night, but when Nick finally came over and danced with us, it was exhilarating.

On Friday, my friends and I had made plans to go see “Hedwig and the Angry Inch” on Broadway. I’d been wanting to see this play since Neil Patrick Harris had starred in it but hadn’t yet gotten around to it. There have been a string of talented Hedwigs but when I saw a billboard advertising that Darren Criss is the current star, I knew I had to make the time. I’ve thought of Darren as immensely talented and down-to-earth for a long time – from watching him in “A Very Potter Musical” to clips from “Glee” all the way to his features in Tyler Oakley videos on YouTube. One of the friends that I had planned with, Proma, knew Darren from working with him on AVPM, and thought that we might be able to get in to see him. I wasn’t sure it would happen because her plans were uncertain until the last minute, and we didn’t know what kind of security Darren would be surrounded with. I should have known, though, after the week I was having, that it would all work out.
Darren was somehow even more down-to-earth than I’d expected. He was instantly thrilled to see Proma and very giving. He chatted with us about the show and the many moods of Hedwig (he called her “She” like it was someone he knew rather than a character he plays), and took us to his dressing room for a pictures. His wardrobe man and manager were also very friendly.

This week has been utterly surreal. In one week I encountered three celebrities in 3 completely unrelated events and in 3 very different ways. The first was basically a chance event – the kind of thing you’re told to expect, living in New York. The second was borne of the work my dance company has done over the past two and a half years. And the third was a result of making friends with some really talented and interesting people. All of it makes me love the City more than ever. And I find that the reason I’m thrilled has very little to do with celebrity. It’s really more that I know now that the things I’ve always wanted – surrounding myself with people leading interesting lives, achieving my creative goals, and living and interesting life myself are all things that are accessible.