Meet A New Girl: Gina

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"Meet A New Girl" is an interview series about real women making a life for themselves in New York City. 


The New Girl:

Gina Schiappacasse

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Editor’s Note: The Backstory

Gina and I technically met through OKREAL’s Facebook group. I had attended a mentorship session through the organization last December in hopes of finding the clarity and courage to leave my 9-5 job and start my own business and one of the post-session perks was being added to a private Facebook group of other mentorship alumnae. At the time of the session, Meet A New Girl was still just an idea floating around in my head, so when I launched the series early this year I was quick to share my first couple interviews on the Facebook group. A few weeks later, I received a friendly email from an incredibly talented illustrator. Enter: Gina Schiappacasse.

When Gina and I first met in person, I was drawn in by her good energy and unique style. She’s thoughtful, introspective, and incredibly humble considering how talented she is. On the style front, I distinctly remember her wearing bold star earrings and a v. chic leather harness as a vest to our first lunch—a combo that managed to be feminine, playful and edgy all at the same time. We swapped stories about working in social media since the “early days” (believe it or not, there was a time before Instagram) and as a fellow creative I was fascinated to hear her experience balancing full-time work and creating art on the side (note: since meeting we’ve now both taken the leap into freelancing 🙌)

Fast forward a few months and what came out of our first meeting IRL was a fun collaboration and new friendship. It was so much fun exploring Gina’s local haunts together in her quiet pocket of Williamsburg, Brooklyn. Her railroad style apartment was warm and welcoming—bursting at the seams with artwork and racks of gorgeous vintage clothing. Each detail made the space feel uniquely her.

Gina’s a seasoned New Yorker and I loved hearing her experience as a “new girl” moving to the city over a decade ago. I feel lucky to have had a snapshot into her world, and am excited to share with you!

-M


More About Gina

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Where are you originally from? 

Burnsville, Minnesota—a big southern suburb south of the Twin Cities. I attended college in Madison, Wisconsin for three years before moving straight to NYC to finish my senior year at FIT (the Fashion Institute of Technology).

How long have you been living in NYC?

A solid decade! It was my ten-year New York anniversary June 1st, 2018.

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 Current neighborhood?

Williamsburg, the old Italian part off the Graham L stop. I love it because it still feels like it’s avoided the crazy gentrification, although, I’m sure it’s only a matter of time...

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What pays the rent?

Until recently, I was working full-time for a startup beauty brand, which truly was an amazing experience. Over my five years with the company, I operated as our PR Liaison and Social Media Director. However, I wore quite a few hats in my role: Casting director, producer, behind-the-scenes photographer, copywriter, model, illustrator, the list goes on. Before I was there, I had a variety of odd jobs including a bit of freelance work as a fashion designer, a stylist, a seamstress, a personal assistant, a few restaurant jobs, a story board illustrator, even a stint as a haberdasher (hat maker). At the moment, I'm currently trying to see if I can make it as a freelance creative, but basically, I’ve always been willing to hustle in order to make NYC work for me!

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What's your side hustle / passion project?

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Way too many to count, but they’re primarily centered around creating things! I do a lot of freelance illustration work and collaborative art projects with friends. I occasionally dabble as a wardrobe stylist, and create custom headdresses for photoshoots and videos. More recently, I’ve been trying my hand at taking photos, dabbling in creative direction (I recently worked with a good friend on her upcoming music video), and have been getting back into designing and making clothing again. Editor’s note: Gina made the green velvet dress you’ll see her in below!

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Describe your current living situation:

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I live with my musician boyfriend, Jesse, and our Pomeranian, Thelonious (aka Theo) in a little one bedroom apartment on the third floor of a fairly small old apartment complex. We don’t have any doors in our apartment (except a front door and bathroom door) and there is literally zero storage space (which is a challenge considering how much clothing I own). Somehow it manages to feel fairly cozy instead of cramped, which I attribute to my boyfriend’s decorating skills.

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What are some of your favorite spots in the neighborhood?

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I can frequently be found haunting the bar at The Richardson: I love their cocktails, retro playlist, and, of course, the staff. I'm a fan of second-hand shopping at Beacon's Closet and Fox & Fawn just north of me in Greenpoint. I illustrated the majority of my recently published coloring book at Charter Coffee where I spent the bulk of my summer weekends drawing before going to print. I can frequently be found wandering around Artist & Craftsman, impulsively purchasing art supplies.

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What were your early days in New York City like?

My first few years in the city were lonely, but beyond magical...
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I have an aunt and uncle who moved to NYC from the Midwest several decades before me, to pursue careers in choreography and acting, and so I grew up regularly visiting them in the city with my family as a kid. Somehow, becoming a New Yorker always felt more attainable because they had blazed the trail before me, and because of them, our visits always made the city feel enchanting. My college fashion design program in Madison allowed us to transfer into FIT (the Fashion Institute of Technology) for our senior year, and, after winning a scholarship and being set up with an internship in the city, I moved into FIT’s summer housing three months before school to begin my internship at a company called Foley + Corinna.

My dad flew out with me (a perfect excuse to see me off and spend some time with his brother) and after a few nights relaxing at my aunt and uncle’s place in Westchester, I was dropped off with two suitcases and a sewing machine at my dorm on the far west side of Manhattan just below Penn Station. My dad and uncle, both tall Midwestern men, each gave me a big hug, and I remember bursting into tears and crying on one of their chests. Eventually I went in to find that my double room was unoccupied, later learning that my roommate was a Westchester native whose parents had casually paid for the room as a crash pad for when she didn’t feel like coming home after her summer internship. Unsurprisingly, she was almost never there, which left me pretty much alone in a quiet, cinder-block dormitory room for the first three months of my existence in New York.

I knew exactly two people when I moved to the city, and would gratefully accept any invitation from anyone to go out, hoping to be so lucky as to forge a few friendships. My first few years in the city were lonely, but beyond magical; everything was so fresh and new and enchanting because I’d never really experienced anything like it. 

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How did you find your first apartment?

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My first job in the city was a gig as a waitress at a Upper West Side establishment called Cafe Lalo. It was such a classic first New York job—our uniform involved a tight t-shirt with Toulouse Lautrec style artwork and short black skirts worn with a ladybug-printed apron. Shifts were long, lights were bright, and the clientele base included large amounts of Asian and European tourists and Upper West side inhabitants (read: bad tips). The upside to the gig was that the all-female serving staff had plenty to bond over and became quite close, often going out drinking to numb the pain in our feet when our shifts ended. After hitting it off with a co-worker, Sadie, she invited me to apartment hunt with our other co-worker. We ended up scoring a three bedroom apartment in Greenwich Village for a steal and signed a lease in the blink of an eye. We were on the fifth floor of a six floor walk-up. Our floors slanted, and one room could more accurately be described as a closet (mine), but it was a wonderfully fun time in my life.


Describe a typical weekday for you in NYC

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After forcing myself out of bed (I am not a morning person), I pull myself together, take my dog out, make coffee and get to work. My day-to-day is often a mixed bag: checking emails, working on freelance illustration gigs, and pursuing more work. In the evenings, I like to spend time working on more personal illustration projects or hit the town with friends to check out a concert, art opening, or favorite bar/restaurant. There truly are endless things to do and see in the city, but over the years I’ve been better about resisting my FOMO and being selective about what I do with my time.

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How about on the weekends?

Full days in my sunny apartment, painting, practicing guitar and cleaning up, followed by an evening grabbing a good dinner and headed to a show, a dance (I’m a swing dancer), or a friend’s place for drinks and conversation. I love being social, and I love spending time with good humans.

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Gina’s Favorites

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Favorite place in the city

My apartment.

Your go-to local spot

Recently obsessed with King's County, the BEST Chinese food right in my neighborhood.

Best place for an afternoon drink? ❤️🍷

The Richardson, especially outdoors in the summer. I also love Ramona in Greenpoint.

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What's one thing still on your "NYC" bucket list?

I embarrassingly still haven't been to MoMA PS1!

How do you combat the stress of the city?

Candles, podcasts, and painting.

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What still makes you feel like a "new kid"?

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Visiting neighborhoods that I've never been to before. It's magical to see a part of the city that's new after years of being here, it really brings back that feeling I had when I first moved here at 21.

Biggest adjustment?

I am not/never have been a fan of crowds. It sounds a bit ridiculous to say as a New Yorker, but my neighborhood generally isn't too crowded and I detest being anywhere near Times Square!

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What makes NYC feel special to you?

The diversity and the access to everything. I love meeting people from all different types of places and backgrounds, and I love that the world feels like it’s just a train ride away.

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How did you take the leap to move?

I think it helped to have crash landed here at a young age because I felt so invincible at 21.

I honestly don't ever remember making a conscious decision to move here, it was just always something I wanted to do and it sort of happened organically, which I feel really fortunate for. I think it helped to have crash landed here at a young age because I felt so invincible at 21. It wasn't that that things didn’t scare me, but I was tireless and really excited about everything which helped in a city that is constantly throwing you curve balls. Really, I think being a New Yorker, when it comes down to it is just about wanting it, you have to be hungry, you have to be curious, and you have to be willing to keep trying because it’s not going to be easy and no one is just going to hand it to you.

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Any FINAL Advice?

My advice to future New Yorkers is to take the leap, make the move, and say yes. Say yes to new experiences and adventures, and the more you do, the more you try, the more New York will unfold in front of you.
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Thanks for sharing your story, Gina! See more of her beautiful art here and follow her @gina_schiappacasse_art on Instagram.

If you enjoyed this interview, check out Stine’s feature—a San Francisco transplant from Sweden working at The New York Times. And if you know a new girl who'd like to be featured, I'd love to hear from you.

-M


Shop Gina’s Looks

Outfit #1: Plaid skirt - vintage (similar), Blouse - vintage (similar), Belt - vintage

Outfit #2: Blouse: Morgane Le Fay (similar), Dress: handmade by Gina, Letterman Jacket : vintage (similar), Shoes: Vagabond, Purse: Foley + Corinna, Beret: Vintage (similar), Earrings: J. Crew (similar), Belt: vintage, Sunglasses: Free People (similar)



"Meet A New Girl" is an interview series about real women making a life for themselves in New York City.