Erika Dalya Massaquoi
  What inspires you to get up in the morning?   My daughter Luba wakes me up with: “I want milk mama!” And my husband Joe prepares her warm milk and brings me coffee in bed—it is the most playful time of my day. My favorite word is mama.    How and where do you find inspiration throughout your day, and what has that inspiration compelled you to do in your life?    I’m a yogi and a runner. Yoga provides discipline and allows me to let go of the noise and the fray. And, I love a runners’ high. If I feel good physically, then I’m more acute mentally and emotionally and have a more productive day. Also, I am a maniac about being prepared—preparation equals pain avoidance. Also, as a cultural worker, I overdose on all matter of media—I’m a big believer in popular culture—it’s important to belong to the times that you are in.
  Who do you have a girl crush on (you don’t have to know her, she doesn’t even have to be alive)?   It changes all the time and my crushes are usually on performers. Today it’s Sarah Vaughan. I’m enthralled with the theatre of jazz singers and chanteuses. My interest in the arts was piqued when I became a thespian—I attended a performing arts high school (New World School of the Arts in Miami, FL) and was so impressed by the triple threats—those who could sing, dance, and act—the multi-hyphenates. Today I did a samba around the living room with my daughter signing “Whatever Lola Wants”. I like to perform and I love to live the high life—we have a lot of fun in our house. It’s important to live beautifully and create exhilaration in this life.      If you had the opportunity to ask her anything, what would it be?   How did you hone your devil may care attitude? That ability to communicate grace, intellect, and poshness with such succinct clarity? With such pitch perfect confidence?
  What’s a fantastic piece of advice you have been given in your life, and who gave it to you?   When my husband and I were married, a close family friend instructed us to “Let the bliss settle into a routine.” Isn’t that fabulous? Another is: “Work hard, but work easy.” It was shared with my by one of my favorite mentors, fashion doyenne Audrey Smaltz, who has impeccable taste and tact. I love when hard work is made to look effortless. Another golden nugget is “Pray on it, and then leave it alone,” which my great Aunt Pearl shared with me, along with her stellar recipe for butter pound cake.
  Who is the person in your life that helps fuel love and creativity, and how does he or she do so?   That would be my husband, Joseph. He is sincere, thoughtful, considerate, wise, practical, and honest. His spirit balances my excessive romantic and dramatic tendencies. He is my best friend and has helped me create a life this is in complete alignment with my goals.   What do you love most about being a woman?   The gift I’ve been given to raise a child, my daughter. I feel like I truly understand what it means to cherish—to appreciate and value—and the moment is so halcyon in light of my mother’s sudden death a few years ago. A friend told me years ago before I had my own family that she was “a wife and a mother and that everything else was fiction.” At the time I was perplexed by the austerity of her statement but, now, I totally understand her sentiment. I think it’s a riff on the separation of fact and fantasy. I mean, at the end of the day, who are you going to lean on? Who is going to be your rock?
  Do you consider yourself a feminist, and how do you define what that means?   I am a feminist. I feel it is essential that we connect our personal lives and everyday experiences to the political action needed to promote fairness and opportunity for all women. In terms of my personal practice of feminism, in my academic work I examine how sexism, class oppression, and racism are inextricably bound together. In my personal life I try to actively petition for economic, racial, and social fairness in addition to environmental well-being. I serve on the Board of Directors of The Feminist Press and my most significant contribution to date has been to identify emergent voices in feminist practice—voices that represent the next generation of activists and thinkers. I spearheaded the Press’s 40 Under 40 initiative that identified tastemakers and influencers who best represent what feminism is all about: gender equality and social justice.
  Tell me something pretty. A quote, a lyric, whatever it is that inspires you.   So, it’s no secret that fashion inspires me. Once, when I was perplexed and stressed, a friend said, “Just think Balenciaga and breathe.” That still cracks me up. Another crazy line is: “Whatever is difficult, heavy, or expensive must be good. I love the quirk and moxie of this statement. I think Mr. Chow said it—what a character.      Do you have a website or blog that you would like to share?   Sure, I have a website:  www.erikadalya.com , an online creative archive titled “Coolness” (my signature catchphrase) that tracks cool art, design, fashion food, life, media, and style ( http://erikadalya.blogspot.com ) and a tumblr: http://cinemagirl.erikadalya.com .
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