Who is A Conversation?
Stevie Benanty is the Founder of lifestyle site a conversation, which bills itself as “your destination for lifestyle tips and stories from creatives, entrepreneurs and professionals all over the world.” A conversation is a global community that showcases the lifestyles and tastes of creatives and professionals through storytelling.
Stevie is the epitome of the next-generation, entrepreneurial, creative, power woman. Born and raised in New York City and educated at The George Washington University in Washington DC, Stevie always took advantage of career opportunities. Her multidimensional portfolio includes experience in the Fashion, Entertainment, Nightlife, Technology, Non-Profit, Artist Management, Digital Marketing, and Lifestyle sectors. Notable titles include Digital Marketing Manager for Complete Control Management (Tiësto, Dada Life, A-Trak, and more); Marketing Manager for Verboten, an underground dance club in Brooklyn; Artist Manager for British DJ, Tom Flynn; and Founder of Stevie & Pierre, a social media management company. Her vast experience is the catalyst for founding a conversation, an innovative online venue for creatives and professionals to share their personal stories and lifestyle habits.
You have a very successful blog and loyal followers. How did you make a career out of travel writing and blogging? I’ve worked in a lot of different areas of business (music, nightlife, fashion, events, etc) so I knew at some point, once I had a strong basis in each, that I wanted to combine all of them. I also always knew I wanted to work for myself. I saw how technology was giving people this platform to make a living off of it and being digital—why couldn’t I do the same? If you really use your voice, you can connect with people all over the world. There are other people out there who share your ideas, opinions, and stories. You will find your audience if you just keep at it.
What advice can you give to others who want to create a successful following, especially on Instagram? Just be authentic and tell a story, which is something that I’m still learning how to do. There are hundreds of millions of users on Instagram—why should we follow you? People want to see how the story evolves, hear the voice behind the text, and come along on your journey. Giving personal anecdotes—even negative ones—makes it real.
What would you say is your travel style sense? I am all about comfort! No makeup a part from a ton of moisture and maybe a face mask (not even mascara!), slip on shoes or loafers, and boyfriend-style jeans—I want enough give in them so I can tuck my legs under! Plus I always wear a soft shirt with a cashmere sweater on top—you never know when it’ll be hot or cold on the flight.
You’ve travelled around the world. What were some life-changing trips? To talk about the French Riviera again, I had a really life changing trip there in the summer of 2014—I got engaged! My now-husband and I both have long ties to France and I thought it was so special he asked me to marry him in a place that he knew was not only important to us, but a place where we know we’d return time and again. We did a few week road trip through France for our honeymoon, too. Other trips that were life changing were a 3-day trip to Marrakech, Morocco, which I totally needed more time for but I went anyway. I have Algerian lineage but it hasn’t been a safe place for tourists in decades, so I felt like it was the closest I’ll get to seeing where my Grandmother grew up. I instantly felt a connection to the area, the people, and the food. When I was a kid my father took us on a National Geographic boat excursion to the Galapagos Islands. When we landed in Ecuador, it was the first time I was in a so-called “third world country.” It really opened my eyes to how other people live. And then of course to spend a few weeks in the best place for wildlife on earth was something I’ll never forget. I immediately understand how big the world was and how much there was to see.
Why should women choose French Riviera for their ultimate dream vacation? Gosh, it’s just the dream right? The Riviera is so romantic—even as a solo traveller! There’s that joie de vivre—sit outside a café (in sunshine!) and really savor that croissant. Walk around the boating marinas and pretend you’re about to embark on one of the mega yachts. Head to a beach club for the day and get pampered—beach clubs are pretty foreign in the US for some reason. There is something for everyone to do, whether it be an art museum like the Maeght Found in Saint Paul de Vence, high-end shopping in Cannes, food markets in Nice, boating in Monaco, making perfumes in Grasse.. it’s paradise!
You have also travelled alone. What are your top tips for solo female travelers? First of all, always leave your itinerary with a family member or friend back home with all of the crucial information: addresses and phone numbers of every place you’ll be staying. Keep a copy of your passport in your purse just in case and I always think it’s good to carry 100 dollars in your purse in case of emergency. Little things help—text a friend to say where you are going sightseeing for the day or post a photo of yourself at the museum. In this day and age, having visual clues of where you are can always help in an emergency. Last but not least, dress for the place you are going to. Don’t run around in high heels or expensive jewelry unless you’re in a nice restaurant. Don’t wear clothes that have expensive logos on them if you are in a grittier area. Be wise—but never be afraid!
What are your packing tips and advice for someone who wants to look stylish, glamorous and like a princess when traveling without packing too much? I’ve gone through many phases of being a light packer and being a heavy packer. Sometimes it’s unavoidable—like when you go to the South of France (or Paris!!) and you just want to pack all of your beautiful clothes! First of all, invest in a good piece of roller-luggage that fits the carry-on requirements. I got one that only has one set of wheels (so you can’t swivel turn it) that way it has extra room inside. If you know you won’t get to the gym while you’re there—leave the sneakers behind. If I’m going somewhere warm in the dead of winter, I always leave my coat behind and brave the cold in and out of the taxi—there’s no room! Keep your kit pre-stocked and ready to go with mini versions of all of your essential products but keep it light—vacation should be carefree so you don’t need 100 hair or beauty products. In my daily life and especially when I travel, I keep a neutral palette—white, grey, and black. Those colors go with everything. Always pack one sweater that you could wear day or night in case it gets cold—or a big cashmere scarf that double as a plane blanket. My “personal item” is always a big, big purse that way I can bring more stuff with me and not check it. I’ll pack a smaller purse and a clutch inside so I’m not without.
What do you take on your trips to ensure the flight is a little more comfortable? Do you have your own travel pack? I always have my carry-on bag packed and ready to go that way I never forget any essentials. What’s always in my bag? A cashmere eye mask, blanket, and pillow set that way I can always snooze on the plane comfortably. I keep a small Mario Badescu Rose Facial Spray so I can spritz on a little freshness when I need it—for long flights I’ve also been known to smother my face in an overnight mask (I love Shiseido) so I can retain some moisture in flight. My Great-Aunt knitted these little socks for me ages ago and I still keep them in my bag—they are the perfect travel socks! When I was working in the music industry I got some really high-end ear plugs so I never get on a plane without them—they drone out all of the sounds! I always keep a pen handy so I can fill out any forms without bothering my seat-mate and I keep makeup wipes so I can cleanse my face before I land and reapply face cream to give me some of that moisture back! Of course I also keep a spare phone charger and an extra set of AUX cords and phone chargers for the car—just in case I need to rent a car.
What’s next for your brand and blog? We only launched 8 months ago so I’m still in the early days of figuring out the direction to take it—what the fans like, what they want more of or less of. I constantly battle with how much to insert myself into social media versus letting the content stand on its own. What I’ve come to realize it that although I bill it as a platform (much like the big magazines Travel and Leisure for example), it’s still my There is a reason it is called a conversation by Stevie Benanty. I very much am the curator of the site and want my opinion to be known. In the beginning I was very absent from social media, especially in photos on Instagram—unless it was the Letter from the Editor which is stated that it’s written by me. However, over time I got more comfortable with posting photos of myself too and quickly saw how much engagement I got on those photos. I think it’s because people want to connect the dots and see the full story. They want to know whose eyes we are seeing this content through. It’s a balance!
What’s your dream destination or experience? I have always, always, always wanted to go to Japan and travel the country. I’ve interviewed dozens of people over the last year about their lifestyle and travel habits and it’s rare I get the same answer twice. However, the one answer I seem to get repeatedly is that Japan is either on their travel wish list or Japan was the favorite place they’ve ever visited. It’s a country steeped in such contradiction—you have serious history in places like Kyoto, all of the latest technology in Tokyo, stunning beaches in the Okinawa islands, and snow-capped mountains in Nagano. And Japanese food is a contender for my favorite cuisine so I would love to get a food tour in there as well and do authentic cooking lessons!
Stevie just recently moved to Lisbon, Portugal with her husband and two orange kitties.