Real Gals is an interview series in collaboration with the nonprofit GlamourGals (GG). GlamourGals encourages high school and college students to volunteer with the elderly in senior homes across the United States, creating a unique bond between two generations of women.
Since GlamourGals empowers women of all ages, this series focuses on women of all ages, as well, and the careers and passions that make them who they are. Some are seniors served by GlamourGals, some are advisory board members for the nonprofit, all have the most wonderful adventures and advice to share.
For part six of Real Gals, meet New York City-based, 29-year-old Emily Collins. She's an interior designer at Kelly Rosen Design, she went to grad school for architecture, and she grew up in Oklahoma. (She's also an advisory board member for GlamourGals!) Emily talks about the first apartment she and her husband, JC, rented (it was 350 square feet!), what it was like when her destination wedding was nearly sidelined by a huge storm, and the skin-saving beauty product she's loving.
On what it was like growing up in Oklahoma: "University of Oklahoma (OU) is in the town where I grew up, Norman, with had about 100,000 people, including the students. I lived just a few blocks off of campus. The town really sort of revolved around college. Growing up there instilled in me values and a sense of openness that I think would have been harder to get in larger cities. Oklahoma is obviously very conservative, but at the same time, growing up in a college town, I was exposed to the culture that a college brought and the different experiences that a college brought. I was able to take classes at OU my senior year in high school, so it definitely felt like I went to college for a lot longer than I did; most of my friends graduated high school and then went right on to college down the street."
On working closely with her boss and friend: "Kelly is my friend and previous coworker from a different firm. She branched out to do her own thing about a year and a half ago, and I was still at the larger firm we were both working at and she asked me to come join her. We both have very strong personalities, but they're totally different. We complement each other rather than have moments where we're butting heads. I have a degree in architecture and interior design, so I'm more construction focused, and she's more decorative focused. We’re friends, but we still keep it professional. We’re not running around town on the weekends together or anything. We set some boundaries. That being said, I still know every single detail of her life and she knows every detail of mine. Being completely open and honest, being an open book, has been helpful. And knowing that we worked well together in advance was obviously also extremely helpful. Establishing those boundaries is important, too. Relationships are always more personal in a small business and that can be tricky, but that's also one of the things that I like most about working in a small business."
On meeting her husband, JC: "We were both living in Charlotte, North Carolina, at the time: JC had just settled into a new job and I was in graduate school. We were supposed to have been set up by mutual friends (he's good friends with my college friend and then-roommate's sister and brother-in-law), but we ended up meeting spontaneously at a restaurant/bar before the setup happened. Our first date was a few days after meeting—he took me on a picnic on Easter Sunday and the rest is history!"
On living in a 350-square-foot apartment in NYC with JC when they first moved in together: "We will definitely look back on our fifth-floor walk-up in the West Village someday and laugh. My biggest tip for couples thinking about renting a small place is to figure out if you really, really, REALLY like your significant other before doing it. There is no one else on the planet I could have done this with other than JC. We spent most of our time at work or out exploring the city, so the two years we spent in our tiny apartment flew by. JC was really ready to leave when the time came to upgrade to a bigger space uptown, but I actually cried when we left! So many happy memories there."
On dealing with a storm hitting the week of her wedding: "We had a 'destination wedding' in Charleston, South Carolina, where we got engaged and frequented often when we were living in North Carolina. Planning from New York, with my family in Oklahoma and his in Illinois, was definitely challenging. We had a wedding planner who split his time between New York and Charleston, so that was immensely helpful. Being a designer and very into the details, I may or may not have been a bit of a control freak during the planning process. To make matters even more complex, Charleston was hit with a historic snow and ice storm the week before our wedding. Our flights, along with the flights of almost everyone attending the wedding were canceled. Our friends and family went above and beyond to get to Charleston. I even had a bridesmaid drive from Boston through the storm, which was making its way up the East Coast! There ended up being only six people unable to get to Charleston. The show went on and we had a (chilly) outdoor ceremony a day later!"
On the beauty product she's loving: "I recently bought a Clarisonic Mia Skin Cleansing System. Supposedly it cleans your face six times better than soap and water. And it's especially helpful when you live in a city where smog and pollution affect your skin. (Thirty is also right around the corner, so I'm into anything anti-aging). I'm also really into "shopping" via Instagram at the moment. I follow lots of bloggers who have 'LIKEtoKNOW.it' accounts. I 'like' a post and I get an email with all of the outfit details."
On her love for DIYing: "I am an avid DIYer and always have been. This is a little more challenging in New York with less space. I'm also constantly DIYing our apartment. We've done things like hung wallpaper—if you can survive installing wallpaper with your spouse, I'm convinced you can survive anything—and 'hacked' an Ikea dresser."
On how she and JC got Lula Mae: "Lula Mae was given to us by JC's dad as a wedding gift—I had been begging JC to agree to a puppy for years. She was actually flown to us from Tennessee, and I picked her up from JFK! Her namesake is from Breakfast at Tiffany's, one of my favorite books and movies. Holly Golightly's given name was Lula Mae—she was Lula Mae before she moved to New York City from Tulip, Texas—so it seemed fitting for our Lula Mae. It feels like we got her just yesterday, but she is almost 2 and a half. Our lives and everything we do more or less revolves around her. She has brought so much sunshine and joy into our lives, I can't imagine not having her. Coming home to the unconditional love of a dog after a crazy day in this crazy city is such a blessing!"
Thank you so much to Emily for being a part of the Real Gals series and for sharing her advice and her lovely, endearing stories!
Photographs provided by Emily Collins.