FOOT IN THE DOOR #2: Olivia Zacharia

Lifestyle

Hello lovely readers!

Welcome back to the next instalment of ‘Foot in the Door’. Before we get going with today’s interview, I just wanted to take a mo to thank everyone for their kind words after the first FITD post went live. I was completely blown away by the positive response it received. You guys are the best.

Today’s guest is the outrageously talented Olivia Zacharia. I met Liv in 2016 through the University of Surrey’s Musical Theatre Society and we quickly became friends. She was a music student and I studied theatre (Avril Lavigne, Sk8r Boi style) but our common connection was the wonderful world of MT. Fast-forward four years and many creative projects later, Liv is truly thriving in post-uni life so I knew she would be the perfect person to chat to next.

I hope you enjoy!

Hello my lovely Liv! If you could just start off by introducing yourself in a couple of sentences that would be fab. Give us a little bit of background.

Sure! I’m Olivia. 22 years old. I’m a Musical Director [will be referred to as MD throughout] based in Kent and London. I studied Music at the University of Surrey. Currently, I’m a freelance MD, arranger, composer, all of that jazz…

Liv as Musical Director for the University of Surrey’s Musical Theatre Society’s 2019 production of ‘Bring It On: The Musical’

Oh, hello musical theatre pun. Had to sneak that one in there somewhere.

(Laughs) I know, I know.

So, what made you decide to pursue a Music degree?

Without meaning to sound really cliché, when I was 14/15, I knew I wanted to be a Musical Director which is kind of rare. It’s quite a niche job but because I went to a performing arts school, I was introduced to the role. My head was so focused on that that I knew I wanted to do my degree in Music and then go straight into it. It’s always been, ‘Liv the Musician’, that’s what you’re going to do, you know? So it was just always a thing.

Tell me a little bit more about how you discovered the MD role whilst at school.

Yeah, so I went to a performing arts school in Kent and we did a big show every year. They were doing Honk! [musical about the Ugly Duckling] when I was in Year 9/Year 10 and I was asked if I’d play the piano in the pit. I’ve always loved musicals but it was my first introduction into playing for a musical. Through that, I met the Musical Director who was actually a singing teacher at the school and I then became a rehearsal pianist. After that, I started to learn about Assistant MDing and gradually became aware of the MD role. So that was kind of my introduction to it. I just absolutely fell in love with the job.

How did you prepare for post-university life?

It’s hard with musical directing because you rarely see a job come up online. It’s very much about the network you have and who you know. I’ve always been very aware that that’s the situation. I spent most of my time at uni just trying to build up a network of people so that when I left, I felt really comfortable. If I didn’t have something planned, it would definitely feel like ‘what the hell am I doing?’. I just wanted to make sure I had a secure network. I sat in some pits in the West End and then I got the job at BYMT [Assistant Musical Director role] which I actually did find online…surprisingly (laughs).

You say it’s quite difficult to find music-related jobs online but if you were looking, where is the best place?

Genuinely, Twitter. I actually probably could relate every single piece of work I’ve had back to Twitter. More or less. Probably 90%.

That’s so interesting. I feel as if most people still don’t realise that Twitter can be utilised in terms of finding jobs and connecting with other creatives.

Yeah, absolutely! I remember being introduced to the #OVConnect which is actually where I found my agent. Loads of audition pianist jobs get put on Twitter because they’re usually needed quite last minute, if someone has dropped out. I’ve got a contract next year and I only got that because someone tagged me in a tweet. It’s crazy. Twitter is the one for me.

For the readers who might not know, could you briefly explain what #OVConnect is?

Yeah, sure. It stands for Old Vic Connect and it’s basically a hashtag that The Old Vic [theatre] set up to help new creatives meet each other. If you search the hashtag, it’s usually people saying “Hi I’m XXX and I do XXX. Look at my website here: XXX. Looking to connect with: XXX”. It’s a good way to put yourself out there as a new creative.

As a Theatre grad, I understand the importance of networking in order to secure jobs. How would you go about making those connections?

I mean, it is the sole way in. You’ve kind of gotta be a bit of a people person, which is hard. Everyone suffers with Imposter Syndrome when they’re networking but I think you just need to always say yes. The best way to connect is to find your favourite shows or people whose work you really like. Just message them and ask to go for a coffee. I think you need to make it clear that you’re interested in their work, not them getting you work. “I’m a new grad and I want a job from you,” tends to be less successful. The best way is honestly just emailing people, messaging them on social media seeing if they want to meet up.

Image taken by Eleanor Dickens

Is that how you managed to get some of your work in the West End pits?

Yeah! It was really weird. Here’s a little story-time…

My mum used to work in Sevenoaks and the auntie of the Associate Director of Matilda [the musical] used to shop in my mum’s shop all the time so they became really good friends. Through that connection, I managed to meet Lotte Wakeham and sit in at Sweet Charity at National Youth Music Theatre because she was directing it. I met two really cool MDs, Alex Aitken and Tom Deering and I remember Alex said to me “you should email MDs to get in the pit,” and I didn’t even know that was a thing. I had no idea that you could go to a West End pit. Especially at 15/16. I then messaged so many MDs and genuinely, they were all so lovely. They always responded. I sat in loads of pits and through that I got my name out there. I remember Nick Finlow, who is an absolute GOD MD, he is amazing. After I sat in with him, we kept in contact and he would let me play for him. It was just really lovely.

Say I’m a new Music grad and I want to message an MD to ask about sitting in the pit. What is the most appropriate way to do so?

I would avoid Instagram and Facebook because they’re very personal. That could come across quite unprofessional and also a little bit intrusive. If you’re going to message them on social media because that’s the only way you have to contact them, I think LinkedIn is very appropriate for that. Twitter, maybe. The best way is trying to find their email if you can. I know a lot of MDs put their CVs online so you can find them.

I’ve personally struggled finding direct email addresses for the creatives I’ve wanted to contact as many of them are represented by an agency. How would you approach that situation?

A lot of MDs I’ve emailed have actually been represented by someone so I’ve messaged their agent asking for them to pass the email on.

Do you think networking differs over email to in person? Is is easier to be a little braver over email?

Definitely.

When is the appropriate time, if you’re shadowing someone, to start up a conversation? It can sometimes feel like you’re interrupting them at work!

Normally, if you are shadowing someone they’ll take some time to chat to you and ask what you want to gain from the experience. Every single pit I’ve ever sat in, the MD has always been very accommodating. They’ll also usually introduce you to the whole pit. Sometimes you just kind of have to go for it and it’s really scary but you need to try and make that conversation with someone. I think it’s easier to do it in person, surprisingly, because you can read the situation a bit better. Just go for it! There’s no easy way.

Do you feel like it gets easier, the more you network?

You know what, with every credit that I get, I get a little bit more confident. Also, having an agent really does help because they sing your praises but if you haven’t got an agent, it’s still not the end of the world. You can still make those connections. With every job, it does get easier to sell yourself.

Definitely. Can you tell me a bit more about your work with BYMT (British Youth Music Theatre)?

Of course! So last year, I was offered the role of Assistant Musical Director on a new musical written by Clare Prenton and David Hewson called The Accidental Time Traveller. It’s based on a Scottish children’s book. It was a Christmas themed show which was crazy because we were doing it in August but we had two weeks to put it on. The first three days everyone was meeting each other, playing games, that kind of thing and then on the Wednesday, we cast the show through workshop auditions. It was just such a good experience, working with a team of professional creatives. I met some really lovely people on that show.

The Accidental Time Traveller poster taken from the BYMT website

It’s no secret that COVID has affected the theatre industry, which we won’t go into today – it’s a heavy topic! How are things generally with you? What have you got planned?

I did have a contract that was supposed to have been this year and obviously that was cancelled. It was Side Show. I think I can say that? Yeah, I think I can. But, it was the big West End revival and it would have been sick.

(*Literally fan-girling so hard*) OH MY GOD THAT IS INSANE!!!!

Yeah, so I had that and then coming up I have a contract next February which I can’t say anything about yet. Obviously I’m still looking for work at the moment just hoping something will come up. I have a BYMT show that has been postponed until next year so hopefully that will happen. Other than that, I’ve been focusing on the YouTube channel.

Yes! Tell me more about the YouTube covers. I still feel very privileged that I was in your first cover!

Essentially it all started because Jen [Paterson, a mutual friend] was looking for a new song for her portfolio and I was in the car…it’s really funny…I was in the car and This World Will Remember Us [song from the musical Bonnie & Clyde] came on. It was the first time I’d really heard it and I was like ‘Oh my god, it sounds just like Ben [Tomalin, another mutual friend] and Gee [me!] singing. I remember I text you saying “Jesus Christ, you literally sound like Laura Osnes!”

I remember receiving that text and thinking ‘is she DRUNK?!’ (laughs). [For the purpose of this interview, Liv is one of my most supportive friends and hypes me up more than anyone else I know. A real gem.]

I wasn’t drunk! So, I messaged Jen saying let’s do this song. Obviously, we then got you and Ben in and filmed it. The plan was always for it to go onto YouTube and for it to be the start of a series but we weren’t sure where exactly it would go. We posted it over ‘Lockdown’ and everyone loved it so much and a couple of weeks later we decided to try more covers.

I love it and I think it’s an amazing creative outlet for people to have during these wild times. Ok, so. Last question. If you could give one piece of advice to recent creative graduates, what would it be?

I think never ever turn down a job unless there is a huge reason why you can’t do it. You don’t know what it will lead to.

And that concludes this instalment of ‘Foot in the Door’. Thank you so much to Liv for giving up her time to chat with me about all of the unreal things she has achieved since graduating (and no doubt will continue to go on achieving). I will link all of Liv’s social media channels, including her YouTube chan with the INSANE covers that some of my other amazingly talented friends have featured on. Honestly, it’s a hard life.

As always, thanks so much for reading. I really hope this helped you gain an insight into another creative pathway that can be explored post-uni whilst busting some networking myths at the same time!

Until the next one,

Gee xxx

LIV’S SOCIALS:

INSTAGRAM: https://www.instagram.com/oliviazacharia/?hl=en

YOUTUBE: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCTGyi41JnaJdwx6KuF9FzhQ

Foot in the Door #1

Lifestyle

Hello lovely readers!

Welcome to a new and (more than slightly) exciting mini-series on the old blog.

As a Theatre graduate, I have found navigating the job-hunting-scene a pretty merciless task. A lack of funding in the arts and thus, opportunities, has created an extremely saturated market. Essentially, there are too many people applying for not enough jobs. If it wasn’t already tricky enough, throw in a global pandemic and countless redundancies. Dreamy.

Having spoken to many peers, alumni and professionals about the difficulties of the job-game, I was (9 times out of 10) met with this response:

“You’ve just got to get your foot in the door.”

Foot poking through the opening of my kitchen door, I quickly realised that to secure my dream job (or let’s be real, just ANY job) it would take a little more than dramatically entering all of the rooms in my house. This phrase has come to haunt me over the post-graduate months so I started to mull over what it really means and how I could achieve it. “Getting your foot in the door” is essentially an umbrella term for networking your arse off, sending countless ignored emails out and learning that every single person you meet has the potential to know someone who knows someone who is the HR manager for the company you’re applying to. This phrase is pretty useless unless you are able to discover HOW to get your foot in the door. We need REAL EXAMPLES PEOPLE! All of this in mind, I decided to start this little series where I will be chatting to a whole variety of graduates – all from creative backgrounds – asking how they got their “foot in the door”. Hopefully, these posts will enable you to put in place some practical steps to start climbing up the job ladder. Your gal is here to help.

My first guest is the lovely Brontë Thomasson. Brontë (or more affectionately known as Bran) and I both studied together at university and I lived with her in my final year. I wanted to interview Bran as my first guest as she has had lots of different experiences since graduating, both pre and post-Covid-outbreak. I really hope you enjoy reading our chat and that you leave this post feeling slightly more informed about Brontë’s journey in such a way that you can reflect on your own.

DRUMROLL PLEASE! Here we go:

Hello, Brontë!

Hi! This is so exciting.

Let’s start off with a little introduction. Tell the readers a bit about yourself. Who ARE you?

I’m Brontë. I’m 22 and I live in Brighton which is lovely. I’m currently doing some communication work for a non-profit in London as an Assistant which has been a really good experience. I also love food. I’ve really been getting into food blogging recently so may be looking to take that somewhere. We shall see. But in essence, I’m just a friendly, outgoing gal!

We love to see it! Did you go to university?

Yes! I studied Theatre and Performance.

What made you decide to choose Theatre as your area of study?

So, funnily enough I originally set out to study English Lit and Theatre. In my head, I thought I needed to do something more than just Theatre. I thought “ooo, if I add English into the mix it’ll make me more…what’s the word? Credible.”

Where do you think that thought originated from? That Theatre wasn’t a “credible” choice in its own right?

You know what? Answering that now, I actually have no idea. I think I just made it up in my head. My parents weren’t like “DON’T DO IT!” it was just me.

When you decided you were going to pursue Theatre, at that moment, did you have a certain career path in mind?

In the moment, that [Theatre] was what I wanted to do. It was my favourite subject at school, it’s what I did best in. I just loved it. Going into the degree, I had the classic “it would be great to be an actor” thought but to be honest, I had no clear direction.

Did you ever consider auditioning for drama school?

I did consider it but I really quickly put that to bed. It wasn’t for me.

As you progressed through university, did your career goal or vision change at all?

That’s a difficult one. I actually did think in my final year that theatre marketing would be cool which I did eventually try. But again, it was more that I wanted to see what happened once I’d finished.

How did you prepare for post-university life?

I think I kind of panicked and started applying for so many jobs. I remember the first job that I emailed about – I was in the middle of writing my disso at the time. But then, they replied saying “we’d need an immediate start” and that hadn’t occurred to me. For me, preparing was trying to get loads of applications out and keeping tabs on what was around. In terms of practicalities like housing or money, I honestly didn’t really have a plan.

I think that’s pretty normal! So, in terms of your job-hunting, how and where did you look for jobs?

I really got into looking at Arts Jobs. I’d been told that it was a great place for jobs in the arts. I think I started to get addicted to it! Maybe social media as well. I didn’t have any sense of LinkedIn or anything like that at this point. Luckily, the job that I did get when I graduated, I did find on Arts Jobs. So, I really do love it.

So Arts Jobs is the one! Love it. What did you / do you find the most difficult about applying for jobs?

Cover letters. Definitely the most difficult thing about applying for a job. One cover letter can sometimes take the whole day. Especially if you really want it. So, you can end up sending in a random one every now and then, hoping it makes sense. But that’s not good advice!

Do you have any tips for what makes a good cover letter from your experience?

Ooo, that’s a good question. So, what I’ve found, especially with the first job that I got, is really research the company and tailor the letter to how their values match up with your own.

I’ve found sometimes when applying for jobs, it can feel a little robotic if you are stating facts about the company to prove you have researched them. Surely, they will already know these things. How do you seamlessly weave in your research without it feeling forced?

I think using personal examples. Again, for my first job, the place where I worked really valued equality and inclusion and at the time, at uni, I was creating a piece surrounding racial inequality so I really wound that all together in the cover letter. This is what you believe in, this is what I’m doing right now and that is why we would be a great match.

How long did it take you to secure your first role post-uni?

I was very lucky in the sense that I already had a job lined up. I actually graduated mid-job.

Can you tell us a bit more about your first job? What sorts of things did you get up to?

So, I was a Marketing Assistant at Kiln Theatre in North London. I was helping with the day-to-day running of the social media accounts, designing artwork, marketing for their cinema and I did a really cool project called People of Kilburn where I interviewed local people and uploaded it onto the Instagram page. I loved it.

Brontë’s ‘PEOPLE OF KILBURN’ project

It’s probably worth mentioning that this was a fixed-term position as (whilst it was extended from 3 to 6 months) it wasn’t viable for the theatre to take on a permanent member of staff for the role. Post-Kiln, did you feel an advantage having experienced your first role as opposed to being new on the job-hunting scene?

If you’d asked me this pre-COVID, I would have said yes definitely. I actually got quite a few interviews after Kiln. Even if they weren’t related to what I’d done, companies were still interested in my experience. But now, I don’t really think it makes a difference. There are so many people applying for jobs. At the time, it helped a bit but now, no.

It’s no secret that COVID has devastated many industries, particularly the arts. Has this had any effect on you personally?

I have personally felt the effect. After Kiln, I started working in Influencer Marketing around March time. I literally had a week and a half in the office and then we all got sent to work from home. That was meant to be a six-month contract but because of COVID and finances and the changing of roles now that everyone was working from home, they didn’t really need my role anymore so I was let go two months earlier than planned. That kind of left me up in the air. If I’d seen the whole contract through, I would have only just finished now. I’ve been unemployed for two months.

How has this made you feel about the stability of the arts industry? Has it made you reconsider your chosen profession at all?

I think subconsciously I have moved away from looking at jobs in the arts. I’ve started looking at jobs that are more home-based or centred around social media. It feels even less safe than before applying for jobs in the arts because you don’t know if they’re going to let you go again.

So, what’s next for Brontë? You’re currently working a two-week placement role now. What are your plans for the future?

I want to take my time and really think about what I actually want to do. I’m really looking to take my food blog further. I’ve been having a lot of fun with that recently. If I do go back into the arts, I really want to be able to help people. I’d love to do community work. Even working for this charity for the past week has been a really humbling experience. But, who knows! I really can’t say a certain plan at this time.

What’s the name of the charity you’re working for?

It’s complicated but the full name is Daughters of Charity.

Last question! The big boy. What is your one, golden piece of advice for creative graduates trying to navigate the world of job-hunting?

Again, on a very practical note, make sure your CV is a good design. Make sure it stands out. Switch up the colours. Make it fancy. Only one page of A4!

And there we have it! The first instalment of ‘Foot in the Door’ is finito. If you made it this far, congrats. I’d love to thank my gorgeous Bran for agreeing to be the guinea pig as my first interviewee! I really hope you enjoyed learning about her post-uni journey. Please check out her socials:

INSTAGRAM: @bronteisa & @brontesbrunchnbites

Until next time, my lovely readers!

Gee xxx

FOLLOW ME ON MY SOCIALS:

INSTAGRAM: @geeblogs

TWITTER: @geeblogs

November / December Faves

Faves, Lifestyle

Hello hello helloooooo lovely readers!!

Long time no SEE (well, write). I’m officially on Christmas break from university (FIIIIINALLY) so, naturally, my creative juices are flowing again. I have been resurrected from the blogging graveyard and I’m back to share with you all the things that I’ve been loving during my inexcusably long vacay. Let’s get crackin’.

What I’ve Been Wearing

I have been having an illicit love affair with flared trousers. Oh my god I cannot even BEGIN to tell you how obsessed I’ve been. They are the PERFECT solution to any daytime or night out situation depending on how you style them and I have honestly been living for the trend. Whilst I know they can be pretty pricey, I definitely think they are worth the investment, especially for wearing on a night out during the Winter months. A few pairs in particular that I’ve been wearing non-stop are the ones pictured above. The black velvet-striped and the blue/black velvet patterned pairs are both from Urban Outfitters and were £36.00 each. I also purchased a burgundy pair from the Topshop Petite range (short leg life). I can’t remember the exact price but I’m pretty sure they were around the £30.00 mark. As I said, they’re not the cheapest items in my wardrobe but equally for the amount of wear I’ve already got out of them, they are definitely worth the splurge. Also they look pretty funky too (low-key just trying to live out my Mamma Mia fantasy).

What I’ve Been Watching

I swear to God, university makes it so hard to just sit and watch TV (rightly so) which means I haven’t had nearly enough time to be watching everything on my Netflix list. That being said, I have recently finished watching Atypical, a Netflix Orig that focuses on Sam (a teenager with Autism) in his quest to understand love and find a girlfriend. Over the first few episodes, I wasn’t really sure whether this series was for me; I found it pretty hard to get into. My brother – who had recommended the series to me – encouraged me to persevere and I’m so glad I did. The scripting of the family dynamics are honestly beaut at times. I especially loved Sam’s relationship with his sister, Casey. Even though there were characters and plot-lines I wasn’t a major fan of (weirdly could not warm to the character of Elsa, Sam’s Mom ???) I would definitely recommend this series to anyone who hasn’t seen it. I’ll deffo be there for season 3.

I’ve also been watching a lot of YouTube as I find one-off vids easy to watch while I’m getting ready for uni in the mornings. I’ve always loved Louise Pentland’s weekly vlogs as she’s such a motherly figure, she makes me feel calm when I’m away from home (in the least weird way possible hahaha). I’ve also been watching a lot of Vlogmas vids, in particular Mark Ferris’ and Anastasia Kingsnorth’s (who recently went to NYC and brought back all the feels). Deffo give those a watch if you’re in the market for something a little festive over the next week or so.

What I’ve Been Listening To

Over the past few weeks, I have had Maisie Peters’ EP Dressed Too Nice For a Jacket on repeat. Honestly all day, every day. Making dinner in the kitchen? Maisie Peters. Driving in my car? Maisie Peters. Doing uni work? Maisie Peters. Her voice is so lush and her songs are super catchy. My faves change quite regularly but I love You To You and Details. I’ve also been loving a little bit of Ariana. If thank u, next isn’t my most played song of 2018 (even though it only came out in November) I will be very shocked. She seems to be releasing banger after banger recently with imagine being added straight to my playlist.

What I’ve Been Using

IMG_2945

Perhaps a little unpredictably, I have reached back into my makeup drawer for the highly controversial ABH Subculture palette. Whilst it received very disappointing reviews (from myself included) I’ve kind of discovered a strange love for it. At the beginning of November, I was very much into a glittery eye and would depend on my NYX glitter in ROSE for every night out (see pictured my horrifying Halloween makeup lol). However, over the past few weeks, I’ve really been feeling a matte look, particularly an orangey transition with a bold colour packed all over the lid. Subculture is perfect for supplying these kinds of shadows. My fave one to use has been Axis as I think green is complimentary to my eye colour but I’ve also dipped into All Star which is a deep, burgundy shade (perf for Winter).

What I’ve Been Doing

I really wish I had some cool things to write which make me look like I’ve been living the high life but in reality, I’ve been consumed by university life. I’m now in my final year so it’s really time for me to be cracking down and trying to manage the workload that my degree brings. I did manage, however, to sneak in a few nights out and celebrations along the way. In terms of performancey fun, we had our Musical Theatre Autumn Showcase which – although weighed down with major stresses – turned out pretty successfully and I also sang with some lush pals for my friend Liv’s assessment piece which was v enjoyable. In relation to my Christmas holiday plans, I will pretty much be sleeping and avoiding doing my uni work as long as humanly possible. Who knows, I may even get another blog post out before I go back (let’s be real).

IMG_4035IMG_2943

As always, thank you for reading or just having a little nose.

I hope you have the loveliest Christmas full of food and fam,

G Xx

Instagram: @geeblogs

Gee’s Book Club #1

Books

Processed with VSCO with c1 preset

Hellooooo my lovely friends and welcome to the first instalment of ‘Gee’s Book Club’ (something I most definitely didn’t just title this post as I had absolutely no clue what else to call it). I thought it would be cute to start sharing with you the books that I’m reading at certain points throughout the year as if you know me, you’ll know I loves me a good book or five.

Summer has always and will always mean one thing to me: more reading time!! I’ve always been a bookworm and would rather spend my days stuck in a good book than doing pretty much anything else. Admittedly, I’m one of those weird people who can easily get through a book in a day (this makes my Mom very unhappy when I try to fit 7 days worth of books into my 20kg allowance to go on holiday – soz Mom). This summer I haven’t had as much spare time as I usually do, however I have managed to sneak in a few books here and there so thought I’d let you know what I’ve been reading and if these books are worth the hype (or whether you should save your pennies because – let’s be real – student pennies are PRECIOUS).

All The Little Lights – Jamie McGuire

“Falling is easy. The hard part is getting back up.” 

I’ve been a big fan of Mcguire ever since her Beautiful Disaster series was first published. Once I find an author that I like, I tend to buy every single book they ever write which is how I ended up buying All The Little Lights. Whilst McGuire usually writes for a slightly older “new adult” audience, I believe this to be her first YA fiction. Although I am now 20, I am partial to a slightly cheesy young adult novel every now and then (guilty!). Her characters are always so well-developed, in this case Catherine and Elliot, which really helps you get sucked into her literary world. This novel in particular follows the journey of Catherine and Elliot and explores their relationship as individually they both deal with trauma and family issues (sounds vague but am conscious of trying not to drop spoilers!!!). There is a relatively unpredictable twist at the end (by ‘relatively unpredictable’ I mean that I knew there would be a twist coming but guessed completely wrong what it was lol). Whilst the storyline of this book was not the most thrilling I have ever read, I still really enjoyed it all the same. Would deffo recommend.

Everything I Never Told You – Celeste Ng 

“Everything she had dreamed for herself faded away, like fine mist on a breeze. She could not remember now why she thought it had all been possible.”

Ng was a completely new author to me this summer but I’d seen her novel Little Fires Everywhere hovering around in the book-world. On a whim, I purchased it alongside her debut novel Everything I Never Told You. This book focuses on the disappearance and death of Lydia Lee, daughter of James and Marilyn and is written in such a way that it explores their family’s relationship before and after Lydia’s death. If I’m being honest, this book didn’t hook me a great amount and at times I felt as if I needed the plot to move at a slightly quicker pace. I didn’t feel as if the plot-line was meaty enough to make up an entire novel, rather a few chapters. However, I did really enjoy the style of Ng’s writing so I would not be adverse to reading her following novels. I’ll definitely be giving Little Fires Everywhere a go.

He Said She Said – Erin Kelly

“North London to me then was a patchwork of islanded villages, reached only by Tube and never joined up above ground; circles on a map, separate as stars.” 

I’d been seeing this book EVERYWHERE a few months ago as the newest “thriller” must-read. There definitely was a hype surrounding this novel so I had to give it a go. I’m not going to lie to you, when I first starting reading this I had no idea where this hype had come from. The beginning of the book is very slow-paced which meant I found it quite hard to get into. However, from about half-way in, I was hooked. If the whole book was as good as the second half of the book, then this could have been one of my favourite reads in a while. I don’t really want to give much away (as I can’t without spoiling!!) but essentially, this book centres around a rape trial and plays very much on the “grey area” of what is considered as “consent”. That being said, this book deals with extremely current themes which I also appreciate. I’m v glad to have ticked this off my list.

So those are the most recent books I’ve had my nose stuck in over the past few weeks. I may have a pretty similar post coming soon as my fingers miiiiiight have slipped and I just miiiiiight have ordered a few more (hate myself but love myself). As always, loads of thankyous for reading and I shall see you (well, kind of) very soon.

G X

Instagram: @geeblogs

August Faves

Faves

Helloooo lovely readers!!!

Ya gal is BACK. I know that I need to stop starting each blog post with an apology for my lack of routine and consistency BUT I am really, very sorry. That being said, I thought I’d make my 8th ‘grand return’ of the year with an August Faves. I always prefer my favourites posts in the summer months as I have more time (and more money) to try new things that I can share with you guys. August has been a jam-packed month so I shall stop rambling and get into what I’ve been loving.

What I’ve Been Wearing

In a completely non-shocking manner, August has seen very little warm weather in the UK. However, this did make me happy as I’ve been able to start wearing oversized sweatshirts and jeans again (pretty much what I try to live in all year round). I was in Topshop recently, buying something or other (is it bad that I can’t remember what it was??? Does this highlight my shopping addiction???) and these jeans caught my eye in the SALE RACK. If you know me, you’ll know that sale-rack-shopping is an activity I absolutely never like to partake in as I find it extremely stressful and feel as if I can never find anything I like. Also, I feel that people stand really close to you and hover over your shoulder whilst they wait for you to finish looking (wtf is that all about???). Anywho, I saw these jeans. They’re a dark blue denim pair of flared cut-offs (the Topshop “DREE” style). Now, I’ve been looking for a pair of jeans like this for what feels like forever – I’ve tried on so many pairs that either aren’t the right colour or don’t fit nicely soooo of course I didn’t have high hopes for these. As I was already in the queue, I didn’t have time to try them on and just bought them on a whim (which I would usually never recommend) but once again, I cannot follow my own advice. In a Sisterhood-of-the-Travelling-Pants moment, they actually ended up fitting perfectly and I have already worn them to death. They retail for £40.00 full price but I managed to snag them for £23.00 which I thought was a pretty fab deal. I now want another pair in black.

A more recent purchase that I’m loving has to be this contrast stitch black jumpsuit from Bershka. I bought this for £25.99 and think it is the PERFECT transition piece to go from Summer clothing into Autumn/Winter. It’s a jersey material meaning it is suuuuuper comfy and the trousers flare out at the bottom. The tied-belt detail allows for the jumpsuit to give you a waist that is really flattering whilst not suffocating you or ‘digging in’ in any way. In fact, I loved this so much that I bought exactly the same jumpsuit in a different, more Autumnal pattern which I also cannot wait to wear. I think these jumpsuits look so nice on their own and can be dressed up (like in the pic above) but can also be dressed down with a high-necked t-shirt or turtle neck and trainers when the weather gets a lil colder (which, I hate to say it, will be very soon). Would deffo deffo deffo recommend these.

What I’ve Been Watching

If I’m being honest, I haven’t actually had that much spare time to get sucked into many new Netflix series this summer (although this makes me sad, I guess it is a good thing that I’ve actually been doing something with my life). However, I did manage to watch the new Netflix original film adaptation of To All The Boys I’ve Loved Before. I am absolutely living for Netflix turning the books I read when I was 13/14 into films (also including The Kissing Booth) as it makes me feel weirdly nostalgic. I really enjoyed TATBILB as I thought it stayed relatively true to the original text and I used to be obsessed with Jenny Han’s books. Would deffo recommend this if you’re feeling an overeating-icecream-and-crying-with-your-friends-over-stupid-boys night.

What I’ve Been Listening To

So…I saw Hamilton. I cried. I died. I just about everything-in-between’d. That being said, naturally I’ve had the soundtrack on repeat for about six weeks. My new fave song is Wait For It and I also like Aaron Burr, Sir. Honestly the music is just so magical and I feel like no words I will ever write can do it justice so I’m just going to leave that there.

I’ve also had the Bring It On soundtrack playing constantly as in this academic year, I’ll be directing Musical Theatre Society’s production of it. Again, most of the music is written by Lin Manuel Miranda so it has the Hamilton-vibe. My fave songs are Do Your Own Thing and We’re Not Done. In all honesty, I love the whole soundtrack and I’m very scared that by the end of the show, I will definitely not love the whole soundtrack.

I don’t know if it’s just me but I really feel like there has been no good music released into the charts this summer?? Usually, summer is my favourite time for music but this year I still feel like I’m waiting for someone to release something (ANYTHING) good. I’ve been listening to Robinson and Folly Rae quite a lot but they’re not what I would class as “mainstream” artists so pls can we have some more jams.

What I’ve Been Using

IMG_0154

Every single time Anastasia BH brings out a new eyeshadow palette, I know I’m going to love it. With the exception of the non-blendable Subculture, ABH churns out the best palettes, in my opinion. When I saw the NORVINA press launch photos, a part of my heart squeezed at the ENTIRE ROW of shimmers and the bluey-purple shade, Soul. My lovely parents bought me the palette as a birthday prez and I have honestly used it every day since. The shadows are allllll super-blendable and have little to no fallout (including the shimmers) which I think is insane. If I had to give one teeny tiny little criticism, it would be that the only real transition colour Incense is rather dark so for pale gals like myself, if you’re using the palette exclusively, you have to use a very light hand to avoid black-eye-syndrome. Other than that, this product is gorg. It retails at the generic ABH palette price of £43.00 but I really do think you get what you’re paying for. Absolutely love.

What I’ve Been Doing

Half of my August was taken up by a summer course for Musical Theatre at Guildford School of Acting. It was a very intense two weeks but I had the best time and learnt soooo much. I met some fab, like-minded people and was taught by some of the most incredible teachers. I was literally like a sponge, trying to soak up every piece of information or advice they gave me.

I then had the absolute pleasure of watching one of my family friends, Alex, perform in their professional debut as Oscar in Sweet Charity at the Watermill Theatre. It was lovely to have a catch up and also to see Alex achieving his dreams. He was fab, as he has always been. On the note of shows, as previously mentioned, I also saw Hamilton. I felt as if I’d been waiting forever to see it and I was so nervous that it wouldn’t live up to the hype. I had absolutely nothing to worry about. It honestly blew my expectations out of the water. I saw the 2nd alternate as Hamilton and he was INCREDIBLE. I’m still not really over it.

I also turned 20 this month which was a weird one. I really don’t feel like I’m old enough to be ‘in my twenties’ but I’m super excited to see what they bring. I did have a mini quarter-life crisis the night before my birthday which pretty much went like this: WHAT THE HELL AM I DOING WITH MY LIFE?!!??!!? But I quickly got over that after a G&T or four. I had the loveliest time on my birthday: I went for lunch with my brother, Tom and then chilled with my family. The next day, I went to for food and drinks at Pitcher & Piano in Birmingham with some of my favourite people – it was so so lovely.

Later on in August, I helped assistant direct a production of ‘Fame’ at my old musical theatre group which was the most rewarding experience. I got to work with two students specifically on their vocals and seeing how much they improved both technically and in confidence over the space of just a few days was so amazing (and even sliiiightly emosh – may have cried the tiniest bit out of proudness in the show).

Currently, I’m on holiday with the fam in sunny Portugal. It’s been super nice to chill out and READ BOOKS. So far, I’ve read Everything I Never Told You by Celeste Ng and All The Little Lights by Jamie McGuire, both of which I’d recommend. We’ve been chilling at the beach and eating lovely (bad) food which I’m trying to enjoy before I start my hard-core healthy lifestyle when I get back home.

2018-08-20 22:25:12.864IMG_0117IMG_4696

On that note, I’m thinking of my next post being something related to body confidence and/or dealing with the consequences of the pressure of physicality and appearance that young adults (in particular) face. Do let me know if that’s something you’d like to read as it’s something I’m feeling super passionate about at the moment.

Lots of thankyous for reading my rambles once again & I hope you’re having or have had a lovely Summer.

Until next time,

G X

Instagram: @geeblogs

The “Theatre Degree” Stigma

Lifestyle

FullSizeRender-4

A few things have happened recently that have awoken the little voice inside my head that likes to come out and rant every now and then. The constant threat of funding cuts to the arts and the disappearance of subjects such as Music and Drama from GCSE option boxes across the country are just two of the reasons why I wanted to write this post. Recently, my friend Sophie performed an autobiographical piece about the injustice that undercurrents the education system, in terms of the prejudice that surrounds Theatre as both a subject and a potential career path. Her ‘political rant’ resonated a lot with me, making me think about the many times I’ve been made to feel slightly (I hate to say it but) ashamed of my choice to study Theatre at university.

When it came to choosing my degree subject almost 3 years ago now (oh my gaaaad, where has the time gone?!) there was an obvious winner in my mind from the outset. Yes, I attended Law talks at Warwick and even a Psychology open day at Cambridge, but my heart always led me back to Theatre. Anyone who knows me will understand how important a role the theatre has played in my life and these are the people who have never once questioned my decision to further my education in this field. That being said, there is definitely a prominent stigma around studying for a Theatre degree or particularly around the people who study for a Theatre degree and that is something I have always found ridiculous.

Historically, the subject of Theatre Studies has been branded as “fluffy” and has yet to be viewed on the same level in terms of difficulty as other more traditional subjects, such as Geography or Maths. Therefore, the assumption that the people studying for a Theatre degree are “less academic” and “less able” has been cemented amongst the minds of the majority. However, the stereotype that someone who enjoys learning about the theatre industry is less intelligent than someone who enjoys studying continental drift or trigonometry is honestly absurd to me. If I had a pound for the amount of times I’ve received a patronising “oh, how nice” or “oh, so do you want to be like an actress or something?” after revealing that I study Theatre at university, I would be a veeeeery rich gal.

People don’t seem to understand that my course is academic (trust me, at times it is too academic!!!). I’m still submitting essays at the end of every module, reading ridiiiiiiculous amounts of academic writing each week and attending seminars and workshops. On top of this, I am rehearsingBeing a theatre student, you are not only assessed theoretically but also practically which comes with the assumption that you will carry out a set number of hours as ‘rehearsal time’. Quite honestly, I think I spend 90% of my life rehearsing for something or other (and that is not me being an overdramatic drama student, I promise). I would absolutely loooove to invite the people who have this preconception of Theatre as a subject to sit in on one of my seminars and give their opinion on how phenomenology affects an audience’s experience or how romanticism conformed to or subverted the avant-garde movement towards postmodernism (literally just throwing all the big words that I know at you now lol).

It really does sadden me that I feel as if I have to justify my decision to study a subject that I love to other people who are too quick to judge. Theatre makes me happy. Theatre interests me. Theatre makes me want to learn. So, why shouldn’t I study for a degree in it? Because it’s not ‘academic’? Because I’m ‘never going to get a real job’? Or because I’ll ‘never have a stable income’? My response to these questions is one of self-fulfilment in the sense that I know for a fact that whatever job I do end up doing, in whichever part of the industry I decide to go into, I’ll be doing it because I love it, not because I have to be doing it. Whilst this may be an unpopular opinion of the minority, I would much rather live a life where I’m potentially not always in a constant flow of work, but when I am working it’s doing something that I’m passionate about, rather than being stuck in a 9-5 office job that I absolutely despise. I find it so disheartening when I hear people say “you’re not supposed to love your job…that’s why it’s called work,” because, honestly, I don’t see anything wrong with wanting to enjoy what you do.

Another thing that really makes me laugh is that the people who undermine Theatre as a career choice will have a favourite film, or a favourite book, or will enjoy going to watch the pantomime at Christmas, or a musical on Broadway, or will watch every ITV drama under the sun. What they don’t seem to understand is that THEATRE PEOPLE HAVE MADE THESE THINGS HAPPEN!! The industry is one that brings constant enjoyment to the lives of (may be generalising here but I’m going to roll with it) everyone, or has done at least once in their lifetime. That’s why it makes me so sad that as theatre students, it feels like we’re fighting this constant battle to defend our subject to those so quick to undermine it.

I feel as if I have fully just word-vommed onto the page but I thought it was important to fight my little corner about a subject I’m super passionate about and love with allllll ma heart.

(Also just want to take a few words to defend all my fellow Theatre guys and gals. The people that I study with and others that I know who study elsewhere are honestly some of the best, most intelligent people I have ever had the pleasure of knowing. Their creativity is OFF THE SCALE and their knowledge literally pours out of them every time they speak. All the love ever).

G X

Top Tips For Starting University

Lifestyle

IMG_1010.JPG

It’s still crazy to me that I’ve completed an entire year at university. Thinking back to this time last year, I was super excited to branch out into the world and make my own little home and community somewhere else to where I’d grown up. Whilst I was mostly excited and curious as to what university life had to offer me, I cannot lie and say that I wasn’t a little bit scared. I have a lot of friends who are the academic year below me and a few have asked me questions or have wanted some tips on what to do/not to do when starting university. I thought I’d share some of my tips with anyone who is interested (these tips are not proven facts but they worked for me and I’m still – just about – alive)…

1- Take a door stop

This is actually a piece of advice I received myself before I started university last year. Whilst it may initially seem like a silly little thing, having a door stop means you can keep your door propped open (especially during the first few weeks) which makes you appear more sociable and approachable to your flat. Even if they just pop in and say ‘hey’ on their way to the kitchen, it may lead to some conversations that start to cement your friendship.

2 – During Freshers’ Week, take every opportunity

As much as it nearly killed me off, Freshers’ Week was still one of the highlights of my first year. I went out to every event which, yes, my health eventually paid for but it was so worth it because of all the friends and memories I made. Also, if your university organises talks or activities in the day GO AND DO THEM!!!! You will honestly regret sitting in your room having not participated in any of these things. Even if they turn out to be rubbish, at least you’ve tried them.

img_0736.jpg

3 – A mattress topper will save your life

It’s a known fact that university beds are pretty much made from the hardest stone imaginable (slightly dramatic). The best thing I did was take a memory foam mattress topper which took my bed’s comfort rating from a (generous) 3/10 to a solid 8. Trust me on this one.

4 – Plan your meals in advance

If you’re non-catered, the best piece of advice I can give to you is to plan your meals ahead of time. The amount of times I had a late rehearsal then went back to an empty fridge was pretty devo. It then means you’re ‘forced’ to order a takeaway which isn’t great for your health or your bank account (let me tell you, once this becomes a habit it’s a very slippery slope lol).

5 – Join a society

During my first year, I joined Theatre Society and Musical Theatre Society. MT honestly was a saving grace last year and so many of my closest friends were made because of it. Joining a society gives you such a sense of community and belonging (especially if you’re living far away from home) so I would 100% recommend it. It also opens up friendships with people other than those on your course so you’re widening your circle as well as having a good time bonding over a subject you all enjoy.

IMG_2700IMG_2589

6 – Download the Spoons app

There is no doubt that when going out, your night will involve a Spoons at some point. Having the app was a life-saver for me as it meant you could scout a table as soon as you got inside and didn’t have to battle the queue. Also, I’m lazy so I like my alcohol being brought to me lol.

7 – Have funnnnnn

Probably not the wisest piece of advice I’ll ever give, but having fun was a big priority for me during my first year. On my course, I only needed to PASS the year (gaining over 40% in each module) to carry on so – as much as I still worked hard – I did sometimes prioritise being sociable and going out over doing work. I’m not telling you to disregard any work that you have but if you’re missing out on forming new friendships or making memories then I think, in the long run, that will be a lot more damaging to your university experience than starting an essay a little bit later than planned. What I’m saying is, if your friends invite you to the pub…GO TO THE PUB!

IMG_3589

8 – Get used to having limited sleep

As much as you may be sat there reading this thinking ‘there is no way I’ll be going out until 4 in the morning when I have a 9am lecture the next day‘…trust me. You will.

9 – Bond with your flat

One of my biggest pieces of advice is to put time and effort into bonding with your flatmates. I was fortunate enough to absolutely love everyone I was living with and I think a huge part of that stemmed from how much time we spent together during Freshers. Throughout the year, we’d make an effort to have flat dinners and game nights. It’s definitely beneficial if you feel comfortable and ‘at home’ with your flatmates as you’re living together for at least a year. Even if there are a few people you don’t get along with so well, there is no harm in making a bit of extra effort with them to make your living space feel more welcoming and homely.

IMG_1651

10 – Be yourself

University is the time when you really discover yourself (without sounding like I’m trying to be Gandhi). You make lifelong friends and decide how you’re going to shape the rest of your life. The only way you can truly be happy doing this is to be yourself. You’ll find friends who are equally as weird as you (if not weirder) and you’ll eventually fall onto your own little path so there is no point trying to be somebody that you’re not along the way.

I wish everyone starting university this year soooo much luck. It honestly is the best time ever!!

G X

Instagram: @geeheasel