Liv gets advice from the founder of Woke Beauty, Riley Blanks, on how to win the battle with self-judgment.

We all struggle with self-judgment. That inner voice that tells us all sorts of self-defeating and self-sabotaging things.

When you want to make more money, it says you don’t deserve it, that you haven’t earned it. When you want to buy that cool new outfit, it reminds you that your body doesn’t look like Kendall Jenners. That time you almost asked that person out on a date, but then that little voice convinced you how they were way too good for the likes of you.

That voice is a liar.

You know that. But, it’s a persuasive bugger, so how do you stop listening to it?

In this episode, I talk to Riley Blanks, founder of Woke Beauty, all about how we can shift the way we talk to ourselves by changing the way we treat ourselves. By putting practices and routines into your life that work for you, it’s possible to quiet that inner voice.

*Listen to this episode for Riley’s tips on how to win the battle with self-judgment based on her own personal experience.

Read Full Transcript

Liv Hadden: 00:23 Hello and welcome to Self-Aware Millennial, the podcast for people seeking a joyously authentic life. It's me, your host, live Hatton and an extra welcome to the first interview of season two. Today I'm speaking with Austin based photographer Riley blanks about self judgment, self criticism, and some of the tools and ways that she's overcome that inner voice of hers to lead her more toward her authentic and joyful expression of self. Riley blanks is an Austin based photographer, storyteller and model. She is the founder of woke beauty. Her mission is to encourage women to celebrate themselves through self imagery and wellness. Consulting Riley has lived in 17 cities and six countries. She spent her formative years living in various places around the world with her family and training as a high level tennis player before discovering her passion for photography with a clear understanding of her vision.

Liv Hadden: 01:23 Riley honored her skills by learning how to meaningfully merged the art and science of photography through a fine arts degree from the University of Virginia. Riley is unique in her ability and willingness to adapt. She pursues creativity in any form possible with great poise and has an uncanny ability to establish comfort with anyone she comes in contact with no matter what side of the camera she stands on. Humanitarian and societal issues are of paramount importance to Riley's work. She has used her platform to share her unusual perspective in an effort to create awareness and stimulus regardless of the setting. She naturally captures the essence of her surroundings in a transformative piece of art, be it an image, a piece of writing, or a monologue that quietly speaks to the moment in time when Riley isn't inspiring and photographing the beautiful women of Austin. She is juggling a multitude of colorful projects.

Liv Hadden: 02:15 She is currently writing, producing, and recording a podcast. She is working on a photography series, exploring her biracial identity and its sociological relation to viewers at large in juxtaposition to her intrinsic identity and its relation to earthly elements. Riley recently completed whole 30 and has teamed up with their community to release an instagram campaign. She is always exploring forever eager. Though frequently on the road. Riley currently resides in Austin, Texas with her lifelong partner. Jack and their two dogs, Walter and willow, she makes every effort to spend time with her family and friends as they reside at the center of her circle. I have not known Riley very long, but I can tell you from what I do know, all of those things I just said about her are very, very true. She is one of the most inspiring young women I have met to date and I cannot wait for you guys to get into this interview.

Liv Hadden: 03:09 A quick note about her dog, Walter. He was present and keeping US company during this interview so you might hear some collar jingles or some breathing or any other dog noises you can think of besides barking and whining, so if you hear some rustling in the background, it was just Walter keeping us company while we were chit chatting. I hope you enjoy mine and Riley's discussion about inner self judgment and some of the ways that we can work through that.

Liv Hadden: 03:36 Hi Riley. Thank you so much for sitting down to talk with me. You're actually Self-Aware Millennial's first in-person interview, so I'm really excited about that.

Riley Blanks: 03:47 Just now telling me that?

Liv Hadden: 03:49 I actually didn't think about it. Oh, it should be the same. It's just kind of more fun because I get to actually interact with you and see your expressions and things. Normally I do this on the phone.

Liv Hadden: 03:58 Anyway. We were kind of talking about how you've been working through and working on some of your self-judgment and maybe your inner critic that kind of says those maybe not so nice things to you and how you've been actually practicing being a little more benevolent and kind to yourself and how maybe that's also helping with some of the anxiety that you're, you're getting yourself into, which I think would be super valuable to share with our listeners. So if you want to just dive right in and share what's on your heart, that would be awesome.

Riley Blanks: 04:28 Yeah, absolutely. So self judgment has always been an obstacle for me. Ever since I was a little girl, I actually started out as a tennis player. I played tennis for 15 years and I used to get pretty angry at myself on the court and the thing with tenants is that it's just you out there and so you have to be your own biggest fan because if you're not, there's no one else that's going to be there cheering you on or talking to you and the voice in your head, you know, and so that was really the first test of self judgment and I'm just facing that in every match and every practice and then taking that lesson into college and now into adulthood. Um, and realizing that tennis in a way kind of expose something that I think is intrinsic to who I am. I think I'm a performer and I just have a really high bar and I was definitely raised in a home that strives for excellence.

Speaker 3: 05:23 I come from a long line of athletes which I think is great and super encouraging and I think you also have to balance that with forgiveness. And so I would say it's a forever process. I think my whole life, I'll have to work on it. You know, it's so hard to step outside yourself and look at yourself and see what other people might see, so you kind of have to constantly remind yourself, you know, but there are definitely certain practices that I have started that have helped and certainly having people around me who are encouraging, optimistic and supportive is helpful and having people who are able to show you your faults or your mistakes are where you can get better in a way that's conducive and, and you know, helpful. Instead of sort of like braiding. I, my dad sent me a great little mantra a few days ago.

Riley Blanks: 06:12 He sent it to my sister and me both. In it, it was all about how you can tell yourself before ever every experience, this is going to be great. And if you just say that you don't say it out loud, but if you can, that's even better, then you're already setting yourself up for something optimistic. Something that even if it goes quote unquote wrong, it can still be great. You know, it's kind of like saying even if it's not going to be a great day, make it a great day, you know, and so I think just like shifting that perspective about not only yourself but also about your experience is extremely helpful, especially in a world where things will absolutely not go your way all the time. You know? So

Liv Hadden: 06:53 Yeah, I love that. I'm gonna. I'm gonna steal that. Have you heard of Mel Robbins? The five second rule?

Riley Blanks: 06:59 Maybe tell me.

Liv Hadden: 07:01 Her whole concept is just that you can rewire your own brain and you can basically defeat your own anxiety by using this five second rule and the idea is you are going off of your body's physiological responses and the only difference between your body experiencing excitement and anxiety is how you interpret it.

Riley Blanks: 07:19 Yes. I have heard that with public speaking.

Liv Hadden: 07:22 So she counts back from five and then has an anchor thought and as soon as you said this is going to be great. I said that's an amazing anchor.

Riley Blanks: 07:30 Yeah. Nice connection.

Liv Hadden: 07:32 Yeah. I love that. I think that's really, really great. I want to go back because you said you were in tennis for 15 years, so you were pretty young when you started.

Riley Blanks: 07:42 I picked up a racket when I was five.

Liv Hadden: 07:45 So that said most of us at five aren't insanely self-aware, so maybe you can bring us back to around the time and you don't have to pinpoint a specific age, but just how you kind of started to realize how your, your self judgment was having a negative impact on you and what that negative impact look like and maybe how you were working through and sorting through that when it was a new concept to you.

Riley Blanks: 08:11 I would say super young. I grew up very fast so I actually moved away from home when I was 12 and I would say around that time I, I definitely realized it. I was injured. I had stress fractures in my back and broke a toe and all kinds of crazy stuff. I know all within like a year and a half. And so that was very disappointing and I definitely accredited that to me being not strong enough, a k a week. Um, and so I think that mentality was not helpful and not until I discovered yoga at the ripe age of 13. Did I recognize another way of thinking that was a bit more calm, a bit more gentle because do I, I know and I recognize that I am a physical person. I don't like to say I'm aggressive, but I'm definitely assertive. Um, and so sometimes I need to take a step back and slow down and um, I think just at my natural speed, it's really easy to throw a thousand thoughts and myself, especially in a space of difficulty, struggle.

Riley Blanks: 09:18 I'm recovering from trauma, etc. Like having injuries and going through that can be very frustrating if you're trying to play on the tour, you know? And so if you're getting ahead of yourself, you're kind of telling your body, what are you doing? What's going on? You know, you're having all these anxious thoughts and I think all of that just spins around in a circle. So you're injured, okay, but why are you injured? Why are you, why do you keep getting injured? Is it because your body is weak or is because you're growing or is it because your mind is maybe not fostering an environment that's, you know, I don't know. Therapeutic. Right. So I think there's so much power in the mind and I think you said when I think it happened reaLly, really young and I think some of that is how fast I grew up, just the environment and it's living in the kinds of people I was around. My dad worked in the NBA, so I was traveling around sort of with him a lot of the time. Being homeschooled, I had that flexible schedule and then at the same time just having goals that were really, really big, you know, and not always focusing on the process, but instead just like constantly staring at the top of the mountain, you know?

Liv Hadden: 10:27 Yeah. So, okay. So I love that you brought up yoga because that's something we haven't talked about yet on the show. And it's obviously medicine for so many people. However, I think if you're new to it or you're kind of in a place where maybe it's been a little bit westernized, maybe too much so that it's not really a meditative practice. It's like sweating and exercise, which is, which is good and valid, but maybe not the best thing for what we're talking about. Do you have any experience or advice you would give to somebody who's kind of just starting like what kind of yoga they should look for? How to know they have a good instructor?

Riley Blanks: 11:06 Absolutely. Yeah. Yeah. That's all really true and it's pretty. It's a big bummer for the, the quote unquote real yogis out there, especially for the eastern hemisphere, which is where it originated. Um, I went to a talk recently with some that beer, I think it's his name. I might not be getting that right, but it was at yoga yoga and it was actually for yoga instructors, but I was just really interested in the content because it's all about sleeping and I was having really bad nightmares at the time. And of course, typically when we talked about sleep, we talked about insomnia instead of like quality, but I just was trying to figure out where these nightmares were coming from and how it could shield myself through sleep and all this stuff. And then the lecture was on sleep and using yoga to help your sleep.

Riley Blanks: 11:49 So it was really interesting and they talked a lot about how yoga has been westernized and he looked at the cover of a magazine and it's like this beautiful blonde lady, nothing against blondes. And she's, you know, the perfect quote unquote perfect body or whatever that means. And her pose is just incredible. There's like a leg in one place and the leg and another and yada yada. And um, that's not what it's about at all. You know, it's actually, I kind of don't like that. We call it exercise, you know, I wish we called it therapy because I exercise and I don't think they're the same at all. You know, when you get on the mat, you enter into a space that could possibly transcend you, you know, you could discover something that you didn't even know about yourself. You could have some kind of crazy epiphany.

Riley Blanks: 12:35 You could feel more relaxed than you felt in months. You know, so many. There's so much potential in any other class or, or in your room on a mat, you know, and so I think in order to sort of combat this western mentality, you have to find out why you're doing yoga. You know, what is the reason now, if the reason is to lose weight or to look better or to exercise, you're probably not going to get every bit of yoga. You know, like you're going to get a sliver. But if, if your intent is to heal your body, to soothe nightmares, to find, you know, a little bit more calm to combat your anxiety, then you're definitely going to be able to find a way to utilize it to actually help your spirit and not just your body. You know? And so I think starting with something mild is great and there's nothing wrong with it.

Riley Blanks: 13:30 I'm competitive that yoga is all about not being competitive. And so just an intro vinyasa class I think is a great place to start because it's slow, but it's still a flow. And so you kind of learn the rhythm and you do sun salutations which are crucial. You're going to learn something like what a downward dog is and you're probably going to learn the terminology for that and you're always going to end in savasana and you know, at first that will be difficult. And yolanda move all over the place. But it's very, it's just like meditation. It takes time, you know? And I think a lot of people aren't patient with it and they feel self conscious and may feel frustrated and it's all understandable because typically they're starting out, you're in a class and you're in a room of dozens of people. And so it's hard not to look around and compare, but in a way, those people around you, not only are they giving you energy, not only does everyone hopefully have the same intent, but they're a great challenge because you have to learn not to let them distract you because it's not about them, it's not about the culture, it's about you.

Riley Blanks: 14:35 And it's about taking care of what's inside of you. So I love that, I love that. So that's kind of one tool that you've used. You do, you still do yoga? I love yoga. I have a few studios in Austin that I love for the Austin people. Suko yoga is one of my favorites. It's a little more woo, but you know, they do mantras and chanting and music and it's just a lovely studio. And then I like practice yoga on the east side. They do a great job and sometimes they'll go to one or less downtown too. I haven't really good friend who teaches there. So it's nice to circulate. Each place has such a different vibe and you know, there's just a lot to learn from, you know, whichever instructor you're going to. They have a different background and different philosophy obviously with yoga woven through everyone.

Riley Blanks: 15:22 So. Yeah. And I love that you suggested then you access specifically I that actually I started doing bikram in high school. That was the first yoga experience I had and that's really intense. And for listeners who don't know, that's like in the super hot, humid room. I mean you immediately walk in and you're just met with like this wall of wetness and you just sweat and they try to get you really deep into these really advanced poses. I think in my first class I had to figure out how to do crow pose which did not work because not only was my core not strong enough to support that I was so sweaty. My knees are just slipping off, but that was my first yoga experience, so I really had an orientation to it as specifically exercise. So I love that you're talking about all the other things you can get out of it because it wasn't until I did vinyasa that I was like, oh, this is actually really more for my mind and my spirit and getting my body in line with those two things.

Riley Blanks: 16:17 I mean, they're actually specific poses that can target different parts of you. Like hip openers are great if you're in your moon cycle, you know, or like legs up the wall or great before bed because they altered the blood flow, you know, like they're just, it's amazing what you can do with your body to access your mind. You know, it's kinda like reflexology, like certain parts of your feet. Are you going to help cure different parts of your body? You know, everything is just so connected. It's incredible.

Liv Hadden: 16:47 Yeah. I love that. And I really love what you said about is your mind creating an environment that's therapeutic for your body. And so yoga is one way that you do that. I know that we will not, we, I went and saw you. You ran a panel a couple of weekends ago and you specifically. We're talking to the women on the panel about kind of their rituals and their routines and their self care. And so I'm wondering on top of the yoga, what other things do you set up for yourself to calm your inner judge?

Riley Blanks: 17:15 Yeah. So, um, routine is a really, really, really hard one for me. I think it's um, my, one of my biggest obstacles in my life. I am not one for routine. I think it's partly because I've had to adapt so much in my life that I don't know how to be an environment that doesn't force me to adapt, you know? So if I build a chaotic day for me, then I have to adapt constantly and that feels comfortable. But if I build a day that safe and it kind of easy and seamless and oh, this feels so nice, I'm like, whoa, this is weird. I'm not comfortable in this, you know? and so I am in the middle of I know what works and now I have to do it.

Riley Blanks: 17:58 And that is the hard part because that requires discipline and within the discipline forgiveness, if it doesn't happen just the way you want it, you know, I am a fan of to do lists. However, I think that they have to be done in the right way. So I think, I don't know, I heard recently it would be really helpful if I wrote at the top of the to do list. It would be wonderful if I dot instead of this is what you have to do because the have to do, oh my god, so I can just be so much pressure and I love pressure but at the same time it can be crippling. Right. So it's figuring out the verbiage, you know, I'm very big on words and I think you have to make sure that you're communicating to yourself in a way that's beneficial.

Riley Blanks: 18:44 So with that said, having my day as an entrepreneur completely lined up is really helpful. Like hour by hour. Even like building in the time where you take a break building in the time where you take the dog on a walk. Because if I don't do that, I won't, you know, I can stay on my computer and return emails for three hours and be like, oh my gosh, I've been staring at a screen for three hours. What is my wife? So having a schedule as someone who does not like schedules does not seem as does not like easy is really, really important. Exercising first thing in the morning helps me so much. I have found there are certain things that do different things for my mind, like if I exercise or if I go on a long walk, it makes my mind feel more clear. And so if my mind is more clear in the morning, then I can fill it with all kinds of stuff throughout the day.

Riley Blanks: 19:35 You know, I also just know that I probably won't work out later in the day. Like I just know how I am and I'll get to the point where I'm like, no, do this, do that, do this. But if I get rid of the exercise, get rid of. If I do the exercise first thing in the morning, it's taken care of and I feel good journaling. I think a lot of people think that like it's for teenagers who are like angsty now. It's amazing. It's great. And as a writer and as someone who just is obsessed with communication and expression, it is just so relieving to just pour everything out on a page. The page does not respond. It just holds your words amazing. You can't get that from a person. I don't care who you are. The pages like a dog except for the dog requires food and walking the page.

Riley Blanks: 20:19 Literally it's just a page. It doesn't need anything. And so, um, that just feels so good. It's really nice to do that before bed or even just randomly in the middle of the day if my thoughts are going super fast, just to like take a minute and throw them on a page. There's something called morning pages. I'm Sure you've heard of them. They're great. I think all the time pages are also super helpful. I'm big on on audio, like I'm definitely an audio learner and so auditory learner I think is what called actually and so music is really helpful for me. just like easy going background music. I need my space to be clear, which I also sometimes you know as if you're someone who's a go getter or if you're someone who's going very fast, it's easy for stuff to get cluttered. It's easy to forget things, so it's all about building resources around you that helped prevent that.

Riley Blanks: 21:10 So for example, if you do a task and it's messy, it's probably not that bad, just take 10 minutes and clear up the mess. But if you do a task and it's messy and another task and it's messy and messy, but at the time that you know you've finished all those tasks, now you've got an hour where the cleaning, so it feels much more overwhelming. Making your bed first thing in the morning would be a great example. It takes maybe six minutes and it completely can transform a space just looking in your room and seen a bed. That's neat. It's like, oh, it looks so nice. Can't wait to get in that bed later today. You know, I feel like I've listed so many things, but I hope this is helpful. I'm trying to think. Showers are great. This is like, these are like basic necessities in life, right?

Riley Blanks: 21:50 But showers where I come up with the most ideas, so showering at night before I'm going to journal is the best because I go in the shower and I have a thousand ideas. I grab my journal right before bed and I just poured out the ideas and the page and then I can let them digest the next day. You know? So yeah, I have many, but those are some of my favorites. It just came to mind.

Liv Hadden: 22:11 Yeah. So I want to second some other things that you said. The two things that I do on a pretty regular basis that have made a huge difference for me. One making the bed. I committed to doing that. I think three years ago I read a list of 50 things that all successful people do and it was, you know, a bunch of quote unquote successful people like Oprah and Tony Robbins and whoever. Just saying what they do and I was like, are I'm going to pick two of these things and try them and one of them was make the bed

Liv Hadden: 22:37 and that one like that was a huge game changer for me and it was so simple and then I still do that and it's like I can't not do it now. So even when I'm at a hotel I have to make the bed, but it just, it sets me up for my day in a very weird way. And it says simple. So I love that you brought that up and then just the taking the, the time to pick up in the moment as you're moving along. Do you know Gretchen Rubin?

Riley Blanks: 23:04 Yeah.

Liv Hadden: 23:04 So Gretchen RubIn has that whole, um, that minute rule. She's like, it's just going to take a minute and it's not a literal minute. It's that proverbial minute. You know how we to in a minute. So if it's going to take you a minute in that context, just do it now. It's gonna make your life so much better. So I think that those are really great. Now I have a place where I'm actually asked aspiring to be more like you and that's in the journaling space. I have maybe nine or 10 journals that have three or four to 12 pages kind of filled out, didn't really know what I was doing and I really, I've been carrying around one of them, like it's just been moving from room to room in my house depending on where I am and I'll open it up and I'll be like, I don't know where to start with this journaling thing. I don't know what to write. I just know I would get something out of it.

Riley Blanks: 23:51 You just write whatever you're thinking. so in the morning pages is from the artist's way. Julia cameron, I do like that. She says that when you wake up in the morning, whatever you're thinking, you just write it down. You don't think about what you're thinking. So I mean if it's a bunch of cuss words, then just write down a bunch of cuss words. If it's something about your dream, just write down something about your dream. if it's like, ugh, I have to do this today and I should've done that and this is coming, just write all of that down because you're pouring out your mind onto the pages so that you can have a less cluttered mind for the day, so you don't know where to start. Then just start with whatever you're thinking, you know, that's, that's where I would start. And then you'll find that there's a lot of stuff in there that you kind of forgot. It was like hiding in the back of their head or in the front or something like that. You know? So I think, I think just not worrying so much about where to start and just starting is really important. You know, it's like done is better than perfect, I think. Yeah,

Liv Hadden: 24:52 Yeah. No, I love. I have to confess, um uh. So the most recent episode, that episode right before this was about perfectionism and there's a, there's a lot of that in this for me. I've actually read the artist's way and I did morning pages and they bothered me because they were so unstructured and they were. It's just a mess of three pages every morning, but that's totally linked to this. Like I'm a writer and I call myself a writer and so this, these three pages need to have at least one profound thing in them and just getting over that and done is better than perfect. You need to get that test.

Riley Blanks: 25:27 Yeah, that would be helpful if I could erase it when I wanted to.

Liv Hadden: 25:33 I don't know, Henna, we could just do, go get some Henna tattoos. All the little things we need to remember just tattooed up and down our arms.

Riley Blanks: 25:41 If you have books or podcasts that really inspire you. Even if you've already read or listened to them. I find it helpful to listen. Even relisten or reread and then it's somehow like jolts like ideas in my head, you know, I'll be like, oh, that's really interesting in that reminds me of, oh I should write that down. You know? So sometimes finding inspiration in other material because there's so much. It's helpful. I thought it was raining, but I think it was just the. When is it going to rain? It's 50 percent chance I really want to know. Anyway.

Liv Hadden: 26:17 Okay. Before we conclude the interview, I really want to talk a little bit about what you do because I think it's amazing. Um, I think the whole. Well, a, the name woke beauty is just fucking cool.

Riley Blanks: 26:28 Thank you. It wasn't always, it was not always Woke Beauty.

Liv Hadden: 26:32 Well, I'm glad that's where it ended up. The end worked out really well. I loved the whole concept of it. I think you're amazing. A lot of what you're doing is so in line with what I'm trying to do and I would just love if you would share that I think. I think once you get your podcast up and going, it will be a good sister podcast.

Riley Blanks: 26:51 I know. I do. I think so too. It's like, yeah, theRe's some cohesion happening. Okay guys and live. Woke Beauty. So I am a photographer. I've been a photographer. I've actually discovered photography when I was 15, walking through the hallways of brooks institute of photography in Santa Barbara no longer exists, but it was a great school and I was like, wow, this is amazing. You can tell a story with a photograph, what mind blown and at the time I was training to be a professional tennis player. I actually had started playing low level, you know, ITF, WTA, tennis. Um, and so this was a big deal. I was like, I could be an artist.

Riley Blanks: 27:30 Whoa, okay. You know. And so I ran home and borrowed my grandma's little camera and took pictures of trees and I thought it was really cool and I was not. The pictures were like sepia, and you know. Um, anyways, fast forward, I studied fine art in school and I had been taking pictures professionally now for six, seven years and last year I got to a point where I was like, okay, I'm sick and tired of just taking pictures of random events and weddIngs and taking portraits, but not really having a, just not really caring as much as I wanted to care, you know? And so caring and so sentimental. I'm kind of romantic, you know, I just have, I have a lot of zest for life and so it's really important to me to do something that drives me, that can hold hands with my life. You know, and so I entered into a pretty dark phase emotionally and within that phase I was like, I have to figure out what I'm going to do with photography or I need to move on.

Riley Blanks: 28:30 And the thing is I also model and I've done some acting and I love speaking, I love expressing and all of the ways and so it's kind of like how can I also pull in all of these other elements of myself and there are many into photography, you know, and I've always used photography as dialogue. Even in landscape. I think that it's really a form of communication and so, you know, all of these things are kind of comIng out and you know, out of the woodwork so to speak. And then I thought about my mom because my mom has struggled with her childhood and endured a lot of trauma and abuse and is an amazing woman and I, I absolutely come at her, but she just so often does not understand how beautiful she is. She, she just can't see herself. And as her daughter, it's been hard for me to see that.

Riley Blanks: 29:24 And so through some of the, for lack of a better word, counseling, I provided her, I have taken pictures of her and that experience between her and me is really special. And um, it, it creates incredible images. And so one year for Christmas I gave her an album that had pictures, my favorite pictures of her I take in and underneath each picture was a sentiment of, you know, her grades, her beauty, her strength, you know, I gave her this album and she had tears in her eyes. And how could you, you could just see like even for a glimpse that she saw what I saw or she at least appreciate it what I saw, which means that she appreciated herself because what I saw was this amazing, incredible women. And so I was like, there's something there. And I started to think about, you know, all of the shoots I've ever done.

Riley Blanks: 30:19 And I remembered like, sleepovers. I'd have the friends and I take pictures of them, you know, or traveling with friends and just spending 20 minutes in front of, you know, a wall and getting, trying to get the best picture. So that my friend like looked at it, I was like, oh, I like that one, you know? And then I went through my hard drives and 75 percent of my shoots were of women and not all of them were paid, many of them weren't. That just meant that I enjoyed doing that. And so it was kind of like, I thought of this quote and it's like, what would you do if you had nothing to do, you know? And what would I do with photography? I just take pictures of a bunch of women because women are fucking awesome, you know? And so I was like, damn, I should just take pictures of women and make them feel better about themselves because I have this ability to see their inner self.

Riley Blanks: 31:08 I can pull that out of them. And so I was like, how can I, how can I do that? I mean I can't just meet people and be like, hey, you seem cool now. There has to be some kind of an introduction. And so that's where I built, you know, questionnaires and this preliminary meeting that allows us to go deep and oftentimes women, I'm open up to me and tell me either secrets are deep deep stuff that they hadn't discussed in years and it's kind of like this release, you know, it's like a, it's relieving for them and especially if it's an a happy hour and you're just like, ooh, let me tell you about my life, you know. And the thing is like, I just listen, you know, I think oftentimes we are so concerned about speaking as I speak, that we don't allow the counterpart, the person that's receIving to say anything, you know.

Riley Blanks: 31:59 So where is that exchange? And I think it's the same thing with a camera. If I, if I pointed a camera at you, well that's kind of aggressive. I don't know how you're going to feel about that. But if we gently, you know, put this device between us, but there's really nothing between us. Then Maybe I will capture what you woulD be if you were just looking at me because I had given you that space. And so the preliminary meeting is crucial and oftentimes it's not the same day as the shoot, but it allows us to communicate through email, text or whatever. I'm in a more seamless manner and now we're friends and things are cool and now I just need to do a good board. You should check it out. Oh, I love this. I like that. Sometimes they go over to people's houses and I helped them pick their clothes because I don't know what to wear. I mean it's a very intimate experience and the pictures are really just the evidence of a new connection, you know, like a beautiful human intimate experience so well. But It's about awakening the inner essence and I want to make that really clear. It's not about the exterior, it's not about being beautiful or being stunning or whatever. It's about what's inside of you and pulling that out because it's special. It's meaningful and it deserves to be seen.

Liv Hadden: 33:08 Thank you for being in the world. I just got chills when you were describing that whole process and I don't use. My whole posture just changed. I was like, I want to do this so badly. I'm totally going to be one of your clients one day. Yay. Yeah, I, I'm really glad that you shared that and that's exactly why I wanted you to. I just meeting people like you and there's no one like you. You're the only person I've met like you, but just meeting people who are doing really cool things in the world and who care about that stuff, who care about the inner beauty and who care about living your gift and living fully and wholeheartedly and just showing up in that it gives me hope that we don't live in a total dump. Um, and that I do. I want to share this with them. I, when I was driving here to meet Riley, I saw a license plate that said Aryan and they had inverted the word love to read evil. And I just thought for a brief moment, what am I even doing? I should just jump off a cliff. But then I came here and I met you and I, I feel reenergized and I just love what you're doing in the world. And thank you so much for Being a guest. Absolutely. I feel super honored by that and I'm actually really excited for this episode to go live.

Riley Blanks: 34:19 Thank you. Me too. I'm, I'm blessed to be here, so I appreciate you and I'm glad we've connected. Yay life!

Liv Hadden: 34:29 A very special thank you to Riley for having me in her home and letting me ask her questions about her life. I really appreciate that and I hope that you, dear lIstener, found something of value in this interview. If you were interested in checking out riley's work either for curiosity or because you might want to work with her, you can check her out at woke beauty dot c. Oh, that's her professional business site. And you can see her portfolio and let me tell you, it is absolutely gorgeous. I have a confession to make. I actually didn't look at any of her photos. I follow her on instagram, so I've kind of seen a bit of what's been posted there, but I didn't go look at her website until I was editing this and wow, was I blown away and I'm kind of glad I didn't look at it.

Liv Hadden: 35:20 I might have been slightly more intimidated to speak with her. She is just absolutely phenomenal. I probably could gush about her all day, but I think the reason that I appreciate her so much is because she's working really hard to show up authentically and joyfully and that just aligns so much with my mission and what I'm trying to accomplish myself and what I'm hoping to guide others toward. So it just felt really like a blessing that she came into my path and I also want to share the way in which she came into my path because I think it's really important to talk about this aspect of manifestation because I've talked a lot about how I've manifested unhealthy relationships and my life, namely when I was talking about the person who stole from me, which just an update on that. That got resolved. She agreed to the settlement amount and paid that.

Liv Hadden: 36:15 So that all worked out really well. And actually it worked down on the same exact day that Riley came into my life. So I don't think that's an accident either. And I know I've talked about the friend, quote unquote friend that I had at the end of 2017 who really just took total advantage of me and I left that relationship feeling very undervalued and unseen. And so because I've talked about those things, I really want to kind of talk about what I did to work on that and not in explicit detail since we're at the end of the episode, but just briefly I walked into Bali with that baggage knowing that I wanted to dump it and that I wanted to create space and possibility in my life for a different kind of relationship specifically with women and specifically with women I can collaborate with. I have just been craving a collaborative partner in this space and it seems like it's been a hell of a time for me to find that.

Liv Hadden: 37:12 And now all of a sudden I get back from Bali and they're basically raining from the sky, which thank you. I feel so blessed and I feel so grateful. And at the same time I had to do work on myself to create that possibility. It's not that these women weren't out there, it's not that I didn't have access to them, it's not that it was some unattainable goal for me to find bad ass women doing cool as shit who are also kind and caring and understanding. All of that was well within the realm of possibility in life. I just wasn't creating that possibility for myself. I wasn't creating that space. I wasn't being discerning. I wasn't practicing boundaries. All the things I've talked about so far in the show I was working on doing and I just want you all to know that it's paying off.

Liv Hadden: 37:54 I'm seeing it, I'm feeling it and doing this work isn't for not so literally I go to Bali, I had a bunch of stuff I. I dumped there and I'm slowly going to share that. Over time I'm still. It's interesting. I'm still integrating some of the things I learned in and letting it all sink in and soak in and to really feel it, but this whole sisterhood thing, this creating positive female relationships thing is blossoming absolutely beautifully and a little bit faster than I can keep up, which is absolutely amazing. I'd rather be running after it than running from it. So I go to Bali. This is one of the things I want to talk about and on the very last day I make that a point because I brought it up a couple times in circle, but then a couple other things would come up and I'd have to talk about those.

Liv Hadden: 38:43 So on the very last day when we had an opportunity to speak to Nisha about whatever that was, my last thing was how do I do this? How do I make this happen? I need this, I'm craving this. How do I do it? and I was so open in that moment to whatever they said like I was willing to do anything that they suggested. Just totally open and willing and and in that stream of consciousness and literally I go to sleep that night with all their notes. Really excited and jazzed about it and seeing all the possibilities and feeling like all the baggage I had accrued around this topic had really started to melt away and that I could put it down. I wake up the next morning, I have a text from another friend of mine who I never get to see enough because she's a bad ass, like doing too many things, but she texts me about riley and says, you should really meet up.

Liv Hadden: 39:35 There's a lot of synergies here. And she wasn't lying. We sat down for coffee for maybe like an hour, an hour and a half and I was already just like stars in my eyes, girl crushing hard because she was saying all the things that I'm aspiring to. She's doing the same things that I want to do, but she's. She's a little ahead of me, which is absolutely beautiful and wonderful and gives me something to aspire to. And then she introduced me. Riley introduced me to even more women and I actually met my new mentor through Riley and, and I have a new really close friend or I'm calling her clothes. We've only hung out a couple of times, but I feel like we're thick as thieves now. Um, so anyway, all of this stuff is just kind of happening and I manifested that for myself by taking care of myself and now because I took care of myself and I've created these relationships, I have way more opportunities to do really big, important, cool stuff in the world.

Liv Hadden: 40:29 So by feeding myself, I'm able to feed other people and that's the point I, I want to make and get around to is I was really starving before and this space and I took some time to grow some fucking food and harvest that. And it's paying off. I feel a lot better now. I feel so super positive now and I don't feel so stuck in that rut of what's wrong with me and why am I bringing this into my life? And blah, blah, blah, blah. All the, all that stuff, all that inner judgment stuff that we just talked about, so I hope You enjoyed this episode and please, please, please take a moment to rate the show. It makeS a huge difference and it takes a couple clicks on whatever you're listening on, especially if you're doing iTunes. That's the big place. So if you're using iTunes to listen to this podcast, please add some stars. I think google play has a way to subscribe or rate or whatever platform you're on. If you Subscriber, right, that counts posItive toward the show and I'm going to start asking for this more because

Liv Hadden: 41:34 it really does make a huge difference. And so your five minutes of figuring out where to click pays off. Huge in the end for me, and I really genuinely, truly appreciate you taking the time to remember. I love you and I like you.

About Riley Blanks

Founder of Woke Beauty Riley Blanks

Riley Blanks is an Austin-based photographer, storyteller, and model. She is the founder of Woke Beauty; her mission is to encourage women to celebrate themselves through self-imagery and wellness consulting.

Riley has lived in 17 cities and 6 countries. She spent her formative years living in various places around the world with her family and training as a high-level tennis player before discovering her passion for photography.  With a clear understanding of her vision, Riley honed her skills by learning how to meaningfully merge the art and science of photography through a Fine Arts degree from the University of Virginia.

Riley is unique in her ability and willingness to adapt. She pursues creativity, in any form possible, with great poise and has an uncanny ability to establish comfort with anyone she comes in contact with, no matter what side of the camera she stands on. Humanitarian and societal issues are of paramount importance to Riley’s work; she has used her platform to share her unusual perspective in an effort to create awareness and stimulus. Regardless of the setting, she naturally captures the essence of her surroundings in a transformative piece of art — be it an image, a piece of writing or a monologue — that quietly speaks to the moment in time.

When Riley isn’t inspiring and photographing the beautiful women of Austin; she is juggling a multitude of colorful projects. She is currently writing, producing and recording a podcast. She is working on a photography series exploring her biracial identity and its sociological relation to viewers at large in juxtaposition to her intrinsic identity and its relation to earthly elements. Riley recently completed Whole30 and has teamed up with their community to release an Instagram campaign. She is always exploring, forever eager.

Though frequently on the road, Riley currently resides in Austin, TX with her lifelong partner, Jack, and their two dogs, Walter and Willow. She makes every effort to spend time with her family and friends as they reside at the center of her circle.

Want to connect with Riley? Find her on Instagram,, or



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