In a few short years, Marilyn has made a name for herself in both the physical and digital spheres of the world’s fashion capitals: New York City and Instagram. Raised with a blend of American and Latina heritage, her cultural duality manifests in her dynamic personality. Marilyn is warm and friendly, but also driven and hardworking like a true New Yorker. Despite the tough realities that most young, bright-eyed fashionistas face when moving to the big city, Marilyn is constantly teeming with energy. She effortlessly balances her work as an entrepreneurial blogger behind The Lunar Phase and corporate professional at one of America’s most iconic fashion houses.
Tell us about your background.
I was born in the United States and raised in the Maryland/Washington DC area. My mom is Chilean and my dad is American. My mom grew up in Chile, was born and raised there, and then met my dad and moved to the states to get married.
Do you feel very connected to your Latina roots?
After my parents had kids my mom became a stay-at home mom. For that reason, I was really influenced by her Chilean-Latina culture. I was around her all of the time. The Latino culture has definitely rubbed off on me. We have very close family ties and we do everything together. Everything is about the family.
How did your parents meet?
My parents met while my dad was on a project in Chile creating artificial rain in the desert. My dad’s hobby was piano and my mom was studying music at the time in university. Music brought them together when they met in the piano room and then my mom decided to move to the states with my dad.
Have you ever been to Chile?
I’ve had the opportunity to travel to Chile often and have spent long periods of time there. Especially when I was in elementary school, I would spend winter breaks and summers there for months at a time.
Does that mean you have Dual Citizenship?
Well I’m working on that. A couple of years ago it wasn’t an option for me. Recently it became an option to have dual US/Chilean citizenship, so I’ve been working on it. I don’t think that earlier the political relationship between Chile and the US allowed for that.
Tell us about growing up in the US. Were there a lot of Chileans or Latin Americans in your neighborhood near DC?
Not at all. Chileans are pretty rare to come by.
Do you know people in New York that are Chilean?
I have met Chileans here in the past, and when I do, I always connect with them. It’s almost like we’re family because they’re so rare to come by. And there’s so much pride.
How would you describe the way Latin-American or Hispanic culture is perceived or understood in the US?
People tend to group Latin countries together but there are huge differences in dialect and lingo. Everyone says Chileans swallow their vowels and they’re impossible to understand. And there’s a stereotype that Colombians speak the most beautiful and pure form of Spanish, as if they speak in song. The cuisine of every country is also different. Every country has its own heritage and that is why the people are so proud of their origins.
How has your dual-culture identity influenced the person you have become today?
I think that my Latina identity has allowed me to be open, friendly and outgoing. It has totally influenced my character and the way I approach other people. My mom is the most friendly person. She is warm and welcoming, especially in terms of hospitality.
Is hospitality especially important in South America?
When we host people, we host. My mother always had a four-course meal prepared when guests came over. That’s the culture in Chile. Growing up, I always had sit-down dinners with my family.
What else have you absorbed from your parents that you don’t think you would have been exposed to had you grown up in an average American family?
Definitely hospitality, and being warm and welcoming. When I was younger, and would go places where you would normally greet everyone with a handshake, my mom would make me go around and give every single person a kiss. This was at the age when my parents would tell me what to do and I would listen. My mom would make me dance with people, and get out there and be friendly. If I wanted to leave, I would have to go around and kiss every single person goodbye.
How did you decide to move from DC to New York?
I always dreamed of moving to New York, because I always had a passion for fashion. Now I work for Ralph Lauren as an Associate Buyer and Merchandiser and I’m a fashion blogger as well. My blog is called The Lunar Phase.
I find that it’s always interesting to ask bloggers about what inpired the names of their blogs. How did you come up with the name The Lunar Phase?
Interesting question. I’ve always been really passionate about the moon because my dad was a meteorologist. He studied physics and meteorology and worked for NASA.
Just as the moon is seen in different lights, so are people. Especially depending on how we present ourselves. A lot about how you present yourself is how you dress and what you choose to wear. We also go through phases, including cyclical phases, like the moon.
Were you already working in fashion in New York when you launched the Lunar Phase?
I was in Maryland working at Nordstrom. I was applying to jobs in New York for a year and got no responses. It was like crickets. I thought, what can I do to make myself valuable? How can I prove to the world that I am serious about fashion without having any fashion experience or a degree? I wanted to use the blog as a creative portfolio.
I’m guessing you ended up getting that job you wanted.
It definitely helped to get to where I am today. However, I no longer treat it as a line on my resume to get another job. Now, I treat it as a job itself.
What would be the most surprising lessons you learned while building a business on the Internet by yourself?
The most surprising? That no one knows what they’re doing! I learned that I shouldn’t be intimidated by other people’s success and I should never compare myself to other people. Especially in the blogging world. There isn’t a rulebook, it’s a learning experience for everyone. I just keep going and I’m never deterred. The blogging world is different from the corporate world where you have so many barriers and walls standing in your way. I’m so passionate about blogging because I truly believe the sky’s the limit and nothing can hold me back.
How hard is it to balance full time job and a blog?
Very difficult. I’m constantly working and I’m constantly multi-tasking. My head is in different places at all times. When you have more than one job, you have to focus on specific tasks, very intensely, for short periods of time.
What’s one tip you’d give to someone hoping to start out a career in the blogosphere.
You have to have endurance. After work, I go home and do a photoshoot or go to an event. I have to email people all the time, and I’m up for countless nights. During lunch I’ll take meetings over coffee, or I’ll wake up really early in the morning. Any chance I get outside my corporate job, I will optimize.
It sounds like you’re a professional athlete but your sport is fashion.
It’s like two-a-days all over again.
Do you think your drive partially stems from being first generation?
I think so. There are two sides of my personality, and I get positive influences from both of them. My dad has always been really driven and some could say a “workaholic”. Whereas my mom was the fun one. I am so driven because of my dad, but I always stay positive and enjoy what I do because of my mom.
Since moving to New York on your own, tell us where you like to go to remind you of Chile or for a taste of home?
I like to go to a restaurant called the Farmhouse which serves modern American comfort food. One of my other favorite places is a small whole in the wall Mexican place in the Lower East Side called Crepes and Taqueria. They have the best burritos.
If someone were hoping to find a Chilean restaurant in NY, what would you say is the closest Latin cuisine to Chilean?
Argentinian and Peruvian food. In New York you can go to Pio Pio, and they have Pisco Sours. I love Pisco Sours. It’s a drink with Pisco and egg white in it. Pisco is a traditional Chilean liquor that Peruvians also make. There is a long-lasting feud about its origins. I was introduced to it in Chile because people drink Pisco everywhere in Chile. I would have to say, go to Pio Pio to get a Pisco Sour.
Now that you call New York your home, what would you say is the key to thriving here?
Living in New York, you just have to embrace the craziness of it all. The best thing is that there are so many different kinds of people here. The introverts, the extroverts, the crazy tourists, Times Square, and China Town. If you just embrace it, even the trash, the rats, and the pigeons, you will see the positive side. It’s amazing how there’s so much energy here. Everyone feels that way. That has propelled me to have the energy to do what I do. I know that I am not alone in the hustle.
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