With almost a nervous grimace, Ansar recounts her first apartment in Alphabet City. With little knowledge of the area, she wasn’t expecting her Manhattan apartment to be dangerous. Within her first year of living in the city she was held at knifepoint, and was robbed of her purse and phone on separate occasions.
“I wanted to leave for the first year!” said Ansar, “I was like, what the hell am I doing here?”
Ansar slowly rotates the ring on her index, stating, “It’s like I went through an awkward two-year transitional period when I moved here. I didn’t know how to feel.”
Today, Ansar can be found posting warm-toned Instagram images highlighting her personal fashion and décor in her newly found home. Situated next to Central Park, and once home to the Guggenheim family, Ansar feels she found a hidden gem of New York real estate
Sitting with her fingers laced around a steaming cup of tea, Ansar began her morning under the vintage Tiffany glass ceiling of her Upper West Side apartment. “It’s incredible, I feel lucky,” reflected Ansar.
She pushed her long curly stand of hair off her shoulder, set her chin on her propped-up hand, and began speaking about her passion for travel. With her eyes wandering across the room in remembrance, Ansar states, “I felt so free (in Myanmar). I remember being in the forest, walking around, and seeing people with no shoes on. They were just smiling.”
Taking trips like this with her mother gave Ansar insight on being more mindful and appreciative of her own life, “I learned everything is not a dire issue,” she stated, looking down at her tea.
Born in Chambray-Lès-Tours, a small town in France in which her family history is visible across decades, Leanne moved to America when she was seven-years-old. “My mom came with her two kids and seven suitcases for a fresh start,” Ansar stated, describing her mother’s journey for a fresh start in the U.S.
As she came of age in the U.S, Ansar adapted to the language and culture, but didn’t pay much mind to her roots. She attended West Virginia University and majored in French language.
“I felt like I was stuck between two cultures,” stated Ansar, in response to this time of her life. “I didn’t know where I wanted to end up,” she stated.
In hopes of finding direction post-undergrad, Ansar moved into her family villa in the South of France “My mother had her own blog dedicated to “the single woman traveling the world alone”, and that inspired me to create my own blog dedicated to travel,” stated Ansar.
In flux, Ansar was able to find solace in travel. They travelled to Thailand; they explored the country for five months after she graduated college. “she was like, let’s go, let’s get away from it all,” stated Ansar.
“I feel very privileged saying this, but it’s also so cheap to get a place to stay there,” she stated with concern. After this trip, Ansar decided to pursue her Master’s in France, all while traveling to nearby countries for content on her own travel blog and Instagram page.
“It was amazing, I could travel to Italy for a few Euro and be back by the end of the day,” she stated.
Upon receiving an internship in New York City, Ansar picked up and moved away from France yet again.
While it wasn’t apparent at first, Ansar found that she didn’t have to break the bank or quit her nine-to-five advertising job to continue her travel blog. She began to brand herself as a hospitality, lifestyle and fashion blogger.
“Then I realized there were hotels in New York and started contacting them offering exposure through my social media. My boyfriend does photography, so him and I were able to stay for free,” she stated.
Due to the fact that her boyfriend does fashion photography as a side-gig, Ansar has access to high-quality images that she can release to her clients in exchange for free rooms.
“We try to leave the city whenever we find the time, even if it’s a short weekend-trip that ends up causing us more stress than anything else,” she stated, laughing it off.
This wasn’t limited to New York either, they’ve traveled to Europe a handful of times, staying for free, and reviewing luxury Airbnbs and hotels on her blog.
All the while, Ansar had been working her way up in the advertising and marketing industries. After years at advertising agency JCDecaux, she now works as the Director of Marketing for France-Amerique Magazine.
As time has passed, Ansar’s work in the marketing industry and her blogging have become mutually beneficial. With her blogging connections, she can attend PR events and cultivate long-term sponsorships with high-end brands. Similarly, with her increased knowledge of advertising and marketing, she can brand herself and market products to her followers.
“Once you sell something, you want to remain consistent,” stated Ansar. As she has perfected her self- branding, she remains loyal to luxury hotels and products in order to maintain a consistent stream of lifestyle content. By doing so, she promotes high engagement and has accrued over 30,000 followers on Instagram.
At her current position, Ansar has found her equilibrium between French and American culture. “Now, every day I’m surrounded by French culture at work,” stated Ansar. Where she once struggled to connect her two homes, America and France, she now has a space for both in her life.
“I am able to incorporate it into my blog,” she stated, “and now things go together quite cohesively with my work and free-time pleasures.”
As she finished off her cup of tea and settled into her chair, Ansar reflected, “I feel like everyone had a dream or plan, and I got my dream in a way.”
She peered off to her right, looking out of a street-facing window framed by a terracotta-potted olive tree, “I started from no home, to having a knife to my back, to here,” she stated.