Her long hair a beautiful, striking shade of blue, the Instagram post catches my eye. I click on the photo, and captioned in gothic script, a quote by Atlas reads: “I find it amusing that we’re all pretending to be normal when we could be insanely interesting instead.” A source of inspiration for me, model Olivia Shutey is not afraid to be herself.
I first knew of Olivia in French class, at a small private university where everyone wore the same outfit and acting out of the norm was taboo. Instead of blossoming, I folded into myself. My one retreat was French class, where I could talk about history and art, and learn about a language and culture that intoxicated me.
A few months later I learned that a girl in my French class had a fashion blog (how I found out, I can’t recall). But I myself had also gotten into blogging the day that my parents had bought me my first laptop for college ten years ago. Probably thirty minutes after the machine powered on, I stumbled upon a blog called The Clothes Horse. Rebecca’s bright red hair, flower crowns, and linen dresses reminiscent of another era enthralled me. What a revelation to learn that people blog as a hobby! That summer, an obsession ensued, and all I could do was read post after post.
Years later, at university, it was refreshing to see someone I actually knew who was doing the same thing — blogging as an act of artistry and self expression. It was something different. Today, Olivia focuses more on her Instagram @jesuisolivie, however her fashion is still captivating and her photos still shout her style from the rooftops of the internet and onto my screen.
Only recently have I become confident with the fact that blogging is something that I do, too. For years, I’ve written posts in secret, but never felt like I had anything worthwhile to say and was never satisfied with the end result. Embracing blogging as form of creativity and making something that you’re undoubtably proud of is something that I was much too shy for. Seeing people that you know (like Olivia) who are unafraid to just take the damn picture is enough to jump in, head first. If you don’t ever begin, how the hell will you create anything? And if you don’t ever create something different, life will always be gray, and I prefer it to be shades of bright blue.
For me, this blog has been a journey of creativity and self expression, inspired by people like Olivia. It also has always been about food in some way or another (sometimes without me even knowing it). Through introspection, I’ve come to see that the experience of food has triggered an exploration of discovering myself and my family history. Sitting down together over a meal is where connection begins. Cooking is a medium through which we can express and celebrate ourselves. Making a recipe from a loved one is a way to make memories, or remember the past.
Moving forward, I’ll be writing more stories that are begging to be told, all centered around the experience of food. I hope to focus on developing connections with others through food, and starting conversation. I want it to be as if we are all sitting at a table together, sharing a meal, even if we are actually separated by time and place (damn you COVID). By posing questions to others, I hope to tell the story of us.
So, to start off that conversation, I wanted a voice like Olivia’s, whose perspective is not only artistic and creative, but also unique given her experience with modeling and traveling the world. I was able to send her over a few questions to discover more about how she expresses herself through food, who she enjoys sharing it with, and why…
“First, what is your go to comfort food?”
“Really good fries. Like Belgian double fried chips ❤️.”
“What is your drink of choice?”
“Do you have a cookbook you can’t live without, or do you prefer to create outside of the box?”
“I don’t do cookbooks. I cook from the heart and definitely have a natural knack for taste, smell, and spice.”
“What does your perfect meal look like? What would you eat, who would you share it with, and where would it be?”
“I like lots of little things to try! I’m not a big ‘meal’ person. I would eat pretty much anything if I could have just one dinner with Anthony Bourdain.”
“Do you think that your life experiences, family, travel, or interactions with others have shaped your culinary style?”
“100%. Especially after living in Europe, France specifically, food has become very social to me. I enjoy cooking and sharing with others.”
Do you see food as relating to your identity as a person?
“I have a hard relationship with food due to gastrointestinal disorders and an eating disorder. But I absolutely love cooking, and am learning to relove the act of eating and enjoying again.”
Describe what food means to you in one word.
“Food to me in one word means community.”
That’s what I love about food — you find similarities in others you might never have discovered. As a fellow espresso lover, I will always say that espresso is the best form of the coffee bean, and you will never convince me otherwise (as I sip on my own cup of it). And Anthony Bourdain, that honest, dark, renegade chef. A culinary film noir who has provided me with so much inspiration over the years. Not to mention, how much Olivia’s culinary style has been inspired by the French, a culture that is dear to my heart, as well.
This is where it all starts. Community. Connection. Conversation, in a world where it’s sorely lacking.
Thank you, Olivia! I’m so grateful for the opportunity to begin this new conversation. Here’s to new beginnings!