Interview Series for Disfunkshion Magazine: Dana Williams

Volume 24 of Disfunkshion Magazine has recently hit newsstands and it's chock full of my writing. I say this so boldly because I am deeply proud of these published works; both my interviews and free-form topics of my own musings. To have a beautiful, thought-provoking publication like Disfunkshion magazine support my creativity alongside empowering women all over the world, makes my heart burst. 

For this volume, I had the pleasure of interviewing singer/songwriter Dana Williams as she shared both love and loss threaded with hope and triumph, and what it means to contribute your art to the world. 

Leah Lou Style + Dana Williams
Leah Lou Style + Dana Williams Disfunkshion

The Wisdom of Dana Williams

by Leah "Lou" Zorn

From the first time you hear or see her perform, singer/songwriter Dana Williams will not only mesmerize you with her soulful voice, but hold you with her presence, her poise, and her depth. She is transfixed as she transfixes.

“For me, singing is very therapeutic. It takes me to a place of satisfaction and peace. No matter what is going on in my life, I can use singing as a release,” she explains. There is a consistent dynamism to her performance, made clear in both her stunning original tracks and her clever covers of more modern influence. As Dana describes, “I think the direction and vision that has always guided me is jazzy and retro, and I think moving forward I will continue to explore those styles.”

With inspiration drawn from Ella Fitzgerald, Billie Holiday, Carole King, Amy Winehouse, Sam Cooke and Patsy Cline (to name a few), Dana transports her listeners to a different place and time; perhaps, a dimly lit lounge where swirls of smoke envelope smartly-dressed guests poised atop velvet armchairs. Her vibe and vocals are romantic, dreamy, and give her obvious youth an “old-soul” quality. When you watch her get lost in the strings of her guitar, she comes across as a friend who will meet you where you are, while providing gentle wisdom and love to overcome any hardship. She is a confidant because she too has felt hurt and tragedy alongside hope and triumph.

Dana finds a release and a comfort in writing and singing about loss. “I think I, along with most people, have experienced loss to some capacity, losing my father was really hard for me.” The beauty of her exploring her talent and writing “for [herself] and anyone who can relate to what I’m going through” is that she is able to keep the memory and support of her father, living and breathing through melody and string. She explains, “Anytime he taught me a song or a riff he’d say, ‘practice this and make it your own.’ He taught me that individuality and authenticity were important and that finding your own voice is what sets you apart from the rest, so now anything I do I try to make it my own.” To this personal mantra Dana adds, “In a visual age where there is so much emphasis on imagery and beauty, it is important to know who you are, so that no one can tell you who you are and what you are capable of.”

Talented both in dreamlike vocals and seemingly effortless guitar rhythms, Dana supplements her original songs with equally captivating acoustic covers and delightful collaborations with other artists--most notably, is her duet with Leighton Meester, covering Fleetwood Mac’s “Dreams.” Nearing 4 million views on youtube, the women had not anticipated such a strong positive response to this recording, “so we decided to do it again. But [Meester] mostly is just really fun to collaborate with and it’s really cool how well our voices blend.”

Whether solo or supporting another artist, Dana Williams is inarguably magnetic. When she performs, “sometimes, my mind is entirely clear and the only thing I am thinking about is the story I’m telling, and other nights I spend much of it watching the audience to see their reactions.” To explore more of her talent, start with Dana’s single “Fooling Myself,” but don’t be surprised if you lose track of time and browse through any number of her videos, songs, and alluring stories. 

Learn more about Dana Williams >>here<<

Disfunkshion Magazine >>here<<

>>Leah Lou Style<<

seriously....go get lost in the chill-inducing magic of her voice. You'll find a couple of my favorites below:

Interview Series for Disfunkshion Magazine: Dumblonde

When Disfunkshion magazine requests an interview, I always "do my homework" on the subject. I browse the internet to see what I can learn about them, to ground myself in who they are and what to showcase, and to judge if I am connected to sharing their depth. It's google search & gut check!

Dumblonde presented a new challenge for me: an electro-dance/pop musical group. Plus, these women started their musical careers as members of P.Diddy's girl group "Danity Kane" from his show "Making the Band." They had since parted ways with the group and it's "old guard" and were committed to carving their own place in the industry, on their terms.

So long as I didn't have to mention ANY of that history, or pretend to have expertise on "electro-pop," I was willing to take the assignment. I began this interview with the desire to showcase who these women are TODAY, who they want to be for their audience, and who they are for one another. Plus according to videos online and radio interviews alike, they were constantly being asked about their past. If I was moving forward with such force and success (and a badass sisterhood), the last thing I would want, would be to continue to address what was behind me. 

Your Roots are Showing: A Closer Look at Dumblonde

by Leah "Lou" Zorn

With pure soul, depth, courage and trust in one another, the women behind the independent alternative Dance/Pop group, Dumblonde, are making music their way and unapologetically.

From initial idea and sound, to vision and artistry, the duo Aubrey O’Day and Shannon Bex are touching every part of the creative process and balancing each role effectively. As Shannon explains, the creative execution comes from “above all, staying true to your vision and not allowing complacency, negativity, others opinions, or being tired to rule the outcome.” Which may sound easy for some, but with 48+hour video shoots, city tours, practices and performances, these women choose to lean on one another and balance their strengths. For Aubrey, their partnership means “[they] each excel in what each other lacks; and because [they] are VERY smart blondes, [they] are always paying attention to how powerful that message is.”

The balance the pair achieves so brilliantly is attributed to two central themes the women shared separately: Passion and fearlessness. These elements drive who they are day-to-day and the bigger picture of their reach and influence. Shannon cultivates the desire to be, “remembered for my compassion and love. Nobody is perfect, [she] prays to be known for how [she] accepts others for how imperfect they are but true to their heart.” This compassion is exactly what Aubrey looks to Shannon for. “She taught me that unconditional love is real and reminds me daily of the patience that is required to achieve it.” As an artist who continues to evolve, Aubrey wants Dumblonde to be remembered for, “fearlessness to constantly overcome and reinvent professionally and personally, and being unafraid to step outside the box and take risks with our sound, brand, visuals and overall creativity.”

Their candid soul and drive for unadulterated artistry carve a point of view that transcends music alone. It is Aubrey’s hope that independent creators gain more opportunity and access in the music industry. Especially because for her, “The entire point of art is creation and exploration and stepping outside boxes. When the business becomes more important than the freedom of that, the art suffers…when the art suffers so do the people that are inspired by it.” The lesson she shares applies to anyone following the depths of their creativity and those who are then willing to support and empower others in doing the same. As Shannon aptly states it, “Just believe in your own beauty and light. What you bring nobody else can or ever will. There is power in that knowledge. Don’t get in your own way and always encourage your sister…your journeys are unique and your God given purpose is real.”

*The lovely ladies even indulged in some quick "fun facts" with me, at the conclusion of the interview.

Favorite Food/Drink  

  • Shannon: Really good Italian & a glass of wine
  • Aubrey: sushi and a moscow mule  

Favorite Guilty Pleasures

  • Shan: riding horses, vodka martinis straight up
  • Aubrey: Dog parks, vending machine snacks

Favorite Book

  • Aubrey: The Untethered Soul by Michael A. Singer
  • Shannon: Girl Boss (currently reading)

 Your Spirit Animal 

  • Shannon: I would have to say a horse. I’ve always been drawn to them in a deep way. To me they are regal, elegant full of strength and yet striking and full of grace. They are independent, trusting, loyal and can only be tamed as far as they allow. Forever wild at heart they are still humble and meek enough to serve others needs. 
  •  Aubrey: bird. They soar.. roam.. have a view of the overall picture more than the specifics. Are the link between heaven and earth.  

How would you describe your personal style?

  • Aubrey: constantly evolving, and I love taking risks. 
  • Shannon: Simple/Classic

Who wears the pants in the relationship?

  • Aubrey: Shan. Ewe I don't like pants. 
  • Shannon: depends on the day

Describe the other in one word.

  •  Shannon: She is “passionate”
  • Aubrey: she is "compassionate"

 

You can explore more of the talent and creativity of Dumblonde >>here<<

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<<

Party Style + Collaboration with The Flair Exchange

A month ago I had the fabulous opportunity to pair personal style with whimsical party products; showcasing the ease of executing both for any occasion. I met the mastermind behind this collaboration (Carmen of The Flair Exchange) for quick cocktails and we connected instantly. Not only did our project merry personal and party flair, but it brought together local, driven, and creative women to share their individual talents. 

Check out more images + my style tips over on The Flair Exchange's blog:

  • Learn why a dress is chic and effortless party attire >>here<<
  • Learn how to rock sequins and load on the gems for a confident New Year's Eve >>here<<

{all images by the incredible Amalie Orrange}

lululemon lifestyle shoot

It's no secret i lurrrrrve me some lululemon and quite frequently sneak it into my outfits...even when I'm not working out. I partnered with the gorgeous new Winter Park location to create looks that showcase that very notion; style AND function, beauty AND strength. 

Of course I had to utilize the talented Amalie Orrange Photography to capture our work and take advantage of the morning light off "the avenue." You can also find our models, Riki and Kurt, in the store and happy to help you find the right clothes to support both your workout and now...your streetwear.

 Check out all the looks below!

LULULEMON-Lululemon with Copyright-RikiCUHood.jpg

Clothing and models provided by lululemon athletica Winter Park

Accessories & Styling by me, Leah Lou

Photography by Amalie Orrange Photography

 

 

Goddess Glam

I've posted 5 outfits for the past few weeks as a part of my instagram photo build-up series, #fulllookfriday and this 6th look is truly a favorite. Not only does the style encompass a feeling of elegance but it evokes light, warmth, simplicity, and ease (big proponent of marrying these descriptors). I scored this stunning Rachel Pally dress from my hometown boutique, Therapie. At the time I had no idea how or where I would wear a long flowing jersey-knit goddess dress but I knew it felt incredible on, was fitted yet loose in all the right places, and begged for a special occasion. -A photo session with Amalie Orrange Photography is always a special occasion ;) Especially when she found this stunning ivy wall, spanish tile ledge, and we had a perfect moment with the shining sun. 

These phases of the moon and stars cut-out bangles were a gift from a client/friend/life partner that were snagged from Bauble Bar. These rings are from my personal collection & curated over several years. 

I utilized this stunning beaded headband by Deepa Gurnani to keep the frizz of my wavey hair contained during midday Jamlando (Orlando for everyone else) humidity. Shortly after we started shooting, I tucked the bottom tendrils into the banded portion of this headpiece and created a 20s/greek goddess-inspired hair that looks like the pros did it ! Easy, beautiful, and kept my confidence up as the temperatures rose. 

This necklace was a gift from my mother-in-law and a killer find at a vintage boutique in Tampa, Rare Hues

Images: Amalie Orrange Photography

Styling/Modeling/Straight Eyeliner: Leah Lou

Dress: Therapie Boutique by Rachel Pally

Headband: Deepa Gurnani

Bangles: Bauble Bar

Necklace: Rare Hues

Sandals: Rosie by Lindsay Phillips

 

Safari Inspiration: 2 Chic Ways to Wear It

A few years ago I took the opportunity to spend three weeks volunteering in a rural village in Africa. The beauty of the people, landscape, and wildlife has never left me. Expansive plains and majestic creatures feet from our lodging truly made me value simplicity, nature, and the present moment. At times I have to take myself back there just to tap into that source.

This post shows you two ways to wear African-inspired prints (one giraffe, the other zebra) with chic pieces and bold accessories. 

Beaded ring:Zou Zou Boutique

Horn Bangle: Rifle Paper Co. 

Bracelet: hand-made by an artist at the Riverside Arts Market 

I decided to make these pants more "safari" than "nautical" inspired; Since the stripes are black and thin, they lend themselves toward a variety of unexpected looks. The trick to a high-waist anything with a belt, is to keep your top tighter or tucked in so that you keep the focus on your beautiful waist and don't lose your feminine shape.

  Giraffe Print Tank: h&m

Striped Flowy Wide-leg Pants: Zara

*Druzy Cuff, Bracelet, and Ring were gifts or hand-picked from places I don't remember

Fedora Hat: Zara

Necklace: Dora Mae Jewelry (one-of-a-kind vintage-made-modern pieces)

This Zebra print dress has been incredibly versatile and easy to throw on for hot days, a quick errand, and even a trip to the beach. The zipper detail allows for some adjustment in fit through the chest and the shirt-tail hem allows for both a flirty leg and some booty-coverage. I drew out the black detail of the zebras and added my trusty black gladiators to give this look some edge.  

Give "Safari-Inspired" looks a try--see what creative ways you can put your own spin to it!

Dress: Splendid purchased from Therapie Boutique

Gladiators: old Urban Outfitters find

All Images: Amalie Orrange 

Spring Florals and India Vibes

I'm going to reveal something about my photo shoots here...

Too soon? Do we know each other well enough yet?

When Amalie and I style and shoot together, we stop at spots that speak to us in the moment. The pre-planning/location scouting is minimal and the intuition/spontenaity is maximal. Yes, that is where the magic happens. For this look we wanted to marry the deep green of my dress with a bright, BRIGHT pop of another hue. Naturally The Orange Studio came to mind. 

We were also on the hunt for a bougainvillea, as they are currently in full and glorious bloom in the sunshine state. This sprawling one invited us into someone's side yard and left us feeling like we were a part of an Anthropologie catalog.  

Messy bun and straight eyeliner: Me

Earrings: Larissa Loden

Bracelets: Vintage Chloe Lane Boutique

Clutch: Marshalls find

Stunning Dress: Calypso St. Barth

Fringe Ankle Booties: Dolce Vita

All Images by the soulful Amalie Orrange Photography

Hats Off

I'm almost ashamed to admit (ALMOST) that I've had this hat for 2+ years (yikes...probably more!) and this is my first time wearing it. There's something committal about a large-brimmed hat that makes it a challenge to just casually add to an outfit. Sometimes a big 'ol brim makes me feel matronly or too "themey (think Kentucky Derby, Mother's Day brunch, garden party, etc.)."Even putting this look together, knowing I wanted something with this beauty of a brim, took all the right parts and pieces. 

Check each of them out below:

Hands down (is there an available pun in this?!?) this has become my favorite "clutch" because of it's texture, design depth, boho vibe, and combination of neutrals. I snagged it from Anthropologie on sale and it's even made its way into the branding of my business (check the hand-drawn version out here: http://www.leahloustyle.com/services). This bad boy is just too cool. I love pairing it with some vintage Indian-inspired bangles that make wrist stacking fun and easy. 

The nameplate necklace in ebony acrylic by Moon & Lola, is another favorite branding accessory of mine and is great on its own and even better when layered. I love how creative you can get with a nameplate; you can think beyond your norm by doing your husband's name, pet, or favorite saying. The more personal, the better in my book!

And finally, the last thing I put on are my shoes. Dolce Vita always delivers on style, comfortability, and sass. Win, win, WIN. They know my bodday! I love the gridded panel that keeps this peep-toe pair unique. 

Dress & Bag: Anthropologie

Shoes: Dolce Vita

Hat: Sandiego Hat Company; troved at Therapie Boutique

Nameplate Necklace: Moon & Lola

Killer Images: Amalie Orrange Photography

Festival Fringe

Music Festival season is upon us and whether you attend, soak up all the fashion through social media, or don't even know what I'm talking about...there's inspiration to be had from the care-free vibes and effortless looks. 

Fringe has been inching its way into the fashion scene for awhile and is fully realized with the current style focus on the hippy trippy, classicly-cool era of the 1970s. I love bringing texture and movement to my outfits and the construction of fringe does just that in one swoop! 

As the weather heats up, the promise of summer seems to call for light-weight and easy breezy.

Layered turquoise and gold accents draw out the navy of this fabulous susana monaco high-neck shift dress (zou zou boutique) and the taupes of the kimono (therapie boutique). 

Sonya Renee's take on the classic hoop is both unique and beautiful; I love how their hammered texture shimmers when they catch light. Stackable rings by Wanderlust + Co are playful, funky, and a great way to try out the "midi" ring. 

These beaded bracelets from Chavez for Charity, are easy to layer (I could load up my entire arm!) and go toward a variety of charities. Talk about a "feel-good!"

 

Vintage jewelry always adds a personalized touch and era inspiration to any outfit. Lately I can't help but don any long beaded necklace from Dora Mae. She has the time and vision to take vintage treasures and give them new life and new luster. 

To complete the entire look, I HAD to throw in more fringe (the more, the fringier right?!?!?) with some killer peep-toe booties from Dolce Vita. I'm not much for heels so these babies add some femininity, edge, and bring some strut to my stuff! 

Images by the talented Amalie Orrange Photography