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REDACTED, OR IS IT “PINK-ACTED”: A Glimpse of Ms. Morristown

Interviewing an influencer holds a certain appeal. It involves associating with someone well-known — as the appellation implies, someone with influence.


Ms.Morristown LOKLcafe

 In this case, there is a catch-22: this influencer, Ms. Morristown, is anonymous. 


What we can say is, her real first name is BLANK.


BLANK does not go about broadcasting her identity and the TMI-level details of an otherwise-average life. Instead, she has one agenda item: 


To discover joy and flavor in as many Morristown locales as she can and share it with the town’s 20,000 residents and beyond. 



MEETING THE MYSTERY

We sit in a narrow office at the end of a dark hallway. My recording captures every word, but I imagine having to disguise her voice, like on TV news shows when they need to conceal a person’s identity from their own family. 


Imagine the contrast between that image and the sparky and alert young woman seated in front of me—bright-eyed and smiling in a pink sweater, bluejeans with a white side-stripe, and pink high heels—while the knowledge of all the little food and drink nooks, workout studios, parks, bookstores, and events in our immediate vicinity threatens to overflow.


Ms. Morristown may not be on the run, but she’s wanted.


To her more than 20,000 followers, her impressions are essential. To store-owners and shopkeepers—the only active possessors of her identity—her business means business.


And that pink Ms. Morristown logo means one thing: 


“You’re being noticed...!”


AN ANONYMOUS PUBLIC FIGURE


Anonymous fame isn’t her only contradiction, either. (She’d probably take issue with the word “fame,” but it’ll do).


A few other things about BLANK. She:


Is a self-made entrepreneur....who had help. 


Enjoys being recognized and having influence....but as a ghost, a phantom, a persona. 


Her brand color is pink, but her favorite color is green.


What’s behind it all? That’s what I hoped to find out while keeping her true identity a secret. After all, therein lies her brand.


And even though more than half of her followers would approve of Ms Morristown revealing her identity, BLANK admits that sustaining the mystery for as long as possible has its benefits. 


And its drawbacks.


“I NEVER SET OUT TO BE AN INFLUENCER”

If you think about “influence,” books like How to Win Friends and Influence People, The Prince, and The Art of War jump to mind. Humans love to control each other. Maybe this is where some of the negative connotation originates, before Mark Zuckerberg was a glimmer in his robot parents’ dot-matrix eyes.


Here’s an opportunity to ask an influencer about influence. I blurt the question out from my list verbatim:


“What is the role of influence today, not during the age of the Robber Barons or the Renaissance, but right now?”


Eyebrows raise, then slowly narrow. What kind of article is this going to be, exactly? Some kind of tabloid book report?


Am I going to tear her down? Diminish her profession? Exploit all of the Millennial stereotypes for clicks? 


I would be worried too if I was in her shoes. She offers up an answer, considered, but not convoluted.


“I don’t like to think of things on a society level. People have the choice to assign meaning to what they want to be influenced on or who they relate to. I think when we try to say what influencers mean in society, you’re going to get a lot of opinions on that.”


She tilts her head, falls silent, and smiles. For all she knows, she has outwitted me. “Very diplomatic,” I say. “Basically what you said is that it’s purely subjective.” 


She’s not wrong. But clearly she needs some warming up, some ingratiating if I want to get to the truth. Her truth.


Let’s lighten the mood. Is Ms. Morristown your only job?





Ms.M. works full-time in the medical sales space. She pursued a master’s degree in psychology and clinical counseling in order to become a Licensed Professional Counselor. 


There were jobs in the field, but after finishing her master’s, she was burnt out. Something new was needed but she wasn’t sure what, so she did was we should all do more of:


She tried things.


“I bounced around.” Finance. Tech. Jobs most people would kill for. The struggle soon turned inward.


“I thought something was literally wrong with me because I couldn’t find anything I liked.”


“One day I was in a cubicle and I thought to myself, ‘I can’t believe I have to come to the same place every day and sit here for eight hours and no matter how hard I work, I will always get paid the same.’”


It’s possible to feel grateful just for having a job. Any job. I’m sure she was. But “I was never one to settle with anything: careers, relationships, et cetera. Being authentic has always been important to me.”


Authenticity. Is that the feeling we get when we sip a Chaggachino and stare passively through a cafe window? When we dream at night, or spend time with people we really trust?


Is BLANK—a person who conceals her identity from the public—being authentic with me right now? 


Ms.Morristown

Was I even talking to her....or to Ms. Morristown?


Let’s find out. What do you require in order to be authentic?


 “I get my energy from people and environments. I’m a Projector.”


A Pro-what-er?

A Projector. It refers to BLA NKBLA NKBLAN, an online personality test. According to Google: 


Projectors represent ~20% of the population and are here to guide humanity in the work of building the world. Projectors can see what is possible for us and provide their wisdom and leadership to help direct our work.


Ohhhhh. Leading, inspiring, helping. It’s almost like she was meant to be in sales, meant to be an influencer. Good places to be authentic.


“Meant to be” is my wording. That implies a destiny-type belief system.


But she doesn’t dismiss it. “I’m definitely pretty woo,” she laughs. “Like I have crystals in my house and that kind of thing.”


So she woke up one day, saw the sunlight breaking through the clouds a certain way, and realized, “I should be in sales!” And because she was “meant to be” that way, it just happened on its own! Simple, straightforward, like falling dominos. Right?


Not at all. “I was at a point in my life where I felt very alone. I needed some help.” 


WHAT? So this now-self-employed, self-made, self-realized businesswoman, who built an audience from nothing in the influencer space, ALL WHILE working full-time in a very different industry, needed help?


This help “was a career counselor at REDACTED. Her name was Ginny. I said to her, ‘I’ve worked in marketing and tech and finance and I don’t know where to turn.’ And after a short confab, she said, ‘I think you belong in sales.’”


“Ginny redid and repositioned my resume, pulled out what little sales skill I had, coached me on the whole interview process.”


BLANK becomes very quiet for a moment. “I haven’t talked to her in probably ten years.”


“But you remember her.”


“I remember her. She helped me.”


“And you sought her out.”


“I did. I was twenty-five years old and burnt out, and I was like, I can’t do this for another twenty-five years.”


Amen to that. Is it possible some of our greatest minds are misspent thinking that needing help is a weakness? 


It’s not a weakness at all, she says. “I was struggling. If I wanted to take it to the next level, I couldn’t do it by myself.”


The same attitude would later drive her to build a team of freelancers. And this is how Ms. Morristown bought BLANK a house.



THE ME GENERATION

Ms.M is a young millennial, as am I. “A lot of people called us The Me Generation.”


She smiles quizzically. “They did? I never heard that before.” 


Yes, because we started the trend of posting about ourselves online and taking selfies and stuff. What does an influencer, and a successful one, think of that?


Her voice intones a slight sneer. “This is the first time I’m hearing that, and I think it’s pretty obvious that I don’t feel that way considering I don’t post [pictures of] me.”


Exactly the opposite, right?


“I don’t resonate with that at all. I can see why they’re nicknamed that because it’s like, ‘let me take a picture of my coffee.’”


We’ve all done it. Coffee, sushi, dogs, beaches, sunsets...


“I feel like the generation before us is like, who cares what you're having for breakfast? No one cares!”


She looks up and to the side into the fluorescent ceiling light, a wince without crows-feet creasing the otherwise smiling face. Metanoia at work. 


“I guess maybe I can see it. There are narcissists in every generation, though. There are always going to be people who don’t have the self-awareness across the board regardless of when they were born.”


That is undoubtedly true.

If you think about it, around that time—the late 2000s—the world was expanding and shrinking simultaneously. 


The internet was a chance to connect with everyone on earth. At the same time, the Starbuckses, Barnes and Nobleses, and Walmarts of the world were crushing our small local businesses. Netflix DVD was suffocating the video store. Cellphones were slowly killing the landline, the letter, the doorbell....


We watched one great distance replace another, all while reeling from still-recent current events.


“I think all of the Me-Me-Me stuff was our generation's way of trying to connect with people.”


“Mmmmmm. Mmhm.” 


Nod, smile, fist-bump. Thank you, Ms. Morristown. You made me feel seen much more than a Like.


ANONYMITY: ME WITHOUT “ME”

In 2018, BLANK was thriving in sales, established, safe, and happy. It was time to pursue a creative outlet. Hence, Ms. Morristown was born, initially as a blog. “I shared my Morristown life: where I went for happy hour, for coffee, et cetera. And people were clearly interested in it.”


So why be anonymous? 


“I just never felt the need to show myself.” 


There’s clearly a benefit to a brand; mystique goes a long way. And yet people need to fill in the blanks.


“I’ve heard the gamut of things. ‘Maybe she’s twenty-two, maybe she’s in her forties, maybe she’s blond. Maybe she doesn’t work, maybe she’s a stay-at-home mom.’”


Of course, some folks fill them with their own insecurities.


“Some people assume I have a face for radio. I’ve gotten DMs saying, ‘you must be so ugly. That’s why you don’t show yourself.’”


How does that feel?


“I just laugh. First of all, internet trolls are a rite of passage. When I got my first one, I knew I’d made it.”


And second of all?


“You’ve got to be your biggest cheerleader”


The thing is, she knows she’s not ugly. Her IRL friends say she should show herself just to prove these haters wrong.


“But I’m like, who cares what they think?”


She has the power to ignore, encased in a protective shell. As Hepburn said of Tracy, she hides in her art.


Power and Anonymity. Are they fraternal twins?


“Freedom is a better word than power,” she says.


“I walk into BLANKBLANK and see the owner, and they know me, but the people sitting across from me at the bar...they might follow me on Instagram, but they don’t know me.”


“I like that.” She rolls her eyes at her admission but does not curtail it. “I like flying under the radar sometimes.”


Does she ever feel the urge to reveal herself? To get that recognition, that credit for bringing so much to the Morristown community?



“Never, no. I don’t know if I have that ego. Once I held an event at Morris Museum, ​​called Party Like A Rockstar. Just a social event, like 200 people. Probably all of them followed me on Instagram. When it came time to thank the sponsors, I had an MC do it. I’m not going to go up there and say ‘I’m Ms. Morristown! Thank you for coming to my party!’”


But some people knew it was her, from the pink extensions in her hair. If they asked her, “Are you Ms. Morristown?” she’d say yes.


“I wouldn’t lie,” she laughs. “I’m not Batman!”


Of course, that’s exactly what Batman would say.....!


THE GIFTS OF GAB

We know what Ms. Morristown has given her community, but what has she given BLANK?


“I created Ms. Morristown at a time when I felt very alone.” She pauses; is she going to ask me to pause the recorder? No; she pushes on.


“Despite the fact that I was in a relationship, I was very alone.”


“So I started going out more, doing things, capturing things. That gave me a sense of community and things to look forward to. And ultimately it gave me this.” 


Suddenly “there was this vast, endless opportunity and mystery which excited me and gave me energy, it gave me light. It gave me an outlet to get through that dark and lonely time in my life.”



What would BLANK tell someone who also feels very alone or scared or lost in life?


“I would say find something that makes you curious and just dive in. If you’re in a space where you feel like something is missing or you feel alone or you just know you’re meant for something else, whatever gives you that little inkling or hint...just explore that. ”


But how do you know what that is?


“I really believe you have to listen to your gut. Your gut just knows. It’s hard to listen to that voice sometimes and I think society teaches us to push it down a lot and just keep going. There’s so much noise around us every day. We’re so inundated with so much information that it’s hard to figure out what that voice is even saying. So just give yourself space to listen.”


With that, she takes a breath, pulls out her phone, checks IG.


Then, she looks at me expectantly, as if to say, “any more questions?”


Plenty. 


But at a certain point, maybe some mystery in life is a good thing. It encourages us to wonder and discover, and maybe even find that version of ourselves that is happier, healthier, more fulfilled, supported, and free.


Story: Mark Ludas @aulos.media

Photos: Peter Stog for LOKL cafe


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