Boss Ladies / Inspiration / Life

Boss Ladies | Michelle Kim


Boss Ladies | Michelle Kim Photos c/o Kelly Dlux

Michelle Kim is an actress and photographer based in Southern California. She studied literary journalism at the University of California, Irvine and started her photography business in 2009. She shoots weddings and portraits with her husband Kelly McCoy. You can catch Michelle in recent episodes of “Ray Donovan,” “The Last Ship,” “Shameless” and “The Gifted.”

As a child i dreamed of becoming

A Spice Girl! I told my mom I needed her to move back to Korea when I went to high school because I thought she was going to force me to be a doctor or a lawyer. I needed her to leave the country so I could pursue my dream of becoming a performer.

The last photo I took on my phone

A group photo from a viewing party my friend hosted for me when my episode of “The Gifted” aired on FOX

My guilty pleasure

Watermelon sour patch and Eggo waffles

Boss Ladies | Michelle Kim One thing people might be surprised to learn about me

I’m an introvert and a total home-body. I’m very bubbly and outgoing in public since my jobs as an actress, photographer and a pastor’s wife revolve around people, but I actually LOVE being home and recharging by being alone.

My favorite way to unwind

I go to the Korean spa at least once a month and get full body scrub massages. I love losing track of time as I dip from pool to pool and fall asleep in the hot clay rooms.

My real life hero is 

My husband, Kelly. He has overcome some crazy obstacles in his life that, if not for God’s grace and protection, would have led him into a very destructive future. Kelly is the most resilient human I know. He is positive and encouraging in all circumstances, quick to forgive and errs the side of thinking the best about others. I can confidently say that Kelly practices what he preaches (literally) and I am a better woman because of him.

What I love about my work

Every day is different. I wear many hats but all these roles ebb and flow seasonally, so I’m rarely swamped with all of it at the same time. When acting is slow, I always have our businesses and our ministry to keep me productive.

The hardest thing about my work

Balancing auditions with running a business and still remaining resilient. As an actress, it’s hard to prepare for a role you’re not guaranteed to get, and auditioning can feel like dating and getting broken up with over and over again. I’m still learning how to deal with rejection and disappointment without personally identifying with it. It is so important for me to have a full life outside of acting. There’s no time to feel sorry for yourself when you’ve got clients to tend, young people to mentor and a husband to support.

Boss Ladies | Michelle Kim How I got started with my current career

I acted when I was younger and took a break to go to college. I discovered photography and decided to pursue photojournalism. People started asking if I could photograph their weddings, families, kids, etc. It kind of snowballed into a professional photography business that ended up revolving around fashion, portraits and weddings (Michelle Kim Photography). By the time I graduated, I was shooting full-time. I feel very lucky to have had the luxury of being self-employed.

However, photography never fulfilled me creatively.  I felt like I was settling. I always knew I wanted to act but thought I missed my window. Then I realized that God gives us desires that are uniquely tailored for us.  We can honor Him with our desires and pursue them with an open hand.

I decided to put my focus on acting by going back to class and seeking representation. Two years later, I am acting full-time and doing photography part-time; I only take photo jobs that are flexible enough to accommodate my very unpredictable acting schedule. I also run my husband’s DJ entertainment business, Dlux Entertainment, and support him as the pastor’s wife of our college and young adult group, Rocky Peak Young Adults (RPYA).

Boss Ladies | Michelle Kim One of the biggest mistakes I made when I was starting out

As a photographer, sacrificing quality vacation to work. I would try to schedule shoots while I was on vacation to be able to market myself as a travel photographer but all it did was stress me (and my husband) out, depriving us of true rest and enjoyment.

As an actress I’m still starting out, but the dumbest thing I did was to get into acting without involving my husband in the process. I had all these dreams but didn’t think to share them with him, so he was blindsided when I told him I was going to pursue acting full-time.  He is my #1 fan and is fully on board, but it was foolish to think I could do whatever I wanted, independent of my spouse, and have it not affect our marriage.  We’ve both learned from that, and now we make decisions together and let one another speak into each other’s careers because we trust that we have each other’s back.

I used to think success meant

Flying first class, not having to look at the price tag before making a purchase and getting to choose the jobs you want to take rather than taking whatever you can get.

My current definition of success

Investing in authentic relationships and believing that I always have enough to be generous and enjoy what this life has to offer… also, having the freedom and security to NOT have to take a job if it doesn’t line up with my values or the pastor’s wife of our college and young adult group, Rocky Peak Young Adults (RPYA).

Boss Ladies | Michelle Kim An example of when I had to push through my insecurities  

My first time sharing at our young adult group.  Kelly asked me to join him in the Q&A on some really tough issues such as depression and suicide. I felt compelled to share my personal experience of a very dark time in my life and how I pushed through.  I don’t consider myself a polished speaker and felt so self-conscious after I shared because I stumbled through my words.  Afterwards I realized that the point is to help others, not to feel good about myself.  I also reminded myself that no one is thinking about my flaws because everyone is too consumed with their own issues!


Michelle Kim







Inspiration / Life

Dear 2018: I’m Awake.

Photos c/o Tutti del Monte

As I’m thinking and praying into all that 2018 has in store I am leaning into…

Being open to the unexpected.

Being used by God to encourage those He brings into my path.

Moving deeper into rest and balance.

Staying open to love, and holding on to hope.

Being clear with what I want, and where I feel I am being called to.

In 2018…

I long to see God do specific miracles in my life and in the lives of those around me.

I want a loving and committed relationship with a godly man of integrity who has vision for his life, and is unthreatened and in support of my dreams and visions.

I plan to continue to invest into my health and increase my physical strength and endurance.

I want to use my voice and my life stories to encourage and empower others to embrace their value and worth.

I hope to scale The Refined Woman, and build our incredibly gifted and committed team.

I want to get out of debt completely, and begin saving so I can one day buy a house.

If there is anything I have learned over the last year; it’s that life can change in an instant.  The invitation is to be open and flexible for when our own plans change.  Sometimes what I think are huge plans for my life are small compared to the things God has up His sleeve.

If there’s anything I see for 2018 it’s this:  The winds of change are here.

I believe I’ll look back on this year as one that set a new trajectory for my life, relationships, and career.

Join me!

  1. Get specific:  What are 5 things you want to see in your life over the next 12 months?
  2. Get clear:  How focused on each of these goals can you get?  Spend time with each dream.  Journal and unpack for yourself what it would take from you to see these things become a reality.  Then spend time journaling what it would look, feel, sound, and taste like if these things were actually a reality in your life.

Intentions stay ideas until we have the courage and discipline to incorporate them into our every day decisions.

I’m awake, and I’m ready.



Inspiration / Life

You Are Not Alone | Jamie Ivey



Photos c/o Paige Newton

Friends we are so excited to have Jamie Ivey on the site this week sharing her story!  She is the host of the weekly podcast:  The Happy Hour with Jamie Ivey–which y’all must check out! (P.S. I’ll be on it soon…eee!) . The below is an excerpt from her new book If I Only Knew… Be blessed by her my dears!



I’ll never forget the first time I told a friend all the parts of my story I was so ashamed of—the parts of my story that made me feel so utterly alone and embarrassed.

At that point, I could count the number of people on one hand who knew all the stories from my most difficult seasons of life. Every time I started to get the courage to tell someone the things I’d been through and the ways God had shown up, I would grow so timid. Would they only see me for what I’d done, not for what Jesus had done in me? What if they looked at me the same exact way I once looked at myself?

Maybe my friend Maris would be different.

But before I started to open up with her, I laid the groundwork first. I prepped her for what she was about to hear as if I had spent time in the mafia, sold government secrets, or been a target of FBI surveillance. Cloak-and-dagger stuff. By the time I had set up my story, I think she was actually a bit relieved (or maybe disappointed!) that I hadn’t done jail time, lived under a code name, or resurfaced as part of a witness protection program. Although I wouldn’t put any of those past me!

As Maris and I sat together in the living room of my 1940s-era house, while my baby napped in the other room, I shared it all. Really hard things. I had never laid all my cards on the table in front of someone like that. You wouldn’t believe what happened next. As soon as the words had finally escaped my mouth, my instant impression was a sudden sense of relief. I had done it. I had shared my story, out loud, with a real friend, and . . . you know what? It actually felt good to get it all out.

It helped, of course, that I’d been right about Maris. She gave me permission to be real with her. Although she didn’t say those exact words, she was willing to listen to what I said, no matter what I was going to say. As I poured out my heart to her, she listened. She didn’t try to fix me with canned advice, and she reaffirmed all the things she’d seen God do in my life, even in the short time she’d known me. Her permission that day to be real with her was life-giving to me as a friend.

I also learned something profoundly beautiful that day—something that may surprise you. It’s this: our stories are not really as unique as we think. The more I’ve told of my story through the years, I’ve discovered my struggles are actually quite common. But because we’re all so uncomfortable talking about those struggles—or even hearing about them—we walk around with this idea that no one’s ever done what we’ve done, ever felt what we’ve felt, ever thought what we’ve thought, ever said what we’ve said.

This is simply not true.

I’d been scared of my story for years because I assumed no one else had battled what I’d battled. But except for the specific details, many others have fought and lost to the same things—if not those things, then other things of equal weight in their heart and mind. Think of how much unnecessary anguish and self-torment we’ve endured, as well as how much freedom we’ve forgone, from seeing ourselves as the only one. When we’re not. We’re just not.

But I believed the lies that said I was. I believed the lies that said I was forever defined by my story. I believed the lies that said I couldn’t afford to open up. I believed the lies that said all the labels I’d assigned to myself were mine to bear, not to be free of.

And nobody, I thought, could ever take those lies away from me.

So just as my friend Maris granted me full permission to be real with her, I’m doing the same for you. If you were sitting around my backyard table with me, and we were chatting, I’d want you to feel as though you were safe, that your story is welcome with me.

I’m giving you permission to let down your guard and to let God woo you into His love and grace.


Jamie Ivey

Inspiration / Life / News

Relationships and Loving Yourself…Part 2 | Emily Jansen


Relationships and Loving Yourself | Part 2...Emily Jansen

Photos c/o Neshan Naltchayen

Emily Jansen lives in Washington DC, where she is a business communications manager, writer and philanthropist, inspired by her experiences volunteering in East Africa and representing Fortune 100 companies to foreign diplomatic corps. She enjoys cooking, traveling, playing piano, and participating in triathlons and cycling races. Someday soon, she hopes to write a book, as well as start a foundation focused on empowering female entrepreneurs through technology.

I have a crush on moleskin journals and Japanese pens.  Separately, they mean nothing. Together, they make stories.  Think about a new journal.  The spine is stiff, pages blank, chapters ready to be written.  Maybe, like me, you hesitate to start writing in it.  Part of your story isn’t very beautiful.  It’s different from others.  Some pages are marked in red.  Or maybe you feel stuck in it – like worn-in shoes you just can’t get rid of, but know you need to toss.

Loving yourself well starts with re-defining the expectations we have around our stories.  We open the pages of our lives holding a pen, but crash in disappointment when the chapter doesn’t end the way we want. 

At times, I believe I’m the sole author.  And we certainly have our part to play — but if we are truly honest, we can’t control the chapters or write a perfect story.  

When I think of my own story, my chest tightens with responsibility and an attempt to control the process of filling blank pages.  But the best things in life are often unexpected. We can dedicate so much time curating and comparing our stories that we become story-masters – moving from scene to scene, and hoping people will affirm us, our present path, the life we’ve made.     

For years I put pressure on myself to walk out a story that was similar to everyone else’s, but when things didn’t turn out like I expected, I had to laugh — why did I ever think I was writing my life?

Relationships and Loving Yourself | Part 2...Emily Jansen

Now I am learning to embrace my story as it is, await the beauty that will come in time, and accept who I am becoming in the process.  I don’t need to occupy myself with the unknown, because today’s chapter needs to be lived.

Are you in love with your story?  Are you leaning forward because you believe that today’s page and the next are going to be good?  Not just sort of good or mirroring the good you see others as having – but perfectly good for you?

Some parts are messy, filled with tears, pain and loss.  Some require self-acceptance, refinement, and faith to move beyond failure.  It is raw and vulnerable, but your story is beautiful, because it’s the first, last, and only edition anyone will ever get to live.

Let’s stop comparing our stories.  Don’t just skim the pages, or cross out the parts you’d rather erase. Love your life, live it well, and stay open to divine interruptions. When we let go of expectation, we find true freedom to embrace the story as it is.



Please be sure + read Part 1 of Emily’s inspiring Relationships and Loving Yourself piece.


Inspiration / Life

Intern Spotlight | Diana Miranda


Photos c/o Kat Harris

How did you find The Refined Woman? 

It was the last week of 2016, and I had taken a few days off from a busy holiday season so I could reflect on the year and set intentions and goals for 2017. I stumbled upon The Refined Woman’s manifesto, instantly gravitating toward it. So began my binge reading of articles about empowered women, and those stories inspired me that it’s okay to be strong and vulnerable. I printed the manifesto and hung it above my desk where I looked at it everyday.  A few months ago, TRW was serendipitously looking to fill a position, I hesitated but then went for it! And now I’m part of an amazing tribe of women.  The manifesto still hangs on my vision board as a reminder of how certain things in life can work themselves out.

What does being “a refined woman” mean to you?

It means embracing every unique element that makes you an authentic person, including being brave enough to recognize you aren’t perfect. It means being an unapologetic dreamer and a courageous leader who thrives on helping others succeed and grow.

What’s an area in which you’d like to grow this coming year?

Saying no just a bit more. I’m a people pleaser in the sense that I just hate to see people hurting. So I say yes to everybody, even if time for me disappears. I definitely need to work on strengthening that balance this coming year.

What does legacy mean to you?

It’s not necessarily about what I leave behind, it’s what I’ll be most remembered for. I want to leave others inspired to feel empowered to follow their dreams, and to recognize that a little bit of kindness can go a long way. You never know how a simple gesture of selflessness might completely transform someone’s day, or life. I want to be known for that, for inspiring others to continue to do good and put more good out there.

Which three pieces of advice would you tell your younger self? 

  1. Girl, stop being so hard on yourself. Seriously stop it.
  2. Stop doubting yourself! (Sometimes I need to tell my present self this, too)
  3. Don’t settle. Let your true self shine. Don’t be so scared of opening up a bit and showing everyone who you really are. Who cares if they think you’re weird or you don’t connect with them. Be proud of all your little unique quirks — because you have plenty and there will be others who will love you for you.

Who is a real life hero for you? 

My family. Each one has a strong or endearing quality I hope to carry with me, like my grandfather’s connection to mother nature, or my aunt’s kindness and strength.  Most of them have endured their own struggles and hardships, including migrating to other countries to make a better life for themselves, like my mother who at the young age of 17 left home to come to this country. As I’ve gotten older, I’ve been able to appreciate their stories of the past much more. So much of who I am is a bit of each person I’ve grown up knowing.

What’s your idea of fun on a Friday night? 

A casual dance party — in the living room with my pup or at a backyard bonfire relaxing with loved ones — dance breaks are a given!

What was the last TV show you binge-watched? 

I’m almost always watching something set in another time period; 1920’s, 17th century, I love it all. But most recently I just finished the special series Alias Grace, it will make you think and question everything until the very end, the lead is just amazing in her role.

If you could live anywhere, where would it be and why? 

Chaveiral, my family’s home town in Portugal.  Most of my family lives in this small farm village nestled within the mountains, and it’s where I feel the most like myself. The town is surrounded by nothing but pure nature, yet it’s a short drive to Porto and the hustle of a true European city.  It’s one of the few places where I have a sense of belonging.

What is your go-to karaoke song? 

It all depends on my mood, it can range from the Fugees, to Of Monsters & Men, to Abba. But my favorite song to sing is “Sem Ti” by fado singer Mariza, it’s basically my love song to Portugal.

Guilty pleasures… Go 

‘Tis the season, because you’ll most likely find me watching Hallmark Christmas movies on repeat. It’s totally my guilty pleasure, especially now as I begin to decorate for the holidays and cookie orders are in high demand. They’re cheesy and slightly unrealistic, but they just make you smile and feel good, especially when there are so many other things going on in the world.  How can you not feel happy when that corporate father or busy single mother finds the magic of the holiday spirit again? It gets me every time.



Beauty Is ... / Life / News

Beauty Is…Investing in Others | Elena Shahnaian

Beauty Is...Investing in Others | Elena Shahnaian

Photos c/o Matt Collins

As Founder of Two Wings, Elena Shahnaian believes strongly in human resilience, promoting confidence through education, and providing custom-fit mentor relationships to every client she serves. Elena’s passion is to fully equip her clients with the tools and resources needed to open those big, unapproachable doors that lead to their dreams. Elena lives in Los Angeles with her husband Charlie and their newborn daughter, Evangeline.

When I was a little girl, I aspired to a career in business, something “important.”  I had no idea what that would actually look like, but I distinctly remember the image in my head of going to work in a high rise building in my well tailored suit, high heels and professional briefcase. And this was before The Devil Wears Prada made working in a fast-paced New York environment a dream for many.

But the same girl who wanted to achieve so much also had a heart for the hurting. Mother Teresa was my role model; I wanted to be just like her.

Something about her disregard for what society valued as important and her focus on serving the untouchables — the ones no one wanted to reach out to — made her my hero. I prayed for God to give me a calling to abandon everything to go and serve the forgotten and vulnerable in remote parts of the world.

Beauty Is...Investing in Others | Elena Shahnaian

These two dreams for my future –the high-powered businesswoman, the devoted servant – took turns occupying my headspace. It was almost as if the two dreams were at war with one another, since I couldn’t do both – or so I thought.

I waited and waited, but never heard that life-altering call.  My dream of working with widows and orphans began to fade.  Eventually, the dream of a secure career took precedence in my thoughts. I graduated high school, finished college and continued on to graduate school.

But that small voice I’d shoved to the furthest corners of my heart continued to echo the same message: “You were made to change the world.”  

Beauty Is...Investing in Others | Elena Shahnaian

I couldn’t see how it would ever play out in reality, so I let the idea linger in the distance, afraid to entertain the possibility of it being true. I let my logical brain take over and continued to learn what I could to run a business through my MBA studies.

We often wait for circumstances to dictate the path we choose, and that was true in my case. A series of events led me to a place in my corporate career where further advancement held no interest. I could either stay where I was, or listen to that small voice, which was getting louder by the day. It seemed to be asking, “What if you could serve the forgotten and the vulnerable in your own city? Would you take the chance and do it?” I knew I had no choice but to jump into the unknown.

My nonprofit agency, Two Wings, was born three months after I left my corporate job. It was scary, but I was certain the payoff would be great. I set out with a vision to serve survivors of sex trafficking by equipping them with the skills necessary to pursue a dream career.

But in our first year of operations, we served only half the number of participants we were hoping to reach.  I began to question the level of impact we were having on such a large issue. What was I doing wrong? How could I make our work known, both nationally and internationally, so more women could experience this life-changing program?

Beauty Is...Investing in Others | Elena Shahnaian

My focus started to shift from those who were already receiving our services to the multitude we weren’t able to reach.  Had I misinterpreted the calling I thought I’d heard?

It wasn’t until I started hearing from the women we were serving that I realized my thinking had been mistaken. In story after story, they shared that they now felt known and empowered to pursue a new future. I was making an impact and didn’t even realize it.

I had missed a crucial detail: Mother Teresa became a world changer by serving those directly in front of her, not by focusing on those she could not see. She made each person she came into contact with feel important and valuable; as if they were the only person she was sent to serve.

I knew I needed to shift my perspective and focus on those who were currently going through our program. These were the women we were sent to help guide towards a fulfilling future. And what about the women in the program who had children? By empowering them we were impacting the future of their children.

This allowed me to change how I viewed success – it no longer meant trying to increase the number of clients served, but simply serving well those with whom we worked. My work became more fulfilling and my passion for restoring lives was reignited.

Beauty Is...Investing in Others | Elena Shahnaian

Now five years later, as a new mother, I am reminded again of the importance of investing in those who are directly in your sphere of influence. I can choose to think about the big picture and plan for future children and what our family should look like, or I can slow down and focus on what is in front of me right now, my baby girl.

How are you investing in the lives of those directly in front of you? It might only be one person, but the impact could be life changing.






Life / The Refined Collective

The Refined Collective // Navigating the Family


Photos c/o Emily Scott // Dress:  Vetta // Purse:  This is Velé

Leaving home after college was one of the hardest things I’ve ever done. During my first three months away (which was the longest I had ever been away from family), I was so homesick that I flew home in the middle of a business trip just to be with them for a weekend.  It’s been ten years since, and though it’s gotten easier to be away, I still miss them all the time.

Two of my sisters are in high school.  Missing their day-to-day lives is so hard—from basketball games to award ceremonies, to helping with homework and talking about boys.  I’ve wonder if I’ll look back at my life and regret moving away from Texas.  Will all the things I’ve missed be worth the things I’ve pursued?

And have you noticed that no one teaches us how to be an adult child or sibling?

What is normal?

What are healthy ways to grow as a family and individually?

What is a realistic expectation for how often to communicate?

How often should we visit each other?

I don’t know.

To get some perspective, I tried comparing my life to that of my parents when they were my age. Our lives couldn’t have been more different.

At 32 my parents were married with three children and homeowners in the suburbs.  My dad was climbing the corporate ladder, while my mom was at home wrangling young children.

We lived out of state from extended family for most of my childhood. Visiting relatives happened once, maybe twice a year, and it was a quick turnaround:  half a day at Grandma’s house.  Quick visits to see aunts and uncles and cousins.  They were whirlwind road trips.

In contrast, I am single, childless, and have never owned a home.  My parents are now divorced, and remarried to other people.  Between our mixed families I am one of 9 children, ranging from 15 to 34.

Comparing their norms to mine isn’t helpful because we’re in such different places in life.  What worked for them doesn’t work for me.  It’s new territory for everyone involved.  My parents have never been parents to adult children, just as I’ve never been an adult child before.

I used to think life was either good or hard, black or white.  But I’m starting to see it is full of grey, nuance, and mystery.  Life can be beautiful, full of wonder and adventure, and it can also be painful and difficult — full of expectation and disappointment all at once.  We hold that tension daily.

One of my aunts has lived overseas for over 30 years.  She has made difficult, and at times painful judgement calls about when to come home. Years ago she told me the best thing for my family was for me to be living fully in the calling that God had placed on my life.

If God’s best for me is to be in New York City, then it’s also God’s best for my family—even though we miss each other terribly.  His blessing for one person doesn’t short change another.

In the moments where I struggle with being away from home or navigating new family dynamics, I remember her words, and they comfort me.

Maybe part of learning to be a healthy adult is learning to hold the tension and be honest with each other when we feel it.  It means having grace and understanding for not only myself but also for my family as we move into new spaces.   It takes courage for anyone to step into the unknown, and there will be mistakes made, feelings hurt, disappointment felt.

For now I feel like I have more questions than answers.  But I’m learning to be ok with the grey, and loving my family as we navigate new territory with each step we take.



Thank you for reading this month’s Refined Collective.  Please be sure + check out the other women sharing their stories this month:  Brynn Watkins, Alyssa Exposito, Corie ClarkYvette Jain


Boss Ladies / Life

Boss Ladies | Tanesha Awasthi


Boss Ladies | Tanesha Awasthi Photos c/o Dave Awasthi

Tanesha Awasthi is the mother of Narayan, her 3-year-old son, an English Bulldog named Kingston and wife to her best friend, biggest supporter and business partner, Dave. She graduated from UC Berkeley with a degree in English, is a licensed esthetician and multi-racial American who passionately supports the body positive and women empowerment movements.

Growing up I really wanted to be​ 

A psychologist, writer, dermatologist and fashion designer. It’s insane that today I get to do almost everything I ever dreamed of through Girl With Curves.

My go-to order at a coffee shop is ice water! I don’t drink coffee or tea, I’m a strictly H2O girl.

I don’t know how I ever lived without

Lipstick. Up until 2012 I only wore chapstick on my lips. Now I can’t go without a pop of color. It’s pretty much the only makeup I wear on a daily basis unless I’m shooting content.

Boss Ladies | Tanesha Awasthi

One thing people don’t know about me is 

I’m a major introvert and very shy. My blog lets me come out of my shell and have the voice I’ve never had in real life.

How I got started with my current career 

My husband recommended I start a blog. After listening to me complain about how I should’ve gone to fashion or medical school, he suggested I start a blog showcasing my personal style and writing about things I love. At the time I had no idea people were even doing that and I thought it was silly!

What I love about my work is 

Helping women boost their self-confidence through seeing someone they can relate to, whether it’s my style, my body type, my hair, etc.

Boss Ladies | Tanesha Awasthi

My real life hero is 

My Grandma Bernice! She raised 5 kids on her own and she tells it like it is, never leaves the house without lipstick and rouge and is a total lady but also a real badass at 86.

The dumbest thing I did when I was starting out was

Compare myself to others.

My typical day looks like 

Being the first one in the house out of bed, getting my son dressed, taking out my fur baby, making breakfast which my husband/business partner and I eat over a morning meeting.  Then I get dressed and either head out to shoot or go straight to the office to start my work day.

Boss Ladies | Tanesha Awasthi

I used to think success meant

Financial freedom from student loads, having excess cash, owning a home.

My current definition of success is 

Being fulfilled in every aspect of my life, personally and professionally.

I know my work/life balance is out of sync when 

I dream about work because I feel as if I’m not putting enough into my creativity, or burn myself out for working too much, which is quite often. After running my business full-time for the past 5+ years, I still haven’t been able to find a balance.

Boss Ladies | Tanesha Awasthi

The last time I created something I was proud of was 

Today. If I don’t walk away from my computer every day feeling accomplished, then I’m not being true to my passion, gratitude and love for what I do.

I wish I could tell my younger self 

To be herself, unapologetically. I spent too many years trying to be something I wasn’t in order to please others.​​

The legacy I hope to leave 

Is that women can look and feel amazing regardless of size.





Life / The Refined Collective



Payal Kadakia // Photos c/o Kat Harris, The Refined Woman // Written by Kitty Williams for The Refined Woman

“The energy of New York will always be a feeling of lightning”


“The energy of New York will always be a feeling of lightning,” says Payal Kadakia. Various areas of New York City serve as constant reminders to her of fond memories like past offices, performances, and achievements.

Kadakia is the founder and artistic director of the Sa Dance Company as well as the founder and executive chairman of ClassPass.

ClassPass is a fitness membership app through which users can sign up to attend a wide variety of fitness classes rather than be tied to a single class and therefore a single activity.

With ClassPass, users can take a barre class one day and a water aerobics class on another. They are given the freedom to try activities, to fail at some, and to fall in love with new ones they may have never discovered had they made a commitment to do the same activity every week.

Kadakia takes great pride in the growth she has experienced through using ClassPass. “It teaches you a lesson that’s greater than you being able to do that class,” she says. “It’s being able to triumph over things.”

She measures success by setting goals and accomplishing those goals. One major goal of hers is to have a positive influence in the lives of others. She has accomplished that goal through ClassPass in a major way. “We’re close to 40 million reservations, and the reason I think about reservations is because that’s time. That’s 40 million hours of people’s lives that we’ve had our hand in,” says Kadakia.

ClassPass’s vision statement, “every life fully lived,” is a reflection of how intentional Kadakia is when it comes to spending time. She created ClassPass with the intention of bringing people back to the moments when they feel truly happy.

“If you can spend [your time] doing things that are soul nurturing, that are inspiring, that are authentic and you are present in them,” says Kadakia, “the more hours of your life you can spend like that, the more fulfilled you’re going to be.”

For Kadakia, that means dancing. However, there was a time when she felt guilty for that passion. She felt as though people around her didn’t understand why she would make time for dance as she was growing a business.

The guilt brought on by this didn’t last too long, though. A friend came over as she was pondering the balance between dance and work, and they choreographed a dance together. “It helped me kind of break through it,” says Kadakia. “Dance helps fuel my creativity, not just in the dance studio, but also in the workplace. It’s because I’ve nurtured my passion for dance that I’ve had the sense of purpose, creative energy and drive to grow ClassPass into the thriving business it is today.”

She never wants to feel guilty for doing something she loves, and this idea – that everyone should feel empowered to take care of themselves and cultivate their passions – has become a core value at ClassPass. ClassPass hosts an annual employee talent show to celebrate employee passions, plus the company offers generous benefits like unlimited vacation, flexible work hours, and free ClassPass memberships in support of this core value.

Intentionally spending time doing what she loves is what brought her to create the Sa Dance Company as well. “I really wanted to share the roots of Indian culture,” she says, “and I wanted to do it through dance.”

Kadakia was born and raised in America but is drawn to her Indian roots. “Some of it is a longing of making sure I don’t forget it,” she says, but also “making sure the world doesn’t forget it.”

At the age of three, Kadakia was introduced to Indian dance. “We used to only dance in our basements because there was no platform for Indian dance,” she reflects.

Since then she’s become an accomplished dancer, as her list of New York performances has extended from flash mobs on the streets of the city to stages in Bryant Park and at Lincoln Center.

Kadakia has a history with New York and a future with Los Angeles, though she has homes in both cities. Los Angeles is where she gets to spend the most time with her husband and where she is building new things for ClassPass. New York feels like lightning to her, so what does Los Angeles feel like? “Sunshine,” says Kadakia with a big laugh.

Kadakia never focuses too far into the future because she recognizes that as human beings, we shift in our goals and aspirations. “I’m allowed to change,” she says, certain of the unknown. “I will never be one thing.” One thing remains certain, though: this life is fully lived.

Capsule Wardrobe / Style



Photos c/o Emily Scott // Blouse + Jeans:  AYR // Shoes:  Freda Salvador // Cardigan:  Vetta  // Purse:  This is Vele

One of my sisters works at a high-risk urban school.   Her days are filled with decisions that impact hundreds of teachers and students.  When she leaves, the thought of making another decision—no matter how small—feels exhausting.

Because of this, she has been simplifying her life by removing small daily decisions. For example, every day for a year she had an espresso and protein bar for breakfast.   It was one less thing she had to figure out when she was at the grocery store.

Learning this about my sister was fascinating.  And it made so much sense.

It made me wonder if that’s why my mom did pizza Fridays when we were growing up.  She ran a house of 8 human beings, and a tight ship at that.  Perhaps knowing that Fridays were for pizza was an easy way to have one less decision to make.

Though I don’t work at a high-risk school, or have a husband and six kids, I have my own set of circumstances that can make everyday life feel daunting.  Research says the average adult makes around 35,000 decisions a day.  (I had to read multiple articles about that, because it stressed me out just reading the number).

Running two businesses and managing a team can leave me fried before dinner time. I’d rather focus on the people and things I really care about than be distracted by the little things.

When tiny decisions are already made, we can have more energy and mental space for our fast-paced lives.

Over time, I have begun to simplify my life.  One way I have done this is through a lean wardrobe.  I’ve wasted so much time lamenting over what I was going to wear, so last year I got rid of 75% of my clothes.  There’s no fluff in my closet, and not a ton of options.  But what I have I love.  And I know that anything I put on fits me well, can easily be mixed and matched, and is comfortable.

Not only do I save time getting ready, I also save the hours I used to spend each season wandering aimlessly around stores, buying and returning things.  I have a list of things I need and want, and I don’t deviate from it.  Which means each season I might buy one or two things, and that’s it.

Simplifying my life has been a process.  At the beginning even the thought of it felt overwhelming.  It seemed like just one more thing vying for my time.

Simplifying my life has been a process.  At the beginning even the thought of it felt overwhelming.  It seemed like just one more thing vying for my time.

So how do we even begin to decide which everyday decisions to simplify?  I think we start small.  What if we opt for a slow and steady wins the race sort of approach.  We can choose to be patient, see what works for us, and try a few things for a while and see how it feels.

What about you?  What is one small way you can simplify your life?