Interview Series for Disfunkshion Magazine: Maryam Montague

My next interview for Disfunkshion Magazine, required me to dialogue with an incredibly diverse woman, Maryam Montague. As soon as I was given my assignment, and learned my subject lived in Morocco,  I quickly dug into my research and the depths of Maryam. I was eager to learn more about the multiple mediums of creativity she uses for both personal expression and community support. Maryam teaches us to champion our pursuits and celebrate our intrigues, our individuality, and our vastness. Read on below to hear more on her perspective and how she is connecting her global audience to Morocco's abundant artistry. 

The Practice of Dynamism with Maryam Montague

by Leah "Lou" Zorn

A truly multi-faceted woman and an inspiration to many, Maryam Montague is a visionary and an entrepreneur who is limitless in her creative expression. Through her vast capabilities and her successful businesses, Maryam is both a force and a foundation. She is a catalyst for the creativity and empowerment of others. 

Maryam's connection to culture begins with her personal draw to new ideas, thirst for a challenge, and execution of different ways to interact with the world around her. She mentions, “When I am outside of my comfort zone and working on a challenging project, that’s when I feel the most alive and inspired, particularly when my ideas start to come together in new ways.”  Through this stimulation and a commitment to humanitarianism, Maryam has grown many projects under her self-titled brand. “I created my brand to be an aspirational lifestyle destination for the modern nomad. It is under that umbrella that I have my blog, My Marrakesh, my shop, my hotel and my charity, Project Soar.”

Each venture began as a curiosity, manifested into an idea, and was put into motion as a personal practice. “I look at the world through curious eyes and am constantly traveling, studying, learning and collecting… A decorative detail, ritual, or belief will often act as a springboard for a series of actions or products.” This momentum flows freely within her own home--a Moroccan boutique hotel appropriately named, Peacock Pavilions. It is within these walls that Maryam, her husband, her children and even her pets open their hearts to guests from around the globe.  

Nestled among olive groves in Marrakesh, Peacock Pavilions is a hot bed for inspiration, interior design, and personal connection. Built in nomadic fashion and with carefully curated wares, the hotel makes conscious living and artisan goods accessible to all. By focusing on wellness and creativity retreats Peacock Pavilions continually attracts leaders and individuals seeking what Maryam knows Marrakesh to source: “Inspiration and renewal.” Through the hotel and the education shared on its grounds, she "encourage[es] people to contemplate a nomadic-inspired lifestyle...[by providing] a safe and beautiful space for them to try it”

If you can’t cross the globe, you can access Maryam’s collaborations, reflections, and locally sourced products from her shop, blog, social media platforms and her latest book, “Marrakesh by Design.” Each endeavor supports the work of Project Soar, yet another facet of Maryam and her generous spirit. Her non-profit organization provides art, sports, and health education programming to “keep [local] girls in school, breaking the cycle of girl brides and early motherhood, while preparing girls to lead full and productive lives.” As she continues to share this work and her personal disciplines, she hopes her children learn to “view the world compassionately and make a real contribution to making the world a better place.”

Maryam is an example that each of us is capable of living a life of social influence, creativity, and connection with our community. As women, Maryam believes it is especially important that we explore the idea of our own dynamism. She mentions, “I believe that women lead far more unidimensional lives than they were created for.  Too often they limit themselves to motherhood, marriage and their one 9-5 job.  I believe that multiple worlds reside in each of us.” We can all share in the abundance of life if we are willing to use curiosity to fuel our own potential. By sharing our ideas, supporting one another and trusting in our unique abilities, we can shape our world.

For additional empowerment and to explore the world of Maryam Montague, check out the links below:

Blog | Instagram | Pinterest | Shop | Hotel | Charity 

read more about the work and spirit of Disfunkshion Magazine >>here<<

>>Leah Lou Style<<

Interview Series for Disfunkshion Magazine: Cat Lee

At the end of 2015, I reached out to a magazine that I stumbled across on Instagram. They had a free-spirited vibe with loads of female empowerment undertones and used wildly vivid colors and energy (hell yeah!). As soon as I saw they had both a headquarters in Hawaii and Florida, I knew I had to reach out. 

I crafted an email sharing who I was, my website, and a selection of my writing. I offered to provide style &/or writing content, then took a deep breath and sent the email off into the hands of "the web." To my surprise and excitement, I quickly received an email back from the editor-in-chief herself; providing praise for my work and point-of-view, and the chance to share both through the magazine. We discussed potential writing options and the promise I would have "a go" at an article in the near future. Soon enough, I was given my first interview with a beautifully genuine Australian artist, Cat Lee.

I found something I connected to, took a risk for my creativity, and remain open to the diversity and adventure I gain through writing. 

Now on my tenth article for the magazine, and thriving in the variety through creativity, I am pleased to share that very first opportunity----my published work, my crafted words, and the magic of an interviewer and a subject who though miles apart, connected so quickly and effortlessly. 

&nbsp; &nbsp; &nbsp; &nbsp; &nbsp; &nbsp; &nbsp; &nbsp; &nbsp; &nbsp; &nbsp; &nbsp; &nbsp; &nbsp; &nbsp; &nbsp; &nbsp; &nbsp; &nbsp; &nbsp; &nbsp; &nbsp; &nbsp; &nbsp; &nbsp; &nbsp; &nbsp;Disfunkshion Magazine, Volume 23

                                                     Disfunkshion Magazine, Volume 23

you can read her feature below:

Unbound Creative Visions with Cat Lee

by: Leah Lou

"the tallest poppy is the first to see the sunrise"

She spends her days immersed in nature and paying attention to its subtle movements; to the gifts and inspiration that come from meditation, creative play, and choosing each moment. From conceiving an idea to developing it in full fruition, Australian artist Cat Lee is living, examining, and constructing a creative life. 

To live a creative life requires finding your personal joy and having the confidence to go after it day, after day, after day. Like an artist with a unique point-of-view, you can curate a life that brings you vibrancy, an understanding of the world around you, and a respect for your unique role in it. Cat believes “we all are creating our life; our own future; by every choice. I know the life I’d like to live and the world I would like to live in, so, I use this as a guide to how I choose to act; how I choose to see; who I choose to spend time with; what I choose to think; what I choose to hear and what I choose to say.”

Through the use of rich color and a deep respect for nature, Cat Lee can create pieces with both vigor and extravagance while evoking a peaceful and relatable energy. From where she stands, “there is so much sadness in the world and I truly believe happiness is so important to lift our energy to enable us to create change.” She chooses to adorn each of her animal pieces to provide that gateway to happiness and reveal the essence of that animal, as well as to shape her audience’s connection to these feeling creatures. 

It is because of her connection and conviction that she is able to express herself so freely. When it comes to her art, “I find starting the hardest part and I realize it’s because the first step is totally up to me.  Once the foundation has been laid, I let go of all control and allow the artwork to tell me what it requires.”

The power and freedom of personal choice requires that same first step; placing trust in the work and committing to the beauty of the end result. When Cat begins a piece, she “makes a huge mess of the foundation and works to resolve it. Starting with mess is so much easier than perfection.” The same can be said of each of us who steps into each day with the history and mess of the weeks, months, and years before. The mess is what provides experience, character, and pure personality. As a single mother and former “9-to-5” worker, Lee puts a great amount of work into the direction her life is going now. She too is inspired by and “energized when I’m around others who recognize their true calling and are bravely living it.”

So how do we express ourselves freely and walk through our own lives with courage, choice, and artistry? We stand tall. We give voice and expression to our own truth. We become like poppies. Cat introduced the deeply rooted cultural and social term, “tall poppy syndrome; a tendency for Australian people to keep others small if they seem like they’re breaking out of what’s the norm.” For her, the term criticizes those individuals who want to showcase their talents, celebrate their own merits, and simply be their best selves, no matter how weird. To stunt the growth of one another and push for “normalcy” would mean we all stop growing, learning, and sharing from different vantage points. We shape one another best by being ourselves. In doing so, we give each other the safe space to create from our mess, layer our own canvas, and develop at our own pace. 

What does Cat Lee wish women would be more aware of? She mentions, “I absolutely hope the message comes across to other women; young and young at heart; that regardless of what anyone says, you must Be Yourself; build each other up and there’s no need to compete.  The people in the world who we look up to and who are inspiring others the most are those who are truly being themselves.” 

You can find more of Cat Lee's work >>here<< 

and view the work and spirit of Disfunkshion Magazine >>here<<

>>Leah Lou Style<<

Establishing Core Values

Last week we started your journey to BOUNDARY SETTING by working on your Personal Bill of Rights; a powerful list of sentences (basic rights) to help you assert yourself while respecting others (ex: I have the right to be healthier than those around me. I do not have the right to tell someone how they feel).

What did you think of this exercise? I can assume some "rights" were easy while others were hard---did you almost not write those rights down? 

Did this exercise come at time when you were feeling taken advantage of; over-stretched, over-worked, over-scheduled, over-over this mess? Perhaps.

It's no coincidence I am beginning this work for you now, during the summer when things slow down. Our work on boundaries over the next few weeks will build you up and prepare you for the next season; a time when kids are back in school, projects are due, events get stacked, and our lives just get busier; more demanding.  

Now that you have your Personal Bill of Rights, let's shift into focusing on your
 CORE VALUES.

Core values are the building blocks that create the substance of who you truly are. They are the means and often motivators through which you can filter decisions, goals, actions, and behaviors. 

What qualities or attributes do you hold dear? What do you stand for in your life, in relationships, in your contributions? What buzzwords light you up and make you think..."I want that to be part of who I am."

Bonus: You can use your PBR to guide this work! Take a look at the list of rights you made and see if there are any patterns in what is important to you. Did you write a majority of rights focused on health? Did your rights show you how much you value alone time and personal maintenance? Look for the patterns and give the groupings a singular word that describes /links them. 

A few of my core values are:

  • authentic
    • it pains me to be fake so I have to share, encourage, and even dialogue from a place that is genuine
  • empowerment
    • positive thinking, uplifting, and the roar!to my spirit
  • relatable
    • I seek to make my voice, words, and insight both easy to conceive and applicable for anyone. I'm no better than anyone else
  • fresh perspective
    • I am most creative when I am looking at things from a different vantage point, playing devils advocate, and trying new ideas
  • vulnerable
    • when I am putting myself "out there" and taking a risk, I know the challenge and occasional nerves are worth it to support this value
  • abundance
    • there is plenty to give, plenty to share, and enough of anything for everyone
  • fun/humor
    • helluuuu! I can talk serious but I can't approach my life that way all the time! I love to laugh and find humor in anything

Think of it as: "I want to create a life of _____________ (fill in the blank). 

Other examples:

  • discovery/exploration
  • gratitude
  • warm-heartedness
  • patience
  • partnership
  • mindfulness
  • adaptability/flexibility
  • creativity
  • integrity
  • spirituality

I'm really looking forward to hearing what core values you come up with for yourself. Try some on and see how they feel. Not of all them will fit & that's as it should be. Go with the values that make sense for the life you want.

 

&GO: a lifeSTYLE showcase

my recap of a style movement initiative brought to you by Leah Lou and lululemon athletica

logo by Rachael of c3

Like most great ideas... mine are formed in the think-tank that is my bathroom shower. When they've made it from sudsy shower to keeping me up at night and inspiring me while I'm brushing my teeth, driving, and drinking my coffee...then I know it's an idea worth sharing.

My sharing came during a workout session with a dear friend who works at lululemon in the Mall at Millenia. Lauryn was a former co-worker, a current close friend, lover of style and accessories, and fabulous "idea grabber." I say this because we love to swap ideas and become sounding boards for one another. I shared my vision for the busy-women of Orlando... a vision where these women who already go from being mom, to career, to workout (and all the activities for herself and her family in between), embrace the idea of working their workout gear into their wardrobe in a way that truly works for them both functionally and fashionably. How would they embrace this style movement?

  • attending a fashion show that
    • highlights local community figure-heads as the models (those attending the event would also come to support their friends and further the law of attraction).
    • incorporates active-wear into looks that work for the workplace, date-night, errands around town, and a play-date with your kiddos (styled alongside clothing most women would have in their closet; ***this is where my stylist skills shine!***)
    • supports local businesses and initiatives through showcasing accessories in the show that could then be shopped on sight; making these inspirations tangible. *ticket sales also went directly to support Market Colors
    • evokes the elements of a woman most of us want to be--chic, fun, dynamic and empowered.

From there we collaborated to make this idea a reality and began planning all the parts and pieces. We utilized our connections in the community, relationships we had fostered, and the notion that "it never hurts to ask." The event began to form and all the right people were coming together to volunteer their time. As a big believer in the the natural pull of the universe, I was already seeing the "law of attraction" (like attracts like) come into full effect.

&GO was taking shape!

graphics/invite by Caroline of Made Vibrant

Lauryn and I felt like we were planning our weddings all over again! ha! Plus, per usual, I was tackling multiple big projects and ended up closing on a home the VERY SAME DAY as the event. I would not change a thing.

&Go-0486.jpg

all images courtesy of Cameron Mora

 

The evening was a complete success because:

  • attendees were giving us amazing feedback, saying things like "I feel like I'm in sex & the city," "I don't think I'm cool enough to be here!-- (NOT true!)" and "I can't believe this is happening in Orlando...I feel like I'm in New York or L.A.!"
  • every vendor present was women-driven and promoting/gaining recognition and sales for their brand and business
  • the models (community rockstars) were able to put their nerves and novice aside and have a blast with one another. I saw women enjoying a night away from their usual responsibilities; constant smiles, laughter, and feelings of connection were emitting from backstage of the fashion show
  • I furthered the mission of leah lou by talking about who the models were as women (I styled and MC'd the fashion show) and how their outfits influenced and added to their daily lives.
  • women were networking and enjoying themselves until long after the event was over
  • attendees were asking when the next &GO event would be

I am proud that an event like &GO succeeded in our community and inspired a sense of connection, support, and empowerment. I am grateful to the partnership and support from lululemon and specifically the team at the Mall at Millenia.

You never know... maybe I will create more events like this in the future.

 

Kudos and huge thank you to all our vendors:

 

Style Empowerment | Shopping Trip Scores & Tips | Beauty Haul

For someone who is a wardrobe stylist, believe it or not, I do not shop very often nor do I enjoy it in the way one might think I would.