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. 

                                                     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}

Using your Core Values to make Decisions

Last week we talked about taking the time to write, articulate, and get uber specific about values that are important to you. Whether you had a lengthy list or a brief few, I hope the exercise in "core values" was a good interruption to your weekly norm. 

If you didn't take the time, then I encourage you to do so soon. The early bird gets the worm right? And in this case, the early bird gets to move closer and closer tokicking ass
 at setting (and keeping) those boundarieswe've been talking about.

To review: Your core values are strong attributes (adjectives) that make-up both who you positively consider yourself to be and who you desire to be. Core values show you what you stand for and what you do not tolerate; this protects your
 SPIRIT; your unique essence. If we could bottle you, these would be the ingredients listed on the label.

Your list should light you up.
Your list should wet your appetite for a fueled&fulfilled (can I trade mark this slogan? sounds like a tag-line for an energy drank) life.
Your list should be ALL SUBSTANCE and ZERO FLUFF.

This Week: Actively use your list of Core Values to guide your decisions.

Spend time putting your social calendar, a request from work, how you're going to spend your down-time, whether you want breakfast for breakfast or breakfast for dinner...ALL OF IT through the filter of your values. 

ex: If I value flexibility then I'm going to leave room in a vacation schedule for spontaneity versus having every moment strictly planned. If I value deep connections then I won't get together with superficial (former) friends; I'll spend my time otherwise.

OPTION(s)
*What are my choices?

CORE VALUE FILTER
*Does it align with a specific value or set of values? If it doesn't, why am I struggling to say no?

DECISION
*The "best option" will start to present itself & your decision will be clearer

The better you get at using your core values to filter your choices, you will gain confidence and conviction in your decisions. You will learn how to comfortably say no to opportunities that do not make sense for you and stop apologizing for it. 

PLUS! You'll start to:

  • shed feelings of guilt
  • lessen anxiety around being a "good" or "bad" decision-maker
  • gain control of how you spend your time
  • understand your uniqueness
  • care about doing things to lift your spirit versus out of obligation

I'm here if you want to share your list of values, share in your successes & struggles, and sharpen your decisions. 

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.

 

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

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!