Follow Her Friday: Olivia McMillan

We’re inspired each day by the stories you share that show how you’re #AerieREAL. This week we’re sharing the story of 17-year-old Olivia McMillan, an extremely talented and determined young woman who stands for body image, beauty, and more as she breaks the pageantry mold as Miss America’s Outstanding Teen (the little sister to Miss America).

A high school student currently residing in Warner Robins, Georgia. Olivia spends each day balancing her studies, practicing her singing (she’s an unbelievable opera singer), representing young women, volunteering, and applying to colleges. Despite her successes, Olivia faced many challenges growing up and it’s the way she faced them that inspires us today.  Read on below to learn more about Olivia and to follow her journey!

Follow Her Friday: Olivia McMillan

Olivia sporting her #AerieREAL tee at school.

Aerie: Hi, Olivia! We’re so excited to talk with you. Can you tell us a little bit more about your background? 

Olivia: Like many of you, I’ve faced various challenges in my life. As a biracial baby, I was adopted by white parents in Georgia, and so was my brother. At one point I turned to emotional eating to help me cope with the special needs of my brother and the challenges it posed to my family. Singing became my refuge. I joined a local university’s children’s choir, sang with the youth from my church, and began taking classical voice lessons with a private instructor. I also discovered pageants as a wonderful opportunity to showcase my talent and develop poise and stage presence…and I was fortunate to be awarded $25,500 in scholarship money for my college education by Miss America’s Outstanding Teen!

Follow Her Friday: Olivia McMillan

Olivia, Miss America’s Oustanding Teen and and Kira Kazantsev, Miss America. – Photo by Allen Dye

Aerie: What does #AerieReal mean to you?
Olivia: I believe #AerieReal is necessary and relevant for teens all over the world, and it’s something I’ve been waiting for, for a long time. As a 5’10” biracial girl who has struggled with weight her entire life, it was hard for me to look at magazines with seemingly perfect models on the covers. I told myself that that is the way I was supposed to look, as if that form of perfection was the goal. But for me and so many others, that “goal” is unattainable. The #AerieReal campaign features beautiful and confident women who are comfortable in their own skin and refuse to be retouched to live up to society’s ideal of perfection. It is inspiring to finally be able to look at models and feel like I can relate to them. Teens everywhere can now say, “Oh, that model kind of looks like me.” They are perfect in their imperfections, giving girls everywhere the confidence to be themselves and to embrace their bodies. That is beautiful.

Follow Her Friday: Olivia McMillan

Aerie: What makes you #AerieReal?
Olivia: There are many stereotypes attached to the “pageant girl” image and because of them, I thought I could never be successful in pageants. After winning my local pageant as a size 16, many thought that I was too large to compete on the state level. I was even told I was “fat.” At 16 years old, this was really hard to hear. It made me take a good look at myself, and I realized that I wasn’t fat, but I wasn’t healthy either. I made the decision to work hard to get fit and become healthy for myself. I lost 50 pounds over the last year, and competed in my state pageant as a size 8-10. I was honored to win Miss Georgia’s Outstanding Teen, and then I went on to win the national pageant competing against 52 other young women. I refused to let anyone tell me who I should be or how I should look. I took control of my health and my body, and was able to break the pageant stereotype. I was myself through and through, and to me that is what #AerieReal is all about!

Follow Her Friday: Olivia McMillan

Olivia and her girlfriends, Laura, Kayla and Hannah hanging out on spring break.

Aerie: Where do you see yourself in three years?
Olivia: In three years, I see myself in college being a normal student. I have had a pageant title all four years of high school. It has been a blessing, but also a lot of hard work and a great deal of responsibility. It will be nice to relax and focus on school and friends. I plan to be a vocal performance major in college so it will also be pretty amazing getting to do what I love every day!

Aerie: What is your life motto?
Olivia: My life motto is “Beeee yourself.” This is a quote from the genie in Disney’s “Aladdin,” and my Dad has been saying this to me since I was a little kid. It’s definitely helped me in my experience with pageants. I used to try to be what I thought everyone else wanted. That didn’t work for me. I am a biracial girl who is adopted, has a brother with special needs, and has lost 50 pounds. I used to try to cover up my story because it made me different, but I soon realized it made me special. I learned that if I was going to be successful in pageants or life in general, I needed to be myself because everyone else is already taken!

Follow Her Friday: Olivia McMillan

Olivia and her BFF McKenzie at the Grand Canyon.

Aerie: What is your biggest accomplishment thus far?
Olivia: My biggest accomplishment is definitely winning Miss America’s Outstanding Teen. The organization is committed to helping communities, and each titleholder has a personal platform. Mine is the Sibling Support Project, which helps the brothers and sisters of children with special needs. I’m also a National Teen Goodwill Ambassador for Children’s Miracle Network Hospitals. I’ve had the chance to meet many incredible people, perform, speak on behalf of the MAOTeen organization and support so many important causes.
It was a long journey, but I’m so happy that I could pave the way for other girls who felt like they couldn’t succeed in pageants. I got an e-mail from a girl shortly after I won and she told me that she had never competed in pageants because she struggled with her weight. She told me that she saw me win and it inspired her to compete in her very first local pageant. I am so humbled and honored to be able to inspire others to follow their dreams. I am proud that I broke the mold of what people have always said a pageant winner should be. I am even more proud that this has given other girls the confidence to go out there and do the same!

Aerie: Do you have a role model? If so who is he/she and why does he/she inspire you?
Olivia: My role model is Kate Winslet. Not only is she an incredible actress, but she has remained so humble and grounded even in the face of huge success and stardom. She encourages women everywhere to love themselves and to love their bodies. She struggled with weight in her youth and is now a healthy weight for her. She says that she will never change who she is to fit other people’s expectations. That is so inspiring to me. I applaud her realness and her promotion of self-love. In a society where size 2 is expected, it is so beautiful to see a woman in Hollywood preaching about the importance of being healthy for your own body. She is amazing.

Follow Her Friday: Olivia McMillan

Aerie: Do you have a favorite Aerie item?
Olivia: I LOVE Aerie Sweatpants! I am a very laid back kind of girl, and when I am not making pageant appearances my style is usually pretty relaxed. Comfort is key for me, and Aerie sweatpants are so soft. They are definitely a “must have” for me!

Follow Her Friday: Olivia McMillan

Olivia with two of her best friends since childhood after winning Miss Georgia’s Outstanding Teen.

Aerie: What are your three things you always have with you?
Olivia: Lip balm, my best friends, and hand sanitizer (I’m kind of a germaphobe!)

Aerie: What’s your favorite song to sing?
Olivia: I am classically trained, so I love to sing classical songs when I perform, like “Nessun Dorma” or “O Mio Babbino Caro.” But when I’m just jamming in my car with friends, I love to sing/scream out “All About that Bass” whenever it comes on the radio.

Aerie:  If you could pick any song to be your own theme song, what would it be?
Olivia: My theme song would be “Just Fine” by Mary J. Blige. When my brother was diagnosed with Autism and bipolar disorder, my parents brought in a family therapist who introduced us to this song. It is all about loving yourself and loving your life no matter the cards you are dealt. “See I wouldn’t change my life, my life’s just fine.”

Aerie: Do you have a secret talent, skill or quirk? Do tell!
Olivia: I love to do impersonations or accents. My favorite one to do is an Australian accent. I even convinced a classmate that I was a foreign exchange student from Australia!

Thank you, Olivia! Inspired by Olivia’s story too? Follow her on Instagram and Twitter to keep up to date on her adventures!

xoxo,

Aerie

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Wear America x Wit & Whistle

WearAmerica_Header_Wit&Whistle

Please introduce yourself, your business name, and where you’re from.
I’m Amanda Wright, the girl behind Wit & Whistle. I design and illustrate witty greeting cards and whistle-worthy paper goods. My husband and I live in a quirky 1970s A-frame house in Cary, North Carolina with two dogs, three chickens, and an absurd quantity of houseplants.

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You have been painting since you were a child, what sparked this interest at such a young age?
I’ve been at it so long that I can’t even remember what first motivated me to start creating. I believe my urge to create is a God-given gift, so it was natural for me to start making art as early as I could. I’m sure I was hooked from the moment I experienced the intoxicating aroma of my first box of crayons.

Where do you draw your inspiration from?
I’m inspired by my love of drawing and my desire to indulge in light-hearted creativity. My goal for Wit & Whistle has always been to create a line of products that are both funny and beautiful. I leave plenty of room for frivolity in my designs, because creating is so much more enjoyable if you don’t take yourself too seriously. I want my work to feel like play!

What does the day in the life of Amanda Wright entail?
After breakfast I make a cup of tea and head to my studio. I have a short commute, just a walk down the stairs to the basement. In the morning I ship orders, reply to emails, send invoices, and reorder supplies—all the necessary but boring stuff. I try to reserve my afternoons and evenings for creative things like working on new designs, taking photos, brainstorming, and writing blog posts.

What was the first product you started selling?
I first tried to sell sets of block-printed snowflake cards around the holidays back in 2008. I painstakingly hand-printed each card in metallic silver ink. They were lovely, but no one bought a single one! So, I went back to my sketchbook and came up with a few witty Valentine’s Day cards. I had more success (and much more fun) when I started incorporating my sense of humor into my work.

Educate us on your design process and making methods, what it’s like and why do you love it?
My design process involves spending a lot of quality time with my sketchbook. I usually curl up on the couch with my dogs while I draw. Once I finish a pen and ink illustration for a new product, I scan it into my computer to make layout adjustments and add color. I love all the little imperfections in my work that make it obvious each one of my designs was drawn by hand.

witandwhistle_process1Amanda’s sketches coming to life! Jotter above and Spiral Notebook below.

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If you had one product to describe as your signature item, which would it be and why?
My “uterus” birthday card is my signature item. Slightly inappropriate greeting cards have always been my best sellers, and that particular card has been around almost since Wit & Whistle began. I think it’s the perfect blend of funny and awkward while still being pretty—just the way I like it.

We love your humorous approach on your cards and prints, do you consider yourself a ‘jokester’?
I don’t think of myself as a jokester, I just have a strange sense of humor. In the real world my “humorous approach” is usually just me saying weird things and getting strange looks from my friends, hah.

Describe your decorating style inside your home.
I like calming, neutral colors with interesting textures like metallic gold, exposed brick, and rustic wood. I prefer bright spaces with lots of natural light and a mix of old vintage finds with newer pieces. I have a weakness for anything mid-century modern. Above all, a house isn’t a home unless it’s brimming with houseplants. If I could live in a greenhouse I would be happy!

What handmade possession do you most cherish?
My coffee table is my favorite handmade possession. My dad, mom, sister and I spent a day piecing together the herringbone tabletop from reclaimed barn wood. We finished it off with hairpin legs and carved our names on the bottom. It’s gorgeous, and whenever I look at it reminds me of how awesome my family is. I even wrote a blog post about it!

Tell us something surprising about you that no one would guess!
Running Wit & Whistle is my dream job, but if I had to change careers I’d love to own a small zoo. For now I’ll just have to focus my zoo-keeping energy on my dogs and chickens.

What is the best advice you would give to designers starting their own business?
Whether you feel ready or not, just jump in. If I waited to start my business until I had everything figured out, Wit & Whistle wouldn’t exist. The most important (and most difficult) thing is to take that first step and get going. Just worry about one day at a time, and figure out the rest as you go along. Baby steps!

Check out Wit & Whistle on ae.com, and tell us which jotter or notebook is your favorite in the comments below!

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Follow Her Friday: Ali Mitton

Cue the cold nights, the cozy knits, and snowball fights! This Holiday we partnered with a new photographer, who just so happens to be our first Aerie REAL girl photographer, to help us prepare for one of our favorite gifting seasons. Aerie girls, meet Ali Mitton. This Gold Coast Australian native added just the touch of magic, simplicity, and elegance to make our favorite cozy products come to life. Read on below to learn more about Ali, her favorite parts of the shoot, and her thoughts about 100% not retouching.

Follow Her Friday: Ali Mitton

Aerie: What does #AerieREAL mean to you?

AM: It means honesty and confidence!

Aerie: What’s your favorite Holiday recipe?

AM: Christmas in Australia is summer! So I love barbecue seafood and fresh salads. :)

Follow Her Friday: Ali Mitton

Follow Her Friday: Ali Mitton

Aerie: What’s your favorite Holiday tradition?

AM: If I’m in Australia its swimming and eating all day, and running around on the beach. If I’m in America its making cookies with my boyfriend’s family and sitting by the fireplace.

Aerie: Did you have a favorite Aerie item from the Holiday line?

AM: I love all the fabulous Christmas print socks. :)

Follow Her Friday: Ali Mitton

Aerie: Cute! We love those, especially with winter boots! What was your favorite scene to shoot?

AM: All our snow scenes were super fun!

Follow Her Friday: Ali Mitton

Aerie: How do you feel not retouching the girls? 

AM: I love not retouching the girls. They don’t need it. No girls actually do. It’s just an industry expectation, a bad habit I love breaking. These girls look amazing without any retouching.

Follow Her Friday: Ali Mitton

 Aerie: What is your favorite camera to shoot with?

AM: A 5D MK III.

Follow Her Friday: Ali Mitton

Aerie: What do you believe not retouching means to young women?

AM: I think retouching has made us place unrealistic expectations on ourselves. We are all trying to live up to something that is not real. Retouching is standard in my line of work, its sad but true. I’m really excited to work with Aerie who is breaking that rule.

Aerie: How would you describe your personal style?  

AM: Relaxed, comfortable, and minimal. :)

Follow Her Friday: Ali Mitton

See more from Ali on Aerie’s Instagram, in your local Aerie store, and at Aerie.com!

Also, don’t forget to follow Ali now on Instagram.

xoxo,

Aerie

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How To: Style Your Leggings 3 Ways

It’s no secret that we’re obsessed with our leggings. Why? Because not only are they ultra comfortable, but also super versatile. We asked Allexis, the blogger behind Life of a Coy Fish, to show us how she styles our Printed Legging and the results couldn’t be cuter.

Meet Allexis: 
Hi, I’m Allexis, an adventurous, book-loving, running addict, fashion obsessed, 22 year-old and the blogger behind Life of a Coy Fish. The inspiration behind the three looks I styled with Aerie’s fab Printed Legging was simple. I wanted to create three easy looks to fit all different kinds of occasions to show that leggings don’t just have to be a lounge wear item!

How To: Style Your Leggings 3 Ways

How To: Style Your Leggings 3 Ways

What inspired Allexis’ looks:
The first look is all about a stylish yet casual way to wear leggings for a night out exploring the town! The key is to add more dressed up details like a leather jacket while adding color & texture with a denim top and bright accessories like these gold slip-ons and pink beanie!

How To: Style Your Leggings 3 Ways

How To: Style Your Leggings 3 Ways

The next look is all about those lazy days off spent running errands or for those days when we’re rushing. The key to this look is simplicity and really allowing the cute print of the leggings to do all of the work! Just add a soft colored sweater, minimal accessories, cute/simple crossbody, and some glittery slip-ons and you’re good to go!

How To: Style Your Leggings 3 Ways

How To: Style Your Leggings 3 Ways

For the final look I wanted to stay true to the purpose of leggings and do a stylized yoga look. When it comes to cute yoga outfits, it’s all about the prints. The crazier the better, so these leggings were spot on. Not to mention, that they’re so easy to move through postures in!

Need more style inspiration? Check out our Trend Tuesday: The Romantic Lace Bralette post now! xo

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Follow Her Friday: Elisabeth Tavierne

Not many people can say they’ve impacted thousands of girls at over a dozen university campuses nationwide, with a movement showing no signs of slowing…but Elisabeth Tavierne can.

Elisabeth found her passion for fitness through swimming for over 10 years, finally competing at the collegiate level at The Ohio State University. It wasn’t until she “hung up her towel” midway through college when she realized that many women’s sole form of workout was the elliptical or treadmill. Not to mention, they didn’t look like they were having fun.

ElisaTThis desire to “liberate girls from the elliptical” inspired her to create CHAARG (Changing Health, Attitudes, and Actions to Recreate Girls). Through CHAARG, she set out to create opportunities for girls to find their individual passion for fitness, whether it be dance, yoga, or running marathons. She ultimately built a supportive and encouraging community of college girls wanting to lead lead happy, healthy and active lives.

road pic

Aerie: Hi, Elisabeth! Thanks for chatting with us! What does #AerieREAL mean to you?

Elisabeth: #AerieREAL means truly loving yourself for who you are. In this day and age, so many young women are plagued with confidence issues, whether it has to do with their body, in their work, or among their peers. Although everyone is bound to have insecurities from time to time, it is important that self loves trump all. There is absolutely no one in the whole wide world who is YOU. That in and of itself is pretty awesome. Get to know who you are, and own it.

Aerie: What makes you #AerieREAL?

Elisabeth: Following my passion and helping other find theirs.

love me

Where do you see yourself in 3 years?

Elisabeth: As a Chicago native – either still in Chicago or living in another exciting city (I would love to live in Australia for a little — I’m actually a dual citizen!). Most importantly, continuing to do what I love every day. My goal is to expand CHAARG to every university in the United States — if not the world, so in 3 years I hope to have a good start on that.

Aerie: What’s your favorite inspirational quote?

Elisabeth: This is a long one, but I love it.

“Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness that most frightens us. We ask ourselves, ‘Who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, fabulous?’ Actually, who are you not to be? You are a child of God. Your playing small does not serve the world. There is nothing enlightened about shrinking so that other people won’t feel insecure around you. We are all meant to shine, as children do. We were born to make manifest the glory of God that is within us. It’s not just in some of us; it’s in everyone. And as we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same. As we are liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others.” – Marianne Williamson

Aerie: What has been your biggest accomplishment thus far?

Elisabeth: Reaching 1,000 members last fall was definitely a huge milestone for us. Also, it’s always an accomplishment hearing from girls that CHAARG has changed her life. I remember one girl specifically said that CHAARG has allowed her to be the best version of herself. It is an incredible feeling.

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Aerie: Do you have a role model? If so, who is he or she, and why does he or she inspire you?

Elisabeth: All of my CHAARG girls are my inspiration. Every night before I go to bed I scroll through the #inCHAARG feed on Instagram and am blown away by their passion, dedication and positivity. These women motivate and support each other not only in gym, but in life. I am so blessed to be surrounded by them.

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pool yoga

 

Aerie: Do you have a favorite Aerie item? Do share!

Elisabeth: The Aerie Hi-Rise Printed Legging!

Aerie: What are three things you always have to have with you?

Elisabeth: Phone, Burt’s Bees and gum! 99% of the time I also a coffee in my hand.

Aerie: Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, All, or Nothing?

Elisabeth: Instagram all the way!

Aerie: Favorite song to listen to in the car or working out?

Elisabeth: Lately I’ve been obsessed with Timeflies (I know, I jumped on the bandwagon pretty late).

group pic

Thank you, Elisabeth! Keep up with her on Instagram or Twitter. While you’re at it, find out more about CHAARG on their Twitter, Instagram and Blog!

Xoxo,

Aerie

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Wear America X Muses & Rebels

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We sat down with former AEO Women’s Wovens Design Director, Natasha Landenberger, the founder, owner and designer of Muses & Rebels to talk about daily inspiration, the pros and cons of starting your own business and balancing it all. When this Los Angeles native is not hard at work building her lifestyle brand empire, she is spending her weekends making frequent trips to the beach, the Rose Bowl and other local flea markets to find materials, vintage clothing and unusual objects for photo shoots. Basically, she does it all.

How did you start Muses & Rebels and where do you draw daily inspiration from?
I created Muses & Rebels in 2010 after spending a month in Japan with one of my best friends. She had made a beaded necklace that I loved which influenced me to make jewelry while I was staying with her & her family in Osaka. I made my first thread wrapped chain bracelet during this trip. When I returned home, my mom was extremely supportive of the pieces I had made (as most moms are) and told me I should sell them… that was the beginning of Muses & Rebels.  When I launched M&R, it was a new venture into accessories and I am completely self-taught when it comes to jewelry.

On a daily basis I am inspired by images on Tumblr, Pinterest, blogs and magazines. I have always loved the beach and my husband is a surfer, so I am naturally inspired by the surf/beach lifestyle.

You mentioned being completely self-taught when it comes to designing jewelry, can you describe that creative process?
Designing jewelry has been a very different process for me personally than designing clothing. With jewelry, I first find the materials and then design the styles. With clothing, it is the opposite – I design the styles and then find the fabrics and trims that best fit the design. As I am creating the jewelry for a specific collection, I draw from images I’ve curated, key colors for the season, and the overall concept of the collection. Being a self-taught jewelry designer means I am learning new techniques with each design and the collections are growing stronger with my knowledge.

M&R studio 5

Muses and Rebels began selling jewelry and and has slowly transitioned to clothing, can you tell us about that natural progression and motivation behind your current assortment?
Coming from a fashion design background, I have always intended to add clothing to the line. I created Muses & Rebels with the idea that it will become a lifestyle brand, not only focusing on jewelry. I first grew the line with a small assortment of hand tie-dyed bikinis and screen printed tees. Adding a men’s jewelry line seemed like a natural progression and also a need in the market. More clothing for both women and men will be added to our online shop with a focus on vintage items that are trend right and pieces you just need to have.

M&R studio 3

Can you tell us a little about Muses and Rebels’ “made for you” concept?
The Muses & Rebels’ “made for you” concept means our products are made to order. M&R styles are not mass produced – they are lovingly handmade for each customer in limited quantities. I also like to think of Muses & Rebels as a line with products that are perfect for the individual. These are pieces that are “made for you.”

You’re also a fashion illustrator for many American contemporary brands – how do you balance this, along with your M&R responsibilities?
M&R is my top priority, but I will always make time for fashion illustration opportunities because it is something I truly enjoy doing. In order to keep the business moving forward and take on additional projects, I tend to count every day of the week as a workday. I work a lot, but it is so worth it.

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Can you speak to the pros and cons of running your own company vs. designing for a large brand?
The great thing about running my own company is that I am my own boss. This is a good thing and also a bad thing. It’s great because I am ultimately the decision maker and get to envision and create a brand exactly as I want it to be. Creating a brand and watching it grow and become known is so gratifying and rewarding. It is tough being your own boss because you are completely responsible for all aspects of the business – meeting deadlines, growing the brand, sales, and production. The stress and pressure of the business side of owning a company can be a lot to handle while still motivating to be creative. When compared to designing for a large brand, the business pressure is quite minimal because you have the support of a large company. In many ways it seems easier to design and be creative when you have a team to help produce your designs. Large brands also provide the comfort of a salary, compensation, bonuses and benefits.

Do you have any advice for someone interested in starting their own company?
Don’t wait to start your own company if you have the passion and the idea – take advantage of the moment and dive in. My advice is to be very aware of your financial responsibility for the company, slowly build your brand in a way to minimize your expenses and learn from your customers. It is important to keep the big picture of your company in mind and to not get sidetracked by the minute details.

Want a chance to win a @musesandrebels necklace from our #WearAmerica collection? Follow and RT to enter! See Official Rules for complete details.

 

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