Posted on Jul 01, 2019
Haute Hijab Staff
Don't talk to our beloved Erin Smith about cats or dogs. She's a bird person through and through, as evidenced by her cool pet Iggy! Erin's about as talented, thoughtful and fun as they come, and one of Haute Hijab's longest employees, with seven years under her belt from the days when she used to ship hijabs from her apartment in Chicago to her time now as Ecommerce Visual Merchandiser. If you have a question about any hijab sold by HH - past or present - she has the answer for you!
But did you know that Erin is also an accomplished singer and pianist? Or that if you were to make any type of Mexican food, she'll gobble it up? Or, that her Wisconsin-based family may own one too many fondue pots? Get to know some fun and cool things about Erin as she answers 15 questions in our ongoing summer team-focused series, "15 Things You May Not Know About ..."
The lovely Erin Smith!
1. What is your favorite thing to do in your free time?
This might be a really anti-climactic first answer, but to be completely honest, my favorite thing to do in my free time is as little as possible - preferably while outside on a nice day. Maybe just get an iced tea and walk around with a good friend or two. In all the hustle and bustle of life, I try to take advantage of my relaxation time as much as possible.
2. What are your hobbies? What are your dream hobbies?
I love to make music, write, cook and paint. I also weirdly enjoy internet window shopping – finding buried treasure in the wilds of the web is my happy place, lol! In my dreams I’m really really good at electric guitar, even though in real life I only know like six chords. It’s a work in progress. :)
3. What is something you hate doing?
I have a bird named Iggy whom I love dearly, but I HATE cleaning her cage.
4. If you could eat something on an endless loop, what would it be?
Basically any kind of Mexican food. But especially tamales. And elote. And tacos. And homemade tortillas. Really good rice and beans. Enchiladas with mole sauce on them. And … yep. I love Mexican food. :)
5. What feeds your soul/when are you at your happiest/best?
I feel happiest when I’m in a creative environment surrounded by creative people - the kind of place where people can turn off their filter and get a little weird without feeling self-conscious. That could mean the Haute Hijab office or it could mean behind the piano at an improv show – it’s more about the vibe!
Also, my parents live on a lake in the woods in Wisconsin, and I try to visit at least once in the summer and once in the winter. It’s so peaceful, exactly what my soul needs after spending most of my time amid the craziness of the city.
6. Who do you look up to the most and why? (living or dead)
My favorite artist is Frida Kahlo, and I know everyone around me might be sick of hearing about it lol, but I truly admire her so much. If she wanted to do something, she did it no matter what. There’s a story about her I love where, on the day of her first solo gallery opening, she was bedridden and her doctors forbade her to attend – so she had people carry her in her bed to the opening!
She wouldn’t take no for an answer, loved fiercely, felt deeply and put so much of her heart into what she did. She experienced tremendous hardship and heartache in her life, yet found so many ways to turn her pain into something beautiful. These are all things that inspired me during some extremely low times in my life, and have stuck with me ever since. Hard times in life are inevitable, but we can choose what to create out of them.
Erin on her travels around the world.
7. What is something, if you could go back and change in your life, that you would?
I’m not big on regrets, but I definitely would’ve practiced voice and piano more. I wasn’t actually a very good student when it came to practicing.
8. What is your biggest challenge in life?
I’m extremely self-doubting and self-critical, way too much of the time. I’m one of those people who procrastinates because I’m afraid whatever I do won’t be perfect. Learning how to relax, believe in myself and just figure it out (or ask for help!) is a continual struggle, but alhamdulillah it gets easier every day.
9. What is something about you that people would be surprised to know?
I used to ride horses! As a kid I begged and begged my parents until they finally caved and got me lessons when I was 11 – it was a huge part of my life through my teens and later when I helped run the stables at the summer camp I worked at through college.
10. What is that big dream thing you want to accomplish in life? Or if not one thing, a few things?
Be in a real band and release an album or two. Paint, write and travel.
11. To the non-Muslims - what is your favorite OR not-so-favorite thing about working at a Muslim-owned company? Or, what is one thing you’ve learned that surprised you about Muslims?
Oh gosh, where do I even start? I’ve been around since 2012 and I have learned SO much throughout my time on the HH team. I’d describe myself as a spiritual nomad. I was raised Christian and learned a lot about different religions, but I just never really found a “home” anywhere. So it means a lot to have been welcomed into this community the way I have been, even as a relative outsider.
My favorite part of working for a Muslim-owned company is the level of integrity with which Melanie and Ahmed approach the company. In my seven years on the team, I’ve seen the business weather some pretty significant storms, challenges that I think would make most people frantically start looking for shortcuts and quick fixes. But, I have never seen either of the two of them take the easy or convenient way out. In everything we do, the mindset cultivated is one of being careful, intentional and doing things beautifully, even if it’s harder or more expensive or takes longer.
That’s not a common trait in the business world, and I know that their faith is a huge part of where it comes from. Likewise, whenever I see one of my coworkers get up to go pray, it’s a moment of mindfulness for me too, reminding me that I’m part of a team with a purpose.
Beyond the spiritual & philosophical aspects, working at HH has been a huge influence on the way I think about style, color and pattern – and it’s made me so much more comfortable in my own preference for modesty (more on that here).
12. What does a typical Friday night look like for you?
I tend to work late on Friday nights because I get these weird bursts of end-of-week productivity, feeling like I want to get done as much as I can before I leave, so I can really kick back on the weekend. If I’m not working, it could be anything – getting dinner with friends, seeing a movie or most likely just going home to relax, treat myself to some takeout and watch The Crown with my bird, Iggy. :)
13. What’s the strangest or most fun family tradition you have?
I don’t know if it’s going to happen this year, but for a good seven or eight years in a row my family’s New Years Eve tradition at my parents’ house in the woods was to stay in our pajamas, make a big fire, have a huge fondue feast (we own like four fondue pots – I am not exaggerating), drink sparkling cider and watch Lord of the Rings.
Some of the most fun I have with my family is playing music. My parents are both incredible musicians, as are my siblings, a bunch of my extended family and a lot of our family friends, so there’s rarely any get-together that doesn’t include a jam session.
Iggy the bird! The love of Erin's life :)
14. Cat person or dog person (or some other kind of animal)?
1) This cat/dog thing is a false dichotomy that needs to end, and 2) my answer is obviously birds. :)
15. If you were to create a slogan for your life, what would it be and why?
I didn’t create this, but there’s a quote by Neale Donald Walsch that I love. I got it on a mug when I was 13 on a school trip to Washington, D.C., and I still have it on my desk: “Life begins at the end of your comfort zone.” It’s a nice reminder to always push myself. You never know what can happen when you dare to step outside what you already know.