Today we’d like to introduce you to Emilyna Cullen.
Emilyna, let’s start with your story. We’d love to hear how you got started and how the journey has been so far.
I am one of those people who pretty much was on a path from the moment I entered this life. I could feel it even when I was a little kid. I had some kind of mission, and I had the drive to get me there… wherever there is. My world was, is and always will be the arts.
One reason I believe that we can incarnate over and over again (on Earth and probably elsewhere- yes I believe in extraterrestrials!!) and have many lifetimes because of the abilities and artistic talent I was born with. It only makes sense that I must have been cultivating these gifts for centuries because I was an incredibly talented artist as three years old! (laughter)
My talent is natural, instinctual and there’s a lot of it which of course can sometimes be a challenge because there are so many things that I would like to do this lifetime. Even today at the age of 39 I’m always thinking how I can live longer so that I can do everything, experience more and learn everything I want to learn.
There are many creative endeavors and outlets which I have interest in and even a decent amount of skill. It’s been a life long challenge to allow myself to invest my time in whatever endeavor I feel called to create rather than focus all my energy on only one craft or skill. One fear I’ve had over the years is that by not focusing solely on one skill I’ll never really master anything.
In our society, there’s this underlying message that we have to be the best to succeed and make money or to even consider ourselves skilled at any craft. We push schooling and test taking over experience, and hands-on learning and our society has a way of mentally holding people back from taking the risks necessary to blossom into the incredible beings that we all are. It is risky doing out of the box things. It’s risky going into creative careers, and outlier type careers and too many people don’t try because of the fear that if they fail, they will never get back up.
Weirdly failure actually motivates and often times on the other side of a failure I’ve had a breakthrough. One of the reasons I decided to write this article is so that I could discuss being an out of the box person in an incredibly square culture and economic landscape. To inspire whoever may find this article to listen to their intuition more and do the things that scare them or make them nervous, yet deep down excite them. And it’s a message to myself. Who do I want to be? I want to be the girl who is fearless and fearlessly kind in a sometimes brutal business.
I want to be willing and open to experience life’s incredible beauty and magic and live more at the moment. A lot of the time we experience life this way when we take leaps of faith and are okay with the possibility of failure or even just looking foolish. It’s okay not to know what we are doing and just go forth.
Overall, has it been relatively smooth? If not, what were some of the struggles along the way?
The road to where I am today (which is a Costume Designer and Costumer in the film business) was incredibly curvy, indirect yet useful and for many many years filled with confusion, fear, challenges, setbacks, leaps forward, loneliness, drive, determination, pain, gumption and a total unwillingness to ever give up. I could literally write a book about how I got to where I am today… a person just beginning to experience the kind of creative success where others (friends, family, and strangers) finally get to see and experience the fruits of my labor.
In a lot of ways, I feel like I am right at the beginning. I climbed the insurmountable mountain, and now I’m living in this beautiful flow where I finally trust the process and the purpose of the struggles and challenges of the past and do not fear the challenges or struggles that are sure to come in the future That’s just the way life goes. The person who is emerging from within me is inspiring and strong. What more can we ask for than to be inspired by our own selves?!
Looking back on who I was and who I am now my biggest obstacle was always myself. My incredibly high standards of perfection, deep self-judgment, a sort of vast loneliness that was probably exacerbated by my independent spirit and a deep, deep need to connect, love and be loved. In my early 20s, I moved to NYC to study fashion design and hopefully start a career as a high-end couture fashion designer. Lofty goals!
Those years (as evident from a perusal of my old notebooks and journals) were filled with deep feelings of unworthiness and if I’m being completely honest a sometimes all-encompassing self-loathing. Although that’s not exactly how I remember myself, I do remember the pain. I was an overweight girl in a world of high fashion propaganda. I would walk into Badgley Mischka or Gucci to do research for college projects, and I could feel their eyes on me, and they felt judgmental… nothing was my size anyway so how could I fault them.
As I entered my mid-late 20s some really big shifts happened, and I often feel like my 29th year was the beginning of the journey that I am on today. At that point, I had this incredibly inspiring group of close friends (a bunch of cool, smart young women) who I really felt connected to and loved by, and I had what could be considered a pretty great job in the fashion industry, designing textiles for Ralph Lauren.
In the spring of 2009, I had started doing some inner self-work and was actively working on healing and balancing my body. My mom had left the country to work in Haiti for nine months, and I wasn’t able to talk to her much which kind of forced me to become an adult in a more profound way. During this time of self-reflection and healing I ended up waking up one morning in a state of a bliss or profound joy which lasted for over three weeks straight and then continued on and off for another six months.
Those first three weeks the only feeling I experienced and felt was joy 24 hours a day. I describe it as this all-encompassing feeling of being in love with life and being alive, and a lot like the experience Ekert Tolle describes in his first book. Later that year, I decided to change careers, and one year later I moved to Los Angeles to become a costume designer. The most unexpected result of my move to LA was this very natural and unexpected unfolding of my inner self that over the last eight years has honestly changed me to my core.
As a kid, I had this feeling I was supposed to be on a spiritual journey (like a spiritual teacher or something), but I wanted to be an artist instead so I basically ignored those inclinations and focused on the arts. I’ve always been an avid reader of books on channeling, philosophy, the afterlife and the energetic laws of this universe, so the interest in the metaphysical has always been there, but the motivation and purpose were not. That didn’t stop life from taking me on an unplanned journey though!
Within a year or two of moving to LA, I began having this profound awakening and remembering why I incarnated on this planet. So there I was, 32 years old, in the midst of a huge career change and a new incredible journey of self-discovery begins to simultaneously unfold while at the same time I’m perusing a career in the very challenging world of the entertainment business. But of course! My life has never been burning.
Please tell us about your business.
I am an artist and costume designer. I currently spend the majority of my time dedicated to the craft of creating costumes for the film both as a Costume Designer and also as a member of many varied costume departments. As far as skill sets go, costumes is where I have really put the most time in cultivating and mastering my craft. By no means am I a master of costume design just yet, however, I’ve put an incredible amount of work in over the last 27 years learning absolutely everything I can about design, color, fabrics, construction, character, reading into the energies of people and why they dress the way they do, cinematography and so on while simultaneously having a truly innate ability to sense the essence of a character and help bring them to life.
I think I’m known for two things and this would be both in my career in costumes and in my paintings and drawings. I have a love affair with color. I used to design textiles for Ralph Lauren after I got out of design school (FIT) in New York and a part of my job was to match and create colors. From the most dusty and moody hues to vibrant life filled colors, through film, I get to explore color in a whole new way through the lens of the camera and the lighting created by the director of photography and the gaffer. Through that lens, a whole world is created and comes to life. Understanding how the camera lens and the sets and environment the character is it will affect the look of the clothing is something I learned very early on and a lot of that was through luck and these magical accidents that taught me filmmaking on the fly.
This leads me to the second thing I feel I’m known for. I’m an incredibly instinctual person, and I use this in everything I do. Instinct and attuned awareness lead me to the logic of a situation and help me read between the lines when I’m meeting with actors, directors, and producers. One of the main things very talented Costume Designers do (which is far beyond putting clothes on bodies as some very shortsighted people have described our job) is picking up on the psychology of not just the character but also the actors playing the characters, the director and anyone else who may be very involved in the creative process. This instinct has also helped me foresee problems before they happen, learn faster, connect more deeply to the characters and just generally have the ability to be on my A game in a way I never have before in other fields of work. At this point, the thing I am most proud of is that I never give up, and that’s with everything in life.
I truly am an optimist. I take everything in, the good the bad, and I weigh the information in my mind, and I see how to create balance within the polarities. I may not always be “successful” but isn’t success really more about the journey?! In the end, my hope is that I have the opportunity to really do something profoundly beautiful and worth remembering with this life that I am so blessed and honored to live. I hope that a part of my essence and innovation inspires others to create their own dreams into reality, in the same way, those who inspire me have!
What were you like growing up? Personality wise, interest wise, etc.
I actually think of myself as a fine artist, but that’s not my career. Instead, it’s just who I am; my essence. So at my core, I never really had a choice about who I was going to be. I was going into the arts in one way or another.
Interestingly at a young age I became totally enamoured with clothes even though I was a total tomboy country girl who spent most of my entire childhood outdoors whether we were living in the city suburbs of South Bend, Indiana, living the hippie life in a camper for a year when I was eight (traveling all over the deep south experiencing some of incredible variety of American cultures) or settling in the rural Piedmont of South Carolina for those formative grade-school/high school years.
As a kid I was independent to the extreme, curious, smart enough to question authority when authority was wrong or didn’t understand me and a great lover of fantasy and storytelling, playing and enjoying life and always creating adventure. I’m pretty much the exact same person today! In my memory, everything started with a copy of the Vogue 1992 100th anniversary issue.
From that moment on, I became obsessed with fashion. No matter what direction my interests have veered (dance, acting, photography, making music, becoming a fashion designer or costume designer) clothing has always been a central part of how I see myself, my personality, my thoughts and ideas about career, success and becoming some sort of visionary creative.
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