Episode #55: (MINI) Alyssa Rosenheck

Hi, hi. This week, I’m chatting with Alyssa Rosenheck about her new book, The New Southern Style. I’ve never had an interview like this, but Alyssa actually starts interviewing me somewhere along the way and we end up talking about religion and politics. Most of what we end up talking about was not on my list. It’s almost like you’re listening to our dinner conversation instead of a prepared interview. Alyssa really brings that out in people. Honestly, I think she needs a podcast of her own. I hope you enjoy the episode!

You can stream the episode here on the blog or on iTunesSpotifyGoogle PlayTuneInPocket Casts, and Stitcher. You can find the podcast posts archive here.

Show Notes: 

-Here’s Alyssa’s new book, The New Southern Style. It’s a gorgeous book with so many beautiful home tours as well as interviews.

-Here’s a link to Alyssa’s Instagram.

-Alyssa mentions The Social Dilemma. If you’ve already watched it, I’d love to hear your thoughts!

Thanks so much for listening. xx

Episode 55 Transcript

Elsie: You’re listening to the A Beautiful Mess podcast for this week’s mini episode, we’re catching up with Alissa Rosenheck, one of my good friends and the author of The New Southern. Well, thank you so much for joining us today. I’m so, so happy to talk to you. And I’m so excited about The New Southern. We have known each other for a long time because we are both in Nashville. So would you tell our listeners quickly how we met. Do you remember how we first met?

Alyssa: Yes. Well, first of all, I adore you, and you’re such a talented, creative unicorn. I remember I got an email from I think it was Country Living magazine, and they said that you had selected me to shoot for one of your features. And I was like, what? No way. And it was just the sweetest, really supportive between two creative women. And I fell in love with you right then and there I was in your kitchen. I was shooting you. You were just a total badass. And I just adore you. Yeah,

Elsie: Aww, same. Yeah. So we started working together whenever I would have a magazine feature at my house and we did together like three or four would you say? While I still lived in that house? And then the final shoot that we did was for your book.

Alyssa: Yeah, it was a really great full circle moment. And I just you know, everybody asks, you know, I think there are some creative moments in your life, like when did you have your first, you know, where somebody believed in you and selected you?

Elsie: Aw!

Alyssa: You know, it was it was one of those. And so shooting for the book in your home and just having you there and so supportive, it was a really beautiful, full circle moment for me.

Elsie: Thank you. That’s yeah, it’s very special. And I’m very excited about the book. It was the last shoot I ever had with the blue floors, so I’m happy that they were immortalized and, teah. So it’s a beautiful, beautiful book. Congratulations!

Alyssa: Thank you.

Elsie: How did it feel the first time that you got it out of your mailbox and held it in your hands in person?

Alyssa: It felt like such a release. You know, books take a long time. You are definitely familiar with the process. And this has been a three-year journey. The story was living inside me for so much longer. But to really be able to see it materialize and to be able to put it out into the world the way it is hopefully going to organically take on its own life. It’s just been such a release and I just wept. I mean, I like jumped up and down and then wept.

Elsie: Oh, that’s so beautiful. I’m so happy for you. I know it was one of the items on your bucket list.

Alyssa: It was definitely one of those things that scare you. And then you just know that you need to pursue it and walk through that fear.

Elsie: So tell us a little bit about The New Southern, just like a primer for anyone who’s hearing about it for the first time.

Alyssa: Yes. So the thing that makes The New Southern so exciting, it’s a movement grounded in cultural change where we’re humanizing and honoring our differences through the lens of creativity. And we really have to understand where we have been to know where we’re going. And the vehicle for me is creativity it’s such an expansive tool to challenge old beliefs, to bring everybody inclusively to the table. And by no means is it a silver bullet solution. But it’s my vehicle to where I’m documenting how a chef’s knife, poet’s pen, camera, and all of these beautiful conversations and studio tours and home tours. It’s an all-access pass where I’m documenting how creativity really transcends division.

Elsie: Oh, so beautiful. I’m so excited about this. Tell us a few of the people who are featured in the book.

Alyssa: The book is broken up into two segments and then it goes into six different design genres. And this is a beautiful coffee table book.

Elsie: It’s gorgeous, it’s huge.

Alyssa: It’s big, it’s very meaty. And it’s a book that you can really read and also find that substance that you’re looking for every day. And so I have I’m highlighting creative entrepreneurs nationally with all the new ties to the South. So Bobby Burke, Gray Malin, Elsie Larson, Clea Schearer, Maneet Chauhan, Alex Elle.

Elsie: Oh I love Maneet!

Alyssa: Yeah, Maneet’s amazing. I mean, just really beautiful creatives where we’re all using our voices to unify, to really connect and really hone in on our authentic gifts, to really tell us the truth about the world and really come together with acceptance.

Elsie: So tell us about where you’re originally from and sort of how you became Southern, because I was not always Southern. I’m from the Midwest. So, but I do feel a little bit Southern now. I feel like we’re similar in that way.

Alyssa: Yeah, we are similar. And again, I’m profiling all of us with old and new ties to the South. I grew up in Tulsa, Oklahoma. I left when I was 18. I moved to the south for school and then I joined the corporate world. When I grew up, I really craved stability. And for me that was going into the corporate world to be financially independent and climbing that corporate ladder and doing the nine to five. And just in that grind. And when I first moved to the South, you know, I really didn’t feel like I had my community. You know, it’s very independent. I didn’t fit the specific, “traditional” Southern mold. And, you know, through all of my life experience, I went through cancer. Cancer was that moment for me when I was still in the corporate world. I was 32 years old. That really connected me to that stillness and that pause.

Elsie: Oh wow.

Alyssa: And I picked up a camera for the first time just as a healing catharsis.

Elsie: I didn’t know that. Wow.

Alyssa: Yeah. I was in Chicago working for a very large Fortune 100 company, didn’t have a vacation for six years. I was in the medical device, spine consulting industry. So I worked with neurosurgeons and orthopedic spine surgeons. And Ben and I were dating long distance and I was in Nashville briefly. And he’s like, you have a tumor, you know, and. Right. Yeah, and right there. So then I flew back to Chicago and I was just going through all of these things in my head and what I wanted to, you know, achieve most, which was just pause and self care. And through that process, I read a camera manual and self and was a self-taught, you know, photographer. And it bloomed into a really beautiful career. But that’s what really connected me to my creativity, you know, and my community. And so that’s been a really, you know, beautiful growing point and season then that led me to where we are now.

Elsie: So beautiful and so scary. Wow. I’m so proud of you for going through all of that.

Alyssa: Aw, well, thank you. You know, we all go through, and that’s something else that this book is about. It’s about our life. Pivots, you know, you’ve had you’ve had many of them. And what you know, for you, what’s been the most profound life pivot that’s, you know, taught you the most and made you own who you are even more and further step into your truth and share. You know, what has been that for you?

Elsie: Oh, for me, I think probably, you know, I was married at, like, nineteen years old and when I was divorced at 24 and left the church, I come from a conservative evangelical background, it was like the definition of trauma, and I had to lose all of my friends, everything I knew and restart my life completely over. But I think that I mean, I couldn’t give another answer, because that’s definitely the most transformative thing that’s ever happened to me. So, yeah, scary shit, you know.

Alyssa: No, but you grow from it and that’s, you know, and I think so many people…I think I’ve applied a lot of my photography principles to my life principles. And, you know, our shadows are what gives light interest. And we have to embrace them. We have to embrace both. We can’t have one without the other.

Elsie: That’s such a good point, because I used to not be open to sharing something like that for most of my online life. But ever since I became more open to just like letting it be, I do feel like it brings brings a lot like I don’t know, I feel like I don’t know if we can just like share out human stories. And it feels like it was a healing process too.

Alyssa: I think it’s the most courageous thing that you can do and it allows other people to be very honest with their life experiences and dismantle the shame around anything that they feel uncomfortable with. And I think when you vocalize it and put it out there, you no longer give it power to hold you back. You know?

Elsie: Aw, I love you.

Alyssa: I love you! I miss you. I just want to hug you.

Elsie: I know. I feel like we should be hugging through the screen.

Alyssa: I know. I know.

Elsie: Life is weird. OK, so tell us a little bit about the book process, because I know every process is so different. This was your first book and three years, to me that’s a long time to write a book. So tell us kind of about a little bit about…

Alyssa: The snippets, yes, OK, so. So I finally had enough courage to pursue this dream, this bucket list bucket list item for me.

Elsie: Wait, let me interrupt you one one time.

Alyssa: Yes.

Elsie: The first time I met Melissa, she told me she was dreaming of writing a giant, beautiful coffee table book, and she said it really in those words. So…

Alyssa: I was like, I don’t even know if I could do this, but this is like kind of the ultimate bucket list item. And I know. So then I finally, like, acquire my courage in 2017 in January, I fly to New York and I have a meeting with who I thought was going to be my fairy godmother of a literary agent. So I’m like, you know, just making sure everything’s perfect. I go to the meeting. She was lovely and very gracious and she said absolutely not (laughs). And she was like…

Elsie: Oh that happens all the time.

Alyssa: All the time. It was a big fat no. And so I tucked my tail between my legs and flew back to Nashville and just kind of forgot about it and put it on the back burner until six months later. I was shooting on-site, on location for I think it was like Conde Nast Traveler. That’s where I met Lauren Lagard. And yeah. And she had introduced she had just moved from New Orleans and Andi Eaton had also just moved from New Orleans. And Lauren was like, I don’t really have any friends here. And I was like, you are now my friend, and we are going to introduce you to all of my friends. So you have friends. And Andi came along with that energy and Andi and I were talking and she was just finishing up her second book and mentioned her literary agent. And, you know, how you continue to hear things and you’re like, oh, this is kind of kismet and meant to be so her literary agent Kim Perell is now was the third time I had heard her name. And I was like, OK, fine, I am contacting Kim. So I flew back out to New York in July of 2017, met with Kim. She immediately knew the vision. She immediately believed in me, grasped what I was trying to do and just having a dream where then others start believing in you. You need that. And that was like really what helped me gain the confidence to pursue it. And she championed it. So then I worked on my book proposal for nine months. Nine months. That baby was cooking. Yeah, nine months now and then in I believe it was 2018, she started putting the book proposal out into what’s called auction, where you shop it to all major publishers and then that’s for two weeks and then bid day happens at the end of that two weeks.

Elsie: (Gasp) Oh my nerves.

Alyssa: I know all the nerves and I was on a shoot to in Dallas and so all the meetings started to come in and then the day happened and we had two publishers interested and then a little bit of a bidding war, which was amazing. Oh, oh. And then I decided to go with Abrams. They fought the hardest. They have always been my dream publisher, and they are just they they let me write a book that was not, is not really normal for this genre. And, you know, it’s very different and it’s a little less safe, but it’s a story really necessary to tell. And so I turned in my final manuscript in the summer of 2019 and (dog barks), Meyer’s saying hi! I Turned in the final manuscript last year and we are pubbing on Tuesday September 22nd.

Elsie: Congratulations that that’s such a journey. And I’m so proud of you. I think a lot of people, when they have their first rejection, they kind of stop, you know, like I mean, that’s the thing that I want to I want people to hear stories like this so that they know that it’s so normal to be rejected.

Alyssa: And I get told still no, almost every you know, every day. And I also feel like her no came with well, you’re a photographer and photographers don’t write books. And I want everybody to really hone in on we’re all creative. We all have creative gifts inside us. And those can come out in any way we choose. And so this is now a new vertical I’m pursuing with this book. And I want everybody to have the courage to really hone in on their authentic gifts, screw the no’s, and continue to put out their gifts to the world because that’s what we need.

Elsie: That’s beautiful. Yeah, it’s so inspiring.

Alyssa: Elsie has a really beautiful interview. You do. And for all those who are listening, I want to read one of her responses in the book because it is just so stunning and, you know, honest. So I asked her, what does it mean to be a creative individual in the South? And she says, “I think that since I live in the south, it’s more important than ever to be vocal about what I believe in” which she does, as somebody who loves her and is a friend of hers. She always is very authentic to that. “I don’t participate in call-out culture. I don’t believe in shaming people with different beliefs leads to real change. I do believe in having real, sometimes awkward conversations, the kind that makes the heart beat fast sometimes. I think that being open and honest about what I believe in is the best example I can offer my community and my neighbors. Even if we don’t agree, I want to be a person who can have those tough conversations. I want to be a person who truly listens.”

Elsie: Oh, God, that’s like it’s so weird hearing a quote that was definitely not written in 2020 now since I feel like everything is so amplified right now. But I, I definitely do still believe that. I think it’s the job of, you know, white people, privileged people, to have those really, really hard conversations. I think it’s one of our most important jobs and especially in an election year and a year when you know. Well, I guess I don’t know. I don’t know what the future holds. Maybe this is just our life now forever. But it’s different from how I grew up. So that’s. Wow, I’m speechless.

Alyssa: What was the biggest turning point, because I know that you’ve had such you know, from where you are now, from how you grew up, like what’s your biggest? What could have you? What could you have told your younger self now?

Elsie: So I was raised, you know, evangelical, I said before and Republican. And now I’m not either one of those things anymore. And I think that for me, something I always reflect on is that I had a long period of grace to change. And I want to be able to support other people in that period, because if we want people to have a chance to change, then we need to be there for them. And kind of like, yes, have those tough conversations, but don’t make them feel horrible, you know, for the way that you’re raised. Because, you know, I just I felt like I had to unlearn a lot of things before I was able to move forward and learn. So I think I would really like to be a part of that in the future. It’s just giving people a chance to change in an environment that is a little bit less shame-y.

Alyssa: Yeah, and I’ll go into my past a little bit…

Elsie: Yes, I want to hear.

Alyssa: Because this is why. Yeah. I mean, this is honestly what facilitated me wanting to write this book. I grew up, my dad’s side of the family is Eastern European Jewish and my mom’s side of the family is Catholic. And my mom converted to Judaism before she had us and we were raised Jewish in the middle of Tulsa, Oklahoma. And that was really hard in the middle of the Bible Belt. And my dad’s from upstate New York, my mom’s from New Jersey. And I saw the division, the religious divide and the cultural divide that happened between both sides of the families, which was awful to witness growing up. But if anything, it made me very empathetic and understand that, you know, love and kindness and really honoring differences is a way forward. And growing up in Tulsa, you know, there is a pretty decent sized Jewish community now. But then we were the only Jewish kids on the block and the KKK had broken into our backyard and…

Elsie: What?!

Alyssa: Mmhmm, you know, bad stuff. And I remember when my mom and I were at the Jewish community center swimming in the pool, you know, there was a sniper threatening to shoot us and my moms hovered over us. And so if anything…

Elsie: Oh my God…

Alyssa: …moving to the south, I felt a tremendous responsibility just to share my story and truth and empathy for marginalized communities and support and champion and see how we can all work together and amplify one another’s voices without excluding one another as well. And so I think that, you know, and there’s another story that I think is living here, too, because when people just see me, you know. I know, I know privileged because of my skin color, but I know a tremendous amount of empathy and compassion and a willingness to be an agent of change because of my culture and my religion and losing my family in the Holocaust and all of those things. And so I just think we need to really honor and humanize our differences. That’s it.

Elsie: Hmm. That’s so beautiful, Alyssa, thank you for sharing that. I kind of think I’m just going to say it. I kind of think you should start a podcast.

Alyssa: No way. I don’t know, Ben’s going to leave me, like…I love you so much.

Elsie: I love you too.

Alyssa: And I just miss you and I feel like, you know, the more conversations that we can all have like this where it’s just so important. I we were watching a show last night. Have you seen the Social Dilemma?

Elsie: No, I’m looking forward to watching it.

Alyssa: It is…you and Jeremy need to watch it. It’s so good. And it’s I feel like hopefully we can see, we can see or have the awareness how other people are infiltrating or, you know, other technologies are infiltrating what we see. And we really need to be critical thinkers in what we’re consuming every day through our screens.

Elsie: Yeah, I have been thinking about that a lot lately and trying to figure out, like, how I can make positive changes with what I’m consuming because I do feel like, oh, man, like I don’t know, I’m kind of in a what do you call it, like a drowning a little bit in my parenthood? (laughs) This year, you know?

Alyssa: No, let’s talk about that…

Elsie: I feel like a lot of people are drowning a little in…

Alyssa: Every mama I’m talking to is drowning. I think it’s safe to say that. And I think it’s OK to give yourself grace.

Elsie: Yeah. `I think it’s hard to figure out how to consume the right things where, you know, I’m getting educated and becoming more aware. Also, I’m taking breaks. You know, also I’m looking at something positive every day, you know, that makes me feel hope for the future. Like it’s hard to get all that right every day, you know, in our in our culture and stuff. So that is definitely something. OK, well, I’m looking forward to watching that show. And it’s a challenge we should all be thinking about is what are we consuming and how can we at least put more positive stuff or whatever is needed for your growth, but at least put more things in it that are helpful, I guess, is what I’m trying to say.

Alyssa: Yeah, I feel like if it nourishes you, this is a good way to cipher through what we’re consuming. If it’s making you tense and if it’s giving you like this fear response, get rid of it, or if it’s driving you into comparison, get rid of it. But if it’s making you feel peaceful, those are the things that you need to lean into. Peaceful, nourishing, love, like that is the purest form of love is when you feel that peace. So that can be, you know, through the social media or through relationships or through, you know, good conversations, whatever that is.

Elsie: Before we go, tell our listeners where they can follow you.

Alyssa: You can follow me at alyssarosenheck.com On my website or on Instagram @alyssarosenheck — all over the interwebs.

Elsie: Perfect. We will get all of those links in today’s show notes as well. Thank you so much for listening. Have a great week.

 

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