Elisa Goodkind and Lily Mandelbaum want to see women everywhere own who they are.
Mother-daughter duo Elisa Goodkind and Lily Mandelbaum have been working side-by-side at multimedia platform StyleLikeU for the past 10 years. In that time, their joint venture has grown and changed, but their mission remains the same: to tell the stories of real people in the name of self-acceptance—often, through the lens of style.
StyleLikeU was born when Lily was just a college freshman struggling with her body image and finding her path. Elisa was a successful fashion stylist at the time, but she was growing frustrated with the industry's homogeneous scene. They were both bumping up against society's constraints—for different reasons. Interested in film making, Lily grabbed a video camera, and the pair started interviewing people about their bodies, lives, and what was hanging in their closets. The rest is history.
A few years ago, the pair published a book called True Style is What's Underneath: The Self-Acceptance Revolution, but these days, their storytelling mostly takes the form of documentary-style videos, shared on their YouTube channel and social media. Their flagship series, entitled 'The What's Underneath Project,' showcases non-conformists of all ages, body types, races, gender expressions, and abilities. The videos show subjects stripping down to their underwear and opening up about their self-image, style, and identities. (FYI, self-love and body positivity aren't the same thing.)
"The subjects share radically honest stories, release shame, and share their journey," Mandelbaum explains. "We empower the viewers who are watching to discover that same sense of self."
"It's almost like a collective form of therapy," adds Goodkind.
Up next, a feature-length documentary that will be released in 2020, as well as a series of shorter videos focused on men and masculinity. Here, they share what keeps them motivated to share others' stories, their biggest sources of inspiration, and how they make time for self-care.
The Passion That Drives Them
EG: "My passion is to bring truth and authenticity back into the world and for that to be a true value. I want people to see what it is to actually own who they are, be comfortable in who they are, and see what it is to really be a unique individual. That's really what drives me because I feel that's how it's supposed to be, and that's what makes a thriving and dynamic culture. For me, that's what makes the world an exciting place to live."
LM: "My mission is to empower people to feel comfortable in their skin and to release any shame they have around their self-image and their identity. That's what drives me: to reverse the media landscape that's profited off of exploiting people's insecurities in order to make them feel like they need to be fixed by buying things. My passion is to help people reclaim themselves from that system and own who they are."
(Related: How to Boost Body Confidence with Exercise)
Where They Get Inspiration
LM: "My journey has been so inextricably informed by everyone we've interviewed. Because when we started this 10 years ago, I was really uncomfortable in my body. I was struggling a lot with finding my own style wasn't just about conforming to what I was seeing in magazines. Doing these interviews became a liberation and inspiration for me. Because so many of the people who we were interviewing were artists or were living in some kind of creative or entrepreneurial lifestyle, I not only became inspired on a self-image level to become comfortable in my skin but also on a career level. They were living their lives with such an independent spirit."
EG: "I feel the same way as Lily. I've been super inspired by everybody we've interviewed. But I also have a couple of people I look up to a lot, like Marianne Williamson and Oprah. I draw a lot of inspiration from my spirituality, as well. I've needed it as we've spent more time doing this. My spiritual life and world give me a lot of strength."
On Balancing Self-Care and Running a Business
LM: "That's been like a big struggle for both of us as women, and we've both had rude awakenings in the last few years. At times, we both burnt out from having very few boundaries and not taking care of ourselves enough. Now, I think we've both developed different tools. I moved to LA a year ago, which has been instrumental. It's much healthier for me, as far as my ability to deal with the stress and pressure of running my own business. Making sure I get exercise every day, spend some time outside, and spend time with friends are all crucial to me. It's still a challenge. It's a practice to have boundaries, but we're working on it daily."
EG: "In addition to exercising regularly and eating well, creating boundaries has been important. Not every workday has to go until 10 o'clock at night. Learning to just let go and to trust has been really huge thing for both of us in different ways. You have to let go as much as you have to try. You have to receive as much as you give. Not everything is in the doing."