I met Allison at the famous, McNulty’s, to get a whiff of their vintage shop and strong coffee beans and then we headed to Prodigy Coffee for an iced cappuccino and mocha. There we picked a window seat in the sun and talked about her move from California to NYC, early love of “On the Town,” the joining of fashion and theatre, and her high hopes for her vintage reality show!
*Drink of choice: Mocha with coconut milk
AF: What are you drinking right now?
AM: I am drinking my afternoon pick me up, Mocha with coconut milk. I am a very big coffee drinker so I love this whole entire idea! I have on average two a day. When things are really busy in my life… I’ll do three a day! In the morning I always drink one of the Starbucks bottles… the medium roast. I have it iced at all times of the year and depending on what time of day it is my second drink will most likely always be a mocha or nitro cold brew. I’ve never been here before…but this is a pretty damn good mocha!
AF: So tell us where you’re from and what brought you to the city?
AM: I’m originally from San Diego, California. I moved when I was eighteen. People think I’m kind of crazy for moving from such a paradisial place to a city where we currently have the remains of a blizzard on the ground. I was never a big beach bunny… the goal was always to move to the East Coast. When I was three or four I saw On the Town on the TV at my grandma’s house. I saw Gene Kelly and Vira Ellen all singing and dancing, looking amazing, in this place called New York and it really stuck with me. And in my mind I thought, “I want to do that, and wear beautiful dresses, and sing and dance!” That idea always stayed and it still has stayed and in October I will hit my ten years of being in the city!
AF: Congratulations! Cheers to ten years!
AM: I’ve been doing a lot of reflecting on this decade coming up and on one hand it feels like that’s not a reality but then I think about all the relationships, friend groups, different jobs, different gigs and it’s like…oh yes it HAS been ten years.
AF: After ten years they say you’re a New Yorker!
AM: I definitely feel that way. I definitely was really lucky. I came here for school… I went to AMDA, and came into a community of people who were into the exact same things I was!
AF: Were you auditioning while you were in school?
AM: No AMDA has a policy where they don’t allow their students to audition until their fourth semester. The fourth semester all your classes are at nighttime… so you are able to. To be honest… I booked work out of school and I booked work with a lot of the teachers that I had at AMDA but it was weird because I went to school from eighteen to twenty so when I got out and I just wanted to enjoy the city a little more! I didn’t really start booking work until I was twenty-two.
AF: So you’re first thing came when you were twenty-two…
AM: I did quite a few Off-Broadway shows! I did three with Musicals Tonight! The person who used to direct all of them was an AMDA person and so I got really lucky and was basically given a role out of school and then on top of that I got to know them and would go in to their auditions so I did three with them from 2010-2012. At twenty-two I was really interested in doing some regional contracts… I wanted to leave the city and see what that was like! I did Damn Yankees in Florida and I did a really long contract of Grease in Reno, Nevada that year. Reno was probably where I learned I truly loved coffee.
AF: Is that near Las Vegas?
AM: It’s not but lots of people think that it is! I met two of my best friends on that contract and one of those friends, Dan said that he was telling all his friends he was performing in Vegas because nobody knew what Reno was! It’s quote on quote “the biggest little city on Earth.” It’s six hours north of Vegas and parallel to San Fran. It’s a weird but also very charming town. It was bizarre to do a contract for so long there… we got to know people in the neighborhood! Half of the people are unemployed and have no teeth and live at the casinos and the other half are super young and into Burning man and into medicinal healing…so long story short I started to get out of the city more and more! I did three years of the national tour of A Christmas Story. I got to play a ton of ensemble characters! It was really sentimental because we were away from our families over the holidays but with these new friends… who were becoming our families! For three years it was mostly the same people! But whenever I have been in between gigs I’ve always worked in the fashion industry. A lot of people tend to work in the food service industry… but I was like if I’m going to be in NYC and enjoy my time here… I’m going to do something that I love. So I’ve been very lucky where I come into environments and they respect my schedule. I worked on and off for Kate Spade, was a Manager for their men’s location, Jack Spade, James Purse, which is a California brand, and then I’ve interned at Theory as a visual person, and now I work for a company called Shinola, predominantly known for their watches. They have a very distinct, retro look. They’ve had a huge hand in contributing to the renaissance of Detroit. I was there for Christmas Story a couple years ago and it was crazy to see how much the company has helped the city come back to life! They have a factory there…they employed a lot of people after the auto industry started to fail there…and now they’re making watches! It’s been cool having my hand in both jars… doing everything that I love all in one.
AF: So when was Vintage Voyageur born?
AM: So 2016 was a pretty rough year. It was a good year and a rough year for many reasons. It was a big year of growth. I ended a long-term relationship that was very hard but I needed to let it go. I worked a lot that year. I did a Mary Poppins in Lancaster that summer and then I was going back in the winter for Christmas Story and in between the gigs I had two months. When I did Mary Poppins I had my own room…so I had a lot of free time and time to myself to think about what I wanted to do. I had had the idea to do a reality show about Vintage shopping for about two years prior…but of course all the demons in my head were telling me nobody wanted it and nobody would fund me…
AF: It’s crazy that we have to fight those voices every day.
AM: Every single day. You’re always going to be told that you can’t. But anyways… I all of a sudden found myself out of the Mary Poppins contract, I was unemployed, I had quite a bit of free time, and savings saved up and thought, “I’m going to do this.” I wanted to create something that makes people feel good and laugh…because this was when we were going into that political climate. It was August and I called up a really good friend of mine who’s now in Mean Girls on Broadway, Nikhil Saboo. He’s super into videography and I told him about my idea and asked if he wanted to help and he said, “Absolutely.” So it was all just very serendipitous because over the course of two months he was also between gigs. I started to cold call a ton of Vintage stores saying, “So I have this idea…for a new show that I’m going to put on YouTube and it’s a reality show where I visit Vintage stores and I teach people how to wear Vintage clothing…” That was my pitch and to my delight they were all on board! Nobody has done it… and what’s crazy now two years later there’s still not a show like it! When I was starting to brainstorm the idea and name (I obviously like alliterations) and starting to do research it was crazy to realize nothing like it already existed! So Nikhil and I taped seven episodes in the course of a month and I started to release episodes as it was going along. It’s just continued to grow from there. The day that I released the trailer for it, I remember it got over two-thousand views in the course of twenty-four hours… in 2016… which is a different technological climate than we are in now…
AF: YouTube was big then now it’s Instagram, right?
AM: Exactly! So it was very clear in the first couple of hours in releasing everything that people wanted to see something like this… and sure enough now, two years later, the show has had a lot of wonderful success. It’s moved from YouTube to Amazon Prime. I’m on their independent filmmaker website, so that’s an amazing thing to be a part of! It was nominated for the Best Unscripted Series in the New York Web Fest and it was up for a ton of awards in an Online Festival last year at this time. I’ve been able to walk in a Vintage Fashion show during New York Fashion Week because of it, which was maybe the coolest thing ever to come out of this! It’s been this amazing way of combining all my favorite worlds into one. The bigger motive was always, “What can I make that is fully mine?” because as performers we’re on somebody else’s time and I wanted to create something that was fully my own. The cool thing about it too was after the first season, I was going back on tour for the third time on Christmas Story and I thought well, I can still do the show on the road and I had people in my cast help me, and I came back to the city to film a couple episodes and it kind of took on a life of its own. This was after the election and so it was a very different world all of a sudden. Everyone was upset but everyone was also really reaching out, offering their stores as safe-havens where people could write letters to their senators, people were holding Yoga classes to become centered; there was so much more of a sense of a community in the second season so it organically became more about the importance of shopping small business, how small business can change the community that you’re in, and the importance of shopping sustainable because we have an administration that doesn’t believe in climate change…
AF: Hello- literally extreme climate shifts are happening…
AM: People don’t realize that the fashion industry is second biggest polluter in the world next to oil. It’s unbelievable the amount of dye that’s dumped into the ocean and the scraps of fabric that are put in landfills. Everything goes back to “fast fashion” and the harm that H&M, Zara, Top Shop are causing on the environment… I’m very happy that my show has opened up awareness to shopping Vintage, get something that’s made really well, pay the same or a little more for it, know it will last, and I’m not contributing to the “fast fashion” world.
AF: I love second-hand stores.
AM: Everything I’m wearing is second-hand!
AF: It’s the gift that keeps on giving!
AM: If it’s made well, let it continue having a life! Give it away, consign it, give it to any Vintage store! Of course all of us have gone to Buffalo Exchange… and we’ve thought it’s so nice and we don’t get much in return… so it’s better to take to a legitimate Vintage store! But anyway… the show is my baby, I’m super excited because when I created it I imagined it getting to the point it is at currently and in my head I thought, “I’ll stop when it gets there and I’ll go back to performing” but I really love what it’s become and I want it to get even bigger so I’m launching a website for it on the seventh of April! It’s coming! People can go there, watch the episodes, and you can read more in depth about each Vintage store I’ve covered, and you can donate for the third season! I’m trying to pair with different production companies.
AF: This show needs to be on E, or TLC!
AM: I’d love for it to be on HGTV! My idea of course for the third season is to take it on the road and make it bigger and go International. For that I of course need more funds, more hands, more minds. I’ve done it all on my own up until now! I’m very excited to see what the next step is!
AF: So obviously you’re working on your next season and website…how many Vintage stores have you covered?
AM: Eighteen stores and brands and in the second season I had a couple more online stores because of course that’s a big thing now… but one of the online stores that we covered, we filmed last year in March and then we came back and filmed in July and they’d just opened a store in New York! It’s amazing to see a business grow and to have it captured in a twenty-minute episode! Also in the second season I covered a Vintage blogger… she lives in Williamsburg and handle is, Clothesandpizza- her whole thing is she mixes modern and vintage clothing and can always grab a slice to go. I’m hoping the third season can be longer episodes, where I cover a personality, blogger, and a Vintage store that connects to who they are, and go all over the world!
AF: I think that’s going to happen.
AM: My fingers are crossed.
AF: I feel like that’s something everyone wants to watch! Vintage is so in these days… and it’s easy enough to get your hands on Vintage pieces or household items… and then you find those gems and it’s so special because there’s so much history there! It’s so important to reuse things and find the beauty.
AM: It’s nice to have something that always has a story. It’s so special when the owner knows where each piece came from. You’re essentially wearing history!
AF: That justifies the purchase!
AM: Yes, you’re wearing history!
AF: Do you find that creating and working on your show motivates you even more as an actor and helps you in your craft or do you think you’re leaning towards shifting gears?
AM: I think it all works together! As artists we are so creative in so many different ways! It’s really great that we’re living in a time with technology, and we’re able to explore all of those things. I do think that while I’m still very much a performer right now the muscle that’s the strongest is the creator muscles, the editor muscle, the hosting muscle… I think to be multi-faceted you’re not going to be 100% at everything all the time. There’s just no way.
AF: What would your words of wisdom be?
AM: Oh God key quotes. I think for anyone who has the dream of coming here… and now being here ten years I would tell younger Allison… “No bullshit… this is really hard. Everyone knows the song, ‘If I can make it there… I’ll make it anywhere’ but making it in the industry… means just waking up and living day to day. You just got to keep doing it. If you love it here and feel fulfilled… then you’re meant to be doing it.” However when it comes to creating… the thing that sticks with me is the woman that created Spanx, she said, if you have a good idea for something you should wait an entire year before putting it into fruition and don’t tell anybody about it. As artists, and entrepreneurs you have so many ideas… but then how many do you lose? All those ideas get left by the wayside but the ones that stick for a whole entire year… those are the ones that are meant to be. That really resonated with me and is kind of what I did with Vintage Voyageur. When I finally shared my idea with a friend that’s when it began to receive that affirmation. For younger people, I would say… if it’s really on your mind… really do it. It takes so much work so ruminating about it and making sure it’s something you’re passionate about it is worth it. Also- you don’t have to struggle and scrape in Manhattan… you can live in a borough.
AF: Right- just remove yourself!
AM: I didn’t realize how much I needed the change until I moved. So with that I say, live where makes you happy and keep your eyes pealed for the third season of the Vintage Voyageur!