LADIES WE LOVE | ASHLEE PIPER
Nothing thrills us more than watching women conquer obstacles and chase their dreams.
In honor of Women's History Month, we're eager to speak with Ladies We Love!
You'll be hard-pressed to find a woman more dedicated to realizing her dreams than Ashlee Piper. An eco-lifestyle expert and brand strategist, Ashlee is everywhere - from digital and print media to TV. We wanted to gain an insight into what makes Ashlee tick - just how did she get to be so prolific in the eco-vegan scene?! - so we sat down for a chat.
/ ASHLEE PIPER
PV: Tell us a little bit about yourself and what you do.
AP: My side hustle: Eco-lifestyle journalist and TV personality, freelance brand strategist. My day job: I do creative for a large drugstore chain’s digital beauty program.
PV: How did you get started? Were you always an eco-lifestyle expert?
AP: I was a political strategist for a decade and as I became happily entrenched in the ethical vegan lifestyle, I wanted to parlay that skillset into helping animal and environmental causes. I made a plan, left my career, and began freelancing. It was difficult to find my niche at first, so I started my (now retired, but still around) blog, The Little Foxes, as a way to keep myself busy. I found people were interested in my advice around maintaining an ethical lifestyle while working a high-profile, professional job, and I wanted to expand that reach. So I started pitching digital outlets, and Refinery29 picked me up as a weekly columnist focusing on cruelty-free. After that, I began securing print pieces and thought that TV might be an interesting thing to try (I’ll try pretty much anything! Ha!), so I began cold pitching stations and producers, and in the past 2.5 years, I’ve done 120+ TV segments on sustainable and ethical living.
I was definitely not always like this. I was a Texas-raised, beef-eating, disposables-loving gal for a long time. Then I saw the light in my own time and I feel like I’m constantly learning new things and incorporating them into my values.
PV: So let's get this straight: You're a writer for top publications, having been featured on everything from Refinery29 to Glamour Magazine; you're a TV personality, appearing on news and talk shows like Good Morning America; AND you're a brand strategist. How do you balance it all?! What's kept you sane and focused during your journey?
AP: Oh, you’re nice to me. ;) I get a little nutty sometimes with the pace of things, especially since I have a day job I’m passionate about, too, but I know myself well enough to know that I also get nutty if I’m not staying busy. When I’m feeling off-kilter, I compartmentalize my needs – am I craving fun or rest? If it’s the former, I go out karaokeing or dancing with friends. If it’s the latter, I take a hot bath, have a long chat with my fam, take a hike with my dog, go for a long drive, read, or just sleep. I’m also a big goal-setter. While some find that stressful, tracking milestones keeps me grateful and focused in a way that soothes me.
/ ASHLEE AT WORK
PV: How has your work evolved since its inception? Are you where you envisioned you'd be when you started on this path?
AP: It’s changed in a big way. I’ve gone from leading with a vegan foot, to focusing on sustainability with veganism as a key piece of the bigger picture. And my goals are different – they get loftier and I become more confident with every accomplishment (or setback, believe it or not). When I started (and was feeling really directionless) in 2014, I typed a little list on my phone of things I’d like to accomplish. They were good goals, like “write a piece for a magazine” and “do a television interview,” but they felt very far from my reach then. I honestly didn’t think anything of it until I was on a flight last month and found it in my notes. I read through and had accomplished every single thing and then some that I had written. I think just the act of writing those dreams down, even if I never visited them again, was helpful in my putting them into action.
PV: Are there any takeaways or significant lessons learned on your journey?
AP: Oh, so many, but I’ll share my favorite three:
The first is that everyone, no matter how seemingly expert, is in some way faking it until they make it. It’s easy to downplay what you can bring to the table when comparing yourself to others, but really, no one has it all figured out and we’re all making our way. Whenever I feel out of my depth or underqualified or just plain not good enough, I try to remember this.
The second, is to just ask or try, haters be damned. I remember when I was exploring TV, I reached out to a local host in Chicago. She met with me and was kind, but spent most of our time together giving me reasons why I wouldn’t succeed (like, because I didn’t have a journalism degree, I couldn’t do it. And other dumb crap). I left that meeting feeling so small and stymied. After reflecting on the meeting, I thought about all the things I had accomplished in my life that people had told me were impossible, and I realized that while folks are entitled to their opinions, you don’t have to make them yours. I’m glad I didn’t let her deter me, because I wouldn’t have had the opportunity to share the things I’m passionate about with a wider audience (and have a total blast doing it!).
The third, and one I work at every. single. day. is to keep going. My favorite quote is “Nothing happens, and nothing happens, and then everything happens.” And that’s the way it is when you’re working on your dream. Days when I get no response or nothing feels like it’s working, I remind myself that I’m just one 'yes' away from having the floodgates open. And life can change like that in a second.
PV: What skills would you say a woman needs to be a trailblazer, i.e. what do you need to take the idea you are building in your garage to creating/running an empire?
AP: Perseverance. Passion. A 'do no harm, but take no shit' attitude. Unshakable sense of self. Personal boundaries. Gratitude. The ability to laugh at how wacky and wonderful the world can be.
PV: What do you look for in a brand, company, or person that fits the standard of eco-friendly/cruelty-free for you? (Or alternatively, what should a reader be looking for in a truly green, eco-friendly, cruelty-free company or brand?)
AP: I’ve been using cruelty-free products since I was 11 years old, and vegan products for the past 8ish years. Now, I look for minimal packaging and natural ingredients, in addition to those. I’ve become very interested in zero-waste living, so products in reusable, non-plastic, compostable, or recycled and recyclable packaging are more my bag.
PV: What would be the first action items you would recommend to a gal pal who wants to be ethical/sustainable?
AP: Eating more plant-based is obvi a super impactful way to start. I also think embracing minimalism has been the biggest help for me, mostly because it’s created more space in my life (does woo-woo gesture) and allowed me to conquer emotional spending (which had led me to purchase fast fashion and other crap I didn’t need simply because I was stressed or having a bad day). Now, I’m extremely content with a home cooked vegan meal, beautiful second-hand finds, the joys of hanging with people and critters whom I adore, and simple beauty and grooming products that either I make myself or purchase from awesome ethical makers. Knowing that you’re enough as you are with less has truly been the key to me making space in my life to accomplish my goals.
/ ASHLEE AT HER HOME IN CHICAGO
PV: Back to you. What are your favorite eco-vegan beauty must-haves.
AP: I try to keep it minimal, but I always have these on-hand:
R. L. Linden & Co. | Thousand Petal Beautifying Mist
This smells like heaven. I spray it everywhere.
Lina Hanson | Global Face Serum
I love facial oils and this is one of the dreamiest and it works so well for my sensitive, dry skin. Again, totally smells incredible, too.
Captain Blankenship | Mermaid Dry Shampoo
I use this everywhere – for second-day (or third, let’s be real) hair, sprinkled in my gym shoes, even on my carpets before I vacuum.
Meow Meow Tweet | Rosemary Avocado Shampoo Bar
When I travel, I bring this bar for everything – my hair, bod, face. It’s easy and delightful.
Gressa Skin | Minimalist Corrective Serum Foundation
Svetlana’s been a friend since she started Gressa, and I basically love everything from the line.
Angela Roi | Andrea Oversized Tote
Angela sent me this bag when it first launched (in black) and it’s legit one of the best bags I’ve ever owned. And it’s taken a beating and still looks amazing.
PV: Tell us more! Your favorite plant-based meal or pick-me-up? Favorite activity to stay fit? How do you spend your free time?
AP: Either avocado toast or a fresh baguette with Kite Hill Ricotta and red pepper flakes. Vegan fettuccine Alfredo or mac and cheese, or a seriously dope veggie burger or the nachos from Native Foods (I heart food, duh). Iced coffee always fuels my day and I have a local barre studio that I adore. The workouts are empowering and it’s a great community of women. I spend my time perusing second-hand shops, karaokeing, volunteering, seeing concerts, hiking and camping, cooking, hanging with my peeps, and watching Homeland.
PV: Favorite charity you love to donate to?
PV: Any big plans or upcoming goals you'd like to share? What's next for you?
AP: I signed with a NYC literary agency in 2016 and I’m writing a book on stylish, sustainable living, about which I’m very excited. I am also planning to run for public office in the next few years. Given my background in politics, my commitment to ever-threatened environmental and social issues, and the terrifying malaise and negative impact of this new Administration, I felt compelled to take a little nugget of a dream and start putting it into action.
PV: That's incredible! We are ready to support #PiperforPresident! Thanks for chatting with us!
Follow Ashlee on Instagram @ashleepiper Twitter & FB @thelilfoxes
and keep up to date with her work here.