Brands Get a Bang for their Buck at Sundance…Still

January 28, 2016 :: Posted by - simplyjen :: Category - Celebs, Ramblings, Uncategorized

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I vividly remember the days the Sundance Film Festival was saturated with brands and the swag out-shined the films. As a member of the media at the time, I can’t deny having to make a visit to the local post office to ship boots, coats, speakers and more back home…I even once bought an over-priced suitcase on Main St that I packed to the brim…before I started to bring an empty duffel bag with me to accommodate the booty.
Brands would pays hundreds of thousands of dollars for naming rights to a venue or swag suite at Sundance and tens of thousands just to be permitted to hand out free product in the hopes that while being introduced to a who’s who of talent and tastemakers they would (and did) in turn garner some press.

Screen Shot 2016-01-28 at 3.39.10 PMThe mountains of free stuff became so gluttonous that (inspired by something similar Kevin Bacon had done), three years ago I did a ‘Reverse Swag Drive’ where I encouraged people to donate their swag to be auctioned off for charity. It was critically acclaimed, garnering ink in outlets from The Wall Street Journal, New York Times and CNN to Us Weekly and Star Magazine.

Cut to a few years later and trying to sell brands on doing an activation at Sundance was like being a telemarketer trying to make a sale when you’ve called during dinnertime.

This year the absence of ‘gifting suites’ was obvious, Kari Feinstein admirably being virtually the last one standing, but it was also evident in branding in general.

I’ll admit a few years ago branding at Sundance had reached saturation, but I think the mass backpedaling has led to lost opportunity.

Walking down Main St. this week I heard, “Remember when the Morningstar Café was there? I ate veggie burgers there every day” more than once, referring to Morningstar’s multi-year pop up.

“Remember when Fred Segal did Village at the Lift?”

“I had Bulletproof Coffee over there for the first time last year.”

“Remember that year they passed out those little ball eos chapsticks, wish I had one now.”

“I used to hang out all the time at the MySpace Café, then it turned into the Yahoo Café…What is it this year?” “Is there an Airborne Lounge? I could use some.”

Say what you will, but the brands that contributed to the gluttony of Sundance did what they set out to do, they garnered press and the attendees noticed…and remember.

samsung
This year Samsung had a lounge – and everyone knew about it because it was one of the only ones. After taking a photo in their photo booth I held the Galaxy for the first time and was surprised how sleek it is, and I liked it! I previously wouldn’t have considered an iphone alternative. Now I just might.

sam2

They hosted an after party for Don Cheadle and Ewan McGregor’s film “Miles Ahead.” I didn’t stay long enough to see McGregor (gratuitous photo of he and I Screen Shot 2016-01-28 at 7.15.01 PMfrom a vintage Sundance here), but I watched the trailer so many times on loop that now I want to see the film. Marketing working again.

BMF’s a staple at Sundance that always has solid programming. They’ve evolved from being a ‘gifting suite’ and their experience this year and last has been more interactive, but not any less effective at introducing me to things I didn’t previously know about – like that Keurig now makes pods for Campbell’s Soup and hot cocoa in candy flavors like Charleston Chew and Sugar Babies!!

coffee

campbell'sI also did virtual reality, taking a trip underground to explore the sea and learn about Adrian Grenier’s “Lonely Whale” project before heading to the V8 Bloody Mary bar and after debating between a straight V8 green juice or a make-your-own Bloody Mary with the traditional V8 blend. I went for the Bloody Mary, but…When I went to the airport that evening, still curious about V8’s green juice I purchased one at the airport. It was a few months expired, so I have yet to experience it, but it nonetheless proved the power of marketing on Main Street at Sundance.

V8

VR

Oh, not to be forgotten, these fresh from the oven delectable doughnuts from a pop up of LA’s The Church Key at KIA’s Supper Club were scrumptious enough to entice our crew to want to check out brunch at The Church Key when we get back to LA.

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Writing Hacks

January 25, 2016 :: Posted by - simplyjen :: Category - Writing

Determined to take advantage of coming home from Sundance early, I sat down on a Sunday to write. The words flowed, but like a lot of writing, it was crap. Coherent sentences escaped me and as frustration threatened to creep in, I gave in to my elevated energy level and went for a run. When I came back feeling like I could go another few miles, I knew I still wasn’t in the mental state to write so I took out a canvas to paint. I ended up with not one, but two blank canvases.

painting

The next day, as the blank canvases stared at me like reflectors from the corner of my eye, I took a break to add some color, not really sure how it would translate. I decided to make it a second experiment and like the blue background, I painted it entirely with my left hand – a trick I was taught helps tap into the more creative right brain.

Afterwards I sat down and wrote this post and am trying to gauge if my brain feels like it’s working any differently than if I had painted stars with my right hand. I’m not sure if I feel more ‘creative’ per se, but it definitely helped me focus as not using your dominant hand forces you to concentrate a bit more.

stars

A Very Elle-gant Evening

January 21, 2016 :: Posted by - simplyjen :: Category - Celebs, Nightlife

Sometimes I’ll work a red carpet just because it’s a cool event. So, as with Stella McCartney’s soiree last week, when I was asked to help with arrivals for Elle’s Women in TV dinner at The Sunset Tower Hotel last night, I hardly hesitated.

The guest list was another one might deem ambitious, but just as people turned out to support Stella, they came out in force to join Elle Magazine and editor-in-chief Robbie Myers in celebrating the amazing women in TV today.

Priyanka, Robbie, Olivia and Viola

Priyanka, Robbie, Olivia and Viola

Priyanka Chopra, Viola Davis, Olivia Wilde, three of the five woman who grace the magazine’s five different February “Women in TV” covers, along with Taraji P. Henson and Julia Louis-Dreyfus, were in attendance.

Jessica

Jessica

They were joined at the sit-down dinner by a who’s who of talented women including “How to Get Away With Murder” star Aja Naomi King – the last to

Aja

Aja

arrive because she came straight from set, but nonetheless perfectly put together in an Alice + Olivia Frock, “Grey’s Anatomy’s” Jessica Capshaw, who looked so comfortable and glowingly beautiful as she waited her turn to walk the carpet she inspired ‘when I’m pregnant’ goals, Juliette Lewis, who defines fun and showed them all how it’s done as she turn right and left for the cameras , “Black-ish” co-stars Tracey Lee Ross and nearly 16-year-old Yara Shahidi, whose mom looked like she should be in front of the camera too, Joel McHale, who held his own among the ladies and so many more.

The festivities started at 6:30, and by just after 8pm, the carpet was quiet again…

red carpet

Gaining Inspiration from MLK

January 18, 2016 :: Posted by - simplyjen :: Category - Quotes

This day last year I posted an image with this Martin Luther King quote to Instagram:
quote
I’m not sure what it was that drew me to that quote that day, but it was oddly foreshadowing…One week later I’d have a spectacular ski fall while unwinding at Powderdance at Powder Mountain post Sundance and the resulting torn ACL, and several other ligaments in my knee, would make “if you can’t walk…” take on a whole new meaning. “Whatever you do, keep moving” took on more meaning as well and a year later, I’m running again.

This year, one which I hope to set the groundwork for new ventures and adventures, I’ll honor MLK day with this one:
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Stella’s Rockin’ Party

January 14, 2016 :: Posted by - simplyjen :: Category - Celebs, Music

When I was asked if I wanted to help out with the red carpet at Stella McCartney’s party at the Amoeba Records store in LA the other day, actually, a ‘Presentation of her Autumn 2016 Collection,’ I was told, “I don’t know who they are, but was told there’s going to be a great performer so will be worth it.”

Carpet's set up and ready to go...

Carpet's set up and ready to go...

So, it was walk talent down a red carpet as they did their media interviews and then see who the ‘surprise performance’ was…Or spend the night cozy on my couch with a book. Not discounting how much I enjoy the latter, I chose the former. Let’s say it was a good choice.

Prior to guest arrivals I was given the ‘Tip Sheet,’ given to media so that they know what, where, when  and importantly, who will be expected.

Stella’s ‘who’ section looked something like this:

Gwyneth Paltrow, Johnny Depp, Amber Heart, Leonardo DiCaprio, Orlando Bloom, Mary J. Blige, Katy Perry, Kate Hudson, Anjelica Huston, Chelsea Handler, Quincy Jones, Dave Grohl, Maya Rudolph, Pamela Anderson, Nicole Richie, Selma Blair, Lake Bell, Emilia Clarke, Riley Keough, Kiernan Shipka, Molly Sims, Demi Lovato, Kate Upton, Amber Valletta, Liberty Ross, Sarah Silverman, Rashida Jones…

Sometimes tip sheets are ambitious, or for one excuse or another some of the bigger names don’t attend but are added to the tip sheet because they were a definite maybe. Every one of the names above attended. And more.

After a couple of hours on the carpet – where Katy Perry gushed over Stella being able to wear a plunging neckline and Stella showing similar admiration for the assets that keep Katy from being equally

Jeff Slonim interviews Kate Upton

Jeff Slonim interviews Kate Upton

uncovered, Kiernan Shipka said she text her Mad Men co-star John Hamm after his Golden Globes win, Whitney Cummings filmed her friend Kate Upton doing an interview with Conde Nast Traveler’s Jeffrey Slomin where she said Petit Ermitage in LA is almost like a second home and Quincy Jones posed draped by the sisters from HAIM, I went inside to see who these surprise performances would be.

I’d missed the first one, which was George Harrison’s son Dhani Harrison’s band, but got a glass of champagne in hand just before an acoustic set by Pink!

After a break Pink was followed by the Beach Boys Brian Wilson who sang a set that include Beach Boys greatest hits from “California Girls” to “Good Vibrations.”

Brian Wilson from Jennifer Birn on Vimeo.

Some people who weren’t aware of the grand finale had left before it began, but that just got me up closer when Marilyn Manson took the stage – with Johnny Depp on guitar!

They performed a handful of songs including “Sweet Dreams (Are Made of These)

Marilyn Manson & Johnny Depp: Sweet Dreams… from Jennifer Birn on Vimeo.

Marilyn said he and Depp, both being big David Bowie fans wanted to do a song in tribute, but doing a Bowie song would be too sad so they’d do a Doors song in his honor instead. Then they played “Not to Touch the Earth.”

Marilyn Manson & Johnny Depp perform Doors cover from Jennifer Birn on Vimeo.

Legendary night of music + fashion in Hollywood.

You Had Me at Dance Magic…

January 11, 2016 :: Posted by - simplyjen :: Category - Celebs, Music

David Bowie was my first crush. I was 10. I watched “Labyrinth” with my family and thought his energy was magnetic and his voice intoxicating.

My mom became a fan after that as well so Bowie blaring through the central speaker system of our house was common. A “Labyrinth” poster hung on the wall and my mom, sister and I watching it became a nearly annual tradition.

We can each recite every line of the film and when in tense situations, one of us only needs to say, “You remind me of the babe…” for the mood to lighten as we sing (I use that term loosely) the whole song.

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As I grew up, David Bowie remained my favorite musician, my favorite celebrity and creative spirit I enjoyed without trying to interpret. I never had the opportunity to interview him, but I did have the privilege of meeting him one night when I went to a see Liv Tyler’s then husband Royston Langdon’s band Spacehog perform at a private event. I was standing on the rooftop of the intimate party with Liv, her publicist Bianca and Steven Tyler by my side and David Bowie just behind me. Steven Tyler said to me, “Have you met my friend David?” I was nearly speechless, which anyone who knows me knows isn’t common for me. He was as everything you’d think he would be, perfect posture and oozing charisma as he gave me a nod and a smile.

I've always captioned this photo, 'The night Steven Tyler introduced me to David Bowie."

I've always captioned this photo, 'The night Steven Tyler introduced me to David Bowie.

I’d always thought ‘Iman is so lucky to be married to him!’ Then I met Iman, interviewing her three times at three events in one week. By the third one, an art exhibit event, she asked me Screen Shot 2016-01-11 at 8.08.12 PMif I had a boyfriend and proceeded to walk with me around the event asking my type. My thinking quickly changed to, “Wow, David Bowie is so lucky to be married to this amazing woman!”

Both Iman and Bowie have an energy so bright it’s tangible and I feel so fortunate to have danced in it ever so briefly.

David Bowie’s has had me dancing in the streets and believing I could be a hero, just for one day. I’m glad I saw Lazarus two weeks ago when I was in New York (I imagine tickets to his last play will become increasingly hard to come by) and I’m glad my sister and I forced our way through his first film (from 1976), “The Man Who Fell to Earth,” all strange 139 minutes of it, the day before.

David Bowie is one of the greatest creative geniuses of a generation and I’m grateful to have been a student since I was young. I’m sad he’s gone, but amazed that he even masterminded how his story would end.

Tony Visconti, who produced Bowie’s final album Blackstar, released on his 69th birthday two days before his death, said in a statement that it was created and timed as a “parting gift” for his fans. The timing couldn’t have been a coincidence.

The man who fell to earth has returned to the stars. His energy remains in every person he met, every person who has seen his movies or heard his music, because Sylvester Stallone said in his Golden Globe acceptance speech last night, “I’m the sum total of everyone I’ve met,” as are we all.

This Yoga Class is Singing My Tune

January 09, 2016 :: Posted by - simplyjen :: Category - fitness, Music

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The first 2-3 weeks at the gym are madness while new year’s resolution-ers take their place on the cardio equipment determined to ‘work out more’ or as part of a ’30-day detox cleanse.’ I’d give them props and would encourage them to stay, but they’ll soon be gone and my neighborhood gym will return to its normal calm, quiet place to escape for a mid-day endorphin rush.

In the meantime, I was psyched to be invited to try a class at Playlist Yoga a week before it opened. Even when it does open its doors, like a spin class, everyone can select the mat they want to be on when they sign up. Pre-selecting a mat is a great way to set yourself up in a place in the room where you most like to be without having to run a bunch of red lights to get to class (or, if you’re like me, walk a bit faster as I weave my way through the neighborhood).  This way you can choose to be in front of the mirror checking out your moves, er, form, or in the back where you can focus on yourself and be less self-conscious about not being able to twist, balance and bend as well as some others.

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After years of fighting against getting into yoga, with excuses from “I have ADD” to “I’m already flexible,” the last few years I’ve tried to have an open mind and embrace it. Now, for the most part, I love it. I still can’t get into classes that have excessive chanting and om-ing, but I crave the sweat session of a hot yoga class and Loved the fun, intimate and not cookie cutter power vinyasa flow class at Playlist Yoga. While challenging, the class had the temperament of a SoulCycle class with encouragement and positive re-enforcement.  Oh, and there’s the music, of course. The theme of our one-hour class was Friday Hip-Hop and tuning into the music in a twist and walking out my feet to the beat while in a downward dog made this class a unique and enjoyable experience – even while smiling through so many sets of yoga push-ups I lost count. My arms are actually sore today, not something I can often say after a yoga class.

This is a case where an introductory class did what they set out to do and garnered a new member. Can’t wait to rock out in my next yoga class at Playlist Yoga.

If you live in LA, you can find them here:

624 N La Cienega Blvd, West Hollywood, CA 90069

And as they say, #playmaste

Mantra for 2016

January 07, 2016 :: Posted by - simplyjen :: Category - Uncategorized

I love good quotes. Paulo Coelho’s got lots of them. Right now this one’s really resonating with me.

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And…I’m Back

January 06, 2016 :: Posted by - simplyjen :: Category - Celebs, Ramblings

I started the Simplyjen blog after some persuasion – in 2005!

It was while we were launching the US version of OK! Magazine (I was on the launch team and there for their first five years). As ‘Society Editor’ whose job it was to go to parties (like awards shows and movie premieres) and write about them, the powers that be thought it would be fun if I wrote a blog about my life. Every day. They had visions of grandeur for what it could become. I ultimately agreed to give it a try and for several years penned Simplyjen, ‘An ordinary girl with an extraordinary life.’

I was so apprehensive at first I begged for the attached photo to be a caricature, like the one my blog banner now. When that idea was squashed I went with a photo where my hair covered half my face.  I set out on a career as a print journalist because I love pop culture, I love news and I love talking to people, observing situations and doing unique and crazy things – and sharing them through writing.

I never relished the spotlight and my only TV aspirations were to write what the journalists read off the teleprompters during newscasts. It was never a goal to be the newscaster.

But, here I was, on the brink of turning 30 and writing a daily blog about whatever I did or sans that, whatever popped in my head that day.

This was before the popularity of blogs, or the existence of many besides a few like Perez Hilton (who launched his while we worked together at Star Magazine) and if there were others then I couldn’t even name them now.

It was odd at first writing about myself when my job had always been, and in the magazine was still, to write about other people, but eventually it became routine. I even started to enjoy it – although some of my posts made my family cringe. They called immediately when I was in Vegas and posted that I was debating a small tattoo. I believe my dad’s words were, “I’ll cut off your arm.” And, my dad asked if I ‘have to share so much’ when I wrote about drinking or boys, but I’ve been an open book without much of a filter for as long as I can remember.

When I resigned from OK! – when  the world of celebrity journalism had gone more from interviewing celebrities to gotcha journalism and reporting what the Kardashians’ had for lunch – I started jenbirn.com to keep the blog going, because documenting my day for the masses was as reflexive to me as brushing my teeth.

But, after a short time I realized I still didn’t feel comfortable writing about myself without a reason (being paid to do so and hosted on a larger platform). So, this blog tapered off.

A few weeks ago I was at Summit at Sea, a voyage to international waters where “a collection of entrepreneurs, nonprofit leaders, artists, scientists, athletes and other change makers”  spent three days attending talks from the likes of the founders of Google and Uber to Esther Perel and even Edward Snowden by satellite, curated entertainment and activities while meeting people to expand our minds, curiosity, personal and business networks.  I attended a talk with Richard Edelman, owner of one of the world’s largest PR firms. He said he blogs about once a week because it’s important to stay relevant. It felt like my insides were a towel being wrung out.  ‘Did I make myself irrelevant?’ I wondered.

The next day I was asked to do an interview with an in-house crew about who I am and what I do. I’m relatively less important and have accomplished a lot less than the majority of people on the ship that weekend, but when I was asked if I have any career regrets, I looked back on what’s been a great run so far and said no.

It wasn’t until later that night, when I was at a roulette table and ran into Brian Felt, co-owner for BMF Media, and he said to me, “I was just thinking today when someone was talking about blogs, you were one of the first blogs I read and followed” that it donned on me like a church bell ringing at midnight that while perhaps not a regret per se, my biggest career misstep was giving up my blog when I had a foothold in cyberspace as possibly one of the first crop of pop culture bloggers.

Now, dabbling in PR I’m begging bloggers with much less access or audience to write about my events and passion projects – and often told they charge a fee (sometimes tens of thousands!) to write about said pitch. This hurts my heart, not because I think ‘it could have been me commanding the tens of thousands of dollars for a blog post’, but because I think journalism should be objective and I could have had influence to write about things the way journalism used to be.

Waxing poetic about the evolution of journalism and media is a blog for another day, but I’ve decided that my goal for 2016 is to resurrect Simplyjen. I may not be Society Editor of a major national magazine anymore where I can go to celebrity-filled parties each night and write about them, but…I do still have the privilege of attending some pretty fun parties, albeit more strategically (don’t underestimate a nigh home cuddling on the couch), and will venture out to the DailyMail’s People’s Choice official after party tonight. But, to me life now is even more interesting than it was towards the end of my tenure at OK!, when I was writing about a different incarnation of the same party every year. Now I help produce the parties I used to cover; I got to interview a fierce celebrity for next month’s American Airlines in-flight magazine, I recently wrote a fun story after a trip to Maui that will be on Yahoo Travel any day, and I can share here what didn’t fit to write there) and I just (finally) turned in the final draft of a fiction novel I co-wrote with former NFL star, current most  amazing person ever, Dhani Jones. I’m excited to share the process of what happens next in the publishing process– because I don’t know either.

So, that’s it. These blogs may live in the ether, or they may catch on again. Rather than people bookmarking my blog to keep up on where a celebrity’s been or with whom, I hope I can inspire people to come back by keeping them inspired. My life and career has changed, but only gotten bigger and brighter as the chapters continue to unfold. I travel more now, I workout more, experiment with fitness and food and take on any project that appeals to me – and that’s a broad spectrum. I’m navigating my way through a relationship and constantly learning as I figure out what I want to do when I grow up, as I have been the last five years since I quit my job to figure out what’s next.

I’m back. And, if I stick with my goal for 2016, I’ll be here at least until the end of the year. During that time my only hope for this blog is that I can at times teach, inspire and entertain, if only to a small few. Look forward to this journey with you.  Happy 2016! Xojen

Predestined?

February 17, 2015 :: Posted by - simplyjen :: Category - Uncategorized

A week prior to my debilitating ski fall, I took a screen shot of this quote Entrepreneur Magazine posted on their Instagram.

quote

I like the quote a lot (more so now), but prior to it’s words becoming so literal for me, it’s not really the kind of quote I’d think would have struck me so much to want to save it. Maybe my subconscious was having me stash it away for when the words would mean more to me – only a week or so later. Maybe it’s just a coincidence. Good quote though.

Aaryn.com