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 / Profiles



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?



Inspiration / Life / News

Relationships and Loving Yourself | Emily Jansen

Relationships and Loving Yourself | 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.

What does “loving yourself well” mean?  We live in an age that has brought the roots of vulnerability to the surface of public life.

Our social channels show us how to celebrate our imperfections with hash tags like #leaningin #risingstrong and #shepersisted.  We know better than ever how to love ourselves well.

But, do we?

We are always dissatisfied with something – who we are, what we want to be and how our stories are playing out. Does our curated vulnerability bring true satisfaction?  The world stamps its “likes” on our posts, but deep inside we find that we can’t.

Relationships and Loving Yourself | Emily Jansen

As I finished my first year of grad school, I looked forward to spending the summer in California and taking a breather from research papers.   I was worn out from saying yes too many times and tired of striving and performing.

I was soul-weary.  Heading west, I knew I needed a re-set.  It took time, humility to recognize limitations, and frankly, self-permission to strip the layers of activity masking places in need of deeper healing.

I slept in and read books.

I drank good wine.

I hiked.

I listened to music performances.

I wrote poetry at coffee shops.

I quit running and did yoga.

I ditched my heels for Vans, and skipped the hairdryer.

I got lost in art museums and forgot the time.

I talked to strangers at coffee shops.

I prayed a lot…not focusing on requests, but remembrance and gratitude.

I rested from expectation and self-inflicted performance.

Relationships and Loving Yourself | Emily Jansen One day, I read this phrase by St. Augustine: “Our hearts are restless until they rest in Thee.”  I had read it so many times, but ​was freshly ​reminded that true rest and love will never come from me, but from abiding in the love of Someone who offers complete acceptance.

Hebrews 4:9 says, “There remains a Sabbath-rest for the people of God; for anyone who enters God’s rest also rests from their works, just as God did from his.  Let us, therefore, make every effort to enter that rest.

Make an effort to rest?  Strive and rest don’t seem to go together.  It doesn’t make sense. ​

But it does.  We do not naturally lean towards resting.  We lean towards proving  — to ourselves and others — just how loveable we are.  Relationships and Loving Yourself | Emily Jansen

When we stop striving to be enough, we declare what is already more than enough – God’s love.

For me, self-love doesn’t start with adding on – it starts with stripping away the effort, lies, and motions.

When I try to be more vulnerable with God and others I can actually begin to rest and breathe in His voice and love for me.

Truly, raw love is refined and real, and ​when we stop trying so hard, we realize we are happier just being.





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!