manakii's muse: Brittany Skala

manakii's muse: Brittany Skala

Who is Brittany Skala?

I'm originally from Chicago but I’ve been in the Charlotte area for about 10 years now. I work for myself. I’m an artist. I do a lot of different things. I’m an energy work practitioner and I lead guided meditations. I own an online thrift store that's called Revival.

Can you tell us a little bit about what it's like to be your own boss?

I personally love it. I went to college (UNC Charlotte) and I got a degree in dance. I'm a professional dancer, too, but I just kind of do that as a side hobby. I've never done super well with authority and I’m kind of a free spirit in the way that I don't do great with schedules. I can get things done when they need to be done, but I have to do it on my own time. So working for myself is great because I create my own schedule. If there's a week where I have a lot of personal things going on, then I don't have to work as much that weekend. If I have a week I’m just feeling really great and my energy is on fire, then I can work a ton that week. I love working for myself and it's really fun being able to adapt to how I’m feeling month to month, year by yea. I don't have to stick to any one thing, and I can kind of put more focus on what I want to because I work for myself, which is cool.

Could you expand on doing guided meditation? How does it help you? How does it impact the people you help?

I think guided meditation - I mean meditation, in general, is a big part of how I’ve been able to really slow down my life and live in the present moment. Bringing that to other people, for example, tonight I’m actually leading a guided meditation and getting to sit down in a space with other people and guide them through an experience that is making them feel something and bringing them closer to the present moment. Even if it's just for two minutes, giving them a space where they can feel safe and calm and grounded and connected to themselves. I mean there are not really even words to explain how that makes me feel. I think, for me, that is what has helped me heal and be a happy joyful person. And so, being able to share that with other people is one of the reasons I’m here. I feel really grateful that I’m able to do that.

Is there a motto, mantra, or quote that you live by?

I don't think I have any single motto that I live by, but actually, a few weeks or a few months ago, I was journaling about slow living and kind of where I’m at in life, right now. I wrote down the phrase, ‘there is magic in doing nothing’ - I actually just got that tattooed on my arm, a few days ago. So, right now that's kind of what I’ve been following. Just finding the magic and doing nothing - allowing myself to experience this moment and what it is. I’m not trying to force it into something or judge myself for not doing enough, just enjoy the present moment.

Would you say that's a product of or a mentality that you adopted this past year given quarantine and COVID?

I think that's definitely added to it. I think I’ve always leaned a little bit towards that, but with the pandemic and quarantining everything that came along with COVID I definitely had to ask myself ‘Okay, what is this itching feeling I have sitting at home?’ Suddenly my worth is less or I’m not successful anymore, because I’m not out doing things. And what if success isn't based on what I’m accomplishing, what if success is just based on what I’m experiencing?

How would you kind of describe yourself as a family member and as a friend?

As a family member and a friend... well, I am a Leo so I definitely do have that loyalty thing going for me. I get really attached to people who I’m close to. My friends and family, I care a lot about them. Sometimes, for better or worse, I definitely can insert myself in my opinions into their lives. I would say that I’m loyal and passionate.

Where are you unequivocally yourself?

You know, lately, and maybe this is a stretch, but I really do feel like wherever I am I’m feeling myself recently/ I feel like I’ve gotten to a really good place where I really do feel super grounded in who I am. I feel very much so myself, but if I had to pick one environment, it would definitely be when I’m at home with my husband and my three dogs. I literally have no fear or worry about what I do or say, and I can be like 100% my silliest wackiest emotional self, and I’m accepted. 

Has there been one experience you can pinpoint where you think you grew the most during?

I feel like especially over the last couple of years there's been so much happening within society and within my own life personally, that has really affected me and caused a lot of growth. I think if I had to choose one thing, the thing that's made me grow the most is my experience with mental illness. I have anxiety and depression and I used to struggle with disordered eating and self-harm. I am constantly healing from those things. I’m in a really great place right now, but I think just experiencing mental illness and the ups and downs of that and trying to find my way in life and how to be happy and healthy. I think that has definitely molded me as a person, and so maybe all of those experiences within my life have been the biggest influence.

How has being a woman impacted your experience with mental illness?

Being a woman greatly affects everything that I’ve experienced, especially as a dancer. As women, we are told all of these things, everything in the media is telling us how we can change ourselves and how we can better ourselves and do this to make your hair better, do this to make your skin better, do this to lose weight, do this to build fat on your hips, etc. There's always something for us as women to be improving on - at least that's what society tells us, which is so untrue. I think 100% that has affected me a lot, especially growing up, I think I really aspired to the idea of the good girl. I tried really hard to do everything right. I was a perfectionist in the worst way possible. I just felt like I had to be the best and look perfect and act what society thought was perfect. As I’ve grown older, luckily I've been able to kind of go against all of that and I’m still working on it, obviously, we always will be working and learning as we grow and get older. I think perfectionism is the main thing as a woman, that was really ground into me and it's one of the things I’m still working on learning that we don't have to be perfect.

How did social media helping to raise awareness of mental health impact you?

Oh, it's so helpful to have people speaking outwardly and openly about what they're experiencing with mental illness because when you're in the midst of struggling with something you feel so alone. Being lonely in my opinion is one of the major factors within that and so having people openly communicating about what they're experiencing I think is just so helpful because it makes us realize that we're not in it alone. Also, being able to see people's journeys in and out of mental illness to see it's not a constant, rather, it's a spiral. We're growing and you may dip down, sometimes, but then you'll have phases where you're doing really well and it's a constant. I think it's just helpful to see people experiencing ups and downs themselves and speaking outwardly about it, it just helps you to feel more normal.

How did you find manakii and what made you want to be a model?

I connected with Sowmya over Instagram. I can't remember who followed who first. She connected with my revival Instagram account, which is my online store. We just started interacting with each other on Instagram and I saw she was doing an open call. I felt something in my heart where I felt like I had to do this. I just loved everything she was posting, everything she stands for everything that it represents. And so, when I saw her posts I just felt so strongly that I wanted to do it. I remember I messaged her right away and asked if you still need someone I would love to come and model. Gratefully, she said I would love to have you, so it worked out, it was meant to be.

How has modeling for manakii impacted you?

 In general, I have gained so many friends from that experience. Everyone who I worked with for that photoshoot I had never met before. I think also that experience really just boosted my confidence and my connection to my community. All of the women that were a part of that are hooked into these different areas of Charlotte and are all doing really different but awesome things within our community. So I suddenly felt like I had all these little extensions outward into my community and I felt more connected. Not only did I make friends with them, I feel like I  suddenly have more reach into my community. Also, we're in a group chat and we talk about all sorts of things. I’m always learning things from them. I am so grateful for that photoshoot, and that I was able to do it because I gained so many things through it.

What do you hope that our viewers see when they look at those photographs from the shoot?

I hope that they see themselves. I hope that they look at those photographs and can see themselves and know that they are beautiful just as they are. That you know they can, if they want to, go wear their underwear and take photos. They can do that - like they are important and worthwhile and deserving of quality and just even the underwear they're deserving of we need like quality things and I hope they see themselves that's the main thing.

If you had any words of advice to give to your younger self what would they be?

Stop worrying so much. I was, and I still am sometimes, but I was such a worrier. I worried about everything; about the conversation I had two minutes ago with my friend, about the glance I gave to someone in the hallway in high school, I worried about everything. I would say to slow down and to stop worrying so much. Stop taking everything so seriously. This life is meant to be fun.

What is something new that you've discovered about yourself recently?

Hmm... I can conquer my fears. I went skydiving for my birthday - I just turned 30. Probably five years ago, if you had said you're going to go skydiving when you turn 30 I would have been like that's a no. That was terrifying to me. And then, something just switched in my brain where something happened, where I was like I really want to go skydiving. I felt like it would be life-changing, truly me jumping into life and like letting go of fear and worry and control. That's a major thing for my perfectionism - that need to control things. I think just learning that like I am what I say I am. I jumped out of a plane and I loved it and I want to do it again. It was so much fun, so I think just kind of learning that I can conquer my fears.

What is it that you love most about yourself?

What do I love most about myself? I think the word that's coming into my mind is resilience, I think I have been really resilient throughout my life and I'm really proud of myself for the way that I’ve gone back up after being pushed down or falling down and whatnot. I think I’m just proud of myself for being resilient after everything I’ve experienced in life.

What is something you are the most passionate about or you could talk about for hours?

The first thing coming to mind is honestly body neutrality - the idea that our worth is not connected to our bodies. Not body positivity, but the idea that we are not our bodies, and if we can feel neutral about them and realize that again our worth is not connected at all to that, then there’s nothing stopping us. All our society is telling us is that our worth is directly connected to the way we look, and when we realize it's not I feel like that's where really cool shit starts to happen.

What do you wish more brands/companies understood? What is a message you wish they would finally get?

I feel like that people want to and most people truly do actively care about the environment. We are all so connected to the earth; we are of the earth, we are all one and, when you're creating something and it's actually hurting the environment it's not beneficial for anyone. I just wish more brands understood especially as women we want to feel safe and part of that is like keeping our planet safe.

Also just that inclusive aspect. We all want to see ourselves. Like I said earlier, I hope people see themselves in the photos that we took. I think at least I, personally, want to feel safe and I want to feel seen, and I want to know that my planet is being taken care of.

Follow Brittany @brittanyskalaa

Brittany's thrift Instagram @find.revival

Author || McKenna Robertson

Interviewer || McKenna Robertson & Hanne Wilson