Georgia Hilmer is a full time scholar and model. The Jersey City native is a student at NYU with literary aspirations and a social media feed that’s as close as you can get to Instapoetry.
CONVICTS caught up with Georgia in Washington Square Park and got a dose of her dry wit, proud nerdiness, and preference for crossword puzzles over brunch.
Hey, Georgia. Can you introduce yourself to start?
Hi, I’m Georgia Hilmer. I’m here in Washington Square Park hanging out, doing the crossword puzzle, answering a lot of questions about my life inarticulately.
So what do you do in New York?
In New York I work as a model a little bit, I go to NYU a little bit and I’ve started to do some photography projects on the side.
And where are you from originally?
I’m from Jersey City, New Jersey, which is about ten minutes away.
How did you end up in New York?
I got scouted when I was 16 and always wanted to live in New York. It made the most sense for work and for not driving my parents crazy living at home, so I moved a couple years ago to Brooklyn.
And how would you describe New York?
New York is constant stimulation. It is way too much information, but I love it for that. I love that there is always something to do, something to see, a walk to take, a weirdo on the corner to watch. It’s the most inspiring city I’ve ever been to.
And how do you stay grounded here?
I stay grounded by reading: The New York Times or the New Yorker, books for school, books for fun. I try to check out of the madness that is fashion for a second and connect to the real world again. My boyfriend has a place upstate, so when the city is too much — which it can be — we go up there and hang out in the grass and get our feet dirty.
How did you start doing the crossword puzzle? How did it come about?
I started doing the crossword puzzle in high school with my grandfather who has done it for hundreds of years and he would have me over to answer any Britney Spears related questions. He got me kicked off on it and I’ve been doing it as a ritual in the morning ever since.
And how would you describe your grandfather?
He was one of the most joyful people I have ever met. He definitely instilled in me an appreciation for literature and movies. He was a professor, and towards the end of his life his memory started to fade a little so he could rewatch all of his favorite movies and reread all of his favorite books again so just seeing that joy in a weird twisted way was really great.
How do you think people would describe you?
I think people would describe me as curious. I ask way too many questions and am not good at answering them about myself, although I hope this is going well. I read everything I can. I see as much as I can. I’m nosey and pokey all the time.
Good answer. How would you describe yourself?
I think I’d agree with the curiosity, but I think I’d add that it’s driven by a sort of fear of missing out. I don’t want to miss anything so I try everything.
Does that attitude come through in your social media presence?
Social media, Instagram, Facebook — I’m on them way too much. My friends roll eyes when I whip out the iPhone to take the photo, but I’m getting stealthier so that’s better. Photography and Instagram — that is a huge part of the curiosity, of wanting to preserve moments and capture things.
What is it about that act of stopping and doing that crossword in a city like this that makes you love it so much?
In New York where I’m running from jobs to class to homework to castings, the chance to sit down and be really nerdy in a selfish way and taking the twenty minutes or half an hour with the puzzle is really a treat. The ritual of it is important for me to keep my sanity. On the weekends, when the big Sunday puzzle comes out, time stops. People go to brunch to blow off steam on the weekends, but I’m sitting at home with the crossword puzzle on the kitchen floor. It’s my wind down moment.
Do you cheat?
I do not cheat and let me tell you it has been an issue with my boyfriend because he’s like, “Why aren’t you finishing it? Don’t you want to look up the answers so you can complete it?” I’m like “No, it doesn’t count when you do that!” And I have taped up in the kitchen the two Sunday puzzles I’ve ever completed by myself in my entire life, which is shameful to admit, but there’s integrity and honor in not googling the answers. I do not cheat on the New York Times crossword puzzle, Will Shortz, creator and editor of the puzzle section. I do not cheat.
How exactly did you end up getting into modeling?
I got into modeling when I was in high school. I got scouted at the movies with my mom and my sister. My first agent saw us go in, watch the entire movie, and then chased us out in the lobby afterwards and forced a business card on my mom. I decided that high school soccer was more important than modeling so I didn’t do anything until I graduated and then I went full time, but a couple years ago I decided I missed school. The crossword puzzle was not enough for my nerdiness. I needed to pay a lot of money to be yelled at and have my grammar critiqued so I’ve been going to NYU for two years and loving it and getting to nerd out in a sanctioned way, in a celebrated way, which is really nice.
What are you studying?
NYU is funny in that I’m in this program where you design your own degree. When I’ve got enough credits, I’m going to have to draw a big circle around all the classes that I’ve taken and somehow name them, but mostly I’m interested in personal narrative: how we tell stories about ourselves and make sense of the world. A lot of literature and sociology classes right now.
With social media it seems that there are endless opportunities to craft our own narrative. Are there classes dealing with that intersection?
I have not taken any classes that deal specifically with modern technology and personal narrative, but I see that playing out in the industry and fashion and how models get to represent themselves independently now on social media. Or not. That’s really interesting, but I’m really romantic about novels and narratives so I have not analyzed my own obsession with Instagram as far as personal narrative goes, but it’s definitely constructing a persona for myself.
How do you structure your life between modeling, the crossword puzzle, school?
The structure of my life is no structure, except that the crossword puzzle gets done. Modeling wins over school a lot of the time because modeling pays for school, but school keeps me sane so it’s a balance. My agent’s really great about weighing my options and letting me not miss class so I don’t get kicked out and then other times having me skip a few homework assignments so I can travel to Spain or wherever. It’s a constant dance and it gives me loads of anxiety, but I don’t think I could do it any other way.
What about when you graduate? Where do you think the road might go?
Graduation feels very far off at this point. I’ve been taking a very slow path with this degree, but I would love to write long form journalism maybe for something like the New Yorker or the Paris Review, something lofty and bougie and pretentious, but I have not figured out where that is going yet.
Right on Georgia, thanks for the chat and keep it up with the crossword puzzle.