It was June 2010. Our yacht pulled into St. Tropez just as the sun was setting, around 21:30 if I remember correctly. A balmy and radiant day for the French Riviera. It’s quite a show to see one of these yachts dock and the people gathered around to see us carefully move into position. When we berthed I could see the commotion to the left where the Chanel fashion show ran its course. Mind blown by the intensity of all things beautiful, I did my wash-down and went in search of some place that sells ice cream. The beautiful narrow cobblestone streets left me mysteriously content. Everywhere I looked I was confronted by my erstwhile callow and oblivious mind. I could not believe the beauty around me.
Backtrack a year and I am sitting around a fire somewhere in Africa with students that joined me on a vocational expedition to Northern Mozambique. We sat around the fire and it was dark and we could not really see what our local friends wore and it did not matter because we loved their stories and their graceful, yet courageous, life. Sitting around that fire I was also confronted by my erstwhile callow and oblivious mind, and I could not believe the beauty around me.
So then I thought I would go in search of someone who understands ‘beauty’. Not materialistic beauty. Certainly not beauty that is overpriced and neither useful nor valuable. I am talking about a soulful beauty that teaches us the importance of self worth.
I thought of Nicola, that co-founded ‘The Pretty Blog‘ with Christine Meintjes. I then contacted her and because I’ve seen her and her husband Wynand sometimes drive around in a Jeep, I asked her a few questions:
How old are you now, Nicola?
Your dream at the age of 17?
I wanted to be a journalist and then a magazine editor, and I also dreamt of having my own cooking show. I wanted to do something creative. But funny enough, I came very close to studying law, actually.
What has been your biggest adventure in life thus far?
My life after school has been an adventure of self discovery. I went to chef school at 18, and it was hard. I learnt that if you work hard you will succeed, and that it is not only about talent or being the smartest. Sometimes I look back at those times and think of the things we had to do, like the long hours. I don’t know how I got through it.
After my studies, I met my (now) husband, who has given me so much confidence in myself. He constantly encouraged me to follow my dreams. I tend to fear the worse and he challenges me all the time, and shows me that the things I believe about myself are not always true. Life with him is a great adventure. I think the life phase that we are in is so great, because we have our lives ahead of us. We can dream and we have very little to lose. Our biggest adventure is yet to come…
List five of your interests?
Cooking, travelling, wine, books and people.
What makes you feel passionate about your blog?
After three years, we still get excited about what we do. We’ve never run out of ideas, in fact as the team grows the ideas and possibilities become more. And we work with so many inspiring and talented people. And it is great to see how creative South Africans are and that we can compete on the international stage.
What was the one thing that made you realize that you could make this dream come true?
To be honest, the blog wasn’t my idea. It was the brainchild of Christine Meintjes. I was busy studying, and she had her photography business. She is fearless and willing to give (almost) anything a go. So with her support and faith in me, we started this journey together. She gave me a wonderful opportunity. We took this leap of faith and people responded to it. And we soon realised that we have a good thing going.
What do you think of Picasso’s following words: “The meaning of life is to find your gift. The purpose of life is to give it away.”
I think it is so very true. I feel really blessed to do something that I am passionate about, i.e. using my gifts. And “to give it away” by sharing it with is others is something we strongly believe in. Christine and her husband, Iaan, do workshops, write articles and mentor young photographers. So I would say there’s a culture of sharing at The Pretty Blog. Personally I am a firm believer in abundance, meaning there’s enough for everyone. Helping someone else, does not mean that you have to lose.
What is your favourite quote, and why does this specific quote have a special meaning?
It is so hard for me to choose. I love quotes. But I keep coming back to this one: “If you change nothing, nothing will change”. Your own reaction or attitude is something you have control over. You can’t always control a situation, a person or circumstances, but you can control what you do about it or how you respond. So I often remind myself when I feel frustrated with myself that it is time to change something. Small changes can make a big difference. And of course Ghandi’s- “You must be the change you wish to see in this world.” It is a powerful reminder every now and again that we can all do something to make the world a little better.
One day your kid comes home and tells you that his biggest dream is to become a professional clown. What would you tell him?
I would say, if that is your dream, then go for it. I believe that if you are 100% sure of what your passion in life is, you will be successful no matter what your profession is. Having said that I will encourage him/her to first do an internship, to make sure that they know exactly what they sign up for. I think we often have preconceived ideas about what a certain job entails. When it is time for my children to choose a career, I will ask them to choose a lifestyle rather than a job. They have to think about the lifestyle they want and what their dreams are and choose a career path that will help them to have the life they want.
Good answer, I think you can come work for me?
Does managing a blog mean you have to sit behind a computer all day?
I do spend a lot of my time behind a computer yes, but we have enough shoots, events, meetings and pretty things to discover to give my eyes and back a break.
The Pretty Blog creates a space for dreams to be realized and carved into something realistic and I must admit that everything about life looks pretty awesome on The Pretty Blog. A future bride to be could have a three hour discussion about whether she should go with a polka dot serviette or a striped serviette. Obviously very important at the time, but is life always this ‘pretty’?
No it’s certainly not. My life is not perfect or always pretty. But the way I see it, there are so many sad, ugly, upsetting and tragic things going on in the world, and we want to do our bit to make it a little more beautiful and inspiring. We want to create something that uplifts. And even though it all looks pristine and perfect, if you look closely you will see that the things we share are really realistic, affordable and attainable. Anyone can download a pdf file and make Christmas cards, or bake a self saucing pudding, plant herbs or paint a striped nursery wall. Having said that, some stories are more inspirational, but we try to keep things attainable and practical.
I think deep down we all want our surroundings to be beautiful. I certainly see my home as a place to live out my creativity and create a relaxed atmosphere where friends and family feel welcome. It is also a place where we can unwind after a long day. I try and make my life as pretty as possible.
Does blogging about these topics come as an inspiration to you because this forms part of your life’s work, or is this merely a business venture?
Yes, it is a business, but The Pretty Blog has always been about beautiful content and stories. It is deeply personal to us. We put so much of ourselves into this. We started with weddings because it is the industry Christine works in, and we both got married 18 months apart. But as we started our lives as married couples we branched out into lifestyle, because that is the life phase that we are in. And of course with my passion for food it’s no surprise that we have a food section. We both love to travel, and Christine has taken some beautiful photos on her overseas trips, so it was a natural step to branch out into different sections. The Pretty Blog reflects our interests, ideas and dreams.
I am loving your new category on Travel. Question: Behind your computer busy with an inspiring new post or in a Jeep cruising through the Serengeti with Wynand?
In a Jeep Cruising the Serengeti for sure!
If you knew you could not fail, what would you do next?
If I tell you I would have to kill you. I would still love to do a cookbook one day.
Would you give an hour of your time (if possible) every week, to talk to a young and aspiring blogger/explorer/dreamer?
Nicola said that she thinks deep down we all want our surroundings to be beautiful. I agree with her. I think that we should all go in search of the truth behind what we find beautiful. This will be the mirror that you would use to look upon your self worth and potential. This would be your exploration into your own original ‘truth.’
In 1819 John Keats ended the much talked about poem “Ode on a Grecian urn” with the following words:
“Beauty is truth, truth beauty, – that is all ye know on earth, and all ye need to know.”
You see, finding your ‘beauty’ in life is directly connected to the truth about who you are. It is your ultimate adventure. Think about what moves you when you see a landscape painting with a mountain, river or grassland stretched out in front of you. I am very sure that the explorers of old set out in search of that beauty, and found more of it around every corner. And so they just kept going- following their ‘truth’.
Beauty is for everyone. The only price you pay to find your truth is a price that you should want to pay. In Thoreau’s words: “The price of anything is the amount of life you exchange for it.” It is never too late for you to find your truth, and it might be a good idea to start here.
I have attached a special link to the only short film that I have found that shows how ‘fashion’ lives in Africa.
Two worlds combined. Against the arresting backdrop of the East African bush, Haley Bennett portrays a young woman at a crossroads in life in this daring film by the critically acclaimed director Cary Fukunaga, commissioned by the distinguished fashion brand Maiyet. The video features the Maiyet Resort 2013 collection, that premiered in London.
The video is a little sad, but it’s sure to make you feel alive.
If you liked the video you can watch the whole 8-part short film here:
(Thank you Yolande Marx for the beautiful pictures of Nicola)