True Believer: Cleo Wade

Cleo Wade

She’s been dubbed the millennial Oprah, but artist and activist Cleo Wade doesn’t have a book club. She is the book club. Her best-selling, debut book of poetry, Heart Talk, is getting a much-anticipated follow-up this month with Where to Begin: A Small Book About Your Power to Create Big Change in a Crazy World. And her goal to help people stand a little taller in their own self-love, and in their own power, intersects beautifully with a passion for clean beauty. We sat down with her recently at a #truthrevealed event in NYC, where she spoke on the power of truth, the importance of self-care, and the beauty of the right face oil

TB.
Sharing your poetry on a forum as public as Instagram is sort of the ultimate exercise in honesty. What does truth telling mean to you?
CW.

Truth is what builds relationships, builds trust, and builds your life in an authentic way. It’s important to tell the truth because building and being in relationships — no matter who they’re with — is the most important work we do in our lifetime. And having those relationships requires trust. How do you build trust? By being honest. So, it makes sense that if you want to have a life that feels good and feels right, the most foundational thing you can do is tell the truth. For me, I would never write something I didn’t want to read. And I would never lie to you because you’re important to me.

TB.
When, and why, did you start your clean beauty journey?
CW.

Right in the middle of my last tour, I broke out in the most intense way. I literally didn’t know what to do, and finally a group of my girlfriends sat me down in an intervention. I was the person who wouldn’t wash my face. Instead, I’d just grab a towel and think I’d wiped everything off, but I hadn’t. I had a friend who said to me — and I told her it was the most Samantha Jones thing anyone has ever said to me — “Well, thank God it’s hat season.” I couldn’t just put a hat on.

Around the same time, Olivia [Wilde] sent me True Botanicals products. I was like, okay, this I’m into, because I love when skin looks like it’s living. I love when things look like you sweat and you breathe and you move, because you just look alive. You look like a real person. So, I started using that and that was big for my breakouts at the time. Basically, my friends forced me into a routine.

TB.
Now that you’ve got your nontoxic routine, what are some of your favorite products?
CW.

I love the Clear Oil. The Vitamin C Booster is a big game changer. When you go and put that on, people are like, “oh you look so amazing.” Now I’m like, “well, I’m pregnant.” But it used to be “well, I’ve got good taste in what I put on my face.” Also, the Nutrient Mist I like that a lot —when you travel frequently, the spray is so nice because you really need it! And I’m also really into the Pure Radiance Body Oil. I’m putting it on my belly.

TB.
How does the idea of self-care inform your work?
CW.

The core of my work is about building in pause moments for people to say “I matter. I care about myself. What does it look like to take care of myself in all of the variety of ways?” When we don’t care about what we’re eating or putting in or onto our bodies, it’s because we’re like “oh, it’s not worth it. I don’t feel like it.” Right? But we’re effectively saying “I’m not worth it.” That’s a sign of not having a level of love and respect for yourself. So, every time you think you may be inconvenienced by taking the extra 10 minutes to read the label of a beauty product or look into the ingredients, ask yourself why you don’t think you’re worth those extra 10 minutes. I think that that’s an important question for all of us to ask ourselves as women. Why are we rushing past our own health? Why are we rushing past our own face?

Every time you think you may be inconvenienced by taking the extra 10 minutes to read the label of a beauty product or look into the ingredients, ask yourself why you don’t think you’re worth those extra 10 minutes.

TB.
It seems like everything is being labeled self-care at the moment. Where do you draw the line?
CW.

I think we need to know the difference between self-care and self-maintenance. My main defining character of self-care is that it should always feel good. If it’s not, that doesn’t mean it’s not important. It’s just that you have to put it in the maintenance bucket. We all have that friend on a Sunday that says “Oh, I can’t talk. It’s self-care Sunday. I just came from yoga, I need to get my juice cleanse for the week, and I’ve got to get my laundry, and I want to get my nails and eyelashes done.” First of all, all that stuff is an errand. You hate yoga. You hate juice.

TB.
Your new book is all about empowering people to create change. What’s your advice on taking steps toward this—whether creating change in your own life or out in the world?
A.

A step doesn’t have to be a big step, and that makes it no less important. A step can be in whatever direction you want it to be and however you want it to be. Once you allow yourself to have that level of freedom about how you move through your life, then you start to be able to design your life the way that you’d like to. Whether it’s coming into your own or beginning a new type of relationship with confidence or self-worth or self-care, maybe being able to say it to your best friend is your first step. Or maybe to a group of women that you don’t know that well but love the vibe. Maybe that’s a first step. Allow for your bravery to show up how it can, when it can, and respect it when it is there, rather than constantly feeling like that wasn’t brave enough. Brave is brave. We don’t have to get into the degrees of how brave something was.

This interview has been edited and condensed for clarity.