How "Game of Thrones" Changed My Life.
As a child, my parents actively cultivated, and occasionally, demanded that my younger brother and I, embrace a natural sense of creativity and curiosity. If we weren't sitting through an extracurricular school lesson, the two of us were reading, drawing, sewing, writing or inventing our own childish games.
A former actress, my mother would paint copies of our favorite story book illustrations as birthday gifts, or would randomly pull us out of school early for special afternoon Broadway theater romps. She taught us to love history, to feel deeply and to appreciate, respect and celebrate the talents of all those in our lives. Most importantly though, it was through her encouragement and passion, that I matured into a person who has, and will always be, moved by the written word.
On the other hand, my father, an immigrant who had moved from Athens to the States at 19, made sure that the background music was always varied, sung in different languages and voices, with unusual melodies or classic instruments. Having mastered his struggle with the English language, my Dad actively practiced his French, Italian and Spanish, and every summer he'd take us abroad, blessing us with the opportunity and the knowledge that comes with travel.
Growing up in New York City was already, in it of itself, an adventure into a world where anything could be possible. And my liberal, bohemian parents, made sure that we not only understood that we were lucky, but also instilled a life long desire to learn, participate, create and imagine actions that were worthy of such an atmosphere.
While we were very much a middle class family, I never knew or saw my parents struggle financially, because every interaction, and every opportunity was rich with praise and encouragement. It didn't matter to them if we grew up and entered professions in which we didn't make large paychecks, so long as we did what we loved, and did it with dignity.
During my senior year of high school I took a college level art history course, one that involved spending large quantities of time in the Metropolitan Museum of Art. Walking the halls with my sketchpad and notebook, I'd look at some of the world's greatest paintings longly. My mind would wander and spring into action, as I'd pretend to go back in time and converse with Matisse, Van Gogh or Klimt.
However, my favorite portion of the museum, was and continues to be, the Greek wing. Much of this has do with the pride I have for my heritage, of that I'm sure, but its also the fact that many of the artifacts are so well preserved and so recognizable, even today. When the guards weren't looking, I'd let my fingertips brush against the marble, savoring the awe in knowing that my spirit had physically touched something that had been seen and admired by countless other human beings over centuries of time. What a mystery, and what a joy! At 17 years old, I felt invincible, convinced that someday I would create something that would move someone else just strongly.
Unfortunately for those of us with a consistent propensity towards daydreaming, our whimsical ideas and hopes aren't always realistic. Adulthood often brings on a slew of challenges that we can never foresee, and suddenly our youthful delights take a back seat to practical necessity.
After the Twin Towers Fell, depression drove me to drop out of college in exchange for full time work. Unfocused, I dragged my feet through each day, living in cramped apartments with noisy roommates, and microwavable dinners.
My only solace during those weeks, was the 45 minutes I spent immersing myself in an array of books on the commute to and from the office. Weekends were a touch more light hearted in the sense that I was young and could happily dance Fridays and Saturdays away with my girlfriends in dive bars on the Lower East Side. Like so many 20 somethings before me, I was in denial about my future. If it couldn't wait until tomorrow then it wasn't worth wasting the time on today. In retrospect, I now know that that was a very foolish way of being.
For much of my life I've argued with the feeling that I'm mediocre. While there's no shortage of courage and determination in my personality, I've actively battled through procrastination and loneliness. A typical Aquarius, I spend countless hours in my head, dreaming and inventing, and yet I've only ever managed to follow through with a quarter of my life plans. I tend to begin projects and then never finish them, a pattern I've always been ashamed of. For as long as I can remember I've fought with myself, hoping against hope, that God, or whatever deity is up there, would cut me break and lead me to some sort of greatness. The older I got, the more isolated I felt from my dreams of having a successful artistic craft, from leaving a mark. While my brother had graduated from The School of Visual Arts with a degree in fine art, all I'd done was exist. I never went back to college, because I could never decide what it was that I actually wanted to do, and while I loved learning and spending time around academic types, I was never prepared to commit. The feeling of being purposeless is dreadful and clung to my heels for many years.
Then, the skies parted, and just like that I was a mother; one of the most powerful and undervalued sort of inventors of them all. The night she was born, after all our family had left the hospital, I held Finoula in my arms, astounded. Here was my important contribution to the world. This tiny, perfect little face had humbled me and clearly was going to push me towards adult maturity, of which I was certainly lacking.
At the time of her birth, I was working for a group of investment bankers, a surprisingly pleasant gig that had practically fallen into my lap. Most of my requirements were that of receptionist, although I fell responsible for nearly all the communication coming in and out of the office. The loveliest aspect though was that there were vast lulls in business activity, allowing me extra time for reading books and writing pages and pages into my journal.
I recorded most of my pregnancy, and many of my favorite childhood memories and ponderings. I've always enjoyed writing, and for a time thought that maybe this was how I could best express my heart. Like everything else though, writing requires practice, and with my gorgeous new baby I had no time to spare. I couldn't bear being separated from her for more then a few hours, and when maternity leave was up, I decided to stay home permanently.
A few months into Finn's life, I fell into the heaviest depression I've ever known. Unable to keep on any sort of structured schedule, and with all of my friends and family still in school or working full time, I had no one to keep me company, save a tiny newborn. Having no stimulating outlets whatsoever, I'd nurse my daughter along to hours of mindless reality TV, proclaiming to myself that I was the worst sort of failure. My paranoia rose to such a point that I needed a professional perspective before successfully finding a way of "snapping out of it."
More then ever I felt the need to do something, to set some example for my daughter, to show her that I had a shine unique just to me. I'd committed myself to her life, so now I just needed to pick something and stick with it. After all, I was only 25.
Towards the end of 2009, I met Robbie; five years my junior, he'd travelled from Mexico City to pursue his dream of attending our famous New York Film Academy. A friend of a friend, Robbie had no other real acquaintances other then my family, and he quickly fell into the role of surrogate little brother. As he waited for the school semester to begin, he spent all his free time on my couch, and together we watched hundreds of films, documentaries and videos. We talked about books and music, photographed the city together and had long winded conversations about the wonderful future we wished upon my child. I loved his perspective, the way he prized beauty, whether it was a patch of street art or even just a hearty meal in a neighborhood restaurant.
It had been ages since I'd met anyone as focused and peculiar as him, and so, I hung onto every word and suggestion that he made with a renewed sense of creative fervor.
What did I want and how could I do it? All I knew for sure was that I enjoyed working with others, that I felt fulfilled when assisting them in some way, and that I missed creating any kind of art. Putting our heads together, Robbie pointed me towards Youtube, a website that was almost always up on my computer screen. I'd been a fan of the "Do It Yourself," videos for several years, but it never occurred to me that I could make any of my own.
Nervously I brought my cheap little flip camera into our front room, and filmed a very awkward review of some beauty products I'd recently tried and enjoyed. As I uploaded it onto Youtube, I wondered if I was too old do be doing so. I had no sense of lighting, sound or editing and my actual content left a lot to be desired.
Strangely enough though, the company who's products I discussed, liked my video and posted it to their blog. Delighted, I decided that "vlogging" just might be the hobby I'd been looking for while home with my small child.
Through some simple research online, I absorbed everything I could about my new interest, and my husband gave me a wonderful camera and tripod that Christmas. When it came time to decide what sort of subject matter I'd focus on, I picked hairstyling. This was practically a no brainer for me, as my hair is the only source of physical vanity that I possess, and because I can recall all sorts of memories according to whatever length my hair was during that time.
I've never been a "fashionable" woman - you won't see me in designer clothes, with labeled bags or shoes. My style has always been more eccentric, colored by my personal and literary heroines, and with simplicity and comfort being my primary concerns. While I'd gone through many instances of feeling "not good enough," this has always been one aspect of my personality with which I'm completely at ease. My only concern was that I'd never meet an audience as kooky as myself.
In the months that followed, I posted one video a week; inspiration was drawn from photographs in books, actresses in film and even women I'd meet on the street. Within a year I had a thousand followers and had genuinely befriended at least a handful of other female "hair tubers." A lot of them were mothers, or dog lovers, like myself, who'd come online looking for friendships and connections. These women folded me in their embrace, praising my amateurish hairstyling techniques, whilst offering me warm and constructive advice. Many of them had miles and miles of Rapunzel-esque hair, and their reasons for keeping it at such wild lengths, fascinated me. Some preferences included a need to express themselves apart from "modern" trends, while others kept it long in praise of God. A few were actresses or cosplayers, while others found a renewed sense of personal strength and femininity in their hair.
There were a few men that began to follow me too, all of whom lent me their support and male view point. Several of them wrote to me, commending the fact that I had created looks that they too could resort to. It seemed like many of them felt under represented in the world of hairdressing, a fact that I continue to do my best to take into consideration when planning out a style.
A year or two before the televised event, a friend of mine began to rave about a series of books called, "A Song of Ice and Fire." Like so many others my age, I'd grown up with the "Harry Potter" novels, which of course, had had a huge impact on my imagination and my childhood. I loved the idea of a continuing story, and was thrilled that the fantasy genre seemed to be reemerging in popular culture, and so I promptly spent the next few weeks devouring all of the published novels.
I knew nothing of George RR Martin before beginning the books, but as soon as I finished reading, I made it my business to follow every aspect of his career that I could. I quickly learned that he'd been writing the series since 1991, that he'd used historical events, such as the War of The Roses as inspiration and that he was notorious amongst his fans for taking years to write each installment.
I was entranced.
Unlike Lord of the Rings, or the King Arthur stories I'd fawned over as a teenager, the world of Westeros was an unpredictable place, in that "good" didn't necessarily trump "evil." My favorite characters weren't going to be safe, just because I wished it so. They'd only survive if they fought, if they schemed and if they trusted no one, and of course, none of that was up to me.
The entire story was a full blown free for all. I loved it, and somehow it seemed more practical then any other series I'd encountered. Sure, it was fantasy, but there was sense of realism interlaced between the dragons and magic that I hadn't ever seen before. Don't all of us deal with a Petyr Baelish at least once in our professional careers? And who hasn't dated an arrogant Jaime Lannister type?
But what truly impressed me, were the vast depths of Mr. Martin's mind and imagination. His worlds went back thousands of years and were filled with intricate and well thought out details. At any point during the books, I literally felt as though I'd been transported to another planet, complete with its own very solid history.
Sitting in Central Park, with a Feast For Crows in my hands, I began to wonder how any one person had such superhuman capabilities. I vowed that if I ever met the man I'd hug him tightly and tell him these books have changed so much of my self perception for the better.
There's a lot of ugliness, and violence, within the story, and even the most righteous of Mr. Martin's characters have some sort of deplorable flaw. And yet so much of the genius is in the mere fact that all of the characters possess something that makes them relatable. In Ned Stark I saw my desires to live up to my family's hopes and dreams of success, in Lord Varys it was hungry ambition and in Tyrion it was a yearning to been seen and acknowledged as an intellectual and deserving person.
The purity of Sansa reminded me of all the instances during which I couldn't see the agendas of others and in Arya it was her fearlessness and her irrefutable resilience. I could even identify with the villainess Cersei, in that I'd do any vile thing to maintain the health and happiness of my child.
Seeing myself in some of the more repugnant characters took me off guard and certainly gave me heaps to think about. Life is never black and white and people are never so simple that they are all good or all bad. How endlessly interesting that an author invented a fictional story that mimics much of that sentiment. Obviously, I'll never know for sure if that was Mr. Martin's intention, but thats certainly how I interpreted it.
With the books under my belt, I anxiously awaited the release of the miniseries on HBO, with growing anticipation. And when it finally aired I was overwhelmed with sheer scope and scale of the show. Everything was as I'd imagined in my mind, and where it was different, the show had made it better.
It was a few episodes into the first season when I began to copy some of the hairstyles in video tutorial form on my Youtube channel. I'd collaborated with another vlogger, Heather, and together we were the first two people on the internet, to publicly replicate and praise these beautiful styles. By season 2, the GOT audience and grown and caught on, and dozens of hairstyling perspectives could easily be found all over the online community. I love them all, but take secret pride in being first. I've come to think of my silly video recreations as my way of paying tribute to Mr. Martin and the many impressive female characters he's given me.
One of things I truly enjoy about the character visuals, is that every costume, every stitch of make up, and every hairstyle completely and totally reflects the personality and individuality of said character. For instance, we see Sansa's loyalties shift from Lannister to Tyrell, in the way she begins to wear her twists. Cersei starts the series by wearing her hair freely and loosely down her back, but as the story has gotten darker, her hair is now being wound up tightly (clearly a reflection that she fears loss of control, particularly where her siblings and children are concerned).
When Margaery walks into the Sept on her wedding day, with her hair piled in a tall mass of intricate curls, we immediately know who it is thats going to run the show where Joffrey is concerned. It is all so perfect!
As the television show progressed, I continued to copy as many hairstyles as I could. Scouring the internet for still shots and behind the scenes images became part of my daily routine during Game of Thrones seasons. And to my great astonishment, my Youtube audience steadily began to rise as it was becoming more and more and evident that I wasn't the only one who'd fallen in love with this complex story and her characters. Soon I was getting "requests" and dozens of emails in which I was asked for advice. Every compliment, conversation or ounce of praise humbled and motivated me to do more and try harder. I began to expand my channel and replicate other "fantasy hairstyles," and in the process, wonderful things happened to me; the stylists from both the Starz show The White Queen, and The Hobbit films, reached out, acknowledging me, and I was even interviewed by someone for the Spanish fashion magazine S Moda. My name appeared in the same sentence as Emilia Clarke's and it felt like I could finally die happy.
Four years after I'd first began to post videos, it dawned on me that I was truly happy doing what I was doing. I'd accidentally stumbled upon a real form of creativity by utilizing the only means I'd had available to me while I'd been home with my child. Better yet, I'd been afforded the opportunity to forge long lasting friendships around the globe, and had found a place within a community that had openly supported and embraced me. It was now clear to me though, that I'd reached the end of whatever learning curve I could get to on my own. Having once turned my nose up at the entire beauty industry, I'd come to discover that by helping others express the beauty they felt within, on their outsides, I could actively better the lives of those who entered into mine.
In September 2014, I realized my dreams and followed them into Aveda's New York City Institute. Unable to attend the day and weekend classes due to scheduling conflicts around my child, I chose to study with the night students, all of whom have become valuable members in a family away from home. My projected date of graduation is December 17th, 2015, a full fifteen months of dedication. At no point has any of this been easy for me, but for the first time in my life there's a light at the end of the tunnel, a plan that I've chosen for myself and a tangible dream that I can achieve. I have no idea where it will take me, although I do know that I've come a long way from that young, impressionable girl in the Met. While most of my creative contributions thus far have been based on the imaginations of others, I now know that this craft has been what I'd been looking for all along. I have a future that I can take pride in.
And so, my path was paved the very first day I walked into the world of Westeros, and for that, I will always be grateful to the talents of Mr. George RR. Martin.