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. Saturday, 25 July 2020 .

Have you ever had one of those moments in life where all of a sudden you are hit with absolute clarity on what it is you were born to do? Not necessarily in terms of a job title, or a specific role, but more like what it is you were put here to do. That moment of crystal clear clarity that makes you realise what people mean when they say they've had an epiphany. Even as I type this, I find myself still struggling to put into words just exactly what I mean. I don't feel like there are words to describe this feeling. This feeling of knowing exactly what it is you want to do, who you want to become, and how you envision it unfolding. The closest word I can think of to describe it is passion. And even then, I feel like passion isn't strong enough of a word to describe it.

But I've had these moments a few times in my life. Great, rare, fleeting moments that just appear out of nowhere. A split second that's enough to awaken something inside of me, jolt me back to life, nudge me to pay attention. To hold on to this feeling as long as I can and use it to take action towards that very thing I know I could become.

Tonight I had one of those moments. It shocked me so much I had to get up from bed and start writing this because it came almost out of nowhere and I'm trying to capture it as best as I can, while it's still here. Well, maybe not exactly out of nowhere. Let me explain.

A couple of weeks ago I decided to start watching One Tree Hill from the start. I never actually got to finish the later seasons, but when it came out in 2003 I was a 12 year old kid in Manila, Philippines about to discover who I am and what my place in this world is. It was around the same time I started blogging, come to think of it. My early days on Xanga, Live Journal, Multiply, and Friendster still a testament to just how much I love telling stories. But that's a tale for another day. Like I said, I started re-watching One Tree Hill at the start of July and have realised just how much this show shaped me.

Lately I've been feeling nostalgic for the girl I used to be. The one who would watch this show every week on her bulky, small TV and sit through ad breaks and asked for the DVD box set for her birthday once. I saw parts of myself in each of the characters then, but I've always felt like Peyton the most. I remember writing her spiel about art and drawing something that means something on my old blog because I felt that way about my writing. Even back then, I had an inkling that perhaps this was what I wanted to do. I wrote short stories in maths class instead of listening. I let myself dream and imagine. I watched the show religiously and fell for the characters and their story arcs, invested in who they were becoming too.

I've been telling stories from a very young age. I remember once as a kid, a few friends and I performed a musical in my room and we gathered our parents to be the audience. I think I was Celine Dion singing "It's All Coming Back To Me". I wrote little stories in my notebook. I drew stick figures in different scenarios before I even knew what 'storyboarding' was. My make believe scenarios while playing with my Barbie dolls filled my days with absolute magic and joy and I don't think I've ever gone a day in my life without imagining some outlandish scenario, wholeheartedly believing it could come true.

I think when I started getting into One Tree Hill many, many years ago, it reimagined all the magic I felt as a kid telling stories and it made me realise how truly powerful fictional worlds can be. One Tree Hill at its core is about discovering yourself but they were also way ahead of their time in terms of the themes discussed. In 2003 they were talking about podcasts, covering mental health and school shootings, being careful when you live life online (and this was before social media was even a big thing) among other things. I could probably spend a lot of time talking about what this show means to me. In fact, I've started noting down key episodes that have truly resonated. There is one particular episode that have always been my favourite. And over the years when people would ask me what my favourite show was, when I said One Tree Hill, I always had one moment in mind around why.

Season 4 Episode 9.

That was the episode that changed everything for me. The Ravens playing for State championship, the build up and tension on that final that was enough to turn me, a non-basketball fan who had no idea how the game really worked, into a screaming, cheering Ravens supporter. I will always be haunted by the scene thereafter of confetti and the opening chords to Jose Gonzalez's version of Heartbeats as a montage of the moments that came after plays and the camera pans to different characters in that moment. And Brooke comes up to Lucas and asks him who he wants standing next to him when all his dreams came true and he finally realises that it's Peyton he wants to be with. About 75 episodes later and the build up from season 1 (with a flashback even) finally reaches its peak and it's a lot more unexpected and romantic and sad and hopeful and just filled with so much goddamn emotion that I am a sobbing mess by the end of it. In those 3 or so minutes of show, nothing else existed except me and this show and it's transcendent and rare to experience. I haven't found a show moment that's come close since.

Yeah, I know they're not a real team, they're not real people, it's just a show etc. But isn't that a sign of really great storytelling? It brings you into a world that feels real. Fictional entertainment like TV, movies, and books may not be real but the feeling they leave us with is real. And it lingers long after we've watched the scene or read a chapter. Sometimes they even change the course of our lives or help us get through a difficult time or make us realise that we are not alone in how we feel. The kind of feelings you find yourself writing about 13 years after the episode first came out.

The first time I watched that scene, I just felt this shift. It feels cheesy to describe it as 'a fire ignited in me' but I guess I should just embrace the cheese wholeheartedly. It was this episode that made me believe I could tell these stories too. I just knew I had to tell stories that make people feel the way I felt while watching that. I wanted to write, I wanted to act, I wanted to be part of this creative world that makes people want to dream and feel and have hope. To take someone through that rollercoaster of emotion in a single sequence.

Tonight I remembered. I remembered who I wanted to be. What I wanted to do. How I want to spend my days. And there is a really big part of me that has felt like I've lost this feeling a long time ago and most of the time I'm just rolling with the punches and letting life pass me by. I haven't had it in me to fight back, to fight for what I want, to fight for who I wanted to become. And I guess little by little that truly strong spark had diminished.

I thought it had been gone until tonight. I felt it all again. The nervous feeling in my heart as Lucas was about to shoot the shot that would make them win. The sheer joy of seeing these characters achieve something they have been working towards. The absolute release of confessing how they felt about each other. That line around who you want standing next to you when all your dreams come true. I sobbed and felt the lightest I have felt in a while.

It was like nothing has changed. I was still the 12 year old girl from Manila except now in a 28 year old body from New Zealand with more experiences lived and moments under my belt that I had no idea was going to happen to me all those years ago.

It's 1:31 am and I'm beyond exhausted from the week that's been but I also feel more alive than I have ever been in a long time. I'm not as nostalgic for the girl I used to be. I now know that she's still in there too, but mostly I long for the person I want to become. In a few short weeks I get to start giving it a shot. Or at the very least, start figuring out how to seriously go after the thing I want the most.

The heaviest thing I have had to carry for nearly ten years now will be gone. I can feel the build up of that sigh of relief, imagining how light it would feel without the weight. I'm proud of the way I've been carrying this with grace and compassion and good old fashioned hard fucking work. When it's over I'll probably write about it as a way to process, as a way to remember it, as a way to thank those character defining moments disguised as mountains we have to move.

There are stories I have been raring to tell. Stories that have yet to happen that will someday be stories I'll tell. I know now that even with the best plans and intentions, the road to what we want isn't linear and is filled with twists and turns. But I know I have to at least try and tell these stories, whatever it takes to do that.

In many ways, I get to begin again. I have faith in my arrival.

. Wednesday, 1 July 2020 .

I've been thinking a lot about movies and why we go see them in a cinema. Throughout the long weeks of lockdown and different alert levels here in New Zealand, I found myself really missing going to the movies. I was craving for that salty, popcorn with butter, longing to recline in a plush leather seat and watching a film in a massive screen. Sure, I still watched movies almost everyday, but nothing beats going into a darkened theatre, laughing with random people in your aisle, holding in the need to go toilet so you don't miss anything, undistracted in another world for a couple of hours at least. It feels like it's what we need at times like this - living through a pandemic, an uprising, and a looming recession - a few hours to forget about reality and be so completely engrossed in a film where we know there will at least be a beginning and a concrete end. There's something comforting in knowing how something ends, how good will defeat evil, how true love always wins, how the underdogs always emerge victorious. I often leave the cinema with a renewed sense of hope and that specific feeling of inspiration that makes me feel as though I can handle real life again after that.

To say I was excited to get back out there again and go see my first film since February is an understatement. I went to the New Zealand premiere of The High Note last Saturday night and honestly, I cannot think of a more apt first film to see after lockdown. We really are starting on a high note! It's a film that's got a bit of everything for everyone - there's an excellent storyline, fabulous outfits, a little insight into the lifestyle of a music icon albeit fictional, beautiful songs, witty script, all set against a dreamy Los Angeles background. I haven't even got to the plot twist in the end yet - it rivals that of a Filipino film and I've only ever seen twists of this calibre in one other recent film.

Official synopsis:

Dakota Johnson and Black-ish star Tracee Ellis Ross lead this Los Angeles music biz dramedy directed by Emmy nominee Nisha Ganatra.

Middle-aged pop superstar Grace Davis (Ross) wants to record a new album, but her manager (Ice Cube) thinks that taking a Vegas residency is the right move at this stage of her career. Enter Grace's overworked - and often overlooked - assistant, Maggie (Johnson). Aspiring to become a music producer, Maggie tries to hatch a plan that will see Grace succeed while also fulfilling her own dreams.

Tracee Ellis Ross is absolutely phenomenal in this role. It's hard to believe that Grace Davis isn't a real music legend after seeing that thanks to her flawless portrayal of Grace and all her little diva moments. Dakota Johnson and Tracee Ellis Ross had wonderful chemistry and that became quite apparent in one particular scene on a private plane. I don't want to spoil it too much but let's just say I felt the vulnerabilities of both characters and what motivated their actions thanks to that. I also want to mention that meet cute because it reminded me of why I love rom coms in the first place. The meet cute in this film is every music lovers (and The OC fans) dream. It's so LA, it's so cliched, and yet why couldn't I stop smiling long after the scene played out?

It's also worth mentioning the excellent supporting cast in this film. Ice Cube, Kelvin Harrison Jr, and June Diane Raphael, and Zoe Chao really brought this story to life with their performances. If anything, I would have loved to have seen more of June Diane Raphael and Zoe Chao's story arcs as I think they would have added more depth to the film because their relationships with the leads were complex and that could have been explored more.

All in all, The High Note is a feel good film that will have you laughing, listening to the soundtrack after, and believing in the magic of cinema again. And maybe that's exactly what we need more of.

The High Note opens in New Zealand cinemas tomorrow (July 2) and I feel very fortunate to even be typing that out. Check out the trailer here.

. Monday, 22 June 2020 .

Superette is having quite the year. Not only have they celebrated turning the big 1-8 but they've also just opened their new Commercial Bay store right in Auckland's CBD. It's convenient for city dwellers like myself who just want to browse and shop without having to venture out into the suburbs (I've been frothing over some Baby Anything jewellery ever since chatting to Elle so maybe now is my moment?) and treat themselves to something nice. 

This Superette store have all the Superette classics we love (read on below to hear about some winter staples) as well as a carefully curated selection of exclusive designers set to join the throng.

I caught up with Superette co-founder Rickie Dee on the new store, what she's learnt over the 18 years of Superette, and of course some style tips!

What's the biggest thing you’ve learnt as a business owner?

It’s been quite the journey over the past 18 years and we have learnt so much along the way. A lot of this comes from making mistakes or identifying missed opportunities. We then learn on this and build on it for next time. We are so passionate about what we do so we always manage to find a solution to the problem and move on. Starting a business is not easy and certainly a lot of constant hard work, it’s not something you can turn off from. As our business grew, we learnt that we certainly couldn’t do everything and over the years we’ve been able to build an incredible team who share our same passion and help us to achieve our goals.

What’s different about the Commercial Bay store compared to the other stores?

To begin with the look and feel is quite different from our other stores. It has an elevated feel with an amazing neon yellow and sage green as heroes of the design combined with raw concrete, timber and chrome features. The product looks incredible in the store and it’s laid out in a way that allows our customers to explore and get creative with different pieces.

It is also our first store in this style of complex. It’s been amazing so far and we love being part of such an incredible community where everyone is doing their own thing but it feels like we are all doing it together. 

How did Superette start – what was the inspiration behind it?

My business partner James and I started the business in 2002 when we were just 21. We had this idea to collect pieces we loved with the intention of selling them in an industrial space complete with a cafe on Drake Street in Freemans Bay. It was quite a far out idea as we were so young but at the same time I think that worked in our favour. We never over thought anything and worked around the clock to bring our dream to life. Over the last 18 years we’ve built up Superette slowly and steadily, it’s never been rushed and we are always adapting the concept to keep things fresh.

Must-have pieces for winter?
Superette LA Knit, Agolde Riley High Rise Jeans & Alias Mae Knight Boots

I know you have personal stylists in the Superette International store – how do you approach your own personal style and do you have any tips to anyone to help find theirs?

Our styling sessions at our Superette International store are so much fun! I think the secret is to always wear something you feel like yourself in. There’s no point in following the latest trend if it doesn’t feel like you, you’ll end up feeling self-conscious instead of confident. This is something we focus on with our styling sessions. We ask a bunch of questions the week before the session to make sure we understand the client’s style and from there we can pull options to build an amazing wardrobe as well as push them to try something new whilst making sure it’s still suited to their personality and lifestyle. 

What’s one piece of clothing that will never go out of style?

A good quality leather jacket or crisp blazer.

Shop Superette here.