What Does it Mean to be Authentic?

We may have staged this photo on the last day of our trip to Puerto Vallarta last summer, but our smiles and our love for each other could not be more authentic.

We may have staged this photo on the last day of our trip to Puerto Vallarta last summer, but our smiles and our love for each other could not be more authentic.

I was invited to this really fancy brunch the other day to learn more about this amazing new app that I’ll tell you more about another time, but while we were talking, the word authentic kept coming up. I was sitting at a large table with about a dozen social influencers (people who literally make a living posting things on social media and influencing society) and having some great conversation. I spent the middle 3 weeks of January in bed sick with a miserable cold, so I was just happy to be out of the house and around other humans. 

We gathered at a place called Soho House in West Hollywood, which is sort of a fancy country club type of establishment, minus the golf and tennis courts and located in the city, on top of a large building. There are locations around the world, but this one in particular is so beautiful and a popular hangout for celebrities.  If you’re willing to throw down $3,500 a year, it’s a great place for anyone trying to be in close proximity to the power players in Hollywood, but the networking, food and drinks are not included. I don’t have money like that to throw around right now, but I was happy to go there on someone else’s dime for an afternoon. Needless to say, it was my first time there and I was impressed.

Things like that don’t usually wow me and I’ve never been the type of person driven by a desire to have the nicest things or hang in the most high profile spots, but this place was beautiful and I was grateful to be there eating an insane brunch with such creative, thoughtful people. Seriously, I had raw oysters AND bacon in the same meal…my life will never be the same!

Emile was with me (he opted for an omelet and bacon combo because he’s not big on the whole raw oyster thing) and we had a great time. We could’ve parked the 2003 Lexus SUV that we share in the valet underneath, amongst the nicest cars money can buy, but we didn’t.  Although we have no problem being the small fish in a big pond, positioned snuggly between a Rolls Royce and a Lamborghini, we decided to park across the street for free and walk over, because we’re just not ballin’ like that and because we’re not fans of throwing away money. We actually did pay $5 for our parking spot, but only because we left our car in the garage attached to the restaurant where Emile works  as a waiter 4 nights a week.

So, as we sipped on mimosas and fresh cold pressed juices, nibbling away at perfectly made pastries and Belgian waffles, we were also overlooking the place that has sustained our lifestyle as we push for success in a city that is often brutal and unforgiving. We knew that we belonged there, but we were also keenly aware of our current financial reality. Surrounded by some of the wealthiest and most successful people in the entertainment industry, we couldn’t help but grin at each other and hold hands under the table, both knowing we both live multiple lives on any given day. 

In the past we’ve both struggled with what many call “imposter syndrome.” Knowing that we are talented and capable, but also knowing that our bank accounts or resumes aren’t quite up to par with many of our colleagues and those we look up to in our professional lives hasn’t always been the easiest pill to swallow…egos are funny like that. We do, however, understand on a deep level that our spiritual accounts are overflowing, so we’re comfortable resting in that truth as we grow both professionally and personally

I used to feel particularly insecure about all sorts of things and would have, in the past, came up with some excuse to skip an event like this just to avoid the feeling of inadequacy that would inevitably creep into my gut, fearing that someone would realize I was faking it and then call me out for being a fraud. The whole idea of networking has always felt so fake to me and I pride myself on being as real as I can be, so I avoided it at all cost. However, I’ve learned that networking can be a powerful exchange between people, rather than just one person desperately pitching themselves or their services to someone else.

That very morning Emile and I actually got into the dumbest argument and I told him I didn’t want to go to the brunch anymore. I was overly sensitive about something he said and decided to blow up our afternoon plans. Also, I probably didn’t feel up to doing any of that networking that I just told you could be so powerful. In hindsight, I know it was my own insecurities rearing their ugly heads and trying to keep me from experiencing a beautiful afternoon with some impressive people. To my credit, I did eventually calm down and have a normal, rational conversation with my boo and agreed to still go to the brunch, but it did take me a minute because, well, I’m still AJ.

So, as we sat around that table, discussing the word authentic and sharing with each other how we feel about this concept of living authentically, the wheels in my head started to turn. I’m really great at having a fully engaged conversation with a group of people while also being aware of every detail of my surroundings AND deciphering my own inner monologue all at the same time, so this moment was pretty standard for me. I’m an over thinker, which can get me into trouble sometimes, but it’s also why I’m able to balance working with a cohost, while interviewing celebrities in the middle of a bustling red carpet, in front of millions of live viewers all while a producer rambles off instructions in my earpiece. So, my brain went into overdrive and to be honest, it hasn’t stopped since.

Partially because of the whole over thinker thing, but mostly because at some point our group got sidetracked and the conversation shifted. Just as we started to dive into what it really means to live authentic lives in a world driven by social media, the topic was dropped. In the past I would’ve found a way to get the conversation back on track and heading in the direction I wanted it to, but this time I decided to sit back and go with the flow. That’s sort of a new skillset I’ve been working on, but I am still me and this is a conversation I want to have!

So, this is my way of starting that conversation with all of you, my friends, my family and my dearest supporters. I wrote my book and built this website and I write these blogs because I want us to have a space to connect and have open, honest conversations AUTHENTICALLY, so here’s our chance.  I’m going to be writing about this concept more in the coming weeks and I will definitely be sharing what the word authentic means to me, but first I want to know what it means to YOU?

I want to know you, I want to know what makes you tick, I want to know what makes you happy and I want to know what makes you sad, because those are all authentic human experiences.  So, in the comments section below, please share an example of you being authentically you and tell everyone how that made you feel. Were you comfortable or did you want to crawl out of your skin? Did those close to you embrace that version of you or did they maybe reject it? There are no wrong answers here, as long as you’re being AUTHENTIC.