Meet Alana O'Neill

As general manager of MediaWorks Integration, Alana O'Neil is at the top of her game in a vibrant and ever changing industry. Editor Trudi Brewer steps into her Auckland home to discover classic style, monochromatic interiors and how to make a mean G & T.

Alana O'Neill at home with Spoodles Buster and Licorice and editor Trudi Brewer.

Alana O'Neill has exquisite bone structure, rocks a red lippy and considers carefully curated fashion buys an investment. But like many working mums O'Neill says balance is not something that is easy to achieve. Here are the golden rules she aims to live her life by.  

What’s a typical working day for you?

Most workdays I start at five am to get in some exercise, and then I try to be dressed before we wake the children at 6.30. I find getting them ready for school much easier when I am ready myself. I usually work until about six pm; we have a wonderful after school nanny four days a week, and my Mum has had the children an evening a week since they were little. We don’t eat together as much as I’d like during the week but we do make an effort to catch up on each other’s day every evening. Once the children are in bed I’ll either catch up on any work I didn’t quite get to during the day, or we will relax watching our current favourite TV show.
What do you love most about your career?
It would have to be the chance it gives me to keep learning and stretching myself every day. I do question myself a lot, as I think every working mother does, about the time I spend away from the family. However, it’s important for my children to understand that there are choices to be made in life and that the lifestyle we have comes from that choice to work hard.  
What lessons have you learned on your way to the top?
Trusting my instinct is a big one for me. The other (is linked in many ways) is to get over the feeling of the imposter syndrome. I read a great article by Leah McFall recently, and she hits the nail on the head.  Too many of us don’t rate ourselves the way we should and we doubt our ability.  To quote Leah “Look behind you – is that your shadow getting longer? It is. That’s because you’ve stepped into the sun. Slip your shoes off. It’s warmer out here.”
What advice would you give other busy, working mothers?

A few years ago I was at a work conference and PHD worldwide director of planning and strategy, London-based Mark Holden addressed the team.  He talked about the pressures of a working life where technology means we are always on.  And he made the point that achieving work/life balance in this environment, across a week, across a month, or even sometimes across a year can be pretty tough.  Balance can be elusive, and we put even more pressure on ourselves to attain it. He suggested a work/life blend is far more realistic and achievable these days. The idea of keeping work and our personal lives totally separate is silly. We sometimes answer e-mails at 10 pm, and we sometimes need to take the children to the doctor at 10 am.  Our work very often comes home with us and our home life very often comes to work.  This advice just made so much sense to me so I pass it on whenever I can – to anyone, not just working mothers. Accepting and embracing a blend, rather than continually chasing the balance, is liberating. 

Where did you look for inspiration when designing your home?

I enjoy home magazines, right across the spectrum.  And I recently bought a copy of a beautiful book 'Monochrome Home' from my favourite interiors store, Indie Home Collective, so that’s providing quite a bit of inspiration at the moment.
What makes a great interior?

I love homes that reflect the personalities of the people that live there.  I  admire those who can achieve real individuality and character in their home.
What do you always have on your bedside table?
My iPad, several magazines and at the moment two miniature bottles of Hendricks Gin. I love a good G&T and Hendricks is a fave – for its taste and the bottle design.  I saw these miniatures on a trip recently in duty-free and couldn’t resist them. I’m not quite sure how they ended up on my bedside table, but there they remain.
What is your favourite room?
We have just recently moved, and the entire top floor of the house accommodates the master bedroom, his and hers walk-in wardrobes, ensuite and a small study area. When I walk up those stairs at the end of a day, I can just feel my shoulders relaxing and my step getting lighter. I call it 'The Sanctuary'.   
What are your most treasured possessions?
It will sound like such a cliché but the little notes, letters and drawings from the children, birthday cards from my husband, and mementoes from our travels and adventures. I would be so upset to lose those. I am also very attached to my jewellery at the moment. We got burgled last year, and my very precious pieces were stolen, so I don’t have a lot, but what I do have, I wear, are all significant gifts.  

Alana's best summer G & T recipe: Slice a mango and keep the skin on with half an inch of the flesh. Add lots of fresh ground pepper and chill for a few hours. Then serve a slice with your favourite gin, tonic and ice.

What does beauty mean to you?

It’s about attitude. Beauty is all around us – especially living in a country like New Zealand.  If you have an attitude that makes you open to seeing and feeling beauty, you will find it everywhere, in our surroundings, our lifestyles and especially in people.
What is your one beauty indulgence?
I have just recently started having my nails done regularly after a girlfriend gifted me a gel manicure. I was instantly hooked.  It’s a quick pamper with a lasting result.
What would we always find in your beauty bag?
A subtle, understated lip gloss as well as a bold, noisy red matte lipstick.  Some days it's the gloss, and other days most definitely the power red lipstick. I am a Kiehl's skincare fan and like a lightweight foundation such as Chantecaille Just Skin.
Your forever fragrance?
Any of the Elie Saab perfumes. Simple, yet elegant and easy to wear whatever the day has in store.
Describe your signature style?

Black pants, a white shirt, add red lipstick, and I’m a happy girl.
What is your fashion weakness?
All of it. I’ll obsess over a bag for six months then move on to shoes, followed by white shirts, and on it goes.  
What handbag will you carry this season?
Deadly Ponies Mr Chain Mail.  
Who are your favourite local and international fashion designers?
Taylor is my go to New Zealand label, especially for my work wardrobe. Her clothes are just so well designed, for life but they are beautiful at the same time. I like the way you can build on each piece from one season to the next, so every purchase becomes an investment ( I hope my husband is reading this). For international designers I love Helmut Lang, Phillip Lim and ever since I was a teenager reading my mother’s Vogue magazines, I have always utterly adored Dior.