Virginian of the Week: Emma Manis
By Keya Vakil
July 31, 2019

Welcome to the latest edition of ‘Virginian of the week. This week, we interviewed Emma Manis, a Richmond-based stylist, blogger and content creator. Her work can be found on her website and Instagram, as well as her company’s website.

Tell us a little bit about yourself. Where are you from originally and and what brought you to Richmond? 

I grew up in Chesterfield, Virginia where I grew up with my parents, younger brother, grandparents, and our two dogs. I moved into Richmond when I started school at VCU’s School of the Arts and haven’t left since! I love the small-town feel of Richmond while still getting to be near a city.

What’s your favorite thing about living in Richmond and what’s your favorite thing to do there?

My favorite thing about Richmond is how diverse it is! From the people to the restaurants, breweries, museums, and festivals, Richmond always has something different to offer. I think my favorite thing in the world to do in Richmond is floating on the James River during the summer.

You’re a stylist, blogger and and content creator. Tell us a little bit about what that looks like day-to-day and what most of your job entails.

My day-to-day is always changing. I also do freelance social media work for a menswear company, and own my own women’s clothing company on top of that, so things tend to be very busy during the week, with a lot of flexibility. Typically I try to plan two weeks out in advance for what needs to be done across all my jobs, so whether it’s shooting new content, writing copy for my posts, styling a photo shoot for EVOLVE, or even just answering emails all day, I can stay ahead of everything!

How did you get into styling, blogging and creating content?

After I graduated from VCU’s Fashion Merchandising Pegram, I originally started blogging and creating content focused on daily outfits and easy trends to follow, but over the past year, my work has really evolved into more editorial content, which I really enjoy.

As much as I love sharing my every day looks, I fell in love with editorial fashion because of the art and the life it brought to the clothing. Being able to create that myself is incredibly rewarding and honestly, there’s something about having a vision come together with a message to back it up that makes me feel empowered.

What’s the most exciting thing about your work? What’s the biggest challenge?

The most exciting thing about my work is using it to help others. I use my platform to give style inspiration through my photos, but my main message is in my captions. I have been in recovery for anorexia for a year now, and it is something that turned my life upside down. Being so involved in the fashion industry as well as media and advertising, I have seen how deadly the fashion and beauty industries’ impact on women can be.

I wanted to take my story and experience and share it with others in the hopes that they might not feel alone in their struggles, so my daily goal is to go into my social media platforms and help just one person. It can be sending them a quote to lift them up on a hard day, or even just video chatting with them during a meal that might be hard to eat on their own.

Social media has its dangers for sure, but I think we need to talk more about the ways in which we can use social media and our influence to impact people positively. I don’t see a point in pretending that your highlight reel and your life is picture perfect, because no one’s is! The more we can take away the facade of the “perfect life” on social media, the more people will feel like it is okay to be themselves.

You describe yourself as an Eating Disorder Warrior & Activist, and you have been remarkably candid online about your struggles with an eating disorder. What prompted you to share your story?

I really wanted my story to reach anyone out there who might be struggling with body image, an eating disorder, or disordered eating, in the hopes that they would not feel so alone. Eating disorders rank as having the highest mortality rate of any mental illness and I don’t believe they are talked about enough. It’s become an epidemic, and not just for thin, white women, but for so many.

This illness is impacting people of all ages, sizes, races, and genders, and we have to use our voices to speak up about what we can do to change the culture that surrounds it. I believe that as a society, we have to do better. We need more diversity and representation across our advertisements and media, we need education for our young children and parents about nutrition and diet culture, and we need to start teaching about body shaming – no matter the size of the body – and the impact that it has on people. We need to do better, and I wanted to start turning that wheel.

What was the hardest part about struggling with anorexia?

This is a tough one. I think everyone who has struggled with an eating disorder probably has a different answer. Eating disorders are complicated beasts. They prey on your insecurities and use them against you in times where you feel emotionally distressed, causing you to use disordered behaviors such as restricting, binging, purging, or over-exercising instead of having to feel whatever negative emotion you’re experiencing.

Eventually you’re stuck in a cycle that is practically impossible to get out of without the help of a professional team, and most days, you’re unsure if you even want to get help because the eating disorder just wants you to be sicker. So I think the hardest part for me was trying to figure out which voice I was going to let speak louder – my eating disorder voice that only cared about my weight, or the real, healthy me who wanted to live a life full of happiness and love, with freedom from food rules and heart break.

What do you want our readers to know about eating disorders?

There are so many things I wish I could write out, but the biggest one has to be that eating disorders are not a choice. There have been so many times in recovery where I’ve heard “just eat” or “it’s just food” and I wish more people understood that it’s not that simple.

The fear of food and/or gaining weight is as real and as scary as snakes or heights or whatever it is that you personally are afraid of. While society and our beauty standards do play major roles in the development of eating disorders, this illness also has a lot to do with biological makeup, genetics, dieting history, diet culture, personal trauma, and so much more. If you or someone you know is struggling with an eating disorder, body image, or disordered eating, please check out or call the helpline at 1 (800) 931-2237

What’s something people may not know about you if they only follow you on Instagram?

I played soccer for 19 years and even got a full scholarship to play Division I at VMI! I went for a semester, but it turned out the military route was not for me.

Do you have an accomplishment or highlight – personal or professional – that you’re particularly proud of?

This is an accomplishment that is in progress, but I am putting on my first ever fashion show for Evolve on September 21st at Boulevard Burger and Brew in Richmond! It will be a runway show, but we’re doing things differently by bringing diversity to the runway and including women of all shapes, sizes, abilities, ages, races, backgrounds, and gender identities.

The runway show will take place from 12 p.m. – 2 p.m., followed by a pop-up shop to shop the looks straight from the runway. There will also be food and drinks, and of course, an after party at Courthouse Creek Cider! Tickets can be purchased on Eventbrite and will benefit the Beauty Has No Limits Foundation, as well as our five other non-profit organizations. 

What do you do when you’re not working?

Anything that involves being outside! I’m extremely active, so I’m either kicking the soccer ball, running, or playing with my golden retriever Apollo on my time off.

What’s the best book you’ve read lately?

Girl Wash Your Face by Rachel Hollis. She just has a way of kicking my butt off the couch and making me chase after my dreams!

What about the best TV show or movie?

Best show would be Stranger Things! I’m kind of a nerd and love weird sci-fi stories from time to time. Best movie would be Isn’t It Romantic. Rebel Wilson cracks me up every time!

And best song?

Truth Hurts by Lizzo

  • Keya Vakil

    Keya Vakil is the deputy political editor at COURIER. He previously worked as a researcher in the film industry and dabbled in the political world.

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