When my inaugural “It Girl,” Laura Oldham, mentioned this chick Aireen Arellano in her guest post, I had to find out what she was all about. I mean, whoa. Girlfriend runs TWO businesses, is sassy and articulate and just a damn delight all around. Laura was right, and Aireen did not disappoint…
So wait – what is an “it girl?” A woman who has her shit together. Someone who is doing amazing things both personally and professionally. Someone who is affecting positivity in her local community. Someone that, simply put, people look up to.
Read on and meet Aireen Arellano, official It Girl.
Name: Aireen Arellano
Twitter: @aerialardour & @snortmonster
Instagram: @aireenarellano & @snortmonster
What do you do?
I’m a freelance Senior Designer/Art Director under the guise of my company, Aerial Ardour. (What does “Aerial Ardour” mean? I was going through an emo-y, esoteric period in my design sensibilities about 7 years ago, so I came up with this name so it can be the hardest two words to pronounce ever. But basically it refers to my love for and freedom with design.) Most of my work is in the spirits and alcoholic beverage industry, which I GUESS I can deal with. ;P I call this the day job.
By night and in between the day job, I’m also the Co-Head Monster and Monster of Design at a company I own and run with my husband, Jeff, called Snort Monster. Snort Monster is a homegrown t-shirt company and lifestyle brand for people who love snort-faced doggies, quality hand-printed apparel, and killer design. I design, Jeff – the Co-Head Monster and Monster of Operations by night and mechanical engineer by day – prints. (I step in to print sometimes, but Jeff really has the mechanics and set-up of it all down to an art and science.) We produce graphic tees that feature snort-faced dog breeds such as Boston Terriers, French Bulldogs, and Pugs with the eyes as 6-pointed stars as a nod to the company’s roots being in Chicagoland. It’s also a testament to their distinctively alert eyes and bright, bubbly spirits. In addition, we wanted to differentiate our brand from other dog-centric lifestyle brands.
As for hobbies, we have three Snort Monsters – Angel the Boston Terrier, Ariel the Frenchie, and Emmett the Boston Terrier – so we’re pretty neck-deep into the doggie parenting life and running Snort Monster, which started as a hobby and grew into a business. A lot of Snort Monster’s peripheral activities outside of actually designing and printing people and dog apparel involve promoting our company by connecting with other small business owners who are just as passionate about their fur kids and have similar goals for their own businesses. These activities include dog meet-ups and shows where we have the opportunity to sell our wares. It really helps to have other people who believe in what you do. We have a standing invitation to set up our Snort Monster booth at a dog meet-up group called ‘Jax & Friends.’ Jax is a Frenchton (French Bulldog and Boston Terrier mix), and his parents, Bob and Marii Nguyen Langjahr, are amazing Snort supporters. They host their meet-ups at a cowboy-themed bar in Boystown called Charlie’s Chicago, and so they call the meetups Puppy Raves. Parents can enjoy drinks and food at the bar while they watch their fur kids play in the secured dance floor as disco lights flitter around the room to 80s/Top 40 Hits. So they’ve really helped us connect with Snort-faced doggie mamas and papas in Chicago. We’ve also recently had the crazy-insane fortune of getting on dog celebrity and Instagram star Manny the Frenchie’s radar, so his super gracious parents offered us a standing invitation to set up our Snort Monster booth at his Chicago meet-ups.
Aside from designing, screen printing, and dog meet-upping, I do enjoy shaking up a good craft cocktail.
The hobby grew from my work in the spirits world. Spirit companies are constantly trying to create new recipes, and so that process entails a lot of tasting. (Again, not a bad gig.) Sure, it’s fun to joke about the inebriation aspect of it, but what I really have respect for is the rich history behind cocktail recipes, as well as the technicality and skill it takes to pull off great classic recipes. Every week, I peruse my personal cocktail bible, ‘The Joy of Mixology’ by Gaz Regan (formerly known as Gary Regan), veteran mixologist and cocktail columnist. The origin stories of such classic cocktails like the Ramos Gin Fizz, Martini, or Manhattan are just as fascinating as your uncle’s rowdy bar ‘n’ war and ‘back in the day’ type stories. The simplicity of cocktails like those is so nuanced that to do it mediocrely is, sure, acceptable. But to do it perfectly is sublime. (I’m definitely not claiming I have ever made a perfect cocktail either. I’ve had the good fortune and honor of working with clients/mixologist who have.) You ever have those ahhhhHA! moments when you take that first sip of a perfectly assembled and shaken cocktail? It’s because of those little details like chilling the glass with ice for certain number of minutes or rimming the edge with the citrus oils of a lemon peel or carefully placing just 2 drops of Angostura bitters instead of 3. I’m no cocktail expert, but yeah, I’ll be the first to say I’m a big fat vermouth-sniffing, cherry-brandying, rind-wringing nerd about it.
What is the mission/purpose of your site/blog?
I have my Aerial Ardour website as my online portfolio. It’s also my personal/design blog to some extent, although since launching Snort Monster last April, it’s been far too long since I’ve posted any musings. But I try and at least keep my work section fresh, although even that has been a challenge since I have a client-work-first mentality that keeps me from updating my site as often as I know I should. Snort Monster’s website serves as our online store, as well as showcasing different snort-doggie centric rescues who are doing some amazing things to help our beloved brachycephalic breeds.
$1 of each of our shirts sold goes to a different snort-faced doggie rescue every month in our Friends of Snort Monster program,
just so we can give back to breeds that have brought us so much joy in our lives and inspired Snort Monster in the first place.
When you think of an “It Girl” what words or phrases come to mind?
“Poise under pressure” is the phrase that comes to mind when I think of an “It Girl.” All the “It Girls” I know do a phenomenal job making it all *look* good, even though they miiiiight be going crazy backstage managing the show with smoke and mirrors. And you know what? Whether we’re talking about personal or professional lives, there ain’t nothin’ wrong with smoke and mirrors, baby As more of my friends are having kids, I look at their calm and patient faces in astonished awe while they’re being vomited and pissed on and tell them, “Wow. You really look like you know what you’re doing.” More often than not, she will sigh, and say, “Ugh. Does it look that way? I’m just faking it ’til I make it!” I think that’s what we’re all doing in this little game called life, right?
We’re all just trying to keep our shit together while doing the best we can.
As long as it looks like everything is coolio – and we’re doing what we truly love to do while giving back to the world occasionally – I think that’s what makes an It Girl. (And I’m seriously, completely honored to be Get It, Girl’s next “It Girl!” Thank you, thank you!)
Who is your role model and why?
If you asked me this when I was 5, I would’ve said Snow White. She was kind-hearted, and she had an effortlessly elegant connection with wild animals, which I envied, since I was enamored with furry creatures since I was very young. I was jealous, because every time I would reach out for a bird or squirrel to land gracefully on my arm, they would scurry away. (Sad face.)
But now, the more often I look each day in the face with the challenge of balancing work and play, I realize that my mom is a huge role model for me. With nothing but the clothes on her back and a work visa, she immigrated here from Manila, Philippines in 1973 and started her career as a registered nurse. She faced a total fish-out-of-water scenario and major culture shock. (She has a story about unknowingly buying dog food for herself when she first went grocery shopping. Let it be known she quickly learned her lesson.) She would fly back home to visit family pretty often though, so in 1981, she met and married my dad, but his visa status at the time didn’t allow him entry into the U.S. just yet. So after the short honeymoon, my mom had to go back to the States while my Dad stayed behind and had to go back to Saudi Arabia, where he had a career of his own. She visited my dad as often as she could though, and eventually, my mom became pregnant with me, but visa circumstances still had it so that my dad wasn’t able to be present during my mom’s pregnancy and my birth, so my mom tackled *that* whole thing alone. (Wowza.)
My dad was finally able to come to the States, and they settled down in the house that would become the stage for my earliest and fondest memories. With my dad, who established a long career in law firms, she proceeded to raise two kids while working two full time jobs as an operating room nurse. (Why two full time jobs? She says because she wanted more to do.) Then, as if she wasn’t busy enough, she decided to get another degree but this time in Applied Sciences, so she went back to school – yes, while *still* working two full time jobs and dealing with teenagers – aced it in 2 years and not only ended up graduating, but graduating summa cum laude. That’s right, folks – top of her class.
Sheezus cripes on a crumpet, is there *anything* this woman *can’t* do??
And for anyone wondering if she gave us enough personal mom attention, I think me and my brother (a writer/editor/director at Second City who is a pretty good human being and one of my best friends), turned out pretty all-right and well-adjusted if I do say so myself. My mom used these moral tropes with us that I still have ingrained in my soul, and I totes plan on using those when I’m fortunate enough to have human kiddos of my own. (Although, I do admonish my puppies with lectures about the value of trust when Jeff and I come home from errands to find evidence of unauthorized couch-lounging. So, with my mom as my role model, I hope to be able to raise kiddos, give my doggies all the love they need, make my husband feel like he’s a king (yes, even with me as a kickass It Girl), and balance a business and career.
What inspires you?
I’m inspired by really effortlessly cool and creative artists who keep their heads down doing what they love and concentrating on their craft without looking for validation from others. I also admire people who succeed at what they set out to do and stay humble and thank those who helped them along the way. I also love when people DO and ACT rather than just TALK. If you wanna do it, do it! One person who comes to mind is Get It, Girl’s first “It Girl,” Laura Oldham. She and I came from the same agency when we started out, so we’ve experienced lean times together. We’ve also seen each other grow in our own businesses. Everything about her is so frickin’ cool and inspirational, although I know her adorably self-deprecating nature would spur her to be completely embarrassed by me saying this, but it’s true! Not only is the work she does for her clients superb, but what she’s doing to grow businesses in Columbus is inspirational. Her tweets are a daily reminder of what tweets should be. And if you can tweet properly, you can do anything, my friends.
If you could impart ANY advice on your 20-year-old self, what would it be?
Oh my GAWD, I would tell my 20-year-old self that everything is going to be okay.
And, don’t go home; he knows.
Also, “Don’t be so gullible, McFly.”
What are you afraid of?
Ugh. Besides spiders and ventriloquist dummies, it’s failure. Hands down. Before I even finished reading this 5-word question, that big F-word came to mind. It’s just a deep-seeded fear. My parents always required excellence from me and my brother, and straight As were the norm. Bs were tolerable, and Cs were just out of the question. There were no beatings or any kind of corporal punishment if Bs or Cs ever happened, but letting someone down, to me, is a major bummer. Although the idea of failure haunts me on my bad days, I’ve dampened the fear by realizing that
failure and success are self-defined.
There are conventional definitions of success (big house, fancy car, multiple exotic vacations a year), but ultimately, if you don’t define what success means to you personally, why are you running the hamster wheel day-in and day-out? Every time we see our one nephew, he asks us, “Has Snort Monster made you guys millionaires yet?” We know he’s joking, but being a financially ambitious young man, there’s a part of him that means it. While we do appreciate the faith he has in us, we’ve had to tell him that the prospect of any profit isn’t what keeps us going. As saccharine as it sounds, it really is the joy we have in creating fun and new designs, pulling those screens, perusing new ink colors, sharing photos of our process and 3 doggies with our fans, and ultimately, bringing happiness to those who enjoy what we do.
What is the best or most rewarding thing you’ve ever done?
Personally, it was shamelessly telling my then-friend-and-future-husband that we were perfect for each other, so we should date. Immediately. And then getting rejected. And then winning him over and getting a house together and getting married. And now raising 3 puppies and running a business together.
Professionally, it was finally walking away from a job that both gave me my much-needed start in my design career but then stifled me in the end. I leapt from the job with, seemingly, no net into the fulltime freelancing world. With a new mortgage to pay, the beginning of freelancing fulltime was so scary, yet the prospect of being my own boss was a thrill. With lessons learned (and still learning!) and fantastic clients along the way, I have been able to sustain myself, my husband, and our little Snort family for the past 6 years.
And then a sweet moment I had last year was treating myself for my 30th birthday by finally purchasing my dream car – a red MINI Cooper Hardtop S with double racing stripes and black checker accents. I’m not a huge car geek, but MINIs were my jam. At the bud of my professional design career in 2005, Jeff had gifted me with a red die-cast MINI Cooper S, and every day, I would look at that little model as it was displayed on my desk at my old agency. And nearly a decade later, it was one of those sweet, full-circle moments when I drove off that car lot and into the sunset with Daft Punk’s “Get Lucky” serendipitously playing on the radio.
What’s currently on your playlist?
Oh no! I’m always so embarrassed by music-centric questions and conversations, because I seriously don’t know what the kids are listening to these days. I do listen to everything from ABBA to Mozart to Tupac to Zeppelin. But my real jam is 80s and 90s love ballads. If I hear Tears for Fears or Spandau Ballet anywhere, sorry, you’re going to hear me sing. In addition to that, EDM really pumps my nads. Anything on Songza’s ‘Drop the Bass’ playlist makes my day better. Skrillex, Daft Punk, and deadmau5 help me get through any piles of work I have to hack away at, and then they take me right into post-work party time (which involves cooking dinner for me and Jeff while enjoying a beer and dancing/singing obnoxiously to my dogs, who watch me with a delicate balance of eternal patience and slight disgust).
What was the last thing you ate?
I just scarfed these Spanakopíta appetizers from Trader Joe’s. You just heat at 400 degrees for 10 minutes, and then you have a
feta+ricotta+spinach+phyllo orgasm in your mouth.
I had company come over this week, and I had over-prepared, so there was a crap-ton of these little triangular pieces of heaven leftover. WIN.
What was the best book you’ve read recently?
I’m not one of those people who makes time to tear through 5 books in a week or even a year, but I have serious admiration for those who do. When I do get in the mood for a book, I enjoy reading inspirational female badassery bios. I thoroughly enjoyed Kelly Cutrone’s ‘If You Have to Cry, Go Outside,’ because it felt like an anthem of tough-love in the form of a hard-ass aunt who sits you down and just says point-blank all of the tough things you need to hear but no one will tell you. I was so pumped after reading her book that I instantly amped up my client game by applying her advice to my daily to-dos. Her biggest one that stuck with me: “Give Good Phone.” In other words, communicate! Next on my To-Read list is, ‘Grace: A Memoir,’ the autobiography of Grace Coddington, Creative Director at American Vogue magazine and ‘#GIRLBOSS’ by NastyGal founder Sophia Amoruso.
Who is your celebrity crush?
Ever since his otherworldly red pompadour and lanky string dance tore into my consciousness at 15, Conan O’Brien has been stimulating my… sense of humor. Smart, funny, Catholic, and self-deprecating were all the Mom-approved traits that made me think I had a chance with him when I was 17.
Oh, and Michael J. Fox. Because he’s Michael J. Fox.
What is your ultimate guilty pleasure?
I mentioned belting out 80s and 90s love ballads already, right? I also enjoy watching movies with French audio and English subtitles. Since I’ve always wanted to learn French, I figured this was one way to do it, using movies I’ve seen a billion-and-one times such as, the ‘Back to the Future’ trilogy, ‘Clueless,’ ‘I Love You, Man’ and ‘Terminator 3.’ (Did you know “flux capacitor” in French is “convecteur temporel”? The More You Know.)
I mean… if Aireen’s not an “It Girl,” then I don’t know who is. I can’t believe I’ve never even MET the gal! Gonna have to remedy that – STAT.
Know an “It Girl,” or would you like to be featured yourself (it’s okay, I won’t judge)? Drop me a note.