Living a Full Life with My Creative Crush Ilona Royce Smithkin

Photo by Ari Seth Cohen of Advanced Style

Ilona Royce Smithkin is one of the muses for fashion blog Advanced Style. In the blog, she and a collection of fabulous senior women from New York City are photographed by blogger Ari Seth Cohen for their individual and creative style. A documentary about these women was recently added to my Netflix account (it shares the name of the blog). Each woman in the doc is special in her own individual way, but there was one who stuck out to me: my orange-haired creative crush delight, Ilona Royce Smithkin.

It was a specific statement she makes in the doc that really got to me. When describing her artist life, she said, “I came into my own about, maybe ten, twelve, thirteen years ago.” This is a woman who is in her 90s! She had lived an entire life before she started to live one where she was being true to herself. At first her statement really had me worried. Will it take that long for all of us soul-searching creative people to find ourselves?

No, it won’t.

I’ve watched the scene a few times now and I am no longer worried. It did not take almost a century for Ilona to discover herself. It took that long for her to embrace the person she is and focus on the things in her life that bring her joy. Ilona came into her own when she started to teach art and share her talents with the world.

At 95, Ilona still has the vivation to teach, paint, work out book deals, interview for the media, and she has a monthly cabaret show where she sings and performs. She does it all with a lovely confidence and a comfort in her freedom of self.

We all have a limited time to live our lives. People like Ilona – someone who is striving to still live a full life near the end of hers – inspire the rest of us to make the most of the time we have. We’re motivated to embrace the joys and passions in our lives now because we never know when it will be the end.

Here is a video with some clips from the Advanced Style Documentary.

Ilona says my other favourite quote in the video and I think it’s an appropriate ending to this post. “How long will I be able to do it? I can’t buy green bananas anymore.”

Make sure to check out the Advanced Style blog and watch the documentary on Netflix.

Creative Crush – Ira Glass

I’m going to start posting my Creative Crushes. When someone in the creative world inspires me, I want to share their influence, their work and some love.

My first crush is This American Life producer and host Ira Glass. On his radio program, Ira and his team share compelling stories of peoples’ lives based a on selected theme. Themes can be anything from the perils of intimacy to the effects of testosterone levels in people. I like listening to these stories because each one shares the nature of human connection. That connection may be between the people within the story or the connection I feel to the story’s subject. To me, the best stories are the ones we feel inside of us. They help us see a broader horizon in this world, and give us a better understanding of how we fit into it. I’m learning through my own storytelling how difficult it is to naturally build a connection with that power. So for me, listening to Ira do this week after week on This American Life is uber impressive.

Here is a video (the first of four) on Ira’s building blocks for creating a good story. One of my writing teachers shared it with me a couple of years ago. It was the first Ira Glass thing I was exposed to, and he’s been a creative crush of mine ever since.