We had the good fortune of connecting with Brian Hettler and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Brian, how do you think about risk?
My favorite story to tell people is how I went from being a broke part time drag queen/part time chef living in a 7’x7′ room in a commune in El Sereno to working as a creative director at one of the best ad agencies in America. I truly fell ass backwards into doing what I do for a living, and it’s all a byproduct of saying yes and being my authentic self. You might ask, how DID you do that? And it’s all about saying YES to opportunities even if you’ve never done things before. Ten years ago, when I moved to LA, I came to be an artist. Big dreams, no money, and no job prospects. I was living in a cousin’s pool house in the valley, cooking for them and taking care of their three year old daughter while I looked for work. When my cousin asked if I could cook for an industry party, I had never cooked for more than maybe five people at a time, but I said SURE! So I cooked a feast for thirty people for a Golden globes party. And from that I got hired as a private chef. From that I parlayed it into working in events and catering for thousands of people. I worked as a studio manager for a sculptor, then went to do press archiving for an arts nonprofit. From there I learned to build websites and do social media event marketing for the events. I was doing drag part time on the side this whole time, met a ton of people, and hosted club events. (and at one point I even got pulled in to a MLM scheme and passed the exam to sell life and health insurance.) All of these things were risks. I had never done any of these things before. But I said yes and acquired an arsenal of skills that I was able to ultimately parlay into working in advertising. Even once I started working in advertising, the same approach applied. When asked if I make gifs, animate motion graphics, edit video, illustrate cartoons, be a professional photographer, or run live marketing for a red carpet award show, the answer was always yes. And then I taught myself how to do it. Now I preach this to everyone I know and work with because “yes” is how I grow, how I learn, and how I thrive.
Can you open up a bit about your work and career? We’re big fans and we’d love for our community to learn more about your work.
I already spoke about my being prone to saying yes and taking risks, but a part of it I didn’t dive into is staying authentically you. Let me start off saying that the ad world is historically a boys club. As an openly and visibly queer person, it has not always been smooth sailing. But what makes me “me” is what makes me good at what I do. There have been moments where I have felt the need to “butch it up”, trying to fit into prescribed boxes that people expect you to fit into. But in the end, sticking to who you truly are and living authentically is always the best way to operate. It might not be the fastest way to the top, but you can feel secure in who you are and the work you are putting out into the world. This is what I am most proud of in my career. My integrity, my authenticity, and my honesty. Being colorful is who I am. I’m a technicolor force that sets no limits on creativity. I push buttons and boundaries, asking people to abandon their comfort zones and try new things. And I do it all while being uniquely me.
Let’s say your best friend was visiting the area and you wanted to show them the best time ever. Where would you take them? Give us a little itinerary – say it was a week long trip, where would you eat, drink, visit, hang out, etc.
Omg there are so many places I love in this city. Let me take you through my perfect day. We would wake up and go to Los Feliz for breakfast at the Mustard Seed Cafe on Hillhurst. It is my favorite breakfast spot of all time and the waiters are SUPER nice. We’d take the long way to Malibu through the canyons and drive to Zuma beach. After our walk we’d grab a fried seafood platter at Malibu Seafood and eat right by the water. Then we’d book it back over to Hollywood, catch a movie at the Arclight (RIP), and then finish up the night with a late night dinner at the best tiny hole in the wall Korean soul food restaurant that I have been eating at for a decade called Seong Buk Dong. Run. Don’t walk. lol
Shoutout is all about shouting out others who you feel deserve additional recognition and exposure. Who would you like to shoutout?
I want to dedicate my shoutout to Randy Fuhrman, a celebrity chef and event coordinator who passed this year and a dear friend of mine. He was one of many people to take a chance on me in my career, but he had such a distinct impact on how I operate professionally. His creativity and kindness will always be with me in my career. I’d also like to give a big shoutout to my sisters in the Los Angeles Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence and all of my sisters all over the world. <3