Near or far, a mother's love is unwavering….transcending boarders, boundaries and timezones. Sophie understands this more than some; New Zealand became her home when she was just 3 years old. Moving from South Korea with her family, Auckland became her home, until the GFC turned her family life on its head.
After this monumental change, Sophie learnt to navigate life solo.
Her chosen family became her support network and knowing she had friends who would show up for her kept her going.
Sophie shared her story and opened up about what she inherited from her mother, who she turns to for support and why she loves being a DINKWAD (IYKYK).
Tell us about yourself, your journey and what led you to become the woman you are today?
My name is Sophie, I'm the Founder of Chatty Media and work across three women's publications in NZ (Chatty Chums, M2woman and WOMAN+) and I also dabble in social as a content creator.
I've been in the media industry for nearly 8 years but it feels like I'm only just getting started since the growth of Chatty Media! I know I don't only speak for myself when I say that our twenties feels like absolute clueless chaos!
I've always been very into beauty and fashion which runs in the family. My mum was a beauty therapist for many years so I was very into skincare and beauty from a young age.
In terms of wanting to become an editor, I was heavily influenced by my cousin, who was the Beauty Editor of Allure and Marie Claire magazines in Korea. When I was a teen, I was able to play with a huge variety of beauty products and learned how to apply makeup via Michelle Pham - remember the OG beauty YouTuber?!
Because I loved design and was an absolute machine at maths and physics (not all Asians are good at this topic btw), I studied Architecture at UoA but the conservative nature of the industry didn't suit my extroverted personality - I don't do well bound by my desk 9-5 - so I handed in my thesis early and jetted off to Korea for an internship at Marie Claire. I guess that's where it all started!
Tell us about your mum. What you admire about her, what you love about her.
My mother dearest is a force to be reckoned with. She's extremely charismatic and a natural leader so people flock to her for friendship and advice. She's also incredibly accommodating, protective, kindhearted and full of Buddhist wisdom so her advice is succinct and direct, which I love. She's a lioness and I feel so safe when I talk to her.
Has your mum always lived overseas?
My mum, dad and I moved to NZ when I was 3 years old and they moved back when I was 18 because the GFC took its toll on my dad's construction business. Looking back, I realise how hard it was for me to figure adulting out in a snap after being raised in a very sheltered home. Talk about abandonment issues!
This world is a really difficult place to navigate and even more difficult when doing it alone with a very minimal support system. However, I'm very glad that I learned it all hard and fast because apparently, according to Stacy, I am fearless. It doesn't feel that way but I have found that not sweating the small stuff is a really big thing to understand and practice.
It takes a village to stay sane, support you and prop you up. With your mum so far away, who do you have here in NZ?
Firstly, my partner Sam has had his fair share of insane Sophie but it goes both ways! We've been together since we were 24/25 years old and you know what boys in their 20's are like... We work together on Chatty Media so we work, play and rest together - we're basically joined at the hip which may seem like the worst nightmare for a lot of couples but it works really well for us! He's been such a great support person both mentally (as I am well aware that I can be intense and run at 100 miles per hour) and with work as he's the one who does all the nerd stuff that would make me pull my hair out, like making websites, ads and SEO.
A lot of my best friends are scattered around the world (brain drain!) so it's hard when they abandon me here. I'll be meeting up with so many of my friends during my upcoming U.S. and Europe trip and I'm so so excited!
But I can hand-on-my-heart say that I have some truly incredible friends who come through for me when I'm in need of support and Stacy is one of them.
Whenever I need to vent, she's there for a good rant and she's one of those friends who will send you flowers or a care package when s**t hits the fan and you're really down in the dumps.
How long have you and Stacy been pals? Where/ how did you meet?
We were introduced to each other by the awesome Anne Kemp Buttar who was in PR at the time. She thought we would get along and we did! Stacy lived in Welly so we messaged and called a lot and the first time we met, I thought Stacy was the most hilarious person I've ever met. I remember she kept on asking why I was laughing because she was just being her and I was in hysterics. This still happens often when we're on the wines. She's very honest, curious and wears her heart on her sleeve which I found to be endearing, pure and relatable because I'm also jarringly honest and have an innocence when it comes to having high expectations from people - it's an only child thing.
What brought you both together?
A few things! Social media is a weird place to be in. It can get really toxic - the mental strength to put yourself out there as a preener and poser is quite the hurdle and once you get over that stage, the spiraling narcissism can get to peoples' heads quickly. Stacy and I had each other to figure out this insane reality when we were younger. I don't care for the social aspect of it and focus only on my own work which has been bloody great! Perspective is everything!
We're also quite ambitious and we chatted a lot about our big dreams and goals. I went through a stage of being ridiculously obsessive about generating real wealth via passive income through property. It's all I would ever think and talk about.
I was so over working a 9-5 for someone else on rubbish pay and needed to figure a way out of this miserable system. I think what really solidified our relationship was the fact that Stacy shared the same qualms as myself and we were both ready to sacrifice the finer things in the interim to achieve more down the track.
"If you will live like no one else, later you can live like no one else.” - This quote by Dave Ramsey was what I lived by when I was slumming it with rats and roaches to save money for my house deposit. The media industry may look glossy on the outside but your bank account, not so much.
Tell us about your fur baby Bonnie. Her name, her sign, her favourite snacks…we want to know it all.
Bonnie is a not-so-little lass - in fact, she's got her period right now and my house is a shambles! You wanted the info, here's the TMI! haha
She's a rescue so I'm not sure what her breed is and we think her birthday is early October which makes her a Libra? I've never looked into our compatibility but I shall!
Stacy was fostering Bonbon alongside 13 other very small pups. While she was away in Sydney for Auckland anni, we had Bonnie for the weekend... and she never left. We fell in love with how chill, lazy and affectionate she was. The other puppies we met had an insane amount of energy but Bonnie was just a cuddly little thing giving smooches all the time.
She loves brisket and steak the most - who doesn't? Greek yogurt and cheese are also strong contenders in the snack department.
How would you describe her in 1 sentence?
Bonnie is a friendly, cuddly, unabashed, confident yet submissive creature who loves naps and snacks. But also, we're hoping she'll be a beast of a guard dog.
SABEN - What bag have you chosen and what drew you to this one?
The Tilbury Tote. Maybe it's a 30's thing or maybe it's just the big bag trend that's making waves thanks to the resurgence of Goyard - a lightweight yet capacious bag is what I am all about! I love a small 90's handbag to bring together a cute fit but with a tote, you can carry everything and anything that you need for your day - laptop, thermos (you must stay hydrated!), snacks, makeup bag, battery pack, chargers, etc,. The Saben Tilbury Tote is made of a gorgeous leather and you can wear it with absolutely anything from the ultra-casual going-to-the-supo in a baggy t-shirt and carpenter pants look to the unbeatable float-into-the-office in a crisp white shirt and black pant duo.
We asked Sophie's chosen NZ based family Stacy Middleton a few questions about Sophie.
What does your friendship with Sophie mean to you?
My friendship with Sophie has developed a lot over the years, from first meeting back in 2016 in-industry to where we are now, 7 years later. A couple years into our friendship we took an unforgettable whirlwind trip to Melbourne that brought us close, but what really bonded us was regular calls and chats in the lead up to my wedding in 2022, and post-wedding we’ve become inseparable. Sophie and I feel like we were made for one another, even though our differences are few, we’re definitely one another’s yin to their yang. I’m not that spiritual when it comes to horoscopes, however, it turns out our zodiacs are exactly opposite from one another, so we’re quite literally sister signs, the perfect match.
How would you describe Sophie in one sentence?
Sophie is driven, fearless, outgoing, unafraid to take control of a situation, which can be baffling to strangers she first meets, because when she’s glam, she’s also the most beautiful chick in the room. (Can I just say again on the public record how I think Rebekah needs to do her wedding makeup exactly like the shoot!)
What do you admire most about her?
I think what ties us together the strongest, is that we both have an unwavering moral compass. We tend to both be justice warriors, albeit for different causes. Sophie is someone who’ll give it to you straight, (sometimes too straight if you catch my drift haha) who isn’t afraid of telling you how she really feels which I think is invaluable. For any friendship to grow and thrive, there has to be an element of confrontation, otherwise neither party can ever grow, let alone grow together.
I see friendships as ever-evolving mirrors, helping us all better ourselves. Sophie may at times be the bearer of bad news (I’m regularly half a decade behind the fashion trends and was recently caught saying I was never going to buy into the resurgence of dresses over pants, to Sophie’s dismay) but she's always there to support me, and is a friend that can bring you out of your slump - or in my case, fashion faux pas, and is there through thick and thin.
We're both committed to safe and nurturing familial structures, but balance one another out as we’re equally opposite on the pole split of feeling versus thinking.
SABEN - What bag have you chosen and what drew you to this one?
I’ve chosen this streamlined tote because we’re going to Europe and Sophie made the point I’d need something lightweight, but big enough to carry a thermos or jacket in - I’ve been using it the past couple weeks and love it! It’s also perfect as a professional piece When I go out and showcase material samples to my clients.
Spoil them with Saben this Mother's Day - Shop Saben New Arrivals.