Today we’d like to introduce you to Carolyn Ngo.
Carolyn, please share your story with us. How did you get to where you are today?
It all started with a #2 pencil. My childhood was always filled with a fascination for drawing and expressing myself through art. All the other kids were busy playing with each other at hopscotch and four square. I was the one playing intermittently as half of my attention would go straight to doodling when I was waiting for my next turn. Fast forward to the time when I was still a naive 4.2 GPA high school kid that was 100% sure about being unsure of my future in college. At the time, I developed a close relationship with my art teacher. She was a sweet and dorky late 30-something-year-old that was completely adamant about my need to go to Art Center in Pasadena. I guess she saw something in me and wanted to give me a nudge in the right direction. My oh-so conventionally traditional parents wanted me to pursue something medical because of the financial stability. I wasn’t too keen on the idea, but I was open to trying it because, ultimately, I’ve always been a mama-bird type of person; wanting to give whenever I could. I believed that chasing a pre-med path would help me reach my philanthropic goals. As a human bio major, I was getting pretty burnt out from all the textbook jargon and decided to pick up a minor in vis arts. The genuine education and creative experiences I had unearthed from my vis arts classes seriously re-sparked my interest in creating. What was originally a minor had then become a major. Along the way, I picked up photography. At this time, the whole Greek system was trying to recruit new blood and I tried out being a Sorority member. I immediately realized it wasn’t for me when I found out that you had to pay something like $350 to begin your membership. I didn’t need to buy a social life. I knew that I could easily make my own friends on my own terms at no cost to myself. And so I did. I engulfed myself in San Diego nightlife. Portions of my time were spent at really amazing electro events in Northpark and Downtown SD where I befriended all the cool DJs that mattered. I brought my trusty DSLR pretty much every weekend to shoot my friends and complete strangers that wanted to be in my photos. The music and nightlife were electrifying. I’ll never forget those wonderful times.
After the superfluous amounts attention I got from my event photos being tagged all over Facebook, I started getting job offers to shoot the same type of events, have, and still get paid for it. That’s when everything clicked and took off.
Fast forward to now, where I’m back in LA. I’m still a crazy socialite and network with talented people left and right. I work full-time at a fashion company, shooting in-studio catalogs and on-the-field lookbook campaigns, freelancing every weekend for BLVCKMATTR Creative (my photography company), and managing my fashion blog. If I find myself with some extra time, I try to squeeze in some experimental mixed-media creative projects for fun.
Has it been a smooth road?
I don’t think a smooth road exists, does it? Whether it be financial binds or having an early mid-life crisis of not knowing what to do with my life, I’ve definitely come across many bumps along the way. I like to think of myself as a well-rounded person that knows a little bit about everything. Being committed to one thing and one thing only is so boring. I try to keep myself vitalized by incorporating other projects outside of my natural realm to keep things interesting. I recently started watching Tony Robbins on YouTube and he’s such an inspirational character. If you do not know who he is, I strongly encourage you to Google him… right now! He quotes, “Success without fulfillment is the ultimate failure.” *Drops the mike* This statement, alone, resonated with me because I was always stressing out about finding enough income to live comfortably. I realized that money should not be your main focus in life. You should find something that you love so much that you can never let it go. Once you find your calling, you’re a winner at life. From this welcomed light-bulb moment, I’ve been more honest with myself about what feeds my soul and doing all that I can to continually pursue it.
Do you feel luck has played a role in your life?
To be honest, I don’t believe in good or bad luck. I believe that being at the right place at the right time has to do with if you were ready to take on that experience at that point in your life and if you were channeling those energies to come to you, to begin with. You just think it’s luck when it occurs because it feels like a nice surprise , but really, it was something that you were channeling for all along. If you think you’re running into bad luck, that very idea will continue to perpetuate and manifest itself into your life until you change your mindset about what’s next to come. For instance, if you think you’re always going to run late to work, 100% of the time it will happen. I used to think this way because I would take a while to get ready in the morning when I’m doing my makeup. I’d rush out the door, freaking out about being 5 minutes late to work. And sure enough, that would always happen. Instead of changing my makeup routine to save time, I changed my mindset about arriving to work –to being there early or on-time. Guess what? It worked. It still does to this day! And believe you me, LA traffic has definitely not gotten any better either. You should try it out for yourself and see how incredible the power of the mind is!
Is there a quality or characteristic that has played an outsized role in your success?
Passion and drive are what you need to plant the seeds. If you’re not fully committed to what you’re doing, then maybe you should stop yourself right now. Your competitor is most definitely driven and killing the game for you.
Leadership and teamwork skills go hand in hand. You have to know when to delegate the workload onto your peers when things get hairy. Taking on everything on your own is simply inefficient!
Communication is another big one. I’ve worked with so many companies that lack this imperative skill. If you can’t express that something is wrong or bugging you, well, nothing’s ever going to get resolved now is it? People can’t read your mind, but they can read what you write or hear what you’re saying. Whether it be in the office or life in general, show openness and be constructive when communicating your feelings and ideas. Quite frankly, it’s too frustrating to deal with miscommunication on a daily basis –this is why companies who lack in this department usually have high turnover rates. “Bye, Felicia.”
Being open-minded is another important quality that everyone should strive for. Yeah, we know you THINK you’re right 100% of the time, but maybe you should hear other constructive ideas to help you build your own. Besides, collaborating is the fun part about working together. This is how you disrupt the industry.
Confidence is another important factor for you to succeed. Believe in yourself and hustle hard. There will always be haters in the world, but they’re what make you famous! 🙂 If they aren’t seated at the table with you, they’re on the menu.
Have compassion with a capital ‘C!’ Remember that you still have a soul in the industry that you’re working in. Feel that inexplicable love for the work you do and understand the ripple effect it has onto everyone else. When your goals align with giving to others at the end of the day, that type of fulfillment will make your life so much more rewarding. Keep it humble, guys!
Lastly, learn to have a whole ‘lotta patience. Things will always hit the fan, but what do you do when that literally happens? You stay and clean up the mess then figure out how to avoid that from happening again. Finding success is a learning process and you just have to be ready to roll with the punches. Just deal with it and don’t quit it!
What do you love about our city and what do you dislike?
The diversity and culture that you can find in every pocket of LA county is insane! I love the fact that I can appease my cravings for every type of cultural food on any given day. Besides the great food, there’s a good mix of people here who are really interesting or just aren’t the greatest humans.
What I like least about the city is the terrible traffic. I think that’s a given for a majority of the population here. Each household owns way too many cars nowadays. Don’t get me wrong, I love driving and doing road trips, but it will probably take me a good 30-40mins just to leave city lines ha!
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