no. 15: three simple questions with helen anna shaw

plus what's up with nebraska, and what's new at five nine

A few years ago I stumbled upon Helen Anna Shaw’s Instagram account where she shares her work as a creative consultant, brand strategist, photo stylist, all of that. She has worked with Paul McCartney, with Chiquita, she styled George Takei, I could go on, her list of clients and collaborators is long and impressive. And her Instagram feed is pure aesthetic perfection that I just find so calming.

Happily, this thing happened that never happens, which is that we actually became real friends. How did it happen? I scrolled up in our direct messages to see. Of course. It was me complimenting her shoes, and then her telling me where she got them, then me replying with a pic of me in the same shoes. Then me copying her manicure. Then her sharing a photo of a dress from my store. Then talking about where we like to consign clothes. All the makings of a lasting friendship. I hope someday we get the chance to make something beautiful together. And I asked her three simple questions.

What’s something you’re really excited about right now?

Due to COVID-related travel restrictions I don’t know when I’ll see my family again, which is a bit bleak, so I’ve been finding a lot of my joy in the success of my friends here in Vancouver. With all the change we’ve seen this year, it’s wonderful to be able to take a moment to celebrate the wins along the way.

What’s getting you through your day?

Music is definitely getting me through. I’ve gone back into late 90s / early 2000s UK Garage. I didn’t like it at all when it came out, but it makes me nostalgic to hear it now. It connects me to England and takes me back to being a teenager in London! 

I also really like this redo of of Flowers by DJ Spoony. [I do, too.]

What’s something not enough people are talking about?

I can see us starting to have more honest conversations around mental health. We are in a pandemic, fighting for civil rights and the world is literally on fire: if there was ever a time to feel free to say ‘actually, I’m not OK’, now might be it. 

If you have a moment, add the number of your local crisis line into your phone. Even if you don’t think you’ll need it, you might share it with someone who does. Have conversations with the people in your life about mental health. Be kind, both in real life and online. I’ve lost brilliant, sparkling people to mental illness and truly believe that communication, connection and inclusion can be like life support to someone who is struggling.

[Note: The crisis hotline for the U.S. is 1-800-273-TALK, or you can dial 211 for local essential services.]

Helen Anna also featured me in her online magazine, Etta, for her “Not 9-5” series which is a Q&A interview about people who have interesting jobs. Speaking of interesting jobs, check out her business, Band of Sisters, where she sells handmade soft plush velvet hairbands. (I own three in aubergine, autumn, and forest green. They never hurt my head.) Like the women I admire most, she is a true renaissance woman.

So, about Nebraska…

My state has been in the news a bit this week, mainly due to the decision making of our Governor. Here are the facts:

  • Our positivity rate in Douglas County (Omaha) for the past week is at 32.7%. The week before it was at 33.3%. That’s pretty consistent with how it’s going statewide.

  • These are the highest rates we have had at any point in the pandemic.

  • The Governor has released a plan saying that if our statewide hospital capacity reaches 25% (which Omaha has already surpassed), the state will act by limiting public indoor dining to the hours of 5am-9pm.

  • Many public health leaders in Nebraska have given up the fight for a statewide mask mandate, which will literally never happen, in favor of a push to pressure the Governor to close or drastically limit the capacity of restaurants and bars.

  • Public health/hospital leaders say they are most concerned right now about Thanksgiving, saying we need to talk about it as a potential super spreader event that takes place in lots of physical locations. The concern is that Thanksgiving will operate the same way as a giant gathering of unmasked people, except it’ll be lots of little gatherings of unmasked people.

  • So the best thing to do is stay home as much as you can, wear your mask all the time, and only celebrate Thanksgiving with your household. The government—at least in Nebraska—is not coming to be of help and is not giving any serious guidance. Be the voice in your family, in your friend group, or in your office that is setting a good example to take this pandemic seriously and slow the spread. It may be the best thing you can do.

New at Five Nine:


Read this article in National Geographic about my mentor and one of my most important motivators, Senator Ernie Chambers, who famously protected the way Nebraska divides its electoral votes by Congressional District, giving you Omaha’s “little blue dot.” I’m pleased to be quoted.

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