You have to say I’m funny, Mary!

Done. Kalei is hilarious. Side-splitting, knee-slapping funny. I have found that women with a great sense of humor are usually also very smart, very sensitive and have dealt with a lot in their life.

Done. Kalei is hilarious. Side-splitting, knee-slapping funny. I have found that women with a great sense of humor are also very smart, very sensitive and have dealt with a lot in their life.

Technically, Kalei shouldn’t even be here. She was an abandoned baby in Korea that was saved by her “adopted” mom. The fact that her mom was able to adopt her is also a miracle. Back then, in Korea, you couldn’t be 40 years older than the child that you adopt. Kalei’s mother was 44 years old, which meant she would have gotten a 4 year old.

Instead, her mother got a 6-month old baby. At that time, when foreigners adopted from Korea, they didn’t meet the child until they boarded the plane. So, imagine Kalei’s mother’s surprise when a 6-month old baby shows up to go home with her to Hawaii. That was the first fork in the road.

The second was when Kalei was a 19-year old college student. She got pregnant and felt like she let her parents down after they had given her so much. Her dad was the toughest on her, but eventually, he came around once the baby was born. It was love at first sight.

This was a really scary and difficult time in Kalei’s life, but she was determined to prove herself to her parents and still planned to finish college.

She was attending the University of Texas, Austin, where she earned a B.S. in Advertising. UT was one of the few universities in the country that offered a degree in advertising and she kept up with the curriculum, with baby on the way.

I delivered my daughter on a Tuesday and was back in class the following Monday.

She managed school and motherhood with the help of great college friends by stacking all of her classes on Tuesdays and Thursdays so they could help babysit. She maintained this schedule for the first six weeks and paid her friends with groceries. On the seventh week, she was able to get her daughter into daycare at the university.

Kalei’s college life consisted of motherhood, school and part-time work. She graduated on time with a 3.7 GPA.

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As you can imagine, after graduating from college, Kalei entertained multiple recruiting opportunities, but ultimately chose Minnesota as her destination. She felt like Minneapolis was a liveable city for a single mom and moved here with only her car and their clothes, nothing else. She and her daughter slept on air mattresses and lived with a roommate. Half of her check went to daycare and the other half went to rent.

Once Kalei was able to save some extra money, the first thing she bought was a bed from IKEA for her daughter. Kalei still slept on an air mattress though.

Kalei was, and still is, very ambitious and moved up in the ranks very quickly. She focused heavily on her career and wouldn’t tell people that she was a single mom because she was afraid that she wouldn’t be given the same professional opportunities. She was a 21-year old single mom, with a 2-year old, and thought she would be overlooked because of it. She wanted to be judged on merit.

Once she was comfortable with her co-workers, she would tell them about LuLu. Then, she brought LuLu with her everywhere she went, including work. Putting in 65-70 hours a week, Kalei would pick up LuLu from daycare and go back to the office and burn the midnight oil with LuLu asleep at her desk.

Kalei’s determination did pay off. She wanted to be a director and earn a certain salary before she was 30. At age 28, she was recruited to a digital agency and negotiated both of those things. She felt like she was nailing it. Until she wasn’t.

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While in this role, her daughter turned 10 years old and Kalei felt like she had missed the first 10 years of LuLu’s life. The work she was doing, even though she had that title and salary, weren’t silencing this urge she had to spend more time with LuLu. Kalei spent so much time prioritizing work, that she missed the part where you develop a relationship with your kiddo. It was also during this time, that she met Jared who rounds out her family unit.

She decided to resign from her position, take some time off and travel with her daughter. It was the best decision she made because she realized that chasing her professional goals and achieving them, young, came at the cost of not being emotionally present for her kid. Her next position would have to be a role where she could achieve balance.

This is where our paths cross, at Target, where Kalei is a Lead Strategist and we started around the same time. We clicked right away because, like me, she’s ambitious, moves fast and gets shit done! But unlike me, she’s unapologetic about it and I admire her for it.

Her style is all about dresses and bold prints. She doesn’t like pants as much as she likes dresses, so she doesn’t wear them often. When she dresses for work, she thinks about her role in the room. Will she be a presenter or a participant? If she’s presenting, the heels get really high. She admits that she doesn’t like to spend a lot of money on clothes, so she never pays full price. She’d rather spend her money on vacations. She always hits the clearance racks first and finds her dresses and bold prints at places like J.Crew, Anthropologie, H&M and Target. She’s been shopping more at Target now that she works here.

Given the choice of anyone in the world, whom would you want as a dinner guest? My Grandma. I had a lot of fun with her when I was a kid. Then when I was in middle school, I thought I was too cool to be hanging out with my 85-year old grandma. I was at her house being a sarcastic tween and meanly vacuuming when my grandma tripped over the cord and broke her femur. After that fall, her health declined really fast and I blamed myself for it. I would like to have dinner with her so I could tell her that I’m sorry and have more time with her.

Would you like to be famous?
I always think I do, but no, not in reality. Even during the photoshoot for this blog, I was uncomfortable. I don’t want to be overly scrutinized, even though I love being in the center and making people laugh.

Before making a telephone call, do you ever rehearse what you are going to say?
Only if there’s going to be conflict. I want to make sure emotion is stripped out of the conversation and that I stay focused on objectivity.

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What would constitute a “perfect” day for you?
Sleeping in, for sure. I’m not a morning person. Eating and drinking anything I want. Surrounded by friends & family.

When did you last sing yourself?
I sing to LuLu to prove that I’m still cool and know the hip songs.

If you were able to live to the age of 90 and retain either the mind or body of a 30-year-old for the last 60 years of your life, which would you want?
Body. I want to be able to stay active and to physically take part in ALL the activities and adventures that life and my grandkids will bring.

Do you have a secret hunch about how you’ll die?
I hope it’s peaceful and I hope those surrounding me get through it. I don’t want it to be tragic. I hope I’m old, still laughing and die in my sleep.

What do you and Jared have in common?
We both love food, love to laugh and are very generous.

For what in your life do you feel most grateful?
My kid, for sure. She is by far my biggest accomplishment and the hardest thing I have ever done. And my parents, because they gave me everything possible to live my best life.

If you could change anything about the way you were raised, what would it be?
I wish my parents would have had the sex talk with me. I wouldn’t have gotten pregnant so early! Kidding! Not kidding.

If you could wake up tomorrow having gained any one quality or ability, what would it be?
More love, emotion and empathy for LuLu. My struggle has nothing to do with her, it’s just how it happened. But I hold her to unfair standards sometimes, and need to be better at being a nurturing mom, versus a mom boss.

I’m all about protecting my peace. 100 percent.

Shelby wanted to be an anchor on the 6:00 news. When she was in 3rd grade, she produced a kid’s talk show at her school. Even at this young age, her drive to shine began to appear. Her teacher would use her as an example to the other kids that weren’t working as hard.

Shelby wanted to be an anchor on the 6:00 news. When she was in 3rd grade, she produced a kid’s talk show at her school. Even at this young age, her drive to shine began to appear. Her teacher would use her as an example to the other kids that weren’t working as hard.

Shelby grew up in Minnesota as an only child to parents who divorced when she was 5 years old. Both of her parents are really successful through hard work, so she learned how to focus on her goals and what she needs to do to accomplish them. She attended 3 different high schools, so she was perpetually the new “weird” person at school. She got involved in activities like orchestra, theater and art club and that helped.

After high school, she went to the University of Madison, Wisconsin to study journalism. She wasn’t a typcial college student because she spent most of her time on career preparations and interning to get real-world experience.

In addition to journalism, she studied videography, still with the 6:00 news on her mind. But during this time, her interests started to shift and she wanted to be doing more of the work behind the scenes. That’s when she discovered that she wanted to focus on writing.

She is one of my newest colleagues at Target and when I started seeing her on our floor, I knew I had to meet her and talk about her style.

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Shelby is one of those women that can pull things together that you would never imagine and make it look cool and expensive. She prides herself on finding pieces at second hand stores to pull together a look. Often times, people will comment: “You’re the only one that can wear that!” She likes that feedback because it means the fashion risks paid off and it makes her feel really good.

When she is curating her closet, she doesn’t think about versatility or brands. She thinks about clothes the same way you may think about buying a painting. If it’s something that she loves, she has to have it and she’ll figure out how to make it work later.

Given the choice of anyone in the world, whom would you want as a dinner guest? Mama Oprah. I love Oprah. I would love to soak up her knowledge. She studied journalism and went on to do TV, magazine and owns a network. She’s a mogul.

Would you like to be famous?
Yes, but for something very specific that requires knowledge or respect, like a famous TED talk or a bestselling book.

Before making a telephone call, do you ever rehearse what you are going to say? Only for administrative type things like cold-calling for an interview. I’ll write everything down. If it’s personal, I don’t practice.

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What would constitute a “perfect” day for you?
It would involve happy hour, a movie and sleep. I like to be social, but I have to be home early. I’m all about protecting my peace.

When did you last sing yourself?
This morning. I’ve been singing a lot lately, which indicates that I’m feeling good. I’m a total car singer, not a shower singer. 100 percent.

If you were able to live to the age of 90 and retain either the mind or body of a 30-year-old for the last 60 years of your life, which would you want?
Definitely the mind. Mainly because I feel like I’ll get lucky and still look good even when I’m 50, 60 or 70 years old. I’ll keep working out and taking care of myself.

Do you have a secret hunch about how you’ll die?
Honestly, a car crash. I’m not a terrible driver, I’m just a speed demon. In the car is also where I do all my brainstorming and daydreaming, so I’m not as alert as I should be. The only speeding ticket I’ve gotten was when I was running late to a boat party. The police officer pulled me over and I was wearing my swimsuit.

For what in your life do you feel most grateful?
I’m grateful for my talents and skills. I believe that they were given to me by a higher power. For example, if I get a really good idea and it ends up being successful, I don’t attribute it to me. I attribute it to something higher. I want to use those skills to impact and help more people.

I’m also very grateful for my family and my dog.

If you could change anything about the way you were raised, what would it be?
I wish there were more people around when I was younger. My parents divorced when I was 5 and I’m an only child, so I had a very quiet life as a kid.

If you could wake up tomorrow having gained any one quality or ability, what would it be?
I’d like to be more of a natural extrovert. Sometimes, I want to be the life of the party, but I naturally shy away from things.

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Empathy trek

I was sitting on the idea for this blog for quite a few months. It just kept popping up in my mind as something that I needed to do. It was persistent and finally I was like “Fine…I’ll do it…Gaaaawwwwwdd.”

I was sitting on the idea for this blog for quite a few months. It just kept popping up in my mind as something that I needed to do. It was persistent and finally I was like “Fine…I’ll do it…Gaaaawwwwwdd.” Usually, when I do something, there’s a whole plan around it. What’s the strategy? What’s the intent? What will it look like? How will I execute? How will I sustain this? Is it scalable? Oh god, “Is it scalable?” is the biggest idea killer. The “planning” is exhausting and paralyzing and it’s really just an excuse to not start. In fact, when I published the first few articles, people I’d run into would ask those same questions. My honest reply: “I don’t know, I just want to do it.”

I started by sending an email to 12 women that I thought were cool. I estimated that I’d get half to participate. To my surprise, all 12 not only said “yes,” they were excited, supportive and generous. “Wow, that’s cool,” I thought. I was surprised, but totally pumped that all 12 wanted to play.

I started planning the photoshoots, scheduling interviews, developing the editorial calendar, designing the website and I was in full project management mode. Which really means that I was checking boxes and getting shit done, MY FAVORITE!!! It’s also a very disconnected mode. It’s all about moving the needle toward the deadline and not stopping to consider people. When I started having the interviews with the women I work with, I realized more was happening than just a blog about style and that I needed to take a pause and pay closer attention to the stories.

Originally, I thought style meant fashion. Let’s talk about where you shop and how you put your look together. SQUEEEEEEEAAAAAAL!!! But what was happening was an expression of true style, which as defined by Webster is: A particular kind, sort, or type, as with reference to form, appearance, or character.

The weight of what was really happening hit me. Women were confiding in me. They were telling me their stories about how they grew up, failures in their careers, nerves about motherhood, insecurities about how they looked. The list goes on and on. “Oh, maybe don’t include THAT in the article.” Holy shit, they have a lot of courage and I have a bigger responsibility than I had anticipated.

And then they turned the tables on me. It started with Hannah. She was one of the first women featured. “When are you going to do it? I’ll write your article.” My knee-jerk reaction, in my head, was: “Never.” My outward reaction was probably an eyeroll, a face and some excuse why not. But it kept coming up. “When is it your turn?” “When are we going to see the face behind the blog?” “I want to read your profile.”

When I started this process, I didn’t really think through what I was asking of my friends. I see them through my lens and what I see is beauty, creativity, strength and tons of style. It NEVER dawned on me that what I was asking put the women I work with in a very vulnerable position. I had zero empathy and made a lot of assumptions about how easy this would be for them. Look at them, they are so cool, of course they want their photo taken!

As long as I was writing about and photographing other women, nobody was looking at me. I don’t want anyone looking at me or reading about my personal life and how I feel about my appearance. I’m boring, ugly and have no style. If I go in front of the camera and get interviewed, this will all be revealed. Everyone will see that I’m boring, ugly and have no style. And then what?

That’s the truth. As I write it, it makes me sad that I had those thoughts. I suspect a lot of women had similar thoughts and I suspect that when I ask them to participate in this project, they first go to that dark place and talk themselves out of it, take a deep breath, see the big picture and then send the email that says: “Yes Mary, I’ll participate.”

It takes a lot of guts to send that email and I didn’t realize that before. I’m grateful to the first 12 women. They exhibited a lot of courage and put themselves out there for a project that had no definition or clarity. I’m also thankful that they encouraged me to walk in their shoes through this experience because I’ve learned so much.

There’s still no plan or strategy, just a desire to tell more stories and a commitment to make things with the women I work with.

Dress (like a boss).

From the very beginning, dressing well was important to Mary. She remembers saving up for a pair of Guess jeans – splitting the cost with her parents. Their family didn’t have much money, and she was frustrated by the fact that she couldn’t simply dress exactly the way she wanted. But she had to have the jeans – and she made it happen.

From the very beginning, dressing well was important to Mary. She remembers saving up for a pair of Guess jeans and splitting the cost with her parents. Their family didn’t have much money, and she was frustrated by the fact that she couldn’t simply dress exactly the way she wanted. But she had to have the jeans, and she made it happen.

This is very much in line with the Mary that I know. She knows what she wants and she is willing to put in the work to get-it-done.

Mary and I first connected over style. Having just moved back to Minneapolis from New York, I was pleasantly surprised to see her walking around the Target Creative floor. I remember actually thinking to myself  “Thank God! There are people here with real style.” I noticed immediately her artful ability to dress professionally but in a really beautiful and unique way. In an industry where casual is cool and cool is king, Mary expresses her respect for herself and others by showing up looking like she cares. And she really does.

Caring about how I dress is an act of civility. I care about how I dress because I care about the people I encounter. 

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As any truly good designer, Mary pays attention to the details. She knows how to pull off pieces that some would shy away from – like a sack dress or high-waist wide-leg trousers – balancing cropped or oversized pieces with great tailoring and the perfect shoes. I’m pretty sure the first thing I said to her was: “I love your shoes”. She cares about quality and respects the cost. She embraces trends while staying true to the classic principles of style.

She looks like a boss – and she wants to be one

Mary was a creative kid. Her mother’s side of the family was artistic and she got early insight into the world of design from her uncle who worked as a designer. But when it came time for school, she made what she felt was the “responsible” decision and went to Business School. She earned a Marketing degree from the University of St. Thomas and jumped into the retail world as an intern at Dayton’s. From there, she went on to work at Best Buy as a Merch Analyst.

During this time, she met and fell in love with her future husband, Craig, over long distance love letters. He was living in Chicago at the time. While their relationship developed, she became highly aware of the fact that there was no one at work that she aspired to be, and so she started to consider a bigger career shift.

It was during this time, that her dad, who she is very close with, got sick. She made the tough decision to quit her job, leave Minneapolis (where Craig had just moved to be with her) and move back home to Cold Spring and run the family business. As a young, educated woman from outside the construction industry she faced resistance from the men she managed in her father’s place. Despite the challenges, she implemented new hiring and training techniques and dramatically improved turnover rates, which had been a long standing problem. It was a trying time, but she knew she had made a positive impact. When her dad’s health improved, she decided to finally follow her creative calling and go back to school to study design, this time on her own dime.

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After school, she jumped into interviews, but had difficulty landing a full time design job. She jokes that this could have been credited to her boldness in interviews and not knowing how to say what you’re supposed to say in those situations. She started freelancing and was happy to work solo and guide her own work and business.

Her design business was successful. She won awards, designed products that landed on the shelves at Target and made some really cool brands that are thriving today. But she became tired of doing all the things you have to do when you run a business like: Accounting, bill collecting, invoicing, estimating and sales. She just wanted to focus on the work. It was during this time that she was working on the logo design for MPLS Madwomen. When she presented the work to the founder, Alison Beattie, Alison’s feedback on how she presented was: “You’re totally a UX designer!”

Through their discussions, she came to understand what that really meant and that UX design was where she was supposed to be. It was this discovery that made her comfortable, for the first time, taking a full time position and committing to a company for the long-term.

To Mary, good design is thoughtful, empathetic and solves problems for real people. As a designer, you have to be willing to put in the hard work, and think beyond yourself and what you want to be true. You have to do the research and be willing and ready to try and fail…and try again. As someone who works with her, I know that she practices what she preaches, and it’s refreshing and motivating to be around.

As her career develops and she thinks about what’s next Mary says: “I want to give back to creative people!” She stands by the concept of “leadership as service” and the principle that “It’s not about me! It’s about what I can do for you.” Her advice to creatives: “Get to know everybody! Build your team.” I see this as the key to Mary getting-shit-done. She’s truly interested in everyone’s perspective, and puts in the time to hear it and learn more. I see this as the ultimate practice of respect. In her words, it’s all about “coming together and letting people do what they’re really good at.”

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Given the choice of anyone in the world, whom would you want as a dinner guest?
Prince. We would totally get it on. I’m sure of it. Could you imagine?!?! It would smell like lavender and we’d have this perfect vegan meal. The whole time I would be thinking…what’s going to happen next?! I have a ton of respect for artists who can cut out the middle man. He was so innovative so early when it came to digital and his control of content. I love that he was always telling YouTube to take his videos down. I mean, he was right.

Would you like to be famous?
No. I like to be in the background makings things happen. I don’t need to be the face. I’m too naive about people’s intentions. I want to be known, like – “you should call Mary for that” – but not famous. No.

Before making a telephone call, do you ever rehearse what you are going to say? Why?
It depends on the call. I’ve had some tough calls. When I had my own business, I had a client hire me for some art direction work. They happened to be a creative staffing company, but who’s counting? I did the work, provided them options and ideas. They never got back in touch and then they totally stole my work! My lawyer confirmed my suspicions. So, I called the CEO and told them: “I will shut down your website!” I rehearsed for that one! When it’s a business thing, you need to site the right rules, and know what you’re doing. So in a business situation, yes, I’ll rehearse. When I feel like I’ve been wronged, yes! I have to balance my emotions with my logic and need to get my point across.

What would constitute a “perfect” day for you?
I don’t know the answer to this one. I don’t think there is a perfect day. I really like going on vacation with Craig. We found this place in Mexico that is perfect. We sleep in, have breakfast, go to the pool, drink cocktails, etc. It’s so simple. I guess it’s perfect. To me this is perfect right now, sitting at a beautiful place with you, drinking rosé, and having a great conversation.

When did you last sing yourself? To someone else?
Every day. I sing to my dog. “Are you going to eat today?” Anything you would state as a question, I’ll sing. I sing in my car all the time. I hum a lot in the kitchen. I find myself at the gym singing out loud with headphones on. I love music. Sometimes I sing and dance in front of Craig just to make him smile.

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If you were able to live to the age of 90 and retain either the mind or body of a 30-year-old for the last 60 years of your life, which would you want?
I honestly want to keep my body. I think it would be amazing to lose my mind because I don’t want to give a shit! It sounds cathartic! I think it would be so hard not being able to move. It’s my meditation. It’s how I get my head straight.

Do you have a secret hunch about how you’ll die?
Totally a stroke. It runs in my family and sometimes, I have these moments where something will fall asleep and I’m like “Oh god this is it”.

Name 3 things you and your husband have in common.
Absolutely nothing. Seriously, on the surface we are opposites. What we do have in common is our lifestyle philosophy. Our support for each other in our ambitions. His art is computer programming and he fully supports me and my art. “Be the boss! Draw the pictures!” Mutual respect for what we want to do. At the end of the day, we value the same things.

For what in your life do you feel most grateful?
Craig.

If you could change anything about the way you were raised, what would it be?
I wish we weren’t poor when I was growing up. Man, you carry that shame with you forever. We didn’t start out poor, we just lost everything. I returned home from a slumber party one morning and people were moving our stuff into another house across the street. It got worse after that and we had to live in a really shitty place. Being embarrassed about where you live and having the whole town know because it was a fall from grace, was torture. You know that scene in Pretty in Pink when Blane asks where Andie lives so he can bring her home, and she says that she doesn’t want him to see where she lives? I lived that. It’s still painful to think about.

If you could wake up tomorrow having gained any one quality or ability, what would it be?
Hip hop dancing. I was in color guard and shit. You learn choreography. I miss learning a routine. I love synchronized dancing!

Stylishly unstylish

“Stylishy unstylish” is how Bethany describes her look. She’s all about finding her comfort zone, which starts with a great pair of sneakers and a great pair of jeans. She has about 30 pairs of jeans, but finds that she only wears the same 3 pair. It’s AG denim in blue, black & white.

“Stylishy unstylish” is how Bethany describes her look. She’s all about finding her comfort zone, which starts with a great pair of sneakers and a great pair of jeans. She has about 30 pairs of jeans, but finds that she only wears the same 3 pair. It’s AG denim in blue, black & white.

Bethany stays true to her comfort zone, even in the harsh Minnesota winters. You’ll see her wearing all white and open toe shoes when it’s 20 below! That’s partially because she can take the skyway to work and partially because she loves wearing white in the winter.

When she’s shopping for clothes, she invests in key pieces and then mixes in Zara & Target for basics. She prefers shopping an edited collection like Bergdorff 5th floor or D.Nolo, over digging for clothes (like my sister) at TJ MAXX or Off 5th. She wants to express optimism and open mindedness in her style. When she’s presenting work, she wants to appear cool and confident. “Clothing should never distract from the work. You should look like you know what you’re doing.”

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One of her first memories as a kid was knowing that she wanted to do what her dad did, but better. Her dad had a graphic design studio and she remembers holding down silk screens when she was only 2 years old.

Her roots are in the midwest, she’s from St. Louis, but has spent a majority of her time in New York City. She went to art school at Cooper Union and studied under some of the greats: Paul Rand, Milton Glaser, Massimo Vignelli, Jessica Helfand and Lou Dorfsman.

Paul Rand was 81 years old when she was in his class, but she still carries some of the best advice that he shared. He would always tell the class to get off of the computer and get back to sketching because something gets lost between the hand and the computer. This advice was specific to Typography class where his philosophy was that type should just fall together like salt and pepper. When you start designing on the computer, you lose the opportunity to make mistakes and some of the best work comes from making mistakes.

Lou Dorfsman talked about being aware of culture. He would tell her to think about what’s happening in the world and infuse it in her work. It’s difficult to be that overt in your work when you’re creating for a mass retailer, but the spirit of that sentiment resides in brainstorming sessions.

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Bethany spent the first part of her career working in the luxury market. One of her first jobs was at a design firm with clients like: Gucci, Yves St. Laurent, Cole Haan and Coach. Then she shifted to mass retail with a position at Global Brands Group, where they built brands for companies like Kohls. Have you heard of JLo for Kohls?

Then in 2015, out of the blue, she got the call for a dream job at Target, which is where she is today. Bethany is a Creative Director on the style business. Specifically, she directs the TV advertising. Ads that make you pause your DVR like this one and this one.

Given the choice of anyone in the world, whom would you want as a dinner guest
Ina Garten. She seems so fun! I would cook for her and maybe get some tips!

Would you like to be famous?
Not really. I like my life and don’t yearn for popularity and recognition. If I was famous, I’d like it to be for doing what I do best – good, fun, optimistic creative direction.

Before making a telephone call, do you ever rehearse what you are going to say?
Yes, especially if it’s something I don’t want to do. I want to be as prepared as possible. I don’t, however, rehearse to order a pizza.

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What would constitute a “perfect” day for you?
Waking up at a beautiful place like a vineyard or on safari. My boyfriend, friends and family are with me. We have a long lunch under a tree and drink rosé. I don’t even like rosé, but it sounds romantic. I’m wearing something casual and incredibly chic. Maybe we wind down by a stream. Just having time to reflect on the day would be perfect.

When did you last sing yourself? To someone else?
This past weekend. We went to the Hollywood Bowl. My boyfriend and I sing in the car.

If you were able to live to the age of 90 and retain either the mind or body of a 30-year-old for the last 60 years of your life, which would you want?
I want both. I want the mind to figure out how I can have both.

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Do you have a secret hunch about how you’ll die?
I hope it’s sudden and I hope people celebrate and have a party.

Name 3 things you and your boyfriend have in common.
We’re both Cardinals fans, food (I cook, he eats) and we both love outdoor adventures.

If you could change anything about the way you were raised, what would it be?
I wish my family would have been more open. I grew up Catholic and so they were really reserved.

If you could wake up tomorrow having gained any one quality or ability, what would it be?
To be more relaxed without medication! I’d also like to be more organized. I’m not good with paperwork. I need help!

Acting natural

There I found myself in front of the camera, wondering if I should be bending my knee a little…

There I found myself in front of the camera, wondering if I should be bending my knee a little…

When Mary asked if we’d join her in sharing women’s style and stories, I jumped at the idea. Of course! I love hearing people’s stories. Key word, right there. Hearing. It didn’t occur to me that my story would be a subject matter and it just might involve having a picture (and a few wardrobe changes) taken. But hey, what do they say about the infamous comfort zone? We set the photoshoot date and while there was a little pit in my stomach, I knew it was good. That is, until the night before. I was picking out outfits, which should have been easy because it’s what I wear every day, right? Holding up combos in front of the mirror, I for some reason found myself asking, ‘I wear this, right?’

And that’s where it began.

The questions seeped into the following day’s shoot. Is that how I stand? Does this look good? Where should my hands go? That’s really how I smile? Should I hold my sunglasses? Am I walking weird? Thoughts on bending my knee? Oh, maybe straight is better…

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Before I knew it, things I’d never even given a second thought to, were making me second guess myself. Act natural, I told my racing thoughts. But that’s when it hit me. Could those words be any more of an oxymoron?

Being in front of a camera can so easily pressure us to put on a show. Act a certain way. Dress a certain way. Look a certain way. Do a certain thing. Not do another. Be a somebody, when in reality, all we really want captured is ourselves.

After what felt like some rough moments, I found myself saying to our photographer, just get candid stuff. Instead of trying to pose, it felt more normal to have a conversation and what ended up happening was so welcomed. I got to hear stories again. Anna talking about her latest adventure with the cats. Michelle talking about her journey with photography and the last wedding she shot. Liana with her sense of humor all over everything. It was natural and I began to feel it.

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In bringing all of us women together, Mary’s removed the word “act” from our stories. We have the opportunity to open up and just be ourselves, trusting we’ll be loved for it. I respect the women who’ve gotten in front of a camera, shared their story and owned their style. Because hey, when it comes down to it, we should be proud! Proud of each other, of ourselves and whatever we decide to put on. (and yep, proud of however that knee bends)

Article written by: Kiera Jacobson

Rock & roll chick

Jill is the coolest chick at the office. Like, seriously. I’m confident that everyone would agree with me too.

Jill is the coolest chick at the office. Like, seriously. I’m confident that everyone would agree with me too.

Her style has changed a lot over the years. She was the girl in the 80’s with the HUGE hair. She said her hair filled the whole frame of her college photo. She rocked the off-the-shoulder trend, big sweatshirts, leggings and always accessorized with a bandana. The bandana was either around her wrist or her ankle, but it was her statement piece.

She credits her mom for making her the stylish woman we know today. When Jill was little, her mother made clothes for Jill and her sister and she mostly sewed dresses. The fact that they were MATCHING dresses hindered Jill’s individuality, not to mention her tomboy ways. She was always playing outside, climbing trees and racing bikes with the boys in the neighborhood, so dresses didn’t really work.

“I honestly can’t remember a time when I didn’t care about what I wore.”

Today, she feels most comfortable in her edgy, rocker style. She loves it because she thinks that it contradicts her personality. She’s actually very quiet, reserved and understated. Her style allows her to be outgoing and badass in a way that draws people in. It’s her social currency, which is really cool. See, Jill is a very shy woman and typically won’t be the one to make the first move. But because of how she dresses, people will approach her and want to talk about her clothes and that makes it easier for her to engage in conversation.

At first glance, you might think Jill will kick your ass, but once you get to know her, you realize that she’s one of the kindest people you’ll ever meet.

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I’ve known Jill a long time and have a soft spot in my heart for her because I love working with her. We recently reunited on the digital design experiences for new brands at Target (plug & plug) and it was a total blast!

It took a few tries before she found graphic design. She started in architecture because she was always good at math and physics. Then, she switched to fashion design, thinking it would lead to a career in costume design. When she transferred to the U of M, she found graphic design and technology and it stuck.

Her design career and her husband’s career in law enforcement, provided them the opportunity to live in other cities. They spent 7 years in L.A., where Jill worked for Disney, Sony Pictures and Mattel. Then, Target snatched her up about 12 years ago. Jill spent the first 7 years art directing the Target kid’s catalog. Now she primarily art directs digital experiences.

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Given the choice of anyone in the world, whom would you want as a dinner guest
Iris Apfel. I admire her because she’s doesn’t care about conforming. She still has attitude and style well into her 90’s! If I live that long, I hope I’m like that.

Would you like to be famous?
Not while i’m alive. BUT I want to be remembered for something great that I did while I was here.

Before making a telephone call, do you ever rehearse what you are going to say? Why?
Nah, never

What would constitute a “perfect” day for you?
Bacon & boating! Starting the day with bacon for breakfast, then spending the day with my hubby and my dogs, boating & wake surfing. I spent my last birthday just like that, only I also got a haircut and saw Wonder Woman.

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If you were able to live to the age of 90 and retain either the mind or body of a 30-year-old for the last 60 years of your life, which would you want?
F**k, that’s really hard because I’ve seen both. Mind, I guess.

Do you have a secret hunch about how you’ll die?
Not really, but I’m not afraid to die. Hopefully I’ll die with my boots on (this is a reference to a movie i recently saw with my hubs – he’ll get it.) – doing something I love or protecting someone I care about. I just don’t want to live long enough to lose my mind OR body!

Name 3 things you and your husband appear to have in common.
Even though we have very different jobs and skills, we mostly have the same interests and opinions about things. We both love working out, being outside, camping, water, cars… oh, and he’s a for-real badass!

We also balance each other out in many ways. For example, I’m the techy one becuase he’s technology challenged, and he’s the money guy. I’ve never balanced my checkbook.

For what in your life do you feel most grateful?
My health.

If you could change anything about the way you were raised, what would it be?
I wouldn’t change anything. My parents cared about me, we had everything we needed and I feel like they taught me good values.

If you could wake up tomorrow having gained any one quality or ability, what would it be?
The ability to fly.

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Is there something that you’ve dreamed of doing for a long time? Why haven’t you done it?
There are a lot of things. I’d like to go hang gliding. I think I want to be a bird because I love water and air. I’d also like to travel to Iceland or Australia, but I don’t like the traveling part. I like the idea of being there, just not the getting there.

Back to style. How do you create your look?
I like to mix girlie with edgy. Like a pink fur coat with a Slayer tee, a blush sequin skirt with a camo jacket, or a floral satin robe with a Led Zepplin tee.

I don’t care about labels or brands, I just like what I like. Right now, I love what Gucci is doing, but they are cost prohibitive, so I improvise by customizing more affordable options that I get from Target or Marshalls. I love a good bargain, like finding a statement piece, or a piece I can make a statement with, for a super low price. It totally gives me a rush! I also often shop in the men’s and kid’s departments because you never know what kind of treasures you’ll find. For example, I have a Levi’s trucker vest that I sewed fur sleeves onto. The sleeves are from a fur coat that I bought in the girl’s department at Target for $8.

My patch jacket (featured image) is actually a men’s Levi’s trucker jacket that I got on sale from Urban Outfitters years ago. I recently added all these patches, but it took an entire year to collect just the right ones and get them well-balanced and in the right places. I couldn’t bring myself to start sewing them on until it was absolutely perfect.

Editorial note: The patch jacket is so beautiful in person! If you see Jill wearing it, make sure to stop and admire the craftswomanship.

Maternity clothes scared me

When Alyson was experiencing pregnancy for the first time, she was scared that she was going to lose her style. She remembered judging other women when they became mothers because she noticed formerly stylish women becoming less concerned about it after they had kids. She didn’t want to change, but wasn’t aware of the impact having kids was going to have on her life.

When Alyson was experiencing pregnancy for the first time, she was scared that she was going to lose her style. She remembered judging other women when they became mothers because she noticed formerly stylish women becoming less concerned about it after they had kids. She didn’t want to change, but wasn’t aware of the impact having kids was going to have on her life.

While she was pregnant with her first child, maternity clothes scared her. There wasn’t anything that she felt like she could wear to feel comfortable in this new body. Luckily, the looks that were trending were flowy dresses, elastic wastebands & harem pants. She made those items work and was able to feel like she wasn’t losing all of her stylish self.

When you’re a creative person who cares about aesthetics, it’s difficult to turn off that curator part of your brain. Everything has to be “just so.” It’s really stressful and I’m sure other creative people can relate to that feeling. It comes with the territory of being a designer.

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Now, having birthed 2 children, she’s realized that she doesn’t have the mind space, time or money to devote to thinking about her clothes. In the past, she would curate a capsule wardrobe with a few expensive items, but that doesn’t suit her lifestyle anymore.

Her current style approach is “grab and go”.  She builds a decent base with a few pieces that can transition in and out. She focuses on denim that makes her feel good because it can mix and match with anything very easily. Jeans are durable, classic and you don’t have to wash them very often, which is another time-saving feature.

In addition to raising 2 kiddos, Alyson is a Creative Director at Target. If you’ve seen inspirational fashion imagery from Target, Alyson was most likely the creator.

She started her design journey at Iowa State University, where she studied graphic design. She felt lucky from the start because she knew she wanted to do something in that field.

After graduating from ISU, she landed an internship at Olson. She felt like she was nailing it and when fall arrived, was ready to hit the pavement and find her first design job.

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In reality though, it was harder than she anticipated. In order to pay the bills, she was working as a nanny while attending portfolio reviews. She was disappointed during this time because she wasn’t seeing any of her hard work come to fruition.

She hit her low point one night biking home to Uptown after an interview in Downtown Minneapolis. She was wearing her beautiful interview suit, with her portfolio in her bike basket. It was happy hour on a nice fall evening and she got pulled over by a cop for biking on the sidewalk.

Alyson eventually landed at Target 10 years ago. She loves the challenge of shooting fashion at Target. “When you have a $10,000/day model wearing a Gucci dress with Annie Leibovitz as the photographer, that shot is going to be gorgeous, guaranteed. When you have a $4,000/day model wearing a dress from Target and you make it look awesome, that is amazing. That’s a challenge and it is so fun!”

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Given the choice of anyone in the world, whom would you want as a dinner guest?
Laura Ingalls Wilder. I love history! I love knowing my own history too. I grew up reading those books and falling in love with the illustrations by Garth Williams.

Would you like to be famous?
Yes, for invention.

Before making a telephone call, do you ever rehearse what you are going to say? Why?
For sure, especially if it’s something heavy. Context to the conversation matters.

What would constitute a “perfect” day for you?
Being with my family, in the summer, on the water with good homemade food that I had time to prepare.

When did you last sing to yourself? To someone else?
Never! People told me all the time that I had the worst voice ever, so I don’t sing.

If you were able to live to the age of 90 and retain either the mind or body of a 30-year-old for the last 60 years of your life, which would you want?
Mind, for sure

Do you have a secret hunch about how you’ll die?
No idea, do you?
Yes, I think I’m going to have a stroke.

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Name 3 things you and your husband appear to have in common.
Our sense of humor (he’d disagree), compassion and we both value putting our best foot forward.

For what in your life do you feel most grateful?
My husband, he’s a much better person than I am.

Is there a woman in your career that was your mentor or that you looked up to?
Yes, Anita Calero. She is a photographer/stylist/all-around amazing human being. I met and worked with her early in my career and she really shaped me as a creative. She gave me confidence early on which gave me strength and energy to keep doing what I love. As a young art director, it was intimidating to walk on to set and give a whole photo crew direction. Anita instilled the passion, assurance and confidence I needed to grow early as a creative.

If you could wake up tomorrow having gained any one quality or ability, what would it be?
Patience

I have 25 lipsticks in my purse at any one time

Liana is one of the most stylish people I have ever met. Her high standards for design and aesthetics is visible in everything she touches. From her wardrobe, to her beautifully designed home, every last detail is thoroughly considered.

Liana is one of the most stylish people I have ever met. Her high standards for design and aesthetics is visible in everything she touches. From her wardrobe, to her beautifully designed home, every last detail is thoroughly considered.

Imagine my excitement when I first met this woman and was assigned a desk next to her. We would literally squeal at each other and talk about the clothes we had curated for the day and why. I know it may sound shallow, but it’s fun, inspiring and gave me that little boost I needed to get through some tough days.

Liana can be inspired by a person, a moment or even an article about fashion and design. Her favorite time of the year is Fashion Week (mine too). Paris Fashion Week is top of the list. There’s nothing better than cozying up with a glass of Rosé and scouring the blogs and Instagram for runway shows and street style photography.

She can become obsessed with one fashion moment and just have to have it. Her obsession last year was robes. Even if it doesn’t “work” on her body, she loves it and has to try it.

A lot of Liana’s style sensibilities come from her Lithuanian culture. European women care about appearance and are the best dressed in the room. Even if you’re going out to push a stroller, you look like a million bucks.

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Liana is a design veteran. She’ll hate that I used the word “veteran” but I think it’s important to show the industry, and other creative women, that design, creativity, smarts and style transcend age. She has worked in agencies, corporate design groups, nonprofits and freelance. Some of the organizations where she led creative include: Honeywell, Miller Meester Advertising, Room and Board, The Minneapolis Institute of Art and currently, Target. She said that once she found retail, she found home.

For this project, I was excited that she wanted to participate because we got to sit down one-on-one and discuss topics other than work and clothes. One thing that really touched me is learning more about her experience as a mother. Liana is one of those women that does is all: career, marriage and motherhood…with great style.

Given the choice of anyone in the world, whom would you want as a dinner guest?
Barack & Michelle Obama

Would you like to be famous?
No. I’d like to be successful and happy, but not famous. When I was starting out in my career, I wanted to be a famous designer. The more I met famous designers, I realized the “fame” part of that life wasn’t for me.

Before making a telephone call, do you ever rehearse what you are going to say?
Yes, I rehearse and take notes on every call. If I don’t rehearse, I don’t communicate everything I need to.

What would constitute a “perfect” day for you?
Being outside and doing something active. Sometimes I want to disconnect and be on my bike. Other times, I want a day of pampering with my friends that concludes with dinner and drinks.

When did you last sing to yourself? To someone else?
In my car, I sing along with the radio all the time. I sang “Happy Birthday” to my daughter yesterday.

If you were able to live to the age of 90 and retain either the mind or body of a 30-year-old for the last 60 years of your life, which would you want?
Body. I think it would be very difficult to be sharp mentally and be constantly aware that my body can’t keep up.

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Name 3 things you and your husband appear to have in common.
We’re so similar, yet so different. We both love the outdoors. The love we have for our kids and what we want for them.

For what in your life do you feel most grateful?
My husband, Leo, my kids, health, family, friends, all of it. Overall, I just feel grateful. I’m very lucky.

If you could wake up tomorrow having gained any one quality or ability, what would it be?
I’d love to be able to sing. I’m extremely passionate about music and would love to belt out a song with an amazing voice.

Is there something that you’ve dreamed of doing for a long time? Why haven’t you done it?
Yes, travel abroad more. Expense is a barrier because our families live in a different state, so our vacation time and budget gets allocated to trips to see our families.

What is the greatest accomplishment of your life?
Being married for a really long time.
How long?
A long time.
My kids are also one of my greatest accomplishments. We were at my daughter’s college graduation last month and a friend congratulated me. At first I was taken aback by the praise, but the more I thought about it, the more I thought: “Yes, I did that.”

What is your most treasured memory?
The birth of my 2 children.

What is your most terrible memory?
When Sofija was alive for only 36 hours. After we brought her home, she spiked a fever and we had to bring her back to the emergency room where they quarantined her and also gave her a spinal tap. I was in such a state, I don’t even have the words to describe it. Here I was having just given birth to my first child, so I have emotions and hormones running through my body, while all this terrible stuff is happening to my baby. I could hold her, but I couldn’t feed her because she was too weak. We ended up being in the hospital for a week before she recovered. It was an out of body experience for me.

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What do you value most in a friendship?
Acceptance and valuing who you really are.

How do you create your look? Where do you shop
It’s usually weather dependent. I’m not kidding. We live in a location with 4 seasons, so I think about the temp (will it rain or snow?) and go from there. I want to be stylish, but comfort is also a huge factor. My mood also drives my decisions. For those days when I’m running late, I tend to gravitate towards my basics and build from there to liven things up. Usually with great shoes or some accessories. Other days, I want to make a statement, so I’ll choose a print or pattern or clothing that might be more dramatic. I really love shoes and feel like I can never have enough. Black boots? I have many. Sometimes I want a heel and sometimes I want something flat. Then there’s the material. Suede or patent? With or without details? Ankle or knee high? So many choices!

And I can’t forget the finishing touch…lipstick! I’m obsessed. I’m always on the hunt for the perfect red lipstick. I carry so many in my purse because when I need to reapply it, I might change up the shade.

I shop everywhere! I love investment pieces and will do research online before buying it to make sure I get the best price. I love quality tailoring, luxurious materials and silhouettes that flatter my body. I’ve had really great luck at Nordstrom, Shopbop, Scotch & Soda. I love to shop boutiques when I travel so I can find items that not everyone else will be wearing. There are also times when I want to try a new trend that probably won’t last past a season. That’s when I’ll check out Zara or a similar place.

I haven’t changed my earrings since 8th grade

Kiera likes to describe her style as “basic-ish”, but put together. She thinks about clothes in a practical way which usually goes something like this: “How many different ways can I wear this? Does it go with what I already have?”

Kiera likes to describe her style as “basic-ish”, but put together. She thinks about clothes in a practical way which usually goes something like this: “How many different ways can I wear this? Does it go with what I already have?”

She likes to stay in the same color palette, but dabbles in different textures and necklines. Her favorite brands to shop are Madewell, Jcrew, and Forever 21. Madewell & Jcrew are at the top of the list because she can shop by outfit and feel confident that the color palettes are curated to work together.

In the case of Kiera’s style, “basic” really means fundamental, foundational & classic. Relying on these principles for her wardrobe saves her mindspace so she can think about other things. She thinks it’s important to make an authentic first impression and this includes what she wears. She tries not to stray too far from her “brand” which is why a lot of the things she wears look similar.

Kiera grew up in an advertising family in Wisconsin, where her grandfather started an ad agency. He dreamed of being a cartoonist, but when he pursued that dream in California, he was turned down. So he returned to Sheboygan, Wisconsin to set up shop with his wife, at the picnic table in their garage, and Jacobson Advertising was born.

One of their first clients was Swiss Miss, and Grandma Jacobson did all the rose malling on the packaging.

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Creativity ran in the family because Kiera’s dad was also an artist. He attended Macalester College and graduated with an Economics degree but started a glass etching studio. He took over the family advertising business when his dad was ready to retire.

As Kiera was deciding what career to enter, her parents didn’t pressure her to go into advertising. When she went to her dad for advice he told her: “If you’re not sure, go into writing.”

She ultimately decided to study journalism at the University of St. Thomas and discovered that she had the advertising bug. Kiera entered her first ad competition in her hometown paper and won!

While she was enrolled at St. Thomas, one of her professors recommended that she apply for a Target internship. She submitted her portfolio and Travis took a chance on her. After interning for a year, she was offered a full-time position as a Junior Writer.

That was 7 years ago and since then she has been promoted to Senior Manager. That’s where Kiera and I cross paths, working together at Target. The reason we became friends though, is because she lived in India for 4 months. Weird, right? I only got to know her after she returned from India and our mutual friend Nam connected us.

It was great to sit down with Kiera and talk more openly for this project. I got to hear her story and all about the impact living in India had on her life.

Given the choice of anyone in the world, whom would you want as a dinner guest? My Grandpas. They passed away when I was in 2nd & 3rd grade. I hear such awesome stories about them.

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One of my grandpas was super involved at home from church to the community to leading weekend activities for kids. My other grandpa lived part-time in an artist village of Mexico and started libraries, brought eye glasses and instruments to kids and as I’m told, found his way into quite a number of adventures in the desert. This was the same grandpa who started the advertising agency. I know I owe a lot of who I am to both of them and the families they raised.

Would you like to be famous?
I don’t think so. It would depend. I would like to be known, not famous. I want to be known as a loving friend. Whether it makes history? It doesn’t matter.

Before making a telephone call, do you ever rehearse what you are going to say? Why?
No. I so rarely talk on the phone. If I do, it’s usually with people I already know well, so when I have free time I call and talk to them.

What would constitute a “perfect” day for you?
Being active and in good conversation with the people I love. Good food… Hola Arepa… wouldn’t hurt.

When did you last sing to yourself? To someone else?
I think I sing in the car, or when I’m cleaning. Google Home makes me feel like I’m not singing alone. The last time I sang was probably yesterday.

What has shaped your life in a profound and meaningful way?
Oh boy, a lot, but one comes to mind, just in terms of what’s happened this past year. When I was in 7th grade, I had the chance to travel to Europe with 20 other 7th and 8th graders, for three weeks. I’d never been away from home for that long and had never traveled alone – I didn’t know anyone going. I still said yes and came back a more confident, independent, open-minded person.

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A year and a half ago, a similar opportunity came up and I again had to say “yes”. I moved to India to work for four moths. I had no idea what to expect and it was totally outside my comfort zone. It was a real growth moment in my life. So much was happening while I was there that it took awhile for me to process it. I had to learn to live in it and not worry about understanding it.

This quote from the book “The Better Life” by Claire Diaz Ortiz put it in perspective: “Sometimes when the big things happen in life you can’t actually process them at the time they happen. Sometimes, you can only really understand them in retrospect. Because sometimes they are too big for the small moments.”

If you were able to live to the age of 90 and retain either the mind or body of a 30-year-old for the last 60 years of your life, which would you want?
Depends. Is it a fit 30 year old? Then for sure! This is a hard decision because I’m a physical person. I’d ultimately choose mind though because I’d rather sit and have conversations with people than run around alone.

Do you have a secret hunch about how you’ll die?
I hope I die doing something that I love. I recently heard a story about a man who died while he was fishing. He still had the pole in his hand!

Diamonds or pearls?
Pearls, of course! I started wearing pearls in 8th grade and haven’t changed since. They are classic and go with everything. I never applied much meaning to the pearl until a family friend gave me my first real pair as I was about to embark on my adventure to India. With the earrings, they enclosed a note that said: “Pearls mean wisdom through experiences.”