Meeting Georgia feels more like reconnecting with an old friend — a warm embrace is quickly followed by easy conversation and funny anecdotes. We first met her in London at a signing during G’s book tour and she quickly became a great friend of the studio. We’ll let you get to know her for yourself with her In Her Words piece below. Oh, and don’t forget to read it in her charming English accent.
Georgia Graham, Model & Writer
When Garance asked me to write a piece for the site, I decided I would write about something that’s been on my mind a lot lately, particularly living in New York. I guess the working title of this piece could be “staying human in the hustle.”
The idea stemmed from a seemingly unremarkable conversation I had recently. I was in 100% basic bitch mode; complaining to a guy I know about two of life’s big Ms: my mum, and a pair of lost Miu Miu sunglasses. I’d been on the phone to Mum, telling her about the lost MMs. She’d gone into caring-mother-sympathy-mode, at which point I’d tactically asked her if she might help me replace them as my Christmas present. It was then that her empathy rather dried up, so of course I was whining about my unsuccessful Mother Manipulation to my poor friend (an exercise in First World Problems, if there ever was one). His response, instead of siding with me, was to say, “whoa, that’s kind of conniving of you.”
He was right. I’d asked my mum at that moment because I knew her maternal empathy might help in persuading her to spend more than what she’d normally consider “top whack” on a Christmas present. Immediately I felt guilty, manipulative – not to mention spoiled and kind of shallow.
The incident had got me thinking about a bigger topic that I’ve been ruminating on. Life in New York is all about the hustle, about trying to “make it.” Part of it is spotting the opportunities around you; using your wits to work out how you can get what you want and succeed in whatever it is you’re trying to achieve. Being clever, knowing how to network, knowing how to market yourself, it’s all part of the game, not only in the fashion industry but in many of aspects of life in this city.
To put it in perspective for non-New Yorkers, I often imagine New York as this big pile of people, all enthusiastically climbing over one another, scrambling to get to the top of the pile. Everyone knows the deal: you’re a climber, that’s just part of living in NYC. Nevertheless, even though you’re all climbing together, what happens if you end up treading on someone’s fingers, or someone’s face? When does drive surpass respect for others – when does being clever become being conniving?
I once read an incredible Joan Didion essay on self-respect. For those of you that might only know her as the sunglasses-wearing grandma in those Céline campaigns, she’s a pretty inspiring woman. Her writing is sharp, acerbic, and she never beats around the bush. With Joan, she tells it like it is, no bullshit, just the honest truth (which as we all know, is sometimes a bitter pill to swallow). In this essay she basically articulates that no matter who you impress or how much you achieve, if you can’t sit alone at the end of the day and feel respect for yourself, then none of it is worth a dime.
This is what worried me about the sunglasses incident – it had shown me a side of myself that I didn’t like, one which I felt was more about being clever than being kind. I don’t want to sound preachy or overly virtuous – having ambitions and being smart are both admirable qualities, and used correctly, can yield some very positive results. Nevertheless, in a culture that often suggests that money, looks and commercial success are the keys to happiness, how do we keep the focus on goodness, on integrity? Is being a “good person” even important anymore? In a city like New York, it’s so easy to get swept away by the hustle, chasing commercial goals to the extent that you lose sight of yourself, and perhaps your self-respect.
I worry constantly about being chewed up and spat out by it all; what if through all the hustling and instagramming and Dream Chasing I become this totally self-involved narcissist, a robo-new Yorker set into “Get Rich and Achieve Goals” mode, unable to defer back to the “human being” setting? Realness and authenticity are for me some of the most important and most attractive qualities in others – after all isn’t that why we all love Garance’s work so much? I suppose what I’m afraid of is the Dorian Gray syndrome. What if once you’ve reached the top and bought yourself that gigantic multi-storey brownstone, you go up to the penthouse jacuzzi room loft and take a look at your portrait – and it’s hideous?
Finding the balance between playing the game without selling your soul can be hard sometimes, and that’s where true friends come in. The ones that know that behind the nice modelling pictures, there’s a real human underneath. One that spent New Years in Berlin crouched over a takeaway kebab and tucks her t-shirts into her knickers to keep them from un-tucking. These friends are like family – sometimes we drive each other mad (my role: resident worrier, overthinker, perpetually late, sends worlds longest text messages and always wants a bite of whatever you’re having) but we love each other nonetheless.
It’s these friends that offer me the confidence and support to go out and chase my ambitions, but also the ones that will serve me up a cold slice of Didion’s humble pie and tell me when I’m being a conniving asshole to my mum. Not only that, they show me the kind of love and compassion that makes me want to pass it on to those around me. Surely if the events of 2016 have shown us anything, it’s that we could do with a bit more humanity in this world.
I write about these things not because I am some kind of puritanical angel preaching to the masses whilst seeking redemption for sins of sunglasses and selfishness. Part of what Joan expresses in her essay is that it doesn’t matter how everyone else sees you, rather it’s about how YOU see yourself. The important thing for me is to make my own decisions about what is important and stick to what my gut tells me is right, and what it tells me feels fake and weird and uncomfortable. To trust the people that feel real and genuine and avoid those that feel slimy and leechy and false. To prioritise humanity and community over money and success, and have faith that this will lead to success of a more fulfilling nature.
Therein lies the crux of authenticity, which is a quality that can often be lost in the steamrolling commercialism of a city like New York. Truly authentic people are those that manage to retain their humanity despite the increasingly mechanized nature of our society and interactions. They strive to succeed as themselves despite the moulds society tells them they should fill. They may not be perfect, but they stay human, which means they stay connected to other humans, rather than to their bank accounts or their egos. Those are the people for me, the ones I aspire to both emulate and befriend.
Anyways that’s all from me. There you have it: my love letter to my friends, my complicated affair with New York, my grievances over lost designer glasses. My attempts to sound old and wise when actually I’m only 24 and I still haven’t got a clue. Now you all know that I tuck my t-shirts into my undergarments and that I once got a New Year’s kiss from a kebab.
(Oh, and for the record, I got an Eyewitness travel guide for Christmas.)