Julia-Elise Childs on self-acceptance and education as a means of racial consciousness
Through her writing, Julia-Elise Childs exudes a kind of wisdom and undone elegance that immediately draws one in, hungering to know more. In her role as Associate Creative Director and Content Chief at Live FAST Magazine, Julia’s work spans from highlighting the nuances of intersectional feminism, to racial and social consciousness, and self-love as a mechanism for healing.
From Los Angeles, California, Julia sent us her notes on using our platforms to advance social justice and how she defines her happiness.
Julia, tell us a bit about yourself.
Hi! I am a writer and creative living in Los Angeles. I write on a variety of topics but generally end up focusing on art and social justice. I identify as a biracial black woman and intersectional feminist.
Your writing so diverse in its range, from the sensual to the socio-political - how do you decide on what to write about?
Hmm… I write about anything that makes me feel. It is so funny to go through my archives of writing on Live FAST - you can see my evolution as a young woman as well. You can see my phase of writing erotica, something I no longer do, and how it slowly bloomed into art writing and how art writing bloomed into social justice.
What inspired you to become a writer?
When I was young, I experienced a lot of things that I did not feel I could explain aloud. So, I would process my experiences through writing. It never quite felt like an escape, instead, it felt like the only time I could be completely true and honest. I was fortunate enough to have many mentors throughout my life who encouraged me to continue writing.
I wish I could say there was one author who truly inspired me, but there isn’t. My favorites change with the seasons and my taste is constantly evolving, as is my work.
As a Creative Director at Live FAST Magazine and a writer, how do you balance these two roles?
I am not sure I balance them as much as I let them intertwine and bleed into each other. Something that may inspire me for an agency client but may not make sense for them at the time can come to life with a team of creatives for the magazine and something that is pitched by a team of freelance creatives can then be taken into a project for a client, which thus helps feed and nourish our creative network. It is a constant give and take between these two roles.
Could you tell us about your column, Midweek Meditations? What was the catalyst for it?
Midweek Meditations is a forum of activist-minded discourse within the creative realms. The catalyst was realizing that I am afforded an immense privilege to have a platform for my voice and the least I could do is bring up topics pertaining to social justice and offer the space to other activists to speak up.
What obstacle or challenge has most profoundly shaped what you’d now consider to be a personal asset?
I love this question. In many ways, I had to grow up very quickly and that felt like an immense undertaking for the majority of my life thus far. It wasn’t until recently that I made peace with the fact that I don’t feel I fit in with many of my peers. This feeling of alienation and sort of fear that I missed out on being a kid has shifted into an acceptance of my own personal journey. It shows up in my life as strength, wisdom, and an understanding that tough times can’t take me down.
Given the state of politics, how can we practice being conscious of people of color in America?
Where do I begin? If you are a white person, please educate yourself. Do not ask your friends or family who are POC to educate you. Read the books. Watch the documentaries. Be mindful of the emotional labor that is put on folks of color in America and do the damn work. If a person of color shares their experience with you, listen. Do not make their own personal experiences about you. Hire people of color. Put them in decision making positions. Do not treat them as your in-house social justice educators.
If you are a person of color, I suggest that you too do the work. Learn about your Muslim friends. Learn about your immigrant friends. Learn about your black friends. Learn about your Latinx friends. Exchange experiences. Identify where your stories overlap and divide. Read the books. Watch the documentaries. Ask how you can be of support. Challenge the stereotypes you hear about other folks of color within your own communities.
You’ve written about body image and self-perception. How did you learn to embrace yourself for who you are?
I learned to stop valuing the male gaze. When I began to value myself for myself, regardless of what men thought or found sexy or attractive, I began to embrace myself.
I learned to stop valuing Eurocentric beauty standards. As a woman with a black father and a white mother, I understand that some of my features do sway towards those beauty standards that I speak of and some do not. However, once I quit looking to skinny white models for beauty and fashion inspiration, I began to appreciate not only my own God give features, but those of men and women of color everywhere. There is such beauty in humans and we often are not shown that in the beauty and fashion industry.
As a writer and creative, how does utilizing the internet and/or social media platforms professionally impact your life personally? In other words, do you ever need to draw a boundary between the two, and if so, why?
Absolutely. I have made many friends on Instagram, like Tasnim who I absolutely adore and am so inspired by. I appreciate social media because it has afforded many creatives, like myself, opportunities that can help keep us nourished literally and metaphorically. I also appreciate the strides it has afforded activists - we are able to rapidly communicate with one another, document injustices, and take the fight for equality to a major broader audience than what was possible without social media. However, in my personal life, I often feel fatigued by the internet and seldom share deeply personal content on my Instagram.
To be completely transparent, I feel that I am often trying to be sold something on the internet. A new lifestyle, a new wardrobe, a new identity. Anyone can be anyone on the internet and can literally transpire a new identity for themselves. The combination of these things feel alarming and exhausting.
I counteract these feelings by only following brands whose ethos I identify with, news outlets I trust, activists and creatives who present authentic, thought-provoking, and inspiring content, and friends/family who I dearly love.
How has California influenced the person you are today?
I find myself creatively recharged in nature and I am at my best when I am near the ocean. These two facts inform who I am as an individual and I suppose my easy going nature.
How do you care for yourself?
I abstain from drinking alcohol and using drugs. I drink a lot of water. I engage in therapy. I workout. I cry. I am honest about my wins and my losses. I take naps. I eat a lot of chocolate. I spend time with incredible women who are smart, driven, and loving. I say no. I put myself first. I treat my self-care routine as a means of survival - because it is.
What is one book you'll never forget?
Dreams From My Father: A Story of Race and Inheritance by Barack Obama. I lost my African-American father around the same age Obama lost his African father. Reading his coming-of-age memoir about his journey through grief and his subsequent journey to Africa (his father’s version of the Motherland) guided me through my own grief and my subsequent journey to Missouri (my father’s version of the Motherland).
Define your happiness.
I am near the ocean, I am creatively fed, I am neither in financial fear nor absolute abundance (more money, more problems). I am in love and loved.
Photos by Naomi Christie