Name: Makenzi Koyen
Age: 24
Occupation: Actress
Hometown: Seattle, WA
How many years have you been living in the city? 10 Months

"Identify the essential. Eliminate the rest. "

Why did you decide to move here? 
had recently moved back to Seattle from LA for personal reasons. I was actively pursuing my acting career while in Seattle but I didn't see myself permanently planting myself there just yet. I knew I would eventually get comfortable and want to find something new; be challenged again. I started working for the retail company, Totokaelo, and when I got word that they were opening a store in New York, I jumped on the opportunity rather quickly. It happened extremely fast-- one minute I'm living my life in Seattle and then a month later I was moving myself across the country. It was completely God driven because New York was never in my own plans, but now having been here, I can see why it was in His.

How do you believe the city has influenced you as a person? As a creative?
I've moved around a lot and lived in many different places but New York has by far been the most challenging adjustment, physically, mentally and emotionally. I have grown so much having only been here for 10 months it completely blows my mind. It's definitely influenced me as a person by helping me stay in the moment and not second guess myself. This city keeps me humble for sure. I'm more grateful than I've ever been in my life. I'm more aware than I've ever been. I feel like I don't take things too personally anymore simply because I rely on God for everything and find my identity through him. I came here in pursuit of an acting career and yet being here has made realized why I want to act and what it was that's been holding me back and since then I feel like that part of my life has skyrocketed. It's allowed me to see that I am enough and I can love who I am and not feel bad about it. 

What's something your time in NYC has taught you that you don't believe you could learn in any other city? 
Identify the essential. Eliminate the rest. Living in NY is like living in a time warp. Time moves so quickly here, I lose track of days and weeks more than I ever have before haha. Bottom line is, you quickly learn how easily time can be wasted and I don't want to waste any more time doing things that don't matter. I'm not perfect, obviously. I'm still human and I get distracted (I suffer from serious FOMO) but I really do try to ask myself "What is the purpose of what I'm doing right now" If there is no purpose, I probably shouldn't be doing it. I've always considered myself an authentic person, but New York has brought some things about myself to the light that I didn't realize I was hiding from. I feel like this city is like a really good friend. You know, one of those friends you have the best time with, but they don't sugar coat anything. They keep it real, call it "tough love" if you will. That's what living here has been like for me. I've discovered my strengths, my weaknesses, why I'm doing what I'm doing and what my priorities are. The things you do here on a daily basis and go through, many people wouldn't want to put up with. In my opinion, you have to be a decision maker, a go getter and organized in order to thrive. I don't think any other city could shape me the way New York has. It's a tough place to live. I feel like many people move here and are like "yeah this is how it's gonna be" but New York quickly shuts that down. It's definitely it's own beast and you really just have to surrender to the city and stay in the moment. Just go with it. 

Describe NYC in 5 words: Magnificent, Exhilirating, Tumultuous, Unpredictable, Cathartic

X Makenzi

#WHYNYC no.02: Alexandra Collins, 24, Director/Screenwriter/Actress

Name: Alexandria Collins
Age: 24
Occupation: Film Director, Screenwriter, Actress + a bunch of other things
Hometown: Tallahassee, FL
How many years have you been living in the city? About 2.5!

"In my dream world I'll always be able to call NYC home but travel often for work and leisure."

Why did you decide to move here?
I decided to move here to professionally pursue a career in the film industry.. And that's what I've been doing.

Do you see NYC as a destination or a 'stepping stone'?
I see it as both actually. In my dream world I'll always be able to call NYC home but travel often for work and leisure. This place has so much to offer that I'd hate to leave it behind for something else although I am interested in exploring life in other places on a deeper level. 

How do you believe the city has influenced you as a person? As a creative?
am constantly being inspired by the city. By observing how it moves and also in how I interact with it. I have so many amazing people that influence my creativity and also getting out of the city and exploring Connecticut and Maine with friends has been helpful. I've grown all around by moving to New York. Especially since I moved here at the age of 22, a lot of transformation has occurred. 

What's something your time in NYC has taught you that you don't believe you could learn in any other city?
That I am stronger than I thought. I grew up pretty sheltered in Florida and have had many intense, crazy, beautiful and challenging experiences here. I don't think they'd happen in the same way or I'd learn the same lessons if I had them anywhere else. 

Describe NYC in 5 words: Home, Heart, Speed, Passion, Intensity. 

X Alex

#WHYNYC no.01: Michael Groth, 28, Interior/Industrial Designer

INTRO; In the last few months, I've started a personal photo project, entitled #whynyc - interviewing and documenting 'city transplants' I've met here and there. Coming up on my seven year anniversary in the apple myself, I've started to have the thoughts (I'm assuming) we all do once we get antsy in our current state, or state.

Growing up in Kentucky, I can remember spending hours upon hours daydreaming of my post high school self - finally free and skipping the few streets from my New York studio apartment, down to Central Park to enjoy my morning coffee...which I now know translates to a 99 cent paper cup of joe around the corner of my Brooklyn apartment (but hey - I'm now down to only two roommates!) I always looked to this city as a final destination. I had made it. This is where I would grow up and end up. But years later the very things that used to excite me are now becoming too expensive, too crowded and just plain tiring. Sometimes I just need a little reminder of how much I love this city and all the ways it has changed my life, for the better! - and this project was born.

All of us - the majority of my friends - have traveled to this bizarre land for a different reason, with a different end game. Has everyone had a similar experience to mine? Has everyone had moments of doubt? Moments where they'd do anything to trade 'show time' for a quiet car ride through the country? Has everyone become numb to paying five dollars a pop for caffeine? I'm always looking for a way to max out productivity during a good coffee date with a friend. Michael, a designer whom I met through a freelance gig, became my first victim. Here's a quick tour of his life story and his amazing office space he custom designed himself.

Name: Michael Groth
Age: 28
Occupation: Interior & Industrial Designer
Hometown: Los Angeles, CA
How many years have you been living in the city? 6 years

"You have to be resourceful and ambitious and a little bit reckless..."

Why did you decide to move here? 
I moved back to LA after I graduated undergrad since I didn't have much direction and wanted to explore some options. I took some woodworking and design classes while working as a Production Assistant and Tutor. I realized 2 things: I wanted to get more hands-on with my work and I didn't want to work in entertainment which is so huge in LA. I had a lot of friends in NYC and it seemed like there was more variety of work, I found an internship with a design/build firm and moved here with the money I saved living with my parents for a year.

Do you see NYC as a destination or a 'stepping stone'? 
I see it as both - I don't think I ever planned to "settle down" here, I would like to have a family one day and I can't imagine raising kids in a city that doesn't have easy access to nature. So in that sense its been a stepping stone for me to explore the work I like and build a name for myself, but I think I'll always keep some ties here socially and professionally no matter where I end up.

How do you believe the city has influenced you as a person? As a creative?
I think the city has made me more savvy as a creative entrepreneur - I feel much more able to manage myself and my work than I did when I arrived. I also feel more confident after having connected with other young creatives - we are all making things up as we go along since the nature of creative work is so different these days than it was for previous generations. You need to look out for yourself and really put yourself out there, and in turn other people will be more willing to vouch for you and help you along.

What's something your time in NYC has taught you that you don't believe you could learn in any other city? You have to be resourceful and ambitious and a little bit reckless if you want to survive. Living in NYC is not easy so you really need to push yourself to get work and stay relevant.

Describe NYC in 5 words: Massive, colorful, real, surreal, hecti.

X Michael

25th Birthday Outtakes

Over the years I've followed the tradition of always having a disposable camera as a date to my birthday parties. Each year the roster of guests changes by a few, along with the location and number of drinks consumed, but the photos never disappoint. (With the exception of last year - a major blackmail opportunity is hiding somewhere in Williamsburg's, Union Pool bar.)

This year, I was able to keep my camera out of trouble (as it was in my boyfriend's care all night, no exceptions!) "Oh, you got them developed! Any good ones?" "Of course not, that's what makes them so amazing."