An Interview with Leila Wolford
LIR: So Leila, tell us, what do you do, how did you get into it, and why?
LW: I have been a fashion stylist for 11 years in New York City. I was in school in Boston and at 19 years old, decided I wanted to move back to Brooklyn where I grew up to pursue a career in styling. To be honest, I've thought back on why I left school to be a stylist, and I have no answer.. it's just something that felt right. I rely heavily on my intuition, and if it feels right, I will probably do it. If something feels off or wrong, even the tiniest bit, it's just not going to happen in my life. Simple.
LIR: I like that. So how did you get started?
LW: Two weeks after moving back home I met a stylist who was moving to LA. He introduced me to the stylist he assisted and that was that! I assisted that stylist for four years, shooting catalogue and ecommerce. I decided to style full time and moved onto TV and Film, most notably working in the costume department of Sex & the City: The Movie, alongside Patricia Field. That job catapulted my career to new heights. Shortly after the Sex & the City movie ended, I met my previous agent and was signed to his agency. Since then, I have been styling celebrities, entrepreneurs and coaches, as well as maintaining my clients in catalogue and ecommerce.
LIR: That's awesome. How have you faced your fears in order to create your success?
LW: It's been quite a decade, but I can honestly say that the Universe will rise to the occassion and align your stars when you decide to do something that feels scary and risky, but right. Risk-taking is the key to my success, no doubt. With that said, I am definitely not fearless - I don't believe fearlessness exists - but I do believe that I feel the fear and do it anyway. Risks take courage, so it's important to feel the fear and push through.
LIR: Amen to that!
LW: Haha, right?! I have found that the fear is always worse than actually doing the thing you're afraid of, so the quickest way to eliminate the feelings of fear is to DO what you're most afraid of. You will probably find that the idea of doing it was WAY scarier than actually doing it. That's also how you build your confidence, by doing things that scare you and knowing that you're capable of anything. You won't know if you don't try, and I would rather fail and have clarity than stay in my comfort zone wondering what could have been. And most times, you don't even fail! And when I do fail, I extract lessons from the situation, and learn from my mistakes.
LIR: That's so great, Leila.. really great advice.
LW: I am fully responsible for my success, happiness, and life in general so I do whatever it takes to create a happy and healthy life according to my standards. It's easy to face your fears when you know what kind of life you want to create. I know what I want, and I'm determined to have that life.
LIR: Incredibly inspiring. I love it. What are some of the things that inspire you? Who are your mentors?
LW: I know this might sound funny, but I am deeply inspired by rap and hip hop artists. I feel rap is a form of high art because not only do you have to be able to write, but you also have to have a large vocabulary, a vast knowledge of history, musical knowledge, and drive to get your work heard and exposed. They're incredible storytellers and poets. I truly believe that we are all geniuses as something, and what Kanye West, Drake, Big Sean, Common, Jay Z, Childish Gambino (to name a few) all have in common is their refusal to ever give up on what they want, how they want it, and allowing God or the Universe to bring it to them in perfect timing. They are all deeply spiritual and it shows by what they manifest in their lives.
LIR: Very true. Determination will get you very far.
LW: Exactly. They know their genius and they don't shrink in order to let other people feel big. They know they're big and they demand the best this world has to offer. That's inspiring to me. I feel that our society teaches us to hate ourselves from the moment we are born - women especially, with our bodies and gender roles. What I love about people like Kanye is that he knows he deserves the best, he has confidence, and he genuinely loves himself and his talents. Why shouldn't we all love ourselves like that? I think a lot of people judge him because he rejects the option to hate himself; he chooses to love himself and people say it's all ego. Instead of putting a microscope on his faults, people should be cultivating the courage to love themselves that deeply. It takes guts to live authentically and a lot of people would rather criticize than look at their own faults.
LIR: Self-reflection is very important.
LW: Kanye has guts and I applaud him for that. We all have faults, we all have our inappropriate moments, and we all make mistakes. Instead of villianizing him, I prefer to learn from him. A big misconception is that rap and hip hop are all about guns and hoes, but if you really listen to it, you'll hear messages about achieving your dreams despite the toughest situations, and you'll learn that life can be tough, but it doesn't mean you have to give up. One of the best Jay Z quotes I ever read says, "the genuis thing we did was we didn't give up." They never gave up, and neither have I. I am persistent, positive, and always shift my perspective in order to learn a lesson from every situation.
LIR: I like that. What are some things that you want to pass on to the next generation?
LW: I would love for the next and future generations to know that fashion and style are not about clothing, trends, and/or body size - it's about confidence, self-expression, and body acceptance. When people meet me and find out that I'm a stylist, they always ask if they need to change anything about their wardrobe or tell me how awful their style is. But I think everyone's style is unique, and as long as they feel comfortable, confident, and good in their clothing, they do not need a stylist. Even though it is why I'm hired, what I do for clients is not change how they look, I help the client change how they feel. I help them embody their desires and translate those desires through clothing. I bring their internal confidence, needs, and energy to the external. If people want to look better or different, ask yourself what you can change about how you feel first. If you can improve your self-esteem, your clothing and external appearance become secondary.
LIR: That is so so true.
LW: The clothing doesn't create confidence, it enhances it. So bottom line is get to work on how you feel - your confidence, self-esteem, and inner happiness - then allow your clothing to enhance your life, not fix it.
LIR: Again, amazing words of wisdom. What do you do when you're stuck in a rut, either personally or professionally?
LW: I thank God and the Universe for what I already have. I work very hard to keep myself in a state of gratitude as opposed to a lack mentality. I don't believe in competition - there is enough to go around and if I miss out on a big opportunity, then I believe it wasn't meant to be and feel happy for whoever booked the job. I've found that being of service to others when I am feeling down makes me feel better and more grateful - helping a friend, talking to someone else who is down and showing them a more positive perspective. It instantly shifts my energy to a higher place, and when I feel better, more abundance in the form of jobs, money, love, opportunities, laughter, etc is able to flow into my life much quicker. So I keep my chin up and have faith that everything unfolds in perfect timing. What is meant for me will not pass me, and that brings me deep comfort, knowing that everything will work out perfectly if I just trust the timing of my life.
LIR: That's perfect advice, Leila. And lastly, what are three things you never leave home without?
LW: One - I love sneaker culture and am obsessed with Nike Air Max 90's with the lunarion sole - I wear those almost every day because they look so rad and can be worn to a shoot, meeting, or the gym. Two - my entire day feels dull when I don't have my headphones and can't listen to music, so I am constantly checking my bag to make sure I have them. And three - I hate being cold, so I usually have an Adidas or Nike track jacket with me at all times!