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Most people will wait until after college to build a platform for themselves if they decide to go that route. However, Paula Hlavacek, a marketing management student at Kwantlen Polytechnic University, hasn’t followed such a convention.
Instead, while completing coursework at an institution ranked in the top three percent of the world’s universities, Hlavacek has earned more than 28 thousand followers on Instagram and more than one million views on her YouTube channel.
Hlavacek has been modeling since the age of seven, so she’s definitely Top Model ready. Although as impressive as that is on its own, Hlavacek also has a sizable following for reasons beyond her modeling. She’s a fashionista who makes an eco-friendly impact by framing thrifting as something fresh and fashionable. She’s proud to call herself the “thrifting queen.”
“Manufacturing will never be fully-sustainable,” Hlavacek explained. “Manufacturing ‘green’ fashion will always include some sort of harmful cost to the environment. It is what it is. Your dollars, however, are so important where they go – so think about it that way. Your money goes towards what you’re supporting."
We were excited to chat with Hlavacek to learn more about her lifestyle, her thrifting expertise and her up-and-coming influencer journey!
Be a starfish in a sea of sharks
Like fish in the sea, there is no shortage of fashion influencers on Instagram. Although, there are still open waters for more sustainable fashion influencers like Hlavacek on social media. Consider how accessory choices that leading fashion influencers typically make are not often realistic or accessible for the average person scrolling through.
We are inundated daily with images of affluence and excess on social media. Kylie Jenner shares with her 189 million followers on Instagram an image of herself surrounded by five Louis Vuitton bags. Your paper Starbucks bag no longer feels so cool. Selena Gomez shares with her 186 million Instagram followers, a picture of herself promoting a Coach leather biker jacket and bag combo. You suddenly feel inadequate in your basic jean jacket. So, who’s to say that leaves a net positive impact?
Most Instagram users are from the young Generation Z. It could be argued that these unrealistic and non-eco-friendly fashion standards leave more of a negative impact when it comes to the environment and young people’s mental health. Being faced with unrealistic standards on a constant basis can be detrimental to our self-esteem and sense of values.
Against this social media “norm,” Hlavacek has inspired others via her socials to make economical and environmentally friendly choices by thrift shopping for clothes. And, she’s made it cool.
“Love this! Now I wanna go thrifting ASAP," was a comment on Hlavacek’s thrifting haul YouTube video. A quick look at Hlavacek’s thrifting videos will leave no question as to her charm and creativity when it comes to styling ‘upcycled’ fashions.
Hlavacek makes thrifting an experience. “I love that every time I go into a thrift store, it’s a mystery,” she said. “You don’t know what you’re going to find and the ‘digging’ process is quite therapeutic; I could spend hours looking through each section,” she said.
“Whether it’s a thrift store or a luxury consignment store, it’s a good feeling to be purchasing secondhand knowing these could have landed in the landfill, but instead will land in my closet," Hlavacek said.
Get attacked by a wallaby
Besides the positive impact Hlavacek makes as a sustainable fashion influencer, another striking aspect is her boldness.
A fun fact about Hlavacek is that she is not easily embarrassed. That’s quite a unique thing to hear from a millennial, so it does provide some insight into her success.
There are probably loads of people in the world who would have booked modeling gigs if they were not discouraged from applying by the stereotype of what models ‘should’ resemble. Hlavacek is only 5 feet, 4 inches tall, which is considered “short” by industry standards, but that didn’t stop her from applying for modeling opportunities. Also, there are likely many people who would have had a shot at growing a significant social media following, if only they did not allow their worries to prevent them from posting authentically on social media.
Hlavacek’s YouTube video entitled “I WAS ATTACKED BY A WALLABY!!" is a perfect example of her authenticity and unpretentious charm – she was OK, by the way.
For people looking to make a career in the public eye, Hlavacek has some useful advice.
“People are always watching. Stay true to yourself and don’t focus on what you don’t have,” she said. “Don’t forget, there is so much more to life than ‘Instagram.’ People get so wrapped up in scrolling that it’s also healthy to put it away.”
Drink some humble tea
It’s impossible to get to know Hlavacek without noting her humility. She has a realistic perspective on relatable experiences – that, honestly, we’d all like to think of as unique. She recalls living abroad as a critical moment in her life experience.
“I know this is so cliché, however living abroad for two years has been the most rewarding experience,” she said. “I moved to Australia for school for six months, and I ended up staying for much longer than expected. It taught me to be independent and to adapt.”
But, despite her profitable following, Hlavacek’s career is only just kicking off.
“My career hasn’t really begun to be honest,” she explained. “I’m still in school, working part-time and have been busy blogging. I’m just making the best of it before school finally comes to an end, and then it’s time to focus on my career.”
Perhaps the recipe for being a successful influencer is social awareness (which for Hlavacek comes in the form of caring about sustainability), openness and likability.
We were happy to chat more with Hlavacek because, honestly – she seems like such a cool person.
Do you have a strategy for thrifting?
DIG, DIG and DIG!! Don’t go in with any intention, because sometimes you hit the jackpot and sometimes you are left empty-handed. Just be open-minded and check out all the sections, even the men’s section! It’s supposed to be fun, not stressful.
What are your favorite thrift stores? What do you avoid?
Value Village just because their prices are so reasonable! Turnabout is also tremendous, and Mine and Yours; however, these are luxury consignment stores. I go into all thrift stores. It doesn’t matter what they look like. Avoid putting on shoes without socks.
How have you turned your love of secondhand fashion and modeling into a career?
I don’t define my thrifting and modeling as a “career,” it’s just a hobby and something I enjoy doing. I have more significant projects lined up as my career.
Do you consider yourself an “influencer?"
I think every blogger dislikes that word influencer. I’m just a person who loves to do “me” and be “me.”
Where do you get your ideas and inspiration?
Instagram is a great platform to be inspired, as well as Pinterest! However, I never really dress on-trend anyways. I have so many different styles. I kind of like wearing what’s not on trend. Just wearing whatever makes me happy.
What’s something, personal or professional, you’re currently working on achieving?
GETTING MY BUSINESS MARKETING DEGREE! I graduate this year.
What is one habit you recommend having?
Don’t sleep next to your phone. I keep mine in the bathroom when I brush my teeth, I leave it there overnight.
Who did you look up to as a kid?
No one. I never followed the rules, and I always got into trouble. I learned the hard way and didn’t like to listen to anyone, haha. Oops.
If the 20-year-old you were here today, what advice would you give them?
Calm down. Don’t stress over the little things; it always works out in the end.
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