The Do Not Enter Diaries: Celebrating the Individuality of Teens & Their Bedrooms

Maybe your teenage years are a distant memory. Maybe you’re in the middle of battling through high school hell. Maybe you’re a tween and are on the verge of dropping that ‘w’. Wherever you are in your life, one thing’s for certain. Your free time as a teenager was/is/will be primarily spent in the privacy of your bedroom.

My bedroom was my sanctuary. I spent as much time as I possibly could in there. It was a space for reading, talking on the phone, trying on clothes, sleepovers, dancing, dreaming, growing and it was mine. Whenever I thought about changing things around, I tried to model it after Clarissa Darling’s room. Hers was just so rad. She had a wall of hub caps, a lizard in a kiddie pool and window seat that served as a portal for pop ins by her BFF, Sam. But it was also an expression of her, not me. That’s what a bedroom is, it’s an expression of who you are. And the founders of The Do Not Enter Diaries agree.

The Do Not Enter Diaries is first and foremost, of teens, by teens, for fun. Launched in January 2013, The Do Not Enter Diaries is an ongoing transmedia project by two teenagers, Emily Cohn and Emma Orlow. Emily films and edits the videos, while Emma interviews the teens, created, and runs the website. The Do Not Enter Diaries tells the stories of teenagers through their bedrooms, from New York to Mumbai. They believe that the bedroom is a physical manifestation of a diary and explore how bedrooms contribute to the identities of teenagers by uncovering a world not often seen by the public.

I was instantly intrigued by this project and was able to chat with the girls about their hopes for the future of the site.

Where do you see this project in 5 years?

Emily: When I think about The Do Not Enter Diaries 5 years from now, I mainly envision the website looking a bit more professional and us having 5 years worth of teenage bedrooms to look back on of teens all around the world. At the moment, I am also really excited about our next addition to our site, our Correspondent’s Corner, which will feature subjects from places beyond the NYC area (we’ll explain more below). Both Emma and I are also hoping to have more teens involved in the production of the diaries 5 years from now. Overall, we’re excited to train new people and to continuing expanding on a global scale.

What do you hope your viewers get out of watching these videos?

Emma: I hope viewers watching our videos see that valuing your bedroom as a teenager, and making it into a sanctuary where you’re able to be your true self, has nothing to do with your gender, sexuality, race, interests, or other categories we split ourselves into. The Do Not Enter Diaries is for all teenagers, not just one niche. However, we hope younger kids are inspired to find ways to make their spaces their own, no matter what sort of confinements they are given, and that our videos make adults reminisce about the effect of their own teenage bedroom on their development.

What’s your favorite thing in your bedroom?

Emily: My favorite thing in my bedroom is definitely my window seat. It’s something that I had envisioned in my mind since I was little and it turned out even better than I could have ever imagined. I also love it because the process of figuring out how to make it work was really exciting and my mom and I had a lot of fun with it. We found the chairs at a flea market, got the fabric online from a discount fabric site, got the cushion made, and my mom’s friend chopped off the legs of the chairs and mounted them up. For me, there’s nothing better than sitting on my perch on a rainy night reading a book.

Emma: My room is held together by so many little vignettes– toys from the Happy Meals at McDonald’s interacting on shelves with pins, plastic sushi, all of the art I’ve ever made, and my collage walls as backdrop. Right now, I’m really into this gnome lamp I have which actually broke recently, but is sort of the mascot for my whole space.

What’s your favorite moment from all the videos you’ve done?

Emily: One of my all time favorite moments was when we asked one of our past subjects, Olivia if there was any part of her room that she didn’t like. She thought for a second and spontaneously decided that she didn’t like the drawer she was standing in front of. This cracks me up every time I watch it. Also when Olivia explained how she let her dead fish just hang out in the tank mounted to her wall for a few months since she forgot to feed it.

Emma: In one of our upcoming videos, one of our diarists, Nathalie, spent a large part of her tour rolling around on her furry white flokati rug. If you got to look at the extra footage from that shoot, we had at least 3 minutes straight, in silence, of her just rolling around happily on the rug. It was hilarious and amazing and also a tad awkward.

If there’s one thing you could change about your bedroom, what would it be?

Emily: I would probably like my room to be a bit less cluttered. My house is jam-packed with vintage trinkets and all sorts of random things and there is legitimately not an inch of wall space anywhere, so I have inherited that sort of aesthetic, but even my room, which is not nearly as chaotic as the rest of my house, overwhelms me at times.

Emma: I made the decisions for the foundations of my room (my bed, dresser, desk, etc) when I was in 6th grade. My taste has changed a lot since, and so now my way of decorating is how can I use the most colors to counterbalance my dark wood and bland wall colors. I think I’ve done a really good job of camouflaging through collaging the walls and covering my dresser with the contents of all of my collections spilled out into a shrine of teenagedom.

In addition to the weekly video that you film, you’re adding a new weekly segment,right?

Emily: Starting on April 1st, we are going to be premiering our Correspondent’s Corner (we currently only post on Wednesdays but starting on that day will be adding our correspondents to Mondays as well). Because its obviously not economically feasible to travel to teenage bedrooms across the globe, our Correspondent’s Corner is a way of showcasing bedroom diaries shot by teens from all around the world who have a strong interest in film. These awesome teens help us get to areas which we wouldn’t normally reach. Right now we have correspondents everywhere from Beijing to New Zealand to Slovakia. The way our program works is that our correspondents send us the footage of their room and their friends’ rooms following our very specific filming guidelines and then I edit all of the footage but both Emma and I are always in contact with our correspondents in different ways.

What is the submission process?

Emma: To be a correspondent you have to first fill out an application on our site. From there, if we are interested in taking you on and you are ready to make a commitment, we have you propose subjects that you’d want to film so we can get a gist of a theme or style we’d see in your footage. Once we’ve okay’ed their proposals, we start to really communicate and get to know our correspondents. They’re all fellow teenagers so this is the exciting part for us. As Emily mentioned our correspondents have to follow our filming guidelines, but, its also a chance for them to have platform for their work and get feedback. We are in constant communication with our correspondents whether its a discussion about a subject they’ve proposed or ways they can improve their footage or just how cool we think they all are. We really hope there is chance in the future where all of us get to meet-up out of our bedrooms.

What are you most looking forward to with this new segment?

Emily: I’m just really excited to be communicating with all of these awesome teens from all around the world. It’s really crazy to me. I feel very appreciative of the internet every time we get a new application or receive new footage from our correspondents. I hope through showing these videos of teens from different countries our viewers will get a glimpse at how different or similar our lives are from places all around the world.

Emma: When we are filming a bedroom for The Do Not Enter Diaries, we don’t just get to understand the secluded bedroom quarters that you then view on your screens, but rather, for a short period of time, we enter teens’ homes and get to understand their full living dynamic. However, with our correspondents, because they are only sending us the footage of their bedrooms, really, the only the thing we have to judge or understand these teens by is this one space. Our correspondents more than anything represent our thesis for The Do Not Enter Diaries and are a really interesting way for us to take a virtual journey around the world to continue to deepen our understanding of the importance of the teenage bedroom in other cultures, as well as our own.

Also, it’s just incredibly exciting since it feels like I’m just hanging out in a teens room from somewhere as far from my home as Beijing. I would never have gotten the chance to have a firsthand account of a teenage experience in such a radically different place before The Do Not Enter Diaries.

Get to know teens from around the world and check out their site, and follow them on Twitter @donotenterdiary.

PLUS, you might want to head over there this afternoon, because The Do Not Enter Diaries just filmed an interview with our very own teen star, RUBY KARP, that will premiere today at 4pm EST. Check it out!

Images courtesy of Melkorka Tomasdottir

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