She was ready for her picture to be taken, so she went to pull out one of her headbands from a box. Which one, though? It looked like there were many to choose from. Which one would she want to show off? She found a red one and put it around her head.
Her mom asked if she was sure she wanted the red one. It was, after all, already displayed on her website. But that was the point, she answered, so more people can see it.
And really, it’s hard to argue with any decision 19-year-old Gemma Sokol makes these days. Every step she takes is at least a little calculated, all for the sake of her long-term future.
“If I’m not doing something that will help me, I feel like I’m losing part of myself because I want to do things that will help [me],” she said.
Losing part of her? That sounds deep for a teenager to say, but she laughed it off.
“No, I don’t mean it in a really deep way … I like doing things I enjoy.”
Sokol spent time on the La Cañada Flintridge Royal Court when she was in high school. She currently interns for Assemblyman Mike Gatto’s office and although she had several colleges on her radar, she chose nearby little-known Redlands University, and loved every minute of her recently completed freshman year.
But theses headbands she has, that’s what she seems to enjoy doing most at the moment. Who knows if it will pay off down the road, but Sokol’s little business that (maybe) can is looking good from the outset.
Sokol’s one-woman proprietor-ship is called Found and Twist. She makes the headbands in her room from material she buys. They used to be made from old T-shirts, but those ran out. Now she has to spend money to make money.
“It looks nice for people that buy them,” she said. “It’s not second-hand clothes anymore.”
The name Found and Twist comes from the first time she made the headbands with a couple of her friends two years ago. They found shirts they could twist into headbands, and violà!
The girls ended up going on a two-day accessory bender that burned them out.
“Five hours for two days of making headbands, that’s kind of a lot of work,” she said. But she picked the hobby back up recently and is now selling them on her site. They come in multiple colors and the price varies depending on the fabric.
“They never seem to go out of style. They’re versatile,” she said. “‘If I’m really motivated, I can sit there for hours and make headbands.”
“She’s creative,” said her mother Ronna. “Very creative, in all sorts of possibilities.”
Possibilities are something people Sokol’s age think a lot about, especially when it comes to traveling and seeing the world. But Sokol’s been there, done that.
She was born in L.A., but her family moved to Germany when she was 2, and then to England when she was 5 (her father Dan is a banker for Citigroup). They moved back to L.A. six years later and settled in La Cañada. Along the way, the Sokol family grew by one with the arrival of brother Coleman, who is now 12.
Ronna thinks the real-world experience helped Sokol be comfortable with any kind of life transition, as well as creating a desire to try new experiences, like the ones she’s currently having.
“She’s got so much in her back pocket now, it’s fantastic,” Ronna said.
Aside from helping people’s fashion sense, Sokol has always enjoyed community service, which was a part of being on the Royal Court.
“It just sounded like fun, and I like community service,” Sokol said. “I’m a big community service person so I thought, ‘Why not try it out?’ I mean, it can’t hurt. If I get cut it’s not a big deal, but I ended up making it and I really liked it.”
With the sunlight bursting through the windows of her living room, it can be hard to steer your gaze from her bright, green saucer eyes, but Sokol wasn’t thinking about her looks as a court member, even if the group picture of all the girls looks like something from homecoming or prom.
“It looks like a pageant, but I don’t like to think of it as a pageant because you’re representing your community,” she said. “You’re not interviewed based upon walking down a catwalk.”
Pat Anderson, CEO of the La Cañada Chamber of Commerce, met Sokol when she applied for the Royal Court. When Sokol started looking for an internship this year, she asked Anderson if she knew of any that were available, and Anderson helped out in a big way.
“Having Pat Anderson, who is an important person in La Cañada, recommend me was tremendous,” she said. “She’s so sweet and it was so nice of her to say, ‘No, don’t go for the chamber, go bigger. Go to your assemblyman.’”
Sokol was able to meet Gatto at this year’s Fiesta Days Parade.
“He seemed genuinely happy to meet someone who works for him that he hadn’t met before,” she said.
“She was delightful and pleasant with dealing with people,” Anderson said. “She was a little on the quiet side, but not shy. She’s seems like an intelligent young woman who is going to have a very good career.”
Sokol is a double major at Redlands, in international relations and German. She used to be fluent in German, but lost it, just like she and Coleman picked up British accents when they were in England, although those have gone away as well.
When she returned to the U.S. she said she watched reruns of the “Fresh Prince of Bel-Air” to become American-ized. The love for Will Smith hasn’t gone away; one of the family’s two cats is named Jay, after Smith’s son Jayden.
“I thought if Will Smith named his kid Jayden, I can name my cat Jayden, too,” she said.
She also loves the TV show “Mad Men,” but none of her peers do, so it was exciting for her to carry on an extended conversation with a fellow fan about why the Betty character is played so right for that period, and why Megan is boring, and how disappointed she is that the show will end next season but how excited she is to see what will happen.
Sokol talked about “Mad Men” adorned with her red headband the whole time. Eventually it came off, but not before discussing her future plans for the business.
“It’s fun for me. It could be short term. I’m hoping it could be long-term, but you never know,” she said.
Anything seems to be possible with Sokol, but she maintained that her studies will come first, which sounds like a smart idea from a different kind of girl.
“I think it depends on where you are in life and what you want for yourself,” she said. “I don’t think of myself as different.”
To check out Gemma’s products, visit foundandtwist.com, or search found&twist on Facebook.