Interview with Emma Gelaude
Hello Emma, thank you for taking the time to do this interview. Most people know you from your work in fashion, but today we want to talk to you about your latest book, in which you talk about mental health and the importance of breaking the taboos surrounding it.
But first, for people who don’t know you yet, what should they know about you?
My name is Emma, I am from Ghent and I have spent most of my life in the fashion world. After being a professional model for several years, I wanted to start my own business. So in 2007 I started a personal shopping & styling agency, B2C and B2B, in which I went through style coachings and shoppings with both men and women in Ghent, Antwerp… But I also gave branding workshops to companies and organised styling events at big fairs and festivals. Simultaneously with EMMA Personal Shopping, I launched “My Fashion Blog” as a promo for my services. This ‘first fashion blog of Belgium’ quickly led a life of its own, resulting in numerous fun collaborations with top brands. As a creative entrepreneur, I worked for years on features for Marie Claire, for example, where I highlighted activists, or for L’Officiël, where I created trend mood boards.
In 2017, after working in this business for 10 years and becoming a mum, I felt it was time for a first revelation. I had been showing a lot of the pretty side of entrepreneurship through my blog and social channels, like campaign results and photo shoots, but I also wanted to talk about the other, less glamorous side. The book “Make my dream work” resulted from this. At the same time, I started an entrepreneurial platform. My dream was to create a place where entrepreneurs could come together with their challenges, questions and problems.
But then life happened 🙂 and I wrote my third book “Everything good, less for the rest”, about the personal and professional evolutions in my life. The need to break down the taboos surrounding mental wellbeing has been an important driver in this process.
Starting at the beginning, where did your fascination with the fashion world come from?
My feeling for fashion has become stronger during my years as a model but fashion has always intrigued me. Not necessarily because of the outward appearance, but mainly because it is an expression of one’s personality. I was also fascinated by the impact fashion could have on a person’s self-image and psyche and the people around them.
Because how you dress has an influence, whether you like it or not. You tell a story. The fact that you are not dependent but can choose what kind of impression you leave behind is something that many people are not aware of and I wanted to contribute to that.
Fashion, and the fashion world around it, are known for keeping up appearances and pure external show. In your book, you say that you too have kept up appearances for a long time, even in your private life. Was this a direct result of your career in fashion?
It’s not that the fashion world is the cause of my inability to express my emotions, but it certainly contributed to it. It is a world where the weather is clean every day and there is no depth to it. It normalised my escape behaviour and made it very easy for me to hide certain feelings, to pay no attention to what was hurting and why I felt bad. It was like a perfect world where it was completely OK to stay on the surface and focus on other things.
In your book, you take us through the different stages of your life, focusing on your mental health at that time. You do it based on questions. How did you come up with this idea and what was the motivation for writing this book?
I have been asked to write a book about it. That question came after I started being more honest and open on social media about my fears and insecurities. It was the beginning of Corona and I felt I had to become more honest myself. But there would never have been a book if they hadn’t pulled me out of my comfort zone. No way that I was going to share the process that I just went through.
But after much hesitation, I decided to try to write it down, because I sincerely believe that many people can benefit from it. But after much hesitation, I decided to try to write it down, because I sincerely believe that many people can benefit from it. It was the final phase of a powerful chapter in my life.
The idea of working with questions came naturally because for me everything starts with a question. “Why do I feel this way?” … all questions that everyone needs to find answers for themselves. I wanted to make it a kind of workbook with lots of insights and seeds of knowledge that lead to even more insights of my own. Because my answers are not your answers. Only you know what decision is right for you. Only you know what makes you happy etc..
By working with questions, I wanted to invite the reader to enter into that quest. I tell about my answers and list the ways, the treatments, the techniques, the books, the people, … how I came to these conclusions but. There is not one answer and answers also change throughout your life. That’s why I find questioning so interesting. It teaches you to be eternally open-minded.
You end your book with a sense of gratitude for all the phases of your life, even the most difficult. Do you consider gratitude to be a crucial element for a happy and conscious life?
That’s what I felt so strongly myself, that gratitude.
I had no choice but to end with it. Gratitude for my body, for my environment, for all my experiences. Even the difficult ones. It’s a feeling that was and still is very strong, after all I’ve been through and all the phases I’ve gone through. By feeling that gratitude, it is as if everything is also turned around, from feelings of powerlessness and a victim role in which you blame others (and therefore also the redemption) to a feeling of your own power and empowerment. Everything has also been given a reason.
What is the role of nutrition in this process? How do you relate to your mental well-being?
Mental well-being, or the lack of it, is a complex problem that also requires a complex solution. Nutrition is part of that solution because body and mind are so inextricably linked. After all, you can’t have mental well-being without also being physically healthy. I used to link food too much to emotions and also to outward appearances, such as fitting into a certain size, but in retrospect that focus was completely wrong. I was very busy with nutrition, but I didn’t understand it and I was doing the wrong things. When I saw that my daughter was starting to do the same things, I knew I had to do something. I started taking cooking workshops to learn how to approach food in a very accessible way.
I gradually began to see that nutrition is actually a very intuitive thing and that balance is important in this area. I left behind feelings like control, judgments or connotations. Similarly, I avoid talking to my daughter about nutrition as “good” or “bad” nutrition and imposing rules on her. Instead, I try to teach her to understand her body and the nutrition it gives her.
It is perfectly acceptable to eat a little more sugar, as long as you make up for it with extra nutrients the next day. It is also best not to eat desserts until you have had your fill of healthy vegetables.
What’s next for you? Where do you see yourself in a few years?
To be honest, I have now decided to let things come to me. For a long time, I have been chasing things and taking initiatives myself, and now I want to see what and who crosses my path. And then my gut feeling will tell me whether it is a right match 🙂
Anyway, I know that helping people see themselves in all their incredible strength and beauty is my thing in life. I used to do that through garments, reminding them of who they were. Now it is by making myself very vulnerable and showing how crucial speaking your own truth is and what beauty that brings you.
To conclude, I still have a question that intrigues me a lot. Que voudriez-vous dire à votre jeune personne ?
The only person you have to prove anything to is yourself.
Short & sweet! Thank you Emma, it was very interesting and I was delighted to get to know you better.
Anyone can buy your book online or in their local bookshop.