I've always had an eye for things. When I was a kid I wanted to be an interior decorator. As my birthday gift one year I got to decorate my room. My home decorating style is totally a hodgepodge of random things. What I like on Pinterest or what I like online has more of a holistic color scheme and everything is in the same style. But I've never been able to do that. I like that in theory, but then in practice I'm like, “This! This! This!”
I wish I wasn't so into stuff. I feel like my highest, most evolved self is a more minimal, less attached person. But I really find joy in things. The Marie Kondo thing about keeping stuff only if it brings you joy? Well, everything brings me joy, so that doesn't work. I love colors and I love fabrics. I used to be the kid in the store that would touch everything, because I liked soft things. I like textures. Because I travel so much, I also like to have a little souvenir—a little piece of that experience, or a little memory. It's like a Horcrux of that moment. I think it's important to have those pieces that take you back.
I try to shop sustainably. Sometimes that's vintage. Sometimes that's, like, Reformation. All their stuff is recycled materials. I don't like fast fashion. I've obviously been pulled into a Zara or H&M purchase here and there, for sure. I can't fake it or say that I don't go there, but it doesn't make me feel good.
Maybe it's a result of Instagram culture—of wanting to be unique—but the whole mass produced thing seems to be falling away. There's a lot of negative stuff you can say about Instagram, but that's something good. People want to know where their stuff comes from—to know where it's made and to know all the details about it.
I feel like my highest, most evolved self is a more minimal, less attached person. But I really find joy in things.
I got my rug in Morocco. I was there in July. It was really amazing. My family is South African—my brother and I are first generation American—but I'd never been to North Africa before. I can't wait to go back. I've never left a place and wanted to go back faster.
The first time I went to South Africa was incredible. My dad renounced his citizenship during apartheid, so he hadn't been back either. He took my brother and I. Cape Town, in particular, was amazing. Johannesburg was really upsetting. And the Apartheid Museum ... It's really heavy, there's a lot of anger. It's in the same way as there is in America. You could just feel it, it's palpable. Even still, it's such a magical place and the land is so incredible.
I'm from L.A. originally, so I have a very love-hate thing with the city. I think most people feel that way about their home. I get really energized by New York. I love a walking city. That's the worst part of L.A.: the driving. Everybody says that, but that's the thing about New York that will pull me back in. I could end up living there again just for that alone. It's just the best walking city. I love the chance encounters that you can have, and just opening your door and immediately being in it.
Everybody there has this sense of community and sense of oneness, in a way. In L.A., you're very separated by your cars, and your car's telling some story of your status or who you are, or whatever. In New York, everybody's just in the shit together. I go to Burning Man, not every year, but I've gone a couple years, and it's kind of like that. It's like, yeah, maybe that’s Puff Daddy over there, but he's covered in dust just like everybody else. And everybody is being beaten by the elements. You're all on the same level.
When I lived in New York, I worked at Mother, the advertising agency. It was my first real job. I worked in experiential—events. It was actually a great fit for me. I was the coordinator for the team, so I was basically, like, an assistant person. Very low-level, but I would be able to sit in on the meetings and I loved it.
It's really hard to find the balance between what you know is going to go viral versus what you think is important for people to see. Sometimes it was soul crushing.
I used to sneak away at Mother and make animations on Vine. Because I didn't have a tripod, I would just stick my phone on a glass table, and then make animations underneath. Tap, tap, tap, tap. I would have a piece of bread, and I'd put cashews on it, and then I’d go over it with a knife and turn it into peanut butter. Stupid little things, but I would do it every day. It was almost compulsive. I needed to. I was inspired because I was surrounded by so many creative people, but I didn't have an outlet for it.
So Vine was my first thing, and then when Instagram came around, even when I had no followers, I was always trying to do something different with it. I didn't want to just post selfies. I was always trying to utilize it and, at first, finding weird apps that would do glitchy stuff, and then it just evolved. That was how I learned how to use Photoshop and do digital collage—that’s what I call it. I would love to actually do it with real materials, but for now, it’s something I do on my phone and on my computer in moments where I'm just bored or inspired.
There was a time where I was like, “Do I have to think about this more? Do I have to put my energy into this and be more strategic about what I'm posting and when I'm posting, and tagging things and stuff?” I really never wanted to do that. I want it to be as if only 100 of my friends were following me. I never want it to feel like it's a job or a chore. I don’t get paid for any of it. But, I would like that! It would have to be the right company. If there's a way to do that in an organic, really nice way, where maybe I also get some income from it, that would be dope.
My Instagram is really scattered and weird, but all of it feels like me. That's the common denominator, I suppose. I think it's important to evolve and keep changing, otherwise you get stuck. Sometimes I feel like I'm stuck in having to have this trippy Instagram account. I don't really think of it as trippy, necessarily. It's more like I'm curating my own universe of how I want things to look. I mean, I’m a pretty trippy person. I have done ayahuasca.
I first heard about it when I was a kid. I was like, “Oh my god, someday I'm going to go to Peru and do this.” Instead, it found me in New York. My friend called me one day and was like, “Hey, we're gonna do ayahuasca next month with a shaman in upstate New York. Wanna do it?” And I say yes to things when they're presented to me. I've only done it that one time, but I would do it again. Right after, though, I would’ve said no. It was really intense. I'm still unpacking things from it and I did it in 2012.
I've always been into weed and weed culture. Now, as I'm a little bit older, I find that I don't need it as much. It's not that I ever needed it, but medicinally it's been really important for my life. I have a lot of stomach problems and a hard time sleeping at night. But otherwise I just like things more when I'm high. I get really focused. I also get really energized; a lot of other people get weighed down, or lazy. That's kind of the stereotype, I suppose.
I've also been told I don't act any different when I’m high, so it never made me feel paranoid. I never had any of those side-effects. The best part about weed, I think, is the inclusivity of it. When I go to a party, I like to have a joint. It's a nice way to find people that are like you. It also weeds out certain people. You don't have to smoke, but if you're not open-minded, or if you're all judgey about other people smoking, well, I don't want to be your friend.
My past life was actually kind of a boring one.
When I first moved back to L.A., I wasn't sure if I wanted to stay in advertising. And Buzzfeed seemed cool and up and coming at the time. I ended up being a video editor there for three years. It was really cool because the video department was brand new when I started and I was working with a lot of film nerds. I was a film major in college, and they were people like me, so I really liked it. I’d always wanted to work in visual storytelling, at least in some capacity.
Part of my job at Buzzfeed was curating videos. Those were the glory days, for me, because that's my favorite: finding things out in the world and sharing them. But I also really wanted to promote the “right” things. I didn't want to only share a video of some guy singing in a car, even though that’s the one that would go viral. So I found this guy who makes everything from scratch—for example, a sandwich. At first you're like, OK. But: he grew the wheat. He made his own salt from the ocean. He went to a beekeeper and got honey for the bread. And it took him six months to make one sandwich. And when it’s finally done, he takes a bite and is like, “Yeah, it's okay.” That's how the video ends.
The video did really well because that's not something people think about. You can get a sandwich from anywhere—no big deal—and everyone's had a sandwich before. He did some other videos that I thought were interesting—he made his own pair of glasses—but they didn’t do as well because making your own glasses is clearly really difficult. But to make your own sandwich: forget baking the bread, he had to kill the chicken. People just don't think about it in this culture of immediacy.
It's really hard to find the balance between what you know is going to go viral versus what you think is important for people to see. Sometimes it was soul crushing. We all fall into the celebrity gossip machine but it's such a distraction. And then there's Trump.
This is a reality show world that we're living in and we have a reality show president. It's all about getting a reaction, getting people to talk about it and not think too deeply about things or think for themselves or notice the other things going on. I'm kind of a conspiracy theorist in that way: if they're having everyone look over there, then what's happening over here? It's really hard when you work in media because that's all that there is and that's all people are talking about. I left BuzzFeed in February. I left on the same day that I started three years later. It was very cosmic. Now I work at a company called Super Deluxe. It's another online video entertainment company, but the content is more esoteric and satirical. Super Deluxe is a little bit more out there, and really asks people to look at things in different ways. We make videos and games, like Punch A Nazi.
I host a web series for them called Altered States. I just did an episode on past life regression therapy, which I've been wanting to do forever, and it was crazy. I read this book called The Convoluted Universe. It's by Dolores Cannon who used to regress people so deep that they would go into different dimensions. There's a crazy series she does about people going back to their home planets because they're aliens. It's really out-there. She died a couple years ago. I'd love to do a regression session with someone that she's trained, but I haven't found that person yet. There’s this other guy who's really famous for it: Brian Weiss. He wrote a book called Many Lives, Many Masters. The woman who did my past life regression trained under him.
My past life was actually kind of a boring one. It was kind of hazy, but I was also doing it for the first time on camera. I was an older man. I think I was in Kyoto, and I got hit by a car. It’s not like what you think—I was aware of what was happening. You're lucid. But then when I got to the past life, I had a totally different physical feeling. My hands got really heavy; my heart started beating really fast. I felt more in it than any of my other memories.
I was kind of hoping that in my past life regression I'd be Egyptian. It would have been cooler to be something totally different. A plant! Anything! I'm going to do it again though, without cameras. And go in. Just really go deep.
Allison Bagg photographed by Brian Guido at home in Los Angeles. This interview has been edited and condensed for clarity.