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by Bela Shehu on November 16, 2020

Emily Statkun

What is your connection with NINObrand?

In August of 2017 I booked my first modeling gig. I was also about a month away from leaving the country for the first time to study in Italy— so I was riding a high. Bela was the stylist on set, and I still remember our interactions clearly. She was like honey. When I returned from abroad, she tapped me to model for NINObrand, and we developed a creative relationship that would become something very nurturing for me. We’ve been playing this way since!

Can you tell us a little about what it was like being brought up as Taoist?

Growing up, my father kept an old book, on hand physically or by recollection, called the Tao Te Ching. It was passed to him by his father, with a seriousness that was instilled in me at a young age. Read this book, understand this book. A key to a forgotten door. It was rather mysterious to me. I never knew it was a THING, an ancient text on Taoism, until my Ethics course in college. Now, I carry my own copy.

It is said that Taoists view the universe as the same as, or inseparable from, themselves—so that Lao-tzu, the legendary figure behind the Tao Te Ching, could say, “Without leaving my house, I know the whole universe.” My grandfather was a recluse, most content living in a cabin in the woods of Pennsylvania. My parents chose each other, then a home in the country, to create and raise three daughters. My distinct memories of childhood are of the fantasies my sisters and I would imagine. We were raised not as collectibles but gifts, to our parents. That humility rooted me. Now, I have gratitude for the lectures spoken by my father standing at the door of my bedroom and by my grandfather from his stool smoking his tobacco pipe. My sisters and I were impatient, then. We could not understand, but they made sure we listened. My father and I now walk parallel paths and the lectures have become conversations.

What is the most marked reversal you’ve experienced in life?

I had an eye-opening experience while experimenting with psychedelics, specifically magic mushrooms. I had recently graduated from college, which by the end had me stressed, depressed, and feeling defeated. I was not happy doing that work under such pressure, and as soon as I was physically free, I ran from it. The mushrooms were a release from fear, and shift to an optimistic perspective. I fell in love with the strong relationships in my life, began cultivating a personal understanding of spirituality, and set myself free.

When you feel unsafe, where do you go for protection?

Recently, I had an experience where I found myself in great fear with one foot out the door, when I hesitated. I felt unsafe, but at that moment I realized the situation itself was only a challenge. If I left, it would go unlearned. So for protection I turned inward to a space I remembered I can always return to, and took deep breaths. Then, I saw the situation for what it was, which was not physically dangerous, and only a projection of my past. I softened, and relaxed with inner trust.


From a creative standpoint, who or what has been your biggest influence?

My friend, David, has been my biggest creative influence. We met in school, and both studied Industrial Design. We’ve created many positive and negative experiences to share, and I feel connected to him like a brother. We share ideas, edit and critique one another’s concepts, and challenge each other. This has been my most fruitful relationship, in terms of understanding myself and making sense of our world. I love him dearly!

How do you unwind at the end of the day?

I love practicing yoga, and I always meditate before sleeping. Right now, I’m reading a book called Why We Sleep, so I’m realigning my sleep schedule and paying extra attention to dream patterns and the dream state in general. Calming the system before sleep is essential for this! Also, a cup of chamomile tea.

What is your attitude towards social media and giving yourself a digital presence?

About two months ago, I deactivated my Instagram account. Other than that, I peruse Pinterest for inspo. Having a digital presence began to feel draining, and I was using it as a distraction. It’s a lot of information to take in, and I was craving more SPACE. And that part proved to be good for me— I spend my time doing things that exercise my body and my brain, or, nothing at all! In that state my thoughts are of reflection and new ideas. I am more creative, in a positive way.

1 comment
by David le Fleur Jonesin on November 19, 2020

This one time, right before, not too soon after, IT happened. And I thought, “Here” and “Right now?” I knew it was destiny, so I packed my life into a single dense pack and ran! Then, I soon learned that not only was this a portal of sorts but also a mirror. I stared, focused, until all my hard work payed off and I fell into the abyss.


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