We had the good fortune of connecting with Cecile Michaelis and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Cecile, what was your thought process behind starting your own business?
Losing our daughter, Noah, was the single most traumatic thing we had ever been through. It was our worst nightmare come to life. In the year following her passing from congenital heart disease, my husband and I knew we needed to fill the void consuming our lives. Despite all of her hardships living with CHD for 13 years, she managed to bring smiles to hundreds of families in the hospital with care packages and advocate for better CHD legislation in DC. She was able to convey a presence that spoke volumes about kindness and a genuine regard for others despite her own struggles. We knew her work and energy needed to continue on, hence Live Like Noah Foundation was born. We felt the only way to continue moving forward was to find purpose in our loss. By helping others it would ease our pain.
Alright, so let’s move onto what keeps you busy professionally?
Art and design have always been a part of my life. My grandfather, a school teacher was also known as the town painter and artist in his native home of Pandan, Antique in the Philippines, making posters and ads for city events. My father, although he was an accomplished dentist for 40 years here in the US, was always naturally artistic, drawing all the time, teaching me how to draw as a kid and how to use my hands to create things. He spent every day of his retirement painting until he passed away. He was, and still is, a huge inspiration to me. I studied graphic design and photography at SDSU and went on to work for Nickelodeon doing production coordinating right out college. Although I wasn’t designing, it still allowed me to freelance design on the side, enough to help me build up a portfolio and eventually land a contract job with the City of LA designing programming campaigns for the inner-city parks. It was this job that opened my eyes to other parts of our city. Having grown up in suburbia–“The Valley”, away from the city. I came to appreciate the rich culture of LA, its people, and the importance to advocate for at-risk youth. I realized how much of a positive influence I could make with my designs. After five years working with the City, an incredible opportunity came up where I was offered a job as a lead editorial designer for Disney utilizing both my design and photography experience. Working closely with a talented team of writers and creatives, it taught me so much about collaboration, story, and visual communication. After leaving Disney, I focused more on Noah and her medical needs while running my own family photography business for the next 8 years. When she passed away in 2017, I closed shop having completely lost all my motivation to pick up the camera. Photo documenting Noah to share her story was a huge part of our family life, so when she left us, taking a photo was simply too painful. I’m a big proponent for art therapy. It’s something we turned to during Noah’s recoveries and I found peace in a different medium, drawing daily in my sketchbook. Illustration was a saving grace for me like painting was for my father. I’ve been able to take my experience by designing and illustrating everything for the Live Like Noah Foundation, from our heart moth logo to the art you see on all of our merchandise. Led by Noah’s inspirational messages, it feels full circle in that I’m able to take what I love to do, which is to create, and bind that with the passion of advocating for congenital heart disease and helping other heart families.
Any places to eat or things to do that you can share with our readers? If they have a friend visiting town, what are some spots they could take them to?
There are so many amazing things to do, see and especially eat in LA! I’ll narrow it down to what an ideal day would be for us if COVID-19 no longer existed. We love hiking so we’d take our friends to a great local trail, Caballero Canyon Trail to the top of Mulholland. It’s about a 5 mile loop. We’d hike to one of the highest peaks and, on a clear day, you can see both the ocean on one side and the entire Valley on the other. The view is quite spectacular from there. Then get breakfast at one of our favorite brunch spots, Gasolina Cafe, in Woodland Hills. We love their Spanish dishes. Everything made from scratch with locally sourced ingredients, and the best coffee. They are a gem in the Valley. There are always amazing exhibits at our museums, from LACMA to the Broad to Norton Simon. We’d maybe take a visit to one of them and grab a drink at a local pub afterwards. By now dinner would be on our minds and one of the most unique restaurants in LA is Yapa in Little Tokyo, where both Peruvian and Japanese cuisine are celebrated. It’s absolutely a phenomenal if you haven’t been there. Then to cap off the incredible, world wind of a day, we’d go to Wolf & Crane Bar for their Old Fashions. It’s just a hop-skip from Yapa, also in Little Toyko. We love the vibe and their down to Earth bar tenders. This is just one day in LA! So much to explore and adventure to be had!
The Shoutout series is all about recognizing that our success and where we are in life is at least somewhat thanks to the efforts, support, mentorship, love and encouragement of others. So is there someone that you want to dedicate your shoutout to?
We’d love to give a Shoutout to a few important people! Terra and Adam Chez, Co-Founders of Hopeful Hearts Foundation (hopeful-hearts.org), who gave Noah a path to helping others kids like her when she was just 6 years old. Thank you Conquering CHD (conqueringchd.org) for giving us a platform to raise our voice on Capitol Hill to advocate for CHD research funding. You made us realize the importance to our story. To our lifelong friend, mentor, and advisory board member, Dr. Sudeep Taksali, who has always given us guidance throughout our years with Noah and empowered us after she passed away to keep moving forward. We are stronger today because of him. To our Friends and Family, without your support and love, we couldn’t have achieved what we have so far. Thank you!