We caught up with one of XOMAD’s favorite couple of creatives and discussed their professional and romantic relationship. Seperately, they’re talented, but together the two are slowly rising the ranks of the influencer world in an authentic and genuine way. Together they make up Polydeux, which embodies two people’s many styles, and you’ll see how they successfully accomplish this below.
First, lets establish how you two met, when you started dating and when you began working together.
Mariel Cornel: Interestingly enough, we were 15 when we met via Tumblr. Still counts if it’s digital, right? He had messaged me but Justin, being the Tumblr-famous one at the time, I didn’t think anything of it since it seemed as though he had so many girls after him. He then got a girlfriend and we unfollowed and lost track of each other. Five years later, I actually found him on Explore via IG when I was looking for a new photographer to work with.
We worked closely for four months, becoming business partners in the midst of it. Then he realized that I was the same girl on Tumblr he talked to years before after some digging in the archives. That’s when we started dating, haha. It’s funny how it all came full circle; makes us feel as though we were meant to be.
Justin Quebral: Mariel probably went over the story of when we first encountered each other through the Internet, so I’ll skip forward to our meeting back just about two and half years ago or so. She had found me on her Instagram Explore page when she was looking for a new photographer … From there, we met up weekly / bi-weekly until one day I proposed the idea of being business partners for her blog. A simple combination of her being the face and me being responsible for the visual content.
Another month or so went by and we eventually started dating through mutual connections that dated back to when were 15 years old.
Mariel, what’s the best part about having Justin as your photographer? And Justin, what’s the best part about working with Mariel as your model?
MC: Man, I was just about to write a lengthy blog post about this (so lengthy, I even outlined it!). TL;DR: the best part is being passionate about the same thing and being able to share our accomplishments together while working hard to gain more opportunities for the other. It brings our relationship to a whole other level that I’ve never experienced before. We have this chemistry that really shows through our work. Being able to work with your significant other is something not everyone gets to do, so I’m super blessed to be able to do that with him.
JQ: Best part about Mariel being the model can be split into two things. I always have a body, someone willing to pose for me when I want to accomplish an idea or if I have a separate gig and need a female model, Mariel is always there to help. Secondly, we’re already so familiar with each other that directing comes easy when talking to her. If there’s ever any hassle, it’s easier to hash it out with her than anyone else.
What’s the most difficult thing about working together?
MC: LOL. Oh God. We can get so lazy sometimes. Because we’re with each other almost every day, we have a bad habit of talking each other out of doing work sometimes. I guess we just take advantage of having a model/photographer on hand at all times.
Other than that, we do have our bad days where everything doesn’t work out – one of us is annoyed of each other during the shoot or even both, the location doesn’t work out, the pictures aren’t turning out the way we want them to, and it’s usually because our synergies aren’t working with each other. When we have those days, sometimes my poses or facials end up killing it because of how upset I am. They’re blessings in disguise.
JQ: With being so close to each other, the most difficult part is also the simplest: we can get very lazy when we’re together.
As influencers and partners, how do you divide the workload?
MC: Justin’s in charge of visuals whereas I’m the voice and manage logistics, negotiations and campaigns. It’s pretty balanced now that I think of it.
JQ: We recognize each other’s strengths and weaknesses and work around that. We fill up each other’s gaps when needed and most of all, try to keep it 50/50 so there’s an equal sense of responsibility.
Do you have any advice to couples mixing business and pleasure?
MC: When we first started dating, this was a huge concern as we were worried that it could greatly impact Polydeux and our relationship if we weren’t careful. We concluded that regardless of what happens in our relationship, whether we’re together or not, we would still put business first and continue to help each other grow.
My advice is to prioritize. Your career shouldn’t tank over another individual and your passion for that career is what gives you individuality in a relationship. Always be professional and separate your relationship for your career appropriately. Sometimes Justin and I are too professional in front of clients and they feel unsure as to whether we’re a couple or not. It’s not a bad thing, but it’s good to know that Justin and I can stand on our own when working with brands even if we are a unit. I’ve seen couples exercise too much PDA in a professional setting and can see when brand-owners get uncomfortable. Prioritizing also means putting your client first and making them comfortable so it’s easier for them to build trust with you and your partner.
JQ: Make sure to be patient and expect there to be a lot of kinks in the beginning. Not every working relationship will be fruitful right away, and/or can get ugly down the road. Patience and understanding are key but also recognition of your guys’ position relative to the business you two are trying to make.
Do you have any funny stories from when you two were working together?
MC: Oh man. My favorite is when I was assisting Justin on a shoot in Malibu. His client’s brother was proposing to his girlfriend in a beach house that day. We prepared the balcony in which he was going to pop the question. Justin prepared his angles ahead of time too. I stepped on the balcony only to find that it was completely wet and slippery. The bride-to-be walked through the door and to the balcony. Just as Justin’s client got on his knee, you heard a huge crash. Justin was trying to run to the opposite end of the balcony, only to slip and completely crash into the furniture we had pushed aside.
Now, Justin’s always known for being super composed and professional so Justin falling in the middle of the proposal was completely out of character for him! He totally stole their thunder and had landed on the metal base of the sliding door. I looked at him to see if he was okay, but he was quiet and his eyes were moving frantically. I could tell he was thinking a million things at once. Justin got up quickly and told the two to continue but it was hilarious. He ended up walking away with a giant welt on his hips and had to get acupressure for it, but at least he gave the couple a proposal story to remember. Plus, I’m never going to let this go, haha.
JQ: I think my answer would be the same as Mariel’s. I’m afraid that’s my funny story too.
What have you learned from each other while working together?
MC: I’ve learned so much. It’s hard to sum it up after two plus years of this business-relationship relationship. I have to say, I’ve learned to communicate better (still working on it as it is my biggest weakness). I’ve learned to work smarter, not harder. I’ve learned patience (another big weakness), to always look at everything from different perspectives, and I’ve grown thicker skin. Being a sensitive Cancer, throwing myself into a cutthroat industry that is fashion wasn’t the easiest. Luckily, Justin’s stubborn Taurus grounds me often and has helped me see past a lot of B.S. and to never give up. I know what I deserve and understand our brand to be picky with who we work with. I’ve developed a high-standard for us and know better than to settle.
JQ: The biggest thing I learned from her was patience. Even though it’s one lesson, it helped me across everything I do. It’s easy getting caught up in the social whirlwind of what’s going on, that I sometimes end up getting frustrated comparing myself to what I see. And that frustration bars my creativity and motivation.
So, when I need it, she acts as my catalyst for staying easy and remembering that patience is virtue.
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Stay Current. Makes Waves.
by #teamXOMAD member Hayley Hulin
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