If you haven't seen my Instagram, Snapchat, Twitter AND Facebook within the past ten days, I have some exciting news for you!
I went to South By Southwest... and I had a grand old time. I met Jon Hamm, almost met James Franco, only spent about $75 on Fasten rides and even managed to score two free chicken salad sandwiches in one day (more on that later.)
There was nothing like the feeling of being surrounded by thousands of people bursting at the seams with knowledge and ideas. That energy, coupled with some killer outfits and a good book, made for my perfect version of a "festival."
The day where I experienced the true beauty of SXSW
My Kate Spade backpack was stuffed to the brim, my dress was flawlessly ironed and my film badge was hanging around my neck. As I ascended to the top floor of the convention center at 9:30a.m., head reeling from the crowds already rapidly accumulating outside of the most buzzed-about talks, I spotted a bookstore. My eyes must have widened in excitement, because a sweet gentleman riding beside me leaned in.
"Pretty impressive, right?" He said. "Is this your first time?"
"Heck yes," I responded, beaming.
The rest of my day was spent meeting Noor Tagouri (my favorite journalist!), reading Do Cool Sh*t by Miki Agrawal and talking about life with an intriguing new friend at a coffee shop. As for the evening, I spent my time waiting in a ridiculously long line to watch the premiere of the new Ryan Gosling movie Song to Song.
The day Jon Hamm pretty touched my stomach
My day started with a killer Q&A session where Austin legend Richard Linklater interviewed Michael Fassbender and Terrence Malick about Song to Song. It was less like a Q&A and more like Linklater fangirling over Malick's work, but I enjoyed hearing about what made Malick tick and how Fassbender felt about shooting the movie. I planned to see the premiere of Nidal afterwards, but soon discovered my wallet was missing and had to take an emergency Fasten ride home. My driver, not at all concerned with my impending doom, spent the ride analyzing which zodiac sign I was and teaching me a breathing technique to prevent anxiety and depression. Semi helpful, but very weird.
After finding my wallet and rewarding myself with a much-needed nap, I put on my falsies and headed out the door for my first red carpet coverage ever. The movie premiering that night was Baby Driver, an action-packed car movie centered around music. While meeting Ansel Elgort was cool and everything, the real highlight for me was Jon Hamm reached for my badge to read my name and barely brushed my stomach. Kind of weird? Definitely. Going down in my personal history books? You bet. And for those of you wondering -- YES. He looks just as handsome in person.
The day I (almost) met James Franco
If you were following my social media during the first few days of SXSW, you saw my endless, not-so-humble brags about meeting James Franco. THIS was the day I had been anxiously waiting for, praying for and prepping for. After a long morning of paying for rides to places I couldn't get into, using tacos to pay for a pedicab ride and freezing my butt off in sheer tights, I decided to go home and refresh before hitting the red carpet once again.
When I arrived at the red carpet, I met a guy who was from Chicago and had NEVER tried queso before. We bonded over mutual excitement to meet the Franco boys and I made a silent oath to become his personal tour guide for the remainder of the week. At 9:45 the black cars showed up and out came the Franco Boys and Seth Rogen. I was ready to knock their socks off with my well-thought-out questions. Since they were 45 minutes late to the red carpet and were held up by a video interview, however, their publicists whisked them past the audio interview line where I was so dutifully positioned. The only tale I'll ever be able to tell about meeting James Franco is about the puppy dog eyes and gaping mouth he saw plastered across my face as we made eye contact and he was hustled inside the building.
The day I passed out on a couch in the JW Marriott
Ultimate festival exhaustion: commence. Still feeling defeated from the night before, I dressed myself in leggings (a true sign of my having given up on a particular day) and an ultra-loose tank. The weather on this day was a bipolar mix of freezing cold wind and sweat-inducing sun, so I made the most of what rays I could catch by tanning on the upstairs patio of the convention center between screenings. I saw Served Like a Girl, a fabulous documentary about Ms Veteran America pageant, and cried multiple times at the stories of the strong women profiled in the film
I gave up on trying to attend any panels past 4p.m. and instead went on to gorge myself on a burger, fries and milkshake with my friend. A food coma led us to stumble into the Marriott, where I fell asleep on a couch outside of Starbucks. I'm not a public sleeper, buy there was no avoiding this one. We spent the rest of the day at Great Britain House and BugOut, scoring free swag and free drinks. I turned in early that night, stopping by 7-Eleven for some sour gummy worms and two Redbox movies.
The day I experienced Kimchi Fries
I woke up with a latte and a bagel from Lola Savannah Coffee and found enough inspiration to push through the three stories I had to finish by the end of the day. A solid portion of my morning (aside from word vomiting onto blank Microsoft documents) was dedicated to exploring the art exhibits displayed throughout the JW Marriott. The Brandcast Lounge, pictured above, captivated me as well. I geeked out upon entry as they explained their concept -- an online platform that allows people to design websites without templates and without code.
Starving and in a rush to get to my next panel, I stopped to finally try some Kimchi Fries from Chi'lantro. For those of you who haven't tried them before... You. Need. To. I've only been hearing about them for four years and they definitely lived up to the hype. The rest of my afternoon was dedicated to a panel where Amy Emmerich from Refinery29 interviewed Kesha, which I wrote about for Austin Way later on. You can read that post by clicking here!
The day I got two free chicken salad sandwiches
Finally finished with my SXSW coverage, I decided to take this day to spend time with a dear friend, relax and have fun. A fried egg sandwich and mocha latte at Annie's was just what I needed to kickstart the morning and we headed to Rainey immediately after. We tried our hand at winning free Armani Sunglasses, visited a few bars and then stumbled upon the coolest event I had gone to all week -- the Search Party pop up at L'Estelle House.
I think the exact phrase my friend used while we were walking up to the bouncer was 'If I could look inside your brain, this is what I would see.' Racks of clothing from Esby hung in the front and the left side of the yard converted into a giant bookcase. There was jewelry, leather goods, polaroid cameras and even a photobooth. Each person received two drink tickets and one food ticket upon entry, so my friend took one of my drink tickets in exchange for his food ticket and I feasted on two chicken salad sandwiches. As we sat on a plush sofa drinking boxed water and talking about business ideas, all I could think about was how happy I was.
The day I channeled my inner Beyoncé
I finally took my sweet Chicago-dwelling pal to get some queso from Chuy's and as we sipped on our strawberry margaritas all I could think about was how beautiful and transient the week had been. Here I was meeting heaps of people, each with their own amazing story, who I may or may not ever see again. It was a bittersweet realization, but I am a firm believer that some things are best when short-lived because it makes us appreciate them so much more.
Vowing to make the most of the day, I headed to Rainey and Sixth again with a high school friend. It was a whirlwind-good time, but I had the most fun while were sitting outside of Homeslice in my sister's yellow Volkswagen bug, jamming to Fergie and Beyoncé like we had never jammed before and waiting for our large pizzas to be ready. I had nothing but pure, unadulterated love for the people I was surrounded with in this moment -- a moment that I could have stayed in forever.
For more highlights from SXSW, check out this story on Austin Way!
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