MTI: I read that once you got hired at Popular Demand, you quit school. What was the thought-process behind that? I did the same thing, lol.
Monica: Young people send me messages asking about this a lot, so I just want to remind everyone that just because I quit school does NOT mean anyone else should too. There is no blueprint, everyone’s path is different. For me, I already fell in love with streetwear and had the opportunity to intern at Popular Demand, then got hired as a full time employee a month after that. At first, I actually continued going to school while working. Eventually, I realized two things: 1) I felt like I was wasting my time because my heart was no longer in it. After I discovered I had talent in marketing at Popular Demand, I obsessed over how I could be the best at what I do. I didn’t feel the same way at school, so I said fuck it. If my heart isn’t in it and I don’t have the desire to kill it, I won’t touch it. 2) People go to school for two reasons: to learn, or to be able to get a job. I LOVE learning, but I already had the job that I would want after graduating. I decided that I could always go back to school for the purpose of learning in the future, but I would not always have the opportunity to do what I do now. I am a big supporter of higher education for the purpose of learning, but I also think a lot of things in life are better self taught via real world experiences. For goodness sake, I’m an Asian girl that quit school with no sense of regret. That is pretty much equivalent to level 8,000 executable crime in Asian culture, but I did it anyway and never looked back.
MTI: Was streetwear always a big part of your life? Did you envision being in this industry?
Monica: It definitely has been since I was young. When I was 9, I moved to Taiwan to live with my mom for a few years and went to international school there. Taiwan is heavily influenced by Japan, and I got to see the emergence of modern streetwear there with pioneering brands like Bape, x-girl, XLARGE, Bounty Hunter, mastermind, Comme des Garçons, and more. In high school, I discovered streetwear blogs and always checked up on blogs like “The Sartorialist”, “nitrolicious”, or “Fashion Toast”. Eventually, I noticed that people were making really successful careers in that industry, so I started imagining ways to make a space for myself in it.
MTI: What’s key for someone that wants to be successful in marketing?
Monica: The key is your network. No matter what you do or where you go, if you don’t know the right people, you won’t be able to make it. Meet and build with as many people as you can in your industry and beyond.
MTI: Has there ever been a moment where you questioned your journey? If so, how did you deal with that?
Monica: Absolutely not. Regrets are a HUGE waste of time. The only time I ever “questioned” something on my journey is questioning how I will continue to get better and better as I move forward. If you view all of your life experiences as a series of lessons and opportunities to grow, you will never have regrets.
MTI: Random, but what are your thoughts on FOMO (Fear of missing out) specifically fear of missing out on events/parties?
Monica: I don’t really get FOMO because parties have been and will be around for forever. You gotta get your own shit done – throw parties when you’ve accomplished things! I get hit up to go to events ALL the time and I’m secretly sort of a recluse. If it’s not my own event, work related, or to spend time with/support friends, then I won’t go. You only have 24 hrs in a day, use them wisely. If you love to go out simply just to go out and get lit, then this is probably not the industry for you because you’d get lost in the sauce in no time.
MTI: How do you think women are treated in this industry? Have you ever dealt with a situation where you weren’t treated equally because you’re a woman?
Monica: Women in this industry are stereotyped as being limited to “feminine” roles such as modeling, hair/makeup, assistants, etc. There is absolutely NOTHING wrong with any of these jobs, but it’s not okay for people to think these are the only positions women are capable of fulfilling. There have been a few times when I’ve had to deal with people coming in for meetings and shaking everyone’s hand but mine and then once they learn my job title, their whole demeanor changes. I’m working on different ways to highlight women in the industry so that they can serve as positive role models and also be able to get the respect that they deserve.
MTI: How do you prepare before an important meeting and do you ever get nervous or feel anxiety?
Monica: I research a TON. I’m like the feds, I can find pretty much anything about any company or anyone on the internet. I don’t get nervous or anxious, I’m usually pretty relaxed in meetings; I see it as an opportunity to get to know and have an open conversation with whoever I’m meeting with.
MTI: How do you balance your professional life with your personal life, I feel as a woman it’s tougher to do so.
Monica: Google Calendar is my best friend and anyone that knows me knows that I like to schedule things and plan ahead. For the first couple of years, I was totally immersed in work 24/7. Since then, I’ve gradually become better adjusted at planning out my time more efficiently and balancing enough time to spend with the important people in my life.
MTI: People are inspired and motivated quite differently; what inspires and keeps you motivated?
Monica: If I decide I want something, whether it’s a collab, a contact, a goal, or a pair of sneakers, I will OBSESS over it until I get it. By “obsess”, I mean lose sleep, expend resources, and think about it nonstop. This obsession is what motivates me. In the bigger picture, I’m motivated by the desire to continue doing what I love. To me, failing would mean having to do something I feel mediocre about for the rest of my life. Fuck that.
MTI: What has been on the most surreal moments for you?
Monica: I could list a million things that have been crazy experiences since I started my career, but I guess this one may be more on the unexpected side. About 3 years ago, I was at the Orange County Fair with my friend Dalia – we had just sat down to avoid the scorching OC sun, smelled like farm animals/hay, and I was eating an OD super overpriced turkey leg. This little girl came up to me very shyly, probably about 9 or 10 years old, and asked me nervously if I was “thundercup on Instagram”. I kind of laughed a bit awkwardly and said yes. She asked if I could take a picture with her and said she was so excited to meet me. I wasn’t really sure how to feel because I 1) am a regular ass person 2) was demolishing a fucking huge $15 turkey leg in public and 3) was quite caught off guard that there was a little girl standing there that looked up to me – plus, what the fuck was she doing on Instagram…shouldn’t she be playing hopscotch somewhere?! It’s pretty cool to come to the realization that you have the power to positively influence young kids out there simply through the existence of the internet. I’m talking to you, whoever is reading this: use this power wisely – we could change this whole generation for the better.
MTI: What’s a common misconception people may have of you?
Monica: A common misconception is that I’m “lucky” to be in my position. Ain’t no luck, bih! Although I am no where near where I want to be yet, I’ve worked very hard to get to the place I’m in now and continue to do so everyday. Everything you see in terms of success is usually only the tip of the iceberg. An unbelievable amount of hard work goes behind every successful person.
MTI: What’s been the biggest lesson you’ve learned from being in this industry?
Monica: When you’re young, say 17 or 18, you’re definitely still learning and growing – it’s hard not to want to try to do a million things. One of the biggest things that I’ve learned that applies to many others is that you have to not try to be a “jack of all trades” because then you’d be a master at none. Figure out what you’re good at and focus on building those skills. Everyone has weaknesses and this is the reason why it’s so important to be able to create a great team around yourself to allow others to excel at the things that you aren’t good at.
MTI: What’s the best piece of advice you’ve received?
Monica: “Work smarter, not harder” – shoutout Blake Ricciardi. One of the things a lot of young people tend to do is doing a lot at once in effort to stay active and busy. Time is such a valuable asset but once it’s gone, it’s gone. Don’t spread yourself thin and overwork yourself – figure out how to do things as efficiently as possible.
MTI: What piece of advice do you have for someone trying to break into the industry?
Monica: Network like your life depends on it. You can’t accomplish anything on your own. You’ll have to get used to getting out of your comfort zone and put yourself out there. This is an industry full of go-getters and self starters; if you don’t push for yourself, you’ll get trampled over by these people very quickly.
MTI: Let’s talk about the inspiration behind your #ThundercupandFriends series? I LOVE.
I’ve always been a kid at heart – I got the idea initially from a scene in brandUn DeShay’s “Had Em All” music video
– if you haven’t seen it yet, watch it. Promise you’ll love it! After seeing it, I was inspired and thought it’d be cool to do a photo series based on my favorite anime and cartoons from my childhood in a way that would encourage others to do the same and, thus, “Thundercup and Friends” was born!
Make sure to keep up with Monica!
Thank you for reading, and of course, huge THANK YOU to Monica for sharing her journey with us! Stay inspired and keep creating!