It isn’t breaking news to acknowledge that relationships today are hard — especially as an ambitious woman. With a laser-sharp focus set on our careers or side hustles, how are we supposed to find someone who supports our passions rather than undermine them? And potentially even more challenging — how do we sustain a relationship with someone who has equally ambitious or overlapping career goals?
We set out to understand the dynamics of a relationship involving two ambitious 20somethings. Because while having goals that align so closely with your partner’s can be a blessing at times — someone to commiserate with following the disappointments, and someone to celebrate with following the victories — it also presents a unique set of challenges. How do you maintain excitement and support for your partner when your goals are so similar? How do you fend off that pesky competitiveness? How do you lift them up and emotionally support them while staying focused on your own career?
We caught up with two badass 20somethings who seem to have cracked the code. Soozie Heo and Aaron “AC Slater” are each forging their individual paths in creative industries. Yet somehow, they manage to complement each other in a way that allows them to achieve even more than they would on their own.
20something: Introduce yourselves! How did you guys meet?
Soozie Heo: My name is Soozie and Aaron is my fiance. We met under the most rare and random circumstances, through a mutual friend one night at John Dadzie (12th Planet)’s loft in DTLA. I was literally one of four girls in a room full of 20 dudes, none of whom I knew besides my one girlfriend.
It’s so funny to think back to then, because all of those people I met that night have become family to me now. I distinctly remember meeting Aaron and how easy our conversation was and loved his sense of humor…and he was super cute. We’re getting married in March 2018, which will also mark our 5 year anniversary. Crazy how time flies!
AC Slater: We met through a mutual friend. It was totally random. We talked for a really long time and I remember thinking how easy she was to talk to. Once we started dating she literally moved in with me within a couple weeks. It was the first time I had zero doubts about something like that. I had full confidence that we were doing the right thing by getting involved together.
What do you both do? How did you get into those industries?
SH: I’m a designer — mainly womenswear, but most recently have been involved in swimwear. My last job was with Revolve Clothing for 3 years where I was the head designer of 2 brands, NBD and X by NBD. Currently I’m managing licensing deals for swim with brands like Wildfox, Baja East, Beverly Beach by Dorit, and a few new exciting brands that I can’t disclose at the moment!
The most recent project I helped develop was Emily Ratajkowski’s new swim line that just launched, inamorata. It’s inspiring to work with bosses like her and all the other companies that I get to be so hands on with.
I’m Korean, so ever since I was a child, my mom had always pressured me to figure out what I wanted to do with my life. My parents were really supportive of my creative spirit and took me to a lot of art classes once they realized that it was something I was passionate about, and in high school I took a fashion design course and knew immediately that it was the field I wanted to get into.
I got into the fashion design program at Parsons and studied there for 3 years before I dropped out. I started interning at Oscar de la Renta and Prabal Gurung while attending Parsons, and realized I was learning so much more from my internships than at school. Not to discredit Parsons, but at the end of the day I felt like I learned everything I needed to learn from the 3 years I was there and I’m just super impatient.
I know the safe thing to do was to finish college and get my degree, but sometimes you have to believe in yourself, take risks and pave your own path! There is no right or wrong timeline to success — as long as you’re confident in yourself and have the talent to back you up, you’ll get to where you’re supposed to be.
ACS: I’m a DJ and producer. I had been doing it as a hobby since I was in my mid-teens, but as a full-time career since 2007. I run a record label and event company called Night Bass, I also make music and DJ around the world under the name AC Slater.
What is it like being in a relationship comprised of two creatives?
SH: Being an artist is hard. You’re constantly taking risks, and feeling vulnerable and unsure of whether people will be receptive to your ideas. It’s a scary world, but not so scary when you have a partner. I’m pretty confident in myself, but every couple of months I’ll have a meltdown and ramble on about all these doubts in my head. Aaron lets me have my moment, and then he’ll start telling me all these nice things that I forgot about myself and remind me that I’m worrying about nothing. He’s usually right.
I’m super into music so I feel like I meddle more into his world than he does in mine. I always knew from the moment we started dating that we would be together forever. Sometimes we would have late night talks on our couch after going out and talk about our goals and dreams and future together, professionally and personally. We challenge each other — brainstorming ideas on how to push our careers further, constantly reminding each other to keep making goals for ourselves and never be complacent with our work.
ACS: We pretty much make our own schedules, which is very nice. I do travel a lot, but Soozie is so busy with her own work that I don’t worry too much about leaving for short periods of time. She probably gets more done when I’m not home anyway, haha.
What inspires you both in your careers?
SH: Everything inspires me. It’s kind of a secret but I’ve been working on my own line these last few months, so I’ve been feeling inspired by everything I see and hear. Fashion is fun because it’s not just about tangible pieces of clothing. There are so many elements to creating a brand. You have to think of SO MUCH STUFF. All the stuff.
Besides designing the clothes, you’re thinking of the art direction of editorials, layout of websites, styling, marketing ideas, graphics, color stories, and the voice of your brand. So right now I feel hyper aware of my surroundings and feel inspired by everything. I could hear a really great song and make note of it to use for my future visual campaign. See? Everything.
ACS: Music is my passion, so it makes being inspired in my career easy. There’s an internal drive within me to to do what I do, even if it wasn’t my job I would do it. The best feeling is achieving something new, reaching a new audience, or doing something beyond what you’ve done before. It’s addictive.
What has been your proudest achievement in your respective careers thus far?
SH: Ironically enough, this has nothing to do with my professional career, but last year right before the election I saw this paparazzi photo of Rihanna (my idol) wearing a shirt with Hillary Clinton’s face on it. Immediately I thought of putting that photo on a t-shirt, with the words “I’m with her. And her.” in the iconic red and white Supreme font. One of my close friends, Nate, owns a screen printing shop and loved the idea, so we threw the shirt up for sale on his website for fun and started sending the shirts to people through friends and friends of friends, and it kind of just blew up.
The response was totally unexpected. We got it on Lena Dunham, Soo Joo Park, Jamie Chung, YG, Bryan Greenberg, Sofia Richie, and the tipping point was when Rihanna wore the shirt ON election day. The photos went viral, my entire feed was of everyone posting pictures and claiming that Rihanna won election day.
Less than 2 hours after the pictures of Rihanna went viral, Beyonce’s stylist called me & Nate and asked us to send over 5 new custom t-shirt designs within the hour for Beyonce & Jay Z to wear that night to Hillary’s election party. I was still buzzing off Riri wearing my shirt, but buckled down and pumped out a bunch of ideas, got them approved, and we printed 50 custom shirts for Beyonce & Jay Z’s team in 3 hours. It was the most exhilarating day.
Later that week Vogue wrote an article listing the 15 Best Merch of 2017 and my t-shirt was #1. A few months later, my good friend referred me to the Chainsmokers and I designed all of their “Memories.. Do Not Open” 2017 tour merch. The week before the election, I got engaged, and Aaron’s birthday was on election day. It was the craziest month of my life!!
ACS: My proudest achievement to date is starting my company, Night Bass. It is the culmination of years of me searching for what exactly my “sound” is and what direction I want to take my career. I figured that out after trying many different things within music. Because of my confidence in the brand I knew exactly what I wanted to do. It started off with a bang because of that vision, and people gravitated to it. Now, almost 4 years later, we’ve done parties all over the world, curated festival stages and released a lot of amazing music from artists around the globe.
Do your goals and ambitions ever overlap?
SH: I think both of our goals are ultimately to be super successful in both our respective careers and to be at a point where we can maintain the integrity of doing what we love, while also making a shit ton of money. Fashion and music go hand in hand, and I’m hoping that sometime in the near future we can figure out a way for me and Aaron to create something beautiful together using both our passions.
ACS: The most obvious overlap is Soozie will sometimes design t-shirts for me. She actually helps me a lot by pushing me to keep moving forward when I’m feeling comfortable. The ongoing overlap is that we both want each other to be the best we can be.
How do you find ways to support each other when you’re both pursuing entrepreneurial goals?
SH: I will never get in the way of whatever goal Aaron is trying to achieve, and vice versa. People always ask me how I handle Aaron being gone every weekend and how I deal with girls being all over him at shows he plays. TBH I love having some me time over the weekends, and love spending weekends catching up with my girlfriends and having the house to myself.
In regards to the other girls, none of that phases me. The way I see it, the more girls, the better it looks for him as an artist, which means more fans for him, which means more $ for us. Our love goes so much deeper than some petty shit. He’s a boss and I will always support his career and encourage him to push himself forward, and I try to help in any way that I can. I designed the artwork on his latest “Outsiders” album from cover to cover, and help him with graphics for merch and tour flyers if he asks. Aaron’s actually a little graphic artist himself — he knows how to use photoshop and makes a lot of his own graphics!
Why do you think your relationship works?
SH: Our love is just SOLID. I never understood that phrase, “when you know, you know” until I met Aaron. I think when you take jealousy and insecurity out of the equation, add a whole bunch of trust and love, a relationship is easy and super chill. We’re just best friends that enjoy each other’s company and never get sick of each other. He lets me be me, and I let him be himself.
ACS: Our personalities fit really well. Outside of that I think we each have a strong understanding and respect for each other’s passions and goals. She has a lot of patience for my work because I do travel so much and end up in crazy nightlife settings.
What advice would you give to other relationships involving two creatives?
SH: Believe in your partner more than they believe in themselves, and let them be free and define their success on their own terms. Aaron travels all the time and is never home and it sucks, a lot, because home is feels more like home when he’s here. But this is his time to go do all that, these are the years he can go travel to play shows, make money, and thrive in his element. I’m gonna let my baby shine and support whatever he chooses to do because in the grand scheme of it all, we’re getting married! And forever is a long ass time for us to spend time together.
AC: I can’t imagine being with someone who wasn’t a creative. I would say remain supportive. In creative industries there are so many ups and downs. You need someone who is there for you on the rough downturns as well as the ups!