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"You Just Don't See That In New York:" MTV Exec Studies the Millennials of St. Louis

Categories: Hipster News

millenial1.jpg
Jon Gitchoff
What do the milennials have to teach MTV?
Alison Hillhouse doesn't like to use the word "hipster."

As MTV's vice president of Insights Innovation, Hillhouse, 37, is tasked with studying young people -- including those who fall under that deprecatory label -- and glean new truths or trends that guide developers to create the popular network's new hit show.

So when she arrived from New York to study the revitalization of a city she'd once called home, she didn't ask where the "hipster" hang-outs were. She asked to talk to the artists, the entrepreneurs, the gadflies, the city-dwellers, the movers and shakers, the tastemakers of the millennial generation.

And her search took her to Cherokee Street.

"There are so many interesting, communal things that are happening, it's like there's a small commune happening around the Cherokee Street area," Hillhouse tells Daily RFT. "The energy was amazing. There is a real sense of possibility, of creating this new vision, of making the city, especially south city, a great place."

See also: Southern Living Names Cherokee Street "Next Great Neighborhood"

The lessons Hillhouse learned from local millennials -- later published as an after-thought in a rudimentary and academic video -- are old hat for those who actually live here: It's cheaper to live in St. Louis than Chicago, New York or LA. The talent pools aren't oversaturated with artists or contaminated by agents and business interests. Midwestern neighborliness means partners for projects are easy to find.

But something about St. Louis' artistic fervor, entrepreneurial dedication and forward-thinking optimism -- all at a uniquely Midwestern, determinedly laid-back pace -- seemed to strike Hillhouse' team as exciting and important.

"I think every single person we talked to, we walked away smiling. They were just so enthusiastic about St. Louis," Hillhouse says. "It was just so exciting to talk about the projects that were happening in the area. Nothing held them back."

Hillhouse repeatedly told Daily RFT, "You just don't see that in a city like New York," or "You don't have that kind of opportunity in Brooklyn," when discussing the dynamics of creation and self-expression here. From affordable apartments to an audience with top government officials, it's all easier to get in St. Louis.

"A bunch of people talked about how it's easy to get a meeting with [St. Louis Mayor Francis Slay] and to share an idea with him and go straight to the top," Hillhouse says. Being from St. Louis herself, Hillhouse knew people would be nice, but in St. Louis, "everybody is there to help each other out."

Hillhouse's foray into the Cherokee Street scene only scratches the surface of the millennial experience in St. Louis -- a fact she readily admits. And she's not looking to pitch a new MTV docudrama called St. Louis Entrepreneurs on Cherokee Street.

But as she talks about the St. Louis she rediscovered during that two-day trip in February, her voice fills with a bewildered respect for the culture of young people in St. Louis.

"I think fifteen years from now, cities across the country are going to feel very different because of the things millennials are doing," she says. "St. Louis is just a great city. I hope that it continues -- and I know that it will continue -- to grow."

Follow Lindsay Toler on Twitter at @StLouisLindsay. E-mail the author at Lindsay.Toler@RiverfrontTimes.com.


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35 comments
Sylvio Roberts
Sylvio Roberts

The state with the most Nobel Peace prizes for writing is Mississippi

Julie Angelica
Julie Angelica

Walter and all naysayers - what you think and speak breeds. Stop polluting the environment. Truth is truth, but you can speak and live truth into reality. Do something, arseholes. (And in anticipation of you asking, I do. Google my name).

Catherine Rankovic
Catherine Rankovic

Most famous American writers have Midwestern roots. St. Louis has been eminent in the arts since 1860s. Get with it, NYC.

Walter Sullivan
Walter Sullivan

Yeah, venture off Cherokee onto one of the State streets and tell me how hip and entrepreneurial it is. If you dont get mugged, carjacked or approached by drug dealers, that is. Just stay on the main drag on certain days during specific hours and it might seem enterprising to the uninformed. Just get out before being disillusioned by gunfire and random acts of violence.

Tonya Baxley
Tonya Baxley

I met someone from Brooklyn on vaca in LA who asked me about StL. She said every guy she met from St. Louis who was in NY was either A. A dochebag or B. Someone who talked about the posers in StL while hiding the fact that he was a douchebag. I obviously know tons of great people in StL but the people who leave it give it a bad rep!

Mindy Rizer Gould
Mindy Rizer Gould

When the RFT has attention to detail and notices they made a typo in the byline!

Matt Simpson
Matt Simpson

St. Louis definitely has it's share of hipsters...

John Null
John Null

St. Louis is a lot different than it was when you were our age.

Brett Lombardo
Brett Lombardo

This should read: she came to study the unemployed

Sean Bryant
Sean Bryant

Midwestern neighborliness, lol. Some of those millennials have parents who know St. Louis a little better than that...

Luke Smith
Luke Smith

Let me know if you need anymore reading material.

Luke Smith
Luke Smith

1. Maybe this study that shows extremely slow growth for the city ranking us 226th among the 363 U.S. metro areas. : http://www.stltoday.com/business/columns/david-nicklaus/report-sees-slow-growth-in-st-louis-until/article_7ac5f946-eecf-5079-8bcd-c06ccae67f7c.html 2. Maybe this one on continued subpar job growth: http://www.stltoday.com/business/columns/david-nicklaus/economist-sees-continued-subpar-job-growth-for-st-louis/article_9e757553-f660-55d3-98bf-d7b5c463be7c.html 3. Maybe this study that shows St. Louis is continuing a rapid population decline, "Nationwide, metro areas with populations of 1 million or more grew by 1 percent overall. By comparison, the St. Louis area grew by less than half that rate." http://www.stltoday.com/news/local/metro/st-louis-continues-to-drop-in-population-but-the-loss/article_39384828-12ef-517d-bb97-320939de4b72.html 4. St. Louis lagging in global growth, "It’s not exactly a new situation — St. Louis has lagged global growth for two decades" http://www.stltoday.com/business/local/study-st-louis-lagging-in-global-growth/article_76963694-ef7e-5f53-b30c-a5cc0ebaa68d.html I will have to dig for the exact study that refers to this comparison, but it was a comparison of st. louis to leading metro areas similar in size.

Kathy Coe
Kathy Coe

Where are you getting your information to support your conclusion that STL is 10-20 years behind similar cities?Sources? Criteria?

Craig Richason
Craig Richason

There's still lots of market growth potential for novelty beard growth and oversized ear gauges in STL. Take that, NY!

Carnell Mays
Carnell Mays

its has its pros n cons, i've made a great life 4 myself here so I cant complain...

Luke Smith
Luke Smith

Wish I could Heather, my family is all here and I have an amazing job. Those are the only reasons I stay.

Marc Quennoz
Marc Quennoz

What Luke said. Check out Nashville, TN.

Luke Smith
Luke Smith

No Christy... it isn't. Great to have optimistic folks here, but St. Louis as a whole is about 10-20 years behind other major metropolitan areas that are similar in size and scale.

Christy Mirth
Christy Mirth

"Interviewing some hipsters does not qualify as validated confirmation that St. Louis is really moving forward." It isn't? Those enthusiastic people who love the city and have big ideas will be the ones to make it move forward!

Luke Smith
Luke Smith

St. Louis is home for me, but it really isn't anything special. For some reason, a majority of the people who live here think it is way better than it is in reality... Your money goes a long way here, there are some nice free amenities and there are a couple cool areas. Oh, and we have the Cardinals, which is awesome. Other than that, it really isn't that great. Extremely high crime rates, crappy weather/humidity, terrible job growth and a city that offers very little incentive for new and innovative businesses to WANT to come to here. Interviewing some hipsters does not qualify as validated confirmation that St. Louis is really moving forward.

mikeapp
mikeapp

"bewildered respect" - as a former New Yorker and MTVN employee, it took me awhile to get over such condescension.  Not that she's wrong about her conclusions.

jaco1175
jaco1175 topcommenter

Then move there you suburban fuck. People like you are the fucking clowns that keep it behind the times, these other people? They are doing something else to change the tired fucked up mindset that assholes like you just wont shut the fuck up about.

jaco1175
jaco1175 topcommenter

Here is another way luke's statement could be translated:  "St. Louis is home to me, but despite that fact I'm going to just go ahead and drop my pants and shit all over it anyway because I'm a self loathing closet racist suburban fuckstuck in a shitty plastic house with nosy assholes for neighbors that all judge each other while they ask the stupid fucking highschool question over and over again. I also have an ugly family and hate my fucking life. I wish I lived somewhere better over the rainbow, St. Louis sucks and nothing anyone does will change that because I am a judgemental fuckwad with no desire to help improve anything"

eschaton
eschaton

@jaco1175

such insight. such analysis. how could luke possibly argue with logic like that? 

looks like "Top Commenter" status has given you (imagined) carte blanch to police the the boards by spewing torrents of invective at anyone who dares to differ in opinion from the STL=AWESOME narrative. 

From an outsider perspective (and I am. I have never even looked at the comment boards at the RFT) the above exchange is really pretty hilarious in how obvious the dynamic is. Small town entertainment weekly commenter runs around going apeshit and slapping his "Top Commenter/Holy Guardian Defender of STL Honor" dick in everyone's faces by unleashing violent streams of "fuckstick this" and "asshole that". lol Amazing, really!

Calm down, kid. Jesus! St. Louis isn't Detroit, for chrissakes but it sure isn't, well... any other way more completely awesome city. It's just alright. It's better than it used to be. It's a level up from "meh?"... and anybody who tries to pop the self-congratulating balloon of back-slapping, "ain't we just the tits" circle jerk of self-reverence that the above article propagates with the needles of carefully and politely stated difference of opinion deserves a little better than your histrionic meltdowns. 

Here is the compromise slogan/attitude I humbly submit for everyone's consideration: "St. Louis... It Doesn't Suck!" 


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