Shala Monroque is a young Saint Lucian beauty who is being hailed by the fashion elites as a ‘modern day style icon’ and the new ’It’ girl. She has been gracing the covers of such famous magazines as Town and Country, New York Magazine and has been featured in Harper’s Bazaar, Vogue among others. She is also the Creative Director for ’Garage magazine’ where she gets to showcase her impeccable taste. She prides herself on being a Saint Lucian and for being raised in a culture with great values which have catapuled her to success. Through it all, she remains humble and embraces the true beauty and simplicity of being an ’Island girl.’
Lovee: Hi Shala, thank you for taking the time to answer my questions. I am honored for the opportunity and happy to reconnect with my fellow Saint Lucian.
Shala: My pleasure, and it’s so nice to reconnect with you too. You know, I have an image of you and your brother stuck in my head from thousands of years ago. It’s not so clear now but somehow I’ve never forgotten it. We are standing at the pedestrian crossing at the school. I’d just returned from buying ”sweets” at the ”co-op” remember that? I was about to go back to the school and the two of you were waiting, what for I can’t really remember now. It eludes me and I’ve always wondered if you remembered that moment.
Lovee: (Laughing out loud)I wouldn’t doubt that for a second! My brother and I were in the same class from primary(elementary) school througout secondary (high) school. My mom wanted it that way, so we were always together. I don’t think he liked that very much, (laughing out loud) but those are some treasured memories.
Shala:Yes, i can see it as clear as day that you seemed to be stuck together. I suppose that must have been a gift to spend the first sixteen years of your life joined to your brother like that. I’m sure he was annoyed though. (smiling)
Lovee: (Laughing out loud) back then i think we both saw it as a curse more than a gift, since my brother was very much the introvert and me an extrovert and some (laughing out loud). But, looking back, I think that experience created a bond between us that I believe will always be there and sustain us throughout our lives. (Smiling) Ok, so first off, i have to say thank you for taking the time to support me at my book launch in New York. It meant alot having a fellow Saint Lucian and a great role model as yourself showing your support, so thank you…
From left to right: Shala Monroque, Loverly Sheridan And Nadia Sebastian-Griffith
at “A Girl Like Me” Book launch at Club Element in Manhattan New York
Shala Monroque and Loverly Sheridan
all smiles at “A Girl Like Me” Book launch.
Shala: Remember that mantra we used to say standing at assembly every day in Primary School? No man is an island…
Lovee: Indeed! And we sure do we realise its true meaning as we grow. You know, when i saw you in New York after so many years, I just kept thinking to myself, ”Shala hasn’t aged (pyhsically)one bit since her days at Secondary (High) School in Saint Lucia!” (laughing out loud). What’s the secret? A side from good genes of course? (smiling)
Shala: I feel I’m at least maturing a bit. (smiling) But I would say that I at once take life seriously and then not so seriously, I roll with the punches. I understand that bad times are inevitable but builds strength and character, and I whole heartedly enjoy the good moments in life. That and good genes I suppose.
Lovee: Great approach, but good genes always help. I can still imagine you walking in the streets of Castries (Saint Lucia) in your green and white school uniform with all that flare and grace as you still have today. It was quite inspiring and refreshing to see that the subtle, humble, soft spoken and beautiful girl i knew of growing up in Saint Lucia hasn’t changed the core of who she is. How do you remain grounded having been thrust into the spotlight and attaining fame?
Shala: Well first off, as you clearly point out in your book ”A girl Like Me,” I do believe that growing up in St.Lucia we had a really good foundation to stand on! I feel that we grew up with great values. Respect, integrity, honesty, hard work, simplicity, fairness. Those are still the things I value today. Remember the motto on the front wall of the Sans Souci School that we walked up to everyday: PRAY HARD, WORK HARD, PLAY HARD. For a long time as a child growing up in a Catholic country I never understood why our Principal included the play hard part but she was so right, and I’m happy that this was instilled in me early on. It’s very important, it gives a sense of balance. And one thing I’m learning especially when there is a light placed on you it’s important to have balance in your life, and a good sense of judgement based on those basic principles that I mentioned before. God helps me with the rest.
Lovee: Well said! That was such a powerful motto. Happy you remembered it. It really did instill so much within us. What was your childhood days like, and as you get older, do you find yourself assimilating more into American culture, or missing more of your own culture?
Shala:I would not trade my childhood for anything! In a way it is my saving grace. I have that to go back to always. I loved to play. Loved loved loved to. Any excuse to be outdoors. There wasn’t a tree that I didn’t climb not even when I didn’t know how to get down from it. I was raised not just by my mother and father but by everyone around and that’s one of the great gifts. To have so much human interaction at such an early age. A sense that people cared about your well being, that you were made aware of boundaries. I think children need boundaries and I’m grateful that I had many. I had a city life and a country life. I gardened with my grand-mother and aunts and uncles and cousins in the country, swam in the river, went to Mass on Sundays. In the city, I danced at school, acted, was an athlete, read a lot. I was very encouraged in my curiousities, I was very free. Asimilating here was tough and then not so tough. The climate, the isolation, and remaining indoors for extended periods of time is very hard for any Island person to adjust to. But you learn. But then on the other hand I loved that I had access at first through libraries, to music, movies, and books, it was like heaven to me. I loved that I could get a weekly metro card and go anywhere around New York, the Bronx Zoo, The Cloisters, Central Park, The Moma, Chanel, 99 Cent stores anywhere. There is an openess in America that is wonderful. I will always have my culture within me, it’s my duty to carry it with me whereever I go. I used to miss St.Lucia a lot more but now that I understand that I carry it with me, it is easier to be away from home. I try now to take St.Lucia with me and show it to the world, just by being me, I carry my home with me.
Lovee: Very profound! Sounds like a script from my book. Our childhoods were quite similar. Right now, you are being hailed as ”a modern day style icon, a muse, the it girl,” and Town and Country magazine which you are on the cover of for their January edition reads, ”you may not know Shala Monroque, but you should.” WOW! How did all this begin for ”A girl Like You?” (Laughing out loud)…pun intended here. ..(laughing out loud)
Shala: (Smiling) Fate? I don’t know. Maybe because I carry my history, my home, my culture with me and I hope when I give it to the people that I meet, and I say this is me, this is what my mother taught me, what my country taught me, welcome to my home they are pleased, they feel warm just as if they had stepped into my mother’s house and she offered water or guava juice and a good story and a wholesome smile. I think there is a lot of value in that…
Lovee: I don’t think most of us realise how much beauty there is in loving and embracing our uniqueness, traditions, languages and who we are as a people. Having a sense of identity and belonging is so vital. I am happy you embrace that. Growing up in Saint Lucia, did you always know that you wanted to work in fashion?
Shala: My god! I was the girl who changed her mind every week! (laughing out loud) I wanted to be a nurse like my aunt, I realise now it was probably only because I liked the uniform. I wanted to be a school principal like Mrs.Renee because she was one of my heros, and then a carnival queen and then an actor and a model. I had no clue, in the end I just wanted to be where I felt I could be learning all the time.
Shala Monroque with Fashion Elite Andre Leon Talley and Prada
Lovee: And you are definitely acheiving that. As a little girl, i always knew that i wanted to write and travel the world. I had visions of what i wanted my life to be like, and as i evolved, I was amazed at how much of those dreams became a reality. It felt like ”de ja vu.” Did you always dream of the life that you now have growing up?
Shala: I was always a big dreamer. And I never ever doubted that the things that crossed my mind if I wanted them could not happen. I used to watch the sun set into the ocean every night and dreamed of what was beyond the horizon, I just wanted to know what was behind the hill jutting out in the sea that the St.Mary’s College sat on. Where did the cargo ships come from? Where were they going? Why were there only white people on T.V? How did the CNN broadcaster make money, I couldn’t understand that someone was paid just to sit and talk, especially about things that didn’t seem to have relevance in my life. And because I’m inquisitive, I was going to find a way to get my questions answered, I was going to try to understand the world that I lived in. So I won a ticket to Florida, took the Greyhound to New York, fell in love with it and here I am. Nosy me. (smiling).
Shala Monroque in Paris with models for Paris Fashion Week
Lovee: (Laughing out loud) I love how your mind worked. Curiosity sure didn’t kill this cat! It propelled you to fulfilling your dreams!Thank God for our inquisitive nature. (smiling) I believe that preparation plus opportunity equals luck. How did you prepare yourself for the opportunities that presented it self to you?
Shala: I stayed busy. We are the sum of our experiences. In the end it all adds up. As a very young child I think beginning around age 8 or 9 I would write poems and read them on the radio. That was a big thing for me then. I was part of a dance troupe, I worked at a grocery store packing cans on a shelf, I took long walks alone in the forest, I took the train to Jones Beach in New York, I spoke to people I asked questions, I tried as much as possible to always enrich mind. You know it’s all good and well to want to get there, where ever that is for you but it’s nice to have something to share once you get there, you have to have something to give back. This is what I think makes the difference.
Lovee: Quite profound! It all really does add up. When i think of all the things i thought i did in vain, only to realise that it was useful to me later, and shaped my character. Everything is a stepping stone for something greater. Often times however, people think that they can acheive great things without hard work, perhaps they can, but it quickly fades, because they attract it for all the wrong reasons. Through your work, i can tell that you are passionate about fashion. You are a natural, even vogue magazine have described you as having impeccable taste. What inspires your style and taste?
Shala: You have to work hard. I think it was incredibly stylish of my grand-mother to get up in the morning, put on her dress, pick up her cutlass, go to the garden, carry her produce on her head then on Sunday get well dressed and go to Church or sit on her steps and share words and thoughts and sympathies and joy, with neighbours. For me that’s style. What are you if you are impeccably dressed with awful manners, if you are disagreeable? You don’t look so good anymore.
Lovee: Indeed! You have just defined what it means to be ugly-to me. I’ve seen some some your fashion photos, and you take great risks with clothes, perhaps that’s why you are loved for it. I love your simple, classical looks. Reminds me of Grace Kelly, Josephine Baker and Audrey Hepburn. I love how you mix and match with clothes and colors too. As a child, i would go shopping with my mom in a thrift store in Saint Lucia called, ”tout bagay,” meaning everything. I can candidly remember those moments. My mom would put the perfect outfit together, from hat to shoes to belt, and it would look like she was styled by a desginer. It is still soemthing that we enjoy doing together, and boy do we find some treasures in there! (laughing out loud) Who is your favorite designer?
Shala: (smiling)…Fashion is the surface of the change of the times, this is why it is constantly in movement. We are living in fast times, everthing is sped up. Fashion is sped up, the change of tastes and moods, and feelings is also sped up. It is difficult to say exactly who has the finger on the pulse at the moment, everything is just moving too quickly to say. I feel there are a handful of people in fashion who truly feel the times today. It is not just the designers who I admire, the list would be too long.
Shala Monroque in her element for a magazine feature.
Lovee: You are so much more than just a pretty face, aside from fashion, your writing is also impeccable. I’ve read some of your entries on your blog ”shalasrabbithole,” and i love how you use poetry and art to describe your experiences and the world around you. You are also the creative director for ”Garage Magazine.” What is it that you love the most about what you do?
Shala: As a child I loved the ’bush’ meaning a terrain with no road. There was so much to discover, and maybe even one could leave a trail if one returned through the same path enough, and if others followed. Working with a group of individuals who are curious, who ask lots of questions, who are open to points of view that may be different with yours is similar to me as stepping off the path and peering into the ’bush’. Looking for pathways that do not yet exist yet, looking for ideas that have never yet been discovered, like a rare ant on a yellow leaf that has just fallen off a shrub. With Shalasrabbithole.com, I go there as well as with the Garage team, we love to explore and bring back what we see. That for me is very rewarding.
Lovee: I know just what you mean. The older i get, the more i seek to surround myself with positive, curious people, who question things, and challenge me as an individual. It is the only way we realise our true greatness. One of the reasons i like featuring great Saint Lucians as yourself is as a way of inspiring and empowering our young people to keep dreaming, and to aspire for great things. What advise would you give to young people pursing a career in fashion or the arts?
Shala: Embrace your individuality, once you do that you will have something to offer that no one else has.
Lovee: I love that! I empthasized on that alot in my book. Nothing beats originality! Aside from fashion, what other causes are dear to your heart?
Lovee: A great cause. How do you stay connected to your roots, and have Saint Lucians embrace you and your success?
Shala: I keep the memory of where I’m from very alive…
Lovee: You recently featured my book, ”A Girl Like Me” on your blog (www.shalasrabbithole.com/blog), and you gave a very powerful introduction, ”My story belongs to everyone, but only I can tell it.” Truly thought provoking. I know the world would love to read your story, will you ever tell it? (Smiling)
Shala: I will, Inshallah. (Smiling)
Lovee: Always in his time! (smiling)…When you’re not working, what are some of the things that you enjoy doing?
Shala: I’m a bit of a loner. I very much enjoy staying at home alone reading. It’s my favorite thing to do. I also love to go dancing althogh I haven’t done much of it lately which is extremely bad.
Lovee: Be sure to make time for that! We do need to dance every once in a while. (smiling) I always ask this final question to all my guests as a means of reflection. What would you like your legacy to be?
Shala: That I did goodness in the world.
Lovee: And you have. I believe that you are a beautiful being inside and out, and you exude all things great. I know you will continue to persevere and soar, and the world will get to know you for alot more than fashion, but also for your beautiful mind and humble spirit. As a Saint Lucian, i am proud to say i know you, and i wish you continued blessings and success.
Shala: Thank you. I wish you the same! (smiling)
To learn more about Shala log on her blog: www.shalasrabbithole.com/blog.