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FRIEND OF ARQ FEATURE: Elisa Goodkind and Lily Mandelbaum
Journal
04.14.23

elisa goodkind and lily mandelbaum


We feel lucky to share a moment with two paragons of radical self acceptance + style (and joyful expression!). Elisa Goodkind and Lily Madelbaum started the extremely special and resonant community of StyleLikeU where they facilitate explorations of self, style, and personal truths. Not only are they flourishing business partners, they’re also a mother-daughter duo, and you know how much we love family around here.<3

In a time where I think we all can feel stifled and misunderstood in most spaces “online,” you two have built something really magical on the internet. StyleLikeU is a community in which people are called to share, to be open, to relish in our similarities and to celebrate our differences. How have you seen the platform change over the years? When you started it, did you expect it to become this gloriously massive?

When we started StyleLikeU, we had no idea of where it was heading! We were simply passionate about the idea of diving into the lives of people whose style was a mirror to their free and unpretentious spirits and whose comfort in their skin was an inspiring departure from the insidious and exclusive standards being perpetuated by fashion and beauty media at the time. Our first videos were shot on a home video camera (literally), and we truly had no idea what we were doing (we were chewing gum and turning the camera upside down) but the essence of our mission was always there. For our first video series, Closets, we were exploring the stories behind the personal style of the types of people who made our heads turn on the street for how they were being true to themselves and not conforming to any status quo. In this series, we eventually discovered these people’s style had actually little to do with the actual clothing that they were wearing but rather a reflection of their essence, their comfort in their skin, and their hard-won journey towards self-acceptance. This discovery is what sparked what we’re now most known for: The What’s Underneath series. In What’s Underneath, these same ‘rare birds’ of all body types, races, ages, genders, sexualities, abilities, etc, who smash boxes and taboos with their unapologetic self-expression, strip down to their underwear to claim the beauty of the skin they’re in, while revealing intimate layers of their truths, literally and metaphorically. When we launched this series, it unexpectedly went viral and became a space on the internet for a collective unlearning of cultural conditioning with regards to all of the patriarchal programming we’ve been taught about how we are supposed to live and present ourselves, and a space to reclaim our bodies and lives outside of these oppressive norms. It provided a much-needed liberation for us all and took us on a journey beyond our wildest imagination. We had no idea it would create the impact that it has and can continue to have as it expands into new forms— and we couldn’t be more grateful!

The message of StyleLikeU deeply resonates with those of us who ache to be our most true selves, and because of this, you’ve had the opportunity to work with countless incredible people throughout the years. Are there any interviews or moments in particular that stuck with you, and if so, why?

A lot of people ask us this question. I am sorry to say that the answer is always the same, which is that we deeply love everyone that we feature and are transformed in some way by them all. One of the beautiful things that we have found is that we are all mythological and when given the chance to express our truths and vulnerability, we hold so much wisdom and when that wisdom is shared we have so much power to heal one another. Everyone teaches us the exact lesson we need to hear in a given moment, always reminding us how connected we all are despite how different we may appear. Perhaps some standout moments/memories from the beginning of What’s Underneath include our interview with Melanie Gaydos, who deeply embodies the beauty of owning who you are, and Lizzo, who we interviewed before she became famous and who now cites the experience as a transformative one that went on to shape her approach to her art/career. We’re very proud of this!

It’s truly inspiring to see you two, a mother-daughter duo, working together in such an effortlessly joyful way. Does this come naturally for you both? Have you built support systems, inside and outside of the family circle, to help you show up at work and for each other in the best way?

It has been an inexplicable journey and one that we have almost no idea how it happened nor how it's been 14 years in the making. Like life itself, we have had many ups and downs and StyleLikeU has held us accountable to ourselves as individuals and as mother and daughter. We share an inexplicable vision for what we are creating as well as the shared ability/drive to see the beauty in people, which is what connects us through all of the hardships that come with building something disruptive from the ground up. We've been through A LOT together, but it has only worked because of our shared quest to be our most honest and whole selves, and we have not only grown enormously from working together but also from everyone we’ve interviewed. We have had to make great efforts to have healthy boundaries and support systems outside of work, but it's a daily practice to get it right. It has definitely been and remains an ongoing challenge to parse out our relationship as mother and daughter versus our relationship as work partners in our day-to-day lives but we are committed to doing it with as much honesty and self-reflection as possible to both meet our own needs while supporting each other and propelling StyleLikeU to reach its greatest potential.

When you’re feeling uninspired or withdrawn, are there different places or people you go to for inspiration on color, style, or beauty? On the other hand, where do you find inspiration for learning and becoming a better version of yourself? How do you both see the desires for interior and exterior satisfaction intertwine?

Great question! I, Elisa, find that my self-expression through style is directly linked to my mental health so I dedicate a lot of time daily to my spiritual practice, which includes meditation and prayer every morning, in addition to regular exercising (biking, swimming, and walking) and painting. When I do these things for myself, I find that my self-expression through style is more aligned and exciting. My favorite spiritual guide is the author and mystic healer/historian Caroline Myss. I listen to hours of her workshops and talks a week.

I, Lily, echo my mom in that my personal style always feels the most aligned when I’m most taking care of mental, physical, and spiritual well-being, which can truthfully be hard for me at times when the stress of running a small business escalates. I always know I’m in balance and taking good care of myself when my style feels like a source of daily joy. I’m super inspired by bright, warm, jewel-y colors – and most days you can see me looking like a piece of fruit (lol) in bright oranges, reds, and pinks. Inspiration for becoming a better version of myself comes from everyone we interview and from the musicians and artists I admire who inspire me to follow my authentic path and express myself more freely no matter how hard and scary it can be at times.

Some people whose style inspires me online are Michelle Norris, Naomi Shimada and my friends Kacey Johansing and Dronme who I regularly swap clothing with!

StyleLikeU on Instagram: @stylelikeu
Elisa on Instagram: @elisagoodkind
Lily on Instagram: @lilymandelbaum
Photos by: Maddy Rotman @maddyrotman