Photo taken by Alexia Adana @alexiaadana
If you've been following Hola Gwapa Artist Takeovers for a while then you're already a HUGE fan of Lili'uolani, if you're new to the program, meet your new favorite artist, muse/inpso and #girlcrush. Too much?! Based solely on the amount of DM's you babes slipped following this Hawaiian Queens takeover in November it's pretty clear that you're all already borderline obsessed. Broads, I don't blame you. Like me, you were all drawn to her authenticity, vulnerability, depth, and transparency not to mention her insane talent and heart.
But what you may not already know about Lili'uolani is that beyond her free-spirited approach she is an incredible hustler and badass businesswoman. She has vast experience and so much to teach about how to juggle multiple projects at once ( she even has one in the works with HG, more to come soon!), how to build beautiful and impactful brands (she has two in the works right now!) AND maybe most importantly how to never EVER pass up an opportunity to do your happy dance in front of the mirror, like EVER! But enough with the gushy blah blah blah, keep reading to see for yourself and prepare to be inspired and spellbound by this multidimensional mover, shaker and maker.
Who is Lili'uolani? Where are you from? How did you become the woman you are today?
This is an interesting question. Isn’t it strange that we ask about who and normally answer with whats?
In Hawai’ian culture, names are extremely important and are part of our mana or “power”. We wait until the child is born to name them because the events of the day are important. We want to get to know them better and make sure their name reflects who they are. I was named after the last Queen of Hawai’i, Lili’uokalani, because I was born on the 100th year anniversary of her overthrow. My name is Lili’uolani (it’s rude to take the exact name of ali’i. Also, it’s just rude to take people’s names in general, so ALWAYS ask. My name was given to me by a kumu or “elder”).
If one was to break my name down, it’d separate into three words: lili’u / o / lani. Lili’u: scorching, burning, smarting as salt in a raw wound or pain in the eyes. O: of. Lani: heaven.
I am Lili’uolani—divine scorching, burning, smarting pain. Pain is how I transform. It is how I become. If that isn’t me, then I don’t know what is. Or maybe I’m just a divine pain in the ass? Probably all of it.
What is the message you're sending into the universe with your work? Why do you feel so strongly about said message?
I’m not sure I’m sending a message at all. I experience and then share those experiences so I don’t have to hold them in my body or spirit anymore. On a more surface level, I want to create solutions. Solutions for beauty, harmony, community. I truly want to be what I want to see in the world. If I resonate with people—rad. If not—let’s all keep it pushin’.
What do you know for sure?
Change is constant and inevitable.
What are your future plans for your work? Where do you see yourself going 1,3,5 years from now and how do you plan to get there?
Life—my life in particular—is unpredictable, so I’ve adjusted myself to be open to opportunity. I am constantly reinventing myself and I’m just as excited as you to see where and what I do next. Last year, I had no idea that I’d be living in New York, exploring my character, creativity, and magic on the level that I am or that I would be starting a luxury jewelry line and be the partner of a beverage company (like wtf).
I do know that I never want to stop pushing myself. I never want to stop asking myself questions. I never want to stop experiencing. The more I experience life—like falling in love, traveling, learning, touching, tasting, failing—the more inspiration I have to draw from. So essentially, I would say one of my goals for my work is to live more fully. I want to honor my authenticity, passion and desires, my communities and become financially self-sufficient to where I don’t have to balance a nine to five and my entrepreneurial pursuits.
What's the best advice you've ever been given?
Never hesitate. The dad of a good friend told me that when I was learning how to drive and I don’t think he knew how much I’d take it to heart. I probably overuse that to justify my recklessness, but I kind of like that part of myself. Makes me feel alive.
Are you superstitious? Explain.
I don’t particularly care for the term superstitious because its dismissive connotation in that it refers to delusion or fallacy. I find it to be disrespectful to peoples and lifestyles that are tuned into a reality that encompasses more than the basic senses and colonial mentality. I think a balance can be struck between reason and “superstition.” However, there are several superstitions that I naturally adopted from my grandmother who raised me. For example, I don’t whistle at night because doing so calls forth spirits. Also, when my sister has been pregnant, I’ve worn her necklace during her pregnancy to prevent the umbilical cord from wrapping around the baby’s neck and choking it. I also wear ti leaf when I go pond swimming in Hawai’i to protect myself from spirits or mo’o. I don’t take lava rock (and neither should you). I’m sure there are more, but those are the first that come to mind.
A lot of Artists believe they can't be successful without a formal education. Thoughts?
I found that formal education was beneficial to me not so much for the content, but rather for the people. I made lifetime friends, peers, and mentors and had critical discussions that challenged and shaped me. Additionally, you can’t replace art history. It’s the best shit because it’s like learning your family history. Also, you learn how to critically think about art, movements, and yourself. What was this artist expressing? Why? What events or experiences influenced their style or the mediums or symbols they chose? What are you drawn to? Why? Why? Why? Through this process of analyzing, you begin to put together the puzzle pieces of who you are as an artist, what the societal movement is now, how you fit in and what you have to offer. You’ll be more informed and think more critically about why you’re doing or making. Not to mention, you’ll be that bitch at the cocktail party.
But it is absolutely possible to do all of that and not go into incredible amounts of debt! Do you have an artistic community to bounce ideas and work off of? Peers, who inspire you? Mentors? Access to facilities you can make things in? Books? More knowledgeable friends? With the internet, all of that is possible. You just have to be more proactive about finding those resources and have extreme self-discipline, which I do not. One of the reasons why I love Hola Gwapa is because they hold a space of community and resources for creative femmes that’s accessible through your fingertips. It’s empowering.
In the end, only you know what works for you. I know that I needed structure. I needed pruning. I needed to expand my community. I needed guidance (when do I not lol). I needed an institution to butt heads with. So I got a formal education. Although, wtf am I saying? I barely showed up to half my classes.
What I’m currently excited about is my lifestyle brand, Kō Iwi (translated means: your bones, your own interests). It’s where I get to explore different mediums and express my spirituality and heritage, otherwise known as my interests. I’m creating a luxury jewelry line and have started with a pair of Venus earrings, which can be found at ko-iwi.com. I will soon be releasing Mars and Pluto (a choice somewhat influenced by my being a Scorpio)—so stay tuned!
I also have some awesome collaborations in the works. One that I’m super stoked about is an oracle deck, called Modern Love. It’s a collaboration with one of my best friends, Sarah Olson, a talented romance writer. We both read tarot cards and obviously, the most imperative concerns for people are generally money—and love. Sometimes we wish the cards would just spell it out for us and say: THEY ARE A FUCKBOY A.K.A. CERTAIN DEATH. (But let’s be honest—they always tell us from the get-go and we still try anyway.) I love this project because it’s so much fun thinking up ways to illustrate different aspects of how we experience love, romance, and relationships and then write cheeky excerpts to accompany them. Whenever I’m feeling uninspired at work, I’ll doodle one of the cards and it gives me a little creative boost.
Another project that I’m participating in is called Novella which is run by my friend, Abigail Buzbee, a fabulous and extremely thoughtful apparel designer. Novella is a rotating monthly collection of vintage and new clothing and an accompanying publication. Every month, they create stories with each collection and publication bringing to life a different theme revolving around clothing and identities. I have the honor of participating in Novella’s debut publication with the theme being romance. In light of that theme, I collaborated with a brief romantic interest to creatively explore our dynamic, so you can peep that soon. Stay posted!
For more on Lili'uolani Pickford, please visit liliuolani.com.