Describe a day in the life of Marinell Montales in one sentence.
I wake up, check Instagram and Twitter feeds, then my two go-to fashion blogs (manrepeller.com & whowhatwear.com before getting to The Warehouse Cafe — once there, I drink coffee, read/send emails, start/finish graphic design jobs, update Facebook pages I manage as a freelance social media strategist, drink more coffee, check downtownnatch.com, have a late dinner with boyfriend, and watch HGTV until I fall asleep.
How did you get started with Downtownnatch.com – and how does it reflect your personal aesthetic?
Back in college, a friend of mine, Rachel, started her own personal style blog and I was her photographer. But it was tough to keep it going consistently because we were both busy in school and I didn’t have my own camera (we were borrowing her dad’s point and shoot digital one), so that blog only lasted a few months. I got the shutterbug from that whole experience, so I saved up some money and bought myself a nice Sony NEX-5 and created Downtown, Natch!
Running a streetstyle blog is an opportunity for me to find inspiration and clarity of thought with regard to my own aesthetics. I pick up tons of design cues by photographing so many people, each with diverse styles, and some with similar styles that they’ve reinterpreted in a unique way. This keeps my aesthetic fresh and helps me stay away from having a cookie-cutter approach to my graphic design work.
Cultural trends constantly change. What do you do to stay relevant, connected, and ahead of the curve?
Man, oh man, it is not easy. Admittedly, I have yet to reach the top of this statistical bell curve, especially in the world of streetstyle blogging. You have your household names — The Sartorialist, Street Peeper, Tommy Ton — we’re talking about heavy hitters here that I can’t even dare to imagine being ahead of even if I take Downtown, Natch! outside the bounds of Jersey City and go international, which I don’t plan on doing.
On a smaller, geographical scale, however, I think it’s safe to say that more and more people are taking note of Downtown, Natch! But that makes staying relevant and ahead of the curve even more challenging. With overactive Twitter, Facebook and Instagram feeds, everyone is drowning in each other’s enterprise, and trying to stay ahead of the curve ends up becoming counter-productive. Sometimes it’s good to put the blinders on and have that tunnel vision to just keep doing what I do for as long as it feels right.
How do you keep track of your personal and business goals – and stay creative at the same time (even when you’re exhausted)?
I don’t. Ha! I’m trying out this new thing where I set commitments instead of goals. A few months ago, I found this NYT interview with Hugh Martin where he talks about the concept of goals versus commitments. He made a lot of sense, and his advice really resonated with me. What I took away from it is that setting goals is like creating a bucket list of things that you wish you could achieve — they mostly lie sometime in the hazy future and are very vague. Committing to something, on the other hand, is like “a firm handshake”–you hold yourself accountable and reap the consequences of failing to meet that commitment.
So now I often ask myself “which projects can I really commit to?” This has been a good exercise for staying wildly, creatively ambitious without being delusional. So far, it has allowed me to keep myself in check, measure my accomplishments, know my limits, and stay true to my passion of creating and making things happen.
How important are mentors? Who is your mentor?
Mentors are definitely important, especially for creative folks like me. It’s so easy to talk yourself out of things and very difficult to police yourself as a freelancer, so having one or two people who can be your voice of reason and protective figures is one way to keep sane. I have three people whom I call mentors:
My former boss, Danae Ringelmann.
Danae is one of the founders of Indiegogo. During my time with Indiegogo, she instilled in me that being happy at work is fundamentally important. You have to like/feel connected to what you do everyday because your attitude towards what you do make your impact greater and your own personal happiness higher as well.
My boyfriend, John T. Trigonis.
I don’t know anyone else in the world who’s as determined as this man. If one of these days, he wakes up and tells me he’s going to be a storm chaser because it’s his new passion, I wouldn’t doubt him for a second. His approach to life is so fucking admirable that I have to use profanity to talk about it. He is my voice of reason. He gives me the mental push I need whenever I feel reluctant about jumping into new adventures and making crucial decisions. This guy is a prize, and I’m lucky I won him over.
My parents (okay, technically this makes the number of people I call mentors four, but I consider them a tag-team).
My mom and dad put the hustle in my genes. I’m a hard-worker because I come from a hard-working family. My parents don’t usually say much about my personal and professional choices, which doesn’t mean that they don’t care. I know that their quiet yet confident nod of approval is their way of telling me that I’m onto something meaningful. My mom and dad are precisely the pillars for which my self confidence is built on. They keep me going.
What is your advice for women interested in getting into photography?
Commit to it! The initiative is not gonna come from anywhere but yourself, so just get up, go out, and start shooting photos. Even if you don’t own a camera, you can still use your phone’s camera and practice composition. Once you get the camera that you want and you’re willing to spend more money, take classes. If you’re an introvert like me, find tutorials on YouTube and teach yourself how to use it.
Every skill that I have now –– from graphic design and photography to social media marketing –– I learned by doing. It’s not about the resources, it’s about your resourcefulness.
Place that inspires me the most: Coffee shops.
Most cafes in Downtown Jersey City have that environment that is conducive to creativity and therefore attract creative minds. I love to eavesdrop and listen to what other people are dreaming up. I also enjoy meeting new people, and although I’m that person who wears a DND (Do Not Disturb) face to avoid small talk and other distractions because I’m usually a bit timid, I appreciate time spent talking to others and learning about his or her creative process, habits, plight, etc, because ultimately, it leaves me motivated and inspired.
I feel most powerful when: I stick to my guns.
Sometimes I can be very accommodating as far as executing my ideas when collaborating with other people, mainly because I want to avoid friction. This attribute that I’ve always known to a be a good trait to have turned out to be hurting my personal growth. When I say “sticking to my guns,” I mean having the power to say “no.” I learned that it’s okay to disagree with someone especially if it means refusing to compromise on something that speaks to your authentic self.
I love what I do because:I do what I love.
My idea of success is: personal gratification.
Since turning 28 this year, I was blinded by the idea of notoriety, so I made a personal goal to make it into some 30 under 30 list. (See what happens when you set goals?) And then I asked myself: “Self, why would you want anyone else to validate your achievements but you?” If everything we do is catered to appease others and solicit recognition, we’ll never achieve happiness, would we?
Best advice I have ever received: Don’t take anything personally.
About Downtown, Natch!
Downtown, Natch! is currently Jersey City’s first and only streetstyle blog. In addition to photographing around town, Marinell is a freelance social media strategist and graphic designer. You can also spot her sipping on Intelligentsia coffee at The Warehouse Café.