Hours before my plane took off for the holidays I got a call from Bianca Valle. After a little whirlwind road trip, I'd had single morning to get ready for my next departure, a carry-on to pack and share with a brother who had yet to come home from the train station to pack, and a ticking clock. For a moment I wondered why I'd scheduled an interview right before leaving the country. But when I picked up and heard "Hi, cutie!" I stopped. I sat down at my desk, turned on my recording app, and let myself focus on a woman whose aura (palpable even through phone waves) is so intoxicating that you can't help but just listen. Bianca is a creative powerhouse. A certified holistic nutrionist. A painter. She is generosity embodied and her radiance defies the sometimes staticky and laggy distance of a phone call. The only thing I can hope for is that it comes across the same way transcribed - humble, inspiring, and true. Here's our conversation:
All images via @vbiancav
NEOPHYTE JEWELS: To call you a multi-hyphenate would be to point out the obvious, but also, seems like an apt jumping off point. Can you talk about how you see your creative self?
BIANCA VALLE: Being my own entity. Allowing myself to pursue all the things I want to pursue - art, fashion, with a foundation in wellness. Even though I do go fashion week and have art shows, it all has an air of self-care to it if that makes sense. My work is my life and my life is my work. I really don’t have a separate persona. The way that I text my friends is the way that I’m emailing a giant company. I feel like that’s the new way of working and connecting. (…) I’m so lucky and grateful that I get to have this multiple-pronged career of doing whatever I’m passionate about. I always check in with myself to ask if I’m passionate about this, do I love it, does it bring me joy… And if it does I go after it and if it doesn’t then I have to take a second. But it takes a lot of thinking and reworking and strategizing.
NEOPHYTE JEWELS: Could you quickly walk us through your career path up until now?
BIANCA VALLE: I grew up in San Diego and moved to New York to go to NYU. While I was there I did a lot of interning - at Refinery29, at Milk Makeup, at NYLON Magazine, Jil Stuart… When I graduated I got a job at Milk Studios running their social media. 6 months in I got an email from Jade Taylor - who was the beauty director at the time. And she asked if I wanted to be beauty editor! I was like say no more - on my way! I started working with her at Nylon - I was working on shoots, writing stories, going to fashion week, doing backstage beauty… Then, one day NYLON calls a company wide meeting and turns out they cut the print issue and the entire team got laid off. From one day to the next, I was let go from my dream job.
But I was really lucky. I was very young at the time 21-22. I was a couple of years out of college - my life didn’t depend on that job, per se but it was devastating. I had a lot of self worth in my job. I took some time and did the classic stay-in-my house, eat almond butter out of the jar, listen to the Secret on audiobook… I jumped in and out of jobs during that period - I did some writing work, some PR work but all the while I started gaining a community on Instagram.
I cannot tell you why that started. I think it’s because I’m a sharer and I like sharing. I don’t have filter. I think it resonated with people because at the time, people were hungry for realness and vulnerability. I wasn’t the first to do it but I was definitely doing the abnormal - my stuff wasn’t curated. While I was in and out of jobs, I got my first project. Nike reached out and asked if they could train me for a race - I’d be the face, be in a shoot, be on all the merch, be in the race video… And I was going to get paid for that! That’s when everything shifted. I started getting more projects, more eyes. I couldn’t tell you what my first ad was but that’s how it all started.
I started doing real girl modelling for Northface, Gap, Mara Hoffman… I was on an upward trajectory for about a year. And then I started relaxing into the notion of a following - and in my heart, I felt I had to do something about it. Another moment of thinking.
It can end up being very indulgent - and not a nice thing. I‘d walk around with a lot of guilt because I had this following and I wanted do something good with it. So I decided that food was a passion of mine - starting planting seeds and asking around - what should I do?! One of my friends was like - you should be a nutritionist! So I went to school, did a year-long program, got a certification. Towards the end of schooling I decided that I wanted to make something for people that didn’t necessarily want to speak to me on the phone. So I made my zine. I also have the Hotline, and then a more in depth service. My current ideology is: I wouldn’t be able to charge what I charge for my nutrition practice - I have the donation-based portion and then if someone wants an hour long consultation it’s under $100 at the moment. I had to pay for schooling. And the knowledge that I’m giving I don’t want to say is priceless but I definitely want to keep my practice affordable. I believe in wellness being accessible! Everyone should know how to eat and take care of themselves. If I didn’t run ads or model then I wouldn’t be able to offer such an affordable service.
NEOPHYTE JEWELS: You've dipped your toes into editorial, media, beauty, wellness, and now design. What have been some of your biggest lessons you've learned as a professional?
BIANCA VALLE: Be nice to everybody. You never know. That has truly carried me.
NEOPHYTE JEWELS: There's a certain intersection between fashion and wellness in almost every one of your posts. Is this purely rooted in your own interests or motivated by a need to implement more of the former in an industry that has (historically) promoted unhealthy ideals? Both?
BIANCA VALLE: I have always been a fashion lover. I have always dressed myself. I don’t leave the house without having a look on. It’s natural and normal for me to mix the two. But for a while I did wonder - can wellness and fashion mix? But of course they can! Why not! I decided that a nutritionist can still wear cool stuff. If anything its cool because if we’re out at dinner or at an event, my fashion gals will be like Bianca, what do you think about this or that, and ask for advice about food and I think that’s what’s needed most.
NEOPHYTE JEWELS: I read in another interview of yours that for a long time, you pushed away your Mexican heritage. As a visibly white, but Honduran-Canadian woman, it also took me many years to realize that while I will never understand the experience of my Honduran family or that of my mother or brother who are visible minorities, I am allowed to embrace my heritage. Since then, my writing has been infused with a richness that I'd been depriving it of. I wanted to ask you how your embrace of your own culture manifested itself in your life and art?
BIANCA VALLE: I can’t lie to you - I am just now starting to investigate that. I think the best way for me is to go to Mexico City. I keep pushing to go because I do feel a disconnect from my heritage and my people. It’s something that I want to deepen. I can’t run away from it! I’m brown! I might as well feel like a part of the culture.
I get a little taken aback when someone writes me something of admiration like ah I love what you do, especially because you’re a Latina woman or a woman of colour - but am I?! It’s a very funny role to be in. But I’m working towards being more informed and relaxed into it.
NEOPHYTE JEWELS: Are there any projects in the works that you can share?
BIANCA VALLE: A podcast is in the works! And I was just on the phone with a friend talking about how I want to take January and December to see what lights me up! I think I want to do some sort of college tour and go campus to campus to talk about nutrition. I think I’d have to be in a really strong place - physically and mentally - because it would be quite something. But I think I can do it.
NEOPHYTE JEWELS: Where and when do you feel most creative?
BIANCA VALLE: I don’t have a specific recipe - it just comes when it comes.
NEOPHYTE JEWELS: What are you a neophyte at?
BIANCA VALLE: Letting go. Unlearning things that don’t serve me.
NEOPHYTE JEWELS: Last but not least (and not not a purely selfish question that I had to include) can you share any hair growth tips to attempt a mane like yours?
BIANCA VALLE: You will cry and hate me - it’s 1 billion percent genetic.
Thank you to Bianca for taking the time to chat! You can find her on Instagram here and check out her website here.