Ashley Haines

Q&A

L+A: How did you make the decision to move to NY?

After I graduated from Arizona State, my previous editor from Global Grind asked me to come here and help during fashion week. It was unpaid, of course, but I saw it as a great opportunity and just decided to pack up all my stuff and make the move to New York.

I didn’t have a job while I was here, and my previous editor asked if I could help out part-time. It eventually turned into a full-time writing position, and then I wound up taking her position once she left the company.

L+A: How was your experience entering your professional career?

In editorial nothing is secure, there’s a lot of turnover, and people leave to other companies all the time. I was at Global Grind and I ended up getting laid off, so I had a major breakdown because I didn’t know what I was going to do. I would eventually wind up working for an e-commerce company that was based in Germany but was in the stages of opening up their first NY offices. I learned a lot and it taught me how to deal with people, but overall the experience wasn’t the best.

I then saw on Facebook that Hypebeast was looking for women editors, so I went and applied for that position. I went on a few interviews and knew that things were going really well, but I had a moment of “Is this what I really want to do anymore?” They didn’t offer me the position but they wanted me to do some of the writing samples, but I didn’t want to waste their time, so I wound up turning it down.

L+A: Wow, what a bold move and so thought out. What did you do next?

I really wanted to enter the marketing field, but it was really hard to make that transition because the majority of my career had solely been in editorial. So I emailed Hypebeast back and a week later, because I was still unemployed [laughs], the position was still open, and I ended up joining that team.

L+A: How was your experience working for Hypebeast?

When I joined the team, Hypebae was still about a month old. I was there for a year and a half and I got to help really build that site from the ground up. It was amazing and where I needed to be and where I wanted to be, even though I had my doubts in the beginning. But it was such a great opportunity. I got to work with all these brands that I loved and create content across editorial, social and video.

L+A: What led you to working for Diddy?

I was turning 25 and I kind of hit a creative wall; it was like my creative juices were running out. I decided to go on a vacation with a few friends to Puerto Rico for my birthday, just to get away and take a break because I've never allowed myself to do that before. On my way back from my trip, Combs Enterprises sent me an offer letter while I was sitting in the Uber home.

I was reading all of the paperwork and I was just like, "What the hell do I do?" It was a completely different opportunity than I ever had. I’ve never been part of an agency before and it was for a social media and digital content role. I knew I needed something different, and I called my dad and he said if I didn't try something new, I would always regret it.

L+A: How was it working at Combs Enterprises?

I was only there for six months and it was quite the learning experience. It was different than what I was used to, and I just wasn’t working for an agency, but I was also working for Diddy. I can honestly say I never hustled the way I hustled there. I learned that I could get shit done by any means necessary, which was basically the mentality. You were given a task and yeah, it was hard, but it pushed me to grow. The team was amazing, and we had the opportunity to work on amazing projects, like the GAP campaign with SZA.

While I was at Combs I was still connected to the fashion and sneaker world I was always a part of in my spare time. I ended up moderating a panel called “Straight to Feet” featuring women with different careers within the footwear industry but we all had one thing in common, a love of sneakers. That’s when I had my “aha” moment and realized that’s what I wanted to do. I wanted to work back in that space again.

L+A: Is that what led you to working for Foot Locker?

Yeah, I’m someone who champions mental health and I think working at Combs I wore myself down mentally, with all the work that I was doing. I wasn't taking care of myself the way I really should have been. I knew that I had to leave, but, I’m a perfectionist and a planner and the thought about walking away from a job was one of the hardest things ever. But, enough was enough and I put in my two weeks. Luckily I was already interviewing at Foot Locker, and about a week later I was offered a position in their corporate communications department. I’m still fresh in the company, but I’m so happy to be back in this world and I’m very excited for what’s next here.

L+A: As someone who advocates for mental health how do you deal with discouragement?

I always repeat to myself "not if, but when." I don’t want to be discouraged about what my peers are doing. My path is different from anyone else’s and what’s supposed to happen will happen.

And with social media being a big part of our lives, we’re only going to post what we want others to see. Everyone looks happy and successful when you're scrolling down your feed. Especially as someone working in social media, I was pretty aware of how manufactured things can be, so I made it a point to share things that weren’t always picture perfect.

L+A: Have you ever felt like you hit rock bottom?

I hit a couple of rock bottoms, like when I turned 25. I felt like I needed a new job, which terrified me, and I wound up cutting out toxic relationships and left shitty men in the past along with anything else that I felt didn't serve me anymore. I always want to keep going onward and upward, I’m not one to be complacent.

L+A: How do you deal or what do you do to help you with all these emotions?

I go to therapy. In January of 2013 my depression hit me really hard, and no one ever talked about mental health to me. I never opened up to anyone my friends because I was afraid they'd think I was being overdramatic, but I knew if i didn’t talk to someone, shit could get bad really fast.

I was actually in such a bad state that the first day of seeing my therapist, she made me go to the hospital and I was admitted for 5 days. Since then, I've tried out a couple of different therapists because you have to find one that works for you. When I moved to NY, I found one I've been seeing for a couple of years now, and there have been times where I can say she’s saved my life.

L+A: What’s the hardest thing you had to hear as a creative?

I think overall is the word “no.” Someone disagreeing with your ideas can always be tough, especially when you always try to be perfect or think you're right. I’ve learned to handle constructive criticism and consider other perspectives when I work.

L+A: Where did you find inspiration for your writing?

I ask myself, “What do I want to read?” When I first joined Hypebeast I wrote about depression in pop culture. It was when Kid Cudi was omitted to the hospital. I wanted to get a little more personal and push the envelope by exploring topics that, at the time, people were still uncomfortable talking about.

L+A: Have you dealt with any micro-aggression as a woman of color?

Yes, and I think it was more so during this passed election, especially as a woman and a black woman. Sometimes Non-People of Color mean well and they just don’t realize when they’re saying something that’s upsetting. The morning after, I was forced to think the effect the presidency would have on me not only as a woman, but a black woman, in a way that I've never had to before. A lot of people, especially men, just couldn't empathize with me because it's something they would never understand and wound up saying all of the wrong things as if my feelings were invalid.

L+A: How do you describe peace?

When I have a handle on my own mental health. I’m an anxious person, so peace to me means knowing how to assess what is happening with myself emotionally and being able to asses and deal with what I'm feeling in a healthy way. My most peaceful moment is always right after I leave a therapy session. There's something so relieving about being able to let go of everything on your mind and soul without fear of judgment.

L+A: Is there anything you want to accomplish before 2018?

I want to accomplish more of a work-life balance and continuing to help myself feel more whole. And I think this is actually the first time in my career I can see myself achieving that. I'm making it a point to be all about me, all 2018.

L+A: What's the best advice you've recieved from a woman?

There was a period when my depression was really, really bad and I didn't do anything for days besides lie in my bed and cry. My mom would say to me, "Love yourself first." It sounds so simple, but I really struggled with that. And now it's something I always try to remind myself of in every aspect of my life - whether its in love, work or whatever. Its forces me to make myslef my number one priority and not feel guilty or selfish about taking care of my needs instead of diminishing who I am or making myself smaller to please anyone else.

Photo Credit: Ashley Haines

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