INTERVIEW: SHARZAD KIADEH
Sharzad Kiadeh: Host, YouTuber, Blogger. Interviewed by Michele Carroll. Photography: Roneil Chavez
For the readers who don’t know, give us a rundown of what you do.
What do I do? Good question! I do a little bit of everything. The short answer is I host several shows online and create content for my personal YouTube channel and blog. I also have a toddler and another one on the way so I spend my time picking up toys and trying to not to barf. When I’m not doing those things there is a ton of behind the scenes hustling, pitching show ideas, emailing PR companies to connect, brainstorming content for my various platforms- there’s always something to do!
Content creation in the form of blogs and videos is still a relatively new industry. Before these platforms existed, did you have an interest in media or did you have a different plan originally?
When I was in high school my dream job was to host Wild On E!. The thought of getting paid to travel, drink, and party seemed like the greatest thing in the world. I was also in a broadcast club my first year in college- but I never pursued anything in media until my mid twenties.
How and when did LuxLyfe start?
When I started my online career I was super bored with my job (as a professional makeup artist) and I wanted to do something completely different. I just said “f*ck it” one day and started creating content for both my blog and channel. I wanted to get into hosting but I had zero experience. I figured if I made videos showcasing my personality, maybe one day I would land some fun gigs. I didn’t know a single soul who worked in the space- no bloggers, YouTubers, publicists, hosts, no one. I was a one woman show and taught myself how to do everything. The day I launched my blog I decided I should probably get to know some PR peeps, so I googled “PR Los Angeles” and started going down the list calling companies and introducing myself. One of the first people I spoke to happened to be super sweet and invited me to an event that day. It was so exciting.
You started your brand five years ago. How would you describe entering the lifestyle content market at that time?
Five years ago way less people saw the value and influence that online creators had and were going to have. For so long people thought I just had a fun little hobby- they had no clue I actually made money doing what I love! Now, for the most part, people get it. They’ve seen the success that can come with creating a killer presence online. They see that big brands with huge budgets are working with creators. The sky’s the limit now!
I love hearing about the different mentalities people had when starting a new endeavour. Sometimes (most of the time) people are very nervous and insecure, but every now and then I’ll come across someone that fearlessly plowed into their idea. What was your experience like starting LuxLyfe?
I have never been afraid of going after what I want. I had zero fear when I launched my blog and YT channel. I just did it and figured out how to make things work. I wish I could go into more detail, but the truth is, I’m just not afraid of mistakes or failure. Maybe it’s because I’ve been through a lot in my life and I always land on my feet.
If you could go back and start everything over, what would you do differently, if anything?
Honestly, I wouldn’t do anything differently. I have no regrets. All the mistakes I made or stupid things I’ve done or said in my life and career have lead me to where I am now and I’m pretty damn happy about that. Regret is a terrible feeling- but if you can learn from mistakes and become a better person than that’s all you need.
Having an online presence usually doesn’t go without troll run-ins. Have you experienced much negativity from online naysayers? If you do, how do you deal with it?
I’ve been putting myself out there (online) for 5 years so I’ve definitely experienced my fair share of haters along the way. The most significant experience was when I first starting hosting a show called The Mom’s View. After my first live show I went home to read the comments- they were beyond nasty. People ripped me apart. They said things about what I was wearing to how I looked/spoke- they picked apart every freakin word I said. I’d be lying if I said it didn’t affect me. I let myself cry for a night, but then I put my big girl pants on and went back to it. It’s funny because after a few months my so-called haters became my die-hard fans. The whole experience taught me several things: 1) Develop a thick ass skin if you want to be in this biz because people can say really nasty things and you can’t let it ruin your day, week, life, etc. 2) People, in general, hate change. I was the new girl on the show and it just took everyone a while to warm up to me- it wasn’t as personal as I had originally thought. 3) As hard as it was for me to read so many mean comments about myself, I wouldn’t change that experience for anything. It made me tough and now when I get mean comments, I can laugh at them. Cyber haters are angry little trolls that most likely need a hug… or a punch in the face. The overall lesson is that you can’t let the bad (or good) get into your head.
In 2016, there are so many people trying to do what you do. What advice do you have for standing out in a competitive industry?
The internet is extremely saturated with bloggers, YouTubers, Instagrammers, etc.- BUT that doesn’t mean that someone new can’t come along and kill it. I’m personally always looking for new people to follow and get to know with a fresh take on things. You just have to be original. I think people are looking more and more for honest conversations online and you can tell pretty quickly when someone is trying to fake the funk.
You can’t grow a following without knowing (or at least learning) a thing or two about marketing! What was your strategy for getting the word out about LuxLyfe in the beginning?
I was all about cross promotion on all my social outlets. I posted different types of content on my various platforms and encouraged people to check them out. Obviously, collaborating with bigger channels or outlets was key for growth. I did my best to familiarize myself with SEO and what hashtags were and are relevant to my content.
Can you think back to a particular mistake or mental block you’ve encountered along your journey? What did you learn from it?
No mistakes! Everything is a lesson.
You produce so much content on so many platforms, it seems like a lot to manage! Could you give me a little peek into how you break your production schedule down?
Time management is super important for everyone trying to get their hustle on- throw a kid or two into the mix and it’s crucial that you have your act together. I try to be organized and I looove making lists. When I shoot content for my channel I film anywhere from 2-6 videos in one day. That leaves me plenty of time to host other shows, take photos for my blog, attend events, travel, send out emails, come up with ideas and be a mom. I’m all about efficiency.
It’s impossible to feel inspired all the time. Running your own brand, how do you push through when you’re just not feeling it?
I’d be a huge liar if I said I was inspired all the time. Truth is, I’m a human who gets tired and grumpy. When I’m feeling particularly drained or exhausted I allow myself a break- usually that includes a digital detox. It’s so nice to “check out” for a few days if you can. Taking a break from social media can do wonders for your soul and creative spirit.
What is your favorite part about what you do? Your least?
My favorite part of my job is that I get to do whatever I want and I have tons of fun! For one of my most recent sponsored videos I asked the brand if they were cool with me doing a rap video. They loved the idea and I got to live out my dreams of being a pregnant gangster rapper. Total win-win. Having freedom to be me and do what I like all while getting paid is awesome. The flip side of that is sometimes I feel tired and drained and I never know when I’m going to get my next paycheck.
A question from a reader: How do you go about partnering with brands and deciding which brands to partner with?
When I first started creating content I learned pretty early on that partnering with brands was going to be the best way to monetize my content. So I decided to call and/or email my favorite brands and pitch myself to them. I just hustled the only way I knew how- cold calling/emailing/pitching. My first big brand deal was with Burke Williams Day spas. I created a monthly video for them highlighting their latest spa treatment at a variety of their locations. Basically I got paid to go to the spa and tell everyone how great it was! When I started out I was a pitching machine. I hit up every brand I was into and tried to partner with them. I figured if I go after the brands I want it will be the most authentic type of content. Now, it’s a mix of my agent bringing me opportunities and me going after what I want. I never work with a brand that I’m not into. It has to be a good fit and I have to have creative control if I’m going to be talking about it on my channel/blog. If I worked with a brand that people knew I wasn’t a fan of- I’d be a sell out and my reputation online would be ruined.
L.A. LADY CULTURE
Favorite area of L.A.? Hmmm… There are so many fun places here, it’s hard to choose. I’ve been living in Culver City for the last two years and I love it here. It’s so central and it’s fun to be part of a city that’s booming. Every week it seems like a new hotspot is opening up. It’s also very family friendly.
Favorite eatery in L.A.? Super into Sasabune – it’s not cheap so it has to be a special occasion.
Menu item we must order there? All the sushi.
Favorite happy hour? Ahhh Happy Hour. Oh how I miss thee. I’m so out of the loop. Ask me again in a few months and I’ll have an answer! But if I remember correctly, Herringbone in Santa Monica used to have dollar oysters for happy hour. That was fun.
Favorite weekend activities in the city? My weekends revolve around my son and finding new activities for him. We’ve been really into taking the train to Tongva Park in Santa Monica and hanging out at the splash pad.
Audio of choice when sitting in traffic? Boring answer- but I listen to NPR. Unless I’m on my way to a big shoot- than it’s a different story. I like “Work Bitch” on repeat by Britney.
Place or thing you want to do most in L.A., but haven’t yet? Don’t judge me when I tell you this- but I haven’t been to the Hollywood Bowl! I’ve been living here for 15 years and for some stupid reason I’ve never made it there. I’m also dying to go to Naka for sushi. One day…
Biggest L.A. guilty pleasure? SUSHI.