“Hey, cutie.”

“Hey cutie,” is always how Carmen greets me when we run into each other at the office. She has such a bubbley personality that when I see her, I find myself speaking in a silly high voice and giggling a lot. That’s the effect she has on me.

It was such a treat to do this photoshoot with her because I’ve watched her completely transform over the last 2 years. She was diagnosed with Small Intestine Bacterial Overgrowth (SIBO) which made her really sick, all the time. The diagnosis required her to change her whole diet. Through lots of trial and error, she learned that she has to adhere to a restricted Paleo diet. 

Carmen said that she had never been so mentally challenged and it was a struggle to push forward with a positive attitude. “I could no longer do the things I loved, so I had to find new ways of having fun.” 

I felt for her as I watched from the sidelines. As she started to come out on the other side, she became a source of inspiration for me. She started posting terrific make-up how-to’s and recipes that she was trying with her new diet. Seeing her new content show up in my feed made me really happy.

Carmen is from Iowa, where she grew up in a creative household. Her mom was a high school art teacher and Carmen always took art classes as electives when she was in high school. Her mediums are watercolors and colored pencils She says she is the artistic one among her siblings. 

During her senior year, she entered a poster contest for the Snake Valley Art Fair. The contest upped the ante with a cash prize and Carmen won. Not only did she win the cash, her work now hangs in the Art Center of Burlington and she was honored by the Gallery with a “30 under 30” exhibition.

As she was considering college, all she could think about was how she could apply art to a practical career. On a college visit to Iowa State, she discovered the graphic design department and loved it. It connected all of her talents and felt like a natural path.

After she graduated from college, one of her professors connected her with Target. She was working part time at a kitchen store and thought: “I’ll just send my portfolio and see what happens.”

She was immediately contacted by Target and was supposed to have a phone interview. However, the admin scheduling the appointments accidentally scheduled an in-person interview. So, Carmen drove all the way up from Iowa to Minneapolis to interview, and the rest is history.

Given the choice of anyone in the world, whom would you want as a dinner guest? 
This is a really hard one because you have to be selective. I like a lot of things and it’s hard for me to edit. Tom Hanks. I’d love to have dinner with him. He seems like he’d be personable. His mannerisms and style remind me of my dad, as well as his charming personality.

Would you like to be famous? In what way?
No. I’m an extrovert and I like to talk, but being the center of attention is stressful. Being famous seems like too much pressure around who you should be rather than who you really are. For example, at work, I don’t need to be singled out and recognized for work that a whole team contributed to. I’d rather help others on my team get recognized. That’s more rewarding for me.

Before making a telephone call, do you ever rehearse what you are going to say? Why?
Depends on the call. I’ve discovered as an adult that I have more anxiety about things like this. I want to leave the impression that I’m professional and organized. I want to be mindful of what I’m trying to accomplish. If I’m calling my friends, I don’t rehearse. We can gab for hours. 

What would constitute a perfect day for you?
A day without any routine. None of the daily routines matter. Breakfast for dinner. Movie in the morning. Just a day of randomness. Like that time we ran into each other at the Norseman. Those spontaneous moments are the most fun. 

When I travel, I don’t make plans either. I do what I feel in the moment.

When did you last sing to yourself? To someone else?
Like all the time. Singing is one of my favorite things. I don’t take myself too seriously, so I sing all the time. The other day, I made up a song about making pumpkin bread. I used to be in choir and I play the piano so I can sing. Sometimes, I’ll rent out the room at the library so I can play piano and 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?
The body of a healthy 30-year-old. I feel like what wears people down later in life is their body and it causes crabbiness. 

Do you have a secret hunch about how you will die? 
I have a lot of dreams about the apocalypse, tornadoes or being stung by bees.

Name 3 things you and your husband have in common.
Hard to narrow down to 3 because we have so many things in common. We both really love pop culture and collecting vinyl toys and albums. We both have a kid-like spirit and never want to grow up. We want to enjoy all the same things we enjoyed as kids, but as adults. We also both have strong connections to our families. They’re very important to us and we make sure we spend a lot of time with them.

For what in your life do you feel most grateful?
There are a lot of things, but mostly I’m grateful for getting sick. It’s been a turning point in my life and has forced me to reflect on who I am as a person. Like, I loved to cook and bake but I never did it before. Now that I’ve had to do more cooking, it’s made me realize how much I love it! Buying cool clothes is fun now. Before I had to just buy what fit. Now I have more confidence and take more fashion risks.

If you could change anything about the way you were raised, what would it be? 
I don’t think I would change anything. I didn’t have the struggle of poverty, or the privilege of money, so I have a good work ethic. My family values that we’re successful and happy in our lives. Gosh, what a great opportunity to not pay for college. BUT, having to pay made me more responsible.

We spent a lot of time together as a family. When I was a kid, my mom stayed home with us full time. It wasn’t until I was in elementary school that she started teaching. My dad came home from work every single day. Not a lot of people have that experience growing up, so I’m lucky.

“I’ve seen the worst outcomes of risk taking!”

Assumptions are funny, aren’t they? We all do it, whether it’s conscious or subconscious. I admit, I see a pretty woman with all the “right” clothes, the “right” job and the “right” things and it never crosses my mind that maybe this person has had struggles or has had to work hard to get where she is.

Assumptions are funny, aren’t they? We all do it, whether it’s conscious or subconscious. I admit, I see a pretty woman with all the “right” clothes, the “right” job and the “right” things and it never crosses my mind that maybe this person has struggled or has worked hard to get where she is.

That was true for me when I got the opportunity to really talk to Melissa. I didn’t realize my assumptions about her until I learned about how she grew up and what her experiences were. Up until that point, our interactions had mostly been professional. And unlike me, she paces herself with the personal information that she shares with people. I can respect that.

Melissa immediately became an adult at 8 years old when her mom died suddenly of myocarditis. Her dad had just dropped her and her brother off for the holidays, when her mom collapsed in the living room. They had to call their dad so he would return to the house and convince him that it wasn’t a joke.

5 years prior to that, her dad survived being struck by a semi, but the accident left him a quadraplegic. So, after her mom died, Melissa took on the stereotypical gender roles of the household. She cooked, cleaned, did laundry and made sure her brother got to school in one piece. Think about being in 2nd grade and not having the same parental resources as most kids you are friends with. Life gets real, real fast.

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Melissa shared that her childhood was difficult, but it also developed her ambition. She was an academic overachiever, skipping her senior year in high school and graduating from Grinnell a semester early. She has 2 Master’s Degrees. One is in Journalism and the other in Business.

Her Master’s thesis explored the “Otherness of the body.” She believed that if people with disabilities were represented more in pop culture and film with or without stereotypes, that it would positively affect the overall populations’ view of them. She proved it by testing 2 sample groups. She showed one group film clips from pop culture movies that contained disabled people as protagonists, then had them answer a series of questions relating to their perception of the disabled as parents, in the workplace, etc. The other group wasn’t shown any clips but still answered the questions. The outcome was able to provide statistically significant evidence that even though the film clips may have shown stereotypical portrayals of the disabled, it still positively affected how others perceive the disabled. Most importantly, this proved that representation and inclusivity within media is essential in making people more comfortable with “otherness”.

Melissa’s career and style is impressive. It’s uncommon to meet someone in advertising who has achieved so much academically. I’m always fascinated by people who can do well in academia. She admits during our conversation that she believes her ambition is a direct result of not having more support from adults as a kid. She just wanted someone to provide direction and say: “Hey kid, you’re really good at this. You should go for it.” Instead, she’s had to embark on that journey alone.

Melissa could have a career in any industry. She chose advertising because she fell in love with it. She started at a publishing company, working as a writer and beauty editor for several local magazines. While there, she was recruited by Target and they brought her on board to work on various creative projects.

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While at Target, she transitioned full time into writing and eventually was promoted to Associate Creative Director. Her portfolio of work spans the enterprise including Target Style, Bullseye Beauty, Target Race and Ava & Viv. She takes great pleasure being the person in the room that fights for inclusivity and representation in our storytelling. When her team was developing the Ava & Viv brand (plus size apparel), she was the one tirelessly advocating for us to focus on style first, size second. That commitment has had incredible business results on the projects she leads.

Melissa embodies all the characteristics women get in trouble for. She’s smart, opinionated and determined to get her ideas implemented, no matter who she makes uncomfortable. Those are all the characteristics we need to inspire change and acceptance in our media landscape.

Given the choice of anyone in the world, whom would you want as a dinner guest?
It changes by day. Michelle Obama. I think she’s amazing. Or Ruth Bader Ginsberg. Time is running out. Make her number one!

Would you like to be famous? In what way?
No, it seems glamorous. I think those people are miserable. I’d like to be known. Someone who fights for something like RBG.

What would constitute a “perfect” day for you?
Working out, massage, getting on a plane to a new city and ending with delicious wine.

When did you last sing to yourself? To someone else?
I just sang this morning! I make up songs about my dogs and sing to them. After my husband left this morning I was scream-singing to my dogs.

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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?
Obviously my mind. I’ve always struggled with being physically fit and I’m trying to give myself a little more credit. I mean, I just deadlifted 220 pounds last month! I’ve also been recovering from a concussion the last 4 months and it’s made me realize even more how important it is for me to be able to think and articulate my ideas.

Do you have a secret hunch about how you will die?
No, and I don’t want to think about it. Having watched my mom die, I only want to focus on living. I do have a goal to become more comfortable with death. I want to be at ease and not fight it, but currently, I’m terrified.

For what in your life do you feel most grateful?
Travel, opportunities I’ve had and education. When you travel, you see the world and different perspectives. It changed who I was. I was 15 when I went to Mexico to build houses and I saw what real poverty was. I spent 2 summers doing that.

If you could change anything about the way you were raised, what would it be?
I wish I wouldn’t have had so much self doubt. I wonder what life would have been like if someone had recognized what I was good at and pushed me.

If you could wake up tomorrow having gained any one quality or ability, what would it be?
Being less risk-averse. Having visibility to the community of people with disabilities, I’ve seen the worst outcomes of risk taking! I’d also follow my own advice.

Is there something that you’ve dreamed of doing for a long time? Why haven’t you done it?
Move and work abroad. It would be hard to convince my husband. When we met, he hadn’t left the country. I have a good job and I’ve created a beautiful home. I’m settled in.

I promised my mom I would get my degree!

Julieta came to the U.S. with $100 in her pocket, spoke very little English, didn’t know anyone and had no immigration papers or social security number. She was born in San Diego, so she was an American citizen, but her family moved back to Mexico without ever finalizing her paperwork.

Julieta came to the U.S. with $100 in her pocket, spoke very little English, didn’t know anyone and had no immigration papers or social security number. She was born in San Diego, so she was an American citizen, but her family moved back to Mexico without ever finalizing her paperwork.

Julieta was in her 3rd year of Architecture school at the University of Sonora and realized that she was really bad at architecture. Her professor told her to switch her major to design because she was great at presenting ideas, color theory and drawing. She rejected that advice because the financial burden, of switching majors 3 years into her program, was too high.

Then one day, she fainted and hit her head on her fall, creating a hairline skull fracture that caused her brain to swell. Intuitively, she knew the fainting was a result of the stress at school, but a doctor was never able to diagnose the cause.

She recovered by staying in bed for one month, which meant that she fell too far behind in school and decided not to return once she was fully recovered.

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After hearing about some of her friends working summers in the U.S., she became interested in that idea so she could save money and help support her family. Her sister was 9 at the time, starting elementary school and needed supplies. It was important for Julieta to be able to help her family financially.

Julieta and a friend planned to move to Arizona for the summer. She searched Craigslist and found a bedroom to rent in Gilbert, Arizona. At the last minute, her friend backed out so Julieta made the journey solo.

When she arrived in Gilbert, her first priority was to get a job. However, nobody would hire her because she didn’t have proper identification. After experiencing several rejections, she finally found a small family-owned restaurant who gave her a job as a waitress.

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Once she had enough money saved, she bought a bike, so she could travel to the social security office and get her social security number. After living in her new place for a month, the landlord gave her notice that she had to move because he was selling the house and rent her room.

Luckily, the family who owned the restaurant and gave her that first job, offered her a room in their house, so she could stay and work in the U.S. for the entire summer.

She fondly remembers returning to Mexico after that summer, bringing a big haul of American things back to her family. She decided to go back to architecture school, but all she could think about is how much she could help her family if she lived in the U.S. for an entire year.

It took some negotiating with her mother. She had to promise that she would finish college, so back to Arizona she went.

When she returned, she got a different waitress job, a car and was able to get more settled. The first thing she bought, just for herself, was a purple AM/PM radio so she could listen to music.

Her college credits from Mexico didn’t transfer, so she had to start her academic career over. She enrolled in Community College to complete her generals and to learn more of the English language. She also discovered that Arizona had one of the best design schools in the country and recalled how her architecture professor advised her to pursue a design career.

“I just wanted a degree. I promised my mom!”

It’s inspiring how things ultimately worked out for Julieta. Her body literally told her that she should not pursue architecture, but her brain wouldn’t accept it. She had to lose all of the investment she made in her education and start over, but she landed exactly where she should.

After graduation, she got an internship at an ad agency where she worked on big accounts like Disney & Subway, which were great for her portfolio early in her career. After the agency gig, she accepted a Product Design position at American Airlines, where 70% of the web pages were her responsibility.

From American, she went to PayPal and during this point in her career, she started rethinking her purpose. She wanted to use her talents to give back to society so she started applying to non-profit organizations. She landed at Make-A-Wish Foundation as a Design Manager. This job was really fullfiling and she was really happy there.

Fast forward to now and Julieta is one of my newest colleagues. She’s new to Target and I’m new to the department we both work in. I like her style a lot. She brings an energy to the room that makes me sit up a little straighter and think a little deeper.

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Everything she wears has a floral pattern. She chooses fit over trend, and shops mainly second hand and vintage so she contributes less to the landfills. She also curates a beautiful Instagram account dedicated to Vegan eating.

Given the choice of anyone in the world, whom would you want as a dinner guest
My Grandma. I just miss her. We lived with her when we were going through rough times. She was a very charitable woman and had a huge influence on me.

Would you like to be famous?
Not really. I don’t really care about fame. If it’s a result of doing good, then yes, but not for the sake of fame.

Before making a telephone call, do you ever rehearse what you are going to say?
No, and I should because I’m really bad on the phone. If I’m talking on the phone while my boyfriend is in the room, he’ll look at me like I forgot English. I was never really around phones. Chat and email is what I’m good at.

What would constitute a “perfect” day for you?
I would be at Kino Bay, waking up with my family, boyfriend and 2 dogs. We’d have an all vegan buffet, swim with the dolphins & turtles, snorkel and lay on the beach. Then we’d watch movies, cook together and go to bed early.

When did you last sing to yourself?
Last night. I sing to my dogs every night before I go to bed. “You are my sunshine…”

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When did you last cry in front of another person?
2 days ago, watching Harry Potter with my boyfriend. Harry goes to the Weasley’s house and Ron’s parents accept Harry as a child and are happy to see him. They count him as one of their own.

What do you value most in a friendship?
Being present when I’m with friends. Not always having to be the initiator. People making an effort.

What is the greatest accomplishment of your life?
Maybe the greatest hasn’t happened yet. I hope it hasn’t because I still want to make a larger impact. Learning English and being able to speak fluently in my profession is a great accomplishment.

Do you have a secret hunch about how you will die?
I’m deathly afraid of a house fire. I unplug everything from an outlet everyday before I leave the house. I’m always thinking: “How is this fire going to happen today?”

For what in your life do you feel most grateful?
My health and my family’s health. That’s all I need.

East Coast Style

Danielle’s style priority is comfort over trends. She focuses on wearing clothes made of materials that feel good on her body.

When Danielle and I met to talk about this article, she expressed to me that this was the first time she had ever told her story. I suspect that it’s because she is early in her career and still building all the pieces.

She is only 3 years out of college and that about knocked me out of my chair. I thought she had been working a lot longer than that! I’ve been noticing how much more sophisticated the younger generations of professional women are. It inspires me and helps me focus on why I do what I do for work everyday.

When Danielle was in high school, her parents encouraged her to try a sport or activity. She tried all of the things and found that she sucked at all of them. When she was 15, her best friend was diagnosed with brain cancer and Danielle needed an outlet to cope.

Art is most often the best outlet and Danielle discovered photography. She was lucky because her dad was an artist, a musician, and he supported her in the arts. Together, they took a photography class and Danielle ultimately studied it for 4 years.

She loved creating compositions and focused on abstract. When it was time to apply to college, she applied to 12 art schools and was accepted to all of them.

For her, it was between the Fashion Institute of Technology in NYC, or Savannah College of Art & Design. She chose SCAD and declared photography her major. After her first year, she lost the passion she had for photography and decided to take a Graphic Design class. She felt that photography was a piece of the experience, but wanted to explore other outlets. After one class, she was hooked, and switched majors. To this day, she says it’s the best thing she’s ever done.

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She interned at great companies like Fossil, HP and even Target. When the Target opportunity came up, she was intrigued because she likes the idea of living in a new city. She grew up in New York and Miami, lived in Savannah, studied abroad in France and Hong Kong.

Never one to get complacent, she decided to meet with Target for a phone interview. The night before the interview, she was held up at gun point. The man who robbed her stole her purse, which contained everything, and by everything, I mean all her backed up design files.

Listening to her tell this story, I couldn’t tell which was more devastating, actually being held up, or losing all of her work. Honestly, my first thought was: “You lost all your work?!@#”

She proceeded to have the phone interview with Target the next day and was hired for an internship as an art director on the weekly ad. Her current position is as a Senior Designer for Home on Target.com.

Her style priority is comfort and isn’t into trends. She focuses on the materials that clothes are made of and wants to feel good in her body. Lately, she’s been experimenting with statement pieces and color. Those statement making expressions typically come to life in her footwear.

When she moved to Minnesota, she admits to experiencing style culture shock. Her references to style were NYC, where there are so many different cultures, you’re inspired by the diversity on a daily basis. Living in Miami, the cultural style was all about showing off your body. It was while she was in Miami, that she realized her style was very simple and mostly east coast.

Given the choice of anyone in the world, whom would you want as a dinner guest?
My Uncle and my Grandma. My Uncle was killed in the Vietnam war when he was only 19 years old. My Grandma has been fighting stomach cancer, so I’d like to go back in time to when she was cancer free and he was alive.

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Would you like to be famous?
Only if it is in the design field. I want to be known for something that helps people through design.

Before making a telephone call, do you ever rehearse what you are going to say?
Yes, because I think with my mouth instead of my heart sometimes.

When did you last sing to yourself?
On King’s Day in Amsterdam.

Is there something that you’ve dreamed of doing for a long time?
I’d like to travel to Cuba. I’m Cuban, Puerto Rican, Portuguese and British. My Grandma, on my Dad’s side, is Cuban and is very proud of her heritage. She likes to say that she’s “150% Cuban!” She left Cuba when she was 13 years old and returned 73 years later. That trip meant a lot to her and I just want to experience the country.

What do you value most in a friendship?
Loyalty, honesty and trust. It’s also important to me to know that I can go months without talking to my friends and trust that nothing about our relationship has changed when we do decide to catch up.

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What is your most terrible memory?
Getting held up at gunpoint. It was a moment that really changed things for me. Things changed for the good, though, because of the choices I made. The most terrible part of the memory is not the actual incident, it’s that it occurred 2 days before my brother’s wedding in Puerto Rico. I lost all of my identification, so I didn’t know how I was going to get there. It all worked out and I made it to the wedding, but once I  was there everything hit me.

Do you have a secret hunch about how you will die?
Cancer. My mom had cancer, and my Grandma has had cancer twice.

If you could wake up tomorrow having gained any one quality or ability, what would it be?
The ability to read minds. Like, when somebody is trying to say something, but not really saying it. I want to be able to turn it off and on though.

Complete this sentence: “I wish I had someone with whom I could share…”
my life with.

Love people. Cook them food.

Like most stylish women, Amanda likes to curate experiences in every aspect of her life. You’ll see that extra special touch in her wardrobe, her home and especially in her cooking.

Like most stylish women, Amanda likes to curate experiences in every aspect of her life. You’ll see that extra special touch in her wardrobe, her photography and especially in her cooking.

She was inspired by her dad from a young age and in college decided to learn to cook for herself. When she began, she didn’t even know how to make an omelette.

Not only did she learn to cook, she photographed, art directed and wrote, turning her new found interest into a beautifully designed blog, nourishedbyseason. She challenged herself to 1 recipe a week from June to September, and even had to take a week off from work to get it started. Lately, she’s been feeling the pull to get back to it. I hope she does, I need food inspiration!

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Just like her beautifully curated food blog, she has the same keen eye for detail and beauty in her wardrobe. She likes versatility with a combination of classic and unique pieces. She typically buys more classic pieces, but likes to make them special by adding vibrant shoes or playful hair. With a good eye for trends and color, she likes to mix feminine and masculine pieces, colors, textures and patterns to create something that feels a little bit special and unique every day. It’s about feeling good in her own skin so she has the confidence to bring her best self to work, especially on the hard days.

Amanda works as a Product Designer for Target’s Registry business. Her design career transitioned from marketing design to product design when she realized that she wasn’t totally satisfied as a Digital Art Director.

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In her current role as a Product Designer, she builds tools instead of communications to influence people. This type of design is more like solving a puzzle, getting into a user’s mind and empathizing with their needs to develop solutions that can help them accomplish their tasks better.

Amanda was well-positioned for this transition because her interest in technology started at 13 when her parents bought the family’s first computer. She was having fun with AOL chat rooms where her screen name was “Taydream13”. She had a chat room friend who had a Hanson fan webpage, and I said “Oh hey, I can do that!”

She always had a natural design aesthetic, so she pursued more tech classes in both high school and college. Amanda continued to hone her design perspective in her career by surrounding herself with talented peers and mentors.

Our paths crossed because I saw her stylish ways at work, but also because many of her colleagues told me that she should be featured on this blog. I couldn’t agree more!

Given the choice of anyone in the world, whom would you want as a dinner guest?
My dad. He’s the best cook I know personally. We have a special bond and share a deep appreciation for the work that goes into making a meal. He inspired me to learn to cook and he’s also my favorite person to cook for. Every year for my birthday, he gifts me an elaborate multi-course meal.

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Would you like to be famous?
When I was younger, yes. I wanted to be a famous singer, but realized that I was terrified of singing in front of people. I don’t like to be the center of attention, even at work.

Before making a telephone call, do you ever rehearse what you are going to say?
Yes, I’m neurotic about being prepared, especially when it comes to presentations, I get really nervous. Even though I’m at my best when I’m winging it, preparation helps my nerves.

What would constitute a “perfect” day for you?
Sleeping in. Cooking myself and another person an amazing brunch. Being out in nature on a hike in a beautiful place. The afternoon spent being creative, maybe taking pictures or playing guitar. I’d like the day to be part alone and part with people.

When did you last sing to yourself?
I sing to myself quite frequently. I’ll sing with my boyfriend, Zach, after a few glasses of wine. I’ll sing “Don’t cry for me Argentina” and he sings to me “Love Street” by the Doors. His taste in music is way cooler than mine, but I definitely have the better voice. I was in choir, so I know a fair amount of show tunes.

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Do you have a secret hunch about how you’ll die?
*Big sigh* I have no idea. I can probably fantasize a million ways. It depends on the day and my symptoms and what Google diagnosis me with.

For what in your life do you feel most grateful?
My parents because they are amazing. They had high expectations for me and supported me in whatever I wanted to do.

If you could change anything about the way you were raised, what would it be?
I played 5 or 6 instruments growing up. I wish my parents would have made me stick with one.

If you could wake up tomorrow having gained any one quality or ability, what would it be?
To truly experience life though someone else, especially if it’s someone that I’m struggling with. In the context of food, I want to know what it would be like to actually like the taste of bleu cheese and gorgonzola.