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April 06, 2016

Wonder Women: Dorothy Parker

The original queen of memes, Dorothy Parker, was a writer and poet best known for her acerbic wit and quick quips. Such as:

"To me, the most beautiful word in the English language is cellar-door. Isn’t it wonderful? The ones I like, though, are 'cheque' and 'enclosed'."

"Tell him I was too f*cking busy - or vice versa."

While quotes like these would be right at home in a present day instagram feed, Parker was dishing out zingers since the 1920s. She started as a staff writer at Vogue, later moving on to Vanity Fair and becoming one of the first editors of The New Yorker. She wrote numerous short stories, many volumes of poetry, contributing to most major magazines of her time as well as penning 2 Oscar-nominated screenplays.

Over lunch at a historic Manhattan hotel, The Algonquin, Parker and her pals Robert Benchley and Robert E. Sherwood, began a daily meet up of the early century literati. Over the span of ten years, the dozen or so writers, journalists and actors would spar in sarcasm, exchange wise cracks and play word games. Known as 'The Algoquin Round Table', this clever crowd would come to inspire the likes of legendary authors, Ernest Hemingway and F. Scott Fitzgerald.

Even in her death she found humor and did it her way. Her epitaph reads "Excuse my dust" and her estate was bequeathed to none other than Martin Luther King Jr.

March 30, 2016

Wonder Women: Mary Phelps Jacob

Necessity, ever the mother of invention struck Mary Phelps Jacob in 1910 when she just couldn't take cramming her chest into another constrictive corset to the ball anymore. With two handkerchiefs, pink ribbon, and sewing skills the first bra was born. 

Her contemporaries all vied to get their hands on this new invention, much softer and free, separating and supporting each breast unlike the 'monobosom' effect of the corset. The bra complemented emerging fashions of the time showing off necklines and cleavage. In 1914, Jacob received the first patent for the 'Backless Brasserie'.

What we would now call the style of a bralette, blossomed into a her own business registered under female ownership and employed two female sewists. 

By now Mary Phelps Jacob had married several times and was known as Caresse Crosby. Circling amongst wealthy socialites, she continued her colorful and sometimes scandalous history within the literary world. Later running a publishing house, writing and editing many poems herself, and founding the pro-women, pro-peace organization, Women Against War. 

We have her to thank for freeing the boob and founding the industry through which Naja hopes to empower you!

March 23, 2016

Wonder Women: Katie Longmyer

This week, we talk to Katie Longmyer, the Queen Bee of the New York City night life scene and how she pivoted her love of music into crafting one-of-a-kind experiences for big brands that need cool factor. You can #BeAnything if you create it.

What is your origin story?

I think my origin story started in a nightclub. I was 16 and wanting to discover new things and new music and ended up discovering underground dance music parties. At the time they weren’t as commercially absorbed as they are now so there was a lot of deep diving to discover new vinyl and new DJs. I fell in love with it.

In nightclubs you’d see all the misfits who would go to work every day as totally regular people but at night they’d get all decked out, dance through the night, loving the music and I just knew that was my new home.

I also knew that I didn’t just want to be there partying. I was always into the infrastructure of things, so I dove behind the scenes pretty quickly and became a promoter. I handed out flyers, worked at the door and everything evolved from there.

I’m so bad at talking about myself that I had my friend write my bio. It says “Katie Longmyer is a New York City-based, internationally accomplished experiential creative”. I bridge the gap between really cool artists and creative ideas with big brands who want to infuse their identity with cool stuff. Neither sides are really adept at talking to each other so I like to live in that space between.

What are some mountains that you’ve moved that you’re especially proud of?

There aren’t a lot of women who interface in the very specific spaces that I’m in right now so I think that’s a big accomplishment. A lot of women that have worked for me that are now out in the world doing really killer stuff. Becoming a mentor to other women who grow into bosses that run awesome things in the experiential, creative, and nightlife spaces is something I’m really proud of.

You just mentioned that there aren’t a lot of women working in the fields that you do. Was there ever a moment where you were discouraged but you said ‘let’s do it anyway’ and found success?

The music culture is recently experiencing a change but I came up in the hip hop and record label vibe where the way women are portrayed are clearly not that of say a powerful executive. That trickles into the culture of the business which just made me more determined that I can do anything any man can do. I carried a ‘Try to stop me’ mantra. Any time anyone put a hurdle in front of me, I just saw it as an opportunity to be better, be faster, be the best at my job so that it would be impossible for me to be put up against anybody else. I didn’t want anyone to say ‘We shouldn’t give this job to a girl’. They can’t ignore the calibre of your work, if you make your work the best.

If you could give all women a superpower what would it be and why?

Be fearless. Women are empathic by nature, taking that into the business place makes you a better worker in my opinion. However, it’s also something I see that holds a lot of women back because they’re fearful of sticking up for themselves or to be aggressive and decisive.

I’d want every woman to have a very strong voice. That’s something I always try to teach.

If you have a point of view, back it up with facts and present it in an awesome way - people will hear you.

Is there a specific story you can share to help women break the mold?

Recently, I was freelancing at an ad agency and I was really particular about what I wanted my life to look like while I was taking on this big project. I outlined my schedule, needs and fee which was all pretty aggressive. I really held my ground. They turned me down thinking it was too much.

I went back to them and let them know I really wanted this job and I would absolutely kill it for them. I really believed that I could ask this of them because of what they were asking of me. They were surprised by my response and I very quickly ended up in the CEO’s office because he wanted to meet me. He said that the way I operated in this situation and the work I had been doing reminded him of him. I ended up with a really incredible opportunity where I had the ear of a very smart powerful person because I pushed and broke a boundary. I stuck up for myself and I stood my ground. I said I deserved it and I proved it.

Not accepting defeat, articulating my needs and supporting with good work - all that landed me with a life-changing experience. That person is someone I consider a mentor now.

Is there a fun interesting fact about you that you’d like to share?

My fun Katie fact is that I’m a classically trained cellist, it’s what I went to college for. I guess the reason why that’s funny is I’m usually found at a nightclub standing behind the DJ or dancing all night or in a punk rock dive bar - those are ‘Katie’ standard environments. So what most people don’t realize is that if you catch me driving around in a car I’m actually listening to a symphony orchestra really loudly. I’m almost in tears because I think it’s so beautiful.

It’s easy to categorize within music, nightlife and entertainment, but there are so many multi-layered people and I love it.

What is something that you’d like to remind yourself?

Don’t take it too seriously. Something I’ve been trying to do lately is to make sure that I am having fun and appreciating the interesting environments I’m in every day. I think sometimes I get so deep into the details of my work that I forget that I’m doing really rad stuff and being surrounded by the most creative people. I’ll get so absorbed into making sure everything is executed perfectly that I forget to stop for a minute and look around to realize what I’ve built my life into. It’s so awesome.


Find Katie on:

Instagram: @goodpeoples
Blog: blog.good-peoples.com
Music Festival: brooklynemf.com


March 16, 2016

Wonder Women: Elaine de Kooning

Born this week, painter Elaine de Kooning was a rare female face in the abstract expressionist movement. The scene popularized in post WWII was majorly male-dominated by the likes of her husband of 46 years, Willem de Kooning, and also Jackson Pollack, Arshile Gorky, Franz Kline and more.

She opted to sign off her paintings with just her initials to remove the art world's prejudices against women in the abstract style, demanding for her work to be seen for its merit regardless of her gender. She fiercely considered her contributions as important as her counterparts.

Most prominently known for her portrait series of president, John F. Kennedy, de Kooning was first commissioned to produce one painting to be hung in the Truman library. However, due the restless, active nature of JFK, de Kooning's quick captures of the president resulted in 23 finished portraits and hundreds of sketches. 

de Kooning painted at top speed finishing portraits in one sitting. A passionate dancer, painting was a vivid activity, using bold colours and larger than life canvases to depict landscapes and subjects.

Shining on her own, when pitted against her spouse's comparably monumental career, she said "I don't paint in his shadow, I paint in his light."

March 09, 2016

Wonder Women: Nancy Reagan

It is without a doubt that Former First Lady, Nancy Reagan, was fiercely loyal, devoting herself passionately and completely to her husband, President Ronald Reagan, up until his death in 2004. However, behind every great man is a great woman and she embodied this spirit in the signature scarlet she so frequently wore. Of the shade, she said “It’s a picker-upper. I didn’t give it the name of Reagan Red but that became its name.”

Not only did her sartorial choices lift up the spirits of her admirers, Reagan’s regular representation of pieces by James Galanos, Oscar de la Renta, Carolina Herrera, and Bill Blass and endorsement of the American fashion industry earned her a lifetime achievement award from the Council of Fashion Designers of America.

Often seen as a power behind the scenes, Reagan, was instrumental in President Reagan’s schedule, staff decisions, and encouraging dialogue with the Soviet Union. She was especially vocal about troubling health and medical issues and created a successful anti-drug initiative “Just Say No”. By the end of her husband’s term, reported high-school drug use had decreased by 14%. Following her own survival from breast cancer and her husband’s eventual alzheimer’s disease, Nancy Reagan fought in support of regular mammogram screenings and embryonic stem cell research.

Always a believer in saving families, in style, and in love.

February 03, 2016

Wonder Women: Danielle Feinberg

This week, we speak to Danielle Feinberg, Director of Photography for Lighting at Pixar about her inter-discilinary specialty, being singled out, and standing up for yourself. Even when people say you can't, you CAN #BeAnything.

Hi Danielle, tell us your origin story!

When I was in 4th grade, one of the dads there offered to teach a programming class. None of us really knew what programming was, this was back when the very first Apple computers were out. It was in a language called ‘logo’. You basically write lines of code and a little icon of a turtle drives around the screen. Everywhere it drives, it draws a line. Both of my parents are very artistic, they’re both architects. So they had me and my sister in art classes from the very beginning. So it was perfect that the first programming I ever did created pictures. It was very compelling to me that I could write lines of code which is in the math and science world but what came out of it was a picture.

When I went off to college I thought I was going to do mechanical engineering, but then I looked at the classes and thought ‘Oh actually, I’m not that interested in some of this stuff. Well, I’ll just take these Computer Science courses because they count towards engineering requirements and that will buy me some time.’ About two weeks in I was like ‘Wait, why am I not majoring in Computer Science? This is something I already love.’

I ended up studying Computer Science at Harvard and there was one Computer Graphics class that I could take. The professor showed these very old Pixar short films from the late 80s/early 90s. It was ‘95 when I saw these and fell in love with it. There weren’t obvious jobs in computer graphics then, you could maybe do special effects. There were a couple television ads and some short films that you could only see if you went to Spike & Mike’s animation festival. It wasn’t how it is now where you just go on iTunes or youtube or anywhere online to see animated films.

A couple months later, Toy Story came out which was the first feature length computer animated film and I realised there are actually real jobs in this. I was just transfixed. It was so clear to me that that was exactly what I wanted to do.

About 6 months after I graduated, I ended up applying to Pixar. Got hired on ‘A Bug’s Life’, Pixar’s second animated film. On that first film, they needed some help doing lighting. I fell in love with lighting because it’s the last creative step in the process. For me, it’s kind of where the world comes to life - your brain can grapple with it being a place that you might be able to step into. That sort of transformation moment is pretty addictive to me. I love that.

On the movie ‘Wall-E’, I got promoted to Director of Photography for Lighting. I subsequently directed the lighting for 'Brave' and now am working on our Fall 2017 fim that’s called ‘Coco’. I can't say much yet but the visual possibilities are insane so it’s going to be a really fun one.

Did you ever feel like there was a moment where you were discouraged from pursuing this career but believed in yourself and went ahead?

In my experience, it’s a bit more of all the little moments where you’re discouraged. When someone’s trying to tell you “You’re a girl. You can’t do it.” or “You don’t belong here.”

Did that actually happen? Like this is a ‘guys-only’ field?

When I was in college, for one of the classes I took we had to be in the science center using the special computers there. In the assignments, there were little hidden twists and turns that you have to figure out in order to successfully complete the program and the projects of the week. These guys would all team up and I would hear them say “Oh! I figured it out! This is what you have to do...”. I’m over on the other side of the room and I knew instinctively they weren't ever going to tell me that stuff.

Even for straight forward things, I would go over and ask them and they literally wouldn’t even acknowledge me. There are things like that that definitely made it harder to persevere.

At the end of that class, we had to do a group project. When I had to find a partner it was like standing on the school ground getting picked for teams and you’re the last kid standing there. I’m had to send an email out to the whole class and ask if anybody needed a partner. It was this very public declaration of being an ‘other’. In the end, this guy who became my partner ended up being one of my favorite people I’ve ever worked with on a project at Harvard.

Can you survive that? Yea, absolutely. It sucks, but it’s not something catastrophic that happened. But a series of those things happening, makes you question: ‘Is this really where I want to be?’ ‘Is this the environment I want to be in?’ I know that women or all people of diversity are sitting there asking themselves.

The thing was, starting from 4th grade, I loved programming and I loved making pictures with programming. I already loved it. So if people were telling me I shouldn’t be doing this or that I was an ‘other’ that was more of an annoyance that I had to ignore. I had great friends and a great support system outside of that class. When I love something I am pretty much a dog with a bone about it. I’m not going to let that go. It was something I was willing to persevere through.

How would you help other women persevere? If you could give them a superpower, what would it be?

For them to be able to see through when someone is saying something that’s fact and when they’re just saying what they think. I think as women we want to be really sure that what we’re saying is true but there are other people in the world that just trust what they think and so they say it as fact which makes us shrink and our voices get smaller. We get looped right into a place of imposter syndrome. Should I really be here? Am I smart enough to be here, am I qualified to be here? If we all had the superpower of ‘Oh no, that dude is just kind of spouting his opinion.’ Suddenly you go oh I don’t actually think he’s right and I am going to state my opinion and I’ll do it in a way that feel authentic to me. Ultimately, that is going to be better for everyone involved in a project because two people’s experiences and ideas about something are going to come to something greater. So that’s the superpower - see through the veil of mistaking confidence for knowledge.

What’s something fun that you’ve done recently that you’re excited about?

A year ago in January I went to Burma also known as Myanmar and did a 3 week photography trip with this woman that shot for National Geographic for years. We were on a boat on a river where tourists don’t ever go and we would just say ‘That looks like a cool town!’ and pull over.

The first time we stopped, our translator asked when was the last time they had visitors and they said “Oh 2006!” We visited all these amazing very rural towns along the river. Some may have had a generator for lights at night but many didn’t. There were all dirt roads, cows and pigs wandering around, lots of agriculture, and the most lovely people ever. The kids would run through the streets following us because they were just fascinated by this pack of white people that had arrived in their town. We would shoot pictures of them and show them on the back of the cameras and the whole pack of kids would roar with laughter and delight. 

The whole experience was also a wonderful reminder that all this stuff and technology we have is great but doesn't equate to happiness. The people we met there live an incredibly simple life by our standards but were some of the happiest people I have ever been around. It was such a cool thing to see. It was an amazing experience and such a good lesson.

What’s a lesson you’d like to remind yourself every day?

Making movies is hard and it gets stressful. I have been trying to focus that everyone is really trying their best.

Even those guys in Computer Science class who were being jerks, maybe that’s an misinterpretation… maybe they just had no social skills and they couldn’t deal with a girl coming to talk to them. Or maybe they were beaten up on their whole life and this was the one time they could say ‘Man, I rock at this and I’m just going for it without stopping for anyone!’.

Everybody is just really trying their best 99% of the time. When things go a little bit sideways, they don’t actually mean any ill will. It’s been so nice when framing it that way because you end up having a lot more compassion for people and a lot more patience.

Find Danielle on:


January 27, 2016

Wonder Women: Susan Feldman

This week, we speak to Susan Feldman, one of Naja's mentors. A retail veteran having scaled to success at Macy's, Ralph Lauren Swimwear, C&C California and countless others, embarked on her own venture, One Kings Lane. Turning a deep passion for design and fostering culture into a celebrated company.

Hi Susan, tell us about your origin story!

I usually have to start with the fact that I moved 8 different times before I graduated high school. I grew up all over the country. Born in the South, I’ve lived in the East, the MidWest and then my parents ultimately ended up in Northern California before my senior year in high school so it was interesting. My dad was a retailer and worked his way up the corporate ladder which meant that we had to move a lot.

So being in retail runs in the family?

Exactly. Retail is in my genes, for sure. I‘ve always been interested in retail. I worked at Macy’s in high school and throughout college. When I graduated, I ended up in a management training program with a department store in Los Angeles and did very well. I moved along very quickly but there was something inside of me that said maybe there’s something else I should be doing. I’d only ever experienced retail but maybe I could be an investment banker - I don’t even know! I’ve never been exposed to it so i ended up leaving. I was a buyer at the time and I went back to business school at UCLA with a pretty open mind about where I might end up coming out of the program. Lo and behold, after graduation I ended up in New York as a buyer at Macy’s.

Right back to where you started!

It’s funny because my dad started out in Macy’s executive training program many years ago and ended his retail career at Macy’s in Northern California. They had a program for MBAs and I really wanted to be in New York. I went to undergrad at Stanford and I was living in Los Angeles and as much as I liked California at the time, every time I went to New York I just felt like the city was calling me “You should come here!” It was so exciting. There was so much going on so going to work at Macy’s in New York felt like the right thing.

I was only there for a year when somebody on the manufacturing side offered me a position to head up regional sales for them. It seemed like a great opportunity so I jumped from retail to wholesale. I spent the majority of my career running sales and marketing organizations for different manufacturers up until I started One King’s Lane which is a whole other story!

Where did the idea come from for One Kings Lane?

My love for design. I realised that I’d go to the airport and instead of buying Elle, I’d buy Elle Decor and I kept gravitating to things for the home and design. I loved interiors and it just kept getting more and more intense.

About 10 years ago, my husband had an opportunity out here in Los Angeles. I had basically lived my entire adult life a New York apartment. It was a nice apartment but when we moved out here, we bought a house in West Hollywood and I went crazy. It was like somebody let me loose. I had more space, I had rooms i could decorate, a back yard. I could entertain all year round. I just could not get enough of design, interiors, or decorating. As much as I loved clothing, I just realised I was at a point of my career where I really felt like I wanted to do something different. The industry had been changing a lot and it wasn’t as much fun as I wanted it to be.

I was becoming much more interested in what was happening in the design and interior scene and at the time there wasn’t any great place to shop for unique and fabulous products online. The usual suspects and big box stores had websites like Pottery Barn, Crate & Barrel, and Restoration Hardware. There just wasn’t anything unique in my opinion, and it was also at the time of what I call ‘E-commerce 1.0’. If you knew what you were looking for you could type it in Amazon, find it, click and get out but there was npthing really experiential. There were no curated websites and it just felt like there was a a huge white space.  That’s when I had the idea for One Kings Lane back in 2008.

I spoke to people asking “What do you think? Would you be interested in this?” They would say “I’d love that! That would be great. You could talk about how you entertain and decorate.” I finally decided what took the leap and decided to start the business.

You’ve accomplished so much in your career in wholesale, launching swimwear for Ralph Lauren, consulting for C&C California to founding One Kings Lane. Is there something in particular that you’re proud of having achieved?

Besides the team and the people that work at One Kings Lane, I would say that I’m incredibly proud of the brand that we’ve built over the last 7 years. When I look back and actually take a moment to reflect it’s really kind of remarkable. I feel like we’ve built a brand within a very quick time that people really love and are excited by.

Was there ever a moment where you were a bit discouraged and drew strength from something to help you power ahead?

In starting a business and being an entrepreneur, you deal with that every single day. There are a lot of naysayers and you’re constantly bumping into roadblocks in order to be able to execute your vision.

I think people might have said to me “Are you crazy? You’re leaving this great job to go start a business. It’s the height of the recession. You’ve lost your mind.” That sort of thing.

What you have to do is have a vision. If you see something you want to do, put blinders on and keep ploughing ahead. It takes a lot of perseverance. I think if you’re clear on your vision, it makes it a lot easier.

When we started One Kings Lane with my partner, Ali Pincus, we took the time in the beginning to really be clear about exactly what it was that we wanted to do, what we wanted the brand to be, and who the customer was. Every time we bumped into walls or had to make decision - which is multiple times every single day - it made it a lot easier having the clarity around what our vision was. It sounds very simple, but it’s not. Getting to the point where you’re super focused and clear about what you’re doing is hard because you always want to do more.

Is there was a piece of advice or superpower you could give to all women, what would it be and why?

I would love to be able to give women the ability to be in more than one place at the same time! I think women typically tremendous multitaskers and always take on so much. Having the ability to be in more than one place at the same time would be very helpful.

How would you encourage other women to break the mold or status quo without the ability to be in multiple places?

What I’ve realised the most from creating One Kings Lane is that there is always the opportunity to re-invent yourself. I had a lot of success and growth in my career prior to that and I probably could have stayed on that track. I think I’d encourage women to be open to other opportunities or things that you’re interested in, maybe a passion that develops over time.

You can do anything.

I learned that from my dad, he was somebody who had reinvented himself 3 times. He had this great retail career and went on to have an incredibly successful career in commercial real estate. Then at 80 years old, he went back to graduate school to get his MFA and became a painter. He painted prolifically for the next 8 years until he passed away.

I think that it’s super important to be open to other opportunities and to keep learning. Especially in this world. The world is changing so fast every single day that you have to be willing to embrace it and learn whatever is happening. Identify what those opportunities are and go after them. I don’t think anything should stop people today, not age nor experience.

If you see it, go get it!

I loved that your father who followed his passions in painting later in life, what are some other passions of yours?

I love to travel. One Kings Lane has afforded me the ability over the last 7 years to go to places that I could have never dreamed about going. It’s absolutely incredible. Be careful what you wish for - it will come true!

As we were starting the business, we kept adding new initiatives to what we were doing and I was asked what I wanted to do next.

“I would love to travel all around the world and go find incredible products to bring back to the One Kings Lane customer.”

“Well where would you like to go?”

“i would love to go to India. I’ve never been to India before.”

An interior designer, Nathan Turner, was one of the first designers we worked with. He looked at me said “If you can figure it out, I’ll go with you and we could go shopping together.”

In less than 6 weeks, I called him up. “Ok! I got it figured out. I found somebody who could take us around there. Can you make it on this date?”

We got on a plane flew to Delhi at the beginning of July which is the worst time to go because it’s so hot, 120 degrees. We shopped for 10 days and brought back this container full of fabulous, one-of-a-kind things.

We launched a whole new initiative that was called the ‘Container Sale’. I ended up doing this more than 10 times with different designers to India, Morocco, Paris, London, Brussels, Peru, China and more. I’m always really curious to explore other cultures and see how we can bring those back to what we’re doing at One Kings Lane it’s just been so much fun.

Getting outside of where you live is always so fascinating to me because we’re all so consumed with what’s going on in our world. When you go to a place that’s a little bit more exotic or out of your comfort zone, it’s super fascinating. The culture and the people in general are so fantastic. Travel is a great passion of mine.

If there’s something that you’d like to remind yourself what would it be?

Always keep a sense of humor!

If you’re going to do this and work as hard as we all do, if you can’t have fun then forget about it. At the end of the day, it’s gotta be fun. It just has to be.

It’s a culture. When we started One Kings Lane I said to Ali when we started, I don’t care what we do, but I want to make sure that this is an amazing place to work. That people love working here and are passionate about what we’re doing. I also wanted to make sure the vendor community loves us just as much. It makes a difference. You have to set the culture at the beginning.

Find Susan on:

One Kings Lane
Instagram: @susankfeldman
Twitter: @susankfeldman

January 20, 2016

Wonder Women: Coretta Scott King

Outspoken activist, Coretta Scott King, lead the Civil Rights Movement along with her husband, Martin Luther King, Jr., and continued to fight for the rights of women, the LGBT community, and children throughout her lifetime.

In 1986, after many years of King’s efforts, Martin Luther King, Jr. Day was named a federal holiday honoring her late husband and his achievements in civil rights.

Formally trained as a concert singer at the New England Conservatory of Music, King went on to lending her voice to many marginalised groups taking bold stances in the name of feminism and equality for lesbians and gays.

“I still hear people say that I should not be talking about the rights of lesbian and gay people and I should stick to the issue of racial justice. But I hasten to remind them that Martin Luther King Jr. said, "Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere." I appeal to everyone who believes in Martin Luther King Jr.'s dream to make room at the table of brother and sisterhood for lesbian and gay people.”

Coretta Scott King built her own legacy long after Dr. King’s assassination. Although history may downplay women’s involvement, she believed that "women are the backbone" of our communities and human rights movements - may we take her lead.

January 13, 2016

Wonder Women: Sasha De Sola

Hi Sasha, Happy New Year! You’ve just come off dancing The Nutcracker, tell us a little more about how you became the Sugar Plum Fairy?

I grew up in Florida to two parents who immigrated to the United States from Venezuela. I grew up in an immigrant family and always felt a little bit different from the rest of my American friends which influenced me to not only work hard to find my place in this country but also remain proud of my roots and my heritage.

I started dancing when I was 2 years old. My mom put me in dance because I was so shy. I was just a baby but I fell in love with it. There was something about the freedom and the physical expression that was really was attractive to me. I just knew that’s what I wanted to do since I was 10 years old. So I went to a boarding school In Washington, DC called the Kirov Academy of Ballet to further my training and be exposed to other dancers from all around the world. When I was 16, I got my job with the San Francisco Ballet.

That’s very young! You must have been very proud of yourself.

On a basic level, I’m really proud to have made it in this field. It’s a super competitive world where there aren’t many openings for professional dancers. You really have to excel and I’m also very proud to be a part of the San Francisco Ballet which is a world class company. Every day I’m surrounded by extremely talented artists and I feel very grateful to be around them. I feel like I’ve been so blessed to have had strong mentors as I was growing up and the support of family and friends.

Was there a role that you’ve always wanted and achieved?

As a little girl, you dream about dancing this or that, Let’s say the Sugar Plum Fairy in The Nutcracker. You think about how it’s going to be “Oh once I get there, I will have made it and i’ll be so happy!” But in reality, it’s just a stepping stone where you’re so grateful you’ve gotten the role but with every step, it opens up your eyes to everything else you want to be. How you’ll grow as an artist, as a technician, as a human being.

A lot of times people forget that ballet dancers completely devote their lives to this art. The person you’re watching on stage, part of their soul is being displayed. It’s important to not only remember who you are as an artist but as a human being. As a woman or a man.

You said once you achieved your goals, you had to examine what your next goals were, what are they?

My goals when I was younger were very career based. I still have a lot of career goals but I also am interested so many aspects. Right now, I’m learning a lot more about investing. I want to get my hands in different pots and find out what other things I’m very passionate about. I’ve learned that I’m very work oriented and I’ve learned to value off time and relax. The times for relaxation, travel and being in the moment can be hard to do sometimes. Appreciating everything for what it is whether it’s a difficult time or a wonderful time in my life it’s about fully embracing that moment. That’s something I’m working on, but I’m not there yet.

Is there something you’re especially proud of outside of your career?

Going back to being a child of immigrants, I’m proud of my strength of identity. I know who i am and I think that comes from having strong parents who instilled a lot of pride in who we are.

Was there ever a moment where you felt discouraged?

Yes absolutely. Many times. I think one of the most challenging parts of this career is the constant self-doubt that you have. It’s a lot of psychological stress. When I talk about the moments of self-doubt, I guess I was wrong to say moments, it’s more like years. When you’re practising, you’re standing in front of a mirror for 8 hours a day and staring at yourself. Criticising yourself to make yourself better. It will take a toll on you. I was trying to find out who I am, what’s important to me and how I wanted to pursue this career that’s so important to me.

How did you power through it?

Life is filled with trials and I think it’s so important especially for women to just remain confident in themselves. Take a constructive, objective look at yourself and realise your strengths. When I first made the leap from being a student in ballet to having a job, it was a huge huge moment of self doubt for me because I was so young. All of a sudden I was thrust into this professional world that i wasn’t really sure how to navigate. I wasn’t sure if this was even what i was supposed to be doing. Did I make this leap too early? Was I ready for this? Was I good enough?

But the inner strength that we’ve been talking about really shines through when you really love something. If you’re passionate about it, you’ll do everything in your power to the best of your abilities to make it happen for yourself. Everyone can benefit from that inner strength.

How would you encourage other women to develop that? What superpower would you give them?

I would have to say objective confidence because I think a lot of women struggle with that. I would like to see a lot more of women supporting each other.

What’s an adventure you’ve been on?

I have been really blessed with travelling the world because of ballet. We went to China in October and this is my 2nd time there. It was amazing to retunn see how the country has changed. I don’t really love doing huge touristy things but I do love to walk around and eat the local food. I feel like you can really learn a lot about a culture through their food. But on our very first day, we took the subway completely blind and ended up a more ‘Western’ part of town where there’s a lot of embassies. My friends were really hungry so we had to find something to eat. Of couse the one place that we found was a Mexican restaurant. Of all the places in China to go, we found the ONE mexican restaurant. Typical Californians.

Yes, so typical. That’s funny. So to close off, what’s a note to self you’d like to be reminded of?

Be patient with yourself. Have faith in your abilities.

Find Sasha on:

Instagram: @sashadesola
The San Francisco Ballet 

January 06, 2016

Wonder Women: Gypsy Rose Lee

Happy Birthday to Gypsy Rose Lee, a true trailblazer whose influence is all over the modern-day burlesque scene – from the posh stage settings to the sultry movement and dance. She was one of the first public performers who made something sexy into something classy, as well.

In its early days, burlesque was a mostly straightforward and clumsy act that didn’t have any of the allure or sexiness of its present-day art. Gypsy Rose Lee changed that by adding in her trademark wit and slowing down her performance to a seductive crawl. She pioneered the act of putting the “tease” into “striptease.” Her style singlehandedly took the Minsky Burlesque Company to new heights during the Prohibition Era, often drawing the awe of customers and the ire of police.

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