Design the Life + Career You Love Role Model – Elisabeth Leonard

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Special Projects Manager + Senior EA to Rebecca Minkoff

Founder of Brown Eyed Ella; Board Member – Elisabeth R Woods Foundation

We sat down with Elisabeth and asked her what it’s like to be here and what being considered a Design the Life + Career You Love Role Model means to her…

MSC: We read that you’re a New Yorker, but recently followed your heart over 5,000 miles to Santiago, Chile. Could you tell us about this amazing journey? When did this adventure feel like a vacation, and when did it start to feel like real life?

Elisabeth: Yes, I am a native New Yorker living in Santiago, Chile. Long story short, my boyfriend and I met/started dating June 2015. And as cliché, as it sounds, we both agreed it felt like we had known each other forever. Fast forward a few months. My boyfriend and I came to a crossroads in our life in October of 2016; he was living in Santiago and me in NYC. We had to decide; are we going to make this work? The answer was YES. We made the decision to make it work, but not alone. We had the help of our friends, family, and workplaces. What started as a scary change, transformed itself into a never-ending adventure. It is an exciting journey; a new country, new language, new people. But I'd be lying to myself and everyone else if I said I wasn't scared in the beginning.

As with any place you call home, the adventure and thrill of the “newness” starts to fade and begins to transition into reality. Santiago is where my boyfriend and I currently call home. We still find adventure in every day, exploring new places throughout the country, and appreciating how lucky we are to live in a different country.

MSC: As the Special Projects Manager + Senior EA to Rebecca Minkoff, your days must be crazy busy. (in a good way!) And doing it all from Santiago, Chile, we’re impressed! What is your typical workday like?

Elisabeth: Yes; my days are VERY busy! But in the best way. I got very lucky with being able to work remotely for Rebecca and keep my job. I have been with Rebecca for almost five years and have grown in so many ways. There really is no “typical” work day for me, I feel like no one really has a typical work day! RM is constantly growing, adding new initiatives, and moving at a fast pace. We recently launched a non-profit called the Female Founder Collective which is a network of businesses led by women, supporting women. Our mission is to enable and empower female owned and led businesses to positively impact our communities, both socially and economically. Rebecca and I are leading this two-woman project and while it is a lot of work, we’re both so passionate about this community we’re building and the women we’re bringing together.

MSC: Favorite part about your job?

Elisabeth: The freedom to be creative, being able to share my opinions and ideas, and having the opportunity to work for a woman who inspires me regularly, Rebecca.

MSC: MSC, our mantra is “Design the Life You Love” - what does that statement mean to you?

Elisabeth: I’ve always admired your mantra because I think it reigns true to so many aspects of our lives. To me, it means embracing the unknown and stepping outside of my comfort zone. It means focusing on things that bring happiness and purpose into my life. The most important thing I have ever learned is that this is MY life. I get to write the story! Surround yourself with inspiring uplifted people who don’t settle for anything less than living a life connected to all that you love.

MSC: You have been an incredible champion of MSC over the last few years. You helped us set up a “Design the Life you Love” job shadow at Rebecca Minkoff! You even helped us arrange a behind the scenes visit with Teen Vogue where one of our campus reps got to go backstage at Rebecca Minkoff’s Runway Show back at Fashion Week several years ago! Why did you decide to support our work helping the next generation of girls to design the life they love? How has mentorship impacted your own life?

Elisabeth: First and foremost, Lisa’s passion for the work she does is what immediately drove me to support MSC. The very first phone call we had, which mind you was supposed to be a brief intro call, turned into a two-hour call, full of inspiration, laughter, and friendship. Ever since that phone call, I have always had a great respect and admiration for the work that Lisa and the entire MSC team is doing. Together, we can make an even greater change and inspire the next generation of girls to design the life they love.

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MSC: Outside of your work at Rebecca Minkoff, you started Brown Eyed Ella, an ever-evolving space dedicated to documenting lifestyle at its best and all the moments in between. We LOVE the name “Brown Eyed Ella”, could you share how you came up with this name?

Elisabeth: Growing up my dad used to always sing brown eyed girl to me (because I have brown eyes) and it was always a special thing between us. He passed away when I was 12 years old and every time I hear that song, it brings back so many great memories.  And as for the “Ella” part- my best friends call me Ella and have since high school. Ella also means “girl” in Spanish so it makes sense all around

MSC: What do you love about writing, how did you find a passion for writing?

Elisabeth: I’ve always loved to write but never knew what to do with that passion until my boyfriend encouraged me to start blogging. Brown Eyed Ella is a space for me to share all things lifestyle, travel, and everything that inspires me. It's my voice, my opinion, and a place for me to express myself. A place to inspire me and others. I’m all about honesty and transparency, and that’s what I hope to portray to my readers. I think it’s pretty interesting that I’m a born and raised NY native now living in Santiago, Chile while working remotely for a fashion company; I’ve learned a lot and I have a lot to share with the world.

MSC: What’s next for Brown Eyed Ella?

Elisabeth: That’s a tough question and one I ask myself daily! As with any new career, hobby, anything, it takes time to grow. Right now, my blog is an outlet for me to just share what’s on my mind and hopefully inspire others. It’s hard finding a balance between work and my blog because I’d love to have more time to dedicate to it. It’s a learning experience, and I’m taking it one day at a time.

MSC: Based on reading up on your passions and your life, we know your mom plays a huge role in your life. We saw she started a non-profit Elisabeth R Woods Foundation. Could you tell us about the foundation and your involvement?

Elisabeth: My mom is my hero and a true SUPERWOMAN! The Elisabeth R Woods Foundation began with one woman's extraordinary fight against lung cancer and has quickly established itself as a voice for non-small lung cancer. Elisabeth Woods was my grandmother and my moms mom.  She was just 63 years old when she received the devastating words; “you have IV Non-Small Cell Lung Cancer”. With grace and dignity, she spent the following three months fighting for her life but never losing sight of the needs of others. In 2012, my mother launched the Elisabeth R Woods Foundation in memory of her mother, my grandmother. The foundation was launched to provide the scientific community with funding to pursue innovative research. We support scientists who have the potential to achieve breakthroughs in how we diagnose and treat lung cancer.

The future of the foundation is extremely important, especially with getting a younger generation involved and become more aware of what we do. As head of the junior committee, it is my responsibility to make sure we’re raising awareness and supporting research

MSC: Your mom is such an inspiration! She’s what we would call a “Design the Life You Love Role Model.” How has your mom inspired you to design the life you love?

Elisabeth: WOW, where do I even begin!? Everyone says their mom is the best in the world, but those people just haven’t met my mom yet. There is no one like her. She is truly the strongest human being I know. There are not enough words in the dictionary to express the type of woman, the person my mother is. She’s strong, courageous, loves unconditionally and is the most beautiful woman I know both inside and out. Life has thrown not only my mom, but our family, many obstacles, but she has embraced all of them with courage and grace. It’s easy in times like this to want to stop fighting, but my mom never has, and I know she never will. And I know sometimes giving up might seem like the easy way out, but giving up has never been an option for her. She continues to fight. Not just for herself, but for me and my two younger sisters. She is our very own superwoman.

Her strength is inspiring. She’s dealt with many hardships in her life and yet she manages to stay positive, passionate and optimistic. My mom is such a huge inspiration for my entire life. She inspires me every day to keep smiling, keep being positive, and always keep going, no matter what happens. My mom always reminds me to stay true to myself no matter what, take every opportunity and make the best of it, and love others just as I love myself.

Thanks for helping our Campus Reps design the life they love!

Photos: Elisabeth & Rebecca, left; MSC Campus Rep (Madeline) & Rebecca, right.

Elisabeth helped us setup a behind the scenes campus rep experience at Rebecca Minkoff’s 2016 Fall Runway Show. Madeline has always wanted to be a journalist and she had the opportunity to interview Rebecca with Teen Vogue’s Social Media team.