It was a typical, sweltering day in July when I met one of the most joyful, authentic and creative women at the University of Florida in Gainesville. Kalere Payton is one-sweet-little-Georgia-peach and she and I explored our new city, school and life together those four years. We would talk for hours in the (mosquito-infested) dark talking about God, boys, school, boys, our dreams and sometimes we’d chat about boys.
Since graduation, Kalere has had many opportunities to say ‘no’ to life and to let fear determine her next steps. Instead, I have watched her say ‘yes’ to taking chances in her education, life, career and now in love.
Today, Kalere is a successful theater costume designer in New York. I feel so cool just saying that. Actually, she’s in transition from New York to Iceland where her fiancé lives. Are you getting an idea of why she’s our guest post today? This is an exciting time in her life and I hope you enjoy her interview here as much as I have.
You are a costume designer, what was your favorite show to design for and why? There are many shows that have been special and it’s hard to chose a favorite show… but this show is the first that came to mind. In the spring of 2012, I designed costumes for a small indie theater play called Christopher Marlowe’s Chloroform Dreams. It’s a new play that is a mash-up of Christopher Marlowe (a poet who was a contemporary of Shakespeare who dies under very strange circumstances) and Philip Marlowe (the 1940’s detective played by Humphrey Bogart in The Big Sleep and The Maltese Falcon). It was so simple and yet so beautifully written. There was so much to be inspired by.
The best part was working with the director, Philip, who became a dear friend in the process. I felt like he trusted me and was excited to see what I would create, but he also asked questions and pushed me in a way that inspired me to take the design further. One of my best design solutions was featured in it. A story-within-a story called for 3 dresses- described respectively as being made of the sun, the moon and the stars. Because we were nestled down into layers of story telling, I didn’t feel like the dresses needed to be actual dresses (and there’s no way we could afford an actual dress that would evoke that and not look like a bad prom dress). I proposed the idea of making life-size paper doll cut-out dresses. I’d use foam core and giant markers (low-cost) and the designs could become as fantastical as I wanted. I like to think back to being on a side-walk in the East Village getting out of a cab with two giant Ikea bags with several garment bags in each plus life size paper doll cutouts. New York indie theater at it’s finest.
How would you describe your own fashion style? Any go-to pieces you can’t live without? I love the 1950’s and 1960’s. Circle skirts are my happy place. I love that a good, comfortable dress only requires me to pick out a pair of shoes. My usual ensemble is a vintage skirt (with or without tights depending on the weather) and solid fitted t-shirts with a belt. I really don’t like pants- I currently own a pair of jeans and a pair of leggings pants. I wear pants but they aren’t my favorite.
My two vintage cashmere cardigans are some of my most prized possessions- I have a pale yellow and pale pink. I’m committed to caring and repairing them as long as I can. They are perfect for wearing with my sundresses. I love sundress weather- my favorite part about spring and summer. Floral sundress + my teal Keen sneakers = 😀
I bought a pair of burgundy leather booties last year and they are my favorite. I should probably start stalking e-bay for another pair to have waiting in the wings.
Tell us about living in Iceland, what do you love? What could you do without? Iceland is the most beautiful place. I would look around and kind of feel like it couldn’t be real. My fiancé and I took our engagement photo by the shoreline- it legit looks like we are in front of a green screen because the sky and the water and the mountains look so perfect. I loved walking downtown in Reykjavík, passing between two buildings and getting a glimpse of the ocean and the mountains.
The tap water is AMAZING. It’s been filtered through lava.
The Northern Lights. It’s like God is painting in the sky with neon green paint that moves.
Geothermal Pools. There’s a saltwater hot tub at the local pool. The local pool is like a spa. I was there at least twice a week when I was in Iceland for 3 months.
What could I do without?
During the winter the daylight hours can get as short as 3 or 4 hours. I can’t even really describe how disheartening it is to sleep in until 9 a.m. and have it be pitch dark outside then realize the sun won’t be up until 10:30 a.m. And once it comes up, it will probably call it quits by 3:30 p.m. I took Vitamin D and used light therapy. I had several close friends whose friendship was vital to surviving and being able to enjoy life in winter.
What surprised you about Iceland? The people, life there, etc. I have lived in NYC for 4 years and swore that nobody would ever convince me to move farther than Brooklyn. Despite that, Iceland won my heart. There’s something beautiful about being able to drive 15 minutes, hike a mountain for 2 hours and be home by noon on a Saturday. It could have a lot to do with my fiancé… but really I have a strong vision of my life there- working in theater and film/tv and raising a family.
I do not at all look Icelandic. I’ve been learning to speak Icelandic and when I began speaking to someone in a store, they didn’t assume I wasn’t fluent and were so complimentary and encouraging about how well I was doing with it.
What has been the biggest challenge in this new phase of life? Not being anxious. I saw a mug that pretty much sums it up: “As long as everything is exactly the way I want it, I’m totally flexible.” I’m learning to take things in stride. Rejoice in what’s in front of me and leave the future to be what it will be.
What are you most hopeful for in 2016? I’m so excited to marry my fiancé- we’ve lived in different countries our whole relationship and it will the greatest joy to just be with him every day. It’s a joy to me to be a source of joy for him. I’m hopeful that I won’t drive him crazy for at least 6 months? Stay tuned.
If you could talk to yourself five years ago, what would you say? No use stressing over finding the love of your life- either you’re not ready or he isn’t. Worrying doesn’t help and just make you feel crummy. Live it up. Enjoy your life. Take chances. One day things will change in a wonderful way but it’s gonna happen so fast!
Is there anything you’d like to say or include? I love you, Olivia. If I could change anything, I would somehow have made or saved enough money to see you and other friends I love dearly more over the last few years. You made college awesome. I was crazy and you loved me. #VicksVaporRubForMosquitoBites