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“We all have one foot in a fairytale & the other in the abyss” – Paulo Coelho
I climb down the steep rocky steps from our Villa perched atop the cliff looking out over the Pacific Ocean. Tucked away in our little sanctuary in San Juan del sur Nicaragua, Playa Maderas it feels like we’ve escaped to a secret other world. We are giddy, jungle, wild creatures running towards the beach fighting time to catch what is bound to be an epic sunset. The three of us, Megan, Ryan and I have massive smiles spread across our faces. Right, right ok everyone focus up for a minute we are actually working here (if you can call it that)… Ryan pulls out his camera gear, Megan helps me fix my clothing and I promptly given direction to dance in the ocean. Dance in the ocean in a beautiful sequin dress? Mermaid mode is in full effect. I can’t help but giggle every few minutes as I remind myself this is what I get to call work. I am euphoric. I am in my element, in the ocean, salt in my hair, sun kissed skin, best friend at my side. It doesn’t get much better than this. I take a moment to thank mother nature, to be thankful for all of it. We have the entire beach to ourselves minus one fisherman who is looking at me like I am crazy as I spin and twirl in my sequin dress, waves crashing around me. He clearly thought we were either drunk or high, and to be fair we were but only on life (yes, I said it. Cheesy AF but it was 100% true AF).
I’ve been on the road traveling on and off for the better part of the last five months. Most of it has been for work, some for fun, and one due to a beautiful soul leaving this world. I’ve gone back and forth in my mind, debating how to share this, if at all. But how does one share such an incredibly personal experience with a vast entanglement of emotions? It’s a heavy one, but at the end I hope you gain a new perspective, or a refreshed one as I did.
Reflecting on the last few months is confusing, full of adventure, exciting, and sad but most of all I have learned so SO much. In September my cousin Makena passed away on his 21st birthday doing something he loved – spear fishing while on a surf trip to Bali. A shallow water blackout. I remember getting the phone call like it was yesterday. Walking down a hectic street in the middle of the week in the Financial District of NYC my phone rang. Immediately I knew something was wrong, the tone in her voice was off, her breath unsteady, as if she was fighting the act of speaking. The words came out but it just couldn’t be, “Makena is gone”. All of sudden my world stopped. And there in the middle of the street the shock ripped through me, tears streaming down my face, my chest compressing in a way that felt like someone was grabbing my heart with an iron fist.
We were close, I spent the better half of my college breaks visiting Kauai, my family spent Thanksgiving and Christmas on Island, Kauai felt like home. Makena showed me the beauty of Kauai, he showed me the island’s best kept secrets, he took me surfing, he laughed with me, he taught me that everything was going to be ok. Makena was one of those people who teaches you what it means to be genuine, really truly genuine. You could spend five minutes or an entire day with him and you would part ways wanting to be a better person. He cared deeply for the environment, for the ocean, for his family and friends. He was happy. No matter how little or how much he had in life he was happy just living, always present. He made me and continues to make me strive to be a better person.
Flying back to Kauai for the memorial I remember feeling like I was in a haze. Kauai had always been my magical, goddess, positive, renewing paradise. Traveling back to visit my family for an entirely different purpose felt unimaginable.
As I walked off the plane, collected my bags and searched for my uncle it all suddenly became very real. My uncle and I embraced in a hug, no words were exchanged as held each other there in silent sobs, acknowledging each other’s pain. As we drove back to the house my uncle handed me a joint and said, “here this will help.” It made me smile. Aloha. We were still in Kauai after all.
The next two weeks I witnessed the most beautiful and powerful display of community I had ever experienced. I was surrounded by family and friends, many of whom I was meeting for the first time. LOVE was abundant. The days were spent hiking to Makena’s favorite spots, surfing, spreading his ashes down the Napali Coast. The nights became a gathering at the house, everyone cooking, drinking wine, sharing tears, laughs, stories and hugs. Some nights even became dance parties, celebrating the spirit of Makena. He was a fucking unicorn of a human being. Always glowing, full of optimism. I swear I never heard that boy ever say one negative thing, complain or be selfish in any way. Most of all he knew how to keep himself happy. something many people struggle an entire lifetime to achieve. I am so proud to have known Makena, to call him family and a friend. His love for adventure and exploration was never ending -something to be inspired by. He had an intense amount of respect for nature, especially the ocean. I can contribute my deep love of the water, in part to him.
I’ve been doing a lot of reflecting lately. Makena’s passing is still heavy on my heart but it reminded me what is important in life. It made me reflect and realize I need more than ever to be present. Life is short and you never know what tomorrow will bring. Right now I really just want to LIVE. There is a lot of unknowns in life but what I do know is I want to live. I want to be happy. I want to take every adventure that presents itself. I want to wake up every morning knowing that whatever obstacles come my way it will be ok. To LOVE fully. I’ve come to realize I’m searching for soul loving, deep meaningful connections with friends, family, lovers. Through this experience something inside of me woke up. I think it was always there but I’m not afraid of acknowledging it anymore. I want to do away with small talk. I like people who speak with emotion. Speak to me of magic, of faraway places, your dreams, what makes you fire up so much that every single nerve in your body is tingling, what makes you feel awake and alive, your fears and weaknesses, of other worlds, what wakes you up every morning and keeps you awake at night. Speak to me of your deepest secrets. Share your twisted mind and don’t be scared. Opening up your heart, being courageous and telling people you care about them. That you like them and think they are special. These things only makes you a better, bigger, kinder, more interesting and more loving person. It can only attract more adventure and love into your life.
My trip to Nicaragua happened right after Kauai and it was a relief to be somewhere Makena would love, to be in nature and the stillness. To be in the water everyday and feel his energy in the ocean. It was at time of loving, healing, adventure, and reflection. To live like Makena.
Thank-you Makena for being the deeply magical soul you were. I feel your energy everywhere.
It’s 6 A.M. I hear Music. Shaggy to be specific. The lyrics of “It Wasn’t Me” start getting louder and louder as I pull the sheets up over my head in protest. The next thing I know two half naked, super athletic, men are standing in my bedroom with a boom box singing” Picture this we were both butt naked..” s Through my sleep deprived half open eyelids I am able to take in their physique. They proceed to dance on my bed until I acknowledge I am indeed awake. Are those disco lights? Yes. My room has been turned into a discotheque. Good morning, Nicaragua! Somehow I am able to feed off of their ridiculous energy and bounce out of bed to pull on workout gear and remember right, yes I signed up for a week long fitness retreat with Surf Yoga Beer.
Megan, one of my best friends, and I exchange looks across the room. We got this. As we walk out of our Villa, onto our deck overlooking Playa Madera, a smile begins to creep across my face. I’m in paradise. Our villa is located on a cliff, part of the Madera’s Villa’s complex which is comprised of multiple villas all with ocean views. Only a few minutes from the beach, I can literally sit in my hammock and watch the surf break. It was going to be a good week.
I had never done a fitness retreat. For that matter I had never travelled in a large group before, so the entire experience to me was new one to me. Surf Yoga Beer (SYB) is exactly what it sounds like, a fitness adventure that still likes to have fun at the end of the day. Life is all about balance after all. Almost everyone has heard of at least one fitness retreat, they seem to be multiplying like bunnies these days. However most of them are purists, in that you go away for a week or more to cleanse, detox and come back a new, refreshed, shinier version of yourself. While I am all about a good cleanse, I was looking for more of a vacation this time around. Our schedule went something like this;
6 AM : Wake up every, yes EVERY morning for 6:30 AM boot camp on the beach.
7 AM: Home cooked breakfast is served in one of the main Villas by Eddie, owner of Salud (one of my favorite healthy cafes in NYC) – focused on healthy, local cuisine of Nicaragua.
9:30 AM: Head back down to the beach for Surf session. Lessons by Mantas are provided or you can opt to do your own thing.
1-3PM: Keep surfing, grab tacos on the beach, take a nap in your hammock, explore the forest hiking paths, this is you time. Afternoon activities such as zip lining are also offered throughout the week.
4:30 PM: When you think your body might not have any energy left in it you manage to do some sunset yoga with the incredible super model turned yoga instructor Rianne Ten haken. She is a magical, unicorn of a creature who succeeded in melting us all into peaceful meditation every evening.
7PM ISH: Dinner, drinks and dance parties commence. Dinner for the most part were home cooked meals served at the main villa with a few exceptions of dinner in town. Somehow when your body has reached maximum level of exhaustion you fumble your way back through the dark jungle, minding the scorpions and spiders to your villa and pass out.
It’s funny because this is how a lot of people live their lives every day, my cousins in Kauai for example wake up every day, for the most part at sunrise and either go surf or workout. Usually followed by a day of heavy activity. However, we city people takes a few days for our bodies to adjust to becoming Mowgli. I’ve always felt very torn by two identities. There is the side of me that loves the city, getting dressed up, doing my hair and makeup, the scene, all of it. Then there is the other side of me. The wild child. The Mowgli. It’s easy for me to glide between the two and transform, adjusting between city and jungle as if both were my natural habitat. I love that I can become a beach bum, let go and run around with crazy beach hair and no makeup – a simpler me. My week in Nicaragua was just that. A week of a simpler me, back to the basics, back to nature, back to the things that really matter. It just so happened that this SYB trip happened over Thanksgiving, so naturally thoughts of family and thankfulness were abundant. It was refreshing not dealing with the usual airport craziness traveling from coast to coast, the juggling of multiple households, the overeating and overdrinking. Instead I was spending each day with a new family, a fitness family, in nature. I need this. I crave it – being in water, being in nature. It’s what allows me to be successful and balanced in such a large, and sometimes suffocating city as NYC. Being able to escape and become Mowgli for a bit.
I wasn’t sure what to expect when I arrived in Nicaragua, and like most of the group, didn’t know many people. There were introverts, extroverts, couples, people from LA, NYC and Australia. Being that the trip was largely focused on health, it was also great to see the group was comprised people of all fitness levels. I consider myself an athlete, I work out about 3-5 times a week. I’m no Mantas, one of the SYB leaders. He works out 7 days a week (multiple times a day), has 2% or less body fat and is one of the most sought out SoulCycle Instructors in the NYC. So it was reassuring and inspiring to see that all athletic levels had signed up for a week of fitness adventures.
That first morning boot camp set the pace and attitude for the entire trip – Mantas had us running around playing capture the flag, team building exercises, mid work out ocean rinse offs, partner workouts, relays – it was the most fun I had ever had during a boot camp. It was so much more than burning calories. You could see everyone become a kid again as if we were all at summer camp, but this summer camp happened to be on a stunning beach in Nicaragua. It was sweaty and messy and 100% exhilarating. Everyone had a smile on their face, even me after getting taken out HARD during an aggressive game of capture the flag (I’m rather competitive). I began to notice something, an energy amongst the group, through these activities people were starting to open up. They were getting outside of their comfort zone and sharing themselves fully without boundaries or walls. I’ve seen this before, in acting classes when walls are torn down and the inner child is allowed to surface and play, smile and laugh without judgment in a safe environment. It is an amazing thing to witness.
Somewhere between my reflections in yoga, the water on my surfboard, or sitting fireside on the beach with 22 SYB people, the feeling hit me. This was an extraordinary group, how safe and open everyone felt with one another. To share their true selves with essentially strangers. No one was trying to impress anyone else. It’s funny how nature can do that, how extreme circumstances can release you of societal pressures.
The last night was pretty magical. We went into town for dinner but before sitting down for our last meal of the trip we were asked to gather on the beach. Mantas and Eddie our SYB leaders were holding a closing ceremony by handing out awards from the week accompanied by SYB swag. I received an award that had more or less to do with my teeny tiny surf bottoms – tan lines…what can I say. We finished dinner and ended the night on the town with a hot sweaty dance party, the only acceptable way to finish out the week. It was hard to accept the week was already over.
All Photos taken by myself or Ryan Chann
Outfits: White One Piece – Mia Marcella Swim | Pink One Piece – Onia Swim | Floral Two Piece – Triangl Swim
White Dress: – WYLDR
Striped Dress: Tessa Midi Dress Harlequin Stripe – Steele Label
Fitness Adventure: – SURF YOGA BEER
Hacking life. That is what we are all trying to do in a way. My girlfriends and I are smart, busy women that need and do get things done. I find myself running around this city; sprinting from meetings, to workouts to cocktails. The ladies over at ADAY get my 24-hour schedule. They designed a great line of technical clothing for everyday life that moves with you. The product is chic, moves well, is durable and is my new go to for my active life.
It’s 8:30 AM and I am gulping down and cup of coffee and inhaling a granola bar while pulling on my new ADAY threads. I appreciate how comfortable they feel when I sprint out the door for a 9:30 AM Soul Cycle Class knowing that I am about to face the onslaught of morning Soho foot traffic (playing Mario Cart comes to mind).
I’ve made it. I am now sitting, or should I say mounting my bike in the dark, candle lit room that is already uncomfortably hot about to get man handled by a bike. One of my favorite instructors is teaching, his name is Sam Y. Five minutes into class and I am already dripping sweat. I accept I’m about to get my ass handed to me instead of fighting it and push on with determination. I get weird in my Soul Cycle classes, just like I do at my candlelit Y7 Yoga classes. There is something about the dark, candlelit room, the loud music, the intensity that gets me. Some may call it preachy, church like, a money scam but it works for me. At some point during the class I experience a total emotional release, which still weirds me out. But hey if I can find meditation and release through my workout classes, great. I don’t know what liquids drip down my face, whether sweat or tears. It all mixes into one sweaty hot mess and I find myself smiling. My mind focused and quiet yet determined among all the chaos.
Forty-Five minutes later I am walking out the door just absurdly sweaty, giving zero fucks at anyone who looks at me with disapproval as I walk through Soho stripped down to my sports bra and dripping sweat. I feel elated. The earlier morning madness of rushing out the apartment door has melted away and now the day seems less daunting, more achievable.
Lately I’ve been trying to take time to work on manifesting, clearing negative or useless, non-serving thoughts and bring some form of meditation into my life. My mom is great at this ritual. She meditates and journals daily. Every morning she wakes up early and before venturing from home she meditates and then takes a hot bath. I, on the other hand, do not. In fact I’ve gotten so far away from a daily routine that my only habitual sense of normalcy is a general lack of daily consistency.
Many creatives and freelancers operate this way. Of course, there are things I try to accomplish each day to make me feel sane. Working out is an absolute for me and, in many ways, is my personal form of meditation. I actually catch myself in the middle of spin class or yoga reciting my manifestations “I am a working actor.” You don’t all need to know my personal manifestations, but you get the point. I love that my job allows me to live a lifestyle that is different and challenging every day. It keeps me on my toes, it keeps me engaged but it can also be exhausting.
As a freelancer, and my own boss, I am accountable for my own motivation. Naturally, this pressure can lead one to crave some routine in life. I’ve decided to start simple with small things I can do everyday to set a routine. Im going to start getting up at the same time everyday regardless if I have to be on set or have meetings. Im going to hold time and space for meditation. I am going to start practicing all these ideas I’ve read about and have come to understand.
I’ve been taking acting class at The Actors Green Room for just over two years now. Recently they started a holistic side for actors, offering yoga and workshops called The Create Series. During these Create sessions their is usually a guided meditation, followed by a lecture which actors participate in and some mental exercises. It is a safe place devoid of judgment and filled with compassionate community.
The industry I work in, can be really hard to find sustainability and support in. Often the stakes feel so high, it becomes very personal. Actors, deal with daily rejection and it can become a really abusive relationship. So you find ways to practice positive Psychology.
I’ve been reading a lot of Osho lately, he talks about how the more we try to control fear the more it actually controls us. An interesting idea was discussed at last weeks Create workshop. One concept that hit close to home is that often with relationships, whether it be with colleagues, a casting director, friends, family or lovers we tend to project our own fears into these people. There is a huge difference between what is being said and what is being heard. This type of communication can mean that we’re never actually in communication with anybody. Instead we are all just talking through our own personal filters. This probably makes zero sense and I may be rambling and am certainly not talking about this as eloquently as Natalie Roy one of the Create leaders was but this is important stuff and it has me thinking.
I am a pretty honest person, I am direct. I don’t believe in telling my girlfriend she looks good in a dress when she asks my opinion if its isn’t actually a good look on her. I don’t believe in asking a question if you aren’t ready for an honest answer rather than the answer you want to hear. You better damn well be prepared for the answer you don’t want. Ouch… or why the fell are you asking the question in the first place? There is fine line though, between being polite versus honest and an asshole. I am working on it. We can all work on it.
People tend to misinterpret direct energy, we often don’t know what to do with it. New Yorkers tend to handle directness better but they also cross that line into just being a dick a lot more often as well. I think at one point or another we all have to learn that being direct has nothing to do with you, it’s just simply a +B = C. That, is simply the fastest way to C. I don’t have a problem using directness and honesty, I know my intentions are pure and that is what truly matters. I will always love and appreciate the people that can be honest with me.
Life is messy. Perfect is boring. As an actor we get to explore all of this messiness and it can get fucking weird and surreal but paradoxically oh so humane too. One of the reasons I love it. The vulnerability, the messiness, the imperfect moments, the living and learning. It is the stuff that makes us interesting. It is what makes us light up and turn on. Out little passions that grow when like minded people believe in us and fuel us. Characters in scripts are usually written messy and always in conflict, because that is what makes it interesting to watch and relate to. That is what makes us human and humane. We all have shades and layers. We aren’t ever just one thing. I can’t remember who said it during the Create session, if it was Natalie the teacher or another student or a quote read from a book but someone at some point said “listening means being changed by the other person” and yet so often we aren’t. We, as a society have become such inactive listeners. That quote really resonated within me, being present in the moment. Loving the exploration of the interaction.
I don’t really know what I am trying to impart on you here. This may just be one of the posts where I ramble about a personal journey or whatever you want to call it. What I can share is the importance of being honest, accepting honesty, even if it isn’t what you wanted or hope to hear. Being present with right now, actively listen, ask questions and be ready and open to the exchange and if you don’t like or understand what the information is that is being offered, try not to be afraid, ask more questions. When you can do this and accept life’s messiness and offerings, when you can yield and shift in the storm you will be dancing in the storm. You will be dancing with yourself instead of trying to always stand rigid and strong. That is when you will be knocked down by the storm.
Wearing: Strike it up bra + Breaks On Leggings | Shop all ADAY here | Shoes: Cole Haan Grand Pro Tennis Sneaker | Backpack: Laudi Vidni
This post is long overdue. Due to several computer shit storms of malfunctioning I am way behind on blog posts. My apologies. However, ladies and gents we are back up and running! A while back a company called Laudi Vidni and I did a collaboration. I am excited to finally share the experience with you and the beautiful outcome. Laudi Vidni makes timeless handbags, each one custom designed by you. With over 26 styles, leathers, hardware and lining details the possibilities are almost daunting. The company is based in Chicago, where you can go visit their showroom and see all the different bag styles before embarking on your design journey. Being based in NYC I sadly did not have the opportunity to visit the showroom. Instead a magical little box full of leather swatches appeared at my door and the promise that the Laudi ladies would not let me design an ugly bag. The leathers are stunning and unique, you can tell the quality is high from first sight and touch. The first step to the design process in choosing a style, there are several different types of bags available from cross body styles to large cary your life in totes. I decided on the Opera Backpack, that part was easy mainly due to my love of the whole chic backpack trend that is also incredibly practical. Probably the most practical fashion trend to come around in a while and my god am I thankful that such a utilitarian object, the backpack once reserved to be hauled off to school and nothing else is now available in so many beautiful designs. I mean where were all these chic leather backpacks when I was in school? My memories of Jansport backpacks will forever haunt me. No, the Opera Backpack is far from your high school or collage backpack days, it is elegant and refined and the perfect size. Basically backpacks are a lot more fun without the school component. At some point during high school I ditched the backpack for various purses and balancing piles of books in my arms because that was cooler, and more grown up right? Silly, silly high school. Well, I am back to the backpack. The Opera Backpack. It’s actually pretty and practical, a rarity these days and a concept I’m not mad at. My eyes have been un veiled to the beauty of the backpack, it’s minimalistic, it has even weight distribution, it actually fits all my shit. What’s not to love? I have a feeling I’ll be wearing this one into the ground and is only the first of many new backpacks.
Now getting back to the lovely ladies that enabled my love affair with the backpack to become hot with passion once again. I had always wanted to design something within the realm of fashion, often catching myself saying phrases like well I love this design but if only this one bit were this color or that shape. This experience allowed me to do just that. I got to explore my individuality and try my hand at designing a bag, I’m happy to say I’m pretty damn pleased with myself. Now, lets not get too big headed. It’s more like interior design vs architecture…I didn’t actually design the back but rather mixed and matched swatches and hardware but it still gave me a sense of ownership and uniqueness. Sure someone might decide on the exact same leather combination and then I would be flattered that someone had, in my opinion, the same genius creative ideas that I did to come up with such a beautiful backpack. Individuality, uniqueness, it’s all a good message and one that Laudi Vidni is doing well. After all Laudi Vidni is INDIVIDUAL spelled backwards.
I decided to go with a chic, mostly timeless color scheme of all black luxurious leather for the body of the bag, tassels and straps. I went with a dark hunter green for the handle and a more contemporary textured leather for the statement flap. I’ve already trekked this backpack all over France, NYC and every other weekend adventure I’ve been on this summer yet it looks brand new. I also just feel special knowing I helped create this, that is a representation of my unique taste and style and that there probably isn’t an exactly identical one anywhere else in the world.
Shop here: Laudi Vidni