We chat to the gorgeous, inimitable Gaynor Alder, founder and Editor-In-Chief of the Modern Women’s Survival Guide packed to the brim with inspirations, advice, beauty and style inspiration, blogger features and so much more.
Firstly, tell us a bit about your journey and how you ended up here?
So, yes, let’s go back to the beginning shall we?
At the tender age of 19 I started out in the recruitment industry. After continually injecting my veins with caffeine, and inhaling one too many Danish pastries behind my computer as ‘lunch’, I decided it was time to spread my wings. With a one-way ticket, $1000, and a hideously ill prepared suitcase for the English winter, I boarded a plane destination London.
They say travel changes you in ways you will never expect. I quickly realised I didn’t want to work 12 hours a day and miss the whole damn point. I started to question the ‘rules’- did I really have to work 9 to 5 (or 9 to 9) and why couldn’t I make a living out of what I really wanted to do?
I also came back with something else I didn’t expect. Chronic fatigue. And so a new journey began. Fighting for recovery (whilst up against all those who thought I was just being lazy) and determination to find a way to leave behind the corporate world (a strange place full of cubicles where having a personality seems to be a crime) and forge a new path for myself.
And I can’t believe it took me so damn long to work out what that was. But isn’t that the beauty of your 20s? To explore and not be afraid of failing as you try different things to work out what it is you really want to do.
At the marvellous age of 30, I recovered and things started to fall into place. I moved to Melbourne (a city that whispers to me every morning in an Alice in Wonderland kind of way, “I have secrets, come and find them”) and the rest as they say is history.
Because, it was all there along wasn’t it? I was born to write.
What inspired you to found The Modern Women’s Survival Guide, and can you explain the story behind the name?
After the umpteenth person told me, “You know you should really write a book”, I sat down at my computer one so not very special day and started to write.
This was back in 2003 when I was in the grips of CFS, and could only manage ten minutes of writing at a time. My book became my loyal confidante- something I held onto as I struggled through each and every day.
The title for the book seemed to just come to me, and it seemed fitting in light of what I was going through at the time. Years later when I was ready to pitch the book, an author friend told me to forget about approaching an agent until I’d built a platform.
And so it was in 2009, I launched a blog of the same namesake. I loved the freedom of being able to write without agonising over every single sentence as I did in my book. It was such a joy to finally publish the thoughts that had been sitting idle for all those years.
It was also a real surprise to find a community around my writing. It soon became a place to liberate women to play by their own rules, romance the everyday, and oh, to never underestimate the power of a good hair day- because after all, isn’t the quality of your life dictated by the quality of your hair?
It’s also somewhere I get to celebrate my devotion to ‘modern vintage’, along with the luxurious, the decadent, and the downright fabulous.
Who or what inspires you personally?
I’ve always felt a strong connection to Paris in the ’20s. I also adore the vintage dames of yesteryear such as Grace Kelly, Ava Gardner and Audrey Hepburn who inspire me with their timeless elegance, sophistication and style.
But most importantly, it’s my family, my friends, and my partner who are the guiding forces in my life. Because, really, what do we have without them?
What’s a typical day like for you?
I have a few different feathers in my freelancing beret. As well as blogging, I’m a social media and blogger outreach consultant, co-present advanced social media courses, and the community manager for Blogger Connect.
I love that I predominantly get to work from home on my own terms and hours, and I’m lucky to have clients who inject me with inspiration and energy each and every time I visit them.
What advice do you have for budding entrepreneurs out there?
Firstly, never ever give up- there’s always a way to make it happen. Forget the rules that have been laid out for you and carve your own path.
Setting up your own business can mean long hours, but when you’re doing what you want and you’re doing it for yourself, then it’s a labour of love.
Many of us start our own businesses so we can have more freedom, yet end up suffocating under a pile of emails and things to do. Remember to take time out to relax, pause and celebrate each and every milestone. The world won’t come crashing down if you need to take a break.
It’s also really important to surround yourself with people who will shake their pom poms for you, and metaphorically cut the naysayers off at the knees.
One other thing- I think so many of us fall into the trap of being defined by what we should have done by a certain age. Who makes these rules for goodness sakes? It’s never too late to do what you really want to do.
Three beauty products you can’t live without?
Three, just three? Okay, if I have to whittle it down to my holy grail they would be:
1. Lancome Teint Visionnaire Foundation. I was never a foundation kinda gal, favouring tinted moisturiser for its dewy, natural finish. But discovering this was a game changer. I’m a convert.
2. YSL False Lash Mascara. I have a few competitors for my affections when it comes to mascara (Benefit’s They’re Real is a very close second) but this is by far the most lengthening and volumising mascara I’ve ever had the joy of coating on my lashes.
3. Kerastase. When I sacrifice the time I should be spending on my hair in favour of hitting snooze on my alarm, I lack something. My moxy. My mojo. But using their shampoo, conditioner and mask is a magical hair care trifecta that seems to permeate through every area of my life.
Your favourite item in your wardrobe this season?
I would have to say the Seafolly white kaftan I recently picked up in Airlie Beach. It reminds me of the tropics when being held hostage by 18-degree days during Melbourne’s ‘summer’.
Lastly, if you could have breakfast with anyone (alive or dead) who would it be and why?
Rickey Gervais, because he never fails to make me laugh. But it would be lunch, as I don’t do mornings.