"Lover": Amel Afzal
I met Amel, who I call "Amex," (an autocorrect nickname) at my first job in the city. I freaking love her. She is my go-to person for really everything: a question about the workplace, things to do in the city, advice on relationships, help on a project I want to do—you name it.
Amel is smart, beyond beautiful and one of those people that just has their shit together. I'm inspired by her boss attitude everyday.
I can not wait for you to meet her.
How does your background influence you?
It was awesome growing up experiencing so many different cultures! I feel super fortunate that I was exposed to it very early in life. The high school I went to in Sri Lanka - (The Overseas School of Colombo) will always be a super special place for me! Just in my home-room alone we had kids from roughly 12-15 different countries. All from various walks of life, and all with their unique perspectives. I think my background definitely affects my actions and how I view several situations. Its made me more open, more tolerant and more adaptable to change. On the flip side though, every few years I get this feeling like I have to get up and leave (lol) but as I get older I’m starting to realize that I actually like stability too.
What has been the challenge of being a TCK (Third Culture Kid) and how have you overcome it?
Small scale challenge: Answering the question, “Where are you from?” Hah! There is never a straightforward answer. I’m not necessarily patriotic about any place, I just feel like I have a piece of everywhere in me. I wonder what people would say if I replied “I’m from planet earth” Lol #TCKJokes
Large scale challenge: The distance has become harder as time goes on. It was amazing going to such an international school but the truth is people moved away all the time and loosing those friendships was difficult. Keeping in touch after graduation isn’t any easier! Example: I have 4 best friends from high school - one lives in the UK, one lives in Germany, one lives in Sri Lanka and the other in New Zealand! Do you know how hard it is to find a time to Skype with 5 different time zones?!?!
The hardest though is the fact that my parents live super far away from me. Its a 14-16 hour flight, not to mention expensive AF. I’m lucky because I get to see them 2 times a year but that’s not enough. I have two choices at this point, leave New York to be closer to them or become a major baller and fly out every other month. Lets see if I can get this baller show on the road.
Would you call NYC one of your “homes”?
For sure! Its crazy because this year in NYC will be the longest I’ve lived anywhere in my life!! Honestly in a lot of ways I’ve felt more at home in NY than any other place. The city is such an exhilarating place - people from everywhere in the world, so much richness and culture. Folks who are actually from NYC (born & bred) are literally prized possessions because it feels like every one is from somewhere else! This is one of the reasons I fell in love with the city. And back to the people of NY - everyone is out to achieve some kick ass goals, such hustlers, go getters - my surroundings really challenge me to be the best that I can be. I love it. I’ve made some of my best friends in this city and also met my now finance, (surprise he’s aborn & bred New Yorker lol) so even if I leave New York, it will always have a special place in my <3
What are you doing at Hearst?
I’m currently a senior art director/designer at Hearst. Hearst is a media conglomerate and owns a bunch of different companies. The divisions are broken down by entertainment, broadcast, business media, newspapers and magazines. I didn’t know this before but Hearst owns arms within places like ESPN, Complex, Vice, to name a few. They also have investments in places like Buzzfeed and Hootsuite. All this jazz makes it a super exciting place to work. One day I could be designing logos for a client trying to launch a marijuana website and the next I could be working on ad units to meet monthly profits. It really just depends on the day & projects. Disclaimer: Its not all fun. Either way, I used to be agency side at Publicis so it’s a cool change being client side. I’m enjoying being here so far.
Out side of Hearst, what are your side hustles?
Side hustles! I like that. I freelance outsideof my 9 to 5, graphics for friends companies, restaurants, smaller-scale (non corporate) clients that have a cool ideas and need some help visualizing it. Here and there I’ll consult for a bigger company but I prefer to spend my own time working for people trying to realize a dream or something more worthwhile. My freelance stuff is all about the person, the idea, and not about the pay check. Other than that I have a little venture of my own, Emra.
Tell me about EMRA and how it came to be?
When I would visit South Asia & The Middle East I would bring back stuff for friends & coworkers, little ornate traditional items that seemed to be very well liked. At some point it occurred to me that it would be fun to start a little online store featuring my favorite items. That’s how Emra started! Since then Emra has evolved quite a lot. My mom and I work directly with a few artisans and markets that provide us with hand made, custom work. Most of the items are 100% hand made using rigorous techniques that combine boho-contemporary design with traditional roots. Emra is constantly evolving and changing but will always be rooted in South Asian culture. I think its my personal way of staying connected to a part of me. At the moment I’m working on getting some South Asian beauty masks up on the website (Yes there will be turmeric). I haven’t dabbled in traditional beauty items yet so this will be fun. Stay tuned!
What are your non-negotiables even when you're crazy busy?
Hmm, I try to eat well even if I’m having an insane week. I have a tendency to get super hangry and can’t think straight let alone think creatively. I need to take my vitamins, have a shot of ACV – keep some-what of my regular routine in order to keep the wheels spinning. There are definitely weeks where I cant work-out as much so I'll get it in when I can and in the mean time try to be more active by taking the steps, stuff like that. Also, I have to call my mom for a chat, even if its real short.
What does an ideal weekday look like?
My ideal day consists of a morning workout 6am - 7am. Check my mail, my instaaa, eat a yummy breakfast. Then do my thing at work while listening to my podcasts, look for inspo, find a little time in the afternoon to work on my own stuff (shhh)…maybe squeeze in a matcha run @ Bibble w/ Emmie :P In the evening, seamless it up on the couch and watch a good show or grab dinner and a glass of wine in the neighborhood.
What are you most proud of?
When I first moved here I remember being very scared & intimidated by everything. Everyone was beautiful, intelligent, and had their shit together. Meanwhile I was lonely & struggling…my family was thousands of miles away, no friends, no contacts and pretty damn broke lol. I can be pretty hard on myself so I’m going to take this opportunity to say that I’m proud of sticking through it and believing in myself. I’m very happy where I am today, personal & professional * TOUCHES WOOD * so high five @AMELLLII.
What are you goals for the future?
Oh lawd! I don’t know. Lots of things I guess. I think the overarching goal is to be happy and healthy. Regardless of what I’m doing, where or who with – mental and physical well being is a practice that I take seriously and if by the end of it all if I would have lived a happy life, I'll be 100% good with that (OK Oprah…).
Short term, 5 years-ish (I’ll keep it max 5):
Keep creating creative ventures (Emra-esque fun stuff). Be doing work I’m proud of and ideally owning shares of a company I really believe in.
Some kind of a world trip where I take some months off and just travel. Julio and I have talked about doing this since the time we met 8 years ago so I think its about time.
Reach my physical prime by 30 because lets face it, it all goes downhill from there. LOL JOKES. No but some kind of ab-situation may be cool.
Give back more, so charity related work whether its volunteering, teaching etc.
Get a valid US drivers license. Lol I know.
Real Quick...Favorite places in NYC?
Oh, lots! Here are a few:
Sushi of Gari
Cha Cha Matcha
Dranks & Snacks
Death & Co
Mother of Pearl
The Happiest Hour
I told you!