Sophia Li: Journalist, Director
MODERATING TALKS WITH ARIANNA HUFFINGTON, BUSTING DOWN AGEISM MYTHS + HER PASSION FOR CREATING "CONSCIOUS CONTENT”
Sophia Li tells a good story. As a journalist and director, her flair for engaging and “conscious content" led her to break ground on Vogue.com, where she was part of the first ten staff. For the better half of a decade she crafted tales featuring the glitterati and culture-shakers of today, which launched some very exciting projects, like filming Celine Dion in Chanel Haute Couture while boating down the Seine at sunset (a must watch). During that period she learned the biggest takeaway was to be “indispensable and someone everyone wants to actually be around." "As a creative… [my favorite parts were] the interviews I conducted backstage or on the red carpet in real time, the stories involving culture, travel, women's empowerment.”
Now, as a freelancer, she’s diving into realms beyond fashion, moderating talks with powerhouses like Arianna Huffington, busting down ageism myths, investigating into China's commerce market, and getting into the trenches of what it means to be a multifaceted, modern women— confident in her contradictions and always curious to go a little deeper. We sat down with this woman making waves in storytelling, and were lucky to have her launch a full run-down of the insider wellness secrets she’s adopted along the way (Sakara Detox Drops may be a part of that equation).
Below, she talks "Big Mind" body, her morning routine, apps for stress, and her fuel of choice to stoke her creative fire.
How has your upbringing and culture informed your feelings on nutrition/wellness?
My upbringing as a Chinese-American serves as the foundation for my approach to wellness. My grandfather on my dad’s side is Buddhist and doesn’t eat meat or any spices such as garlic and scallion. I’m not that extreme but for the majority of the past two years, I live by a pescatarian diet. My wellness approach derives from a Buddhist mindset too: everything is connected; one cannot have a healthy outer life without a healthy inner mind and body. In fact, in Zen Buddhism, the body is referred to as the “Big Mind” as the body is a direct extension of the mind and vice versa. Believing in this, I cannot neglect either.
You talk about a passion for “conscious content"— What does this mean to you?
Just as there is noise pollution or light pollution, I believe we have arrived at the age of content pollution. I feel quite desensitized to all the content as brands are creating for the sake of creating and it just gets thrown into this dark abyss of the internet without a second thought of the repercussions of mindless consumption on a large scale. So conscious content is having intention and understanding why you are putting something out into the inter-webs in the first place: this applies to both projects I take on and on my personal social as well. This also means not finding validation from social as well as it’s quite easy to fall down that route.
What project has been the singular cause of personal growth?
For 2019, I would say the series I directed with Refinery29 and AARP surrounding ageism resonated deeply on a personal level. I didn’t realize how toxic it was to deny my age/not own my age until this series. When you don’t own your age because you want to be perceived as older or younger, your year becomes a blur when you cut your age from your mental vocabulary. It’s harder to recall memories from that time period when you don’t have a number to anchor those memories. Life can already feel like one big blur, I didn’t want to give myself any more reasons to not cherish every year nor my experiences by discrediting my age.
I also realized how back-handed it is to say to someone something like, 'you’re so accomplished, for your age…,' 'you look great, for your age…' We are discrediting the genuine compliment by following with that phrase ‘for your age.’
How are you helping to share the story of the modern, multifaceted woman? What does she look like to you in 2019? Why is it important for you to tell these stories through video?
I love this quote: 'you cannot be what you cannot see.' This quote sums up why it's important for me to share stories of the modern, multi-faceted woman through video. These women are complex, powerhouses with rich stories-- stories that any human can resonate with, not just women. These women show that vulnerability is a strength and authenticity is a superpower (hi, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez!). My goal is to tell these stories so other women, men, children, humans are inspired and in turn want to live a fraction of their lives more empowered. I never want to create content/direct videos where people end up feeling shitty about themselves. The internet does enough of that single-handedly: one scroll on Instagram and it's 'not successful enough, not smart enough, not skinny enough, not fashionable enough, not good enough.' The mentality of consuming social media in that vein is ENOUGH.
What is your morning routine?
I’ve recently started doing morning pages (from the book The Artist’s Way) first thing when I wake up, then I meditate. Those are the two things I aim to stick with no matter if I wake up in my apartment or at a hotel.
What is the first thing you check in the morning?
I check in with my body: if I were a battery, at what percentage would I be that morning 50%? 90%? It makes a difference in how I approach my day depending on my internal battery levels.
What are your morning beauty essentials?
I used to drink hot water with lemon every morning but found out the acidity is bad for your teeth. So now I start the morning with hot water and Sakara’s Detox Concentrates or the lemon Doterra essential oil.
What are some essential items you always have in your fridge for breakfast and snacks?
I never drink coffee and do intermittent fasting. Snacks I always have on hand in the kitchen are bananas, peanut butter, eggs, hot sauce.
Tell us about your approach about food as medicine: How do you think about feeding yourself for nourishment and pleasure?
Food is one of the greatest pleasures in life. It’s a privilege every day that I get to ask my body what I want to eat and basically have immediate access to whatever that is. I believe food is a direct correlation into our well-being and our body is our longest home we’ll have, so yes 100% I want to treat it well. I treat food as medicine because the medicine pharma companies actually want us to use are just putting more chemicals into our bodies— I would rather treat my body with ingredients that the body is already familiar with.
What is your skincare routine? What are the products you swear by?
AM skincare routine:
-then I use Kora Organics Noni Glow Face Oil
-Followed by Brightening Elixir Serum from Goldfaden
-SPF sunscreen from Skinceuticals
-Deep Forest Face Mist from Bjork & Berries
PM skincare routine:
-I wash my face with La Roche-Posay Effaclar Face Wash Gel or Windsor Edwards face wash (depending on how much makeup I’m wearing)
-Bioderma Micellar Water
-Ground Plan Clear Skin Toner
Products/Services I swear by:
Bioderma Micellar water
Kora Organics Rose Quartz Facial Sculptor and noni glow face oil
Herbivore Botanicals Jade facial roller
Marine Energy eye masks
GloSpa jet peel facials
Being a director and journalist is fast-paced, stressful, exciting— what are some ways that you decompress?
Eckhart Tolle says in A New Earth that “the past has no power over the present moment.” So during stressful times, knowing that all I can control is the present moment helps me take everything in micro-steps. No need to wake up and fret over everything I have to accomplish that day, just focus on one thing at a time. If I’m anxious about speaking in front of an audience later, I just focus on each step as it comes instead of the impending event.
Also, I tend to neglect my breath so I always go back to my breath when I find my mind going into marathon mode: breathing in for 4 counts and out for 4 counts. When I find myself self-criticizing, I name off what I accomplished that day. When I find myself judging the world, I call out three things that are beautiful immediately in front of me: the sunlight, the faint music in the background, my heartbeat, etc...
Apps that help:
Insight Timer for meditation
The 5 Minute Journal for gratitude
What music/podcasts/books/art/exhibits/ IG accounts are inspiring you?
The Artist’s Way
A New Earth
Oprah’s Supersoul Conversations
Ted Radio Hour
Hilma af Klint at the Guggenheim
The Color Inside by James Turrell in Austin (go during sunset!)
Fleetwood Mac forever, I cried during their concert a few weeks back
HER USA (proud of this community and how much it’s grown just the past few years)
August Willsun (spoken word poet who went before us at HBO’s Inspiration Room and she brought me to tears)
@kaydenhines brings me joy
A website that’s currently inspiring me is nuitschool.com (by @nuurvana), it’s a digital, guided self-healing school by the most sensational clairvoyant, Deganit. The reading I did with her in 2018 was the singular most impactful experience to date. The tools she gives you online are tools you can use to hone your intuition and heal yourself on your own schedule.
Do you have any supplements, herbs, plant medicine that you take and use to nourish?
If I’m feeling sick, I take Dottera On Guard essential oil religiously. I use Well Told Health Antioxidant Booster to help with immunity in general and especially while traveling. I Nutrafol for hair and nail health. In smoothies, I usually add Kora Organics Noni Glow Skinfood or Sakara’s Life Source Super Powder.
What is the legacy you hope to leave on this world? What are you out to accomplish?
Plain and simple: I want to make sure I leave this world a more engaging, accepting place and have impacted the collective for the better with the understanding that we have more similarities than differences. I hope to do this with conscious content on a mass scale and humanizing the process of digital storytelling. Meaning that the news will no longer be us vs. them statistics and entertainment will be personalized and enlightening instead of mind-numbing.