Whether they’re interior designers, stylists, contractors or realtors, HGTV personalities really are at the top of their game. And though it might feel like it to you, the faces you see on the network definitely didn’t get there overnight. If you’ve ever thought about what it takes to make it to HGTV stardom, read on, because we found out.
Take Jeanine Hays and Bryan Mason, for instance, the New York-based husband-and-wife duo behind the AphroChic brand, and most recently, the HGTV Facebook Live series “Sneak Peek with AphroChic.” They’ve been at the blogging game since 2007, have their own line of decor products ranging from pillows to wallpaper to paint, wrote a design book—”REMIX: Decorating with Culture, Objects and Soul“—and recently started their HGTV series, which is currently in its second season, earlier this year.
If you haven’t tuned in yet, check it out. It streams live on HGTV’s Facebook page on Saturdays at noon EST but also lives on the AphroChic YouTube channel. If you love a good house tour (and c’mon, of course, you do… you’re reading Apartment Therapy, after all), then you’ll love this show. It’s basically 30 minutes of vicariously snooping around a super personal, creatively curated home and eavesdropping on the conversation Jeanine and Bryan are having with the homeowner. But like I said, this cool couple has been at it for a long time, so a series wasn’t just handed to them. I chatted them up for their expert tips on how you can forge your own way in this super competitive industry.
Tip 1: Pivot when necessary and follow your passions
Jeanine’s a former lawyer, and Bryan spent time in school earning various master’s degrees. But they both have always had a love of design and personal style, especially as it relates to interiors and people of color. They nurtured that passion on the side when Janine started their blog, and as the audience grew, they weren’t afraid to go full time with this new career path. They now work on a variety of things, from writing for the blog (and other places) to product development with their home decor line and even working with interior design clients. Their HGTV series is the newest part of their business, and they’re loving the flexibility of being able to write, direct, produce and host a show where they can share different peoples’ eclectic interiors with the rest of the world.
Tip 2: Long before you’re in front of the camera, have a point of view and talk to an audience that isn’t part of the conversation
Jeanine and Bryan identified a major gap in the market—no one was really talking to women (or men) of color with an interest in modern interiors with a touch of soul. So they made it their mission to seek out people of color killing it in their respective fields—and homes—and feature their spaces. A little while after starting the blog, they hunted down a pillow featuring the silhouette of a women with an afro, and after not finding a single one, they made it instead. Their textile business was born. Lesson learned: if you don’t see something out there you think other people would want or be interested in, do it yourself.
Tip 3: Self-publish the heck out of yourself
Sure, the market is saturated now, but back when AphroChic was first founded, the blogosphere was up for grabs, and Jeanine and Bryan carved a niche out for themselves by being different. Tastemakers and influencers seem to be driving things now, and it can feel like every good blog idea already exists. But you can’t get discovered by anyone (HGTV scouts, brands or otherwise) from the blog you don’t have. Self-publishing is the best way to get yourself out there. Remember that every blog had no audience at the beginning.
Tip 4: Be social
In addition to blogging, it’s a good idea to be active on social media. In fact, Jeanine and Bryan are self-professed “Instagram addicts,” and when they’re not finding locations to feature on their show by word of mouth or through friends, they’re scouting for them on the Insta app. Social media is also another platform for cultivating an audience and displaying your unique vision.
Tip 5: Don’t expect a series or show to just be handed to you
Jeanine and Bryan worked as freelance writers for HGTV first before they were ever approached for the Facebook Live series. So don’t underestimate smaller projects or random contacts you may make along the way. They can lead to something much bigger down the road.
Tip 6: Be open to new formats
Online video probably is the new TV. And since they basically built their business online, Jeanine and Brian were very excited for the opportunity to create video content for HGTV’s Facebook page. “People from all over the globe tune in to watch us, and we already have some regulars,” says Jeanine. “We love when people sign on and are in Bermuda, or Sweden, or wherever.” The format also gives them a lot of flexibility. They can shoot homes in Brooklyn, where they live, or travel to bring unique spaces to light. “And because everything is done live, there’s this really organic quality to the show,” says Bryan. “We’ll have kids run through or a cat that wants to steal the show. We’re capturing real life.”
Tip 7: Break the mold
Not saying a house tour is a brand new concept, but it takes guts to hold a mirror up to a diverse set of homeowners, each with unique tastes, and put that on display—rather than come in and change everything (which is the way a lot of shows operate). Don’t get me wrong, I love a good renovation and makeover show as much as the next gal, but Jeanine and Bryan are all about celebrating the diverse, unique personalities of spaces and the stories of the people behind them. “No two homes should look the same, because no two people are the same,” says Jeanine. “We love showing interesting spaces, so people can find and identify their own style then go make their own home special.” Amen.
It’s hard not to be inspired by these two. Check out their series if you haven’t and heed this advice because it clearly works! Next stop: HGTV stardom!