Describe a day in the life of Lauren Santiago.
As soon as I wake up I immediately check (from my iPhone, in bed): work email, personal email, Pink Cookies email, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram. I respond to anything that needs immediate attention and flag the rest that can be handled later. On my subway commute to THR I’m almost always writing – whether it’s a verse for a new song I am working on, one or two-liners to incorporate in future songs, or just getting my train of thought down. I find that it helps clear my head and gets me more focused for the day. I then dive into client meetings with agencies and/or brands, then of course a ton of outreach to get in front of even more agencies and brands. I’m on the sales side of the media biz, so that’s what I do – sell. It’s not all that glamorous, though working for The Hollywood Reporter you definitely get more opportunities than not to sass it up. Cocktail party w/ Kelly Ripa, Padma, Michael Strahan, Bridget Moynahan, and LIZA MINELLI? Don’t mind if I do! Post work hours I’m either hosting clients or working on the next installment of Pink Cookies (the monthly event I’m a partner in). As we look to make a big impact this year in terms of our brand, there are a lot of moving parts that need to be handled. Late nights it’s more writing and/or recording if I’m in the middle of a music project.
How did you get started with music – and how does your music reflect your personal aesthetic?
It’s kind of a funny story because I was actually rapping and singing as a young teen – I LITERALLY wanted to be Lauryn Hill. I was obsessed with The Score when it came out and no other female artist made an impact on me the way she did. I was writing verses over Fugees instrumentals, Da La instrumentals, Outkast instrumentals, and actually any instrumental I could get my hands on in the form of a cassette tape single! I had a good little run ciphering with the boys thru high school, but deep down I really wanted to sing, and I was extremely shy about it. When I got to college I came out of my shell and joined an all-female – dare I say – a cappella group, through which I met some of the most talented women I’ve known to-date. I became a back-up singer in a band for one of these women who also happens to be a good friend of mine, went overseas to perform for the troops in Guantanamo Bay, and was so inspired that I started writing my own tunes as soon as we got back to the US.
I am a lover, a fighter, and a risk-taker – a combination that can result in learning the hard way more often than not. Nevertheless, there’s a story to tell, and I tell the truth in all its glory (at least the way I see it =)) through songwriting. I also tend to channel that inner-child in me who used to write 16-bar rap verses by playing with rhythms in song and working with producers who get people’s heads nodding.
It’s empowering to see women making moves in the scene like you — how have the women in your life been instrumental in developing your hustle?
The women in my life have been a powerful force in helping me develop all facets of my career. This year, I’ve made it a point to only surround myself with females who are strong-willed, positive, successful, and have been in the game longer than I have. These women range from former bosses to good friends who work in media (luckily for me all of my friends do), and it’s been so inspiring and a huge motivator to keep climbing to that next level. We are all each other’s support system. My mom has been especially instrumental in teaching me how to handle my finances from a very EARLY age. It’s one thing to have a hustle or a number of them, but a far FAR more important thing to keep your money in check. Thanks, mom.
How has social media shaped your media career and your personal projects? What’s your favorite platform? Why?
Social media has become such a natural part of my everyday routine that it’s tough to imagine what I did without it. I use Linkedin, FB, Twitter, Foursquare and Instagram to broadcast that I’m now at THR (it’s a pretty new gig for me), to push out Pink Cookies event info and related content surrounding and leading up to these events, and to push current & new music (adding to the list here Youtube and Soundcloud). All of these vehicles allow your message to travel across the country and around the world instantaneously, and at no cost. It’s all helped me stay connected with people across the globe and has been integral in building my brands. My favorite is still Twitter. It’s clean, there’s no pressure to follow people/brands you really have no interest in (unlike FB where it’s like – I guess I’ll just accept this friend request from this person I haven’t spoken to in 15 years and maybe they won’t notice when I delete them later). Twitter lets you get your message across in 140 characters or less. Short, sweet, and to the point.
Cultural trends constantly change. What do you do to stay relevant, connected, and ahead of the curve?
I peruse the major trades on a daily basis (or as often as I can when there’s downtime) to stay up-to-date on trends in media and tech. Music-wise I think I can do a better job of actually seeking OUT new music and/or what/who’s hot right now, as to-date I get most of my news via word-of-mouth. I also subscribe to my own trusted purveyors of good music: Waxpoetics, Giant Step, Revive Music/Okayplayer, and the likes. I can’t say I make it a point to connect with the “kids” these days (I’m sorry, I just can’t fux with the Odd Futures or the Azaelias), but I’m a Joey Bada$$ fan for life. I like what I like. Do I sound old? lol. I am I guess. Overall, I’m also trying to make a habit of going to Barnes & Noble, grabbing a stack of mags in the music, media, Hollywood/entertainment, tech, biz, and fashion categories, and sitting for a couple hours to get a download on all things happening. I recently took a 6-month hiatus from working to travel and figure out my next move, and a friend recommended I do this to keep current. I think I spent three hours in there – it was definitely worthwhile.
What are your must-have tools or apps to run your day-to-day grind? What kind of gadgets would we find on your desk or in your bag?
I’m addicted to my iPhone Notes – I use it for to-do lists, journaling, and even keep a running “Eats” list of places I hear/read about that I need to check. A girl’s gotta eat! But my iPhone obviously has all of my email synced up, necessary SM apps, iTunes and calendars on it, so I never let it go. I set calendar appts and reminders for EVERYTHING. Also, I recently took a LifeHacks class where this guy gave us tips & tricks (many of which are app-related) to have more time, energy, money, and well-being, and I’ve since incorporated a couple of them into my routine: To get more energy, I use an app called Sleep Cycle whenever I can. You basically set the alarm for a 30-minute range in which you want to wake up, and it monitors your movement so as NOT to wake you up mid-REM sleep. << If you’re in deep sleep when your regular alarm goes off in the morning at the same time, that’s when you feel like you’ve been hit by a bus – for the rest of the day at that. It’s worked out pretty well so far. I also installed a Gmail plug-in called Batchedinbox to help keep my email balanced between gigs. It basically delivers my personal email to my inbox three times a day, so that I’m not constantly spending my time in there. I can check it outside of those hours if there’s something important that I’m waiting for, but it’s definitely helped keep me more efficient.
In a fast-paced industry where last-minute-anything can happen, what’s your fail-proof, go-to outfit that will last from morning meetings to evening events?
All black everything: black top, black skirt, black tights (depending on weather), black wedges or thick heels (these NY streets ain’t pretty), and a leather jacket. I keep a black blazer at the office so I can just switch the jackets out depending on who I’m meeting with that day.
How important are mentors? Who is your mentor?
I think mentors are very important in helping guide and shape your present self and your future. I can’t say I have one mentor, but I do have a small group of people I look to for advice and wisdom, and these folks vary whether I’m looking for guidance with music, media, or events. I look up to them very much and draw a ton of inspiration from their talents and body of work.
Define your idea of success.
Having everything you want while not having anything you don’t want. I know that’s more of a state-of-mind, but if you can reach that level of peace, along with knowing you achieved goals you set out to achieve whether short-term or long-term, that to me is success. Also: knowing you overcame hardship and learned from past mistakes. Managing your own business and being your own boss. Being secure enough to not worry about the next day, or hell – the next 365 days. There are so many different levels.
What should we expect from Lauren Santiago this year?
New music projects are in the works to be pushed out later this year. The one-year anniversary of Pink Cookies…a 90s Joint! is also coming up this summer w/ some big surprises in store. I know this all sounds general and vague but instead of talking about planting seeds, I’d much rather just show you the fruit =). Stay tuned and in touch!
What’s your advice for other women entering creative fields?
Don’t be afraid to break the rules and carve your own path. Creativity is self-expression, so express your true self, not what you think others want to see/hear. Be confident that you have the skills and tools to succeed, even if sh*t does not go your way the first or second time around. Build your own personal group of mentors, surround yourself with positive people in your creative field that you can learn from, and don’t be afraid to ask for help.