...And Sometimes People are Magical
It was a Monday in November…the chaos of cooking a Thanksgiving feast was over, and I finally had a day to run errands and breathe a little. I woke up later than I should have, packed up some orders, got dressed without showering, smoked a blunt, and headed to the train station to hop on the subway to 125th. This day’s journey was made possible by my favorite mom jeans (which now have the under-cheek rip, but I refuse to let go), my “Got Melanin?” t-shirt via @secrettisout (which I cropped because I am who I am), a scarf from one of my friend’s giveaway piles, my brand new favorite winter coat copped from Goodwill the day before, and a Kalustyans bag (my favorite store in Manhattan) holding two orders from two Queens I have loved since 5th grade (my Domi and my Juju). And yes, there was a fanny pack on deck. I was dressed in my "Dani doesn't give a fuck" best, and my curls were bouncy and didn’t look slept on, so I had a mild feeling it was going to be a good day (shouts out to my conditioner bars).
As I reached the top of the stairs at 125th, I was stopped by the most gentle human who leaned in to show me his phone. I thought he was a tourist about to ask for directions, (mostly because of the camera), but as soon as I saw the screen on the Humans Of New York Instagram, I remember saying “Oh my God you’re famous!”. Mercury was in retrograde so I had no idea what this chance encounter would lead to, but he asked if he could take my picture and ask a few questions to which I responded, “Of course!”
Can we talk about how amazing Brandon Stanton is? He pulled it out of me with a simple question: what do you struggle with? And I remember thinking for a second, and recalling a conversation I had with my squad a few days earlier—time. Time is what I struggle with. I do so many things that it feels like I never have time to do nothing. And sometimes it’s good to go on vacation and do nothing. He inquired further about all that I do and developed this look of amazement when I was still listing things. He asked when I was going to give up since being this busy is not sustainable, and I convinced him that when you are passionate about something, you just have to do it, and remain consistent. Eventually, you will reach a solid fanbase that is large enough to make the art sustainable. Everything I do, I thoroughly enjoy doing, so I can’t imagine doing much else. We joked about shitty jobs I’ve had, and talking to him about all the things I love doing made my heart smile.
Before we parted ways, he mentioned that music is subjective, but everybody buys soap. I neglected to mention I was only making batches of ten bars at a time using all natural and mostly organic ingredients. My bars didn’t stand a chance with the HONY community; I simply didn’t have enough. I was making product in batches of 10-20 items, which was plenty for my squad of supporters, but after our encounter, I had to start looking for ways to upscale my soap-making production. And I figured I had plenty of time since he mentioned he might post the photo a few months later. Whoops…
Fast forward two weeks and my life changed. One chance encounter with a well known photographer managed to restore my faith in humanity. I received phone calls, comments, emails, DMs…the love from complete strangers was beyond overwhelming. Apparently my crazy lifestyle choices and stubbornness are inspiring to dreamers everywhere. I CRIED ALL THE TEARS. When people shared my struggles and messaged me only to remind me that I was not alone, I could not handle life…SO. MANY. TEARS. I felt so full of love that I forgot to eat most days, and I ended up foregoing holiday decorating in my apartment and properly celebrating because I was so busy trying to fulfill the huge surge of orders before flying home for Christmas. The responses I received from the post still inspire me on a daily basis. When I feel like shit, all I have to do is reread the messages to remind myself this life is worth something and what I’m doing has value.
What I love most: I was able to connect with people beyond just Instagram through the feature. My website got hundreds and thousands of views from almost every country with internet, and my store received far more orders than I was capable of processing as a solo operation. My friends and New York family came together to not only help me package and ship products, but to show me that I had a village. We may not see each other everyday, but we make time for each other when in need. I was definitely in need. And I definitely love them forever for coming to the rescue. It is easy to say a product is made with love, but in the aftermath of the HONY post, I can proudly say everything I create is made with hella love--you know...that happy cry love that makes you want to hug strangers (with their consent).
As an employee of the service industry, the phrase “I hate people” comes out of my mouth more than it should, but only because a noticeable fraction of the people I encounter are, in fact, terrible. The majority of us are generous, caring, loving, and supportive, and I am eternally grateful for Brandon’s ability to bring out the best in people. His community of followers is the most amazing collective of people from all over the world, and I hella love them. So yes, sometimes people are shitty, but what makes life awesome is the fact that sometimes people are magical, and they can change your life for the better. I love all of those people. Thank you to all the magical humans inspiring me everyday to continue being my most authentic self.
And thanks to Brandon and all of my new friends and supporters, I was finally able to invest in equipment to make soap in much larger batches, so stay tuned for more bars, and more homemade goods. Thank you guys!