Searching for Serenity with Rachel Nguyen
Searching for Serenity with Rachel Nguyen
WORDS: NOAH PHAM | PHOTOS: CYNTHIA ABRIL
Through open-diary reflections to lifestyle focused product videos, creative Rachel Nguyen has been on the forefront of the digital landscape. When blogs were the medium of expression on the internet, Rachel’s outlet That’s Chic has been her online journal since the high school days, and soon enough grew into an opportunity to even help pay for her college tuition.
Since the early 2010’s, before Instagram, boosted posts, and ads in between every single Youtube video we watch, the modern day documentarian and vision Rachel has created for herself has stayed tried and true to her individuality.
With a distinct look and feel to the work she has produced, with brands ranging from True Religion, Glossier, and Adobe, atop of managing her blog and Youtube channel, the immersion Rachel has within digital media and the internet is as deep as the Abyssopelagic. As her generation, and even younger generations are becoming more attached, aware, and sensitive to what is happening behind their screens, some can say that getting lost within this realm can shake our core in a darker tone. But how do we find the times to ourselves to healthily detach from these habits?
We had a chance to catch up with Rachel after hosting her sound bath experience with Basic Space and to learn her ways on how she manages her workload and stressors.
Tell us how you got into your profession and how you got into it?
I love the reaction I get from this, but Im kind of one of the first ones in the space for influencer work. I started this in high school, so about 13 years ago. That’s when I started my blog and it was such a fresh time of the internet. It was such a fresh time on the internet where people were truly expressing themselves with zero agenda because there was nothing built out for anyone to advertise to. Everything was on print still. I’m nostalgic for that time of the internet because I know it’ll never be like that again. Everything was so genuine and untouched. I started my blog because I had really strict parents and i needed an outlet to do something! Growing up on the internet was my escape and my way to communicate with people. There wasn’t an Instagram or other social media platforms at the time. I’ve had other career moves but the thing that’s kept me afloat was the blog. I paid for my college degree through my blog at the same time. I didn’t realize I could make money off it. About 5 years ago I left another job and I always kept my blog as a hobby. I left my job at Shoedazzle then I started my Youtube channel and I fell in love with it. For the first time I could see the expression of myself on the internet so I did that as a full time job. It was a different community I was able to connect with aside from surface level photos.
How long have you been doing your youtube channel for?
About 5 years. In between the 5 years i do consulting work here and there. My last jobs were at Glossier, AG, and a few other side projects. But mostly Youtube full time!
So going off of the sound bath you hosted, the term of wellness is very subjectively thrown around. How did you find yourself being mindful of your own health and wellness, spiritually and physically. How did you balance that?
The growth of the internet makes it so easy to lose yourself in it. Especially when people give you attention, you can get lost in that attention. It takes a lot of mindfulness to be subjective to your surroundings and what people expect of you and who you are yourself. For my line of work, your constantly in front of the camera and talking to people. I put my life up so vulnerably giving a lot of room for people to judge and interpret in different ways. I remember going through college, I had several boyfriends and people were judging me on it! It was in 2011 so it was ok to judge. With sponsorships you’re like, whoa people are giving you attention through that. You lose yourself through that. I did work for True Religion and i don’t even wear their jeans. I didn’t know better and I went through not navigating my worth and work. I saw other people start to sell themselves out and that means you don’t know your own worth and value. You’d rather compromise what you believe in yourself to something that holds a lesser value of something not as significant to your morals and beliefs. I think seeing that forced me to be nimble with my own work. Like how do I not be cliche of myself, how do I constantly grow. How do I grow under the lens of so many people watching me. I’ve always tried to stay authentic to myself. Staying really hypersensitive to fluctuations of myself comes across online.
Youtubers are very open and vulnerable, does being this open to your community help with your mental health? How has being able to express yourself to an audience helped your mental health?
Journaling and writing things down is such a good way to brain dump and really look at your life problems through situations or anything you’re trying to unbox at a bigger picture. I’ve always kind of practiced that. After my braindumps I’ll look at it in retrospect a week later and it’s like, oh there’s something in here i can express or talk about. I just need ways to articulate the words, then the visuals, the mood, and then there is a video. That’s one step of therapeutic journaling. I basically treat my youtube as an online journal. What’s so cathartic is sharing your story or what you’re going through, no matter how minute or big it is. People should be sharing their stories because it makes us feel less alone and helps validate not only myself, but the community. Like holy shit, the things I’m feeling like growing up with immigrant parents or taking likes off Instagram. Those little things are conversations that validates what we’re all thinking. And I try to do it in a way that feels open and it’s up for discussion and to not encourage group thinks. But sometimes you realize, oh yeah these are all stories that need to be validated.
What are your biggest stresses that come from juggling so many jobs and wearing many hats?
I think it’s so important to understand your boundaries from the get go. Not only boundaries with yourself but boundaries from once you’re hired on. From there it’s a slow steady step of unravelling expectations and managing that. It’s all about communication. Spiritually, there are so many things I can do to mentally clear my space and have the energy and emotions to conquer and do things well. Being around people and journaling and having really strong boundaries. Not being afraid to say yes and no. Also knowing how to articulate why you’re saying something so people can really understand you. Which takes tremendous practice outside of the workplace. To constantly feel centered within yourself and taking time to decompress and clear your mind to take on your workload with so much clarity. Managing expectations and boundaries are the best things to help towards a fruitful career. When you spread yourself so thin, you do half ass work. Do you want that to be your legacy? You make a lot of money and touch a lot of people’s lives. But you didn’t touch them in a way where they leave and say damn that was something magical. Thats what i try to leave with. I’d rather be broke than juggle so much and not leave someone’s impression of me thinking that was kind of magic.
What are your methods to decompress?
One thing that helps me stay balanced and focus is that everything is a practice. Nothing needs to be finite and done. You’re allowed to be stressed. You’re allowed to feel the way you do. You’re allowed to take an afternoon nap. As long as you do it with mindfulness and intention. Meaning, if you’re going to be stressed and like im so tired im going to nap and you feel guilty for napping. I say if you’re going to eat the cake, enjoy it. Savor every second of it. Don’t make yourself feel guilty of it. When you’re in a stump, people get into them because they are overwhelmed on their to do list .. they’re constantly racking up so many items and when you look back at it, you didn’t accomplish what you needed to do that day, the month and in that year. Those moments that stack on each other decrease your trust with yourself. I think it’s important to have micro goals that gives you a feeling of accomplishment. That builds trust with yourself. If you write something you’re going to do, try the best you can to go along with it. It’s not about accomplishing the task, but accomplishing a promise to yourself. It’s so much inner work to do these little things that make you feel like a whole functioning stable human. Again it’s a practice because no one will ever be perfectly equilibrium and its ok. It’s important to be gentle on ourselves and to be mindful. Something that’s also helped me with feeling stressed is that I’ve also been following Eckhart Tolle who has this new book called The New Earth. It’s so enriching but one of my favorite takeaways from his teachings is “The ego causes all the friction in our lives.”
So often we identify with a way of thinking or a way to do something, just anything that we identify with is our ego. Our ego constructs an idea of ourselves, an identity of ourselves. So when someone disagrees with us, we feel attacked. But if we can detach from doing something and being open to listen, it helps so much. If I see friction happening in my life whether it’s work relationships, friendships, or even within myself, knowing that now, Im able to take a step back and notice the friction and where is my ego coming in and how to recognize that pullback.
Asides from freewriting, journaling, and reading, do you have other practices for releasing stress? How do you keep physical aspects of your health in tune with your creativity?
Yoga is one of the best exercises you can do. I find it extremely meditative. It’s a beautiful opportunity to create space physically because it’s a lot of stretching and difficult poses that you’re sort of supposed to breathe into the pain. I think that’s such a beautiful practice of feeling the space within your body. When I’m really consistent with yoga, I feel so much space within my body. Whenever i fall back down and do it again, it reminds me of “Oh that’s what it’s like to be stretched out and taking up physical space”. Any form of stretching is amazing. It just relieves so much tension within our muscles and we hold trauma in our bodies so making sure we’re relaxed and tender is really important. I also like boxing. I’m a fire sign so *laughs*. Boxing has been an amazing release for me. I don’t get sad, I get angry, so boxing has been an amazing release for me. I always like being outdoors too. Being outside without a phone or any electronics is so detoxifying. Just observing the quiet little nuances nature has to offer. Eating healthy too. That’s always been easy for me. The feeling of eating like shit is never worth it. The only processed thing that really gets me is potato chips. It’s the kryptonite. Also drinking. I’ve cut down on social drinking in which you may know in this industry someone wants your attention, someone wants to get a drink with you. I’ve been so much better with not drinking and I feel great. But once you crack open a drink it’s like I’m really enjoying this right now.
How important is it to you to step away from the screens? How often do you try to step away from it as well?
It’s so important! And I don’t do it enough myself and I should. There was one week where i deleted instagram and I was like oh wow I forgot about this feeling of space and not being distracted. I forget who said it but it goes something like distractions are the hindrance for creativity. I find myself that when im craving for a distraction or itching with mindless intention on Instagram, I feel like im escaping. It’s a matter of being conscious and understanding the triggers on what’s making me grab my phone and why im grabbing my phone. I know it’s to fulfill a boredom or whatever but it’s like why am I bored? It’s almost sitting there and unboxing your patterns and triggers to pick up your phone to someone escape from something. Or if I’m working and don’t want to, I’ll pick up my phone and become distracted.
Tell us about the sound bath you hosted this weekend?
It’s such a useful tool to hit a deep meditative state. I feel super recharged after. I like to really amp up my stressful gears so that I can fully enjoy the decompression of the sound bath.
You’re top 3 quick tips to managing stress?
Go take a walk! Just walk with no phones. I think a good brain dump is so important for mental health. We have so much jumbled in our minds to process and figure out. If you can just turn off your mind and let your hand or fingers write, you’ll be surprised how much of it can make sense once you get all of your thoughts down and your mind is clear. Practicing gratitude and ways to love yourself too. Self care is so important. The practice of ensuring that you know you love and appreciate yourself and you will nurture yourself is important. You are all you have at the end of the day.