Jelena is my spirit animal. She and I met via a fashion-inspired collision at Daybreaker and have since built a beautiful friendship. I was fortunate enough to meet Jelena at a very exciting time. She had just begun work on The Confetti Project and I was completely in awe of her dedication to the project. Over the last couple of years, I have watched Jelena grow as an artist and an entrepreneur and I'm so proud of her journey. Jelena is usually the one doing the interviewing, so I was really excited when she accepted my invitation for this spotlight. She is a designer, writer, photographer, unofficial therapist, and J-Lo fanatic and I'm so lucky to have her in the #GirlGang.
Make sure to follow The Confetti Project on instagram for a constant stream of celebration and inspiration.
Read on below to learn about her empowering morning routine, how she gets the perfect brown lip, and what fires up her passion.
Where do you find your inspiration?
Once I open my eyes, anything goes. I'm a super visual person so I tend to absorb the most random of things on a daily basis - from a beautiful ensemble on the street to the geometrical patterns of a building. Visual inspiration is the basis for my creative career - I tumblr'd for two years before I went to design school and have massive photographic archives of anything you'd imagine. It would be an understatement to say that these fuel my creativity - the first step of anything I create is going through archives or doing new research. I believe that's an integral first step in any creative process. I can't not mention my obsession with coffeetable books: the perfect elixir of inspiration and information. Aside from this visual eye candy, people inspire me. Conversations. Little tidbits of words that become salient in my mind.
What’s your special sauce? That little trick you do before walking out the door to perk you up and make you feel your most you?
I have a morning practice that I've gotten to hone over the past year: it begins with a 3-minute plank. (Yes, it's hard but there's something empowering about doing something you didn't think you could do first thing in the morning.) This is followed by a 3-minute breath of fire, 10-minute meditation and a 3-minute head stand. The power and balance I get from this short routine is intoxicating. I think ritual is important. I listen to music from soundclound, wear outfits I can climb trees in and try to do at least one thing a day that scares me.
Who are your mentors? Who do you look up to?
If you walked into my room you would see a wall of JLO. She's been a huge mentor to me since I was young as she was the first curvy woman on the scene to not be considered fat. We have a similar body type and aesthetic so I admire anyone who can shift perceptions. Her work ethic and healthy lifestyle is something I strive to embody. I would say my biggest mentor is my father. He came to America in his late teens as a refugee and has managed to build an empire. Anything worthy I have learned has come from him as he is the most hardworking and generous man I have ever met.
What makes you happy no matter what? Like if you’re having one of those no good rotten days where everything is terrible, what’s the thing that pulls you off the ledge?
I think awareness that everything we feel is temporary really helps. When I would feel low I would always make myself feel worse by adding guilt into the mix. Now, when I feel down I accept it and know that it's just another facet of my emotional spectrum. It just means that I'm pre-breakthrough and will be bouncing up soon. This is something that's definitely harder said than done but I do have a to-do list of things at hand for when I don't feel happy which include: a hot shower (usually listening to Coldplay), a nice yoga stretch sesh, reading my latest fiction, smoking a nice joint and watching a documentary or indie rom com. I tend to immerse myself into someone else's world - with music, books or movies - when I don't feel great about my own.
What’s your formula for a killer outfit?
A killer outfit comes with killer confidence, first off. For me, I think it's knowing what type of body type you have and playing along the lines of what makes it looks amazing. I love jumpsuits, bohemian capes and high waisted skirts. I've learned that those things look great on me and when I put them on I feel like I can put out my highest vibrations in the world.
What’s something you struggle with in your career?
Finding balance. This summer I found myself getting to the point of burn out every week and began asking myself why I continually let this happen. Part of me loves it though. I'm obsessed with integrating my lifestyle with my career - doing what I love and making a living doing it. With that comes a lot of blurred lines when it comes to boundaries. I could easily stay up until 3AM working on anything.
Tell us about a time when you hit a breaking point, a fork in the road? Have you ever wanted to quit and run away to Bali?
Haha, we'll I am running off to Bali this winter! But, i'll be working there and doing meaningful work. It's all about finding out what type of life you want to lead and then taking the necessary steps to manifest it. I want independence and autonomy from having to be somewhere all the time so I decided to go make a documentary in Southeast Asia to really embody that work/travel existence. In terms of breaking points, I think we all deal with them on a daily basis, especially when you're an entrepreneur or are doing something trailblazing on your own. The life of a creative is a pendulum of extreme emotion of high's and low's but I think being constantly reminded of why you are doing what you're doing is important. I can't pinpoint an exact time but there have been moments where I've second-guessed what I'm doing for whatever reasons but I trust that the universe has my back and that everything is meant to unfold the way it should. I honestly have no idea what I'm doing but it feels good and I'm going to ride with that for as long as I can.
What is something you’d say you are always fighting against? What’s the thing you have to pep-talk yourself about?
I'm always fighting against my own judgments and criticisms. I've learned to block out the unnecessary noise of the world and surround myself with quality people doing cool shit. However, I struggle to treat myself with care and maintain patience with a present mind. I'm always thinking of the next moment - the next challenge - the next chapter. It's important to treat yourself like your best friend. Would you say any of those critical things to someone you love? Everyday we wake up with air in our chests and our limbs in tact is a miracle in itself - I try to fight for always holding on to that gratitude in every moment.
What is the skill you picked up as a kid/teen that you still rely on today (i.e. teaching yourself html/powerpoint/etc., getting what you want from mom and dad, making a great sandwich)?
Being the oldest of three girls, I became a natural liaison between the parents and kids, so I've been able to hone a variety of skills from that: being a mediator, learning how to effectively communicate and also being able to adapt to any situation. My parents are both immigrants so I had to do a lot of language brokering - translating for them in public places - so this has given me a perspective of open-mindedness to all people. Mix that with my curiosity in general and you have someone that is always asking people inquisitive, important questions - which is something that has become a backbone for my creative work.
What are you most proud of in your life? Can be career or non-career related.
I'm most proud how far my passion project - The Confetti Project - has come. Before that, I never finished anything and was always struggling in a sea of un-executed ideas. Once I realized there was something special there, I gave myself a three month challenge: photograph 50 people in 3 months and make a book out of it. I'd wanted to become a better photography and I'd always wanted to make my own coffeetable book. Why not invent the opportunity for myself? It was the first endeavor where I had a very clear end goal and I worked my ass off to accomplished it. And I did! 10 months later, it is growing and evolving and spreading. I would have never known if I didn't give myself the opportunity to go full force because once you do that, it gets addicting. Now I am constantly giving myself challenges to the next level and it has become part of who I am.
What is the one thing you throw on when you head out the door that gives you that warm glow from deep in the tummy that says, “I know I look good”?
Girl, a nice pair of lipstick or lipbalm can go a long way. I'm all about the neutral lips that give you just a little bit of extra pop - Buxom's "Brooklyn" is a huge go-to along with Revlon's "Coffee Bean." Any lipbalm from Fresh is amazing because it has a tint to it but it super hydrating and silky. You can find a good one along any price point and can even cocktail them to your own liking. You'll probably find me wearing lipstick 80% of the time and it is by far my biggest Two Egg accessory I rock on the daily. Oh, and confetti of course! As someone who is always trailing confetti, I want to help make it a thing! Why not go out with your girl gang and be sparkling all over the place?