Bianca Valle on Taking The Leap
When I hopped on the phone with Bianca Valle, we had already known each other for a little bit. I met Bianca as a fellow panelist for a teen-run magazine called Lithium and we connected not only because we were both well-versed on the ups-and-downs of the media industry, but because she was instantly generous with her warmth and friendly to the point where I knew we would stay in touch even after our short stint on stage together. (Even though sometimes we say that and it never happens.)
But it did. And since then, Bianca has created work that lives in the National Museum of Women in the Arts, appeared in an international campaign for The North Face, and is working on her next venture: a serviceable wellness zine. Needless to say, I was excited to hear more about what she was up to and what we could learn from someone whose endless creativity spans across mediums.
Tell me about you and how you got your start in the industry.
I grew up in Southern California and I was very academic in high school. When I was applying to colleges, I had this infatuation with NYU and New York City, and I was lucky enough to get in! It was a lot of work, a lot of studying, and it came down to either Berkeley or NYU, and I chose NYU - which was the best decision I ever made.
When I got to New York, I realized it was the fashion mecca — growing up outside New York, you don't realize that. So I dove into internships once I got here — Milk Makeup, Refinery29, Jill Stuart, all over the place.
What did you do at your internships?
So many different things. I let myself explore my interests through my internships. I interned at NYLON because I loved it so much, did some video and beauty stuff with them, then later did more of that at Milk, then at Refinery29 I was a photo intern. I cultivated all my interests through my internships during college, like photography, writing, painting — all the while I was also exploring fashion, music, and other ways of exploring myself. I could never get it down to just one thing, I explored everything.
After graduation, I got a job running social at Milk Studios, and began a beauty column while I was there. Then I was contacted by NYLON, and they asked me if I wanted to be a beauty editor for them, and I jumped at the chance. I'd always loved NYLON, and it just felt like such a natural progression, a place where I could talk about mind, body, and spirit in addition to beauty. A lot of my work there was exploring treatments and supplements, and all aspects of this multi-faceted wellness world. I just fell in love with it and found that it was my passion.
Then, similar to many of us in this industry, I got laid off. NYLON folded and closed down their print division.
So that moment was a little bit jarring, but the universe pulled me back up and said "hey, this is an opportunity to really dive into wellness."
I was approached by Nike about these Instagram stories I'd been publishing about running and exercising, and they asked me to be the face of a run that they were holding last year. They trained us for the 5K, and they wanted me to be in all the campaign photos for it. So of course I said yes, and that inspired me to get further into the wellness space — doing lots of research and being the best me I could be, and starting to talk about fitness, nutrition, and wellness on my Instagram more.
It's amazing that you've followed those opportunities like Nike, and let it define a new path for you, instead of being like "okay, that was cool, I'm gonna go get a regular job now!"
Yeah! And the only reason I was able to do that is because I didn't let fear fuel me. Of course I was scared. Even now that I'm really, truly pursuing my dreams — like sometimes I'll wake up and I'm like, 'oh my god, what am I doing, what is happening?' But I won't let it stop me from reaching my ultimate goal.
There's this meme where Beyoncé is listening to an audience, and the screen behind her is bigger version of her looking down over her and that's how I feel: like my higher self is watching over me. I just feel like if I keep pushing forward, keep being fearless, and keep being hungry, I can do no wrong.
So what are you most excited about working on now?
I've been doing a lot of my own personal art lately, which is so exciting. I paint and draw, and I recently re-upped my painting game, painted 6 paintings in the past month, and sold two of them. So I'm just going to keep creating things that speak to my heart and resonate with people.
And I also wanted to make something wellness-based, because I get so many DMs asking me about recipes and advice on how to eat better, how to exercise, or even how to speak to yourself. So I decided to make a little zine exploring those topics, and put my nutrition and fitness out there as a tangible thing that people can reference. That's really exciting for me, because I love researching these topics myself, reading books, or on the internet. The topic of wellness is so vast, and it can be really hard to know which sources to trust, so it makes me happy I can add to that conversation in a way that will benefit people.
I love that. Doing creativity in the service of people.
That's my hope, that it helps someone! Like some of my favorite messages to get - the ones that truly propel me forward - are the DMs where people say, "The IG story you did on spinach made me eat spinach." And I'm like "HELLL YESSSS!"
So you create in lots of different mediums — do you go into each one with a different mindset?
I'm lucky that a lot of my art comes from intuition. I'm a very impulsive person — for example, when I decided to make the zine, I was lying in bed, looking at my bookshelf, and thought to myself, 'oh! I should make a wellness zine!' And I just immediately started. I'm good about following those creative impulses. But I think the reason I get those is because I don't force it. I never tell myself, I should go take photos now, or paint now. There's an ebb and flow to my creativity. I'll be at home doing laundry and think to myself, I have an hour - should I get started on a painting? I like to keep my approach effortless, not forcing it, and I find that works best for me.
Who are you inspired by or drawn to right now, any industry, fashion, art, wellness - who's inspiring you.
I love this question because I've said it out loud so many times but I'm so inspired right now by people wholeheartedly following their passions. It's not any specific individual. I was getting my nails done with my mom and there was Cake Boss showing on the TV – I was so inspired because this individual realized that baking was their passion and they got ahead of it, so much so that they have a baking show. In hindsight, that’s incredible.
Like when I see florists. I feel like florists are really being lauded right now because what they’re creating is so beautiful. These people are like you know what, “I really like flowers and I'm going to make a career out of it.” That's amazing.
Yeah, "I'm going for it full steam ahead", which is very similar to what you're doing as well. "This is a thing that may be a hobby to some people but I'm going to be like nah, I'm making this a full time gig".
Exactly and you know how people say "if you love what you do you don't feel like you're working a day in your life?" It's like "I'm here but I wish I could be there", but you should always try to figure out a way to be there.
I think even sharing that sentiment will awaken many people. It really is just about saying yes and taking the plunge. And then all of the sudden boom! Your life is poppin' with the thing that you love.
Exactly. Everyone needs that push and to be honest that's the reason I'm so inspired by people following their dreams because I'm doing it –
and I'm low-key scared shitless – but you know what, you have to do this. If I see they can do it, I can do it.
In your previous roles, were you able to express that creativity there as well? Were your workplaces welcome to it and let you run free with your different ideas and concepts?
You know what? I think it's not so black and white but in a way, I have this overarching ideology about working toward someone else's dream.
Early on I got bit by the "existential work bug". I wish I didn't, I'd love to not question everything all the time.
But when I work toward someone else's dream and I'm on a time crunch, I unfortunately cannot produce in the best way that I know that I can. I can produce, but is it my best work? I don't know. Because I feel like cultivating that creativity takes a little a bit of time. It takes almost a lifetime of experiences.
When I was at NYLON and I was writing about beauty, I did feel like I was able to write what I wanted. Or when I was at Milk, when I was creating Instagram captions, I didn't have to get anything approved – I could just upload to the Internet to thousands of people with my language. And that was very validating.
For me, having to come up with an amazing caption in 20 minutes or having to write an article in a day is not my best work. But you know, that's how work is. I can do it if I need to but thankfully, right now, this experience is kind of a slower pace. These days when I complete something, I think "wow, I did this the right way."
I think you've made the right decision now that your path is going more towards the worlds of self-sustainability, and self-employment and empowerment and it's so fitting for you. So I'm definitely inspired by all your successes.
I'm inspired by you! We're in the same boat.