We had the good fortune of connecting with Michelle Baines and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Michelle, what makes you happy? Why?
When I was a little girl, I used to play “Waitress.” I had my mom take me to the local stationery store, (clearly it was a long time ago,) and I perused the aisles looking for the perfect invoice pads. I’d dream of buying a cash register and pretend to have lengthy conversations with my stuffed animal customers while checking them out. I would think of everything from start to finish. Even back then it was all about the experience. I’m now 37 and nothing has changed in terms of my goals. I am happiest when creating items that celebrate people, especially those that have been overlooked by the mainstream. My goal in everything that I do – is to truly celebrate diversity and differences. We all have things within ourselves that are just like everyone else however, it’s our differences that add flair to life and the lives of those around us. When we embrace ourselves unapologetically we are able to live our best life and I want that for myself and others. Being able to bring that to my customers is everything.
Alright, so let’s move onto what keeps you busy professionally?
I’ve heard that great art comes from deep loss. I’m not quite sure I’d describe my items as great art (more like fun,) however it certainly has come from deep loss and pain. When I was a child, I suffered from sexual and emotional abuse from my father and others. I was told that I was unloveable, going to hell with my mom (because she divorced him,) and that I was a fucked up child. A child at any age would struggle with those words and I was no different. They hit my heart like bullets and have stuck with me my entire life. In a way, it fueled my need and desire to ensure that if I had a choice, I’d never let anyone else feel that way about themselves. At the age of 12, I started reading books about being gay and coming out. In my mind, it made sense to try and understand other communities that were unloved or rejected by their parents and society because of who they were. I knew I wanted to be an advocate and ally because I understood the rejection and abuse at a deep level. I’ve carried my mission of being an advocate and ally from then on. And when my mom came out to me at age 61, I was elated at her finally embracing who she was. She was too scared to really discuss it with family and she feared rejection within her community. She never fully came out to them and it always broke my heart. It took me a while to understand how deeply my mom’s story has impacted my business but I think I do somewhat now. I want people to embrace what makes them special and to not shy away from who they are. As a woman, I have always been told that I’m too opinionated, too loud, too colorful, and take up too much space. And while I may not be everyone’s cup of tea, I know I’m not alone. I hate that these labels affect me and am working on being comfortable with who I am, even if it makes others uncomfortable. I want that for my customers and those around me. I realize that it’s hard to convey that passion through an online page however, my goal is that every person that visits my shop feels like they’ve found a place they can call home. A place that understands them and instead of telling them they’re too loud for this world – celebrates them. People have so many options on where to shop. My whole business is centered around people and I understand at a deep level that without them, I wouldn’t have a business. I rejoice every time I have an order, comment, email, etc from my customers. I thrive on connection and it’s a passion I bring into my work.
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?
Well, let’s pretend everyone has masked up, gotten vaccinated and Covid is a thing of the past. There are so many special places in LA – it’s hard to choose. Obviously, we’d do the whole tourist thing and go see the Hollywood sign and Santa Monica Pier. I’d make a detour in Santa Monica though and we’d visit the Dragon house. I’d also take them to my favorite Indian place, “Lal Mirch” in Studio City. (Try the mango masala, it’s the best.) If they’re up for an adventure, we’d drive up into the hills of Studio City looking for the wish tree. (One of the homeowners created a tree filled with handwritten notes of people’s wishes. They included blank pieces of paper and pencils, so that anyone who visited could add their own wish.) If they wanted a bit of magic to their trip, I’d take them into Topanga Canyon and we’d eat at Inn of The Seventh Ray. I’ve been there several times and while I’ve not seen a unicorn just yet, am still expecting to see one walk down from the hillside. Obviously, a trip to the Pantages is a must – hopefully, Waitress or Hedwig and the Angry Inch is showing. Regardless though stepping foot into the beautiful theater is life-changing and any show is worth the money. Music is a mainstay within LA however I’d rather take them for a few days up to Santa Barbra, so they’d get to experience the Santa Barbra Bowl. First row seats are affordable and it’s a more intimate venue compared to the Hollywood Bowl. Clubbing is no longer my “thing,” at my age, but if they wanted to experience an LA club, I’d take them to Rage on a night my friend Bryan LaRock is djing. (He plays the best music!) We’d also hit up Fiesta Cantina for karaoke night, to ensure they experienced the WeHo nightlife. Who else deserves some credit and recognition?
I’d like to dedicate this to my mommy mine. She taught me how to be unafraid of who I am and to fight for myself and others, even in the face of adversity. Our journey together was cut short in Sept. 2020, but I am forever grateful for the love, compassion, and support she gave me all throughout my life. She supported me even when she didn’t understand my passionate drive to create my own path and was always proud of my choices. She was my soul and heart and I would not be here without her choice to adopt me. I’d also like to thank my partner in all things life; Leeahd Goldberg. He has been with me through the most difficult journey of caregiving and losing my mom. Instead of it driving a wedge between us – it made us closer. I am so grateful to have had you by my side for the last 10 years and I look forward to continuing to create a life that is fully our own. I love you.
The photo of me – Violet Schrage