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Brittany Charnley: Hometown girl and blogger carries on Laguna traditions in a cool hip mom way

By DIANNE RUSSELL

Photos by Mary Hurlbut

If readers recognize Brittany Charnley from her picture, it’s no surprise. From the moment she arrived here with her family as a two-year-old, she began a life-long (though she’s only 29) love affair with Laguna. It’s next to impossible to mention an activity offered in the city in which she hasn’t participated or a place at which she hasn’t worked or volunteered. The connections are as varied as they are endless, and as a result, Brittany is deeply embedded in Laguna’s culture, and it in her.

Her emotional ties to the City brought her back to Laguna after graduating from Pepperdine University in Malibu with a degree in Public Relations. But why return when so many young adults want to leave their hometowns, especially when the cost of living here is exorbitant? 

Love affair begins

Brittany says with obvious affection, “I love Laguna and the hometown feel.”

And it goes without saying, a big draw is that her parents are still nearby.

Although she wasn’t born here, she doesn’t remember living anywhere else. Her introduction to the City began after her parents, Michelle and Sam Clark, moved here from Denver with toddler Brittany and her older sister in tow. At that point, her dad’s career in the Navy had ended, and he went into equipment leasing. Her mother Michelle worked in Laguna’s Waste Management Department for 20 years and was also very involved with the Chamber of Commerce. 

Brittany Charney closeup

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This hometown girl loves her town

Brittany’s kinship to the town can be credited to her parents. Due to their busy careers, they put her in numerous programs and activities, and that’s when her relationship with Laguna began to form. She attended Anneliese Preschool, then went on to Top of the World and then Thurston, and graduated from Laguna Beach High School in 2007. 

During those years, she was a member of the Boys & Girls Club, winning the Member of the Year Award in 1999 (which means she’s always a member). She credits LBBGC with her love for sports. 

“That’s where I learned to play pool, and I’m a good player,” she says.

Also active in basketball at LBBGC, the high school basketball coach saw her playing and recruited her for the LBHS team. She ran track in high school as well, and participated in soccer, but it conflicted with basketball, so she had to make a choice, and basketball won. 

With the support of her parents, she excelled. Brittany says, “Although they worked, my parents attended all of my sporting events.”

No grass grew under her feet

Apparently, as a child, she was rarely idle. Her parents kept her busy, very busy, making sure she was jumping into all Laguna had to offer. Brittany joined Brownies and Girl Scouts, and also took dancing lessons at the community center (before it became Susi Q).

In 1996, when she was in first grade, she appeared in the painting “Sunday Morning” at Pageant of the Masters and made the cover of the program. Her mother was a volunteer backstage, working on headdresses. 

Brittany adds that Festival of Arts artist Michael Obermeyer appeared in the painting as her dad.

Although not during consecutive years, Brittany appeared five times in the Pageant, and then worked as an usher for a year. 

Brittany Charnley with family

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Kent, Blake, and Brittany enjoy a day in the park

The ties to the artistic community don’t stop there. From age 15-25, she worked summers at the Sawdust Festival at the Taco Bowl and Thasos restaurants. (Through the years, she’s also worked at other places around town: House of Big Fish, Nirvana Grille, and The Marine Room.) 

At the Sawdust, she came to know many of the exhibitors, and one in particular who played a pivotal role in Brittany’s important life events. A long-time Sawdust exhibitor, Mary Hurlbut, Stu News staff photographer, took Brittany and her husband Kent’s engagement and wedding pictures. And the ceremony was, where else, but at Hotel Laguna. 

For Brittany, it seems everything happens here in Laguna. She even met her husband Kent, who’s from Michigan, at Ocean Brewery. He’s worked all around town as well: Big Fish, zpizza, Banzai Bowl, and the Montage.

Creating a sense of community online with thecoolhipmom.com

In 2017, Brittany found a way to incorporate this hometown feel into a wonderful and beneficial enterprise. Last year, she launched her blog www.thecoolhipmom.com as a resource for parents and to create a sense of community among mothers and families in Orange County. Even before her two-year-old daughter Blake was born, Brittany had questions – What should I pack for the hospital? What about playgroups? How should I be feeling? – and nowhere to get answers from her peers.

In a sense, blogging is a way of alleviating isolation, and the response has been overwhelming. And although she wanted to be a television reporter when she was younger, she can now use this desire for reporting and storytelling in her blog posts.

“The response has been all positive,” says Brittany. “I’ve had no negative comments.”

Its focus is multi-faceted: Motherhood, Disneyland, Laguna Beach, and family fun. But it also includes social commentary and technology news. A few of the recent blogs topics have been: The Ultimate Kid Friendly City Guide to Laguna Beach, 12 Things You Must Do at the OC Fair with Your Toddler This Summer, LA Dance Project’s OC Debut, and One Hope and Global Genes’ New Wine Collaboration Helps to Support Rare Disease Patients. 

Brittany Charnley jumping

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Brittany jumps for joy in her new endeavor, OC Lifestyle and Mom Blog

The concept to initiate a blog came in a roundabout way. After Brittany became a mother, she met with a visiting college friend who mentioned, “You’re literally the same person. You haven’t changed.”

Brittany’s response was surprise, as if why wouldn’t I be? She admits, “There’s a misconception about how mothers are supposed to act. We can just be who we are, and I want to inspire and encourage moms to remain who they are.”

Much like her parents during her childhood, Brittany and Kent are now busy as well with their careers. She works full-time as the Director of Marketing for a private Christian school (with four campuses) in Yorba Linda. Kent is A/R Business Office Associate (in Finance) at Rock Harbor Church in Costa Mesa.

Passing on family traditions

Although Brittany’s blog is named “the cool hip mom,” she admits that’s not a self-proclaimed title, however, it seems a role she fits to a “T.” She’s already instilling in Blake a sense of community and tradition. Her daughter is attending the Anneliese Preschool just as Brittany did, and no doubt will go to the same elementary, middle, and high school, possibly even have the same teachers. 

Brittany says, “Many of the same teachers I had are still in the district, although they may have changed schools.”

Like Brittany, Blake also goes to Hospitality Night (Brittany holds fond memories of the karaoke at Hobie Surf Shop), park concerts, and the Patriots Day Parade in which Brittany rode on various floats during the years. 

Brittany Charnley walking

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Laguna will be home to old and new family traditions

The connections are endless.

Her parents are friends with Kelly Boyd, and she remembers spending the Fourth of July celebrations at the Boyds’ home. 

However, many young adults who were raised here and have good memories have moved away. (Her older sister now lives in Las Vegas.) So how many grads in Brittany’s high school class have stayed here or come back? 

After attending her 10-year LBHS reunion last year at the Hotel Laguna, Brittany says, “Many have stayed here, some are vendors at the Farmers’ Market or have other endeavors in town.” 

It’s not difficult to label Brittany a hometown girl; she knows this town inside and out. Yet even in her short 29 years, she’s witnessed changes. 

“I understand that the town must cater to tourists,” she says, “But the vibe still flourishes, and the City has stayed true to the heart of hometown, local feeling.”

She agrees that it’s a perfect place to raise her daughter, “The public schools are like private ones, and you can walk everywhere, and there are so many activities outside.”

A new generation grows up in Laguna

What wonderful traditions Brittany’s parents have passed on to her, and which she, in turn, will pass on to her daughter.

Her mother Michelle says, “We were super excited when Brittany decided to come back to Orange County and start her career and family. It brings us such joy and brings back the memories when we pick up our granddaughter from preschool.” 

Brittany says, “As my daughter grows up, I hope that the family atmosphere and spirit of community remains in Laguna and that she grows up to see how unique the
town truly is!”

Although Brittany may not claim to be a “cool hip mom,” from all accounts, she certainly appears to be. After all, she’s raising another hometown girl who, no doubt, will love Laguna just like her mom.