Life / Real Talk / The Refined Collective

The Refined Collective // Embracing Imperfection


Photos c/o:  Emily Scott // Outfit c/o AYR

I stood there and my mind went completely blank.

Four hundred eyes were staring at me, hot lights were glaring, and I could feel my palms begin to sweat and the panic begin to rise.

Why was this happening?

I was cohosting an event with Anthropologie and it was a dream come true. For over a month I had practiced my spoken word performance without so much as a hiccup.   Yet there I was, frozen, in front of friends, strangers, and clients.  I was mid-poem, and had lost my place.

The panic was increasing by the moment.

For what felt like an hour I stood quietly.  I had three options:

  • bolt for the door and never look back.
  • laugh it off and say, “sorry, this is my first time doing anything like this and I guess I got really nervous.”
  • wait and try to recover my place.

Option one was all I could think about. The voices in my head were screaming at me:

  • I knew you’d mess this up
  • You should just go back to being quiet
  • You don’t have what it takes to pull it off—and now everyone knows it

Amidst all the accusations I had another thought. One that was quiet but steady, and rose above the noise:

She has seen a succulent survive enough times to know that she is much stronger than she thinks.

Amidst all the accusations I had another thought. One that was quiet but steady, and rose above the noise:

She has seen a succulent survive enough times to know that she is much stronger than she thinks.


It was my favorite line from the spoken word. So I started from there, and finished the poem.

As I handed over the mic my hands were shaking.  I got in line with the other girls to join the runway show, which was immediately following the poem.  I was choking back tears when the music started and it was all I could do to put a smile on my face and walk that runway.  I couldn’t leave because I was hosting the event, leading the panel discussion afterwards, and the after-party immediately following that!

But all I wanted to do was run and hide.

I felt like such a failure.

And everyone knew it.

Nonetheless the rest of the evening continued to unfold, and flawlessly at that.  It was an incredibly successful night. The audience was engaged, and an hour after the party ended we had to push people out the door.

People lined up during the after party to thank me for hosting such a meaningful event.  They repeatedly told me their favorite part of the night was the spoken word! A few women even came up wiping tears away to tell me how impactful my performance had been for them.   I honestly thought they were lying to me.

Right before I left, my co-host from Anthropologie came up to give me a hug. And I let it all out—told her how humiliated I was, apologized profusely for fumbling during the poem, and how I wanted to crawl into a hole and never come out.

Tears welled up in her eyes.  She grabbed my hands, looked me square in the face, and said she had no idea I’d made a sliver of mistake.  Her voice cracked when she added that she was relieved I wasn’t perfect.

If I, as a leader, can be imperfect, it gives her permission to be imperfect  More importantly, that night wasn’t about me.  It was about creating space for women to feel known and give them permission to be themselves and connect freely and deeply with others.  So I made a mistake—no one was expecting me to be perfect in the first place.  And in spite of my fumbling, the message got out there and landed for multiple people.

I closed my mouth, listened, and received her words.  She was right.

But as I headed to bed that night, I still struggled with so much doubt and shame.  Two of my best friends sent me voice memos of encouragement—knowing me well enough to know I was probably beating myself up.

Through their words I felt God remind me that even if my worst case scenario happens, it’s usually not as bad as I think it will be. No matter what happens, I am still loved.

And further, in my moment of exposure, when I had the chance to run, I didn’t.  Instead of being met with fingers pointing at me when I felt vulnerable and exposed, my community welcomed me with encouragement, truth, and open arms.  Their support gave me the courage to lean into my discomfort and stay.

It has been through many different circumstances over time that I’ve become more awake to my struggles, and the lies I’ve believed.  Through these moments God has given me countless opportunities for growth and healing. 

There are always more layers to peel back.

More healing to be had.

And more freedom to be experienced.

It’s easy to slip into believing that to be worthy of love and acceptance I have to be perfect.  Sometimes it’s subtle, and only through flawed moments that I realize I’ve slid back into this perfection mindset.

The truth is I am not perfect, I never will be.  (This wasn’t the first time I realized this, and it won’t be the last.)

But the deeper truth is that I’ve been loved all along in my imperfections.



This series is a part of The Refined Collective.  Be sure +  check out these lovely ladies + their thoughts on Layers: Lauren ScruggsRebecca Hajek, Erica ChenTutti del Monte, Jackie Viramontez,  Brynna WatkinsJulien Garman, Sarah Shreves





Inspiration / Life / Refined by Fire

Refined by Fire : Beautiful Beginnings | Arielle Estoria


Refined by Fire | Arielle Estoria

Photos c/o Dani Dazey, Vanessa ToddKara McFarlaneKaren Marie

Born and raised in foggy Northern California, Arielle Estoria Leda Wilburn is a writer, speaker and creative. Her ultimate purpose behind her work, and in life, is a diligent pursuit of instilling and reminding people of their worth through words. She is made of sass and good intentions, and has a deep love for car karaoke, brunch and flowers.

No one really told me what would happen after the jump, they just kept telling me to jump.  It was as if everyone around me knew that my life was going to be so much bigger than anything I could have imagined except me. 

The year before graduating college was filled with terrifying moments of uncertainty.

Do I go to Grad school?

Do I go home back to Northern California and live with my parents?

Do I get a “normal” job and work for ‘the man” (whoever he is) for the rest of my life?

It’s almost as if the moment you step off that stage, you have to have it all figured out: where you’re going to live and what you’re going to be.  And I missed that whole get a husband by the time you’re out of college memo, so I was figuring all of this out on my own and hardcore stressing out about it.

Refined by Fire | Arielle Estoria

Eventually that day in May came around and I walked across that stage with no plan to grab at the end of it.

I woke up the next day thinking I had missed something, this wasn’t “my plan” and I felt as though I didn’t have any purpose.

“I’m just going to move home” became my safety statement for anytime I felt like giving up, or felt scared of not knowing what was coming next.

Shortly after graduation I got a job, then another one, and another one — until having less than two jobs felt weirdly abnormal.

Refined by Fire | Arielle Estoria

I hustled all day and all night but I was happy and felt filled with purpose, until one of those jobs came crashing to an end. I wasn’t being paid, I wasn’t at peace in the work environment and I knew that bad things were happening behind closed doors.

I had to leave, but I grieved the loss of a connection I had hoped would make all my dreams of becoming a poet come true.

I was back to not one or two but six jobs – doing all that work just to (barely) feed one person.

What in the world was I doing?

Was this my purpose–to live life as a struggling artist?

Refined by Fire | Arielle Estoria

I never would have imagined that not even two years later I would be traveling and doing poetry, that I would have gigs every month doing what I love. No one told me and yet everyone knew, except me.

The fun part is not knowing because if we did, it would deter us from enjoying the journey of it all.

Refined by Fire | Arielle Estoria

I had the honor of writing and performing a poem for The Yellow Conference, a conference equipping and encouraging creative entrepreneurial women. The 2017 theme was, “The Present Journey” because we can get so caught up in where we’re going and how we’ll get there but ignore the importance of the moments it takes us to get there. This is a snippet of the poem I shared with them below, in hopes that it would also encourage you and your journey.

Where you are right now 

Is exactly where you should be

Your story is not any slower or less important than anyone else’s

And your journey is not in vain,

it is the very place where you slowly become 

exactly who you are meant to be 


See it’s not about where we are going

It’s about how we are getting there 

It’s about every small beginning before our first leap

It’s about how we ignored fear and decided to take the first leap 

It’s about how we are still afraid and yet we do it anyway


Where you are going, will not be the most magical

The most magical is in the mountains you climbed to get there

It’s about how resilient and brave you were to keep climbing


Remember how you got here

the little beginnings, the soft whisper of starting

The tug on your heart that convinced you that you were made for more

Because you were made for made

The uncertainty you felt and yet the passion to keep going 

Dedicating your life to whatever may come your way 

Every tedious step, a beautiful addition to the story — to your story 


So embrace the JOURNEY

You are not done yet

For it is only the most beautiful beginning 

Refined by Fire | Arielle Estoria Refined by Fire | Arielle Estoria

Take in all these moments, even the really hard ones. The moments when you’re crying on your bedroom floor or in your car.

The moments when there’s no money in your account and someone offers to take you to lunch–put your pride down and go eat the free food!

Take in every beautiful and hard valley moments so that you can appreciate the view from the mountain. Take a deep breath, know that you are filled with purpose, and enjoy the journey.


Arielle Estoria







Life / Motherhood / News

A (love) letter from the editor


I still remember my first outfit post with The Refined Woman: a metallic tweed pencil skirt, tights & nude pumps, a cream and nude cardigan. It makes me cringe and it makes me smile.

my style has changed. a lot.

In the beginning it was so simple, I never could have imagined what The Refined Woman would become or how it would change me. It all started with Kat and I – our friendship and a shared devotion to J. Crew. When she approached me with the idea of expanding The Refined Woman beyond a feature on her wedding photography blog, I couldn’t say yes fast enough. 

I jumped on board as a way to explore my love for fashion, to highlight my style and have an excuse to put together outfits. It was a passion project, an escape from my normal work as a photographer. It was also a way to work on something with Kat – it was thrilling to be starting something with a colleague and friend. After spending many hours a week staring at a computer screen, I loved the idea of joining a team. Even if it was just the two of us. 

our first big photoshoot with Bess Friday. I wish these pants still fit.
our first (and only) christmas card. I was pregnant with charlie here.
photoshoot with jessica burke for our first big website redo.

Over the years The Refined Woman has changed a lot – we’ve gone from sharing style stories to our real life struggles with singleness, pregnancy and postpartum depression, along with the stories of countless women I admire.

The evolution of The Refined Woman has been a reflection of the inward evolution of my own heart as well. When we started, refined meant polished. Eventually it came to mean the process of being refined  – being shaped, smoothed out, molded in the fire. And this process has been messy and, at times, very painful. 

Running a business with your best friend is all fun and games until you disappoint her. I never imagined that Kat and I would have so many hard conversations as we have navigated being in different time zones and going through various intense life circumstances. 

When we started, my ideas of success involved fame, fortune and front row seats at New York Fashion week. I see now that the success we have achieved is of a much different — and far more valuable kind. God intended to use The Refined Woman to refine me as a person.

I never knew how much I could possibly grow in until I started failing my team. But I also never could fully appreciate just how special my own gifts were until my team told me so.

It’s easy to think that some things are easy simply because they’re easy for you.  Kat and I may have a shared love for blue jeans and Justin Bieber, but our strengths could not be farther apart on the spectrum, and finding out where I fit has been a priceless gift.

The Refined Woman team has taught me more about myself than perhaps anything else I’ve done save for my marriage to Aaron almost 10 years ago, and that self knowledge cannot be bought cheaply. I am forever grateful to Kat for her willingness to enter into the messy with me so that we could grow and push through to everything we have accomplished together over the past 6 years. 

So why am I walking away now?

Because I can’t do all the things.

Because Motherhood.

Because I have to choose. And I choose myself. Choose health. Choose my kids. Choose my marriage. 

We praise the superwoman because she does it all. 

But that’s not who I am and it’s not who I was made to be.


Mom Life. Photo by Gina Foti
party of four. photo by Ashley Kelemen.

And that’s not who The Refined Woman is either. Together we’ve realized a truly refined woman has grace on her side. She says no sometimes. She is able to find life and hope in a “no” even if that no is to something very, very good. The Refined Woman is a good thing, but I am hoping in a new season for myself. 

Even after having kids, I have still tried to do it all. I am all about dream-chasing and hustling, and I have a partner who supports my work 110% – even when he is tired and even when it’s hard for him.

On the one hand, I could use that support to keep moving forward. On the other hand, it compels me to choose a new path for us, one in which I slow down and find a more sustainable route.

I don’t want to perpetuate the illusion that you won’t sacrifice a lot to keep chasing your dreams. I have started to see some sacrifices mount. Because being a mom (for me) requires 110% of myself, and I’m not naturally organized or disciplined.

I’ve noticed that many areas of my life have been suffering in service of all my work– important things like my sleep, my health, and finally, but maybe most devastatingly, my creativity. My God-given joy in creating beautiful things, which is at the very core of who I am.

This is a price I am unwilling to pay. So it’s bittersweet to walk away from something as good as The Refined Woman. I adore the community we have built and I cherish every single comment, every woman who has taken the time to tell me what this space means to them. It hurts to walk away from pouring out for you. But I feel the shift of a new season for me, one that is focused inward to reclaim some of myself.  I want to say yes to new possibilities and new creations waiting to be revealed in me and by me. 

I have loved being on this journey so far, I hope you’ll stay in touch with me, because I will forever be here for you. 



Boss Ladies / Life

Boss Ladies | Jessie Artigue


Boss Ladies | Jessie Artigue

Photos c/o : Christa Norman

Jessie Artigue is a style expert, on-air host and entrepreneur with a decade of experience in the fashion, beauty & lifestyle industries.  She is the creator of Season Everyday — An ethically made,100% silk dress design that can be worn as at least five different garments. As a notable leader in blogging and social media since 2007, she mentors and teaches young women all over the world about how to design their own version of a flavorful life.  She is extremely grateful for a vibrant and diverse career, but is currently most proud of the podcast that she produces and co-hosts with her husband called Marriage is Funny.

Growing up I really wanted to be​
A news anchor! I used to pull the family dinner table against the wall in our kitchen (instant studio desk!) and angle the lamp toward myself (instant studio lights!) before reading my own broadcast straight from the newspaper while my mom cooked dinner. I still have a major fascination with the media and I follow the careers of network news anchors/reporters the way that my husband follows major league baseball.

My go-to order at a coffee shop
An Americano, black. (I travel with my own packets of monkfruit sweetener to add.) My “fancy” order is at Rose Park Roasters in Long Beach because they make their own homemade coconut milk from scratch so I end up adding a splash of that as well!

I don’t know how I ever lived without
Our little neighborhood here in Long Beach, CA. Belmont Shore is a combination of the best things about every place that we’ve called home, and that’s saying a lot because we’ve lived in some fabulous US cities.

Boss Ladies | Jessie Artigue

One thing people don’t know about me is
That I have vivid recurring dreams about whales and german shepherds. (Though never at the same time.) Can someone please tell me what this means?

I got started with my current career
Because I was ready to transition out of the full-time blogging industry that I’d been a part of for nearly 8 years. After building a successful business around digital content and consulting for many fashion and lifestyle brands, I felt ready to take on a new challenge.

What I love about my work is
I get to help women feel confident and express themselves by what they wear! Also: playing dress up in real life… A childhood fantasy come true!

Boss Ladies | Jessie Artigue

My real life hero is
My husband. Our relationship is FAR from perfect (and we’re happily honest about that on our show), but both agree that we are more resilient, more vibrant, and more compassionate people because we have each other.

The dumbest thing I did when I was starting out was
Not taking the time to maximize my site and our images for SEO! I shake my head every time I think about how long it would take me to go back and tag everything correctly. Oy vay.

My typical [week]day looks like
Waking up with the news on TV while I make my breakfast/coffee, and then I spend quiet time journaling and reading my Bible while I eat. I start work around 9am and always try to finish my “big deal” items for Season in the morning, and then I work out around lunch time before coming home to shower and scarf down something simple and fresh. Most afternoons are styling sessions, event meetings, errands or general marketing tasks before heading outside to hang with the neighbors before starting dinner. The exceptions to these “normal days” are typically filled with speaking engagements, photo shoots, TV gigs or podcasting, but it all depends on the time of year and what we’re pursuing at the moment!

Boss Ladies | Jessie Artigue

I used to think success meant
A fancy title at a creative agency or amazing brand.

My current definition of success is
Working hard in my day-to-day so I can love on my people in the best ways that I can.

I know my work/life balance is out of sync when
I have to open my laptop back up after dinner and work from bed. When this happens, I know it’s time to ask for (and possibly hire) help OR have my husband pep talk me into reorganizing my priorities.

Boss Ladies | Jessie Artigue

The last time I created something I was proud of was
Earlier this year! My line of ethically made silk dresses has been brewing on my heart for a while (I designed the prototype over seven years ago), and it has been such a delight to see them finally come to fruition. Can’t wait to see where the line takes us next!

I wish I could tell my younger self
All of the crazy random experiences that you encounter will end up teaching you things that will provide a ton of help as you get further down the road!

The legacy I hope to leave is
Something that has turned into a constant prayer: Lord, please continue to use me as a reflection of your generous love!








Intern Spotlight | Kitty Williams


Photos c/o:  Kat Harris

How did you find The Refined Woman?

I don’t remember the exact moment I found The Refined Woman or the exact moment I followed, but it has been a constant source of open, vulnerable and real conversation in my life ever since. I saw an Instagram post last spring looking for interns. It sounded like the best internship ever, and it is.

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

Being a refined woman means loving myself through all of my ups and downs and realizing I am not perfect and that is to be celebrated.

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

I want to write more for me. I write plenty for various assignments but I want to make sure I start setting aside time to focus on my own thoughts.

What does legacy mean to you?

To me, legacy is less about what I’m remembered for and more about the impact I have in the lives of others. I hope my legacy is a feeling of being cared about.

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

  1. Believe in yourself. Don’t rely on others to tell you that you are good enough; know it.
  2. Take more risks. Don’t let life happen around you.
  3. Stop trying to please others. Live your life for yourself.

Who is a real life hero for you? Give us a few sentences why.

My mother has always been my hero and best friend. Her love for her family is something I appreciate endlessly and she never has a bad word to say about anyone. She also is unapologetically herself. She knows when she needs to shut out the world and take a nap. Basically, she is everything I aspire to be.

My dad is also my hero for many reasons, one of them being that as he was reading what I wrote about my mother I guarantee he was beaming and not for one second thinking ‘why didn’t she choose me?’

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

Laughing. Whether that’s because of friends, family, or a movie.

What was the last TV show you binge-watched?

This is tough to answer, mostly because I watch a lot of Netflix, but also because Netflix choices reveal a lot about a person. I recently binge-watched The Crazy Ones again on Netflix. It was one of Robin Williams’s final acting credits.

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

Nantucket has been my happy place for as long as I’ve been visiting. There’s something so special about the atmosphere that it feels like I’m home whenever I’m there.

What is your go-to karaoke song?

I’m not fond of singing publicly so I tend to avoid karaoke but I have a hard time not singing along to every Sara Bareilles song I hear.

Guilty pleasures… Go:

Spending a whole day wearing pajamas and watching Netflix, eating fries as a meal, buying myself men’s clothes when they look comfy.

Life / News / Style

Why Fashion Means More Than You Think // Darling Feature


Be sure + check out this feature on Darling Magazine today! // Photos c/o Carter Fish

The opportunity to freely and creatively express ourselves through fashion is a gift. A few weeks ago, I gathered some dear friends in New York City to walk in a fashion show with Anthropologie to showoff their fall collection and drawing inspiration from Darling’s fall issue.

Each look was different and unique, from throwbacks to 70s retro vibes and jewel tones to minimalist and monochromatic color palettes. One of my personal favorites as a self-proclaimed tomboy: a feminine and airy take on menswear.

At a first glance, none of those things seemed to fit together. It could have almost felt random.

However, upon a second look we can begin to see threads of cohesiveness in seemingly unrelated styles. The jeweled retro romper finds connection in the flare of the velvet overalls and maroon tasseled earrings. And the feminine twist to the mens’ button-up has hints of retro with it’s tiny plaid pattern and patent leather heels.

Sometimes all we see is how different we are from each other. Perhaps it just takes a moment of pause and reflection to dig in and see how there are pieces of connection woven throughout each and every one of us.


It dawned on me that though we have varying artistic expressions — it’s our differences that unite us. Isn’t that true for life too?  That is what inspires me so much about fashion: the physical is a representation of such deeper things.

We are better together.


The more freely you are able to be you, the more freely I am able to be me, and so on. Style gives us an opportunity to invite others into a more meaningful dialogue.

Thank you Darling + Anthropologie for giving me space to get powerful and diverse women together to connect on not just fashion, but the heart behind it as well.


Life / Profiles



Hilary Rushford // Photos c/o Kat Harris, The Refined Woman // Written by Kitty Williams for The Refined Woman 

“I am a teacher and a ‘psychologist,’ though I have degrees in neither [field],” says Hilary Rushford, referring to her work as a stylist and business coach.

Guiding others on how to feel at peace in their wardrobes and grow their business was not her original plan.

Rushford was a performer, including with the Radio City Rockettes, before she decided to take a hiatus from auditioning. “I thought I was just starting a side job to replace all of the side jobs I hated,” she says of her start as a stylist. She began by teaching one-on-one but knew that what she was sharing would help many other women as well, so she started teaching online courses.

When she was three years into her business, one of her Instagram courses went viral. Keeping up with the growth took a toll on her wellbeing. “When you’re so deep into something, it’s hard to see all of the other effects of it,” says Rushford, reflecting on how this stress led to a total burnout.

She hit rock bottom but recognized what she needed to do: rest. For Rushford, this rest began with a plane ticket to Europe.

“I got on the plane thinking I was going for six weeks,” says Rushford. However, three weeks in she found herself reflecting on the trip. “I didn’t know what I was trying to accomplish, but I knew I wasn’t fifty percent of the way there so I just didn’t get back on the plane,” she says. She had been traveling, but exploring and experiencing new things left little time for rest and personal growth.

“Traveling itself is doing, and if you really want introspective time to heal and grow and learn… that’s different than traveling,” Rushford emphasizes. Her final weeks on sabbatical were spent focusing on healing, growing, and learning in the South of France.

“I ended up traveling for four months until I felt ready to come home and then I bought a ticket,” she says. Rushford recognizes that quick fixes are highly sought after, but they never give the results you need.

She is grateful for the burnout she experienced because it made her realize that adjustments needed to be made in her life. She returned to her dear Brooklyn feeling refreshed.

Having lived in Brooklyn for over a decade, Rushford has a sincere appreciation for this city. “New York has a bustling creative energy. It brings people that have big dreams and deep passion,” she says. “You move here because you want something extraordinary.”

Rushford herself has big dreams and deep passion. A defining New York moment for her was when she was talking on the phone with her mother after a final round of callbacks for Thoroughly Modern Milly on Broadway. She remembers thinking, “Even if I don’t get this role, I’m in the game. In the hardest business, in the hardest city, I’m in the mix.”

She also has sincere relationships with those in this city. “I know the names of my local flower guy and the guy who makes me avocado toast every morning at the café,” Rushford says with a smile.

On a more personal level, she treasures her relationships with her friends. She has a supportive community around her and knows that those friendships are something to prioritize. “I want to be the kind of friend who, if you got into a massive row with your boyfriend at midnight, you wouldn’t think, ‘she’s probably busy, I shouldn’t bother her’,” says Rushford.

There’s something electric she finds in the women drawn to New York. “The thing I appreciate most about them, whether they’re 23 or 51 is their incredible wisdom, earnest vulnerability, and ridiculous shenanigans that make me laugh,” Rushford says as a laugh escapes.

Another priority of hers is empowering women. “I really believe when a woman feels beautiful, she’s so much more powerful,” she says, “whether that’s in how she talks to her daughter or how she walks into a boardroom.”

Rushford was a powerful force even as a high school student. She remembers showing great leadership skills as an active member in the theater department. “It was an SNL cast of horrible theater teachers, yet that gave me a lot of opportunity to be a leader,” she reflects.

She continues to lead as her team grows. Rushford is now writing a book, is already thinking about the next book she will write, and is planning on creating a docu-series. Spending time traveling with loved ones and seeing loved ones is also on her agenda. “One of the reasons I started this business was I wanted to travel more,” says Rushford. “Whether that’s with my passport or to play Aunt Hil.”

As a dancer, she was always tied to the city in case she got an audition. Now, she is a thriving entrepreneur who has the freedom to travel, and who will still remember to stop for a dance break every once in a while on Instagram.




AnthroNYC + TRW Recap


Photos c/o Sylvie the Camera

Last week, I got to live one of my dreams:   creating space for women to gather, build community, and have meaningful connections.

It started a few months ago when Anthropologie invited me to host their Manhattan Fall Fashion Presentation.

When they reached out I couldn’t believe it.  The middle schooler in me who always dreamed of walking a runway was freaking out!

As we dove into the details I wondered if it could be about more than just fashion.  Could we find a way to create space for women to connect in a deeper way?

We started to dream up ways to transform a fashion show into a multi-faceted interactive experience.

My vision was a runway filled with  diverse women of different sizes, ethnicities, backgrounds, and careers.  I wanted women who were living purposeful lives.  Anthro said yes.

Then I asked if I could perform a spoken word before the show about what it meant to be a woman.  Confession:  I had never done this before.  They said yes

(Sometimes you have to commit to something to give yourself that push to get out of your comfort zone.)

Finally, I asked if I could host a panel with some of the women walking the runway to open up a dialogue on body positivity, and the importance of building meaningful relationships in our fast-paced city.  Again they said yes.

I don’t know why they kept telling me yes.  But I was so glad they did; it was an honor.

This was the first event of its kind for Anthropologie–and for me too!  Our hope was to have 100 attendees.  About an hour before the event started we had to close registration — we had nearly 200 guests!

As men and women started filing through the doors I stood anxiously backstage with the 16 women who were about to walk the runway.  The group included some of my best friends.  It also included women I’d looked up to for ages, who are filled with vision and purpose.  Getting to know them in the weeks leading up to the event affirmed what I admired in each of them.  I was overwhelmed with emotion at the tribe of women who came together to make my vision a reality.

Right before I walked on stage to perform the spoken word my friend so brilliantly wrote, I was a ball of nerves, my palms were clammy and sweaty.  My heart was racing.

Now that everyone was there I didn’t know if I actually had what it took to pull this off.  I saw the double doors behind the audience.  Running through them without looking back was tempting.  I could feel my fears and insecurities rising.  I had a choice to make.  I could run away, or lean into the nerves  and discomfort, and rise above it.

I really did pause to think about this.  My friend must’ve sensed my energy because she squeezed my arm and whispered to me:

You are a leader.

Look at the women you brought together.

You created this.

I looked her in the eye, half smiled, half nodded,  took a deep breath, and walked out to that stage backed by a crowd of women who were cheering me on.   And I leaned into it.

That moment sums up perfectly why I do what I do.  We need people around us to remind us of what’s true, to lift us up when we’re full of doubt, and spur us on towards greatness.  In my moment of doubt I was surrounded by the support of my tribe.  I need to be reminded of this just as much as the next person.

The night went on, and then I blinked and it was over.  It was a night of connection, laughter—even tears.  I saw old friends reconnecting.  Strangers exchanging numbers.  People lingering and not wanting to leave.  It truly was a dream come true.

Friends, thank you for support this vision.

Thank you for challenging me to live my message.

Thank you for your feedback.

Thank you for coming out to our events.

It feels like this is just the beginning.



This event was made possible by the amazing support of Anthropologie + our dedicated sponsors.  Thank you:


East Olivia



Winc Wines

Eva Hair NYC

Juice Beauty

Maman NYC

Darling Magazine

Danielle Bennet

Woops Bakery


Sylvie the Camera

Carter Fish

And to the Tribe of Powerful Women who walked with me:

Hilary Rushford

Krystal Bick

Simply Cyn

Maddie Greer

Janelle Lloyd

Brynn Watkins

Louisa Wells



Sephora Rose

Lauren Legato

Jess Sims

Tutti del Monte

Samantha Davis

Erica Chen


Life / The Refined Collective

The Refined Collective // Layers


Photo c/o Emily Scott

Woman. Daughter.  Sister.  Friend.  Christian.  Editor.  Speaker. Single. Photographer.  Writer.  Speaker.  Entrepreneur.

This tells you what I am, but it doesn’t tell you who I am.  There’s a big difference between what I am and who I am.   ‘What’ is one dimensional.

Who we are is multi-faceted—full of endless layers.


When we meet people it’s easy to ask, ‘what do you do?’  It’s drilled into our culture.  Society screams, You matter because of what you are and what you do.  Each time we ask it, we affirm that what we do is actually who we are.

If that’s case, we live in a flat and boring world.

Lately I have been tired — physically, emotionally, and spiritually.  And I haven’t been able to figure out why, because I prioritize rest and self-care.  But even after a day off, my wick seems shorter.

Recently I was at a retreat focused on rest.  I was tired, but I went anyway, praying God would have something for me in it.  And He did.

One of the first things we journaled about was ‘our work beneath the work.’  We have the work we do and the roles we fulfill on a daily basis.  We put in the hours, climb the corporate and social ladders.  This alone is taxing.

But layered beneath this is another type work.  It’s the thing churning from deep within that really drives us.

What are you looking for work to fulfill:

  • Your identity?
  • Your worth?
  • Your value?

Who are you trying to prove yourself to:

  • Your dad?
  • A coach?
  • An ex?

I have slipped into all of the above at different points in my life.  During the retreat God revealed that my exhaustion isn’t coming from lack of rest from my work—it’s a lack of rest from the churning work beneath the work.

I struggle with looking to the things I do to fulfill and validate me.  And often, I live like I’m the captain of my ship—responsible for my future and all that is around me. When I slip into that mindset, exhaustion is not far behind.

The reality is, if my future is completely up to me, and if I only matter because of the roles I carry and the things I accomplish— that is cause for distress.

It is a hamster wheel that will never stop. A ladder with no final rung.  We’ll always be looking for more.

Augustine profoundly wrote, “our souls are restless until they find rest in [God].”   As important as it is to prioritize physical rest, if we don’t address what drives us at a deeper level, we may never find true rest.

Are you tired? Beneath the titles, the roles, the work—who are you and what drives you?

What would it feel like if you released the work beneath your work?

We are more than what we do.  Let’s start living that way.




This series is a part of The Refined Collective.  Be sure +  check out these lovely ladies + their thoughts on Layers:  Brynn Watkins, Jackie Viramontez, Rebecca Hajek, Jessica HoffmanJulien Garman, and Yvette Jain.   Outfit via:  Vetta Capsule, Freda Salvador, Vele, + AYR.


Life / News

Relationships and Grief | Jené Barranco


Photos c/o Mia Barranco.

Jené is an avid collector of good books, movie quotes, glass bottles and vintage pitchers. She is also a dancer and a choreographer, and raised her children on a farm in the Loire River Valley in France for seven weeks, in a home full of creative spirits with musical ability. In her breakout book, Good Night, I Love You, she writes about her husband’s sudden and unexpected death, and her journey through overwhelming grief. On her blog, Eyes Str8 Ahead, Jene hopes to inspire others to examine their lives and search for their God-given purpose and pursue it with their whole heart.

Good night, I love you  — a simple phrase, one most of us say every day of our lives.

We say it to our parents at bedtime as a child.
We say it to someone we love as we roll over and fall asleep.
We even say it on the phone while separated from the one we love.

The words easily, and mindlessly, pass through our lips.  We never consider they may be the last words we speak to the person who holds our heart.

On February 22, 2011, I heard my husband speak these tender words for the very last time — the same words he uttered every single night for 25 years.

In 1986, we met and fell in love.  We married exactly one year after the date we met.   Twenty-four years and three children later, I lost the love of my life.  Our life as we knew it was wiped out, as if by a tsunami, in one devastating instant.  While on an overnight business trip, only to be away for twenty-four hours, he died in a car crash… less than an hour after speaking those five simple words.

I felt numb in the following months.  So what now?  Where do I go from here?  How do I begin?  Am I even breathing?

My body went into autopilot. My mornings, days, and nights ran together into one long string of survival.

I realized the Proverb I had clung to as my daily mantra for the previous 20 years had been deeply rooted in my soul for such a time as this:

Let your eyes look straight ahead, and your eyelids look right before you.  Ponder the path of your feet, and let all your ways be established.  Proverbs 4:25-26

I had no idea how crucial this verse would become for my survival through life’s most difficult times.   My daily self talk became: Just do the next thing Jené, keep your eyes straight ahead, take it slowly, intentionally step forward.

Life must and did go on.

I kept breathing.  I faced my grief head on, wanting to learn all I could from it.  Grief is a long journey down a road of utter darkness and pain with an unknown distance to travel before the sun rises again.

But I kept taking the next step, and the next, with an unaware boldness.

Grief recently entered my world again. Not directly, but no matter how indirectly or directly it strikes our world, once it has come to our own doorstep, the compassion for others quickly rises when we learn someone else has just opened their door to find inescapable death and grief waiting for them.

A close friend called to tell me her best friend’s son had just died.  He was a newlywed.  In an instant, a young bride lost her husband in a car accident. No warning.  No preparation.  These things we cannot explain away.  They happen.  Married for only 2 months, they had yet to even receive their wedding photos from the photographer.

My thoughts are with this bride.  If I could look into her eyes, what would I say?  What words could I offer her to help move forward from a tragic loss of love?  What are the most basic things I could say to help her heal while journeying through the dark valley that lay ahead of her?

I remember going to see my internist a couple of months after my husband died.  My heart rate and blood pressure were all over the place.  My sleep was nonexistent.

He offered basic advice. “Cry.  When you feel the urge arise, cry.  Don’t push it down.  Let it out.  Now, you can’t emote everywhere you go-there will be times when you need to hold it together.  But when you can, where you can, go ahead and cry.”

I walked away from that appointment feeling empowered.  I was told what to do.  I love bullet point lists.  I’m a “just give me the facts bottom line” kind of person.  My mind made a mental check, “Cry. It’s good for me.”

If I could talk to this young widow, I would give her my bullet points…

  • Cry, or you may drown.
  • Don’t apologize for your tears.
  • Lay down stoicism.
  • Get out of bed each day.
  • Journal – it’s the only way I survived.
  • Make time for solitude.
  • Do the next thing, and the next thing, and the next thing.
  • Take the healing process seriously, because it is serious.
  • Run towards God, not away.
  • Choose wisely whom you allow in your inner circle – the ones who will feel comfortable with your silence, your vulnerability, and your pain.
  • Take deep breaths.  Frequently.
  • Talk about him.
  • Take care of your grief – don’t put a Band-Aid on it.  Treat the wound.
  • Practice soul care.
  • Don’t put grief in a closet or sweep it under a rug to make your life look clean.
  • Don’t go back to business as usual too soon.
  • Change up your routine.
  • Occasionally do hard things.  They may seem impossible in the moment but are essential to heal and move forward.

Let your eyes look straight ahead, and your eyelids look right before you-one step at a time. The sun will rise again.