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Ty Defoe is an Ojibwe and Oneida grammy award-winning performance artist, activist, and writer who identifies as Two-Spirit. In Native American cultures, not only is it acknowledged that gender is more fluid than our patriarchal binary society allows, but Two-Spirit individuals are also highly revered for their spiritual gifts. In this episode, Ty talks to us about the difficulty of being accepted as Two-Spirit, even within his own culture, as a result of colonialistic and religious brainwashing, whilst recalling the tender way his mother observed his body change with testosterone hormone therapy. Ty challenges the assumptions about classic literature (who is Shakespeare a classic for, anyway?), asks why hair should be an indicator of gender, and inspires us all to look more closely at the way we label ourselves and those around us. “People build fences and boxes and walls to keep the truth out.” “Examining self and examining what you're taught always stirs the pot a little bit...But I think that's what people who are making art, people who are two-spirit, who are queer, who are on the margins, are on the fray, I kind of feel like, that's the role, to make this revolution happen.”
Dana Falsetti, speaker, writer, yoga teacher of larger bodies, and body positive insta-warrior visionary on a mission to make the world a more accessible place, talks about how her yoga practice was born out of a need to prove herself but quickly grew into something much bigger than that, even steering her away from the legal profession path she was on. We discuss the double-edged sword of social media commodification and why Dana felt the need to take a break from Instagram, and how perilous fat-phobia is in the medical world where people are told to “just lose weight” as a cure-all rather than looking beyond the body to find an accurate diagnosis. Dana also reveals to us how her teenage body was both shamed and desired:  “My body changed very quickly when I was young. So by the time I was 12, I literally looked like I was 19 or 20, and I had a very adult kind of curvy body. I had full breasts and hips and everything. And while I'm getting fat-shamed by every person in my life, the only people giving me attention were men. So it just very quickly became the path for like, "Oh, you see me, so I'm going to you." But all the while, still insecure about the body, still feeling that same shame but seeking that route. Of course, it never filled me in any way and actually, I'd feel worse after every single time. But I never saw that I was in that pattern until I started my [yoga] practice and had that mirror and I was like, "Wait a minute, what am I doing?" And I just stopped. I was like, "No more of this until I understand why I'm having sex with people at all. Like, why am I doing this?" And that's the question for everything that I do now, is just the WHY.”
From being a fashion director for W Magazine to studying yoga and opening her own studio, to growing pot in Northern California, to making a spontaneous move to the magical, middle of nowhere in Uruguay, Heidi Lender has lived many lives. After years of following the dreams and wishes of the men in her life, in the last seven years, Heidi has had a slow and uncomfortable awakening to the fact that over time she had developed a pattern of dimming her own light in exchange for pleasing her partners. Now, at 50, she is, at last, giving birth to her calling and coming to terms with the fact that she isn’t going to fulfill her princess motherhood fantasy. Happier than ever, Heidi is single and breaking her fear of success by creating Campo, a new, global creative hub in South America. “I really fell hard and quietly and I never do things quietly but I really kept it to myself. I didn't necessarily want to be a mother but...there was a moment when I thought, ‘Oh my God. Well, then, what am I, as a woman? Who am I? What am I going to be? If I'm not going to be a mom?’ And I really just fell hard and sad and I had no idea. It was so traumatic because I didn't know that I had this princess mother thing inside of me...The Universe was like, ‘Here Heidi, you better just take a deep look at who you are because you've got however many years left and you can't go on like this, being asleep.’ I was asleep. Ironically, I actually thought I was awake. I was studying yoga and I was super self-aware and I really thought, ‘Wow, I’m such a smarty-pants,’ but I really was asleep.”
Singer, dancer, and fashion designer, Wunmi, short for Ibiwunmi, meaning “a birth loved, a child loved, a life loved”, is a force of nature, but it took her a long time before she felt she could step into her name and really own it. Abandoned by her mother and sent to live with family in Nigeria by her father, Wunmi grew up fantasizing over and yearning for her mother’s love. Feeling deeply lost and invisible, clothing and dancing became a way for her to be seen, “I didn't want to dress like anybody else. I didn't want to dance like anybody else. I didn't want to sing like anybody else. I needed to find me because I felt so lost. I wasn't somebody that felt was wanted initially, so I need to be needed.” It was acting on this deep-rooted desire that got Wunmi noticed by Roy Ayers and led to her becoming the iconic dancing silhouette on Soul II Soul’s biggest hits in the late 80s (Back to Life, Keep on Moving). It was also Roy Ayers, her Fairy Godfather, who persuaded Wunmi she could sing, and it is through a continuation of all these expressions, singing, dancing, and style, that Wunmi was able to heal her wounded child and declare, “Wunmi Ibiwunmi is finally grown.”
We interviewed Naomi Shimada three years ago for the What’s Underneath Project video series. She inspired us then and continues to inspire us daily on social media with her singular embrace of herself, which includes her voluptuous curves, her boldly colorful style, her overall joie de vivre and its inextricable link to her darker side. In 2015, when we asked Naomi what her favorite body part was, she said it was her mouth because everything she loves most in life comes from the lips, “Kissing, eating...I feel like so much of what makes me happy goes back to my mouth.” During her 15-year modeling career, Naomi was a pioneer for bravely breaking from the confines of being a “straight-sized” model and letting her body be what it was supposed to be. Now, despite its challenges, she stands outside of any category in the fashion industry, even that of “plus-sized” model, in order to stay fiercely true to herself. Find out why Naomi has blossomed through being single, how dancing helps her get through depression, the complexities of being a model in the age of Instagram, and why, for her, getting dressed is an act of resistance. “Clothes and color are my coping mechanisms and I laugh because I have to to get through life. I really want to demystify the fact that someone is always happy and always ‘on’. I love life. I find beauty in so many things...The most powerful things are the smallest things that happened to you in the day.”
We are super excited to be with the youngest of the three Kirke Sisters, Lola Kirke. We have already featured both Jemima and Domino on our What’s Underneath video series, and Domino was also with us in episode 6 of this podcast, so now we are thrilled to be able to dig deep into what’s underneath the equally radical and truthful younger sister. Lola talks candidly about growing up in a bohemian family of artists, the struggle to be heard in a room of men, how sexual rejection fueled a song on her debut album, ‘Heart Head West’, and why self-doubt has been a major source of inspiration. “I’m curious if I would be as prolific without that creeping sense of self-doubt at all times,” explains Lola. We love Lola’s gangster moves in bucking the body-negative trends of celebrity culture by not shaving her armpits for the Golden Globes, and refusing to chase the Size-Zero formula. “There's that wheat-paste that's around my neighborhood right now that says, ‘In a culture that profits from your low self-esteem, liking yourself is a radical act.’ And I do think that there is a systemic way in which we are all taught that we are not good enough, and this world goes around on the dollars that we spend trying to make ourselves feel better.”
We sit down this week with the incredibly multi-talented artist, director, and musician, Terence Nance, to get inside his head about things like his HBO series, Random Acts of Flyness, that airs out, in almost a stream-of-consciousness, many of today’s most salient issues like systemic racism, white privilege, gender, and masculinity. Not knowing it all is especially important to Terence’s work, “I think of making stuff as conversation; why would you get into a conversation if you knew where it was going to go? Why would it be interesting to talk to somebody if you knew exactly what they were going to say back to you?”. He also explains why honesty within his family and close relationships is what makes him feel the most vulnerable, but he goes there anyway so as to set an example to his nieces and nephews, and why he sees beauty as a scale of disarming people and emitting ease, rather than as an aesthetic quality. But most fascinating to us is how Terence unpacks attributes that we give to words such as unapologetic. “People have been using the word unapologetic a lot and I don't know that I have a relationship to that word because that means that I would have had some sort of expectation that I am to apologize for something...I've never felt any kind of dialogue with an audience or anybody making the show that made me feel like there was anything that would offend or necessitate an apology or a caveat of any kind.”
Curandera (Mexican Healer), Chloe Garcia Ponce, was introduced to darkness at 8 years old when her father passed away. “In order to understand or to speak about light you have to experience darkness. The amount of light that I'm capable of working with is also because I have witnessed a lot of darkness and sadness and grief and pain, and all that is part of this beautiful wheel of life. We cannot have one without the other.” In a way, the passing of her father was her first teacher on her spiritual path because she realized that he was not gone from her. “I could hear things when I was younger and I was very much connected to wanting to give people the proper way of dying. When I was a kid I would find animals, dead birds, cats, that were run over, and I I felt innately my duty that I needed to give them a proper burial.” But It wasn’t until her Saturn Return that Chloe went back to her childhood roots of honoring the spiritual realm as a healer, and turned her back on what felt like the empty life she had been leading in her 20’s in New York’s art business. “I was unhappy, I was very unhappy because nothing felt sacred. In my childhood everything was sacred.” Since, Chloe has listened to heart, defying societal pressures, including that of being a mother, and instead has devoted her energy towards mothering everyone and everything around her. “You have to want to break down all of those boundaries that were imposed socially, from family, from any type of environment, if you really want to find your voice...when you are a Curandera, when you are a healer, it's one of the choices you have to make because whatever I pick up energetically could be passed on to anyone that lives with me. And so most medicine women or men that live in tribal communities don't have children because their children are the people that are in the tribe.”
We reunite with author and activist, iO Tillett Wright, who we first interviewed about four years ago for our What’s Underneath Project video series. In that interview, he told us about his radical self-awareness as a very young child, asking his parents if he could live as a boy, despite the fact that he was born into a female body. Even after a childhood of gender-bending, for the majority of his adult life, iO identified as a queer woman, and it wasn’t until 3 years ago that iO officially came out as trans, a shift that turned his life and his relationships upside down. In “Self-Evident Truths,” iO’s photo project of the past eight years, he photographs anyone who does not identify as 100% straight or 100% cisgender across all 50 states of America. “When I have 10,000 people I’m going to the National Mall to do an installation in front of the Washington Monument, and just ask people to confront the humanity of the community that, once again and throughout all of history, people have been trying to erase.” iO reminds us that we are all, each and every one of us, our own very special and unique self-evident truth. “If you asked an identical twin what makes up the essence of who somebody is, they're not going to tell you it's the body you come in. You know what I mean? It's who you are on the inside. It's your psyche. It's your mind. So if my brain is a male brain, that's probably 85-90% of who I am but what you see is the skin-suit that I come in. So if you call me ‘she’ you are erasing the only shot I've got at screaming to the world who I really am. You are erasing that 85-90% majority of who I actually am and reducing me to the thing that matters the least, which is the skin-suit that I come in.”
Last week we spoke with Damien Echols who was incarcerated on death row for more than 18 years for murders that he did not commit. It became crystal clear during that interview that the heroism of his story was as much to do with him as it was his wife, Lorri, the heroine of this truly incredible love story. Lorri was a successful architect working in New York when she saw the first Paradise Lost film (which documented the circus of Damien’s first trial) at the Museum of Modern Art in 1996. She was so overcome with emotion after seeing it that she sat down and wrote what would become the first of over three thousand letters that Lorri and Damien exchanged throughout his time in prison, which included 10 years in solitary confinement. Within two years Lorri had quit her job and moved to Arkansas where she married Damien and spent the next twelve years fighting for his release, as project manager of the extraordinary amount of efforts that were needed to give Damien the freedom that he so deserved. “The minute I saw him I just loved him. I just was so struck by seeing him in person. We had glass between us, I couldn't touch him. And it was so emotional and tough and painful because that's when you come in real contact with the suffering.”
In this episode, we are joined by a gigantic hero of ours, Damien Echols, who was incarcerated on death row for 18 years and 76 days for murders that he did not commit. We became aware of his story with the first of a series of three documentaries called Paradise Lost and have since been forever strengthened by his two books (we can’t wait for the next one soon to be released). Damien’s story is one of almost superhuman inspiration in terms of what the human spirit is capable of enduring and overcoming. Having grown up in the bible belt of West Memphis, Damien was an automatic misfit with his interest in mystical, spiritual teachings and because of his style. Most poignant was his being wrongfully accused, partly because of the books he read and a black trenchcoat that he had found in an abandoned house and that he wore often. Damien’s story is so quintessential for StyleLikeU because it shows how we can be so quick to condemn based on a person’s individuality. Despite Damien’s unimaginable fate, including nearly 10 years in solitary confinement, he says he is actually grateful for what happened to him, because through extreme difficulty, he was able to find his authentic path and purpose. “A lot of what living is is figuring out what your real authentic self is in every single situation and circumstance because we've been programmed in ways we don't understand we've been programmed. We've been taught to have 2.5 kids, get married, get a station wagon and a minivan. Make sure your TV is one inch bigger than the neighbors’. People have fallen for that until they've almost become like rats on a treadmill. Falling deeper and deeper into debt, deeper and deeper into despair, deeper and deeper into hell.”
We greatly admire New York-based fashion designer, Mara Hoffman. Her designs and principles stand out in a sea of homogeneity and “buy more” culture. The former dancer studied at Parsons School of Design in New York and London’s Central Saint Martins College. She was “discovered” by Sex and the City stylist, Patricia Field, who sold Mara’s samples in her shop. We sat down with Mara in her 6th Avenue studio to talk getting comfortable with change by facing our mortality, not being too attached to the identities we create for ourselves, and how we have to work for our happiness. We discovered why she’s not actually that passionate about the fashion industry because “it can make people feel kind of lousy...it's completely warped our sense of consuming, in that we ‘need’ all this stuff that we don't need.” Ultimately, Mara’s message is to “let it go to let it grow...Imagine holding a seed in a clenched fist...It's really hard to let things go but that's where the growth is; it's on that other side.”
Having graced us with both a Closet and a What's Underneath video, Molly Rosen Guy is no stranger to StyleLikeU so we are honored to be sitting down with her again for a very real talk about death, divorce, finding inner sanctuary during her darkest hour, and the comfort of knowing she was a rock for her father during the last weeks of his life. We have always been enamored with Molly’s piercing presence and vivid honesty, something that is startlingly evident from the writing on her Instagram account (@mollyrosenguy), an open-ended, heart-opening letter to her father who died from leukemia earlier this year. Molly is also the Founder and Creative Director of Stone Fox Bride, lifting the veil off of the wedding industry to make it an unpretentious, un-intimidating space that is far from superficial. Molly doesn’t do anything superficial which is one of the many reasons we love her so much. “I connected with you guys first because you came into my closet, we talked about my style. And back then it was about my style and my business and those dresses. And then it was about my body, I was pregnant in that video. And now it's about the insides and so much of what this past year was about with my dad is learning about what the body is really about. When my dad began to do chemotherapy and his body began to break down it really made me reconsider and question: what is the body? What am I doing? What is this thing that we consider healthy and beautiful?”
\*Please note that this content contains sensitive information regarding mental health and topics related to suicide. The extraordinary artist, poet, model and mental health activist, Riya Hamid, opens up to us about the very brave and honest work she is doing on Instagram surrounding her own personal struggles with mental health, a subject that is all too taboo and that needs to come to the surface, because we all struggle with mental health in one way or another. She describes what it was like to grow up the eldest daughter of immigrant parents from Bangladesh, turning her back on the Muslim religion as a teen, but reconnecting with her past by wearing saris and learning to cook the traditional dishes of her mentally ill mother as a way to care for the wounded child within. Riya holds nothing back as she reveals the truth about her hospitalizations and the difference between passive suicidal ideation and suicidal intention. She explains that it’s possible to have an apparently fun life on the exterior while still being in excruciating pain on the inside. “There just needs to be a revolution in the way that we talk about mental health. Across the entire world, there's not a place where people openly talk about it and I'm sick of it. People deal with this daily, people lose lives. These conversations are bound to make people uncomfortable because it's the first time we're having them and it's actually a good sign, it's supposed to. To an outsider, I'm a person who's popular on social media and I'm attractive and I dress well and I have friends so what could possibly be wrong? What could I have possibly have been through? Every day I get messages from people who accuse me of faking my mental illness and my Go Fund Me because they see me having a good time and people don't realize that those two things can exist concurrently. I can have a good time and still be a mentally ill person.” \*A note to all listeners that if you are experiencing suicidal thoughts, please call The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline: 1-800-273-8255. Thank you.
Yoga teacher, actress, activist, and (we think) should-be-comedian, gifts us with her company while offering insight into what it was like growing up in the (in)famous 70s New York Chelsea Hotel, daughter of Warhol’s “superstar,” Viva, and artist Michel Auder. She tells us why she and her sister, Transparent actress Gaby Hoffman, are both so comfortable in their physicalities, at times to the discomfort of others, and tells the story and motivation behind her incredibly inspiring role on HBO’s High Maintenance playing Gloria, a yoga teacher attempting to break the world record for non-stop dancing, “it was like a homebirth gone awry.” Alex breaks down the difference between commodified “downward dog and vinyasa yoga” and the principles behind the yoga of “expanding in the now… what yoga says is the only way to expand in the now is to look death in the eye because then we're comfortable with change,” and how being comfortable with change is the key to owning and embracing our changing bodies. We pack a lot into this episode so keep your ears open!
Coined the ‘Social Justice Astrologer’ and a rock “star” to us, Chani Nicholas’ readings make you feel as if she is speaking to you personally in the deepest, most intuitive, profound, psychological, and empowering way. She talks to us about how her relationship with the planets as early as 8 years old, was the first thing that made her feel seen, having grown up neglected while locked in a “sex, drugs and rock’n’roll party” on the side of a mountain, finding love at 38 just when she thought she would never have “the family,” and choosing life in her darkest times: “I was sitting watching a sunbeam on the forest floor and I went into a kind of meditation and a lot of time passed because the patch of light was one place and by the time I realized what had happened it was at another, but it was this experience of literally feeling the part of me that was separated turn around and see me and literally making a choice...it was an experience of choosing myself and choosing to see what was worth saving in myself.”
We were so excited to be back in the same room as Jacob Tobia that we could barely contain our finger snaps. This author, producer, and gender-fabulous gem talked to us about pets, pencil skirts, and nail polish alongside urgent issues around gender and style politics. Far from binary, this nonconformist has compared gender to a multifaceted diamond with endless and infinite refractions and permutations, different gradations of radiance and existence. Yes. Yes. Yes. More. Please. “Any strategy for getting yourself more space, or acknowledging that others need more space even if you don't is a strategy that I support. Broadening what masculinity means, making the ‘man’ box bigger, giving men more room to move around and stay within a box...if we widen both of the boxes so much that they come together they may just fall apart on their own. There is such beauty in broadening masculinity and femininity. There's equal beauty in... pushing with all of your might against the edge of that identity from within it, and in jumping out and saying ‘I'm not in any box.’ One is a riskier position. When you're not within a box you're much more at risk of being hurt in the world and experiencing violence but pushing from within the box to broaden it is so vital.”
One of the most absurd things in the world is that we all dread the one thing we absolutely know is going to happen: we don’t talk about death and as a result, we are all terrified of aging. We have an entire society that is paralyzed by this fear. The obsession with Kim Kardashian and plastic perfection has people worrying about aging and thinking about Botox at 15. How could that make for a happy society? Ashton Applewhite, activist and author of This Chair Rocks: A Manifesto Against Ageism, joins Elisa & Lily and together they discuss the convenient truth that “if aging is a problem we can be persuaded to buy stuff to fix it or cure it when it’s not fixable or curable because it’s not a disease and it’s not a problem.” “One huge factor in this society is that there is so much age segregation. When you look around and you see all ages it feels fantastic, this is how life should be and this is how life was until urbanization came in and capitalism started separating workers of different ages and old age became a problem in the 20th century when retirement homes and nursing homes were invented. One of the problems is that we don’t age mingle and if you don’t mingle with people who are different from you, whether they’re a different color or a different gender or a different age then they seem distant and ‘other’, and this ‘othering’ thing is the source of all prejudice. The bizarre thing about ageism is that the ‘other’ is your own future older self.”
The physical effects of vitiligo have been life-rippling for Jesi Taylor, guiding their journey towards self-acceptance. First down a path of bulimia as an attempt to control the initial devastation of their black skin losing pigment day-by-day, followed by their shifting perspectives around the constructs of race and gender (“what is it that I’m calling myself and letting people identify me as?”), and now in the midst of a high-risk pregnancy. They are finding a deeper peace by surrendering to the truth that one way or another, the only constant is that we are all forever changing.
Domino Kirke, musician and co-director/founder of Carriage House Birth reveals the wisdom she’s gained as a doula, including her own physical and emotional limitations, and how our past traumas can come to haunt us in labor. She talks about her struggle with shedding old familiar and familial rituals around drama and alcoholism in favor of creating a balanced, sober and calm environment for her body, her mind, and her loved ones.
Comments (25)

Alice Haughton

This podcast was so beautiful, wise and thought provoking. I'm going to re listen and make notes! Thank you 💓

Jan 27th
Reply

Christina Womacks

I have struggled with severe BDD since childhood. I turned 40 and I am really having to face this illness once again. I relate to you Stacy so much. thank you thank you. very helpful.

Dec 22nd
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Steve Harrison

a bunch of self absorbed humans..who get wasted on champas to escape reality..thank you.

Oct 30th
Reply (1)

Bojana Đorđević

Girls, this was a very emotional episode, congrats on picking the guest! I just wanted to comment on the way you were asking questions: sometimes it seemed like you weren't really listening to her and respecting some of the deep emotions she was expressing. It seemed like you were asking preprepared questions rather than going with the flow of the conversation and that to me was disturbing at times. Other than that, great episode!

Jun 17th
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Sheila Flecha

Respect to her! im glad she find her true self, and got liberated! 😊😍

Oct 1st
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Marteen Jackson

loved this so much. Lorri is so private, it makes her so interesting. I just love her soft voice, and love what she did for Damien. thank goodness for her

Sep 11th
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Masha Druzhinina

yet another perfect story of an ultimate inspiration <3

Aug 13th
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Emma Belsham

this was beautiful. thank you

Jul 30th
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Azadeh Ghavamrad

That I love you Jacob (and want to meet you and be your friend), is an understatement. The things you say, the way you say them, the way you see what you say, is the most honest, important and heartly (healthy/heartfelt) way I have ever been exposed too ever! I almost cant (but I try to) express how much you, and what you say, and the human being you have become and still becoming, mean to me. And that Lilly and Elisa are who they are and bring forth this conversation, and all the other conversations, the importance off this cant be stressed enough. I would love too be in this room with you and a part off this conversation with you, Lilly and Elisa ❤️ free yourself and heal.

Jul 17th
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Jessica Xu

yes!!!!!!!! i agree w this so muchhhhhh!!!! <3 nothing is boring!!!

Jul 5th
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Teri J. Bond

"We are not going to become visible in all our power as older women until we stop doing it (coloring our hair, botox, face lifts, etc.)." Excellent episode. So many important points made. Thanks! Brava!

Jul 4th
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FWFRANCHISE

sounds awful who cares

Jun 29th
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Marta Kozielczyk

Great content. I truly love your work. Every time I'm watching your videos or listening your podcasts I feel more than ever grounded and in touch with myself. You really make a change in the world.

Jun 23rd
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Valentina Pavlovic

This was so relatable and so powerful! Its really revolutionary! Also, this guy was straight up telling you LITERALLY the things I’m trying to figure out the last couple of years and we have the same perspective, I was creeped out with how similar his thoughts process was to mine but blown away at the same time.. loved it!!!!

Jun 15th
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Chioma U.

❤️ This was AMAZING made me cry a little I kinda feel lost within myself, but I am liking this podcast!!

Jun 11th
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Chioma U.

This was sooooooo inspiring I agree with what you said Ms. Elisa I do enjoy vintage clothing 70's, 80's 90's as a 20 something year old woman. I wonder what we can do to change or realistically what I can do to stay innovative and standout from a society that values money and conformity. I am really glad I decided to listen to this it has been a while.

Jun 7th
Reply

Azadeh Ghavamrad

Thank you for this 👩🏽‍🎤

Jun 3rd
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Leilani Lanuza

amazing

May 31st
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Masha Druzhinina

I thought your videos and podcasts just couldn't be more sincere and profound, but they actually can :) I am so grateful I stay connected to you on Instagram ,and YouTube and now here. I do want to tribute and thank you for the work you have done and continue to do, so the least I can do is to buy your book. You make my day every day you release something. Please, flourish and bloom, you are amazing people.

May 25th
Reply

Masha Druzhinina

Hello, girls. I follow you everywhere possible and enjoy starting my week with your ideas and inspiring speeches. Utterly greatful here!

May 14th
Reply
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