Insighter | /ˌin • site • er/
1. an outstanding creative professional with tips and tricks to spare. Someone to learn from.
“the M.AD Insighter Series is free to attend on Zoom, every Wednesday at 4pm”
On Oct 28, 2020, Marissa Velez (CEO and Producer at Mythologie) joined us live over Zoom to take part in our Insighter Series: weekly conversations between creative professionals and young, aspiring creatives looking to advance.
Take a look at Marissa’s presentation below.
Hank Richardson: Hey and welcome to the broadcast everybody. Today it’s fantastic to have you here for this Hero Seminar. Leadership is… I think it’s a symbiosis of four things: of, one, fantasy, fascination, motivation, and information. And there are no secrets, really, to success. It’s a result of preparation, hard work, and probably learning from failure. If you want to be a strong leader you got to be willing to step up, show up, and put in the time. That’s about being fearless.
Hank Richardson: That sort of leads me to our speaker today, Marissa Velez. She has led a wide variety of creative teams within the fashion industry, from brands like Kate Spade, Diane von Furstenberg, Rag and Bone, to Oscar de la Renta. She’s skilled in bringing brands to life through all touch-points and she’s constantly changing who she is and as she leads. She’s a digital native. It’s a way of life, not just a job prerequisite. She excels in innovation and you’re going to see some of that and hear from her today about that. And she pushes digital frontiers. Again, that’s really about fearless and I can’t… I think she so represents a student that comes out of the school, at Miami Ad School here, and the sense of her constantly taking chances when at any point she could easily rest on her laurels by virtue of the career path she’s had. Marissa, it’s so exciting to have you onboard today. Thank you for coming.
Marissa Velez: Thank you. Thanks. I’m so happy to be here. Different to do it on Zoom. I guess, let’s see, I’ll start a bit at the beginning.
Marissa Velez: When Hank asked me what I would want to talk about I really… there was no other option but the thought of being fearless. This idea has really been something that’s been in my mind a lot during quarantine and in the past seven months. When I think back on my career thus far, I graduated from what was Portfolio Center in 2006, so it’s been a minute. And when I think about where I was before that, what happened there, and then what happened after it’s not even about I’m a fearless person. It’s more about the approach that I took in my decision making to get me where I’ve gotten that required an element of fearlessness.
Marissa Velez: I feel like that was the most appropriate approach, especially as we’re in this bizarre time where you have to be fearless. Not to jump around, but I recently was quite upset when there was a statement that our current presidential family made, that Ivanka made, about if you don’t have a job, now if you’ve lost your job, maybe you should reconsider your trade and try to do something new. I found that incredibly offensive for many reasons, which I can talk about later on in this, but one of them being that that’s not the solution. We should be fearless if we care about what we do and what we love to do. Life is going to throw us complications and curve balls along the way.
Marissa Velez: Anyways, I’ll jump in now. Starting at the beginning a little bit… and I’ll move quickly to where I am now… I was your typical art kid in school and never ever thought I would do anything with it. I just loved art. I went to… My undergrad was at University of Georgia. I studied art history, Spanish, French. No idea what I wanted to do except I really loved movies and I saw the movie What Women Want. It’s really old now. In that movie, Mel Gibson and Helen Hunt at the time, they’re art directors in an advertising agency. I remember thinking, “That’s really cool. I could design stuff and use that to sell things.” At the time, however, I was 21. I was graduating from college and I was not about to restart all the four years I’d invested in school and change my career.
Marissa Velez: So I graduated. I kind of jumped around and all of this will matter in the end: that I worked for a printer, I sold printing, I worked at a record, I worked out on a mountain resort in Colorado. I was really not sure what I was doing with my life. The turning point for me in this first chapter was this really random printing company that I was working for in Atlanta. I was selling carbon copy forms to hospitals, which imagine a 22 year old girl knocking on a hospital door trying to sell printing. It was not a successful business for me. But what was really cool was that since I didn’t find success there I tried to find it in different ways. I tried to sell printing to Sweet Water Brewery and get them to let me print their labels. I found a way to pivot what I was doing.
Marissa Velez: And along the way I did this tiny little gig for this company and they needed me to print out these invitations but they needed designs. They didn’t have anyone so I was like, “I can do it.” That moment, it sounds so silly, but I think about it all the time because that moment was the moment that I realized, “Wait a second. This is more what I should be doing.” Literally got home that night, did research, found Portfolio Center as it was then and went in and applied and decided to go back to school.
This story I think is super important for me. Still so many years later I reflect back on it because I think sometimes we don’t give enough credit to signs in our life. There’s a lot of things that happen in the every day that we kind of pass by or we don’t give them enough credit. They can be really small.
But to me that was really small. It was a stupid job. No one cared about it. It wasn’t money. But it was just a moment where I realized that I needed to change something in my life and I think that it left a foundation for me and just looking for those little moments in life that have allowed me to pivot and change. Sometimes they’re big, sometimes they’re small. I’ll talk about them throughout my story but that was really the beginning.
Marissa Velez: So I went to school and I was really the one… I was the person that didn’t know anything in the class. I swear this. I don’t know how big the classes for you guys are now, especially digitally, but ours was about 30 people and I was the only person who had never owned a Mac. I was the only person who had never used creative software. I got into the school with collages. Again, I’m not sure how the program is now but I really was clueless. I’m surprised I didn’t like to explode my computer in the first quarter. But I loved it. I mean I loved it. I fell head over heels in love with the work, with the challenge, with the fact, even, that I was behind everyone else. In a way, I maybe used it to my advantage because I didn’t have anything else to reference. It was scary that I was excited.
Marissa Velez: I look back on it now and it’s just funny. I’m still friends… Actually, Hank, I’m going to see Brian [Farell 00:07:50] in Spain in three weeks and I’m staying with him when I’m shooting a film. So there are some people that are still in my life and still so incredibly valuable to me from those days. But when I was there I had Hank’s class and I went to New York City on an internship. It was the first time I had ever been to New York and obviously I fell in love. I was a museum geek. I, to this day, laugh because I got out of the airplane and I went straight to the MOMA with my suitcase. I was like, “I’m only here for three days. I’m going to the museum.”
Marissa Velez: I loved New York and if it wasn’t for that class I don’t know that my life would’ve gone the way it went because that was kind of the beginning of a major tipping point for me in school. One, I was obsessed with the pain of school. Again, I don’t know how it is now but it was just never sleeping, constantly working, but I really loved it and thank god because that’s pretty much what my life is like now. I was super happy and towards the end of it I decided to get an internship. I went to one of the places we visited in New York called Pearl Fisher. I’m not even sure if it’s around anymore. It was a very tiny boutique British company. I really loved them. Like, I really loved… They were small. They were all cool. They were all Brits and I was like, “This is so great! New York, British.” I applied to… or I think I actually bailed on that application. I think I had a nervous breakdown the day Pentagram came into school, but ironically I’m producing for them this weekend. It’s funny how life turns in circles.
Marissa Velez: Anyways, I really wanted this internship. I wanted to have a slice of New York in my life and I had just gotten married. I figured, “I can check this box and then I’ll see what I do.” I was very focused on being a graphic designer at an ad agency. Like, I wanted to work on airplane design or really corporate branding. It’s funny because it’s so not the way I went, not even close, and I think it’s really important for all of you. I don’t know what stage you are in but never say never. I still say never and I always regret it because I always do exactly what I said I’d never do. But always be open to what’s possible because I went to New York thinking, “This is the only path for me. I’m going to go back to Atlanta. I’m going to work at an agency and I’m going to be a graphic designer.”
Marissa Velez: When I was in New York City and I was interning a friend recommended… or she got offered an opportunity to interview at this fashion brand, Diane von Furstenberg or DVF, and she had just taken a job at Pentagram. She was an ex-PC grad and I was like, “I’ll go interview. Good experience. I know nothing about fashion.” I didn’t know who she was. Honestly, I shopped at TJ Maxx. I had no inkling of what was ahead of me. I remember… So I was like, “Okay, I’ll go interview.” I got there and I was like, “Oh my god. What… this world…” Everyone, the way they were dressed, the bags they wore. I had a fake Prada bag I bought in Chinatown because I was afraid I would look like a loser if I didn’t look a little bit dressed up.
Marissa Velez: I interviewed and it went really well. It was a bizarre experience because I laughed and I remember calling my husband and then my grandmother, because she’s the only one who knew anything about DVF, and I was like, “That went good. Who knows?” Then three days later I got a call back. I went back, interviewed, and I met with Diane herself. She was like, “Okay, can you start now?” I was like, “What? I don’t live here. I’m interning. No. What?” She was like, “Can you start in two weeks?” I was like, “No.” I was so confused. I didn’t understand what was happening. I was like, “This isn’t why I interviewed. I just thought it’d be good experience.” So she’s like, “Okay, well go think about it.”
Marissa Velez: You guys, this came off of… I had no portfolio. I had a portfolio of my schoolwork. I didn’t have those fancy books. I had nothing. It was just luck. I had examples of what I had done in school and really me, my personality, and the ability to go in. Don’t ever… Just as a note, just be open to whatever is possible and don’t be so afraid of what you have to show because it’s about how you present it and how you talk about it. That’s so important because a lot of people can have incredible work and can’t speak about it, have no personality. People… Especially at least in my work in the industry here, you spend like 10 hours of your day with someone. You want to like them. You’re not hiding in a corner. You’re working with people.
Marissa Velez: The interview went great and in the end they offered me a position and somehow I convinced my husband that we should move to New York. He was also in school in the photography program. I knew nothing about fashion. I had to Google her. I didn’t know… I was also asked to be the only graphic designer at this company. There was no one else. There was no team. There was nothing. I wasn’t learning under anybody. There was a marketing director. Looking back now, I think I kind of must’ve been crazy because I didn’t have the experience to go into a company and be in that position but I decided, “You know, why not? What’s the worst thing that could happen? I’ll move to New York, have a year there, and then we move back home.”
Marissa Velez: Well, it didn’t really turn out that way. I moved there, I moved here, and I loved it. Diane, it was… You know, when I think about my first job, when I think a first job, I think it’s… I’m going to look at my notes so I don’t forget something I wanted to tell you guys. I think the best thing I could offer, as you guys… I don’t where you are in your stage: if PC or if you’re after. For me, the thing that I value the most of that experience is that I had a place to learn and to grow and so many opportunities. I started very small as a graphic designer and built my way. After four years I was a senior art director and I had worked on everything. I had done an exhibit. I had done in-store design. I had done visual merchandising. I had done eCommerce, social media, everything. I think I wouldn’t even be where I am if it wasn’t for that. I feel like that was my school part three: grad school, Portfolio Center… or Miami Ad School… and then Diane von Furstenberg.
Marissa Velez: In that time when I was there, I also decided to have children, which is so important and I always want to talk about that because I have three now. I had my first child when I was 29 and a lot of people are afraid that they can’t have kids and they can’t do this job and they can’t do… Oh my god, I see Jason! Sorry. I just… Hey. I don’t know why you’re listening to me. Anyways, I feel like don’t listen to anyone who says that. The best thing about my life and my work is also that I’m a mom. It makes me better at what I do. It makes me more efficient as a producer, a creative, an employee. It makes me… I have more empathy, sometimes. Sometimes I have less if people say they’re busy, because I’m pretty sure I’m busier. But I’ll speak more about that later.
Marissa Velez: So I had kids and then I felt like it was time to move on, which was crazy because I was pregnant with my second when I decided to leave Diane von Furstenberg and take a job at Kate Spade. As far as Kate Spade goes, what I would say is another value point is I took a lateral move at Kate Spade: maybe even a step back. I think it’s important to note that in your career: that maybe that is a good thing sometimes, depending on the situation. Diane was a great place for me to work. I did a lot of things. But I was kind of a jack of all trades and a master of none. When I went to Kate Spade I… one, they embraced me being a mother far more than they did at DVF and, two, I was really focused on digital. This ended up being a game changer for me because I was there when… makes me sound old… Pinterest was starting, when brands were really embracing Facebook and Instagram and we were doing really innovate things and the company had money. It was bigger. It was corporate.
Marissa Velez: I ended up never wanting to go back to corporate after that but not because it wasn’t a great job. It was an excellent job. For me, I didn’t last very long there because I learned a ton and I learned fast and then I kind of hit a ceiling pretty quickly as to where I saw that I could go. If I hadn’t taken that job, I wouldn’t have taken some steps that led me to kind of a catapult in my career, or the first of them, and that was to… I spoke at a conference and I spoke at the same conference as some members of the team at Oscar de la Renta. Again, not a fashion girl. Definitely had no business going to work for a luxury fashion brand. However, they offered me a role as the vice president of creative and I was like, “Okay. This sounds great. I can do this.”
Marissa Velez: I remember getting there. My very first day I was terrified and the first thing I heard was someone… I don’t know if there was a child in the hallway but I heard some girl say very loudly, “Is that a child in here?” And I was like, “Oh my god. These people hate children.” It was just one of these environments where I was like heels, dressed to the nines. I joked that I actually looked about 20 years older when I worked there because I wore huge earnings, ruffled dresses with beads, and high heels every single day. I was not really allowed to even talk about my children, technically. I could’ve, but it was very frowned upon to talk about your social, your personal life. It was all about work. It was a mean environment, unfortunately. However, if you’re ever in that position think about different solutions. I say this because I have been… I’ve had many jobs and I’ve seen the same kind of mistakes happen with leaders everywhere I’ve gone. Every leader comes in thinking they know how to fix everything, thinking that everyone before them didn’t know anything, and thinking that they can get in the middle of everyone’s business and change it.
Marissa Velez: I highly advise against that, whatever role you’re in in your career, whether you’re starting, whether you’re coming in mid level or senior level. I’ve seen them crash and burn every time. Don’t be that standard bull in a china shop. I don’t know why I had the insight not to be that at Oscar but I thankfully wasn’t and I came in and after suffering the adjustment of this culture I started to try to make allies. I think it was the best thing I did because I found my way, I navigated my way, through all of these different personality types. It was very much your Devil Wears Prada kind of environment. It was ruthless. However, I found friends in all the different pockets and it really started to change my… It helped me become more adaptive to situations.
Marissa Velez: I use those learnings to this day in my productions with crazy producers and directors. And understanding who your audience is all the time, whether it be your boss or your co-worker or people that are visiting that… your vendors. Just knowing your audience and how to navigate them, I really learned that in spades at Oscar and I use all of those learnings today.
Marissa Velez: And then as it relates to children, again, some people say that it’s hard to imagine doing what we do with children. I actually was able to use them in a way that was to my advantage, and I mean this in a good way, not bad. Oscar wanted to start a children’s line and I was like, “Great. Blogging is really popular right now. We should do a children’s blog to gain momentum around it.” Next thing I knew, I became the face of Oscar de la Renta’s children’s campaigns and blogs and social media and everything. In a world were children where kind of frowned upon, all of a sudden my children were like the celebrities of the company. I would bring them in and they were like, “They’re the ones on Instagram! They’re the ones on Twitter!” It was just such a cool thing because the next thing I knew my daughter is in little mini Oscar de la Renta dresses inside a place where children were not before.
Marissa Velez: You could call that luck, I guess, but I don’t know. I think it’s about what we put out into the world and how we adjust to our environments and what we can bring into the environment where by the time I had made that happen I had more friends. I had more work friends but I had more allies. It wasn’t like I was being spit out of this culture. It was more that I was being embraced. It was the scariest job to this day I’ve ever had. I was stressed every day and very overwhelmed but I look back on it with really gratefulness. It was a good move for me. It was a fearless move, I think, in those days.
Marissa Velez: Then to move on from there, I was there for two years. I got… I will try to go quick through this chapter… pregnant and if you Google me… I always have to talk about this when I speak because if you Google my name this is likely to come up, although I have tried to suppress it. I got pregnant and I was interviewing with Ivanka Trump. She… A friend of mine who I had worked with before was like, “You should come work with us. You don’t want to be at Oscar any more. It’s crazy. You’re pregnant. Meet Ivanka. She’s really nice.” This is 2013. She was really nice. She was great. She was just like me. We were the same age. We had two kids. She was pregnant. I was pregnant. And I said to here, I was like, “I didn’t ever think I’d work for a celebrity but I guess I would consider it if you let me turn your name into a brand, and not a celebrity brand.” She would love the idea. She liked me.
Marissa Velez: When we were negotiating… again, I was pregnant… I was trying to figure out my deal with her and she didn’t believe in maternity leave at the time, which was impossible for me. I was married at the time and I had two other children and there was no way I would not have a maternity leave. She was just like, “I went back to work after one week. I don’t know. Women can do that if they want to.” I explained to her that that wasn’t really the case, obviously, for all of us and that we needed to be given time, too, with our children. She, over the phone, agreed to discussing what my role would look like after four weeks of staying home.
Marissa Velez: That would’ve been an interesting story except for I ended up losing my baby, so I didn’t ever… I didn’t continue. I ended up taking the job and I was no longer pregnant. Again, if you Google my name this will come up. I was there for two years and in those two years… This was not a job I look back on fondly. Not that it was a bad decision, but as my mother would tell me every day that I was upset I was there, she said, “Sometimes the fruit is grown in the valley.” I probably needed to be in a position in my life where I had to really reflect on where I was and who I was and what I wanted to do with my career and what I was willing to do and what I wasn’t willing to do.
Marissa Velez: I really learned that at Ivanka. I did some good work when I was there in the first year, year and a half, and then when her father decided to run for office a lot changed for me. The brand that she had, she started trying to mix it with politics and leverage her situation to help him. I couldn’t do that any more so I left on somewhat okay terms with her at the time. She was upset with me but there was no arguing that I was not willing to mix politics and my work: not there, anyways. Not for her. Sometimes I think about that, because if it had been for someone I believed in maybe I would’ve done it. But I didn’t believe in him or his principles, so I left.
Marissa Velez: That was crazy also because I was pregnant again, so it was the second job I got while pregnant, which is kind of crazy. Both times I was eight months pregnant when I got my job. Again, for all the women out there, someone tells you you can’t get a job and you’re pregnant and then someone tells you can’t get a job when you have kids or that you can’t do what you want to do when you have kids, you can do anything. We just have to… You have to believe it and you have to create the life you want. I know that can be easier said than done but I also… I didn’t come from any privileges. I didn’t have anything else being given to me. I just worked really hard for it and believed that it was possible.
Marissa Velez: So I got offered a job at Rag & Bone. I still consult for Rag & Bone. Rag & Bone had my heart. Rag & Bone was the most incredible job I had in my career in fashion. I was there for four years full-time and I’ve consulted for the past year and a half. I was very happy to be out of Ivanka’s headquarters and I was very happy to have found a brand that I believed in the ideals and I believed in the creative.
Marissa Velez: You know, it really… For me, it was the perfect match. I’ve said this any time I’ve interviewed or spoken to anyone about where they want to go in their job. If you’re a designer, if you’re a creative director, and if you have any interest at all in fashion or in retail, I think, like the brand. Like what you sell. Believe in what you sell, because if you don’t it will show up. You can see it. Again, maybe that’s a luxury but also we have choices and we can make decisions as to where we go or at least inquire more about what we’re buying into, but I didn’t believe in the product at Ivanka. I didn’t really believe in the product at Kate Spade at the time either. But I adored the product at Rag & Bone.
Marissa Velez: I always say as the creative director I eat, sleep, and breathe the brand. I want to embody the brand. I’m the number one ambassador. I’m the person who is the filter for all things that happen at a brand. I think it’s so important that you guys choose where you’re going or what you want to do in the creative field. If you want to… A lot of people say, “How’d you get your job? How’d you get in fashion? How can I do what you did?” I would start there. Go after brands that you really believe in, that you care about, that when you meet with someone there you show it. For Rag & Bone it was a no-brainer for me. I interviewed with such fervor and I wanted to take the brand to the next level. It was super hard. It was a bigger company but it was also kind of like a…
Marissa Velez: I joke like… I don’t know if you’ve ever waited tables but I waited tables for many years. I waited tables at this restaurant called [Halk’s 00:28:43] in Atlanta. I don’t know if anyone knows it but back in the day it was like a cool mom and pop steakhouse and when people would come in and work with us that had had corporate restaurant jobs they lasted a hot second. They were spit out. I joke about that because I feel like Rag & Bone was the kind of place that if you’d been corporate, if you were a certain personality type, Rag & Bone was like, “No way. You’re not for us.” Anyone knew it took a minute to adjust. You had to be kind of a cool hipster Brooklyn kid, wear a beanie, tennis shoes, never shoes. Not that that’s hard but it just funny to see this complete shift in personalities from where I had been before.
Marissa Velez: So I came on board and I had like three people working for me and I had to rebuild a team. When I started someone very senior quit and his whole team came under me. So I went from, “Just going to settle in, get my bearings. I’m nine months pregnant,” to all of a sudden I have 20 people on my team that I do not know and a whole new chapter of the organization, a whole new section visual, that I was not really anticipating taking along. But it was probably the best thing that could’ve happened because all of a sudden I had… I was kind of involved in all the different chapters of the organization. Like, everyone had to go through me and my team and I restructured the team in a way that we were looked at as a supporting team, not as a block.
Marissa Velez: I say that because a lot of times creatives… at least I’ve found in the fashion space… were often… “We’re the brand ambassadors. We’re the brand protectors.” A lot of times people on the business side get annoyed because of what we say you can and you can’t do. If you’re in that position, for me it was more about, “How can we help you? How can we be an agency of support in this company? How can everyone love working with us? How can I build a team that is beloved in this company so that not only is everyone adjusting to the right way to bring the brand to life but also people are wanting to bring projects to us.” It had been very siloed at the time, so it was quite an onslaught ahead of me to tackle. But I did it by building out an incredible team. To this day, probably the thing I love the most about what I do is building teams. Even in my productions in the film world there’s nothing better. I love being a leader and I love building teams.
Marissa Velez: I learned a lot at Rag. I worked on every kind of project you can imagine. But what really changed the game for me was about, I don’t know, half a year in I worked on a project with the actor John Turturro. Do you guys know who he is? I’m trying to think. I don’t know what he’s most famous for right now but he’s this epic actor that was in The Big Lebowski and recently the Night Of TV show. He was like, “We should shoot a film. Let’s do a short film.” I was like, “Okay, great. Let’s do it.” I pitched it to my boss at Rag & Bone and he was like, “Okay, you can use this chunk of money. Go make a short film with it.” It was for a men’s collection. I didn’t know what I was doing. I’m a creative director, art director. I had done photo shoot, eCommerce shoots, and I had no idea how to make a film. I knew I would love it because I was a big [cinephile 00:32:26] but no idea.
Marissa Velez: John Turturro was the actor, director. He was in charge of editing with me and I love him. He was crazy. Everything was really manic and I was like, “This is not a world I’m used to,” but the day I was on set filming this one day shoot… It was between him and the actor Bobby Cannavale. One day shoot. I was like, “Okay, I’m done. I have to do this forever.” I just fell in love with the process. I don’t know if there’s any filmmakers out there that can relate but it’s like being an art director, a creative director, on steroids because it’s so… the acting and the layers of complexity and everyone’s roles in creating a production, it was just a new arena for me that I really loved.
Marissa Velez: I started to do more and more Rag & Bone and I created, with them, more of a, I guess, buzz around this idea of Rag & Bone films. We started to shift all of our creative productions to be more about filmmaking and short films and we started to premiere these films in movie theaters and at film festivals. I believe we really changed the narrative around filmmaking in brands. People talk about brand films and branded content but I didn’t feel like I was making branded content. I felt like I was making films and our product was wardrobe. What that did… That kind of thinking was a game for us because we were able to get really incredible actors and we were able to get really incredible directors and cinematographers because these people didn’t feel like they were selling something. They felt like they were a part of a narrative and that was really important for us a brand and it was just… It was such an interesting approach for a brand to take. I’m sad that more brands don’t do it because I think it’s so much more authentic. I really got into it.
Marissa Velez: Now, the difficult side of that story is that I got into to it so much it probably hurt my positioning at my company a bit. I was a little too obsessed with that side of my job. Looking back on it now, I probably should’ve noted that earlier because I think some of my work suffered for it. I think being honest with yourself and your wins and your loses is important as we grow and I think looking back I wish I had just noticed that I couldn’t have both, necessarily, and do both really well.
Marissa Velez: After a while… this is a year and a half ago… I started to entertain this idea of, “What would happen if…” Now, mom of three. I was also in the process… I’m now divorced, but I was in the process of potentially getting out of a marriage. I was really unhappy in my full-time role. This is definitely my most fearless and probably psychotic move that I’ve ever made in my life, but I decided that now or never, pretty much. I had really gotten some good friends in the film industry from previous productions I had done at Rag & Bone and in all of this kind of major decision making in my life, a friend of mine randomly reached out to me in LA and he’s like, “Hey, we did these projects together. I loved working with you. Would you consider coming and running a production company with us?” I was like, “Okay,” but there’s no money. Keep in mind, I’ve been in this industry for a long time. I was making pretty good money. I like making money. I’ve been working since I was 14. I never wanted to not make money. I feel like to me making money is power and freedom, but also I was… what was I… 39. It was time for me to take some risks. I was 38.
Marissa Velez: I decided, “Okay, let’s do it.” It was scary as hell when I resigned. I say this all the time. It’s always better on the other side, it’s just getting to that point that sucks because getting to the point where you’re like, “Okay, I’m going to have to change my relationship. Okay, I’m going to have to change my job. I’m going to have to move.” All of these things were insane, especially to do it in one year, but I’m glad I did it because the second I did it the whole thing started to move. I got work. Rag & Bone was like, “You know what? You’ve left, but why don’t you keep helping us?” So I kept consulting. It was one of those things where I was like, “Okay, this is what life wants me to do.” Life kind of showed me that if I just believed in what I was thinking and what I wanted and I was fearless enough to take a risk that it would also show up for me.
Marissa Velez: I can’t stress enough how crazy it’s been, the past year and a half, and how much I’ve had to learn how to rely on my instinct and my gut, that this is the right thing for me, because sometimes there’s nothing and it’s scary and especially in the past six months, nine months, it’s been bizarre. Now again it’s back and it’s building again and I feel the momentum. As Hank said, I just went and shot a short film in Armenia. I’m about to go shoot one in Spain in a time when no one’s traveling. I’m the only crazy one traveling, apparently. I think all of it is because I tried to be fearless. A lot of people told me what I shouldn’t do. People told I would never make it making movies. People told me I could never live this long in New York and have kids. People told me my children couldn’t survive this division in my life… having, unfortunately, to go through a divorce… but it’s better for me. In the long run it will be better for them to see their mother in a position where she’s happy and choosing to move forward in a life that she wants.
Marissa Velez: I’m incredibly grateful that I took these risks. Not everything was easy and it certainly wasn’t perfect but I wouldn’t change where I have landed today. I think I’m running out of time. Sorry. I can talk and talk and talk. But I think if I had to end on anything, you know that feeling when you fall in love? Hopefully everyone’s felt that. It changes you. That feeling of you can’t live without something. Well, that happened for me with film. And the other day someone was like, “You know you’re not going to make money doing this?” And I was like, “If that was my intent, I think I would’ve gone and become a doctor.” I never chose my path in life with this idea, “I’m going to make so much money.” But I think that if we believe in what we want and build the life we want that money comes. I never had enough money to have kids. I never had enough money to do what I’m doing. I kept working hard and trying to make it. Somehow I keep making it, I guess. Somehow.
Marissa Velez: Lastly, just be nice and work hard. No matter what. Be nice and work hard. It opens so many doors. Sometimes I’m still surprised by it. Smiling, although with masks that’s kind of gone to shit. But normally that helps too.
About the M.AD Insighters Series
Each week, we host a different practicing creative professional as they share insights and inspiration from their career. In the past, we’ve had the pleasure of hosting famous names like Jayanta Jenkins, David Butler, Steven Heller, and more. We take pride in sharing the diverse backgrounds and experiences of creatives from a variety of industries (and with a wide variety of viewpoints). It’s all part of our commitment to developing and encouraging young, creative minds.
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