It has been 10 years since the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge got married in a lavish ceremony watched by billions of people at Westminster Abbey in April 2011, and during their decade together they have been a fixture of support and love through their domestic and royal life.
They have formed a solid family, participated in hundreds of engagements, backed many charities, traveled around the world on official missions and survived the ups and downs of royal life — including the scandals around their royal family — with admirable discretion and poise.
Love, support and learning together
The wedding of Prince William and Catherine Middleton was led by the Archbishop of Canterbury and was attended by 1,900 guests, including foreign royal family members and heads of state. Well-wishers from around the world also flocked to London to witness the spectacle and pageantry of the Royal Wedding.
“The wedding was watched by 17.6 million people in the U.K. and two billion worldwide, including thousands of royal fans who travelled to London to try and get a glimpse of the couple on their special day,” the BBC recalled.
As the prince explained in a BBC documentary; “Me and Catherine, we support each other and we go through those moments together and we kind of evolve and learn together.’
Discretion and glamour
Kate Middleton and Prince William, who are globally admired for their discretion, good sense and glamour, have three children: Prince George, who was born in July 2013, Princess Charlotte, who has just turned six and Prince Louis, who is three years old.
To mark their special anniversary, the Cambridges issued two new portraits taken by photographer Chris Floyd earlier this week outside Kensington Palace in which they appear happy and at ease.
Agreat family video montage
The pictures were also posted on the Royal Family’s social media accounts, along with a new video posted on their Instagram account thanking the public for their support and congratulations: “Thank you to everyone for the kind messages on our wedding anniversary. We are enormously grateful for the 10 years of support we have received in our lives as a family. W & C”
The video shows the family of five enjoying time at the beach and at the grounds of their family home, Amner Hall in Norfolk, laughing, playing together and toasting marshmallows over an open fire.
Peter Strebel knows a thing or two about hotels. He has 30 years of experience in the hospitality world and previously served as chief marketing officer and senior vice president of sales for Omni Hotels & Resorts before becoming president.
Strebel is responsible for repositioning Omni in the luxury hospitality space especially when it comes to developing brandwide property standards for its convention center hotels and resort portfolios.
He shares his thoughts on travel in 2021, the company’s growth plans and how to plot the way forward after a year of such turmoil.
Are you noticing any trends in travel right now?
Among growing leisure demand, we are noticing a large uptick in seniors traveling since many have been vaccinated. Using data from our senior discount rates and comparing the first two months of 2020 with 2021, Omni Amelia Island Resort in Florida saw a 137% increase in sales by “baby boomers” while Omni Hilton Head Oceanfront Resort saw a 25% jump in bookings. There are pockets of demand that are ready to travel now.
We are seeing our Texas hotels starting to experience an uptick in small meetings. Not by a lot but there is some upward movement. Arizona is also doing well – our Tucson and Scottsdale properties are seeing some spikes in group bookings. Southern states seem to be rebounding first when it comes to group travel.
What is Omni’s current growth plan?
We’ve been heavily focused on group and convention center hotels for over a decade now alongside building up our resort portfolio. As we emerge from this crisis, we must be forward-thinking about our brand strategy and portfolio offerings.
In an effort to deliver a consistent guest experience, we sold five hotels. Pursuing the potential sale of assets that no longer align with the direction of the brand was a part of our strategy pre-Covid.
In the near term, we are predicting that 100% of our profit will come from resorts (leisure travel). Long term, we are seeing a trend in the right direction toward meetings.
The pandemic was challenging for group business, but it was an opportunity for us to be creative with our offerings and think outside of the box. “Here Comes Omni” from our sales team to test our Omni Safe & Clean protocols and stay connected with clients. During one week in October, the Omni team traveled 5,115 miles in an RV stopping at 15 Omni locations to show customers how Omni is ready to safely host meetings and events.
During that same month, we implemented a social distancing “filter” to the meeting and event pages on hotel websites, which allow users to book event space at Omni based on the number of attendees. Users can toggle between standard, moderate and strict settings while viewing new meeting space diagrams and enhanced visuals. Omni was the first hotel group to offer such a feature.
How is Omni addressing virtual and hybrid meetings?
We’re all at different comfort levels right now. The new “Ready, Set, Go Hybrid with Omni” program, designed via customer feedback, brings a new level of production quality and technology support for our customers’ presentations, small meetings and hybrid events.
How important is food and beverage for Omni?
Like our design process, it’s important that we’re tying into local cuisine and resources to ensure the highest quality and creativity. We’re proud to locally source food products where possible, too. For the launch of Minneapolis’ Omni Viking Lakes’ culinary program, we worked closely with Ann Kim, a Minneapolis-based, James Beard award-winning chef. Her menu is the highlight of the hotel’s Kyndred Hearth restaurant.
At our newest hotel, Omni Oklahoma City, we partnered with accomplished corporate chef and restaurateur, David Gilbert, who now serves as the executive chef there. Gilbert’s menus have turned heads all over the world in international competitions. The property has seven culinary offerings, all of which are regionally inspired, which includes Bob’s Steak & Chop House, already receiving rave reviews.
Why does Omni look for sport arenas and convention centers in new markets?
Leaning into large sporting facilities and event spaces – in addition to resorts – is our way of assuring continuous growth in multiple markets beyond business destinations. When we choose a city to build an Omni hotel, a professional athletic organization in town is the “cherry on top.”
These organizations allow us to bring our luxury hotel experience to the affiliated team’s mixed-use development highlighting a “live, work, play” model that has proven successful. These partnerships include Omni Frisco Hotel with the Dallas Cowboys (opened in 2017), Omni Hotel at The Battery Atlanta with the Braves (opened in 2018) and Omni Viking Lakes Hotel with MV Ventures, the development arm of the Minnesota Vikings (opened last year).
In May, we’ll also break ground on Omni PGA Frisco Resort, (slated to open in spring 2023), in partnership with the PGA of America and the City of Frisco.
What is the design process like for a new hotel?
Including regional culture in both new and existing properties is a part of the Omni DNA. Hotel decor draws inspiration from the landscape, the city’s current economy, as well as its history. We want locals to feel at home while those traveling from elsewhere get a sense of place.
In our newest hotel in Oklahoma City, every aspect of the design was pulled from the state of Oklahoma in some way, from the earth tones meant to represent the layers of earth, to the cowboy and oil-inspired features of the bar and lounge. The hotel’s Mokara Spa incorporates one of Oklahoma’s most prolific resources, cotton, into its design look.
What is Omni’s “Say Good Night to Hunger” program?
Omni is committed to helping the local communities in which we are located. The Say Goodnight to Hunger program, launched in June 2016, is our partnership with Feeding America that helps to provide one meal for every completed guest stay. To date, nearly 18 million meals have been donated, and all 60 Omni properties participate by supporting food banks and pantries in their areas.
Livestreaming e-commerce, where an influencer/expert hosts a live virtual shopping experience, is ablaze in nations such as China, raking in billions of dollars as an alternative to in-person shopping—an alternative that accelerated during the pandemic. The influencers or hosts “entertain and inform” while allowing viewers to make a purchase during the experience without leaving home. Now, a UK-based start-up called OOOOO aims to bring the entertainment commerce phenomenon to the wine and spirits industry with the launch of their own live-streaming app that includes a network of channels featuring experts and where everything you see is for purchase. They are presently the world’s biggest owners of .tv domain names, ranging from Cosmetics TV and Perfume TV to Handbags and now, the soon-to-be launched Drinks TV. The primary launch will be in the UK (and soon after Brazil, the US, Israel and Australia)
Founders Sam Jones (formerly of Accenture and Wish) and Eric Zhang (formerly of TikTok) are convinced the e-commerce moment is here. Says co- founder Sam Jones, “Amazon is a lonely place to shop, a place to transact, not to be entertained. And advertising on Facebook costs the earth.” According to Jones, “influencers are transitioning into retailers and shopping malls will become studios. COVID destroyed retail permanently.” He believes the OOOOO bet on entertainment shopping will go all the way into the vineyard, brewery or the distillery. Jones has secured the talents of WSET Educator of the Year, Karen Hardwick, to run the Dinks.TV channel. She’ll recruit experts to stream live from various locations, delivering an educational and entertaining offering that also offer a purchase option, a bit like a documentary film with a BUY button. The hope is that smaller producers without big marketing budgets can reach consumers, tell their story, and bring the viewer into the experience.
Nelson views Drinks.tv as a way to tour far-flung wine regions with an expert, or visit a distillery and have a live chat with the master blender—and then buy what they are making. Other plans include a feature called Hot or Not where the community is asked in real time if they like something as well as scheduled happy hours for the community with experts mixologists and winemakers.
The momentum is there as OOOOO started their first channel, cosmetics.tv, in November of 2020 with 100 brands selling on the platform across two merchants. Now they are No. 1 in UK Shopping Top Charts on iOS in January of 2021—as of this moment the OOOOO App has 200,000+ users.
Whether or not wine, bourbon, and beer lovers will transition their beverage shopping to live-streaming remains to be seen, but Jones and the team at OOOOO are primed to be the leading providers. May 20th they’ll launch from a vineyard in France.
At 19, Chloe Green may not be the youngest U.S. teen to buy a home, but she is among a select group of Gen-Z homebuyers who are hoping the trend takes off.
Green, who grew up in Columbus, Ohio, closed on a two-bedroom, two-bathroom condominium in Canal Winchester on April 22.
Since posting her story on Facebook, Green said many young people have opened up about their homeownership dreams, asked for advice and thanked her for being an inspiration.
“You’re never too young — or too old — to make your dreams come true. When people read my story on social media, they will post responses like, ‘I’m next’ or ‘I’m going to beat that record.’ I say, ‘Yes, please do.’ There are a lot of young people doing great things, and we need to promote these stories and send positive messages about the benefits of owning a home,” she said.
In addition to juggling two jobs, Green is a psychology major at Franklin University.
No, she doesn’t want to be a psychologist. “Everyone asks me that. I’m interested in psychology because of my work with children. I want to be better at my job and learn more about how the brain and the emotions work together,” she added.
Green started dreaming about buying a home when she graduated from high school at 16. Having secured a job, the teen began building credit, opened a Roth IRA and started to save. By the time she started looking for a home in November, she had saved $20,000.
“I planned to buy my first home by my 18th birthday, but then the pandemic hit, so I had to adjust my timeline. Once I missed that first goal, I became even more determined to buy at 19,” she said.
Why buy? “I wanted to build equity and generational wealth and knew that buying a home would help me reach my goals. I also wanted Chloe’s place, my space, my area and somewhere that I could call home,” she added.
While she’s not alone, Green is ahead of the curve. According to the NATIONAL ASSOCIATION OF REALTORS® 2020 Profile of Home Buyers and Sellers, 3 percent of home buyers were between 18 and 24 in 2020, and the average first-time buyer was 33.
Green’s Godfather, Bobby Mitchell, sold a home with help from Julian “Zeus” McClurkin, 34, an agent with Golden Gate Real Estate in Louis Center, Ohio, and a member of the Harlem Globetrotters. Mitchell suggested that his Goddaughter start looking at properties on real estate websites, send listings that interested her to McClurkin and start viewing homes.
McClurkin joined the Harlem Globetrotters in 2011. However, when COVID furloughed the team in March 2020, McClurkin, who was expecting his first child with his wife, had to pivot. So he took his real estate exam and started helping clients buy and sell real estate in April. Green’s Godfather, the pastor at her church, was McClurkin’s first client and spread the word about the young agent.
“Pastor Mitchell marketed me to his entire sphere of influence, and Chloe, who is his Goddaughter, is somebody he trusted me with. The rest is history,” McClurkin said.
Green and McClurkin looked at about 40 to 50 homes from November to March. Still, with a seller’s market driving demand and limiting viewing availability ahead of contingency offers by other buyers, the hot market created challenges. The duo lost every offer but the last one.
“Everybody tells me this is the craziest market they’ve ever seen, but it’s the only market I’ve ever known,” McClurkin said. He plans to continue selling real estate and return to the Harlem Globetrotters when they start touring again. “My schedule with the Globetrotters is very flexible,” he noted.
Initially, McClurkin thought Green was in her early to mid-20s. He found out her age while speaking with Andy Beigel, who originated Green’s loan through NFM Lending in Columbus.
Because Green had proof of income, tax returns for two years, assets and a solid credit score, she qualified for a $185,000 loan.
“Andy told me we got the approval, and I asked him, ‘Does it say here that she is 19?’ He said, ‘Yes.’ But Chloe is a bit of an anomaly because she doesn’t act young, even though she’s 19. She is very coachable and teachable and came to me with a bit of knowledge about real estate. She had done some research. She also came with some knowledge about money — how to save money and build credit, which are skills I didn’t have at 19,” McClurkin said.
Green’s best advice for young people who want to buy a home is to start planning early.
“You are never too young to start building credit. I got on a family member’s credit at a young age. Once I had some credit, I got a secured credit card and paid that off every month. Then, I got my own credit card and paid that off every month. For parents who want their children to buy a home at 18, it is crucial to think about creative ways to build a credit history. Also, start saving. Instead of eating out, cook. It doesn’t matter if it is a dollar here or there; just start saving. If I hadn’t started saving, I wouldn’t have been able to buy at 19. The Roth IRA forced me to save. That money was locked away. I took out $15,000 without any penalties for the down. But if you start saving, the sky is the limit,” she said.
“I turned on the notification buttons on Apps for Zillow.com and Realtor.com and got enrolled in the MLS [multiple listing service]. Sometimes I would see five houses in a day,” she said.
The process took its toll.
“The uncertainty of not getting my offers accepted was hard. When I started looking in November, I had momentum and was fired up, but by March, it was disheartening. Not knowing whether it would happen and if a home was the right for me was the biggest challenge. But I kept believing that if the house was for me, I would get it,” Green said.
The hunt for her dream home ended on March 22 when Green, who typically gets up at 7 a.m., got a 5 a.m. notification about a 1,132 square-foot condominium listed for $159,900. As she scrolled through the pictures, her excitement grew. She reached out to McClurkin. They put in an offer of $165,100 with a 30-day close.
“Finding that house was a miracle. The home was in the heart of Canal Winchester, which is where I wanted to live, close to all my favorite shops and restaurants and 10-minutes from work. So I called Julian to arrange a showing. As soon as we stepped through the door, I just knew this was the one. We had looked at three houses the day before, and I was starting to feel like I had to settle on something, even if I didn’t love it. But as soon as I walked in, I knew this was the one. I love the closet space, and a girl has to have a lot of closet space,” she said, laughing.
“It has a two-car garage and a large side space in the garage with room for games and events so that I can be the ultimate host. Also, the neighbors came over to see me, which is great because being so young, you want to be in a safe community,” she added.
When McClurkin called to say she got the home, Green was delighted. Her $900 monthly mortgage is less than the $1,300 she was paying in rent for a two-bedroom apartment.
“After being told no so many times, I couldn’t believe it. I was super excited,” she said.
Moving forward, Green plans to pay off the home as quickly as possible and move onto the next property, “a rental or an investment property. I know the first one is the hardest. But I am passionate about building generational wealth,” she added.
Green got the keys on April 22 and is painting and furnishing as she prepares to fully embrace Chloe’s place.
“My favorite space is probably the guest bedroom. I have a small business that is local right now called Coco’s Creations, where I make gift baskets and party favors for every occasion. I have been labeled the best gift-giver in my family. So that second bedroom will be my home office,” she said.
“When I was renting, I didn’t even know the people I was paying. I felt like I was making someone else rich when I could be investing in Chloe. People have lots of New Year’s resolutions. This year, my main goal was to invest in myself and take care of myself in all areas of my life — whether investing in my house or my emotional health, taking care of me was my No. 1 goal. When I saw that my mortgage payment was less than I had been paying in rent, I thought, this is what taking care of Chloe is,” she said. “Instead of paying so much more, I can take the extra money and do something else, whether it is investing in the stock market or taking a vacation or saving for an investment property. It hasn’t been easy. I stood by and watched other people get houses, and now I feel like this is my time. I did it.”
Medina Spirit did indeed “move well” over Churchill Downs’ track, as his famous trainer Bob Baffert said he would at the beginning of the week, to win the Kentucky Derby with a time of 2:01.02. Mandaloun placed, and Hot Rod Charlie, very much among the first tier of favorites, showed. Medina Spirit went off at 12-1 and paid a handsome $26.20. Mandaloun, who admirably duked it out with Medina Spirit in the last eighth of a mile, and who briefly assumed the lead before losing it to Medina Spirit’s furious stretch run, paid a flat $23.00, and Hot Rod Charlie, long among the top favorites, paid $5.20 in show.
For his part, the race’s favorite, Essential Quality ran a decent-enough fourth, after having to recover from a bad bump at the break between him, and, predictably, the race’s ebullient second-favorite, Rock Your World. The lightly-raced Rock Your World didn’t even hit the board, but one has the sense that the collision he caused will be a lesson to him.
Medina Spirit brings Bob Baffert his seventh Kentucky Derby win, the most by a trainer in the race’s one hundred and forty-seven years. With seven Preakness Stakes victories, three Belmont Stakes, and two Triple Crowns to his credit, Hall of Fame trainer Baffert hardly needed any help in the record book, but the win cements his status as America’s greatest trainer, period.
There was a delightful quotient of admiring disbelief in the winner’s circle, even among Medina Spirit’s closest connections, and specifically between his beaming trainer and jockey, Baffert and John Velasquez. Baffert looked frankly surprised, as if his leap into the solitary position of the Kentucky Derby’s winningest trainer had yet to sink in.
“Johnny Velasquez said to me last night, don’t underestimate this horse,” Baffert said. “I knew he was an overachiever, with his heart bigger than his body. But he reminded me a little of Silver Charm, he just wasn’t gonna let anybody pass. For a $45,000-dollar horse, I am so proud of him. “
Perhaps Medina Spirit’s jockey, John Velasquez put it best: “This little horse was ready. You just put him in the game and let him do what he needs to do. Every time I asked him he gave me more. He was fighting.”
First it was toilet paper. Next, it was disinfectants, followed by face masks and other personal protective equipment. Then, it was a whole array of different items, ranging from yeast to condoms to kettlebells to jigsaw puzzles to aluminum cans, not that all of these items are necessarily used together at the same time. Now the latest shortage that the U.S. is facing is, let’s pool our guesses together: chlorine.
Yep, throughout much of 2020, it seemed like every month another household product was in short supply. Things that you had assumed would always be available suddenly disappeared from store shelves and online sites. Often, the shortages occurred simultaneously. So planning that jigsaw puzzle, bread baking, and condom theme party could have been challenging. At times, last year, it may have felt like the only thing not in short supply was angst. After all, the Covid-19 coronavirus pandemic essentially ripped the cover off of many existing weak links in our society, including deficient supply chains, like you might rip the plastic packaging off of a One Direction figurine box.
The latest shortage is chlorine, which can come in the form of tablets, powders, and liquids. Chlorination may sound like something you do when you put a crown or tiara on someone’s head. But instead it is the process of putting the right amounts of chlorine in a swimming pool, a hot tub, a jacuzzi, or basically any similar container of water where your hot bod may go. Chlorine is important because swimming pools and similar receptacles can otherwise be filled with algae and dangerous microbes like cryptosporidium, legionella, and brain-eating amoeba. In general, it’s a good idea to stay from anything that has the words “brain-eating” such as brain-eating politician, brain-eating cat, or brain-eating pizza.
The shortage appears to be the result of two issues. One is that the pandemic has seemed to boost demand for chlorine. This is hopefully not because people are injecting and ingesting chlorine. You should never inject or ingest any such cleaning material. Instead, the increased demand may be due to the pandemic limiting some traditional indoor recreational options like standing in a crowded bar yelling “dude”, “wooo”, “YOLO”, and “what the bleep did you just say” to each other. As a result, folks may be opting for other at-home or outdoors recreational activities such as using swimming pools and sitting in jacuzzis while yelling “dude”, “wooo”, and “YOLO” at each other.
The other issue is supply. As reported by Liz Hampton and Jessica Resnick-Aultright for Reuters last August, the Biolab Lake Charles facility in Louisiana erupted into flames after Hurricane Laura hit. This led to the shutdown of one of the major chlorine suppliers until the spring 2022, leaving only two current manufacturers of chlorine tablets in the U.S.: Occidental Petroleum and Clearon Corporation.
Relying on just three suppliers for anything is risky, which is essentially what happens when industries move more towards monopolies. Imagine being told that you only have three options of dates: the guy who posted the shirtless selfie while holding a fish in his hand, the guy who posted the shirtless selfie while holding the even bigger fish in his hand, or the guy who posted the shirtless selfie but forgot the fish. Or perhaps the woman who wants you to be shirtless and hold a fish in your hand, the woman who wants you to be holding an even bigger fish, or the woman who is holding a picture of a guy who is shirtless and holding a fish in his hand. Ultimately, having a greater number of options will help better maintain quality, lower prices, redundancy should demand increase, and the possibility of dating someone who doesn’t post shirtless selfies.
All of this means that chlorine prices will probably jump up and anyone with a swimming pool, a hot tub, a jacuzzi, or a water park may not be able to get all the chlorine that they want or need. Therefore, be extra cautious before entering any such recreational water area that you yourself have not maintained because the operator could be skimping on the chlorine. Check to see if the water looks dirty or if insects seem to be having a “gender reveal” party on the water. Certainly if a mass of algae in the pool asks you “how you doing,” the water probably does not have enough chlorine in it. Make sure that the pool, tub, or water park is being regularly inspected by officials (and not just hedgehogs and squirrels) and has a proper filtration and cleaning system in place.
Moreover, do what you can to keep the pool or tub clean. More dirt and contaminants may mean more chlorine is needed. So, try to shower before entering the pool or tub. This may not be the best time for that “One Hundred People in a Hot Tub” party. Or to invite that “Showering is a hoax” guy into the swimming pool. Keep other animals like dogs, cats, and honey badgers out of the tub or pool. They can carry even more microbes because they essentially run around naked all the time without showering.
You may want to consider alternatives to using chlorine. Of course, one of the alternatives should not be, “don’t use anything” or “use ketchup instead.” There are other options such as saltwater, ultraviolet (UV) light, and other systems to keep things clean. However, just because someone comes up with a fancy name like “Jar Dabs” for a pool cleaning system doesn’t mean that it actually works. Don’t try any new system without first consulting with real swimming pool professionals. It’s not a great idea to experiment on yourself and others with a new system and then ask everyone afterwards, “hey, that was some fun time in the pool, right? By the way, how are your eyes, ears, and intestines doing?” Even worse, you don’t want to end up in the emergency room, saying, “guess that cleaning system didn’t really work on microbes.”
Scrolling through social media you might come across one of Galey Alix’s popular design reveals—a complete surprise renovation and redesign of a home that she does in a single weekend. After a family reaches out to her on Instagram, they leave her with their keys and their credit card for the weekend. Yes, they trust her blindly. And if you are one of her almost 4 million followers on TikTok and Instagram (and counting), you might already know this isn’t her full time job. Galey is an executive at Goldman Sachs based out of Florida. Because of her day job, she has to fit all of her home renovations into a 72-hour-turnaround each weekend. When Monday morning comes, she’s back at work… perfectly timed with Wall Street’s opening bell.
Though it might seem like Galey is exactly where she belongs, this is not at all where she imagined her life would be. In fact, she was supposed to be married right now and living in her dream home in Connecticut. A home she purchased with her then fiancé and spent every weekend for a year flying to and from Florida to work on by herself. Once she finished their 10,000 square foot home, she planned to leave Goldman (a career she loved), while also parting with her life, home, and family in Florida in pursuit of starting a new one with her new husband.
At the time, Galey thought her life was great, maybe even perfect, but what she was showing on social media was not her true reality. She says, “I honestly believed I was living my dream life, just like I portrayed on Instagram. I had this handsome fiancé, a successful career on Wall Street, a beautiful home and cute dogs and, you know, life is perfect. But deep down, I was dying with my eyes wide open.”
Just weeks before her wedding, Galey revealed the truth behind her internal battle to the one person she thought she could trust. A battle she had never addressed out loud before, even to herself. She told her then fiancé that she had been struggling with an eating disorder and needed help finding a local therapist. Galey explains that it got to a point where felt she would die from her eating disorder, internal angst, or from depression, so she had to do something. She believed at the time, “I don’t know which is going to get me first, but if I don’t do something about this [now], I’m not going to be here much longer.”
Instead of receiving comfort or support, her then fiancé responded by asking her how she could do this to him and how she could “get sick and still let him love her.” He felt like she had been lying to him, which Galey admits she had of course been lying, “because I was lying to myself, too. I kept telling myself everything was great. I had it all under control. I didn’t.”
No less than an hour after this conversation he had her pack a suitcase, get her 2 dogs, and leave on a plane home to Florida. When she landed, she became acutely aware that she couldn’t do it herself anymore. She acknowledged that what she was doing, portraying her life on social media and to loved ones as perfect despite struggling on the inside, wasn’t working. It left her without a fiancé, a job (she promised him she’d resign from Goldman before their wedding, so she did), and a home. She describes it as rock bottom, but lower. She says, “They say graves are buried 6 feet under the ground right? I felt like I was buried alive in a cave somewhere below those six feet under the ground. It was so low and so dark, I couldn’t crawl out no matter how hard I tried. I lost everything I worked for, and all at the same time.” She knew she needed to try something different.
That ‘something different’ was mental health treatment. Her only previous interaction with the mental health system was a therapist briefly in college that she went to because her mom asked her to go for her stress. This time, she went to therapy and actually put energy into it, for herself. She saw an eating disorder therapist and a nutritionist who specialized in eating disorders. She knew she needed to “tackle it head on” and went to 2-3 sessions a week for several months. She says, “I was hyper focused on how do I make sure that the next chapter in my life doesn’t end the same way the last chapter did because I never want to go back there.”
When she emerged from her treatment, she felt calmer and less of a need to control everything around her, because she no longer felt out of control. She was also able to keep her job at Goldman. This was the official start of her next chapter. And then, feeling mentally strong enough to, she finally logged back onto her social media for the first time since her breakup. It was then that she discovered the old videos she posted of her redoing her home in Connecticut had gone viral. Hundreds of strangers were privately messaging her asking for her to come fix their homes, too. She thought, “Instead of staying home and feeling sorry for myself this weekend, I should say yes to one of these kind strangers and see if that makes for a better weekend. What do I have to lose?” This was the unintentional start of her surprise-design weekend business and explosive social media growth. One might even say, the start of her personal Empire. But, perhaps most importantly, it was when she realized how much helping strangers love their homes might actually end up helping her.
She explains, “Saving their homes is actually what saved me. It made me feel like I had something to live for again. Even though I wasn’t able to get married and start a family of my own, I am instantly adopted into the families whose home I am working on. I am getting to transform their houses into that “family home” I was trying so hard to create in Connecticut for myself and my ex-fiancé, but wasn’t healthy enough to. It’s like my pain found its purpose and its purpose is to help others. And now I’ve got a healthy outlet for the creativity I’ve always had burning inside me but never unlocked.” Without realizing it, this became her new therapy.
You wouldn’t know it looking at her finished products, but Galey has no design experience, has never watched a design television show, nor had a Pinterest account. Her childhood habits, however, speak volumes. For example, she tells a story about how she would play with Lincoln Logs not by actually playing with them but by stacking them, color coordinating them by length and width in their bin, and then organizing the rest of the toy closet so it would look “pretty” when she set the bin back where it belonged. She played by organizing her toys and then putting them away, always in an aesthetically pleasing way. From a young age, designing presented itself as an outlet for her perfectionism, and a healthy one at that.
Galey explains, “It allows me to take the weight off of trying to pick myself apart and make myself perfect. Today, I put all the energy I was putting into tearing myself apart into picking a room apart because that I can get perfect.” This has been particularly helpful in the pandemic, which would otherwise be very isolating for a single person, leaving her alone with just the thoughts in her head, void of distractions.
The surprise reveal (the moment she reveals the newly renovated home to the trusting homeowner on Sundays) also helps her mental health. She says sometimes she even looks happier than the homeowners in her reveal videos. She explains, “I am just so grateful to be alive and having that experience with them, in that moment. I’m getting to witness seeing someone genuinely happy first-hand. This is how I started finding my self-worth and my value again. How I started believing I am worthy of being kind to my body, taking care of myself, and most of all, that I do have something worth living for.”
Today, Galey has fixed over 100 spaces for dozens of clients and now she is averaging over 10,000 design requests every 7 days. About a year ago she booked 5 years worth of clients and stopped taking on new projects. However, Galey’s clients believe she is worth the wait and from every satisfied customer, it is clear they are right.
Being in such a different place and feeling healthier and more aware of her own mental health struggles, she has also realized that part of what she can do is use her social media influence for good—making it about helping people and her passions and not about airbrushing and photoshop. That’s one reason why you will only ever see her wearing a baseball cap and mostly T-shirts; she wants the focus to be on what she creates, not how she looks. She also has learned to be honest and vulnerable, like she is being here, and talk about the things she is struggling with and how she has turned her failures into opportunities. For example, she wants people to know that even though her reveal videos look like perfection and she is so proud of the finished product, the work takes a lot out of her. She is very candid about how mentally and physically exhausted she is by the end of the weekend. Her last install took 3 days and she only slept about 2-2.5 hours each night. On the last night, after crawling up the stairs to her bedroom, she tried to shower and her feet hurt so badly from standing for nearly 72 hours straight that she laid down flat on the tile floor to wash her hair, physically on the ground. This exhaustion is why she doesn’t do reveals every weekend and only does one or two a month. The other weekends she uses to prep whichever five projects she has running simultaneously.
She emphasizes, “I don’t regret the physical toll these weekend installs take on me. I love it all, but I want to make sure I’m not downplaying how difficult pulling this off is. Just because I’m doing something I am passionate about doesn’t mean it always jives with happy Taylor Swift lyrics. It is hard work, it is manual labor, it pushes me to my absolute physical and emotional limit. But if you do what you love, you push through because you know it’s worth it. Because it is.”
Ultimately, though her life is not at all what she expected, it is a different kind of fairy tale, you know, the kind where the princess saves herself from the tower.
She adds, “I just feel so fortunate, so grateful. This weekend surprise-design side hustle is so much more than a business. It’s the path that led me from being deathly insecure to discovering how to believe in myself and own my worth. It’s how I unleashed my passion so that I could unlock my purpose. To say I’m grateful for the pain I endured to get here is an understatement of epic proportion.”
It was official before it was official, but the 2021 Kentucky Derby is, and has been for a while, up for grabs. Race day has a way of opening a race by pressing on it — meaning, to level it, whether for today’s favorite Essential Quality or for any other of the favored horses in the field. That means that they all come face-to-face with their vulnerabilities to their fellow competitors. In short, it’s a horse race and a hard one at a mile-and-a-quarter with twenty highly strung Thoroughbreds gunning it for the $3 million wating at the line.
That sort of weight can be helpful, as shown yesterday by the handle as the odds on Essential Quality came down — presumably as a result of Jim “Mattress Mack” McIngvale placing all or part of his threatened very large bet on Essential Quality’s nose in nebulous to-be-decided amount between $2 million and $4 million. His odds tanked down into Secretariat territory and then, by the closing of yesterday’s card, showed a measure of resilience in righting themselves and snuck back up to a somewhat realistic 6-5.
Again, the crux of this is that no one — no trainer, jockey or horse-whisperer — has been able to inform Rock Your World, Highly Motivated, Known Agenda or any other of Essential Quality’s lesser rivals of the roller-coaster that the two-legged beings seem to be riding with the favorite’s probabilities. A very good thing.
Before we bring in the Bluegrass Wise Man to help us hone what we think about who might take Essential Quality down, a primer on this Kentucky Derby’s especially entertaining odds, both live track and the morning line.
Suffice it to say that esteemed longtime Churchill oddsmaker Mike Battaglia’s odds will be put under some stress today.
We will update the live odds below until post time.
Post Postion, Horse, Live Odds, (Morning Line)
1) Known Agenda, 16-1, (16-1)
2) Like the King, 57-1, (50-1)
3) Brooklyn Strong, 55-1, (50-1)
4) Keepmeinmind, 53-1, (50-1)
5) Sainthood, 43-1, (50-1)
6) O Besos, 45-1, (20-1)
7) Mandaloun, 40-1, (15-1)
8) Medina Spirit, 15-1, (15-1)
9) Hot Rod Charlie, 7-1, (8-1)
10) Midnight Bourbon, 15-1, (20-1)
11) Dynamic One, 45-1, (20-1)
12) Helium, 51-1, (50-1)
13) Hidden Stash, 39-1, (50-1)
14) Essential Quality, 6-5, (2-1)
15) Rock Your World, 9-2, (5-1)
16) King Fury, 20-1 (SCRATCH)
17) Highly Motivated, 16-1, (10-1)
18) Super Stock, 46-1, (30-1)
19) Soup And Sandwich, 30-1, (30-1)
20) Bourbonic, 33-1, (30-1)
(Source: Churchill Downs, 4/30/2021, 4:09 a.m.)
With no further ado, here’s the Bluegrass Wise Man.
Let’s bear down on Rock Your World. He’s the big boy. Do you look at him and think he’s the man, the way you did with Justify?
Bluegrass Wise Man ™: Don’t think so. Similar in that he’s big and he just wants to run, but I don’t see that extra thing in him that Justify had at this early point in the Triple Crown Season. With Rock Your World, it’s more about his lightly raced status — he didn’t even race as a two-yeare-old. And let’s not forget his very recent transition to dirt. I mean, the first time he ran on dirt, he won the Santa Anita Derby. Not too shabby, and, just thinking about his pedigree, he should be on dirt. They made a good decision. My question about him would be, does he just hafta be up front? In the Derby, it helps if you can take back and then bring a run. So let’s say he doesn’t get a good break and he has to find his spot in the traffic. Is that going to break his mind into a thousand pieces? We don’t know. He’s not confronted that because he just has not raced very much. Three races, all in the front. God only knows. That said, I really like him. Like his energy, looks good, runs fast. I’m gonna use him.
Bluegrass Wise Man ™: Take some of the top five — Rock Your World or Highly Motivated and Midnight Bourbon, and then take some from the second tier — I like Mandaloun — and then box the hell out of ’em with everybody in the field, for a fun trifecta, for instance. Like that. It’s always a boxing year at the Derby.
Do you think Mattress Mack will cause a “flight” from Essential Quality?
Bluegrass Wise Man ™: Jury’s out on that one, but bottom line, no, people who come to the Derby wanna play. It’s bigger than Mattress Mack. I think we saw some resilience yesterday in the pool. But I don’t know what Mattress Mack actually did yesterday, or what he will do today. I can say that race day traditionally a long, long roller-coaster ride until post time, so in that sense, I’m not sure Mattress Mack is accomplishing anything but hedging his bet down in Houston on all those $3000-dollar Posturepedics, or whatever he’s selling.
Move on Highly Motivated for us.
Bluegrass Wise Man ™: Not as fond of Highly Motivated right now as I am of Rock Your World, and don’t quite know why. I mean, he did lose to Essential Quality in the Blue Grass, but he only lost it in the last sixteenth, and he ran a hell of a race that day. I was there, and I liked him in that race. But I guess I have the same questions about him as I do about all of them, can they really take this? Hell, all of them are unproven in one way or another. Meaning, the distance, and especially this competition, this field. Sandwiched in between the also-rans on his outside and Rock Your World and Essential Quality, two stronger horses to his left, Highly Motivated will absolutely have to have a good break. And he’s got to keep it together up the backstretch and into the far turn even to have a prayer. Patience, in other words. I think this is what’s got the trainers worried about pace. Pace is complex. It has to be somewhat reasonable for ’em to have anything in the tank in the last eighth. If one of these front-runners comes out blazing, it stands a chance of burning some or most of ’em out.
There’s a common misconception in the car market that you need to buy the range-topping model or trim package to have any hope of a great ownership experience. While it is true that upgrading in some circumstances makes sense, there are times when the base model choice is a fantastic car in its own right. Cars like the Porsche 911 GT3 RS, Subaru WRX STI, or even the Toyota 4Runner TRD Pro are all categorically great vehicles but they’re built on fundamentally capable base models. You can also add the Mercedes-AMG G63 to that list, because the G550 is a remarkable experience, even if it is just the “base model.”
The G550 starts at a very lofty $132,000, but for that, you get a strong twin-turbo V8 good for 416 horsepower and 450 lb-ft of torque and a genuinely competent off-roader housing it. And, despite tipping the scales at 5,660 lbs, the G550 can dust off the sprint from 0-60 mph in 5.1-seconds, meaning it has no problem getting up to speed on the highway. It also sounds damn good doing it too.
Take the G550 off-road and the plethora of electronic controls, drive modes and three locking differentials mean you can get fairly ambitious with the terrain you want to tackle. Granted, the G-Wagen has adopted a more urban-dwelling reputation in recent years, and highway driving isn’t the boxy behemoth’s strong suit, Mercedes can still claim to have a very serious off-roader in its fleet with the G-Wagen.
The “lesser” of the G-Wagens has always made a case for itself in that it maintained off-road chops where the AMG surplus of power isn’t always needed. However, going into 2021, Mercedes is opening up the G Manufaktur program to the G550, affording customers an elevated, custom experience. Though the particular example I had for a week was Deep Green over saddle tan leather, there are 34 different exterior colors and 54 interior upholsteries to choose from.
Let’s face it, most 2021 G-Wagens will never leave paved surfaces and most of the G63’s 577 horses and 627 lb-ft of torque will sadly go unused. So what then are you really spending an extra $25,000 on for the AMG model? The G550 is now more customizable than ever through the G Manufaktur program. It comes with guaranteed performance on rougher roads and basically identical handling to the G63 around town. There’s no getting around it, that $25,000 goes towards the badge and bragging rights.
More and more drinkers are switching up their consumption patterns, be it full-on teetotalling or taking more breaks from boozy nights.
This shift in consumer behavior has fueled massive growth in the low- and no-alcohol categories, beckoning in new brands and drumming up exciting category innovation. Beverage analysis firm IWSR expects the category to increase 31% by 2024.
The IWSR just released a report assessing the performance of both categories in ten key markets (Australia, Brazil, Canada, France, Germany, Japan, South Africa, Spain, UK and US). Collectively, those countries make up 75% of the global consumption of no- and low-alcohol beverages, according to IWSR data.
Overall, no-alcohol is outpacing the low-alcohol segment. In these ten key markets, the no-alcohol category increased +4.5% over 2019 and 2020, while the low-ABV segment declined -5.5%. IWSR cites the decline is caused by the poor performance of low-alcohol beer in Western Europe.
IWSR defines non-alcoholic beer, cider, wine, spirits, RTDs and alcohol replacements as products that contain less than 0.5% ABV. Low-alcohol beers and ciders contain between 0.5% ABV and 3.5% ABV, while low-alcohol wines check-in under 7.5% ABV.
Though both categories are driven by overarching health and wellness trends, the no-alcohol category is showing more impressive growth globally. The IWSR’s findings note consumers are largely looking to take an entire break from alcohol, switching between regular drinking nights with full-strength alcohol and ‘nights off,’ where they opt for non-alcoholic options.
“Consumers are able to moderate their alcohol intake by enjoying sophisticated products while still having the occasional full-strength drink. Moreover, consumers who choose to abstain from alcohol, or moderate their alcohol consumption, are still able to remain part of the drinking occasion,” remarks Sophia Shaw-Brown, senior insights manager at IWSR.
When it comes to low-alcohol propositions, consumers seem confused; unsure of how to serve low-alcohol spirits or wary about how many drinks they can consume before, say, operating a motor vehicle. They’re largely lacking that educational outreach and experience.
“Consumers don’t necessarily know that an alcoholic spirit brand normally sits at 30-40% ABV, so they don’t always know what a 20% ABV spirit means for a gin brand, or how a 20% ABV spirit might relate to a 5% ABV wine or a 1% ABV beer,” explains Shaw-Brown.
Diageo-backed Distill Ventures noted similar feedback in a report released in January, finding that without the educational teachings of bars and events, the sober-curious are not being indoctrinated into the low-ABV world as quickly as in the pre-pandemic times. “As these brands become more visible and well established and the quality improves, there is a real opportunity for growth in low-alcohol,” describes Shaw-Brown.
Nonetheless, spirits giants are starting to offer lower-alcohol offerings of familiar favorites. Smirnoff, Ballantine’s and Beefeater all sell lower-ABV alternatives to their flagship bottles.
It’s not just the Dry January partakers, the sober or the designated drivers that are reaching for no- and low-alcohol beverages: it’s a new slate of health-minded millennials. According to IWSR consumer research, 58% of no- and low-alcohol consumers report they still drink but in moderation. 58% of consumers are drinking more non-alcoholic beverages than last year while 61% of consumers want better choices when it comes to NA drinks.
So why aren’t these health-conscious drinkers opting for low-alcohol beverages?
Shaw-Brown points out that much of the confusion is because low-alcohol brands focus on health rather than moderation. “Brands in the low-alcohol space tend to have a healthier, ‘better for you’ premise, rather than being completely about moderation,” explains Shaw-Brown. Low-alcohol brands that target consumers looking for that moderation have the opportunity to recapture attention.
While the no-alcohol segment is performing strongly overall, individual markets are interacting with both categories differently. American consumers prefer low-ABV products over no-alcohol proxies. Specifically, low-alcohol wine has captured 86.8% of market share compared to its no-alcohol counterpoint. The ‘clean’ wine trend, one that originated in the US, is fueling this performance.
On the flip side, the UK heavily favors no-alcohol spirits. The market share of low- and no-spirits in Australia and Germany is evenly split.
One promising new avenue for the no- and low-alcohol segments? RTDs.
Non-alcoholic beer has been around for ages, but non-alcoholic canned cocktails have been slow to grow. While it’s a small segment of the RTD sector, the category shows promise, particularly as the NA shift and hard seltzer crazes algin.
Of the 10 key markets studied, the US is the low-alcohol RTD market leader, with low-alcohol RTDs making up approximately 70% of the country’s no/low RTD segment.
With major brand funneling money into both the RTD and the NA category (Canadian-owned non-alcoholic brewery Partake drummed up $4 million in funding while CleanCo secured $12 million. Diageo recently acquired a minority stake in Ritual Zero Proof), it will be exciting to see what the next year of releases brings.