I have been bursting at the seams because I’m so freaking excited to share this interview and I can hardly contain myself! I’m seriously that excited and I’m kinda feeling like a playful pup jumping around all over the place when their beloved owner has just got home… I don’t even know where to begin. This woman is such an inspiration. Not only will you fall in love with her art, but you will fall in love with everything that makes up her infectiously positive personality – that which shines throughout the interview like warm rays of sunshine. Allow me to introduce the uber fantastic, ridiculously talented and sweeter
than candy Mari Andrew: illustrator, writer and all-round-amazing lady!
On Mari’s website she says she values optimism, resilience, vulnerability and joie de vivre… and this to me just reinforces her authenticity, because this is the perfect description of her art and her personality; it’s everything I have experienced from our communication. Joie de vivre literally means exuberant enjoyment of life and it couldn’t be more fitting or truer of beautiful Mari; she finds the joy in everything…even in the lessons that life can so harshly dish out, she chooses to observe and find the positive. She has listed this as her favorite quality in the women she surrounds herself with, which is ironic as it is the exact beautiful quality I would describe her as having. I mean it when I tell you that from every single exchange Mari and I have had, I have walked away feeling uplifted, positive and inspired. She is one in a million.
I can’t even tell you how difficult it was trying to select images to accompany Mari’s interview…difficult because I literally wanted to share alllllll of them. I mean, I am OBSESSED and highly recommend that once you’ve read her insightful interview below, you hop on over to Mari’s Instagram (@bymariandrew) hit the follow button (so you don’t miss out from this moment on) and spend some time looking through (okay, devouring) her page. Mari is currently working on a book of illustrated essays (**eek…insert excited squeal here!) which will be published early next year and I can. not. freaking wait.
I love all that Mari stands for, but I particularly love her musings on kindness…and her philosophy to never shy away from it. It’s something that I’m so passionate about. Often we will have just met someone and question whether an opportunity to do an act of kindness might be portrayed as weird, I’ve done this myself many-a-time, buttttt it’s in these times that we need to quash the voice in our head and lead with our heart and be kind.
So many incredible messages spring to life from Mari’s work, lessons that deep down we all experience, feelings we all know too well, but that we bury amongst the busyness of day to day life and the wrath of social expectations. Whilst on a journey of self discovery and simply choosing to follow one of her passions, Mari decided to share her experiences (in the form of drawings) everyday for a year, from that she built an incredible social following of supporters and a bustling freelance career. The silver lining is, Mari brings so much light to others lives just by being her, sharing parts of herself and ultimately just doing what she loves. She is living proof that if you follow your heart, be you, do what you love and shine bright: the ripple effect is incredible. There are so many lessons to be learnt from her story; Mari is living proof that everything – the good, the bad and the rock bottom – are all part of the journey. I encourage you to check out her art, and promise you that it is impossible to not be deeply moved and profoundly affected by it.
I think there is one thing that I notice above-all-else, and I think it’s the one thing that allows Mari’s work to resonate with so many people: Mari is real. What you see, is what you get. She highlights her vulnerabilities in a candid, self-observant way that we can all relate to. Mari is genuine and heart felt, authentic, sweet and without a doubt part of the women-supporting-women cheer club (she reinforces the fact that we’re way more powerful united annndddd the pie isn’t only big enough for all of us, but in fact it’s never ending – so let’s stop worrying that there isn’t enough to go around and start being incredibly supportive of, and kind to, one another).
Mari is all of that and more: incredibly kind, incredibly supportive and incredibly joyous. She is encouraging and insightful and wonderfully draws upon experiences from her own life: whether they’ve been the broken heart that remains after a break up, the tumultuous journey with grief, the voices of self doubt (that we all know far too well), the journey of finding yourself, the looming question ‘what am I meant to be doing‘ (that we all have at some point of our lives), the struggles with self love, self care and remembering to be kind to ourselves, the adventures of life: both the ups and downs, the cycle of the creative process, or the journey of chasing dreams and riding the waves of rejections and celebrations.
Mari has learnt (and depicts throughout her work) that life is made up of seaons and highlights the fact that the good and the bad are both as fleeting as each other. Hitting rock bottom happens but it’s finding the beauty and knowing it’s not the end, you will rise again…you just need to start – do something, take a step forward – don’t just sit around hoping, dreaming and wishing for someone to pick you up. You are up to you.
Without any further rambling from me, it’s time to get into the interview and I’m literally filled with butterflies at the excitement of you reading it for the first time. Oh-my-god this interview is so freaking good and I assure you, you will fall in love with Mari Andrew (in a total can-we-be-best-friends type of way). So, if you’re reading this and you’re going through it right now, whatever ‘it’ may be. If you’re feeling confused, lonely or defeated, or if you’re feeling down and in a bit of a general lull…Know that it’s ok. Know that you will get through it. Remember that stars can’t shine without darkness. Use this incredible interview to empower and inspire you. Use it as a form of hope. A reminder that we’re all the same and we’re all dealing with our own shit. Use it to push you in the right direction to follow your heart and do the things that light you up because you never know what you will learn about yourself along the way and just where it will take you.
Look at Mari’s art to remind yourself that you, my dear, are amazing, you are most certainly not alone – we all experience the same thoughts, the same feelings and the same self doubt. And in the same breath, we all share the same capabilities, the same magic and the same ability to dream. Look up to Mari as an inspiration … For, She Is You.
MARI ANDREW // WRITER + ILLUSTRATOR
How would you describe yourself in one word?
What would you tell your 23 year old self?
This isn’t your whole life, this is a season in your life. There are beautiful parts and there are awful parts, and the beauty and the awfulness will both be over soon. There is no finish line, there is no conclusion; this is just a moment in time and you might want to appreciate it a bit more for all that it is–especially the part where you’re living two blocks from the beach.
‘Practice speaking supportive words to other women, and practice telling yourself that a beautiful or successful woman doesn’t take away from your own beauty or success.’
Life is too short to tolerate…
clothes that make you feel bad about yourself.
How do you pick yourself up when you’re having a bad day, or life throws you a curveball?
I do something totally new. Learning something new (including how to paint with watercolors) has always been my favorite way to rescue myself from despair. Learn a couple words in Portuguese, or sign up for a salsa class. It can be as simple as putting on a YouTube video and learning a new eyeliner technique, or buying a guitar and resolving to become a folk goddess.
What characteristics / values do you admire in the women that inspire you?
My favorite quality in a woman is joie de vivre! I love observing and learning from women who are so comfortable with themselves that they exude joy. These are women who are funny, light, happy, generous, and enthusiastic. They’ve done the work to be truly in love with their lives so they don’t have any reason to envy or judge others; they’re too busy enjoying themselves. They laugh easily because they don’t take themselves or the world too seriously, and they give freely because they’re not worried that there isn’t enough to go around.
Why is it important to be kind to ourselves, practice positive self talk and make it a priority?
When you are really truly kind to yourself, it is so much easier to be kind to others. Giving yourself compassion and grace is the first step toward extending compassion and grace to others. You may have noticed that judgmental people are very self-critical, and are probably upset about something in their lives that they haven’t resolved. When you work on positive self talk and self love, you have the capacity to give that to other people–and the world is in desperate need of positivity right now!
‘There is no finish line, there is no conclusion: this is just a moment in time and you might want to appreciate it a bit more for all that it is.’
If you had a friend that spoke to you the way you speak to yourself, would you continue to allow that person to be your friend? How do you combat self doubt and negative self talk?
If I had a friend who was constantly criticizing my acne and my body, I’d totally dump her! I have incorporated positive self talk into my daily routine in order to combat the self doubt.
I write in a journal at the end of every day, answering the questions: “What am I proud of today? What did I learn today?” I try to turn self-criticism into a learning opportunity, like if I’m mad at myself for eating one too many pizza slices, I try to frame it as, “That didn’t make my body feel very good. Next time, I’ll remember to eat just until I feel satisfied.” It’s a gentle practice to remind yourself that you are constantly learning and growing.
Something you don’t tell yourself enough?
Your all-time-hands-down-favorite self love ritual?
Getting massages! I love being touched, and massages were a big part of my self care when I was single, because I didn’t crave that physical touch so much that I made bad decisions when it came to men. Buying a massage to someone going through heartbreak is such a great gift, because it’s hard to go from lots of physical intimacy to none at all. Touch is so important!
Do you have any tips on shining bright and being confident with who you are at your core?
Seek out opportunities to laugh at yourself.
How do you deal with stress / anxiety?
I move! I love to dance, walk, stretch, wiggle. I was recently paralyzed for a month due to a crazy virus, and it was so hard to deal with the anxiety of illness and not be able to move my body. I had to ask a physical therapist to move my arms for me just so I could feel like I was dancing, because it’s so therapeutic for me.
Have you experienced challenges, setbacks or failures and coming out the other end, what have you learnt from them?
I have experienced so many challenges, setbacks, and failures, I wouldn’t even know where to begin listing them. The gift of any challenge–whether it’s a bad date or grieving the loss of a loved one–is that you are the only person who knows what you’re going through and the only person who decides how you’re going to move forward. A challenge on any scale of bearability is eventually an opportunity to make a decision about the person you want to become.
‘When you are really truly kind to yourself, it is so much easier to be kind to others.’
There’s a stigma that talking about your feelings is a sign of weakness, what are your thoughts on this?
I think the stigma for women talking about their feelings is more that it’s something silly; we see our feelings mocked and not taken seriously, dismissed as “sensitive,” “over-emotional,” “PMS-ing.” I think it’s so important for women to keep telling their stories honestly as they experienced them to decrease the stigma that we’re having a breakdown or going “hysterical” when we’re just being honest.
Why is it important to push yourself out of your comfort zone?
I don’t actually leave my comfort zone all that much! I take tiny little steps out of it in order to make myself a more balanced person; for example, I’m an introvert but I know it means a lot to my friends when I go to their parties, and usually end up having a good time. Pushing yourself doesn’t have to be some panic-inducing traumatizing thing. Taking small little steps to become more well-rounded will help you become a legit adult person, which is a good thing to be.
Why do you believe in kindness?
Kindness is disarming. When you experience it, you can’t help but feel softer, gentler, more generous.
The kindest thing someone has done for you?
A girl I met briefly at a party once heard that my apartment caught on fire, and gave our mutual friend a batch of homemade cookies and flowers to give to me. It’s one of those moments where she could have thought, “This is weird, I just met Mari that one time,” but instead she went with the impulse to do something kind despite any hesitation. I’ll never forget it.
In your opinion, how can we cultivate more kindness (as a whole) on a day-to-day basis?
It’s all about the teeny tiny moments: How can I be kind in this one second? To my mom? To the bus driver? To my weird co-worker?
Real advice you can share on believing in yourself, following your heart and dreaming big?
Believing in yourself and dreaming big can be broken down into very small attainable goals. If you want to write a book, where do you begin? How about writing for 10 minutes a day? You’ll need emotional support, so find a friend who is willing to cheer you along. If you want to play the guitar, you actually have to buy a guitar, and find a teacher, and practice for a long period of time. Following your heart looks a lot like making a (fun) to-do list.
Why is it integral for girls and women to support one another and build each other up rather than tearing one another down? (And in what ways can we do so?)
Competition between women is a tool of the patriarchy to keep men in power! We have to ban together to become more powerful as a united force of beauty, creativity, intelligence, fabulousness. Practice speaking supportive words to other women, and practice telling yourself that a beautiful or successful woman doesn’t take away from your own beauty or success.
What are you most thankful for?
As I get older, I’m so thankful for my friends. They are so nurturing, caring, and supportive. I love how women “mother” each other.
‘We have to ban together to become more powerful as a united force of beauty, creativity, intelligence, fabulousness.’
If you had 1 minute to talk and be able to reach and inspire every single young girl and woman around the world, what would your message be?
Finding your way in the world as a young woman is a tremendous challenge. Whatever you want to do in life, you’re going to have to be creative and feisty to get to where a man can go more easily. You’re going to have to find your inspirations, your mentors, and certainly your network of girlfriends to help you along. But this is the real gift: Because you have to work extra hard and be extra kind and make extra connections with extra smart women, you’re in for a lifetime of joy no matter what. If you pursue your passion–or just your current curiosity–surrounded by friends, you’ll find that the road is not only easier, but more delightful and surprising.
My advice as you begin your careers is: make friends with women who are smarter than you, more talented than you, more “successful” than you–whatever success looks like. Do not give into temptation to be the most brilliant person in the room. Being the least brilliant person in the room is an incredible opportunity! Ask questions. Learn from others. Really listen. Give yourself the gift of inspiring, marvellous, genius friends! Not only are they full of interesting stories and can invite you to chic parties, but they give great advice and can let you in on their secrets. Sometimes they even share your same shoe size.
I currently have my dream job as an illustrator and writer, and I owe so much of it to the great girlfriends I have. They’ve encouraged me every step of the way, never speaking out of jealousy because they already had their own things going on. Instead, they were able to lift me up, listen when I needed guidance, and take me out for champagne when I got my book deal. I hope every one of you has friends like these some day!
Your favorite lyric that always inspires you?
From “Til I Get There” by Lupe Fiasco: