Welcome back to Crescent City Crush! I’m so excited to bring to you the wonderful Whitney Mitchell (aka Twomacks). A Staten Island native who has called Louisiana her home the last 14 years, she’s a Visual Artist, Collective Impact Strategist for Fitnola, Visual Marketing Creative, ball of Positive Energy and really a dose of sunshine on a cloudy day. She’s got a long list of accomplishments including (but definitely not limited to) driving a Book Mobile and distributing books to city youth, running track at LSU, writing a strategic plan for a city initiative, and amassing an impressive following on Instagram. I applaud her positive outlook and how’s she’s capable of reinventing herself time and again.
LR: How are you crushing it?
WM: I’m crushing it because I’m paying attention and listening to people and making connections where gaps exist. We are living in a generation, or just a time, where we’re super self-aware because of social media. What I’m doing is paying attention to other people and not just myself, so that I can make the connections that are needed in the community.
WM: Yes. I came into my job [at Fit NOLA] because it still had to do with a passion of mine, sports. When I was growing up, I was always a track runner, and then I was like, “I still need to be somewhere in that arena, where I’m helping people, or facilitating help in some way, and then also working with physical activity.”
WM: I just want New Orleans to see its potential in itself. I think there’s a lot of people that do come down here and try to be the savior of New Orleans. I don’t want to be that. I want New Orleans to look in the mirror, and see why people are moving down here. When you’re in the same place your whole life you don’t see its magic- even I got like that for a little bit here. So my quest is for New Orleans to remember why it’s New Orleans, and why people come and visit here. I think that I’m part of maintaining the magic, or even uplifting the magic, and continuing to ripen the magic of New Orleans to show itself. I don’t want to change this place. It doesn’t need to change. I feel like I’m holding up a mirror and saying “Look what you guys have done. Look what you’ve created. This is yours. Own it.”
LR: I love that. It’s something that I need to be reminded of because I grew up here and I often lose sight of the magic and just get grumpy.
WM: Yeah! It’s easy to get grumpy when you have a routine. Sometimes you need to just shake it up. I think that the wonderful thing about New Orleans is I can shake it up but then I can also feel comfort because I’ll see somebody that I know wherever I go. New Orleans is like the perfect balance of many things. A lot of people see the potential here which is why so many people are moving here, and so many people think “ohhhhhh, Instagram magic, New Orleans is great!” ’cause it is, but I think sometimes certain narratives take away from that. Like constantly hearing that it’s a violent city is the same thing as poking at somebody who’s gonna cry, right? So I think that if we shift the narrative back to what the magic is, people will remember why their families have been here forever, and why Millennials want to move here. I think it’s a really special place.
WM: Absolutely. My motto right now is to “Change the Narrative”. Because if you consistently tell a group of people that they’re violent at some point they’re going to get frustrated enough to be violent.
LR: Self-fulfilling prophecy.
WM: Absolutely. You gotta speak the things that you want to see. I think if we change the narrative and tell people that this city isn’t just for tourists, it’s for the people who made it, then I think that this city could be even more magical than it is right now. I wholeheartedly believe that.
WM: Exactly. When you watch movies about New Orleans, and you see music being played in places, you see the color, you see people talking to each other and you would think it’s fake if you’re an outsider. But to experience that and to know that it is real is amazing. I feel like my purpose for even still living here is to remind people that “yo, your home is dope”. People could be walking around in this city that’s amazing and never know it if you don’t tell them. Or somebody could be walking around with so much awesomeness inside of them but if you don’t point out that “I see that as awesome” then they just keep it in.
LR: I see that coming across a lot in just your Instagram feed, like, “this is my city, look how beautiful it is”. But you also feature your friends in your photos.
WM: While I enjoy sharing the colorful architecture around me, New Orleans is not just about the houses. I purposely have my feed full of black women because we need to see black women in positions of royalty and regality. I think there’s a lot of photography in New Orleans that has black people in either positions of entertainment or in the hood, and that’s not my reality. I live in the Bywater, my friends are all amazing people, and I feel like it’s necessary to show them in the midst of my reality, which is all this color around me. So they are my props, and I want to give them props, and I want people to see them.
LR: What woman has influenced you the most?
WM: My mom. She is 61 and continuously throughout my entire life has defied time and she’s consistently defied whatever boundaries people set for themselves because of age. Before I was born, her first husband died and she had one of my sisters and only a high school degree. So she got a job, she met my dad and then she had my sister and me. And then she decided to go to college. So she went to college after I was born- took me to classes with her! She went on to get her Master’s, became a teacher, and now in four years she gets to retire. She was the first person in her family to own a house. She was also the first person in her family to get a degree. And so then she thought, okay, so I’m a teacher – what else can I do? Then she became a track coach after she watched me grow in track. And then she thought, what else can I do? I’m about to retire, and turn 60, I want to be hot – CrossFit! Why not? This past Saturday she did her first CrossFit competition and I told her that she’s so cool.
She’s inspired me to test the boundaries of myself. Before, all I knew was track, and then I was like, “oh my God, I’m injured, my career is done, what am I gonna do?” So I thought “I’m still going to focus on sports and I’m going to work with people.” So that’s what I did and I had my head down. I was going to work, going home, going to work, that’s it. Then I felt like I needed something for myself. So I started painting, and I had never drawn before, ever. But I could paint and thought “okay, what else can I do?”. And then three years ago I picked up a camera. My mom has inspired me to know that we’re all capable of doing whateverwe want to do. That’s so cliche, but you CAN, if you test the boundaries of yourself.
LR: Well, I’d like to know you in thirty years to see how many incarnations you’ve gone through.
WM: I know! My co-workers tell me “You live so many lives!” And really, my mom sets the bar! I’m trying to catch up to her!
WM: Megan Coates. She is a costumer,a stylist, a painter, she can do set design, she can do everything. I met her nine years ago and while I never could remember where we met, I always remembered her energy and her lust for bringing pleasantness to people. She’s beautiful, inside and out. She’s kind of like my mom in the way she tests the boundaries of herself. She pushes me to want to ripen myself as a visual artist and to really nurture that craft. She’s always doing something and always helping somebody. You would never know how busy she was until she ran down her calendar, because she’s always present. And she’s not just there- she’s very aware of what you’re saying, aware of what energy you’re bringing. She’s able to pick up on if you need to hear something pleasant. She’s just amazing.
LR: Where can her work be seen?
WM: Her Instagram is @bijouluna. And her website is meganbijoucoates.com. She’s very talented at not only displaying her craft but also bringing out emotion.
LR: What advice do you have for women trying to crush it?
WM: I think sometimes women forget to put their blinders on and give themselves self-love. Self-love is really important. Women have this natural ability to nurture people around us- our significant others, our friends, people at work- and sometimes we forget ourselves. And I think in order to crush it, and be able to give of yourself and fill up other people’s cups, you have to make sure that you’re doing that for yourself. I got to a place where I was keeping my head down and just working that I was having anxiety attacks. My solution was that I needed to treat myself by taking a break from everything around me once a month- which is how I started traveling.Last December was one of my worst anxiety attacks and so I asked myself “what do you want?”. I listened, and my spirit said, “go to Portland”. (laughs) So I went to Portland with some of my friends and I felt so full. It’s important to fill up your own cup. That’s the only way you can crush it, ’cause if your cup isn’t full, then the things that you do won’t be full either. That’s really important. ♥
I’d like to thank my amazing, kickass ALL GIRL TEAM who helped produce this volume: Midori Tajiri-Byrd (akaCrescent City Crush #1!) who provided makeup for Whitney’s shoot, Jessica Kelly (she is also one of my Brides!) who assisted and provided the sweet book case backdrop, Leah Walbourne who let us invade her house to escape the rain, and Chelsea Sullivan who transcribed the interview. I also want to give a big shout out to Pike’s Peak of New Orleans for their generous donation of roses! I’d also like to thank The Plant Gallery for donating Lilies that we were unfortunately unable to use in the shoot but went to brighten another crush worthy babe’s day. And last but never least, Scott Simon of iheartnola who not only nominated Whitney for this project but who has been a supporter and sounding board for Crush since its inception. He also designed our killer logo! Thank you all for helping Crush make its 2016 return. Keep on crushin’ it!