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}

it's time I gave my creativity a paid vacation

I love how the universe works. I truly do. Not only do I find myself expressing this gratitude after positive opportunities for my style business but also later down the road when another moment didn't go "as planned." The disappointments careen in other directions that then benefit, support, and acknowledge my own creativity.

I have worked hard to be someone comfortable taking risks (having the self-awareness to know that the combination of excitement and feeling like I'm going to throw up is an indicator of a risk I should take), engaging in difficult conversations, and trying new things. With these traits and the commitment to my own creativity, I both go after my own potential projects and open myself up to the ones that are placed in my lap (come across an email/come up in conversation). 

I know with conviction that a couple things contribute to this formula of opportunity, and after I have been willing to put myself and my creative work out there. 

  • Authenticity
    • When I am true to this core value, people both know where I stand and for what I stand for. They trust I will bring my whole self to a project and if I cannot, they know that I will voice that. There is never a guessing game, a facade, or for lack of a better word... no bullshit.
  • Boldness
    • If my name is attached to a project then we are playing BIG, making a splash, and doing a complete "about face" from anything "normal," predictable, or safe. Boldness has afforded me just about everything in my life: my style philosophy, my relationships (definitely landed my husband), my vigor, my path to living a life of meaning. Boldness drives me to stand for different.
  • Self Encouragement
    • Other people's complements are great (fantastic really) but no one is going to pump me up in my hardest moments or when I need a stern pep-talk with myself. And it's not their job to. There are moments that I need a random dance party, a killer playlist, to not wear a bra (or pants) and to make room for self-care. More often than not, I have to take a deep breath and whisper to myself "like a boss" to write a tough email, give honest feedback that I know may not land, or just fucking tackle a to-do list for which NO ONE else is pushing me to do.
  • Intuition
    • Tapping into what "feels right" and what just doesn't sit well with me means there are opportunities I have chosen not to take, ideas not to jump on, and conversations where I have had to be the one to say "no thank you." When I have not exercised or ignored my intuition is when I have later kicked myself, run myself ragged, and neglected to stand up for my value and worth therefore I did not receive either from the situation. It's a hard but valuable lesson.
    • Intuition gives another great lesson in not having to explain yourself for why you do or do not want to do something (why's are exhaustive and only create a comparison game where one person's importance is slated against another's). Intuition doesn't need explanation, she needs your commitment. 
  • Humor
    • I can't live without laughter and I can't live a creative life without finding the humor in its peaks and valleys. Humor shifts my sanity and keeps me forward-moving. 

Alright now how do I book this vaycay for my creativity? 

I recently read "Big Magic" by Elizabeth Gilbert and gleaned what my unique self needed from her words, her spirit, and her perspective on creative living. Plus she taught me to talk to my creativity like a sassy girlfriend (perfect personification and just the companion I need for my business!). She also uses her curse words effectively and expressively so I felt a kindred connection to her. 

Once I read these words (see below), the biggest shift happened for me in that the weight of forcing my creativity into shouldering my expenses, was lifted.

I never wanted to burden my writing with the responsibility of paying for my life...

I’ve seen artists drive themselves broke and crazy because of this insistence that they are not legitimate creators unless they can exclusively live off their creativity. And when their creativity fails them (meaning: doesn’t pay the rent), they descend into resentment, anxiety, or often bankruptcy. Worst of all, they often quit creating at all.
— Big Magic by Elizabeth Gilbert

Elizabeth shares how even into her first 3 novels, she always kept a day job. She wrote in the wee hours, during breaks, and made time for writing outside of what was required of her to pay her bills. Believe it or not this is the first time I have heard someone express that you can and should have a day job WHILE still living a creative life.

There is an overwhelming push to turn your creativity into this wildly recognized career fueled by 40K+ instagram followers, brand partnerships, and work so hard creatively that you leave your job as a barista, nurse, teacher, part-time nanny, etc. There is a social (and conversational) pressure to reach a point in your creative work that your entire household can retire today; only then can you have validity in your pursuit and worth in your work.

Elizabeth is right in that my creativity would want to run for the hills, stop taking risks to be seen, become stifled by the burden of stipulations and pushed to exhaustion. This behavior would be a HUGE disservice to organic processes, playfulness of expression, and the sharing of what I consider my gifts. Losing my ability or desire to create is one risk I WILL NOT take. 

Sure its fabulous to be recognized, to gain new followers on social media, and to make money. Hello, that stuff rocks! But I no longer want to tell my creativity to "get its act together" so I can force a year's worth of paychecks out of it. I will keep my day jobs and thus sharpen the skills I glean from the variety of expression. In my own moments I will continue to curate, I will style, I will provide my services (and get paid for it). I will give my creativity the freedom that comes from a paid vacation; perspective, without the fear of the electricity back home being cut off. 

The pressure is off creativity! You can continue to bring opportunities my way and I can continue to live a life of choice. Inspiration not desperation is the space I want to grow and play in.

 

comparison

There is one wicked constant in which we all share...across generations, occurring rapidly during most moments in the company of others (and heavily on social media), and is crippling only when you give it too much credibility.

What is this sneaky beast?

Comparison.

and we all do it.

Of course we know it shows up when you're reading a magazine; looking at the perfectly photoshopped women on the covers and in the spreads who are meant to look effortless yet "out of reach." Potentially "attainable" if you buy the right products, subscribe to a certain diet or workout regimen, and spend heavy for the most figure-flattering looks and luxury accessories. 

 

We also know it shows up glaringly on social media where you get a perfectly altered snapshot of unrealistic moments in that accounts life (not everyone but most). 

 

You can't help but feel it at a social gathering where everyone is meant to share about themselves; asking "what do YOU do?" and "what does your husband do?" uggggh. gag. will you measure up?

 

I just came back from a glorious weekend in Arizona, celebrating the marriage of a dear friend and attending to her as a bridesmaid. She was stunning, the setting was beautiful, and there were many social gatherings where I truly connected with both her family and new friends.I mention this because I experienced moments of being hyper aware of comparison. Not just because I was meeting several new people but also because I was engaging in small talk; an exchange I am not fond of from the outset. The double-edged sword is that small talk is the very thing that can lead to genuine connection, increased knowledge and understanding, and a deeper conversation as a whole.In all sorts of conversations over the weekend, I used comparison to remind me of qualities I wanted to sharpen:- patience- approachability- asking more questions/engaging 

  I often say this because though I may want to know more about someone, I don't always ask the questions to get me there. 

I used comparison to remind me to focus on what I am grateful to have in my own personality, my relationships, and in the life I choose for myself.

***See... comparison can be the boost/cheerleader you need to affirm your decisions, your actions, and to cut yourself some slack!

 

I used comparison to see the trap one could easily set for yourself if you give it too much credibility. After all, what can you really know about the depths of someone else's life and those assessments and judgments aren't healthy for them or you. 

 

So what do we do with comparison then? 

 

You control it. You keep a healthy view of your own reality against the perception of another. 

 

How?

 

1. You guard the parts about yourself that you love.

 You are an amazing individual who navigates the world with your unique perspective. Stand on those qualities that allow you to be your best self, effortlessly. 

 Don't allow comparison to weaken what makes you strong

2. You use it to your advantage

 as I said before, you can use comparison to "sharpen" but not completely alter who you are. there is always something to be learned about yourself against the backdrop of others; become expansive and you'll experience so much more out of the richness of relationships

3. Take it with a grain of salt

 put the phone down if you have to, disconnect from social media if the comparison becomes negative and self-destructive. remember that you are only getting a snippet of what someone is willing to share about themselves (this includes conversations too). and we all like to be seen in the best light.

4. Let it go when you need to

 don't torture yourself or others. too much comparison can become harmful. stop before you're consumed; back away so that you remain confident in your own skin.

 

Comparison can strangle yet comparison can elevate. Decide how you want to experience it and exercise your right to control or dismiss it.

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

 

 

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.

 

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 

Wear the Cheekies

In the realm of fashion there can be both creative freedom and confusing restrictives. With so many rules and consumers being spoon-fed ideas of what's "in" and "on trend," carving out what you actually like can be quite the challenge. To even attempt this, one has to navigate the clothing cuts and options you are given, try A LOT on, and sometimes still leave empty-handed. And as the option you're looking for doesn't reveal itself as easily as you'd hoped, and you're dizzied by the fitting room... you realize it may not even exist at all. *sigh*

If this scenario sounds familiar then you've gone shopping recently. Maybe you too have been shocked by what is available to you and what isn't. In this moment, I am specifically referring to bathing suit options. But you could easily turn that sentence into a MadLib and replace "bathing suit" with just about any clothing article. 

Mind you, I have had the same bathing suit for the past 3 (ugh...maybe more) years and have worn it into the ground. So much so that the elastic of the bandeau top no longer does its supportive job and it is now considered, a "backyard ONLY" bathing suit. My lack of cute/sassy swimwear is a sad representation of this Florida girl and I was determined to improve that. 

If you are like me or erhhmm... most women, nothing sounds more enjoyable than going bathing suit shopping. Except maybe a full body wax by a russian woman with a hairy chin-mole and a constant deadpan expression. I have to be mentally prepped for either scenario and possibly skip breakfast. 

My first attempt at a new suit left me questioning how much ass is too much ass to reveal? Between thongs, moderate cheekies, and butt-floss, there was no "full coverage" bottom to be found. Was I out of touch? Am I allowed to wear something like that around other people? Yeesh!

Thanks to a group conversation during a personal training session (I was working on my new booty goals, for gosh sakes!) a girlfriend of mine who only wears brazilian cut bathing suits gave me a newfound sense of feminism that could only be manifested through a strip of fabric over my beautiful bum. I wanted that freedom, I wanted to care very little about how much of my butt-dimple(s) I would be revealing. The thirst was real folks but my own insecurities still stood in my way.

What really sealed the deal of embracing the cheekie cut bathing suit was catching a glimpse of a mom in my neighborhood TOTALLY rocking the booty-exposing bottoms while walking up from our community pool. Let me paint the motivating picture further....her butt was out OUT, flat as an ironing board, her tone was pale and SHE.WAS.OWNING.IT! This is not body-shaming people! This is taking what you have, being incredibly realistic, and not giving a f**k. I loved it, channeled it, and went to the surf shop the very next day. *Yes I did leave with a sexy, comfy, supportive new suit. Check it below.

This is not me nor my body. You can find the suit here:  O'Neill

This is not me nor my body. You can find the suit here: O'Neill

Let's talk about what can hold us back when trying something new, revealing, or "unconventional." 

Things that stand in our way:

  • Perceived judgment and opinions of other women.
    • Wow, is this one a dangerous double-edge sword; these perceptions weaken and divide us as women. Because style is visual, these judgments (real or perceived) can be felt in a snap, our confidence can be shaken, and we can refrain from doing/wearing something that truly makes us happy. Yeeesh! Nobody wins with this one. 
  • Unwanted attention of jeering men (gross) or what I will call the "construction worker catcall (yes i know it's not all construction workers, roofers, group of guys in a rusty saturn, haggard guy smoking a cigarette on the side of the grocery-store whose eyes are burning a hole into your butt as you're walking in and making sure you tuck your dress in between your legs so it doesn't fly up in a freakish breeze)."
    • This is a toughy. No matter what you're wearing, these type of responses can make anyone feel completely naked, mentally rattled, and overall skeeved. I'm sorry mamas but I don't have any words of advice for this one. I always think I will stand strong and say the perfect thing to take back the control in this situation; it has yet to happen. 
  • Ourselves
    • Most of us know we can be our own worst critic and our ability to magnify our imperfections will get in the way of confidence, style freedom, and rocking exactly what we want to wear. That growing voice of personal judgment is loudest in front of a mirror and critical of creativity. Imperfections are what make us unique & special but until you embrace them, that sentiment means nothing.

Now that we've explored our psyche a bit...What can we gain when we metaphorically/phsyically "Wear the Cheekies?"

  • Confidence
    • This is lethal and should be wielded. You are beautiful, you are awesome and now you know it. 
  • Goal Setting & Achieving
    • Once I decided my rear had to get in gear, I shared my goals with my trainer and we worked to actively reach them. Decide what is both reasonable and healthy for you then assemble the right people to both get you there and hold you accountable. Have you been wanting to rock a crop top like your friend Miranda? Share your goals with her and you can be sure she will follow-up with and support you through it. 
  • Empowerment
    • Talk about the secret sauce! The intoxicating power of embracing exactly who you are will open doors of self-love, acceptance, and body joy. Once I hit this layer of "I'm doing this for me," it was as if I was giving a big, bubbly, juicy bootylicious middle finger to other peoples unwanted/unwarranted opinions and saying hello to my own femininity. 

So mamas

Wear the cheekies, rock the crop top, don the bright pink lipstick...maybe just not all at once ;)

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 

Second Annual 30-Day Style Challenge: Mad for Plaid

Welcome folks!

This is my very first blog post on my shiny new website annnnnnd in lovely squarespace (versus my former site host, wordpress). We're faaaancy over here!

To kick off and motivate my continued blogging, I'm doing another 30-Day Style Challenge where I will wear a particular clothing style for 30 days straight.  I'll showcase different ways to style it, inspire creativity & playfulness, and personally challenge my own style mechanics. Last year I dubbed my challenge #chambrayaday and rocked "chambray" for the entire month of October (you can check that out here).

This year I am paying homage to the burly lumberjacks (think Brawny paper towel man-friend) of "Movember" by donning the phenom pattern that is plaid, check, and tartan. This ladycakes is going #madforplaid for 30 days of killer looks. Bammo!

 

plaid shirt line-up

The beautiful thing about plaid is that it can wardrobe every socio-economic class, cross generational gaps, and make just about everyone seem "in the know" (vague for "on trend" I s'pose..."with the times" blah blah)

It's remarkably true! Just think about who's claimed plaid as their own and how beautifully it works for each of these groups:

  • 90s grunge hipster/emo kid/"millenial" dabbling in the decade (with a Kurt Cobain absenteeism and a pair of "just enough lived-in" Doc Martens)
  • College Co-Ed Prepster (Ralph Lauren interiors, perfectly pressed khakis, the scent of suppressed family secrets and a taste for martinis)
  • Lumberjack (rogue bearded guy with an axe and a perceived and somehow sexy sense of adventure)
  • Garden Gnomes (not positive about this one but I just get the vibe)
  • Backwoodser and Cowboy/Cowgirl (PBR, camo, worn-in jeans and an achey-breaky heart)
  • West Coast/Westerner Cool Kid (think San Fran, Seattle, Portland, and a penchant for local coffee spots)
  • Chicy-Chic ladyfriend (not a real category but it's my way to describe the ladies who street style, fashion blog, and make their looks seem effortlessly feminine)

I could keep dreaming these twisted tartan characters up but.... I'd rather not show my hand. Anyhoo, the fun part about all of this is I usually have some random events on my calendar that require my style challenges to get uber crafty. For instance, last year I had to dress up a denim shirt (chambray) for a wedding. This year so far, I will pack on the plaid for a fashion show that requires cocktail attire (stay tuned) and an upscale style presence. All of which I excel at ;)

Follow my #madforplaid journey daily on my blog, instagram and facebook pages. You can view my looks and give me your opinions and even join in on the fun by tagging me in your own plaid looks. We will keep the creativity loop going by inspiring one another!

 

 

America The Brave... & Stylishly Bold

Yesterday was a big day for the U.S. of A as the men’s national soccer team defeated Nigeria in a “friendly” at the EverBank Stadium in my hometown of Jacksonville, FL.

Closet Edit | Wardrobe Consultation | A Look Inside A Closet Reorganization

There's nothing like an up-coming move to remind yourself how little you want to pack, move & schlep with you to your next destination.

Style Empowerment | Chambrayaday 30 Day Challenge Recap

Whether you followed my "chambrayaday" challenge or you’re just tuning in now, I’m recapping what I learned while donning a piece of chambray every.single.day for 30 days straight.