We had the good fortune of connecting with Leslie Antonoff and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Leslie, can you walk us through the thought-process of starting your business?
As a kid I dealt a lot with financial insecurity and poverty. I remember being 8 or 9 having anxiety about money. For me going into business was always a way that I could do my part to help my mom and family. Which meant starting my first business at 8, I started selling snacks from my own home. I understood early on that generating revenue could come out of what you already had on hand. My uncle worked at Quaker at the time and with boxes of food arriving weekly I used what we had to create snack packs to sell to my classmates, that resourcefulness followed me as I grew up. Beginning my blogs, starting clothing company, writing and developing television and web series all flows from that same space of providing a need that I see.
Alright, so let’s move onto what keeps you busy professionally?
Honestly right now I’m in a transition period, I’m coming off a television show that ran for three seasons and that is a huge accomplishment. Though for me – I’m always looking to the next thing which doesn’t afford me the chance to really celebrate my wins. I worked hard to get here even if I don’t often give myself the credit for doing so. By far my biggest challenges have been learning how to leverage where I am to get to the next thing, it’s something I’m still working on. Along this journey I’ve learned that I have to revamp my idea of success to not only be about financial gain but also about consistently moving the needle forward and making room for others. Another valuable lesson I’ve learned is that women will always be questioned, we may even be denied, or expected to be more. Rather than being upset I’ve realized that I have to take care of myself the same way men have been taught to do and not feel guilty for it. It’s a hard lesson for so many us of to grasp. My brand has grown so much from my initial foray into the digital space. I went from running a blog with my sister for years to creating my own brand. The Hautemommie grew from being merely a social handle to being something that has helped me define a mission and purpose. Now I aim in everything I do to influence people, primarily women, especially Black women; to pursue the lives they envision. That is a huge part of how I want to map out my career. As long as I’m always dedicated to that mission then I can accept projects in good conscience. I’m someone who easily could have been counted out – young mom, abusive relationship, poor, but I’ve overcome those things by not allowing my circumstance to be my story.
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?
Welcome to Los Angeles; the food is wonderful, the scenery is next to none, and everything is beautiful! I live near Long Beach which is a massive city in LA county that is just now starting to get the recognition it deserves. It has beautiful beaches, delicious restaurants, and tons of things to do that can be overlooked for hitting LA proper. I’d hit 2nd street for a delicious brunch at Nick’s on 2nd, slide over for cocktails at Saint & Second, and head to Naples to walk along the canals. After that we’d head to Lola’s for evening margaritas and over to Ellie’s for a delightful Italian dinner. Nightcap? Over to the newly opened outpost from Ellie’s chef and mixologist Chauncey Davis – Lupe’s De La Mar. If I’m heading into LA, we’d have to hit Downtown where we could venture into some awesome bars some small and mighty like Emerson’s. Or those trendy rooftops that never fail like Pilot at the Hoxton, where the onion dip with caviar is my go to. I’d also share my quiet spot The Row where you can get tasty food and drinks in some unexpected places. We’d hit Freehand where there may be live music randomly midweek and slide over to the Ace for another fireside drink. Visitors usually want to take in Hollywood at some point and though it isn’t really my cup of tea these days, Mama Shelter rarely disappoints. For brunch or late night hangouts it’s good for both. Venice is a must see, High is still a spot I like to return to all these years later to for a view that will take your eyes all the way to Catalina. While you’re down there if dives are more your deal, The Brig is usually a spot to hang and be seen.
Shoutout is all about shouting out others who you feel deserve additional recognition and exposure. Who would you like to shoutout?
Obviously the instant shoutout goes to my mom for always encouraging me to pursue things, even those she didn’t understand. Along with her though I have to always thank my friend Issa Rae, for pushing me beyond my comfort zone to do something I had never thought about before. If not for her I wouldn’t have made the leap to being a full fledged on camera personality. Her support has opened doors for me and she continues to push for me, I appreciate her for it always.
Headshot: Elton Anderson Jr. – @eltonandersonjr All other photos: Kaye McCoy – @cookayemonster