Celeb Shot: The Buttonista
Yes, Two Buttons Deep cofounder Taylor Rao—quite possibly Saratoga's most recognizable personality—does actually enjoy Miller Lite.
Last Saturday, between turns at the pool table, my friend and I were chatting with a young couple on what was, apparently, a hot date at Tin & Lint. The girl put her iPhone on the table screen-down, revealing a “Buttonista” sticker on the back of the case. My friend pointed it out, knowing I’d recently met the local social media personality at our Overdress to Impress party, and was planning to interview her the following week. The girl said something along the lines of, “I get so much sh** for this, but I love her. So many people want to be fashion influencers, and she’s actually out there doing it.”
That exchange pretty much sums up most of the conversations I’ve had about Clifton Park native Taylor “Buttonista” Rao, co-founder of the insanely popular local media company Two Buttons Deep. (For those who aren’t familiar with the brand, Taylor refers to it as “deconstructed late-night television,” where she and her business partner, Jack Carpenter, “take the next viral clip, skip the show, and just put it right on the internet.”) One question I got leading up to our interview, which was posed almost as an accusation, was “Do you like her?” Of course, I didn’t really know her, though I had seen about 7,000 videos of her on Instagram, and had listened to a few of her podcast episodes, which is kind of like knowing someone. I didn’t necessarily like or dislike her; I was impressed by the company she and Jack have been able to build in only about five years’ time, and only slightly salty that she recently covered up Saratoga Living’s handle when reposting my photo from Rhea to her Story. Also, I doubt that if I had been talking about her male counterpart I would’ve gotten the same critical response. Just ask Samantha Bee—late-night television, even the deconstructed sort, has historically been a boys club, and there are still people who are put off by an outgoing/outspoken woman on screens of any size.
But enough of my feminist commentary. Things all came full circle when I asked Taylor where she wanted to meet for the interview and she said Tin & Lint, of all places. “I’m a dive bar girl,” she told me when we got there. When I brought our drinks back to the table—my Sam Adams Cold Snap and her, you guessed it, Two Buttons Deep fans, Miller Lite—I set the plain glass in front of her, and the Sam Adams–branded glass in front of myself, assuming the bartender had put my Sam in a Sam glass. “No no no no,” Taylor said, swapping the glasses. “I know a Miller Lite when I see one.”
Just to clear things up, because you post about it all the time: Does Miller Lite pay you?
Yeah, of course. I’ve always loved Miller Lite. That’s a question that I get asked a lot—people want to know if I genuinely like it. It’s just childhood memories. When I was a kid, my parents had a tiki bar off of our deck and they always had parties and people over. How many times did I see a Miller Lite can in my childhood at the track, at my house, on the boat? And then when it became time, I’m like, “This is a great beer—96 calories?” I genuinely love it. So the fact that I actually can talk about a beer that I really like and I’m not faking it is so fun. It’s just a very easy drink. I like the nostalgic can, I like that you can go to Tin & Lint and get a Miller Lite, you can go to a high-class restaurant and get a Miller Lite. Miller Lite is not above anybody.
Take me back to the beginning. How did Two Buttons Deep come to be?
From a very young age I knew what I wanted to be and what I wanted to do. I was just out there all the time, super outgoing, whether it was dance and cheerleading, being student council president, giving speeches, just always putting myself out there from day one. And after college I immediately went down to New York City—I thought I wanted to have a career in fashion. I worked for Macy’s doing product development, and as soon as I got there I felt like I was the least unique person in the world. Every single person who had gotten this entry-level executive training job at Macy’s looked the same, talked the same, had the same outfits, had the same life story. And I was just like, “I can’t do this—it just didn’t feel right to me.” So I took a step back, I came here and that’s when we started 2 Buttons Deep.
Where did Jack fit in?
He was working in LA and had a job offer with Jimmy Fallon, he interned with Conan O’Brien, and he was pretty sure he was going to do broadcast late-night TV in LA. We both just somehow were taking some time in the Capital Region and started hanging out in Troy, where people were owning their own restaurants, opening up their own boutiques, selling smoothies at the farmers’ market. It just all seemed very possible at that time. So we started with a blog originally, which had a lot of traction. But it wasn’t until we added video in 2017 that we really saw what the potential of the brand could be. There was really no point of me blogging about Kim Kardashian, but there was a huge point of me going somewhere like Chowderfest or the Victorian Stroll and capturing it in a different way than the news does, which is Who, What, Where, When, Why—which we don’t really do. We say we do the two other Ws, which are “Wow” and “What the f***.”
And how did you choose the name Two Buttons Deep?
When we were in college, a lot of the guys would wear Hawaiian shirts to parties, and the more “buttons deep” you went on your Hawaiian shirt, the more fun you were having. So we strive for the content that we post to be something you would talk about when you’re two buttons deep with your friends. Anything more than three buttons deep is best left off the internet.
How do you decide what to cover?
We literally don’t. We are the most last-minute people in the world. Nine times out of 10 we show up without an idea, and we just know there’s somewhere that we want to be, where we need to be, and we really just come up with it on the fly, based on what the vibe is and what the people are doing. We ask for forgiveness, not permission, so sometimes we roll up and are like, “Are we gonna get kicked out?” We went to Fasig-Tipton last year and knew Bobby Flay would be there. Did I know that I was going to be able to talk to Bobby Flay or even find him? No. But that’s where you’ve got to get a little liquid courage and you go a couple buttons deep.
I heard Bobby Flay bought a house in Saratoga.
He did—for a couple million. I talked to a real estate agent up on Broadway. It was like $2 million cash. I don’t know where it is. I don’t know if Bobby Flay would want to see me again after that video last year.
I feel like Two Buttons Deep has exploded recently—is that true or just because I’ve been paying more attention to you guys recently?
We’re growing about 4 or 5 percent per month on Instagram, which is crazy. In April 2020, during the height of the pandemic, we doubled our following on Facebook in one month when it had taken us four years to build organically. That was probably the biggest period of growth, but at this point the numbers are just going up faster than you can refresh your page. We have almost 150,000 followers across all of our accounts, and are getting inquiries multiple times a day about how businesses locally can utilize Two Buttons Deep to reach a younger demographic in a very authentic way. We work with CDTA, Stewart’s, Crossgates, Hoffman Car Wash, DeCrescente—so some of the bigger names in business here have really hitched their name to what we’re doing. And that’s pretty cool. In about an hour we should be hiring our first full-time person besides Jack and me.
When did you know that you had a passion for fashion?
When I was in third grade I would come home from school and ask my mom if it would be OK to give my teacher a makeover. I was like listen, “It wouldn’t cost that much money; we could give her a new pair of earrings!” God bless her, she was probably a young grad student and I’m coming home thinking I can give her a makeover.
How did the “Buttonista” come to be?
It’s basically an affiliate brand—we’re all under the same umbrella, but part of the Two Buttons Deep strategy is that we need to grow affiliated accounts to appeal to different interests and people in the Capital Region. What really spurred it was the Capital Region’s Best-Dressed List, which is something that I started. It was one of the biggest things we’ve really ever done on our page. To diversify, we figured if we could start a new account that’s very personality based and have some fashion and lifestyle content there, we could grow into a different demographic. I started just kind of posting my life, interior design, stuff that I was doing in my apartment, and then the podcast came out in March of 2020. Right now it’s our highest viewed podcast that we have. I’m about to record the 100th episode.
What’s your favorite thing Two Buttons Deep has done?
In 2019 we had a full-blown broadcast every single Saturday at the track. We had our own booth—we had lights, camera, action, we had guests and talent and we were all dressed up. It was probably one of the most professional things we’ve done. We had a schedule and producers. That was almost three years ago now, and from March to July, the only thing I’ll be asked when I go out in public is “What are you guys doing at the track this year?”
Do you ever get negative comments or feedback?
Honestly, the best part of the haters is that they’re watching your every move and we love that. Someone said the other day that we’re an embarrassment and that all we talk about is Miller Lite and Saratoga. I’m like, “So you know! You know what we talk about because you’re watching every single thing that we do.” Every once in a while we get tangled up in a little bit of controversy. It’s usually some sort of political or social issue that we’re not talking about. When something big happens, because we have a following and because we have a platform, which is what people say, they expect us to speak out on certain issues that are just not ours to comment on. So that’s really the only time, but we do like to stir things up. Every once in a while a good controversy is actually beneficial to the brand, because everyone’s following you. Just the other day we said, “What should we get into next?” I thought maybe some Gaffney’s drama—a little man on the street, let the people do the talking.
Do you get recognized around town?
Yeah, a lot. Your parents want you to have a steady job and a career, and my mom will tell the story now where she was a little bit like, “OK, Taylor, this Two Buttons Deep thing?” And then we’d be out somewhere and it could be a 65-year-old man that says, “Two Buttons Deep!” And she’s like, “Are you serious right now?” I think that’s the only way that she has bought into this—when we walk around and people know me, she’s like, “You’re right. You really have something here.”
What’s one thing most people don’t realize about your job?
It never stops. People think that social media is easy. You talk to people who have a side hustle and they want to use social media to build it. But they do it for three weeks and they fall off the map, and then they come back and say “Sorry! Here’s a picture of my face! Just popping on here to say hi—there are lots of new faces!” and they don’t have the consistency. For us, there is literally nothing more important than being consistent. You cannot skip a day of posting. We post seven days a week and constantly on Stories.
What’s in store for the future of Two Buttons Deep?
Both of us left major cities to come work here in the creative industry. And I think there’s a lot to be said for us creating a modern-day media company, and maybe people who don’t want to go to New York City or Boston or LA don’t have to, because we can employ them. We can become a place for people to be video producers and be on-camera talent, be podcasters, and do that right here where we grew up. That’s something that we’d be really proud of, because Jack’s not a city person. I love it, but I wanted to be here. Just to be able to create that opportunity for other people would be huge. But I wouldn’t mind being famous and on the Today Show.
Quote of the Week
Woman: “Have you been to the new Champagne bar?”
Man 1: “You mean the chick bar?”
Man 2: “Chick bar? Let’s go!”
—Overheard at Artisanal Brew Works
Need a horse to root for in today’s Kentucky Derby? How about one with a hometown tie? Read all about Mo Donegal’s chances and his Skidmore College connections here.
History Is Made
When Stephanie Land, author of Maid: Hard Work, Low Pay, and a Mother’s Will to Survive, said “You need to put young people and people of color in your city council” at Thursday evening’s talk at UPH, she probably didn’t realize that Saratoga Springs had recently, and monumentally, done just that. This week, following the death of longtime commissioner of public works Skip Scirocco earlier this year, attorney Jason Golub was sworn into the post, making him Saraotga’s first Black commissioner ever. Golub joins an already diverse City Council that includes Mayor Ron Kim, New York State’s first Asian-American city mayor; and Finance Commissioner Minita Sanghvi, the Council’s first-ever woman of color.
This week in Saratoga Living After Hours
On Monday, Game Time feature three Spa City closeups whose location we asked Saratogians to identify.
Then, on Tuesday, instead of speculating what to buy our moms for Mother’s Day, we—get this—actually asked some Saratoga moms what they want. Their answers may surprise you.