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Meet Trailblazer Amanda Simonelli


Today we’d like to introduce you to Amanda Simonelli.

Thanks for sharing your story with us Amanda. So, let’s start at the beginning and we can move on from there.
I grew up in Natick listening frequently to Motown music with a very loving and supportive family. My parents always encouraged me to go for what I wanted and to do things outside of my comfort zone.

Around seven years old, my father began taking me to flea markets. The only way I was allowed to buy something was if I had a genuine chat with the sellers and negotiated prices. At the time, I did not realize the unexpected power a child had when haggling. The sellers got a kick out of it as people crowded around to hear, “I like this Beanie Baby, can you do it for $5?” “Nah, the best I can do is $8.” “Oh ok, I can’t match that but I’ll walk around and see if I find it elsewhere.” “Ah, alright, I can do it for $5.”

At age ten, my friend Leah and I were creating fictional characters to improv-act around our neighborhoods. Like the time we dressed up head to toe in winter clothes in mid-July and walked to the nearby deli. As we entered the shop, we looked over to the butcher looking baffled back at us as we rubbed our arms for warmth and said, “Ooh, cold one today.”

When Boston received its film tax credit, I visited some local film sets and introduced myself to the Costume Department sharing my interest in costume and filmmaking. I was nervous, but I pushed myself to have a conversation with them. Being welcomed in, I apprenticed with a few films during their production in the costume trailer and at times on set. Witnessing Memorial Drive and the Charles River turn into the 1920s, I’ve never felt closer to time travel. This was me in high school.

Then, I wanted to make clothes, so I studied Apparel Design and Haute Couture. Living in Paris for a year, I was recruited to work in Paris Fashion Week. I was mystified from being welcomed and continually asked back into this high fashion world. Captivated with this environment famously known for being over the top and incredibly particular, I got to know people through different ateliers and their articulate vision. Yes, there were times when chaos ensued over the lack of lemons for tea. However, most people were genuine and I admired them for the fact that they truly knew what they wanted and went for it.

Taking a page from their books, I’ve paved my own path in the Greater Boston area for the last six years.

In my Amanda time, I am reading a lot of nonfiction and programming web pages – a joy of mine from the Myspace days when I’d “Ask Jeeves” for certain code to decorate my profile page with. I have also been enjoying filming my dad discuss rare historical facts about pre-Massachusetts colonies, documentary style.

Then, Germany came into my life via Boston in a few ways. Through friends from the local Boston music and science scenes as well as on a few tv-film productions, I worked on in the North Shore for German television station ZDF. With my growing network in Deutschland and desire to speak foreign languages, I went to Berlin. As I sit in my Mitte apartment grappling German and telling this story, it highlights a goal of mine to have a foot in the door with varied cultures and connect them back to Boston.

The world I see from my eyes encompasses many other “worlds” and “dimensions” within it, be it certain subcultures or the quantum field. Some are right in front of or inside us but we don’t recognize them right away. Something like the old adage of a dog seeing a rainbow. Recently, I am pursuing the “hidden doors” to these other areas of life and have entered some already – my own version of Christopher Nolan’s “Interstellar.” What is important to me is to flow with a life guided by a compass focused on my big picture goals. Becoming not someone I think I am supposed to be but the individual I organically am.

Has it been a smooth road?
Multiple times, I have had to give my soul to what I am creating, so much so that I then had to retrieve it back. Understanding myself enough to know that it’s hard for me to not get fully invested in a project, I have to be conscientious of what I get involved in. As once I’m in, I’m all in!

From productions falling through to dedicating countless hours and energy where the return of my effort investment is unclear – a difficult circumstance can have some serious growing pains.

Oh, the tears I cried from Xavier, my mentor in Paris when he gave me a harsh critique on the garments I was laboriously working over. At times, these critiques were followed with a major reconstruction, or better yet, starting all over again! Little did I know, the truth was he believed in me and was pushing me to go further. Now I cry that Xavier isn’t in my life every day.

Especially in film, there are several situations where difficulties arise. In a fast-paced environment like that, you need to be like a MacGyver for an unexpected event. I’ve had moments like filming on a Saturday night in the middle of nowhere Rhode Island as an actor came up to me with an unplanned request for a special undergarment. I couldn’t just pick one up at the local store or hold up production. Insert AD’s call “waiting on wardrobe.” So, I had to swiftly create one from whatever items I had in my “Mary Poppins bag” more commonly known as the wardrobe kit. I crossed my fingers and prayed to the wardrobe gods, then got straight to work. Flying into the set with a hot off the presses avant-garde male string made from some light colored fabric and elastic I had in my kit, my anxieties were raging, but I kept them all deep inside. “Alright, everyone back to their ones.” “Rolling, sound speed.”

When a challenge or obstacle arises, I take a moment to review my task at hand, goals, and modus operandi. Then, I refactor my next steps to align with moving past the “roadblock” and still achieve my mission. More often than not, the end result is what I truly benefit from more than my original vision of the draft.

Follow through is vital when taking a leap of faith despite when the going gets tough – but also knowing when to bow out when the purpose doesn’t support you. My intuition and I have a trusted relationship where we see failure as a rebirth. I just keep moving forward and find the comedy along the way!

Challenges and obstacles are temporary. Time is a gift as it allows for experiences to add up and overtime past challenges and obstacles become a breeze and future ones embraced.

We’d love to hear more about your work.
The art of dress has been an important tool for me to communicate nonverbally. As a designer, I am continually playing with the bridge between costume and fashion, that arguably is Avant Garde. My specialty in Haute Couture and time in Paris was instrumental in the Boston Symphony Orchestra’s competition “Project Debussy.” Myself and the other top finalists debuted our gowns in a juried fashion show followed by exhibitions of the gowns at Copley Plaza and the French Cultural Center.

And gosh, I loved that gown. I really felt like a parent to it. Giving life to it, watching it become an adult and make friends with its fellow gowns. They grow up so fast.

From the many interests that pull at my heartstrings, film has been a constant beat to my drum. Desiring to incorporate this medium to my repertoire, I costume designed the sci-fi action thriller “The Mind’s Eye”. This whisked me away with it to its premiere in the Toronto International Film Festival. An appreciative moment to see my name in a title card in one of the most reputable film festivals. “Movie magic” isn’t always wizard’s play but when an action plot like this teams me up with the folks from SPFX makeup, stunts, and pyrotechnics, you can’t stop me from bringing out my magic wand. Constructing costumes to go on up aerial wires or prepare garments to withstand fire, rock on!

Working in fashion and costume, you come across a lot of clothing. I also get a thrill from treasure hunting for unique wardrobe pieces. Brimfield Antique Market has a magnetic ray straight to my solar plexus. I can’t deny, I also love playing the game of finding a quality garment for a good deal to boot. Truly as something I started for fun, I began selling clothes online sharing my finds for a price your wallet will thank you for. As I continued doing this, it evolved into my first entrepreneurial business as a petit boutique called A Boy Named Joy. Today, it is expanding its reach with other ways of distributing its unique finds. I now even have male friends asking me to treasure hunt for them as well. To that I say, come aboard my pirate ship.

Well, have I already told you about the career paths I have done such as producing for fashion startups, styling music videos, as well as creating custom ensembles for Burning Man? No? That’s because it would be merely too much.

Though, a recurring theme I recognize within myself is that it isn’t enough to strictly stay within one industry or to always continue with solely wardrobe professionally. However, with every next career move, I have drawn upon the skill sets I possess and have fun by continually learning new things in a diversified way, it’s simply the autodidact in me.

Creating my own future is the foundation of how I map out my career path. Charting new territory has been driven by focusing on the seeds I plant from the adventures I get involved in rather than the harvest I reap. I take part in a lot of varied activities with an aim that they all, in some way or another, relate to my big picture goals. It is the randomness I use as a creative tool.

Do you recommend any apps, books or podcasts that have been helpful to you?
Let’s see, The 99U has a great book series synchronizing creative methods with practical processes. I have given the book set as gifts to friends. Volume III is my favorite titled “Make Your Mark – The Creative’s Guide to Building a Business with Impact”.

Introduced to me by former Boston musician clients, “The Arrow and the Bow”, is a book that comes with message cards based on the characteristics and principles of animals giving guidance and inspiration. “Animal Medicine Cards” titles the book coupled with its cards that I frequently do a balance reading from to see where I am at that particular moment and how to manifest where I am going next.

Currently, I am reading “From Dictatorship to Democracy” by Gene Sharp. His research on peaceful conflict resolution has always grabbed my interest to apply this principle in everyday life. Growing your hair for world peace isn’t the only way.

My podcast playlists are calling me to keep up with them but I always listen to “So Money” with Farnoosh Torabi pronto. Originally from Worcester, MA, she is empowering and discusses profound ways to understand and develop financial wellness.

Mixing in occasionally with my many music playlists is “Being Boss.” A welcoming podcast for entrepreneurs from detailed talks with diverse guests to tidbit minisodes covering the many facets of running your own business.

Interested in new dinner conversation topics? Then look no further than “Stuff You Should Know” by How Stuff Works. The myriad of topics covered produces a lot of, “Woah, this whole time! So that’s how it works.” I have even used a fact on the history of the ambulance when costuming Paramedics for a film. Can’t forget, it’s also solid for a community I love, trivia fans.

Looking at my phone, I have delved into a variety of language apps. “Lingvist” has been the most in-depth for me with sentence structure and explaining word use/conjugation well.

“Solfeggio Sonic Meditation” guided by the soothing voice of Glenn Harrold is an app collection encapsulating six different sound frequencies. The ancient Solfeggio frequencies range from 396hz to 852hz used in this app for the practice of meditation. Cap off your day with the nighttime version or feel fire to start the day as the awake edition concluding with, “Welcome back to you.”

A newer app that has quickly become a favorite is “Hoopla”. Shout out to the Minuteman Library Network who is connected to this free digital library system that has audiobooks, music, and movies. Having fun isn’t hard when you’ve got a library card! Internet connection sold separately.

I can’t leave out the influence of a film that has timelessly awakened my spirit. “Between the Folds” is a documentary depicting fine artists and innovative scientists who have incorporated modern origami into their lives. However, this was metaphorically much deeper than the study of origami for me. It features artists and scientists from around the globe with many from Massachusetts like MIT Professor Erik Demaine. I’ll never forget the day I saw Erik ride past me on his motorized skateboard in front of the Whole Foods on Prospect Street in Cambridge. It was the one fangirl moment in my life where I ran up after him and stopped him on the street. Catching my breath, “I am a huge fan of your Computational Origami work and was moved by your installations at MoMA in New York.” He was the kindest person at that moment as he stepped off his board and introduced me to his friend as we chatted briefly. I could rhapsodize about this film and moment for eternity.

Contact Info:

Image Credit:
Laurence Guenoun, Chris Penso, Emily Banks, Amanda Simonelli, Channel 83 Films, Shervin Lainez

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