Sophia Li | In Her Shoes
We were first introduced to Sophia at the beginning of 2017 through ESSEN friend Lydia Pang after relocating to New York. Sophia was immediately warm, welcoming and full of life. Sophia worked at Vogue as the Entertainment Media Editor for four years, she recently left this role to pursue other exciting challenges where she will be working as a creative consultant across a range of fashion & beauty brands.
We sat down with Sophia and asked her a few questions about herself, her career and what inspires her.
Can you tell us a little about your background – what path led you to working for Vogue.com, and your new role as a Creative Consultant?
Everyone always asks me about my instagram handle @sophfei and where it comes from: the story behind it is quite simple and also easily encompasses who I am. Sophia is my English name and Fei is my Chinese nickname thus sophfei. My official Chinese name, Bo, means wisdom and Sophia in Greek also means wisdom. I joke that this is the reason why I’ve had gray hair since I was 12— double the wisdom. I grew up between four states in the US and also lived in China for a few years as a child. We moved quite a bit because my parents are researchers + professors. Moving every 3-4 years became the norm for me. And now I embrace change with open arms, sometimes almost to a fault— I get antsy if there’s not enough movement in my life. I also credit my great ability to talk to strangers from this upbringing as I was always the “new kid” at school.
I’ve always loved fashion, ever since I was a little kid and designing clothes for my barbies. In high school, a temp summer retail job turned into a job that I held onto for 3 years because I loved it so much. I knew from the get-go that I wanted to study fashion during university. My career actually started in fashion forecasting and then I stumbled into digital editorial. When I first started at vogue.com, there were less than 10 employees— it was a really pivotal time in digital and social for publications. Almost 4 years later, I recently left my role at Vogue as the Entertainment Media Editor: this role was a hybrid of social (launching Instagram Stories, Snapchat Discover), content creation, casting, and supporting our larger digital projects: all these projects were meant to connect our audience with fashion, events, cultural movements in a way where they, too, could be part of the same conversation or movement. I am now freelancing and consulting on social + digital projects from fashion + beauty brands to large corporations to models + celebrities. In addition to executive producing a few series for a few different media platforms. I believe that social storytelling in an authentic, digital-first approach is how brands will survive in this age.
Now, I consider myself a New Yorker. Some say you can’t say that until you’ve been here for 10 years but I think after 10 years, most are ready to leave the city. I’m on a plane 4-8+ times a month so there’s always that moment coming back where you have a new found love and appreciation for the city. I definitely think if I didn’t travel as much, this city would drive me wild.
We admire the work you do for the HerNYC community, could you tell us a bit more about this venture?
Thank you! HER NYC and HER Global Network is a community of women in 15 international cities. We are women who value authenticity, empathy & genuine connections. We act locally with our chapters and then connect everyone on a global scale. New York is a very “what do you do” “who do you know” “where do you live” kind of town, we nix all of those preconceived notions and just have real talk: the ups and downs in both our professional and personal lives. Specifically, I curate and oversee our social content and programming— follows us at @her.usa
What’s an average day like for you? Is there an average day?
There's no average day. There wasn’t even an ‘average day’ when I had a corporate job per say. And that’s exciting in a way but also the weeks can past so fast and you’re like: where did all the time go?! That’s why I’m trying to implement a set morning and night routine so at least those things are consistent. But the days range from being on set (shooting, directing, creating content to days prepping for these shoot days to days full of back to back meetings). I always try to sneak in a workout for my mental sake.
Anything you do every morning or night, without fail?
Every morning I meditate and I also send love to someone who I think needs it in that moment: it can be from a family member to a friend to a coworker. Everyone needs more love in their lives and in order to receive love, you must give love. I also identify what I’m grateful for in the morning and target three things that I must accomplish that day. During the evening, I ask myself what I was grateful for that happened throughout the day.
What’s been your favorite project that you’ve ever worked on?
There’s been sooo many. I am really excited about some of the projects I’m working on now independently but since I can’t say much in detail, I’ll talk about past projects. From Celine Dion in couture to launching how Vogue covers fashion shows + events live— it’s all been a huge team effort with my former colleagues and I learned so much. I call it boot camp because the experience and knowledge you gain working with the most insanely talented people is engrained in you forever.
Who has been the biggest influence on you as a woman?
Wow so many… I think any woman who has paved their own way in the world is a huge inspiration to me. First and foremost, my mom who defeated all odds and studied in the States while raising three children. She's in her mid-fifties now and recently discovered and reclaimed her health + fitness and now works out more than I do. It seems minute but I think constantly reinventing yourself throughout your life is really important.
What does style & substance mean to you?
I feel like with style, if you have the conscious decision to decide who and what you put on your body— then make it count! Make sure it represents who you are and that in itself is substance. If you care a lot about what you eat then you should care just as much about what you are wearing and where it comes from/the story behind it/what you are telling the world by presenting yourself with your own style.
What’s the best advice you have ever been given?
That you can only control yourself: whatever happens in life, you are in control of how you react to everything that happens to you. Also, you are responsible for your own happiness/joy.
What are you most passionate about?
I’m passionate about connectivity. I think because I moved around so much— I always craved to connect to the next location, the people, and my surroundings. Now this has evolved where I love connecting people through visual stories or connecting to different places/locals when I travel and coming back to share my experiences so more can connect with that place, thing, or person.
What are some of your favorite neighborhood spots in New York?
I live in Williamsburg so I love staying in Brooklyn for the entire weekend. East River pilates or Modo Yoga in the morning, Cafe Mogador, Urban Rustic for brunch, farmer’s market in McCarren park, and then a bike ride or run to my favorite view of the city in Brooklyn Heights Promenade Park.
What’s next on your itinerary?
2018! It’s a new year— clean slate for new opportunities and experiences. I also always have a trip queued up, first off: a sailing adventure in the Caribbean in February.
Ten quick questions
Coffee orderI don’t drink coffee! So either a green tea or hot water with lemon is my go-to.
ViceShoes and my phone… I’m trying to be conscious when I use it while in the presence of others, at dinner, even while commuting.
Something inspiring right nowOprah’s Supersoul Sunday podcast with Eckhart Tolle
Book on nightstand
The Compound Effect
Wow so many… Gustav Klimt, Yayoi Kusama, Henri Cartier-Bresson and I have to admit that I shed tears at the Picasso museum in Barcelona and at the Georgia O’Keefe museum in Santa Fe.
Jonathan Anderson, Dries van Noten and Jacquemus
Elon Musk’s Big Falcon Rocket or my mint green Strada bike
Kings of Summer
Rachel from Friends, Princess Diana
You can follow Sophia on Instagram here and the HER.NYC community here