A Covid Comedy of Errors

The Backstory

People who have been following me for a while will recognize a pattern to which my life has conformed. Something throws me off my game, I go through a period of travail, and then at some point the work pays off and I am rebooted. This has happened over and over, so much so that I started to feel self-conscious about it, wondering if I’m starting to sound like a broken record. Is there something wrong with me that my life has had this many ups and downs? My first fall was when I went through my first real breakup at age 31 at the same time I was branching out after moving on from working for Emily Henderson. After that I got a great job at a fun startup, was making lots of money, and got a new boyfriend. Everything was perfect! Then that new boyfriend dumped me at the same time that the startup started to go south, laying off all their higher ups (ie me and other members of the executive team). But then after that I wrote a book and got a TV show. All was well again! And then the pandemic happened and the show was cancelled. And all was not well again. Are you dizzy yet? All of this has happened in the past nine years.

In 2013 when I went through that first breakup, I shared the experience on my brand new Instagram account. At the time, not a lot of people were doing the vulnerability thing. Instagram was all big red balloons, terrible “retro” filters, and lattes. And you’d think in the subsequent nine years things would have changed. But largely, they haven’t. While I have been inspired to see friends and strangers share their life challenges along with their triumphs, I’ve been a little turned off by the fact that social media remains, predominantly, a space to advertise the perfection of you and your life. Contrasting the struggles many are feeling in the pandemic to the LOOK-AT-ME-I’M-PERFECT content shared by influencers and celebrities reveals the lack of generosity and realness that seems to be plaguing all social media platforms.

I’m of a few different minds here. Firstly, I think it’s a disservice to promote only the positive aspects of your life because it creates an environment where the people who follow you, who consciously or subconsciously will judge their own lives through the prism of the “reality” you’re presenting, will see your unencumbered joy, success, and perfection and feel they’ve somehow fallen short. Another side of me thinks, “What’s wrong with sharing life’s happy moments?” With my own content feed, I’ve tried to strike a kind of balance between the two, showing gratitude for the opportunities and privileges I feel lucky to enjoy while not glossing over the aspects of my life that have been not-so-perfect.

In my attempt to keep things light enough to avoid losing eyeballs, I’ve struggled to find that sweet spot between complaining (a pastime I admittedly love) and bragging (something I’ve never really been attracted to in myself or in others – I’d rather discover your awesomeness slowly over time rather than be constantly bonked over the head with it). So over the past two years I have made a number of vague references to challenges going on in the background while not fully addressing them publicly – I didn’t want to seem like I was being too “negative.” My goal today is to go over what exactly went wrong in the past two years, since the onslaught of covid and a number of personal and professional hiccups. I’m doing this as a means of expressing solidarity with other freelance creatives who may have hit a streak of bad luck as much as I’m doing it for myself to fully understand what went wrong and when as well as to own up to the mistakes I’ve made that landed me here (which are plentiful).

Before I go further, I want to make it clear that I understand my own privilege in this situation. I was lucky to have been in a financial spot in 2020 that allowed me to fulfill my life dream of buying a home. If I tried to buy this house now, it’s unlikely that my income would qualify me. The existence of my career is in and of itself kind of a fluke, a random opportunity that I was given based on some arbitrary, innate realities about who I am, how I act, and how I look (my design career began when I was cast to play a design assistant on a TV show). That isn’t to say I didn’t work for all of this since I was a child, ceaselessly toiling to get perfect grades, go to the “right” schools, and working my way up from the bottom in the world of production. But bottom line, I understand that I am part of a small group of known design influencers (yeah, I hate that word too but it’s the easiest way to describe the world I’m in) who are given opportunities based on superficial stats and how many followers we have.

So, let’s get started. Here is a summary of the past two years from my perspective, a collection of events that, in retrospect, seem like a continuing comedy of errors.

September 2019 to July 2020

I began working on the second season of my HGTV show in September 2019. While having a TV show may sound glamorous, my experience has been that they involve an extreme amount of work that makes having a social life impossible. My feelings about TV are complicated. Firstly, I am endlessly thankful that I was given the opportunity to share stories (mine and others) to a new audience. It is an honor to have your show idea funded by a network and to see it come to life. But it is a ton of gritty, dirty, physical work (one example: me ripping out then replanting an entire yard’s worth of vegetation, alone, under the beating full sun of Irvine, California in 95 degree heat from 9 am to 6 PM). A typical day shooting “Build Me Up” involved me waking up at 4:30 or 5 AM, driving myself 2-3 hours (each way) to our shooting location, filming until 5 or 6, then driving 2-3 hours home, rarely getting home before 8 or 9, where I’d eat my first meal of the day. I didn’t tend to eat during the day because A) I don’t like the feeling of food churning in my stomach while a microphone was strapped around my belly with a strap/girdle contraption that was very constraining and B) Our shooting locations didn’t consistently have private, clean bathrooms to use. So typically I’d be standing for 12-14 hour a day on no food. And because I didn’t have any help with hair, makeup, or wardrobe, it was up to me to stay as perfect looking as possible throughout the day while trying to find a place to change where there often weren’t any private places. Because we often shot multiple days, out of order, on any given day, I had to keep track of my wardrobe and continuity of what I’d be wearing at what point in the show (to make things seem like they’re moving along at a logical pace, HGTV shows often film scenes out of sequence to save time and money). I also had to constantly be on top of powdering my stupid oily face because I am sweaty and VERY shiny (on a positive note, I’m convinced having acne as a teen and oily skin now has kept me looking a lot younger than I should despite being the worst kind of human for aging, a white).

The Mic Belt Contraption (Described Above)

I plan on writing a whole, saucy post about what it’s actually like to be on an HGTV show so I’ll keep these descriptives to a minimum but the main takeaway here is that from September 2019 to July 2020 my life was fully taken over by shooting the show. It was wonderful, exhilarating, and absolutely worth it and I would do it again, but it was all-encompassing. So while many people were given a bit of room to privately process the beginning of covid, I worked continuously for the first few terrifying months of the pandemic with very little protection. While everyone else was isolating, my design team and I were going to every store possible before they closed down to get the furniture we needed in time for our show to meet its (immovable, even in the time of covid) deadline. It’s a miracle no one got covid because there weren’t any clear guidelines for safety. We just tried to wear masks and not stand too close to each other while we were shooting scenes.

One of the first things HGTV asked for when covid began was self-shot footage they could use to promote covid safety in a commercial. The irony of them asking us to tout how we were all so happy to be safe and sound at home while me and my entire crew risked getting covid every day with absolutely no network oversight was not lost on me. HGTV is a business and they needed content when they needed content, pandemic be damned. I haven’t chatted much about this stuff yet because I thought I’d get in trouble or burn professional bridges. But I’ve seen so many other HGTV hosts (seemingly feeling a similar sense of censorship) do posts about “what it’s actually like to have an HGTV show” that are all fluff and bullshit meant to keep them in good graces with the network. From my experience, and from my discussions with a number of HGTV’s on-air talent (we tend to meet each other) I think the rosy picture of the behind-the-scenes of these shows is a misrepresentation for almost all the network’s hosts, aside from the Property Brothers who have earned their right to be treated like legit celebrities by producing the most popular shows for the network and Christina on the Coast who has earned her right to be treated like an actual celebrity by getting married every year.

While I’m not painting the prettiest picture of the underworld of HGTV, I have to say that I have only positive things to say about everyone I came into contact with there, from the executive producers I’ve known for over ten years since working on Emily’s show “Secrets from a Stylist” to the marketing team and the coordinators in the office. I’m not quite sure who the “bad guy” (ie the person dictating that budgets for these shows be so unworkably small that they make life on set unsustainable for everyone from top to bottom) is in this situation but I’m guessing someone very high up. The CEO of Discovery (which owns HGTV) is one of the richest people in media. Meanwhile, for my ten months of work on the second season of my show, I made $5000 per episode, totaling $40,000. After taxes and my agent fees, my take home was $17,500. “Build Me Up” came from an original concept I created, based on my own life. Broken down, my pay was about $1750/month or $437.50/week (for those of you at home doing the math that’s $11/hour), which I’m pretty sure means I was the lowest paid person on set (the rest of the crew was paid weekly, not a per-episode rate like I was so as the show dragged months past its original shooting schedule, everyone else kept getting paid while I didn’t, leading me to begin dwindling down my savings even before the pandemic started). Someone made hundreds of thousands of dollars (millions?) off of my original idea and likeness but that someone was definitely not me. I know this because this show has aired in a ton of markets AROUND THE WORLD, I still get messages from followers in faraway countries constantly telling me they’re watching my show for the first time. And someone (again, not me) makes money each time the show is aired in a new market.

I know this sounds like a lot of sour grapes, but the reason I’m bringing it up is to build the story of the past two years. Also, in this time of rectifying problematic abuses of power in all industries, it felt weird to be in the receiving end of such an inequitable work situation and to keep my mouth shut while I happily smiled about my gratitude for the opportunities HGTV provided (which, make mistake, I am thankful for). One might wonder why, when I emerged from the isolation of shooting a show during covid, I didn’t just return to my regular day job of working with clients. The reason I didn’t is that it’s impossible to run a full private design practice while also working a more than full time on a show. And the years previous to shooting “Build Me Up” were filled with pitching and selling the show, writing and promoting my book, and restarting my career after being laid off a now defunct design startup. So that’s why I wasn’t immediately ready to hit the road running with design clients when the show ended and I emerged into stilted covid economy.

When “Build Me Up” aired in July 2020, it seemed to be going really well. We were getting better numbers than Martha Stewart’s show (which admittedly was at a less prominent time slot but still, it’s Martha!). I was visiting my parents at their Sonoma County home, where I was sleeping in the downstairs bedroom and only interacting with my parents outside at a distance of twelve or more feet because the virus was still confusing and terrifying, when I got the call that after three weeks of (honestly decent, not cancelable) ratings, the show was going to be moved to midnight. While the network said they were doing it in the hopes of finding a younger audience, I knew what it was. The show had essentially been canceled after three weeks. That time slot was a death sentence.

Why all this matters, aside from the fact that it was a huge blow to me and the crew after we literally risked our lives to make a TV show for a network that was simultaneously using me to peddle its alleged covid safety protocols, was that essentially the show not being on air meant the compensation I was anticipating, the whole reason I did the show (exposure, self-promotion, the ability to leverage my TV presence to acquire sponsorships) was null and void. According to my light research, LA county’s threshold for a “living wage” is $774/week for a single person with no kids. So my measly $437.50/week didn’t cut it. In order to supplement my income, I had to shoot sponsored content during weekends, taking on whatever work I could to supplement one of the most profitable networks on the planet. This was on top of working six plus days a week on the show. And you might think that being on HGTV even those few weeks raised my profile. In fact, the main indicator of my marketability, the number of followers I have on Instagram, only increased by about 3000 from two seasons of HGTV presence, a negligible difference that didn’t allow me to charge anything more for sponsored content.

When the controversy about the IATSE strike, the dangerously long hours (and long commutes on no sleep) came to the national forefront last year, it was particularly triggering for me and members of my crew. HGTV shows are not filmed on union sets. So while IATSE members were advocating for safer working conditions, my crew and I were looking at each other going “I wish we had even the rights and safety protocols IATSE doesn’t find sufficient.” The rights they were claiming were not good enough were far more than we had. I stand with IATSE and the idea that there needs to be a shift in entertainment (and corporate culture in general) where the people actually doing the work deserve a bigger piece of the pie. Sorry Discovery CEO David Zaslav, maybe you could distribute some of the $37.7 million dollars you make a year to pay the people appearing on your network a living wage. Just a thought.

With what I described above, you can imagine that emerging from working my ass off for a show that ended up having very little to no payoff, jumping into the deep end of covid shut downs and a halted economy, felt like a splash of cold water to the face. Again.

“Build Me Up,” Season 2, Episode 2 “Mogul in the Making”

I don’t want to leave the conversation about my show on a bad note. The upside to the whole thing was that because I allowed myself to be vulnerable and talk about my own painful life experiences with homeowners on the show, I was given innumerable gifts from them. I am still friends with a lot of the people who agreed to appear on the show. While the stories shown were definitely “produced,” meaning they were set up so they could be captured by cameras, a lot of the hardships my on-air clients revealed to me created a bond between us that will be there forever. Their willingness to share their stories with me and with the audience at home – thus helping people feel less alone in their own struggles and grief – is an enormous gift I don’t take for granted. And one that I am still thankful for daily.

July 2020 to October 2020

A few things saved me in the first few months after the show’s disappointing cancellation. Number one, I had a particularly wonderful design client who was furnishing her beautiful (large) home which meant I made a decent amount of money on selling her furniture. This is the exact kind of client every designer wants. She’s humble, has great taste, and most importantly doesn’t try to steam roll you. She really trusted me and Kara (my associate designer for the project) to do our thing. And as a result her house turned out beautifully. I hadn’t been planning on taking design clients while shooting, but she came recommended from a previous client (who I also love) so I made it work by bringing on a project manager/lead designer. And I’m glad I did. I wouldn’t have survived without that income.

A positive light in the dark, tumultuous early days of the pandemic was that I did something I’ve wanted to do for years – I created an online shop. This was revolutionary for me in a few ways. Firstly, I’ve always had a desire to make and sell things. I see it as another form of communication. And for some reason, despite not being the most outgoing person out there, I’ve always had a desire to share ideas and talk to people. So the online shop, Storelando, became an extension of that. Selling my collection of art and limited edition objects got me through a few months of 2020, but the financial roller coaster was just getting started.

I was lucky I bought my house when I did. It wouldn’t be possible today.

I closed on my house in October 2020. And just in the nick of time! My previous three years income (which lenders look at if you’re a freelancer) were strong, pre-covid years. 2020 and 2021 saw a huge dip in income, mostly because the expense of work, particularly the type of DIY projects and hiring photographers to get all the way to my cabin from LA, made working a lot more expensive while projects came in at erratic and unpredictable manner. The entire pandemic has been feast or famine for me. Either everything is happening at once or it’s radio silence. While it may seem like the house turned out to be a mistake – all the costs of maintaining a big house during a professional downturn – but I did it because I wasn’t sure when it would be a possibility again. I don’t regret it at all.

From the onset of covid in early 2020 to late 2020, the number of brand collaborations I had gotten used to doing over the past eight years dwindled to zero. From November 2020 to May 2021, I received almost no income. It was during that time that my savings dipped to their lowest point in years while my anxiety and depression shot to their highest. As someone who hasn’t had a safety net, who hasn’t received significant outside financial help, the worry about money was overwhelming. And I’ve had my fair share of scary financial situations. It’s not easy making it in the world I’m in without help. And you’d be hard pressed to find someone who does what I do that got to this position without help from family or a spouse. Ever thought about why there are so many Mormon mommy bloggers? It’s because their husbands all have jobs to support them while they build their brands. While I saw a number of my HGTV host colleagues getting big product and endorsement deals to fund their businesses, none came my way. I have a lot of theories about why this is but I think mostly it’s due to chance and the fact that as a single gay man I was a lot less marketable than the bread and butter of the network: straight couples who can remain relevant by having babies or getting married/divorced over and over. Culturally, America is obsessed with traditional archetypes. This is why we love franchises that celebrate the same binding gender dichotomy we also pretend to be moving past. Real Housewives is really just a bunch of straight ballgown cosplay, a bunch of ladies performing a High School Prom-inspired version of womanhood and wealth. We like to pretend we are moving towards gender equality, but we also are obsessed with extremely constraining concepts of performative gender and sexuality (“The Bachelor,” anyone?). So yeah, that might have had something to do with it.

In addition to the complete lack of income in late 2020, my new house proved to be a source of continued, unexpected costs. The heating needed repair, the septic had to be redone, the washer and dryer that came with the house stopped functioning after inspection, trees leaning over the deck had to be cleared, the well ran dry, and so on. While all of these expenses were a bummer, they were probably par for the course for a first-time home buyer of a relatively complicated, rural house. And every penny I’ve spent has been worth it. I love my house and am so thankful for it. And while I’m listing all the things that have gone wrong the past two years, I think it’s important that I acknowledge that owning a house has allowed me to enter into a privileged class of people who are able to own an asset that will hopefully accrue value over time. In fact, according to Zillow, the value of my house has gone from $590,000 (what I paid) to $733,500 in the year since I bought it. That’s $143,500 in one year (the California real estate market is kinda scary right now). So even though I have struggled to remain afloat the past two years, I understand that the foundation I’m laying now will lead to a more stable financial future. I’ve spent the past fourteen months fixing my house myself in the hopes that I can rent it out on Airbnb, further increasing my ability to support myself. I consider all of this an investment in a future that feels a lot more stable than the present. Everything I’m going through “growing pains.” Yes, it sucks to be penniless for months on end. But I also realize how fucking lucky I am that I got into this house when I did. Today’s stresses will (hopefully) lead to tomorrow’s successes…

One of many storms that left me without power, trapped in my house.

November 2020 to May 2021

Winter 2020/2021 began to take an even darker turn as my income dried up and the physical and emotional stresses of living in a high-maintenance forest home started to take their toll. From November 2020 to May 2021, I received no income, aside from a random gig I got via a college friend that ended up being a nightmare because I’d just gotten a puppy, got the job last minute (day before), had to wake up at 3 AM to drive to LA with a puppy throwing up all over, and didn’t have time to learn my lines before showing up to a very intimidating, expensive, and professional set (pretty sure this one day shoot cost more than both seasons of my show). One good thing about me is that I am affable and self-deprecating, so I apologized profusely for not being able to learn my lines before showing up and did my best. It turned out well, it was a really cute spot for Pandora, the music streaming service.

Also in this time, there was an unprecedented wind storm that knocked down trees all over town directly followed by the biggest snowstorm the area has seen in fifty years. Over the course of the winter I went twenty days with no power. And because I’m on a well system and my heating system is started electronically, this meant I had no water or heat, either. The physical stress of trying to stay warm while ten feet of snow threatened to push through the windows added to my feeling of being overwhelmed by my new life. During the biggest of the storms, I ended up having to dig a tunnel out of my garage, hiking down to the highway, and getting picked up by an aunt who lives nearby.

It was during this time that my health really started to suffer. Getting further and further into debt, in the dark months of winter, while also dealing with an absolutely crazy winter alone in a big house, the only thing that brought me joy was alcohol. I’ve thought about it a lot and I do think I’ve had a troubling relationship with alcohol since covid started. I don’t think I’m an alcoholic though. If there’s something called “Situational Alcoholism” I think I had that. When the sun went down up here at my house in the woods, when the windows reflected only black back to me, alcohol was something to do. It was partially due to boredom and loneliness but also due to the unbridled anxiety I was feeling about money and the future. Who did I think I was buying this house with all these expensive and necessary repairs? Country houses were for rich people and I certainly wasn’t one. I definitely didn’t want to be back in LA, where everything felt oddly disjointed, some friends, like me, became full hermits, while others went to covid molly sex parties (sounds fun, right?). No one seemed to be living normally, so being in a city where I couldn’t run out to my car without a mask on felt claustrophobic.

Naturally, as with happens with over consumption of any sort, I gained weight during this first covid winter. To date, I’ve gained fifty pounds, going from 180 while I was shooting the show to 230. As someone who has dealt with eating issues and my weight since childhood, this has felt like an abject failure, one that made me too embarrassed to see people I haven’t seen in a while for fear of being judged for my weight gain. I’ve avoided parties, I’ve avoided one on one meet ups with friends, I have avoided seeing anyone I haven’t seen since before the pandemic. While intellectually I believe in and support body positivity for other people, I haven’t been able to find the grace within myself for not conforming to the strict body standards I normally do. Having the fear of being seen that I currently have has made doing sponsored content, usually reliant on me being in front of the camera, painful, overwhelming, and embarrassing.

But in order to understand exactly why I’ve let my weight and health get out of hand, you kind of have to understand what my history is. I’m, genetically, an overweight person. My body has always wanted to be heavy. What I have looked like for most of the time I’ve been visible on social media and TV has always felt like a put-on, like not who I really am but just me posing as a thin person. While I say that, I also understand I have enjoyed thin privilege, free (for the most part, outside gay pool parties) from being shamed for my body’s size. But it’s come at the cost of not being able to eat normally and having to be constantly vigilant since childhood about burning calories. The first time I started worrying about being fat was when I was seven. And pretty much since then I’ve been on a diet. Remember, while I was shooting my show I was eating one meal a day (a salad from Whole Foods, back when they had a salad bar that people were allowed to cough all over). And somewhere, somehow in the midst of covid, I lost my ability to give enough of a shit to starve myself so I wouldn’t be fat. My pre-covid life in LA consisted of eating salads and working out 2-3 hours a day. But after doing that for my entire adult life, I just stopped giving a shit. Somehow, the dumb thing that continues to stay top of mind at all hours of the day, my hatred of my own body, has failed to motivate me enough to do anything about it. When there is no joy, no end in sight to the problems you face, maintaining motivation is a challenge.

On a high note, I’ve stopped drinking for the new year and don’t really miss it. It feels like I got everything out of alcohol that I need for a while: distraction, comfort, numbing. I’m ready to move past the easy Band-Aid alcohol can bring in dark times. The theme of this year is healing.

May 2021 to September 2021

Things really started looking up in May 2021. I finally received payment for a few projects which got me, briefly, out of debt (aside from my graduate student loans, which I’ve accepted are likely never going away). In the month of May, I booked over $250,000 of brand partnerships, complete with contracts including deadlines of when these payments would be received (all before the end of summer). To me, this felt like the end of the pandemic. After over a year of brand partnerships moving at a glacial pace, all of the sudden it seemed like WE WERE BACK, BABY!

And this is where I got into even more trouble. While I’d spent the last year and a half mourning the lack of hope in my life, I let hope get the best of me once it arrived. I don’t know why I thought this, but once I got vaccinated and it seemed like everything was getting back to normal, I just kinda thought everything ws over. I don’t see myself as an optimistic person, but I’ve noticed over the past two years I kind of am. Like when the pandemic started, I was (like everyone else) thinking, “hey, two weeks isolation wont be bad, this will be over by summer!” Over and over I keep getting duped into thinking things were getting good. Yet that hasn’t been the case just yet. See? I said “yet.” I still have some optimism left in me.

My new LA place, perhaps one of my biggest regrets from 2021.

I let hope get the best of me and thinking I should get back into the now-cheaper LA rental market before prices adjusted back to their pre-covid levels, I decided to get a place in LA again. I also thought at the time my place would be ready for vacation rental sooner than it was. In order to prep my place for renters, I would have had to hire help (which I’d found) to finish painting, installing fixtures, and furnishing the place so it would be presentable for guests. But what ended up happening is that I couldn’t afford to hire anyone because, despite booking quite a bit of well-paid work, I entered into a bad pattern with sponsors. Some projects kept getting delayed over and over because of supply chain issues (one project that was supposed to happen summer 2021 is now going to take place summer 2022, meaning a huge sum of money I was counting on and contractually entitled to was pushed a full year). Other brands I worked with decided to take their sweet time with payment, most taking six to nine months to pay me AFTER all content had been shared (which was often months after I’d shot it to give you an idea of how long I was waiting for payment). Could you wait nine months for your next paycheck for work you did months ago?

The frustrating thing about “influencer” culture you don’t see from the outside is that we are essentially self-producing commercials for huge brands. And to do that you need to hire photographers, videographers, assistants, etc. Those people expect to be paid pretty much immediately while the brands paying you to produce content seem to have no urgency whatsoever as to when they’ll pay you (this has changed in the pandemic, it’s not normally like this). They will, however, reach out with requests like “hey this bed is arriving tomorrow can you shoot it the next day and have us content in two days?” Working in influencer marketing has been thoroughly frustrating for that reason. You have brands forcing you to do an incredible amount of physical and intellectual labor at the drop of a hat while also not giving a shit and and when you and your people are paid.

My work began being a detriment to my health when, after spending a ton of time bashing my knees on the ground to remove all the carpet in my 3000 sq/ft house myself because I couldn’t afford to hire help. I ended up getting bursitis (an enflamed knee sac), which led to a bacterial infection of the knee caused by repetitive movement. My knee got incredibly inflamed due to the infection, making movement nearly impossible. Eventually, because I couldn’t find a doctor in my rural surroundings, my knee exploded (literally, it was gross). Meanwhile, a brand who had ghosted me for five months emailed to say a piece of furniture was arriving the next day and had to be shot immediately to meet their deadline. So I spent the next few days by myself at my cabin, moving furniture up and down stairs, my knee gushing blood and pus the whole time (yum!). This was September 2021. I’ve not yet been paid for that project.

In addition to my design work and other income, I booked about $300,000 of projects in 2021. So far, I’ve been paid about $50,000-$60,000 of that. Which is a decent income for sure, but not enough to fund the life I budgeted for when I booked $250,000 of work in one month. Was it stupid to rent an apartment in LA under those circumstances? Absolutely. I would not do it again. But hope blinded me. I thought things were getting better after a few hard years. I thought the economy was coming back. That was dumb assumption and I own that. In my defense, I had booked a ton of work, all of which came with contracts and timelines describing how and when I would be paid.

There’s not really a lot I can do about my LA apartment right now. I’ve committed to it and I plan to honor that commitment. Making things more complicated is that I secured just enough sponsorships based on my new LA place that giving the apartment up wouldn’t make financial sense, especially when you factor in how expensive moving is and that I need a place to stay when I begin renting out my cabin. But I can’t tell you how frustrating it’s been the past six months, every one a cliff hanger as to whether my rent check is going to bounce when I know that at any given time brands and my agency owe me anywhere from $60,000 to $150,000 for projects already executed. I don’t know what the solution is here but my feeling is that I am done with sponsored content. It’s not fully aligned with my value set anyway and if I’m gonna be using my platform to sell someone’s shit, I’d rather sell my own. I’d rather make and sell art. I’d rather market my design services. If a giant company is gonna take six months to pay me, I’d rather promote something I care about more – me (yes, I know that sounds like a Carrie Bradshaw line but I do in fact care more about myself than a giant multinational corporation).

At the urging of a friend, I called my mortgage company and asked for a three month forbearance, which thank god was granted. I have tried to stay on top of my rent and other expenses, which has been emotionally draining. In order to get the apartment, I had to share my income with the landlord, which I estimated to be about $250,000, lower than the amount I knew I was brining in and based on income confirmed by my existing contracts (this was in June, so I was assuming more opportunities would arrive before the year’s end). But since, I have had to write to my landlord multiple times asking for an extension. This has made me feel like a complete fraud, as if I’d lied to get the apartment. The landlord has been understanding but not necessarily lenient. And the whole experience has left me with an even bigger case of imposter syndrome than I already had and made me feel like a derelict tenant and a liar.

Saturday (Satie), without a doubt the greatest gift I have ever received.

October 2021 to January 2022

The last few months of 2021 were draining, mostly consisting of every brand I was working with at once demanding content immediately while also not paying me. I have had a day or two of relief the first few days of the month when my rent check clears, but the rest of the month has been occupied mostly by working non-stop while worrying about whether I’ll be able to make rent the next month. I’m in a bad position where I’m constantly playing catch up, putting financial band aids on whatever seems to need the most attention. My health insurance got cancelled because the card linked to it was maxed out. Same with car insurance and a number of different monthly autopay accounts. I have kind of given up on a “magical moment” where a bunch of money comes in at once, helping me pay down debt and get ahead of things. Payments from brands seem to trickle in at a too little, too late pace. I currently have roughly $120,000 due and no idea when it’ll be here. I’m adding in all these figures not to brag or complain about my income, I think it’s more than enough. But I think I’m in a unique position to chat about something that many people are too ashamed to bring up: not having enough to get by. And yes, I realize it’s completely ridiculous to be complaining that I don’t have enough money when I technically have two places to live. But I’m in an easier position than many to chat about financial anxiety because I do make a good income – it’s harder for lower income people to openly discuss their financial needs without fear of employer retaliation. That I haven’t been paid in a respectful manner is another issue altogether. It is my belief that people with a lot of money are no better or more interesting than people with little to no money. One of the blessings of my life is that I grew up and was educated amongst people from a diversity of different income levels. I grew up in a small town where there weren’t enough kids for class stratification to be a thing. I knew executives kids and kids that lived in a trailer park. And the friends I made at the Ivy League schools I attended ranged from very poor to very wealthy. I’m comfortable in most situations because I’ve known rich and poor people my whole life. You can take me to the Mariposa Dump (where I often take my trash) sorting recycling with hillbillies and I’m fine. You can also take me to a private party at MoMA and I’ll be fine. I do not idealize wealth, while I also understand that money often helps solve problems a lot faster.

The emotional turmoil of the past few years exploded a month or so ago when my parents were arriving for a holiday party up at my cabin. An issue arose with one of my brand partners and my manager called to chat about it. Basically, after radio silence for months, the brand came to me in mid-November with a proposal that we finish the project by December 9th so we could shoot it December 20th (they were asking this in the third week of November). When I came back to them and told them their timeline was unrealistic due to the same covid backups that have delayed other projects, they responded by saying the project needed to be done by December 9th. I knew what this meant. Firstly, it would mean flying to the east coast for a project knowing full well the furniture would not be on site in time. Second, it meant I was going to work through Christmas after a super shitty year of being broke because of brands’ negligence. There was a lot of back and forth about it and they stood their ground, saying that despite the impossibility of getting furniture there on time we still needed to finish by the end of the year. The reason? The agency coordinating the project wouldn’t get paid until 2022 if we didn’t finish before then. So all of the sudden it’s an emergency because THEY wont get paid? When was it an emergency for ME to get paid?

During the call with my manager, he kept pushing me to finish the project by any means possible. I feel bad for him, because he had to be the middle man between me and the brand, who were not being reasonable. But at the time of the phone call, I hadn’t been paid since May 2021. And you really lose motivation for work after you haven’t been paid for six months for ANYTHING whatsoever. So I basically stood my ground and said I wasn’t doing anything, for any client, until someone paid me. You can’t just keep doing your job for months and months without getting paid. And it’s my manager and agents job to get me paid. I haven’t ever screamed at anyone in a professional setting, but the combination of months of stress, of waiting and begging constantly to be paid for work I had ALREADY done months before, just sent me over the edge and I lost it. It is always my responsibility to meet everyone else’s deadlines. Where was their responsibility to hold up their end of the bargain?

When you get dragged through the mud of being overworked and unpaid for months on end, it gives you a sense of fearlessness. What are you going to lose? The money you’re NOT being paid? So I just basically said fuck it. I refused to do the work in the timeframe dictated by the brand and told them they could keep the rest of their payment (that they’d probably pay me six months late anyway). I absolutely do not regret it. It’s time for big companies that make millions every year to stop treating the people who help them to do so like shit.

This is what burnout looks like.

Like everyone else in these covid times, the past two years have triggered a lot of reflection on whether I am satisfied with what I’m doing. I’m not. I never set out to be an influencer. It’s absolutely a stupid job. And a constant punchline. No one respects it, rather than being seen a people producing the kind of content that used to be reserved for magazines, you’re seen as a some sort of tacky douchebag who takes pictures of themselves acting like a dumb idiot while raking in the dollars. It seems so easy from the outside because it is an influencer’s job to make it look easy. The past nine years have been tumultuous, from breakups to book writing to TV show filming, and I haven’t had the space to be strategic about what I was doing with myself. When you’re just struggling to get by, to get ahead, it’s hard to say no to corporations offering you tens of thousands of dollars to do what you love doing, making pretty pictures, sharing ideas, and helping everyday people figure out how to make their lives more beautiful. But the landscape of brand partnerships has changed and I know of a lot of other content creators who are getting burned out by the lack of respect and the untenable payment delays.

And full disclosure, I don’t promote things I don’t like. Everything I promote is stuff I’d actually use. I’ve turned down Chlorox, Walmart, and bunch of companies I don’t find ethical because I am lucky enough to be choosy about what I share. I feel good about the brands I have promoted, but my three year plan is to get out of making money by encouraging consumption. Growing up, it was never my dream to someday grow a platform and use it to promote endless consumption. And it was certainly not my dream to have a job where I am not paid in a consistent, timely, and respectful manner.

Snowstorms have been lovely this year. So far, no snow-induced power outages!

Growing Pains

I know all of this sounds incredibly bleak, but I don’t feel bad about it. As a creative who graduated into the 2008 recession, I’ve seen my share of ups and downs. The millennial generation seems to get pushed down the stairs every time we make a few steps towards professional and financial progress – we’re used to it at this point. It’s taking us longer to grow up because our adulthood has been peppered with financial and cultural setbacks. But what I’ve seen in my own life is I always come out better on the other side of a personal/professional slump. There are periods of building that can be painful and overwhelming. But they lead to a richer appreciation of what comes next. It was a stretch for me to buy this house without help. Props to all the single people out there who bought a house without help from parents or a spouse! It’s been a challenge, but ultimately it will help move me forward.

I have experienced an incredible amount of financial instability in my life. When I was 27, I got so stressed and overwhelmed by it that I got shingles (something you normally get after age 60). I didn’t have health insurance at the time so I just laid in bed for days and nights wondering how it was possible that I had been jumping through hoops like a trained circus seal since I was a kid only to end up a grown up that couldn’t take care of himself. I have felt shame about my financial status and my career ups and downs. But I’m kind of done with that now. Not because I think I’m so great or that I’m somehow inherently faultless. But because when I look around at all the people who have not had the privileges I’ve had – a supportive family, an incredible education, connections to people in high places, even my ability to pass for white – I have seen so many people even more qualified than me who haven’t reached my level of success. I will not feel shame about where I am because to do so is a sign of disrespect to those who are aspiring to do what I do.

While the past two years have been stressful, overwhelming, and filled with anxiety and depression, they’ve provided me with a sense of strength I didn’t have before. When you are treated as though you don’t matter, you believe it for a while. And then you get angry and start to rebel against that notion. I know exactly who I am and I know what my accomplishments are – I have worked hard for both. And I don’t care enough about money to let financial instability be a defining factor of what’s happened over the past two years. Money is made up, we agree to abide by it so that society isn’t chaos. But it’s still a fabrication. A fabrication meant to perpetuate, more and more over time, the idea that some people are more valuable than others. That idea is stupid to me so I don’t follow it. So I will not be ashamed or shamed for hitting a financial rough spot.

I had dinner with a close friend recently. He’s a writer and performer who I discovered on YouTube when I first moved to LA. He had a hilarious TV show, has written books, and is just generally one of the most talented, brilliant people I know. However, the past few years have been slow for him professionally. When we met for dinner I was happy to hear that not only was his career on an upswing, he was thriving. We hadn’t seen each other in months, so the dinner was like a quick game of catch up on everything that happened. And when he started telling me how well he was doing, a strange feeling came over me. It wasn’t jealousy, it was something else. I guess I just felt kind of self-conscious that he was doing so well while I wasn’t. But I quickly adjusted my thoughts, remembering two years before when my career was flourishing while he was in the dregs of a building period, a foundational period of setting himself up for future creative success. And at that moment my self-pity and embarrassment for not being in a good place dissolved into pure joy. He deserves it, we’ve been friends for so long and I’ve always wanted more for him. At the time I remember thinking how wonderful it would be if we could all be experiencing the same career highs at the same time. But we don’t. Which is why it’s so important to tell friends who are going through those lows that you believe wholeheartedly in their future success. People need to hear that. We all need to be lifted up from time to time.

I’m sharing my experiences here for a few reasons. Firstly, I’ve been alluding to “dark things” happening in Instagram captions and wanted to stop with the vague allusions. Second, I needed to write down what has happened in order to process and catalogue these thoughts for the future. The past two years feel like a chaotic blur, nearly impossible to process. And third, I know from the outside that sometimes the life I am presenting can be aspirational, something that makes people feel they don’t have enough – I am so lucky to have everything I do. I don’t want to contribute to the same kind of social media fakery that is toxifying the the world we live in. And I’ve been thinking to myself, “If it’s this hard for me with all the opportunities I’ve been given, how are people with less surviving?” So if you’re going through a similar set of career and financial woes, just know someone who might seem “successful” because of his TV show and social media presence, someone who has experienced a vast amount of privilege and opportunity, is also floundering, gasping for air, trying to stay above the surface of the water.

154 thoughts on “A Covid Comedy of Errors

  1. This is a hugely important post. I can’t wait to follow along and see the fruits of this building period. Also, thank you for the reality check. Many many times over the last 2 years I have dreaded my stable/well paying accounting job and resented how boring yet stressful it is. I was jealous of people who had cool and fun jobs in design (just like you). I have much to be grateful for and needed a reminder that EVERYONE has struggled, just in different ways. Wishing you well xo

    1. Couldn’t figure out how to comment properly. So sorry.
      Thank you so much for sharing! The world needs more of you and more of your talent! ❤️

      PS-And less HGTV, apparently. Boo.

      1. As a designer I feel this deeply.. Over the years I’ve had a small handful of other designers open up about the total shit show this life is, You can be featured in magazines, have your work splashed out nationwide (without your name on it if it’s studio work) and have contracts worth serious money…but it never comes in at once & the hours are always WAY more than reasonable and with the exception of the unicorn clients it can be super draining. Throwing a pandemic in that already volatile mix
        wreaked havoc on the industry in every conceivable way (not that clients or corporations seemed to care) it was like gas on a fire. Hug a designer, we are tired, probably shell shocked & possibly day dreaming of quitting & walking dogs & mentally renovating a potting shed to live in so we can afford to just walk dogs

  2. Thanks for sharing. This was very well written and insightful. As a viewer of HGTV and other home improvement shows it is so interesting to see it is not the rosy picture painted, however I would never have found you on Instagram without having seen your show. I know a boyfriend shows up in your posts now and again and I hope he has brought some happiness and been a sounding board for you in this time. Best wishes. Keep doing what you’re doing.

  3. I will be surprised if you read this since I’m sure you get hundreds of comments. But just in case, I want to say how very impressed and touched I am by your authenticity. I run a counseling center than is based on being authentic and I feel like there is so much power (and healing) in embracing truth and who we truly are, and then being able to share that truth. This was the most honest thing I think I have ever seen on social media. And it made my already high opinion of you skyrocket. I imagine this post will give so many others the strength to share their struggles. And that is a gift.

  4. Orlando, Thank you for sharing the details of what you’ve been through the past two years. For the record, I loved your show. I’m not so impressed with HGTV, not just because of cancelling you, but because they seemed to do that to the few shows that were my favorites. I’m sorry for the financial stresses you’ve experienced, especially when you’ve worked so hard. You’re very talented, though, so I have to believe things will turn around for you. You’re also funny, energetic, and empathetic, and you have many fans and followers. Again, thanks for your honesty, and know that you have many admirers who appreciate your talent. Hang in there!

    1. I think this type of honesty and accountability is so crucial to mental health as we navigate the world of social media more and more. You’re absolutely right, it’s an influencer’s job to make their life look easy, beautiful, and aspirational. That means we rarely get the whole story – the downturns and disappointments, the failures large and small. We know how rough this is for those watching and thinking that they’re seeing reality, but it’s also really challenging for the person on the other side of the account, as you’ve shown here. Needing to present your life as beautiful and successful in order to gain/maintain followers or attract work, even in the midst of ugly realities and frustrations, creates such a powerful sense of cognitive dissonance. It’s no wonder you felt exhausted and burnt out.

      From the outside, I would never have known any of this, despite your allusions to health issues or challenges, because I think Instagram (and influencer Instagram accounts in particular) are under such pressure to keep! things! positive! that your posts always seemed to end on a happy note or come along with a gorgeous picture. It is easy to assume you’re living the dream, flush with cash. It’s refreshing to hear the unvarnished truth and it takes a great deal of confidence to reach this point, where you know your worth and understand rjay it’s not determined by career highs or lows, financial situations, physical appearance, etc. You’ve been though all of this, and you’re still here. You’re still valuable and valued.

      Thank you for bringing an honest voice to this space. I think you’re an incredible designer and human being, and, having been through these foundational/building phases myself, it seems like you’ve learned exactly what you needed to propel you into your next chapter with strength and clarity. Wishing you and Satie a wonderful 2022!

  5. Thanks for sharing! Honesty is refreshing. Looking forward to watch whatever comes next for you 🙂

  6. Orlando, what a beautiful piece. Thank you for being so vulnerable and open. I wish nothing but good things for you to come. Because you’ve earned and deserve them.

  7. Thank you so much for sharing your experiences and helping us sort through our own feelings of disappointment. It’s been a rough two years! I’m grateful for your wisdom and your willingness to help others see the light! Your talent, charm and amazing personality will lift you up!

  8. Thank you. I appreciate your candor and your bravery. I can’t wait to see what you do next.
    Xoxo a stranger in the computer.

  9. The title of “influencer” has indeed taken on a negative connotation and can feel, well, dumb. But you are a talented, grounded, delightful breath of fresh air. I know for me and thousands of others, your honesty and insistence on staying true to yourself is consistently encouraging and inspiring. Thanks for sharing as so many of us from the millennial generation especially also founder in these very weird last 2 years.

  10. Thank you for sharing. How you didn’t lose it & demand payment sooner is beyond me. Actually, how your manager/agency didn’t is beyond me. I am feeling fiery on your behalf just knowing you are owed *any* money, much less that amount. Sending hugs. You are an incredibly strong person.

  11. This post was amazing. Your transparency is heartening and your feelings of managing in the last two horrible years are so very relatable. Please keep us posted on how we can support you! I think you have a LOT of internet friends who would be happy to shell out directly to hear design thoughts, or to even just hear you, for example, denigrate salads? (Me included).

  12. Thank you for being vulnerable and sharing. In a time of loss of connection, this will resonate with many, allowing them to feel seen and less alone in the struggles of these Covid times. You’ll never know how many you have touched through sharing your life, but count me as one that gets a little lift in my day by “connecting” with you through your posts. May blessings rain down on you because of it. Cheers to a better 2020.

  13. Hi Orlando, so sorry to hear about all of these difficulties. I find it hard to talk about this stuff even with my close friends, so it’s amazing you’re willing to share it here. I hope your building phase starts to feel a bit more easy at some point! Lots of love from an elder Canadian millennial who also graduated into the 2008 recession and feels these struggles very much!

  14. ? just saw I put “cheers to a better 2020”…. obvi still mentally experiencing the last two years as one!! Cheers to a better 2022!!!!!!

  15. Wow! Thanks for being honest and congratulations for moving on, at your own pace, in your own way. I do not know you well, but worked and am friends with your mom. The past 2 years have been a challenge for all.

  16. You are a refreshing, honest, thoughtful, well- spoken delight. I always say, everyone has their sh!t – we only see what people allow us to see. Thank you for your transparency and vulnerability. And most of all, thank you for sharing Saturday with us- she is ridiculously gorgeous and more photos of pit bulls is always better than less photos of pit bulls.

  17. Orlando, Thank you for sharing this. I got emotional multiple times, sympathizing and also reliving my own personal experience with the last 22 months. On the outside, solving problems can seem so simple, but almost always it’s complicated, and your story sheds light on this. I’ve always enjoyed what you put out into the world, and believe that more good things are to come. xx

    1. I follow a lot of “influencers” for their design content, but there’s exactly two of you who I also follow for who they are as humans (you and EHD). I will always read every word you say because you are honest, vulnerable, have a unique perspective (how many ppl have gone from being raised in Yosemite to an Ivy League?) and smart as hell. I love that you are out and proud and the way you have challenged some of your followers when they show negative bias (I’m remembering the comment section when you wrote on the blog about a gay artist who had died). Seriously, you impress me so much with your ability to articulate your passions. Anyway, you have alot of fans and touch people in ways you will never fully know. I am happy for you to fully LIBERATE yourself from brand sponsorships and move on to something much better for YOU! Congrats and here’s to 2022. And also, thanks for speaking so honestly about alcohol, depression/anxiety and struggles with weight. You are a force for good and truly helping others with your openness.

  18. Eloquent, honest, timely and necessary. Thank you! You’re not only talented, but wise and brave. ?

  19. I believe wholeheartedly in your future success. Sending love and healing energy your way, Orlando.

  20. Thank you for being vulnerable enough to put this out there – people need to see it. I’ve been a reader for many years and believe whole heartedly in your future success. Wishing you the best.

  21. Thank you for sharing it all! May releasing this into the world release you into deeper joy. And if it doesn’t, surely Sadie in a sweater will!

  22. Orlando, I have been reading/following for years, and as usual you bring authenticity that is rare in this space. And so appreciated when I and so many others have experienced similar career/life ups and downs, even outside of COVID! There are few blogs/influencers I follow anymore, but you will always be one of them. Looking forward to seeing where you go next!

  23. This made me cry. Your strength and willingness to share your difficulties are so inspiring. Also, “situational alcoholism”, YES. What the hell else were we supposed to do? I’m so thankful that you share with us, and I know that your genuine, caring nature is going to repay you tenfold over time.

  24. I have been a fan since you were on Emily’s show. I even made my own Orb-lando. Your honesty is heroic. (I hope HGTV, Discovery and Magnolia, brands, etc- start to treat people right). But more then anything, I am rooting for you and all of your amaziness!!

  25. You’re so open and, sometimes painfully, honest. I find it hard to read some of your in depth posts like this, but I appreciate you sharing them. I’m sorry this has been a tough time for you. I remember being snowed in without power but not as much snow as your storm!

    I’m have some privilege, but it’s also been a hard year. I work public sector so have reasonable job security, but we don’t get cost of living increases so my pay effectively reduces with inflation. I’ve been trying to buy a house for 9 months with delays and idiocy from the guy we’re buying from keeps pushing the date. My chronic illnesses are not reacting well to the stress of the house or covid. Our families have serious health issues.

    I guess to say, I understand where you’re at. I see you. With love and hope for the future.

  26. Thank you so much for your words & your honesty! Your IG account has long been one of my favorites because of your mix of humor and vulnerability in your captions- along with your incredible eye for design. I have no doubt all of these things are going to take you far as you shift away from sponsored content and onto your next chapter.

  27. You are such a great writer, creative, and human. I adore following your journey and I think this kind of honest and transparency is SO important – people think that TV shows automatically make the host a millionaire or that being in influencer automatically makes you a millionaire, but the truth it, it’s only true for a tiny percentage of people. You truly deserve the best and I hope things start looking up more long-term. <3

  28. Thank you so much for sharing. I don’t know when or why I started following you on Instagram, but I’m so glad I did.

    Might I suggest you start playing with toys on YouTube to earn money? That’s all my kids watch: adult men and women that (almost) never show themselves on camera but make silly voices and play with children’s toys. Those people are literally millionaires for playing with Blind Bag surprises, LOL Surprise dolls and Barbie Color Reveals. I’m serious, go watch a few videos from TOY CABOODLE, Nat and Essie, Fizzy Fun Toys, Slick Slime Sam, and my absolute least favorite, Granny McDonald. It boggles the mind.

    All kidding aside (maybe), you are the millennialest millennial I’ve ever seen! Gosh you remind me so much of, well, me!

    I wish you so much luck in the coming months and years. At some point you will land on your feet and keep moving up. I literally can FEEL your frustration. You’ve got “it.” You know it. Its obvious to everyone around you. Smart, hysterically funny, good-looking, the list goes on and on. I wish there was a way for me to help you; connect you to the right person; find the perfect opportunity for YOU. Gosh I would love to see you end up being a bazillionaire getting to do all the most amazing things.

    You absolutely, unapologetically, deserve the life you want. I appreciate your transparency. Please know that you are having a positive effect on people even when you are sharing the hard stuff.

    I also need you to know that I can’t stop thinking about your knee exploding. That’s all! Love ya!

  29. OMG, this has been riveting. I’ve been a fan since the Emily days and in awe of your talent and humor since Orcondo. God, I so sorry about the unbelievable shit that’s befallen you. I won’t be trite and say ” it was ment to be” and ” everything happens for a reason ” because we all know it’s complete bullshit. But, I’m glad Covid drinking has subsided, with you there, and you seem to be treading water. Also, I think you have another book in you. Hugs, to you and your beautiful kween Satie!

  30. I’ve been a fan since Secrets from a Stylist and have always appreciated your honesty and transparency. Thank you for all you have shared and being your genuine self. You’re the best!

  31. Just chiming in to say how much I adore you and am rooting for you. I’m horrified by your experience with HGTV, but, Build Me Up was truly a joy to watch because of you! You are also the most funny person on Instagram .ILY!

  32. You know we are all rooting for you, right? You approach life with such an open and honest outlook that we can’t help but want to cheer you on. I’m so sorry that the last few years have been such an unrelenting series of ups and downs. Perhaps this is the reset you needed and you build again from here.

    As an influencer (terrible word) myself who has felt the same lack of respect and recognition for what we do, thank you for sharing your story. I’m furious to know you haven’t been paid when everyone further down the line, from PR to digital agencies to brand executives, enjoys the spoils of your hard work. I hope there is someone out there who reads this and recognizes that your authenticity is what makes you a true influencer in this fake influencer world. Wishing you a 2022 that defies all your expectations!

  33. Thank you for sharing this. Although I’m in a completely different industry, a lot of your feelings about burnout, not feeling sufficiently “adult” despite being one, and the toxicity of wealth worship definitely resonate with me. It might be because we’re very similar ages. Our generation has been put through the ringer in terms of what we were raised to think was desirable/achievable versus what is (assuming you don’t get the leg-up of being born into a wealthy family).

    I hope better things are ahead for you, and that you are paid what you’re owed very soon. Until then, know that you have so many fans in your corner!

  34. Thank you for your honesty and vulnerability. I am such a huge fan of yours and wish you increasing ease and moments of joy. Also, wishing for you to receive prompt compensation!

  35. Thank you so much for your authenticity and for sharing the embarrassment and shame that come with being financially unstable. Money issues cause me a tremendous amount of shame — shame that I have a white collar job and still can’t make it work. I appreciate you.

  36. Wow! What a thoughtful, Insightful and Shocking post! I am horrified at how you’ve been treated professionally! Thanks so much for writing with honesty and vulnerability. A veil has been lifted and I hope it inspires many others speak up as well. Looking forward to seeing more of your “own work” and hope you will share the nitty gritty of that building process too! Stay true to you!

  37. Incredibly well written and important post. Thank you for the honesty. At difficult times like these, it’s even more important to pull back the curtain and let people see the reality behind a glam facade. I love following you on Instagram. Your posts always make me smile. Your dog is adorable.

  38. Thank you for sharing! As a writer, I totally get this – you put in the work and get amazing gigs that seem they would pay well from the outside, but you are worked to the bone on tight deadlines and then paid (crap) a year or more later! My favorite is when they break a small payout into 3 or 4 separate payouts over the course of two years. Makes you feel real great! I recently quit freelancing and starting working on my own projects that I will sell directly to consumers. Definitely in a building phase (and I now know that great concept thanks to you)! Anyway, thanks foe being honest and being brave enough to respect yourself and stick it to the disrespectful clients. Always rooting for you!

  39. Thank you so much for sharing all of this and for being honest and vulnerable. I’m older than you but have struggled similarly with food, alcohol, depression, and also hope and hustle. I’m rooting for you. Please tell Satie I love her too.

  40. Thanks for sharing! I can relate to so much of what you’ve gone through. You are not alone. Way to maintain some perspective and be authentic and honest.

  41. Be encouraged – as someone who’s followed along for the past decade or so, I have no choice but to believe in your future success based on all available evidence 🙂

  42. Orlando, you are an inspiration. These have been hard times for most people, and your honesty and clear headed observations show all of us that it’s not isolated. I am sorry these unfortunate things have happened, you are smart and talented; you’re engaging and thoughtful, and no one should be taken advantage of like that. I loved your show on HGTV and am very sorry they treated you so poorly. I look forward to seeing you go up from here, and following you on IG. Best of luck to you darling, you always make me smile.

  43. Orlando, I knew I liked you the past many years that I’ve followed you but, now I think I LOVE you! Your story is relatable on many different levels. My husband and I are both self employed and both in creative fields and we’ve definitely had our rough patches with financial downturns. All while raising 3 kids. Life can kick you in the ass but, going thru these rough times makes us more empathetic, compassionate and grateful for the littlest things. Hoping those assholes who owe you pay up immediately!!! Sending love from Michigan. ❤️

  44. Orlando darling,
    Thank you for writing this post. I’ve also been in a weird vortex of confusion and self doubt. With that added sprinkle of guilt for being privileged and even having the space and time to gripe. But it seems that accepting reality, making sure one is self reflective and self-deprecating then carrying on, is the way to go.
    I resolve to no longer feel guilt about being in a situation that is beyond my control!
    I love your posts and your dog and your house and your kind boyfriend.

  45. Thank you for telling the truth. I read the whole thing. Bursitis is terrible – my husband got it when he was putting down our LVP floors, and that was just one room. It never got as bad as what you described, though. I am curious to hear what you do wish you could be doing if you were free of the influencer income – I think in terms of products something like an online course would provide a steady stream of income that goes directly to you.

  46. Orlando,
    I just adore you.
    I hate that you’ve been subjected to all this completely unnecessary stress and lack of respect.
    Thank you for sharing your story with all of us.
    F those ass-hats.
    -A lady in your phone

  47. Thank you thank you thank you for being you and sharing your story. I, like so many others, am rooting for you! Also your IG stories are the only ones I’ll turn the sound on for. Ma’am!

  48. There are way too many of us, particularly millennials, that can sympathize with exactly what you’re going through. While COVID has exacerbated some people’s situations, so many of us have gone through times of financial, personal and professional hardships. I was going through one actually many moons ago when I actually interviewed with you to be an intern for you and Emily – a massive career shift from the entertainment industry. Know that on that day (and still) I look up to your creativity and ability to be authentically yourself, regardless of who is watching. I’ve been a longtime follower and will continue to be – whatever you may be doing. Hoping there’s sunshine headed your way very soon.

  49. It is so important for people like you who are in somewhat more privileged positions to call this stuff out – honestly, brands need to know that treating people like this is going to lose them revenue because we’re not going to want to buy from them if they stiffed some of our favorite people on the ‘gram.
    You bet your ass I’m going to go back and try to figure out all the brands that delayed payment to you in 2021 based on your posts (some obvious ones come to mind) and it will certainly sour my opinion of them. They also know that influencers don’t have teams of accountants and lawyers that can hound them for payment, so if they’re short on cash and there’s a bill that’s not getting paid this month, it’s probably yours ?

    Your guest posts on EHD are BELOVED (the comments section loses its collective mind!) and your book was fabulous! People love you, so it’s just a matter of figuring out how to monetize that love – which I know you will do eventually! Hang in there! I have faith in your future success!

  50. Disregarding my own sympathetic struggles and cutting to the chase, I totally agree with your vow to find more direct ways to profit from your own labor, such as Storelando. Have you considered e-design, even if simply scribbling up a DIY proposal based on user photos for a few hundred bucks each? I’d gladly pay for your design advice in an accessible form!

    What about starting a YouTube channel? So many people who aren’t even actual designers make a ton of ad money there just sitting on a sofa and dispensing top ten lists or “trends I hate” videos!

    My advice would be to see what other people (both ‘real’ designers like Lisa Holt or Rebecca Robeson AND those who started on YouTube) are doing to make money and steal their ideas! Only make them way better and more professional! Sure, easy, I know… :p

  51. Your writing is incredible. Thank you for sharing so eloquently and honestly. You are such a gem. Wishing the best for you in 2022.

  52. Orlando, you have an asset that’s financially hard to market, it’s called integrity. It will carry you through the toughest of times. Being financially challenged is not shameful but being morally challenged is, so no mater what ever happens you are rich beyond compare. I hope that if you continue to stand firm and allow your integrity to direct you that financial security will follow. Much love yo you.

  53. I read this with mounting feelings of disgust and indignation at how you have been treated and (mostly not) compensated by companies and supposedly professional people. I’m equally impressed by your incredible work ethic and high moral standards for meeting your obligations despite the ridiculous demands that you were forced to accept as just the way business gets done these days. I have thanked you before for inspiring our home gym and any exercise that I (grudgingly) do. I thank you in my mind every time I walk into the gym, we all do, as it was one of the best things we experienced in the last two exhausting years. That gym exists because of you, and it has made the lives of three people so much better. You bring a lot of people so many positive things, and putting your effort into doing that for yourself sounds like a good investment. The optimist in me is on your side. The horrible witch in me just typed a joke about other people and how they have apparently become successful in this weird reality influencer home design real estate world, but then I erased it. Maybe they aren’t as successful or as happy as they look either, only they’re too afraid to admit it. Also, I drank too much myself, you are not alone. And ate too many potato chips. I’m going to the gym now, thank you!!!

  54. I’m astounded to hear that clients & HGTV are so exploitative. Saying ‘no’ under those conditions doesn’t sound like burnout – it sounds reasonable, wise and self respecting. Mad props to you, your design talent and vision, your integrity and courage.

  55. Oh geesh, Orlando! What a shit show you’ve been through! I’ve been a freelance writer for the past seven years and just gave it up to return to return to a much more boring corporate job. I loved the freelance life but covid and other craziness threw things into tumult. My situation doesn’t have quite the roller coaster highs and lows of yours, but it’s still been tough. I appreciate your vulnerability and your humor so much. I really admire you and enjoy your work so much. Here’s to a much better 2022 for you and for all of us!

  56. What a thoughtful, genuine, real post – thank you for sharing the highs and lows, Orlando. It’s brave and important to talk about the constraints and pitfalls of the social media “lives” we present to the world. So much of this resonates with me as a fellow designer – know that your authenticity is seen and deeply appreciated as the rarity it is!

  57. Thank you for sharing this heartfelt post. I now have a small understanding of the huge challenges of the past few years. I’m pulling for you!

  58. Thank you for expressing your challenges in such an honest way. I know financial stress can make you really sick, in addition to all the mental tricks a show cancellation would play on your psyche. I had no idea about the lag in pay – it seems your agent would put in the contract payment for services rendered is expected within a certain amount of time after you fulfill your obligations. You are a gifted man, I love your compassion and honesty and kindness. I know these trials will allow you to be enjoy your successes even more. I wish only only the best for you.

  59. Awesomely brave post – thanks for sharing. You describe all the reasons I have never been able to give up a regular job with benefits to pursue creative dreams. I admire you and love your candor. Wishing you all the support you need in 2022 and beyond!

  60. “But because when I look around at all the people who have not had the privileges I’ve had – a supportive family, an incredible education, connections to people in high places, even my ability to pass for white – I have seen so many people even more qualified than me who haven’t reached my level of success. I will not feel shame about where I am because to do so is a sign of disrespect to those who are aspiring to do what I do.

    While the past two years have been stressful, overwhelming, and filled with anxiety and depression, they’ve provided me with a sense of strength I didn’t have before. When you are treated as though you don’t matter, you believe it for a while. And then you get angry and start to rebel against that notion. I know exactly who I am and I know what my accomplishments are – I have worked hard for both. And I don’t care enough about money to let financial instability be a defining factor of what’s happened over the past two years. Money is made up, we agree to abide by it so that society isn’t chaos. But it’s still a fabrication. A fabrication meant to perpetuate, more and more over time, the idea that some people are more valuable than others. That idea is stupid to me so I don’t follow it. So I will not be ashamed or shamed for hitting a financial rough spot.”

    This is some of the most thoughtful, cogent writing I have read. Ever. May I suggest for your next act you run for President? I would vote for you. And no, I am not kidding.

  61. I just want to say I’ve bought two pillows from you (one pillow, one pillowcase) that I love so so so so much. I would buy more of your art and I think moving in that direction is such a good idea. You are so talented. I also love seeing your client work. It’s so inspiring. You are special, and so funny. -A fellow fat bodied person on a permanent diet who gained weight during covid but would also save a fat person first in a fire.

  62. I read every word, and so appreciate you sharing your story. I don’t feel so alone now.

  63. Orlando – Thank you so much for sharing your story in such an authentic way. I will echo what all of these comments say – you are an amazing writer and human and I have no doubt you have a ton of success coming your way. I would love to see you writing more and creating more for your shop 🙂

  64. Thanks so much for sharing. I’ve followed your career for a long time and have always been such a fan. I’m not in the content creation business, so can only speak as someone who’s consuming the content, but I’m increasingly struck by how exploitative it is. Content creators/influencers are being asked to produce magazine worthy content at a fraction of the cost on shady AF platforms (Meta, Im looking at you). All in the name of consumption! In retrospect, of COURSE this is where capitalism would take it. Content creators are exhausted, while I feel like the rest of us are trying to navigate a healthy relationship with social media/our phones/the internet. I don’t really have a way to close this comment other than to say I look forward to seeing the fruits of this period building!

  65. I can relate to so, so, so much of what you’ve written! I’ve also made impossible things happen working impossible hours with no help from family at any point. None. I’ve had advantages and I’ve been grateful, but it’s also been really really hard. I’m just coming out of the dregs of epic burnout following a decade of insanity. Stability really really helped, even though I had to rely on others to provide it. Therapy, a lot of self-development podcasts, a lot of reflection on career choices, a lot of exercise, and decisions about how to live differently have been transformational. Just wanted to let you know that there’s another side to burnout. It’s awful and overwhelming and disorienting and alienating, but you get through it and emerge a wiser person for it. It’s so trite, but these hardships will not last forever (speaking as someone with a lot of financial trauma, too, who sees penury as possible at any point). Hang in there, and things will get better!

  66. Thank you for your honesty. I hope you never have to starve yourself again. I look forward to seeing your next chapter and even if you don’t share it with the world, I hope it brings you much happiness. (Thank you for signing my book with such a personal note even though I wasn’t there to meet you.) May the deity of your choice grant you many wishes in the way you desire!

  67. Yikes, that’s a whole lot! I so appreciate your honesty and transparency. We don’t know what goes on behind the scenes. As someone who has been through financial hardships I truly understand. And it sucks. Some how the roller coaster always goes up again…that’s me being optimistic right along with you! You’ve entertained me with your posts and I loved your show and I’m a 53 mom of three boys (we’ll kind of men now)! HGTV needs smarten up and realize that we don’t need yet another “happily married” white couple showing us the same tile, color and shiplap designs on a different street! Over it.
    I wish you all the best in 2022!!!

  68. I could not love you more. I agree and lament with you on so many of these topics. I appreciate your vulnerability and honesty. We need more folks like you on social media. Thank you.

  69. I’m very appreciative of your honestly and humility in this post. You are being real,
    You are taking ownerships of
    The things you can and trying to learn from those
    Others that your can’t control.

    I would be lying if I felt
    Like I too am
    Also a
    Broken record, I tend to have 1.5 upside years(nothing too comfortable, and three very dark years. My recent darkness
    Stint started end of 2019
    The loss
    Of my home, which in tune turned to the loss of my job right before Covid and since then I have been 1 step
    Forward and 3
    Steps back. I left CA 4 months ago, haven’t slept on a bend since a shady motel in Marin in august when it was too hot for my dogs outside, but I gave a remote job it’s not super great but it’s a job., my health isn’t great. I’ve decided to try not living in CA and it’s still trying. At moments during these dark periods I almost wonder if I’m self sabatoging myself without really understanding

    Keep your head up, that money is going to start coming in, and you will start layering on multiple streams of cash with the airb&b etc and you will be able to stop
    Holding your breath. Hang in there. Money comes money
    Goes, keep that beautiful Pitty girl close, it’s the only thing that keeps me sane.

  70. Orlando, thank you so much for writing this. You are so intelligent and compassionate and insightful. I admire your willingness to share your struggles. I hope 2022 brings you much deserved success and happiness

  71. Just a bunch of love being sent your way…and hopefully your GD money you’re owed too!!!!!


  72. I have been following you since Emily introduced you to the world. I’m so sorry things have been so hard and inconsistent, but mostly angry at the higher ups who don’t respect your work. I love your voice, and your projects, and your humor, and your catch phrases. I look forward to your Instagram stories and content every day. I wish you all the best going forward, will continue to buy stamps from the Fish Camp post office, and take inspiration on how to move through transitional spaces and phases I decorating until one can get to their ultimate goal. I’ll follow along why don’t I forever (unless there’s a scandal, but let’s be serious, I’ll follow that too).

  73. Wow, Orlando. I wish more folks were so honest! These last two years have been so difficult and it’s easy to think we are in it alone, that we have issues others do not. So many people have struggled financially—hearing it spoken about is so incredibly important! I have full faith that you will rebound stronger than ever, with work that makes you feel good. And for what it’s worth, I LOVED your show. It had a warmth and genuine quality that most other shows on HGTV just don’t have. And that came from your kindness and respect for the homeowners you helped.

  74. Thank you for sharing all of this, Orlando. I had no idea that sponsorships worked this way. I’m appalled. And your HGTV show experience – I’m sure no one would dream that this is how it could possibly be. You’ve given me much to think about re my own perceptions/assumptions. I have a feeling that things are going to shift for you. Something happens when we speak our truth to the world as you just did. I believe wholeheartedly in your future success. <3

  75. Omg that was one of my favorite reads ever. THANK YOU for being really honest, down to the nitty gritty. And for the bravery in pushing publish; for me that moment would have been a moment, so thank you for that.

    “It’s absolutely a stupid job.” – I wish I could change the opening screen of instagram to this quote.

    Seriously, I will read and want anything you create Orlando. Very excited for a more Orlando-focused promotion.

  76. Thanks for your honesty, and also for this kind of long, thoughtful, deep writing. I’m sure it’s less fruitful to put this kind of major effort into a blog post than quick IG stories, but you did it anyway to help people feel less alone. You are putting good out into the world. Let’s hope there’s a reckoning coming for this kind of professional exploitation, and others can be as honest as this. Because it takes real bravery to go out on these limbs! Genuinely. Thank you for pushing these conversations.

  77. Thank you for sharing. You’ve touched on so many things that are effed up in this country (maybe the world) – lack of accessible health care, lack of legal recourse for people without a lot of money when contracts aren’t met, the imbalance between corporations and employees/ contractors, the difficulty of having a creative career unless you’re backed by a wealthy family, really lucky, or able to thrive on a couple hours of sleep so you can work a day job while creating. AND body image – I have a little girl who is innately built with cushion / curves, and it makes me newly sensitive to the barrage of useless comments about weight and fat (especially in the 80s / 90s movies I grew up with. I think and hope this is changing). I hope all the support you see here helps, and that fortune swings your way, even though it’s stupid that fortune has to be involved here at all when you are as kind and hard working and creative as you are. Also, I’m glad you’re not dealing with show drama any more, but sad that there are no more episodes coming!

  78. Orlando! So much love. Thank you for making so many so happy – and I hope we see you designing again on television and being properly compensated for the effort.

  79. Thank you for sharing your story! I admire your resilience and persistence and wish you nothing but good things in your future.

  80. Thank you so much. I know what you mean about the weight. I’m there. 100 percent honest— I thought you had been lifting a ton. You look great. We see your grace and humility first anyway.

  81. I appreciate your content, I appreciate this post, I appreciate your optimism and I appreciate your willingness to share the hard stuff. Wishing you all the best and then some.

  82. Always rooting for you Orlando. You’re the most authentic person and for what it’s worth I’ve always considered you a talented designer; not an influencer. Keep your chin up and do you, they will take notice eventually and you can laugh and wave at them as you ride on by 🙂

  83. You are amazing. I appreciate this post, your honesty and vulnerability so much. I’ve gotten so many great ideas and have learned so much from your DIY projects and I can honestly admit I can’t remember one of your sponsored posts. I’m hear for you, your compassion, and let’s be honest, now mostly for Satie, too.

  84. Thank you for your honesty and lifting the veil on influencer culture. As a fellow designer who is experiencing burn out trying to build and run my own company, I needed this honesty! Thank you, thank you, thank you. And yes, we as a culture and as designers need to stop promoting endless consumption. Instead, how about we promote good enough, comfortable and attainable, reuse and repurpose over shit from China?!

  85. I read this entire thing 3 times. The authenticity you shared was honestly so refreshing. It also, selfishly, made me feel less alone. Weight gain, feelings of “what’s next,” and like the stress of the last 2 years are only affecting you is very difficult. Your honesty made me go from really liking you to knowing in my heart of hearts that you will thrive in unimaginable ways very soon. This kind of “influencer” is what the world is craving. What we are all craving. Thank you so much for sharing.

  86. You are amazing. Your career will bounce back, and it sounds like you already know that. Thank you ENDLESSLY for this post. I will support you however I can. I’m going to storelondo now 🙂 you are brave. And an inspiration to so many. Thank you. Fuck the brands

  87. I have a fantasy that I somehow come into a lot of money so I can hire you to come help redesign/reno my new house that needs a lot of help, we become besties and so do our puppies. You and Satie stop by frequently on trips between LA and Yosemite. Yours were the first IG stories I started watching when they became a thing and I love following you for your humor, heart, humanity, and devastating good looks. Plus design skills. And I’ve always felt a kinship to you with your central CA roots.

    Thank you for sharing all of this. Celebrity/influencer culture seems so abstract and confusing for normalville, and your frank discussion of money is eye opening and refreshing. The only thing I missed in this post was how and when you met your new boyfriend, but I get it, this is a complaint post (jk). Looking forward to what’s next and thanks for everything.

  88. Never comment, but had to share my appreciation for you and this post. It was thoughtful, illuminating about how you support yourself (or try to) and always considerate of your position and privilege, and it resonated with so many of us, judging by comments. That financial insecurity stress is real. I also have struggled with believing in body acceptance for others while unable to actually internalize it for myself and have found myself declining invitations whenever I feel bigger. And I know it’s ridiculous and I know the advice I’d give a friend who said those things, but I’ve not yet been able to conquer those negative voices in my head. Anyways, thanks again for sharing this and good luck with whatever you do next!

  89. I read every word and my heart is with you! Even though we’re strangers, I genuinely feel love for you. Your vulnerability I sharing this is so helpful to me and speaks to how strong and courageous and tenacious you are as a person. Thank you! Hugs from afar!

  90. Thank you for writing this. I’ve been following you since before your show. You’ve reminded me that things aren’t always as they appear on the outside. Thank you for the honesty.

    PS – I have a limited edition pillow that you designed and signed…one of my favorite purchases. Take care

  91. Wow, thank you so much for sharing your story and for being so honest and transparent. I loved, loved, loved your show and am sad to hear it was cancelled but I’m glad that you are moving onwards and upwards and taking care of yourself by saying no to greedy companies. I look forward to hearing more from and about you and send you lots of love & light.

  92. Very honest and very brave! Good things coming your way soon I’m sure of it.
    Next post- name the brands!!!

  93. Dang friend that was a tough read. I hate it for you. Being financially stressed is so freaking shitty. The constant weight and anxiety pressing down on you (me). I’m so sorry. I’m glad you are at least putting it out in the ether and am hoping something fantastic will come from that for you. No one should deal with these shitty companies and yes, social just shows the rosy side of life, but who knows how many are struggling in secret. I appreciate you sharing.

  94. Thank you for laying it all out there, Orlando. This was such a poignant and beautifully written account. I applaud you for being so vulnerable and calling out . I hope your story helps anyone who was struggling over the last two years (read: EVERYONE) know that they’re not alone and that better times are around the corner. You are such a light in this world and I wish nothing but the best for you always. Take care and snuggle that cute Satie for me!

  95. I could feel your resilience, power and humility grow and your quality of life expand with each line I read! Not that you weren’t humble or any of the other listed traits before, but we all have choices when we go through theses seasons. You’ve, in a sense, gained MORE by losing so much! Happy for you, and even though I don’t know you personally, PROUD of you❤️

  96. This is literally why I stopped freelancing and jumped over to a design agency. When I found out it was industry standard to get paid 6-9 months after a job (even when I’d incurred hard costs) I realized that just wasn’t sustainable for my mental (or financial) health. Thank you so much for sharing this, sending you all the good vibes that you’ll find some stability in the coming weeks and months. You put so much joy and beauty into the world, may it come back to you ten fold!

  97. Thank you for the a very interesting, honest, open and realistic sharing of what you’ve been going through the last two years! .The information on sponsored content is very eye-opening (and obviously needs to change!). I wish you nothing but more highs in the new year, and if (when) there are downs, I hope that they are short lived and temporary blips to better things. Thank you so much for sharing!

  98. I just absolutely adore how full this comment section is, and all the notes of encouragement and kudos for your honesty, vulnerability, and upmost integrity.

    Financial instability is real, and I’ve often turned my husband to say something along the lines of “we make too much money to feel this insecure.” Ours is also tied to our house purchase and remodel, so I relate to this post very deeply. It really is a shame that we can’t all experience success at the same time, and I applaud you for setting this brilliant base, giving voice the voiceless who are new to influence, and also enduring what must be a pretty awful vulnerability hangover to have shared your story. The best is yet to come… and hopefully it’s less of a roller coaster!

  99. Geez, Orlando. I can’t imagine how stressful it must have been to have to live with so much financial uncertainty for so long. Thank you for being so open and honest. I know it’s a risk when the internet loves to interpret everything in bad faith.
    If you don’t mind me saying so, your agent seems pretty lousy if they’ve allowed you to go unpaid for SO long, and pressured you into taking a job with unreasonable parameters.

  100. Thank you so much for sharing your journey. Anyone in this game at any level knows being an influencer is hard work! You have had a real struggle for sure. I have to say, you need to get ads on your site. I’m sure you get enough Pageviews to qualify. That’ll get you a steady baseline of passive income. If you write blogposts like this, it will drive traffic. Look up the Adthrive network or Mediavine. Good luck with all your new endeavors!

  101. Thank you for sharing with such openness and vulnerability. This was riveting. I read the entire thing twice.

    I’m a big fan, and I’m rooting for all good things to come your way.

  102. I very much enjoyed your instagram page, even bought your book because I enjoyed you so much. But then you went political on your social media. That’s your choice, you’re certainly entitled to your beliefs and to share them however you like. But politics was everywhere, your page was one place to just enjoy something without that crap.

    Until it wasn’t.

    So I unfollowed you. You’re really very talented and funny, but I would love to have just one thing not tainted by politics. I know I’m not the only one. Just my thoughts.

  103. I’m so glad you posted this. It is a riveting read. My straight male husband and I follow your instagram religiously. He is very into firewood cultivation and we’re in the process of building a cabin. We love you and will follow you into whatever happens next.

  104. I have been a “fan” since the early days (I even spotted you at Starbucks while visiting LA many years ago and was starstruck hehe) and I have to tell you this is beautiful. It’s beautiful in its messiness and vulnerability. Thank you for opening up and sharing. We have COMPLETELY different lives but so much of it resonated with me. Situational alcoholism – I get it. It’s huge of you to talk about this. Thank you.

  105. You’re a real one, Orlando! Thank you so much for being honest. There are so many relatable things in your post that I think a lot of us have been through in the past couple years/and as 30-somethings. Wishing you a stress-free successful year ahead! Can’t wait to see what you accomplish.

  106. This was such a beautiful, heart-wrenching, necessary piece of writing. Thank you for sharing the dark underbelly with us. Truth hurts, sometimes. I’ve always loved your blog entries because of your complete honesty, one of the main reasons I have followed you for so long. Yes, you are an incredible designer and artist, but it is your ability to be completely open about all aspects of your life in your writing that keeps me coming back.

  107. Wow – I just love you? I appreciate all the true, eloquent comments written here…I’m glad they’ve been said aloud. But I just feel compelled to say that I’m a random girl in the middle of the Canadian prairies – appreciating who you are.

  108. Orlando, I’ve been following you for several years and have always loved your writing, honest and hilarious at the same time. Millennials getting kicked down the stairs really sums it up ?. I’m not in your field but I can totally relate to not being where you thought you would financially. At 35,I don’t own my own home, little savings but basically live paycheck to paycheck. (At least my paychecks aren’t 6 months late though!) even with an immense amount of privilege it is so hard to get by. It’s not just you, it is a whole generation of people. Thank you for being honest and sharing your perspective. It is totally unfair how brands have treated you and likely many others in your industry. In the wise words of Lizzo, “if he don’t love you anymore, just walk your fine ass out the door!” I wish all good things for you in 2022 and beyond. P.s. Right there with ya friend (along w half the nation) on the Covid weight gain. But remember to be kind to yourself ♥️

  109. And remember… there’s only one of you. All these things you are describing: running a home, running a business, managing your life and health, home repair, etc etc are typically done by at least two people! It feels hard because it is in fact really fucking hard. Remember that when you’re frustrated by your progress or feeling ashamed that it doesn’t look the way other people’s lives do; you are doing ALL of this solo and what you are accomplishing is spectacular and special, and all yours. Xo.

  110. Orlando, thank you for writing so beautifully, so honestly, about what the two year have looked like for you. While I’m not in the exact same situation, the horribleness, the utter exhaustion, the fear is something that so many of us, myself included can relate to. Thank you for also sharing more details about the influencer industry–it gives us as consumers a lot of food for thought about how we engage. Finally, just know that so many of your followers are here because we adore YOU. Thank you for sharing another piece of yourself with us and trusting us with it. Hoping 2022 only goes up for you, and all of us.

  111. A return to the long form, non-sponsored blog post! It feels like 2010, in the very best way. Thank you for this breath of fresh air. Just before the holidays, I gave up the ‘gram. I deleted Facebook last year but finally got rid of Instagram because of a lot of the reasons you spoke about in this post. I’m so sick of the fakery, the curated moments of everyone’s lives that make me or others feel less than great about our own lives. I’m sick of being sold to constantly, encouraged to buy something every few seconds. I’m also just sick of feeling addicted to the scroll and not present in my own life. I gave it up and reading this post reinforces my distaste for influencer culture, but for a new reason I hadn’t considered – what it’s doing to you, the influencers.
    I really hope you are able to find a way out and way to thrive financially and emotionally in these next few years. You deserve it so much.

  112. I love everything about this post. So honest and real. We need more of this. You’ve been a joy to follow on Instagram – I hope you continue to share your story. I know big things will come to you – shining stars always find a way to make things happen.

  113. I loved this post, but I hate what you’ve been through. Keep showing up as YOU! That’s why I bought your book and watched your shows and read here. We need you!

  114. Thank you for sharing your story and being so honest with us Orlando. You being you, is exactly why I have been a fan for as long as I have. It’s a nice reminder that everything isn’t always like it seems. I am 100% sure there are some incredible people who work hard to put shows and content together for HGTV but unfortunately the problem is with the people high up like you mention. They just do what has always worked and don’t realize how much has changed in the world around us. They seem to focus on their demographic of white women who want to numb out in front of a design show. I will never forget the absolute online vitriol (those same ladies) that a huge HGTV talent got when he announced he’d married his husband. I have loved design for longer than I care to admit, like Rate your Room days on HGTV days, and again the nastiness from that space also made my stomach queasy. The real design community doesn’t act this way. It’s sad to see there is no design channel that leans into real design. Your show was a nice departure from the scripted series they’ve used with countless other designers. I wish the big guns would take a chance on the fact that so many people actually want great content (small space, budget friendly, new build, antiques, etc.) that would pay designers their worth and realize the loudest in the room complaining about what they hate (or who they hate) aren’t the only ones spending money. I don’t need to see another flip, or farmhouse style or watch any sort of drama play out like it’s a reality show.. I don’t need designers to be reality stars. I want them to be designers who happen to be someone I want to watch (like you.) Sorry for the rant, I just hope you know I think you’re amazing and I’m rooting for you! It was very brave to share all this with us. All the best!!!

  115. Wow, what an eye-opening peek behind the curtain! You are one the few bloggers/influencers I follow and always, always look forward to your posts. So many have expressed my exact sentiments on your honesty, vulnerability, compelling writing style, awesome design talent – the list goes on. I tend to never comment, but I really wanted to contribute to the support and absolute conviction that there are amazing things in future for you. Continue to believe in yourself and your worth to the design community.

  116. Like the others, I want to thank you for your honest expression of your recent life experiences. I’ve been a huge fan of your’s after stumbling across Hommemaker many years ago. (I’ve basically adopted you as a member of my small social media family – your my OrlanFluencer? – because it’s not a great day without catching up with the goings on of you and Saturday.

    I’m basically a dinosaur (in gay terms) and a gay cliche in my own rarified life experiences (read: my husband and I own both a Noguchi coffee table AND an Eames lounge chair with ottoman!) but I’m not immune to the harsh realities facing the generations that follow us. I’m sorry that promises made have not been promises kept (by either the universe or your sponsors and media outlets).

    As a dinosaur, I’m acutely aware that life is often not what it seems and to hear what your actual experiences have been is so disappointing. But like the others have shared, please know that your previous resilience is a sure sign that you’ll survive this period. And trust that your past accomplishments are a strong indication that you have the potential for even greater acts in the days, months, and years ahead.

    Stay strong,
    Your OrFando

  117. This was so eye opening and relatable on so many levels. Thank you for your honesty about reality TV, and influencer life! Sending you lots of successful vibes for 2022, and payment vibes. Your story is helping strangers in ways you don’t know.

  118. Thank you for sharing this. I don’t really read blogs anymore and maybe it’s because they aren’t written like this: honest, raw and real. I appreciate hearing your story so much and it’s incredibly relatable to the masses, no matter how alone you feel in it. You have many people who are ready to support you in whatever venture you’re in. Keep being you!

  119. Thanks for sharing and being open. There’s always tomorrow. And things will get better. You’re Orlando Soria! You’re already great! ?

  120. Practical solutions are needed. Passive income, such as affiliate links on Instagram and YouTube and your blog?
    I am privileged to have enough income, and really appreciate influencers who sift through all the stores and say I really like this clothing or decor item. If it is something I want or need I am sure to purchase via the link to make sure that they get their commission. I have bought your book ( and those of other interior design influencers) because I wanted to pay you for the amazing online content.

  121. You have a special voice and a depth of integrity that we don’t see rewarded enough in this moment in time. Thank you for sharing your story. I wish I could hire you!! <3

  122. Wow Orlando! Look at everything you have overcome in the past two years! After everything you have been through you still have your sense of humor with a small side of optimism. Bravo! I hope that writing this has brought you some peace, or at least has allowed you to get it out of your head so you’re thoughts aren’t constantly spinning. Your life will eventually get better, hopefully soon. And maybe these lows will make your highs feel even more fabulous. oxoxo .

  123. Wow Orlando! Look at everything you have overcome in the past two years! After everything you have been through you still have your sense of humor with a small side of optimism. Bravo! I hope that writing this has brought you some peace, or at least has allowed you to get it out of your head so your thoughts aren’t constantly spinning. Your life will eventually get better, hopefully soon. And maybe these lows will make your highs feel even more fabulous. oxoxo .

  124. Orlando your work is great. There’s a lot to unpack here but the extremely delayed payments are unacceptable and I’m sure you are getting your share of advice on this but let’s all remind our clients that deposits and advances are an industry standard, and prompt payments to follow. Harrowing tale.

  125. Couldn’t get this post out of my head and felt compelled to write a quick note—I have become such an unabashed fan of yours via Insta (well, originally from EHD.com), and I keep thinking, “How has Orlando NOT become the giant star he clearly is meant to be??” (And also, “ORLANDO DESERVES LOVE,” since I’m an OG fan, remembering that heartbreak you experienced.) To learn about these professional mistreatments—y’all, I’m even more impressed by your creativity, your humor, your incredible resilience. I’m sending you all the good energy, that speaking this total truth and vulnerability brings about all the awesome you deserve—and hoping you will also tell me what to do with my problematic living room. Cheering you on from the east coast, as always.

  126. You’re awesome, Orlando. Thanks for sharing and being so real! You have so much talent. Sending you good juju. You will go far in life. God bless!

  127. Orlando, thank you so much for sharing. I wish I could give you a hug! And thanks for talking about what it’s like to be an ‘influencer’. It always does look cool and glamorous; I guess we should have all known there was more to the story. Wishing you all the best in 2022 (and beyond!).

  128. Thank you for being so vulnerable and sharing so much about your life.

    This has been so eye opening for me in many ways. I’ve learnt a lot and I feel empathy for you but also such admiration at your resilience.

    I look forward to hearing about your next chapter.

  129. Hi Orlando,
    Thank you so much for sharing this post. It must have been hard to write. On a personal level, I have gone through (am still going through) very difficult jobs and job searches too. I feel the effects every day of being a single income person. The world is not kind to us in many ways. And the weight of Covid is so intense.
    I believe you are sharing your tv show experience at the right time. The press that is getting more attention now is about people left with unfinished and financially devastating construction and decoration from some of the most famous shelter celebrities. It says volumes about you that you are still in touch and friendly with people who appeared on in your show. You did not abandon or mislead them, even at great personal cost. I admire you for that.
    Good for you for getting proactive with your agents and managers. It’s always been a too-good-to-be-true situation with most of the makeover/decor shows. Clearly they succeed by exploiting the talent and exploiting the end users. How cynical.
    On a business level, I want to tell you that as far as I am concerned, there are two shows where I know I can trust the quality, design, and execution: This Old House and you.
    I am hearing from multiple generations about a fatigue with shoddy construction and lousy quality products that look pretty.Those are intangibles that really require trust from consumers. We are so easily exploited.
    I wonder if there is a way you can build on your credibility, maybe with a subscription type of blog, where you can integrate quality into what you recommend. I believe there is a real thirst for that kind of knowledge.
    I hope that you truly find more kindness to sustain you. You are a brave person
    With kind regards.

  130. This was so heartfelt and real and you are a National Treasure. I’m sorry for your ebbs, and I believe you’re firmly wading into your flows. I wish you the best and have so enjoyed following you and your trials and triumphs for the last decade-ish. This post shows you are clearly a GOOD person and I firmly, firmly believe in karma. Thank you for sharing.

  131. The self-critical lens that you bring to the conditions of labor and its impact on workers’ health is so beautifully articulated here. There is so much elegance to your honest reconsideration of your values. I really appreciated this accounting.

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