Name: Gillian Maxwell
Hometown: Born in Long Island, NY, but grew up in Royal Palm Beach, Florida
Photo By: Annie Grafe
Her Campus (HC): How would you describe your website, Life of the Ambitious?
Gillian Maxwell (GM): My website basically gives all of Tallahassee’s students a place to go find out about cool outfits, interviews with their peers and events – true, honest event coverage.
HC: When did your passion for the fashion industry first begin?
GM: Honestly, I’ve always had a passion for fashion. My grandma used to dress up and she would be everything to me. Ever since I was little I loved fashion pieces. I had a tumultuous childhood and so this blog was a way for me to break away from that and let my creative juices flow and write about something that I actually love. It wasn’t until later on, in the beginning of high school, that I made it focused for other people rather than just writing for myself.
HC: When did you first start your website?
GM: I started my website July 2012 when I was 14 in my best friend’s bedroom at, like, four in the morning.
HC: What was the catalyst for creating the website?
GM: I believe we all come from different backgrounds and mine had a lot going on and I was stuck in the middle of it all. It originated with just needing a place for myself to keep myself sane. Something to do to make myself happy, and that’s the truth. It was something positive instead of something negative. You can turn to anything at that age, but I turned to the Internet and my love for fashion.
HC: How has the website transformed since you first created it?
GM: It started as a place to write my own thoughts and give my opinions on the fashion world. I was covering things that I didn’t even go to. I would look on Vogue and see that New York Fashion Week was happening and then I’d write my thoughts on that even though I wasn’t there. I was a kid that was very determined. I would take the public bus before I was even 15, before you could even drive, and go across Florida to go to different events. I was meeting with people and interviewing people that were in Boca while I was going to middle school in Royal Palm Beach. I’d take the bus to Miami, Tampa – I’d figure it out. My parents did not know at all because I would be going to work, so the days I was off I would say I was going to work. I started reporting on events I actually went to so it was firsthand and not just an opinionated site. I’ve always wanted to know what life is like from another person’s point of view, because there’s always things to learn. For style, I was always posting my outfits, but it just evolved as I grew up. All of those things came into fruition in high school.
I didn’t make it public in my high school because I didn’t want fake friends or fake anything, and it was my thing. I didn’t want people to take it or people to label me. Now that I’m at Florida State, I’m like “I’m an individual, this is who I am,” and I might as well just live in my truth. So I came here, told some of my friends about it and they believed in the vision. They joined me and they are the best thing to happen to me since I came to Florida State. We created this, did a launch week, and now my blog is out there for the students and people of Tallahassee to enjoy. I can live in it, and tell people about it every day without hiding it or myself, because it is part of myself. It’s an extension of me.
HC: Who comprises your team?
GM: I’m the entrepreneur. I took people from their majors. The thing about it is, I might be the leader, but I recognize that each and every individual can do each job better than I can by myself. Even though I can do everything for my website, they individually can do everything better than I can in their specific place, and I really appreciate that. That’s why I went for people who were topic-specific instead of people who were just like me, because we are a group.
HC: You are now a registered RSO? How was that process?
GM: I was very lucky to be determined because I made us an RSO within two weeks. I wasn’t playing any games. I came and I was like I don’t want to email anyone, I need people in person. I do in person because I feel that’s more effective. I met the people that were in charge at the Student Activities Center and I asked that when I needed to do. It was great. What’s great about Life of the Ambitious is the staff and club members are the same people, but it’s two different things.
HC: What do you do at Market Wednesday?
GM: We tell people about the site and try to get as many social followers as possible. Last week we were giving away things because it was our launch week. Last week we were also telling people about our events, which went so well.
HC: How did launch week go?
GM: I’m so excited that we had a launch week that went so well and we just started. I’m not even going to lie, it was an amazing experience for me. We had a fashion show. Then we had a panel, #icanbeboth. I wanted to have this panel where it was literally like “you can be more than one thing” and you should be able to own it and not have people judge you for it. We had some guys, we had some girls, and we got the guys point of view on girl culture and how we look at each other. We had a launch mixer and then we had our launch after-party at Coliseum. In between all of that I was doing press! It was crazy!
HC: Does Life of the Ambitious have a message of empowerment woven into the vision of the website?
GM: Absolutely. I think the fact that I can post all of these outfits online and then major in business instead of fashion shows that you can be both. People are like, “Oh you’re trying to be a designer?” No. What people actually don’t know is that I work at a law firm full time when I’m not here.
HC: Yes, I saw on your website you want to go to law school! Tell me a little bit about that.
GM: People assume when they see the fashion site that I’m a fashion girl. No, I’m a business girl and I like fashion, so I do that for fun. But honestly, that’s not what I’m going to school for. People ask if I’m still going to law school if Life of the Ambitious becomes big. Yes, I am. Absolutely. Girls should know that money shouldn’t stop you from doing what you want to do. Money can go and money can come. Press can come and press can go, but when are you going to be happy with yourself? I love Life of the Ambitious, but I understand that it’s something I’m doing because I enjoy it and not because it makes me. That’s part of the message. You should be able to do something because you love it and not box yourself, because you’re so much more than what you’re good at.
HC: Can you tell me about the different sections of the website?
GM: Man Crush Monday actually became very popular, which is great. Every week we find six or more greatly dressed guys. People think it’s just hot guys. No, any guy can make it. It’s about your outfit, not your face. It just happens that some of them are cute.
For interviews, I like to meet people who are doing things at Florida State, and college in general, or just people in the fashion industry. It seems like the school centers their love around athletes and certain groups. I feel like there are people that are doing things that don’t get the spotlight. I’m not saying I won’t interview an athlete or an SGA member, but what about interviewing the girl who is going to be a chemistry major and has been working four jobs to be able to stay here? What about the singer who just sang in Ruby Diamond? Why can’t we interview people who are genuinely working to become successful in their fields?
Then with events, it seems like we have so many events on campus. I figured if I go to these events, I might as well post about it, because most kids want to know which ones are the best. This promotes better events on campus, because they are seeing that someone is actually holding them accountable for what they put out there.
Now we’re on to outfits. It seems when people are wearing this great outfit they don’t want to tell you where they got it, because it’s their own little thing. My thing is that I’m going to dress well regardless of whether you get my clothes or not. So let’s all dress well. If you want to know where my skirt is from, I don’t mind. Everything nice I wear I try to post online and then tell people where it’s from. That way, they can click on it and see exactly where I got it, how much it was and buy it for themselves. What happened is when I first came to Florida State people would stop me and ask me where I got my shirt. I was like, okay it’s time to bring Life of the Ambitious to Florida State. I’m not wearing $50 clothes. I’m wearing stuff that’s $15 and less and I just put them together right.
HC: What section do you enjoy composing the most?
GM: I love them all, but you know what? It started out with outfits and it will end with outfits.
HC: Who is your fashion role model?
GM: June Ambrose. She’s life. I love her so much. I went to Miami Fashion Week and I was invited to New York Fashion Week and I’m invited every year to muse Korto Momolu, who was runner up in season five of Project Runway. I interviewed her and now every year I’m invited to go, but I never go because it never ends up working out.
HC: How did you get in contact with her?
GM: When I was little. I told you about how I was taking the public bus behind my parents back all over Florida. I would go to these events and I would meet people. I was always a kid that was determined. If I saw that you knew somebody, I wouldn’t mind stopping you and saying, “Hey listen, you can say no or you can say yes, but this is what I want.” And that’s what I would do. One day Trinnette Morris, who I was interning for, was working the Palm Beach Fashion Week and asked me if I wanted to meet Korto. So I said yes I do! I went and asked her if I could interview her and she said yes. So we just started talking and I was probably 15 at the time. She was surprised that I knew my stuff and that I was so young. After that, I asked her if I could do New York Fashion Week. I was expecting a no, because what are the odds? And she was like “yeah you can” – and she was serious. We still keep up on Twitter with each other, because I know one day I’m going to go and muse a designer at New York Fashion Week.
HC: What advice would you give to a young entrepreneur?
GM: Don’t be afraid to invest in yourself. You figure out a way, because it’s you out there. I don’t want girls to see me and think that I’m just lucky. You go out there and you get what you want. Period. No one is going to give it to you. If you’re going to be an entrepreneur, you have to wake up one day and believe in yourself. And I don’t mean like “oh I want to do this.” I mean “I’m willing to work two jobs to put money into this.” Also, you have to believe in yourself without anyone’s help. You can get help from people, but if they stopped helping you would you stop? If so, then you’re not ready for this. If everyone stops supporting you and you still find ways to keep going, do it.