PaperCity Magazine

PaperCity Dallas October 2022

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Page 101 of 103

She's The Bomb By Billy Fong I was recently at a birthday lunch at Grange Hall for Jennifer Karol (She's the Bomb, April 2020) and found myself seated next to Susan O'Brien. Even though we had met years prior and subsequently spent time together, that was the day I decided Susan needed to join the Bomb squad. This might be my first girl that I could play Six Degrees of Separation with, since she has ties with so many of those that came before her. On our first official interview (during a' recent torrential downpours) at her ├╝ber-cool m i d - c e n t u r y h o m e , S u s a n greeted me at the door wearing one of the long and flowing dresses I'm accustomed to seeing her in. Throughout the course of o u r r a m b l i n g conversation (over a few glasses of vino), she often p a u s e d a n d reflectively looked out at the rain before finishing a sentence. It was very cinematic. Susan was raised in Houston, where she was the youngest of six. She went to Westchester High School and was best friends with another 2022 Bomb girl, Wendy Payne. As she recounts those formative years, I envision a gorgeous beauty (as she is today), but she shares that she had to wear a neck and back brace, and it wasn't until later that she blossomed and eventually modeled for a while. Her hopes of spending time doing gymnastics and dance in high school were instead channeled into acting. Then she recounts her time at University of Texas, majoring in interior design. "Wait!" I stop her. "Why not pursue theater in college?" I adore her frankness: "I was a chicken shit. Even though I was a rebel, I just didn't have it in me to take that true leap of faith." Upon graduating, she made her way back home, where she worked at Chelsea Architects. She met her husband, Steve O'Brien, in the mid-'90s while still living in Houston. She proclaims, "I would come to Dallas for Texas/OU weekend for the infamous parties, particularly Steve and his roommates." Romance quickly ensued, and the two eventually married and began building a family. Their brood is comprised of three boys: Evan, Quinn, and Dwyer. But, on to a big part of our chat that day: how Susan launched her brilliant company, Hail Merry. While traveling in Hawaii, she fortuitously stumbled upon the raw foods movement, which was still in its infancy and primarily a coastal thing. "I was fascinated," she says. "Vegan superfoods, living foods, and raw plant-based dietary fats can truly improve overall health and well-being." But her light-bulb moment was that these ingredients could be incredibly tasty. She began experimenting with recipes, and even though she still had three children at home, she decided to take a leap of faith and start a company. She launched Hail Merry in 2008, and to use some of those words that unfortunately have been bandied too much in recent memory: Susan was an innovator and disruptor. The brand has been awarded too many accolades to mention (simply check out their website and prepare to be impressed). Today Hail Merry can be found on the shelves of Whole Foods Market, Central Market, H-E-B ... once again, too many to mention here. Over the years, she got to know many of the kitchen team, primarily women, and learned from them a great deal about the lives of trafficked and sexually exploited women and their children. As a result, she decided to serve on the board of New Friends New Life, whose mission is to address s u c h h o r r i f i c exploitation. N o w t h a t she and Steve a r e o f f i c i a l l y without carpool responsibilities and curfew duty (the boys have flown their mid- century nest), they're embracing this next chapter. Susan again turns reflective when she considers the coming era for Hail Merry. "I guess I still have a baby that I'm caring for and e n s u r i n g w i l l have a big life" she says. I'm quite sure that the care and feeding (pardon the pun) she's doing now will yield even greater success. Date of the photo. 1995. The occasion. Cabo San Lucas with Steve. What you were wearing. High-waisted '90s jeans belted, hoop earrings, a cross necklace, matte red lips, and wet hair. What price fashion. My first big splurge was on a red Gucci suit from their London shop, which I later gave away. I keep searching for it on Etsy. Why this is a picture. When this was taken, I was falling in love with the man of my dreams. What I have learned from dusting off this old photo is that true love can inspire creativity and fuel risk-taking. Susan O'Brien Susan O'Brien, 1995

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