Happy Friday, everyone! What a whirlwind of an April it's been-- I'm jetting off again today! This time for one of my best friend's bachelorette party and I get to see a bunch of friends I haven't in quite some time, which will be awesome. And last week, I finally got to meet Sara of @shisodelicious in person, while I was in London! True to both of our predictions, we couldn't stop chatting and stayed up until 2:30am talking. Lately, Instagram might not be my BFF with all the changes, but I am forever grateful to the platform for connecting me with some amazing people I may not have met otherwise, like Sara.
Sara was my first interview for the Women Who Inspire interview series, and I'm excited to pick back up on the series this month! This week we’re jumping back into things with a very special foodie friend of mine, Dale of @thedaleyplate. This interview is a breath of fresh air and unique perspective, so you will want to read this whole thing through for some major inspiration and bosslady vibes.
I first became friends with Dale through the feedfeed community on Instagram nearly at the beginning of my Instagram journey. She constantly inspired me with her special ability to weave a beautiful story into a caption. Not only was she a fantastic storyteller, she also had a lot of interesting personal stories to tell.
I loved learning about her South African heritage that she is so proud of and shares much of through her cooking, and also finding out that she lived in South Korea for several years and how that culture is deeply interwoven in her life as well. I remember seeing her on Instagram and picking up on that she was South African through some of her captions and bio at the time, so it surprised me to see the occasional Korean dish cooked so well, accompanied by stories of her time in Korea or talking about her Halmoni (grandma). She has a way of being able to paint vivid imagery of a story she’s telling through her photos and her words, and has long inspired me.
Dale is the kind of Instagram friend that I haven’t met in person (yet!), but already I want to sit on her porch with her to drink some iced tea together and chat all afternoon on a sunny day. She’s warm, personable, and kind, and this interview showcases all of that. So, without further ado, let’s get to Dale’s amazing interview!
Hats you wear: Wife, Dog Mom, Social Worker, Teacher, Home Cook, Instagram Foodie.
First thing you do when you open your eyes in the morning: Reflect on how thankful I am to see another day.
Last nice thing you did for yourself: Took a few days off!
3 words to describe your strengths you’re most proud of: Creative, Patient, Generous.
3 characteristics other people use to describe you: Kind, Loyal, Brave.
Current book you’re reading: Stripped: A Collection of Inspired Writings for the Evolving Woman by Cara Alwill Leyba.
Current favorite physical activity: Swimming
Current color crush: Onyx
Current song on repeat: “Jericho” by Weekend Players
Current thing that never fails to make you smile: Spring flowers.
Next purchase or experience on the bucket list: I want to visit Morocco.
Thing you’re most looking forward to right now? Visiting South Africa in June.
5 words to describe what love means to you: Patience, Honesty, Forgiveness, Trust and Compromise.
Morning bird or night owl? Night owl!
Coffee or Matcha? Coffee.
Sweet or savory? Savory most of the time, sweet at midnight.
Favorite lazy girl weekday meal: A perfect slice of toasted focaccia with ricotta and roasted fruit.
5 items always in your purse/bag: iPhone, wallet, sunglasses, lip balm and wet wipes.
Get Shit Done
What is your one signature shortcut or cheat that makes your life run a little more smoothly and why that?
I don’t take shortcuts often to be honest. I have always been able to take care of everything by myself and I prefer it that way. To help with time management I have mental checklist and dedicate a certain percentage of my day to various activities. If my 30% allocated for chores runs out I stop and take care of it the next day. I don’t sweat the small stuff.
Life doesn’t always go according to plan, so we choose our battles. What are your daily non-negotiables?
I start every day with quiet time and a cup of coffee on the back porch. A 30 minute swim when it’s warm enough gives me a boost of energy and a chat with my mom in South Africa does the same. She has a way of calming me and bringing a fresh perspective to the table. Is there anything that a chat with mom can’t fix?
What is the most important lesson you’ve taken away from a particularly big achievement or success?
One of the most successful things that I’ve done in the last 6 years is adapt to a number of relocations because we were a military family. I used to fear change but now I face it head on. It took a lot of tears and a lot of risks but I finally trust myself enough to make the most of every situation or country that I find myself in.
What’s a habit you’ve adopted in the past year that has had a significant positive change on your daily routine?
I work in the mornings and then take a non-negotiable lunch break. I eat something that I love and step outside to spend time in my garden. If I don’t take this time to myself it’s rarely possible to complete a successful work project that afternoon.
Working from home or on the go has it’s own set of challenges— what are 1-2 key things you’ve found to help you be most efficient and productive?
I turned my hallway wall into a huge calendar so that I can see where I’m headed in terms of deadlines for work. Since I am a night owl I use that time to make sure my kitchen (my office) is spotless. There’s nothing that motivates me more than a clean kitchen.
Mountains to Climb
Your work is a lot closer to home than most. While most everyone brings home work these days, thanks to emails on phones, blogging actually entails documenting and sharing your everyday. How has that affected your relationships with friends and family?
While that might affect others who live close to their family negatively it actually is the opposite for me. My family lives in South Africa and sharing my everyday allows them to feel closer to me. My husband works away from home and we do not have children yet so there’s no need for me to limit my time from work.
Have you found that technology- especially with the real-time trend that social media is adopting (Snapchat, IG stories) that it takes away from the experience? Particularly travel or new experiences?
For sure. I try not to but it’s very tempting to want to document every single moment. Since my husband and I do not see each other as often as we would like I definitely put my phone away when he is home. We spent a dreamy day in New Orleans recently and I did struggle because I knew how Instagram-worthy all the sights were.
From time to time, we all get caught up lusting after others lives— whether it be their travel photos on Instagram, their beautiful home, their adorable husband + babies, their burgeoning career, etc. What do you do when you fall down the rabbit hole of comparison to others in your field?
I think the trick is to realize that everyone is fighting their own battles and Instagram is simply a fraction of their lives. It’s a trap and it will have you acting out of character or spending more than you can afford to, in my humble opinion. Though we can all improve I know that I’m doing the best that I can. I’m thankful for my own home, a hard-working and handsome husband, a hobby that pays, and this moment!
Do you think you have your shit together? Do you think anyone else has their shit together? That depends on which goals you’ve set for yourself. If getting my shit together means enjoying my job and being happy then yes, I do. I have not accomplished all of my goals but I’m going to get there eventually. I would love to open a small lunch spot somewhere and we have been trying for 6 years to conceive with no luck, but it doesn’t deter me.
I’m not worried about anyone else because my focus is to get me there. To invest in myself by reading more and researching and learning every single thing there is to know.
What’s a personal weakness you’ve overcome (or progressed on) that you’re most proud of? What was that process like?
When I was younger and because of the way my mother raised us, I had a really hard time saying “No” to people. I used to think that there was something wrong with me if I didn’t feel like giving more and more and more. It wore me down to always be the one who people relied on. The guilt feelings that arose after I said yes but mean’t no just wasn’t healthy. As time passed I developed a thicker skin and the ability to discern whether my input was really needed or not. Currently this is my focus for work as well. Brands would contact me and offer free product in exchange for exposure and I would agree, not valuing my own time and effort enough. I’ve been using the word “No” a lot more lately and I love it. When I’m having a hard time with it I remember this quote: “Do not work for free under the guise of good exposure. It is bad exposure. If you do not value your own work no one will.”
When you’re caught in a moment of overwhelm or chaos, what is the one thing you rely on to ground you?
A little time away from whatever I’m working on. I remember the lovely Megan Lee Voigt speaking at a FeedFeed event last year…When asked how she got one of her most loved shots (A layered dessert) she said “I felt overwhelmed because the image just wasn’t coming out the way I had envisioned. So I sat back to take a break and ate a spoonful of it. The next shot was the one you see here.”
On a personal level I must confess that I absolutely love to sing hits from the 80’s when I’m overwhelmed. Who can be frustrated when there’s a chance to sing Billy Ocean’s “Suddenly” out loud? My sound system is in my kitchen and it is on full-blast most days.
What do you think about the phrase “having it all” as a woman?
I honestly don’t know any person who “has it all.”
Do you believe that you have to “have it all” to be happy?
You have to appreciate what you do have in order to be happy. This is a cookie cutter answer but it’s the truth. We all want certain things but do we really need them? A lot of us have so much more than people in other parts of the world might have but we complain about first world problems.
What is an important thing in life that that you feel like the world is lacking lately and could use more of?
“Ubuntu” is a South African (Nguni Bantu) term that means “humanity towards others.”
Nelson Mandela once described it as follows:
A traveller through a country would stop at a village and he didn't have to ask for food or for water. Once he stops, the people give him food and attend him. That is one aspect of Ubuntu, but it will have various aspects. Ubuntu does not mean that people should not enrich themselves. The question therefore is: Are you going to do so in order to enable the community around you to be able to improve?
Archbishop Desmond Tutu offered this definition:
One of the sayings in our country is Ubuntu – the essence of being human. Ubuntu speaks particularly about the fact that you can't exist as a human being in isolation. It speaks about our interconnectedness. You can't be human all by yourself, and when you have this quality – Ubuntu – you are known for your generosity. We think of ourselves far too frequently as just individuals, separated from one another, whereas you are connected and what you do affects the whole World. When you do well, it spreads out; it is for the whole of humanity.
What is currently frustrating you the most about your industry?
The ever evolving features on social media websites and algorithms make it hard to keep up or be seen. Shadow banning on Instagram is a thing - Who knew?
We all see it— society’s increasing pressure to be so “perfect” — our outfits have to be Instagrammable, our homes have to be Pinterest-worthy, we have to be eating all-organic and healthy, our engagement shoots have to be magazine-worthy, and even our dogs have to have their own following! What are the effects on your life that you’ve noticed because of this dynamic, both negative and positive?
I don’t compare myself so I have never felt a need to show the world anything other than who I truly am.
Define “being healthy” in your perspective"
Being healthy means listening to your body and what it needs, and then actively taking steps to restore balance.
What is the one thing you’re most thankful for about your body?
I’m thankful that my body has not failed me during the 33 years that I’ve been alive. I have not always treated it with the respect that it deserves, but I am learning and growing.
How has your perspective on your body changed since 5 or 10 years ago?
I used to criticize every single part of my body and hate on it for no reason when in fact, I was looking damn good. That’s what I did because I was young. Now if I see something that bothers me I just set goals and get there (slowly).
It’s funny because the aesthetic trends today seem to go in polar extremes— either Kardashian like makeup with the full-on contouring and hour long makeup tutorials or the fresh-faced au natural trend a la Glossier. How do you feel this affects young women’s standards of beauty and pressures today?
There will always be trends and people will always try to follow them. If I say that I don’t agree then I’ll be sounding like my mother and father did when I tried something new.
Though there are negatives (pressure to look amazing every day - Not me! I’m so comfortable without makeup) there are also positives. Today’s standard for what people consider to be “beautiful” has changed and i’m thankful for that. Though it’s recent, I enjoy seeing women and men of all shapes and sizes in magazines and ads. People that challenge the status quo are so inspiring to me.
What do you think is unique that you offer to your audience that is lacking out there?
I offer only this: Myself. I’m not pre-planning made-up captions or being dishonest about my sponsorships or cooking things that are difficult to make. I offer my friendship. I don’t think any of these things are lacking out there and I don’t think that what I do is better than what anyone else is doing. The only unique part of what I have to offer, is me.
What inspires you most?
Firstly, the memory of my mother cooking in whichever kitchen we had at that moment. I remember her hands covered in dough while she brought the roti together for a family meal. My grandmother and mother sparked my passion for cooking and whenever I recall a certain dish that I grew up eating there’s always a back story and their hands.
Currently, traveling with my husband and seeing places like the Petrified Forest in Arizona or White Sands in New Mexico, eating regional meals prepared by passionate cooks, walking the streets of New Orleans, reading food magazines from all over the world. Local produce and the smile of those who enjoy my cooking are also inspiring.
Was there any personal or professional risk involved in your commitment to the blog?
I quit my job as a teacher to become a full-time influencer. I don’t like the word “influencer” because I’m just doing what I love to do but I can say that it has paid off. The lesson is: Go for it!
What is the key to maintaining your personal aesthetic + brand integrity while working with other brands?
Being consistent in terms of styling and positioning the brand in an authentic manner within my everyday life is key. I’m not sure about this but I’ve heard people say that they enjoy my work because they can feel the love that I put into what I do.
Do you ever feel like you see the advice out there to “just be yourself! Produce content that makes you happy and the rest will fall in place?”— but reality is, is that there are some parameters for succeeding in these kinds of creative fields. How do you maintain integrity while also still propelling your business forward?
I struggle with this sometimes. Eighty percent of the time I create what I would like within the parameters of what a brand expects. Twenty percent of the time I create content that my audience would love to see. I don’t put too much stock into the latter because people move from one trend to the next so quickly. I might have been more successful if I had but being true to myself is worth more than anything. Every piece of content that I put out there is from my heart.
What internal struggle do you wish you knew about, heading into your field of work?
I wish I had known how introverted I would become because of my obsession with what I do. I would rather research cooking methods or lighting techniques than interact with other people outside of my comfort zone.
How do you see the blogger/influencer space evolving as social media continues to rapidly develop and change?
Brands have already realized the value of what we do and social media has skyrocketed - I feel that bloggers and influencers are the future of advertising. Standards are extremely high and it’s an incredibly competitive space, but there certainly is so much to go around. You need to know what you’re doing these days but thankfully there are many resources from which to gain knowledge of this field. The days of winging it and hoping for the best are gone.
Content fatigue is real. Bloggers/IGers take in so much content through their social feeds, and sometimes it can feel like you’re seeing the same stuff over and over. How do you stay innovative with your content and what work you produce?
I’ve recently made the decision to place a greater focus on my South African heritage and to showcase food from the continent of Africa as it is grossly underrepresented on a global scale.
What is the most rewarding part of what you do?
Definitely being my own boss. I have worked hard for others and helped them to achieve their dreams for so long. It feels amazing to have found something that I’m excited about doing every day.
A huge thank you to my dear Dale for so thoughtfully answering these questions! I love her perspective and assurance in what makes her unique and the way she is- her personality and heart shine through these answers, and I loved learning about "Ubuntu" too!
All photos courtesy of Dale through her lovely Instagram.