We had the good fortune of connecting with Hannah Williams and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Hannah, what’s one piece of conventional advice that you disagree with?
The statement “always be hustling” or simply the general idea and notion of hustling being the only key to success. It is no secret that we live in a society that loves an underdog story, a character who has hustled their entire life to come to a climax of success in their life and they claim it is due solely to their constant hustle.
In our society we glorify the constant hustle and I hate it. It has created this idea that rest is for the weak, that we should be grinding away at our careers and goals 24/7, putting self-care on the back burner.
Now there is nothing wrong at all with working hard, caring about your career, and wanting to further yourself towards your dreams. However, when we adopt this mentality of work above all we are more prone to burnout. There has to be a balance and in my mind placing family first is the way to success. I want to achieve my dreams and I work incredibly hard, but I also am going to place events like my niece’s 1st birthday above a work call. If I have a day where it is clear that I need rest, I am going to prioritize an afternoon nap because I know for me to be my best in my business, I have to be my best emotionally, physically, and mentally. If we develop a solid emotional and mental foundation, great success is way more likely to happen.
Let’s talk shop? Tell us more about your career, what can you share with our community?
I have always been someone that gets bored easily. I thrive in environments where I am constantly challenged, where days are always different, and (crazy enough) where my hours are never predictable. My journey to get to where I am has not been easy by any means and I do believe the best stories and journeys are the ones where we have to overcome enormous challenges along the way.
When I graduated from college in 2016 and accepted a year-long fellowship at a national magazine, I was convinced I was going to be there for years. I imagined myself moving up in the ranks and being a crucial member of a national publication. That dream quickly died as I found myself in an assistant position where growth was very hard to come by and I felt more like Andy Sachs in Devil Wears Prada than anything. I also found out that working for a corporation was not how I wanted to spend my life. There is nothing wrong with those who choose to work for corporations, heck that’s how the world works!
For as long as I can remember I have placed my value in my success. Growing up I placed all my value in my grades, if I got below a B+ I was a failure. When I decided to start my own photography business in 2015, I placed all my value in the amount of business I was able to drum up and what my clients thought about my work. This mentality had worked for 13 years in school, so why wouldn’t it work in business?
In the winter of 2017 I officially made my photography business a “side hustle” and I took my work = value mentality into a traditional 9-5 job in order to pay my bills. I started a job in 2017 at a sports psychology company and despite having been hired under false pretenses, forced to do the jobs of two full-time employees but being paid the salary of one, emotionally abused constantly by my boss, I still placed my value in my work. When my boss told me I had zero talent, instead of realizing the deep harm she was causing I worked harder to prove her wrong. It wasn’t until she fired me a week before my 6 month review that it clicked for me. My value has NOTHING to do with my work. I could have done the absolute best work of my life and she still wouldn’t have approved because the issue all lied within her view of herself, not me. It was a MAJOR lightbulb moment for me. From that point on I strived to remember daily that my worth is not decided by the opinions of others or my work professionally.
In the summer of 2019 I decided to step back from photography. I had officially reached the point of burn out and when I realized that it was no longer enjoyable but had become a chore, I decided I needed a major break. Nothing like getting fired and emotionally abused in the workplace to make you rethink every aspect of your life and business! So I was back to square one and soon the covid pandemic swept across the globe and I was even more lost about what I was supposed to be going after. An afternoon in the midst of the first round of quarantines, I decided to play around with my photography lights and try my hand at modeling. I’ve never modeled in my life and had zero clue what I was doing but as soon as I sat in front of the camera I felt like I came alive. I realized very quickly that I had discovered a new passion. I showed my parents the photos and they agreed that I could have a possible career in the industry. I and they were aware though that as a size 12/14 woman, it would be that much harder for me to crack into the modeling industry, but I was up for the challenge. In 2020 I applied to the infamous Coco Rocha Modeling Camp, was approved by Coco and flew to New York in October of 2020 to train with supermodel Coco Rocha. It was wild. It was an incredibly pivotal moment in my life, not just as a model but as a woman. I was trained in pose, facial expressions, photoshoot etiquette, the ins and outs of the industry, and above all I was taught that I could model just as I was. I didn’t need to lose weight, I didn’t need to gain weight, that me as myself could be a real model. Coco is an unbelievable teacher and encourager and her words of wisdom will continue to take me to new goals and dreams in and outside of the modeling industry I am sure of it.
Most recently I have decided to pursue the world of fashion, blogging, modeling, and mental health advocating. It’s a lot I know – like I said I get bored easily. At the beginning of the pandemic, at the same time I realized my love for modeling, I started a blog called “This Wild Amazing Life”. In a time of incredible turmoil and unknowns at every corner, I turned to writing. The name of the blog came to me one afternoon quarantined at home, and as soon as it did I started writing and developing my brand. I started my blog initially as a place for me to write stories, comical anecdotes, share my mental health/self love journey and more. I loved it and the feedback was overwhelmingly positive. I then turned to my social media and decided my instagram account that was solely developed to my photography business (that I stepped away from in 2019) needed a makeover. I changed my username to “thiswildamazinglife” and decided from that point on to use my account to share my story and my story in matters of: fashion, my new modeling career, eating disorder history, my mental health journey, and more. I use my platform as a place to encourage and motivate women to recognize their self worth, the value they bring to the world, and that their weight is not the source of their inherent value.
I am very excited to share that launching at the end of September 2021, thiswildamazinglife.com
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.
Los Angeles is one of my favorite places in the country, and not solely for the beautiful weather year round but for the insane amount of activities there are here! I live on the West side of LA and while I may be a little biased because of that, I think the West side is the best side of LA.
If my best friend was visiting for a week here is how I would lay out our itinerary:
Day 1: drive down to Malibu for a relaxing day of laying on the beach, eating, and shopping. Start the day by picking up smoothies at Erewhon in Pacific Palisades and head to El Matador beach in Malibu. After some sun bathing and lounging, go to Malibu Seafood for lunch. Then end the day wandering in and out of the shops at the Malibu Country Mart with a wonderful dinner at Taverna Tony’s.
Day 2: Start the day with brunch at The Butcher, Baker, and Cappuccino maker in West Hollywood. From there we would head to Melrose to shop and visit gorgeous storefronts like LoveShackFancy. Grab a quick snack and tea at Alfred’s and then end the day with early drinks and dinner at Bottega Louie.
Day 3: This day we would go deeper into LA, first picking up lunch at Kismet Rotisserie in Los Feliz and head to Griffith Observatory for a picnic and lounge day. After lounging and exploring Griffith Park, we would head to dinner at Little Dom’s in Los Feliz.
Day 4: For the 4th day, it would begin with an on the road breakfast as we head to Anaheim for a day at Disneyland!! In my opinion no trip to LA is complete without a trip to visit everyone’s favorite mouse.
Day 5: We love a bougie brunch especially when that brunch is at the Polo Lounge at the Beverly Hills Hotel. One of my favorite places in all of Los Angeles, the brunch at the Polo Lounge is unmatched. After our bellies are full we would drive down Rodeo Drive simply to bask in the glory that Pretty Woman was filmed there. From there on we would head to Venice to walk the Canals and pop into shops on Abbott Kinney. Finishing the day with drinks and dinner at Zinqué.
Extra activities would include:
– A day in Manhattan Beach
– Visit the Getty
– Get tickets to Jimmy Kimmel or James Corden
Shoutout is all about shouting out others who you feel deserve additional recognition and exposure. Who would you like to shoutout?
When I think about all the people, moments, books, and love that have impacted me and my business I truly do not know where to begin! I am incredibly blessed in the department of support and encouragement.
For starters I have to give a shoutout to Lauren Essl, a former boss, friend, mentor, fellow Real Housewives lover, and incredibly talented creative. I first met Lauren when I was living with my parents in Fort Worth, Texas at a time in my life where I was grieving the loss of two family members and feeling incredibly lost in my creative journey. I began working for Lauren as her assistant graphic designer for her calligraphy and design business and I truly loved every moment of my work with her. She mentored me not just in career but in life and relationships. Lauren was and has been a driving force in my desire to be a full time creator.
As peer mentors and encouragers go, my dear friend Jennifer Skarda is the best. We met as interns at Time Inc. in the summer of 2016. We were both fresh out of college and hungry for any creative opportunity that came our way. Her eye for design and her terrific taste in color and typography, along with her humility continues to amaze me. Always a solid sounding board when I feel stumped on a project, her friendship and peer mentorship has helped me and my creative journey more than I know.
At the risk of sounding cliché or inorganic, I have to thank my parents. No matter what adventure, journey, or dream I have decided to go for they have always been there supporting and encouraging me. They are the greatest hype men in the game. I could tell them I want to open a brewery with absolutely no knowledge of that industry or beer itself and they would tell me to go for it. They would support me in my research of the best practices, machines, etc in order for me to achieve that dream. Now they are realists, but they are supportive encouraging realists who always remind me that not every dream may come to fruition but the journey and the lessons learned along the way will be worth it.
A recent read that has ignited a fire in me is the book “Fearless” by Rebecca Minkoff. Her book outlines her story, detailing her incredible work ethic, where she shares life lessons on how to overcome fear and face challenges on the journey to achieve our goals. I first met Rebecca at a meet and greet she did at a Neiman Marcus in Dallas in the fall of 2013. I was so nervous to meet her but found out very quickly that she is as kind, gracious, and humble as one could ever hope. Her story is one of insane courage, risk taking, and unbelievable success. I count her as one of my business and creative heroes.
Eleanor Lee Photography Meraki Narrative Tariq Johnson Photography