The Ralliers is a collection of interviews with female creators we admire. We look for women who make hard choices in exchange for self-defined lives. You'll leave these stories with wisdom, comfort and beauty too.
I am a half Afro Latina and half Jewish, born and raised native New Yorker. I am an artist, a designer, and the business owner of Novel Swim. I am the wife of my high school sweetheart Simon and the mother of my strong 25 week ex-preemie 3 year old daughter Isabelle.
How have you broken with traditions or norms created by other people in exchange for a self-defined life?
I always have followed my truth with little regard for what is considered normal or the prescribed way to do things. In part this was out of necessity, because I never really felt I fit in to conventional molds. Growing up, I was very much in between two worlds and constantly learning how to deal with environments that were not designed for someone like me. Now things seem a lot more accepting, but depending on my environment, I was often labeled too white or too black or too Dominican or not Dominican enough to really feel like I could solidly identify with anything, so I created my own rules for how I wanted to look and dress and speak and went with them.
Tell us about your work.
I am an artist, but my background is in illustration. I wanted to bring my art to life, so I founded Novel Swim in 2015. Novel gave me a platform to draw, create bold prints, and live in all of the bright colors I’d always dreamed of and put to paper. Swimwear brought me back to my roots—to the Caribbean and the ocean.
I am also a mother of a toddler, so I am very much working in that challenging role every day. When my daughter was born, she was only 1 pound, so I had to drop everything. I became a pseudo nurse for about two years and devoted myself to her care and well-being in and out of the hospital. I learned how to use oxygen equipment and feeding tubes. I learned how to navigate cardiac and gastric surgeries practically and emotionally. It was overwhelming and life consuming. I took a solid break from my business and honestly didn’t know if I would ever be able to rekindle it, but eventually she grew stronger and I found my way back.
What do you most want us to know about living a creative life?
Your inspiration and what drives you may not look like what everyone else is doing, but it’s important to stick with your intuition and tell your story. If you want to live a truly creative life and do something outside of the box, being creative also means you must be resourceful, find creative ways to make things work in the world, and make your own formulas. I’ve often had to bring things to life with little to no financial resources, but it’s a puzzle and I’ve always managed to figure out a way to make it work in one way or another.
Tell us about your style of living.
I live in full color—from the way that I dress, to my interiors, to the way that I see the world. I think that living in full color means that I accept that many things in life are non-binary. With a Catholic, Dominican mother and a white Jewish father, that was how I was raised—living in both worlds, accepting multiple realities, and questioning everything. I have the tendency to rebel against rigid structure. It doesn’t make me the easiest person to make plans with, but it keeps my life full and spontaneous and fresh. It allows me to be surprised and inspired.
it's easy to get overwhelmed by the backlog and feel like you are constantly paddling and can never stay above water. But it is also possible to simply let go and float...
What do you most want other women to know?
Don’t worry about time passing and not being able to achieve all the things you’ve wanted. As a mother, sometimes weeks go by where I feel like I’ve only been able to tackle three things on my do to list of a hundred. It is inevitable and it’s easy to get overwhelmed by the backlog and feel like you are constantly paddling and can never stay above the water. But it is also possible to simply let go and float and accept real life constraints. You can simple make the choice to breathe and not be suffocated by everything. Some days, I just have to say, well, that’s literally all I can do and I can either stew in anxiety or I can go outside for a walk with my kid.
What are you searching for?
As a business owner, things always seem to be in flux. I am always in search of formulas that will allow me to coast and be in a groove instead of constantly feeling like I have to push new boundaries to break through and be seen. It’s hard to find lasting satisfaction in the wins that come and go—quick blip features in magazines, one time deals with retailers—so, I am always searching for things that will bring me more long term fulfillment in the work that I do.
What brings you ease?
Especially in the Spring, a bike ride through the park always resets my mood and brings me joy. The blossoms are beautiful. Sometimes it’s good to simply put down the list of to-dos and dedicate 20 minutes to aimless cycling.
Something You've Just Discovered.
I've rediscovered the kid in me. Being around a three year old girl has definitely re-activated it. I really like pink again—pink clothes, pink haired people, and pink edibles. When I have the perfect ratio of pink in my outfit, I kind of feel like my own superhero. I like to sing and dance energetically with my daughter around the living room.
Share a good read, watch, or listen.
I really enjoyed watching the latest season of My Brilliant Friend and am currently devouring the last book of the series. I haven’t been able to travel in many years, so it’s been a nice way to escape and to be immersed in not only a faraway place, but also a faraway time.
Something you've recently created.
I’ve been drawing florals and toiles. Spring always makes me flower happy. Recently, I created a custom toile for a customer which featured her and her cat tandem motorbiking, napping in the grass, and row boating. It was a nice creative break from designing for Novel that reminded me to take time to sit and draw.
A gift you gave someone.
It's not groundbreaking, but I really enjoy getting my daughter little character figures because she finds endless enjoyment in them. Most recently, I gave her a little Elsa doll and the singing and dancing that has resulted from it has been a treasure.
You can’t control everything in life, but you can set the groundwork for how you want to live. Even if you don’t have what you want, you can find a new and sometimes unconventional way to live a life that brings you immense joy and satisfaction. When we ask ourselves what we want, we sometimes expect it to happen in a flash, but it usually doesn’t work out that way. I feel like I have been on the slow track. I’ve planted the seed for my business and my life to grow. It’s been slow, but it’s been so much more rewarding and I feel truly lucky and blessed to be where I am now.
P.S. The pieces in our stories are always authentically picked. When purchased, we sometimes receive compensation in return. Thank you for supporting!
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