Interview With Jelena Aleksich, Founder Of The Confetti Project
It’s not often that you come across a project that involves showering total strangers in confetti. Enter, The Confetti Project. The premise is simple: douse people in confetti and ask them questions about what they celebrate and are grateful for. Take their photo. Write their story. But not everything that sparkles is pure joy.
Jelena Aleksich, the founder of the project, shares how it all started by dealing with hardship and how confetti — and peppiness — have a dark side...and why that’s a good thing.
How did the project get started?
It started as a three-month challenge to photograph 50 people and make a coffee table book out of it. I really thought once I completed the challenge that it would be a bestseller (cue that necessary entrepreneurial naiveness). So when the literary agent passed on it I asked for her blessing to keep going with the project, and that's when I buckled down.
It was the first thing I had ever really accomplished from beginning to end; action trumped any type of over-thinking.
Since then, there have been mini-milestones that have incrementally taken the project to the next level, from pricing the photo-shoots and doing co-branded pop-ups to debuting internationally in Dubai in early 2018. That's when I decided to dedicate myself to it full-time.
Taking on a project like this is not always lucrative from the start. What keeps you going?
My dad passed away after being sick the first year I began the project, and then my roommate died a few months later. I was lucky to have the chance to document her with a confetti shoot right before her diagnosis. Their memories motivate me to keep going with it and remind me of the true pulse of the project: cultivating celebration daily and having gratitude for every day we're given. Knowing that our pain and pleasure are always inextricably linked.
Are diversity and inclusion a priority in your work?
Being first generation American definitely impacts my mentality around work and diversity. My parents immigrated from Eastern Europe to the suburbs outside of New York City, so I was always exposed to a melting pot of races, religions, and ethnicities; which, has allowed me to see everyone as equal. I create and curate with representation in mind.
How do you compensate for what you lack?
Community is the single most important thing to surround yourself with, and I've been very aware of how the spaces you're in can affect your energy, mood, and perspective. For the first two and a half years of the project, although I was technically alone, I really wasn’t. Every person who did a photo shoot with me, helped, volunteered during a pop-up, or believed in me when I didn't is what has given me the courage and strength to keep going.
When it comes to the many hats I wear, I ask myself: what is my favorite part of the process? The part I love that allows me to put up with all the other parts I don't love so much. The answer became really clear: connecting with people in a curated space and freezing moments in time with my camera. Just like community, focus and determination are essential. From very early on, I decided to keep my head down and truly believe that authenticity and dedication have attracted people and brands that want to help and collaborate.
Are you a creator, an artist, or an entrepreneur?
Everything is so multi-disciplinary that I think these labels are not really as relevant anymore. I've always loved the term "creative entrepreneur" because the innovators and idea-makers are the ones that change the world and now is the time where those same creators can learn entrepreneurial skills instead of a big corporation using their ideas with whatever agenda they have. I still struggle with how to identify myself in the most concise, confident way and have landed on the term "artist" as the broadest way to define myself. At this point, I'm just someone who is following my purpose through my endless, creative expressions and pursuits.