Aneesha DuBois: We’ve been working together since I was PR Director at Wildfox and obsessed with UncoverLA! Do you remember how carefree life was then? HAHA! What have you been up to since?
Danielle Directo-Meston: Haha! I was definitely more carefree in the sense that I had one kiddo to keep tabs on. Well, I started UncoverLA in September 2016, at the time my son was 9 months old and I was still freelancing for other publications, and then our daughter came along in 2017. I worked with Susan Yara of Mixed Makeup for a bit, and then I started contributing regularly to The Hollywood Reporter, where I wrote the Shop Talk retail news column. That ended just before the pandemic in 2020, and I’ve been writing for other online and print publications here and there. Since last summer I’ve been writing for Rolling Stone’s e-commerce vertical, which has been fun! And every once in a while I’ll still take on some freelance consulting and copywriting projects.
2. How did the creation of UncoverLA come about?
I was born and raised in Los Angeles, and I’ve always been passionate about sharing its history, hidden gems, and cool citizens. I was the associate editor at Racked LA for three years and when it closed in 2016, I saw that there was just such a void in hyperlocal retail and fashion news coverage. A lot of the larger local news outlets were scaling back their coverage because of budget issues…but that’s a whole other conversation. I wanted to keep supporting local business owners and creatives, and I had built up a pretty decent network and PR connections and knew I could hit the ground running with compelling features and news stories.
I’ve always been somewhat entrepreneurial, so I brainstormed a name, bought the domain and a web hosting package, and built a WordPress site myself. I should note that I’ve been making basic HTML websites since the late ’90s, so I had enough experience to get the site up quickly and with low overhead. I think it might have cost me less than $150 to set everything up. I still do the bulk of the backend stuff like basic custom coding, but as far as writing, I do have more contributors who have really helped expand coverage.
Now I’m focusing on building it as a business because I’ve had to learn to wear many hats, but I’ve realized that I need to focus on what I’m good at and delegate more to grow the company properly.
Image Source: Instagram @danielledmeston
3. SAHM’s (Stay-At-Home Mom) has such a negative connotation to it but I’ve come to realize it is real work to maintain a home, while taking care of kids and a partner and building our own brands. Do you have moments of feeling overwhelmed and how do you deal?
Definitely, and I had more of those moments in 2020 than I’d like to admit! To be honest, I probably have the worst work/life balance right now because I’ve been freelancing and working from home for the last eight years. I was much better at keeping a tidy household before I had kids and when I had a 9-to-5 job! Let’s say I’ve had more scream-into-a-pillow days than I’d like to admit!
I’m not perfect by any means, but when I’m overwhelmed I try to remind myself to be aware of the moment, take a meditation break, or switch gears and do something that doesn’t involve a screen. It’s easier said than done. I also try to have “hanging out by myself” days as self-care during those overwhelming times. I dusted off my guitar during the pandemic and I’ve been trying to catch up on all of my half-finished books, which is always easier said than done. Right now I’m re-reading Don Miguel Ruiz’s The Four Agreements and I wish I picked it up four years ago.
I feel fortunate that our household responsibilities are pretty 50/50 between me and my husband, so the burden isn’t just on me to keep the house in order. I’m a very independent person, so I also have to remind myself in those overwhelming moments to not be afraid to ask for help or lean on him.
4. As a new momma working from home, I’ve learned that it takes exceptional time management and organizational skills. What’s your secret to managing it all?
Oh boy! Right now, I don’t feel like I’m managing “it all” very well by any means. I’m actually realizing that the secret to “perfect” time management is to stop saying “yes” to everything, even if it’s a project I’m really enthusiastic about. I’m learning that “managing” also means being mindful of the time that I actually have.
One of the many books I’m (trying to finish) reading is Randi Zuckerberg’s book, Pick Three, and it’s taught me that there’s no “having it all.” You pick your three priorities because in reality, there’s only 24 hours in the day. You need to sleep and eat, and answer emails, and you realize you only have so much time left for self-care, work, family, and whatever else. So I’m trying to keep that in mind moving forward.
As far as actual advice, I do use the Panda Planner Venture to plan out my daily schedule, and I like that it has prompts for mindfulness and gratitude. It reminds me to check in with myself, plan a workout, and take plenty of breaks. Writing everything down on paper helps me see everything I need to tackle in the day, even if it looks overwhelming. I feel more accomplished when I can physically cross things off a list, even if they’re just small tasks. We also have a zillion (okay, 3) whiteboards around the house where we keep track of grocery lists, general household to-do lists, and the kids’ chore chart. I get too distracted when we use apps for everything and it helps to physically see the list IRL.
5. With the recent pandemic, I’ve been thinking about the possibility of home-schooling my little one. What are your thoughts on homeschooling and how are your little ones learning in the pandemic?
Well, Billie Eilish and her brother were home-schooled and they turned out alright! To answer your question, we’re fortunate that our kids’ Montessori daycare is open, so they are learning there during the pandemic. It also means that we can’t really see friends or go out because we just can’t take that risk — especially because we and all of the other parents rely on the daycare to be open so that we can work.
In all seriousness though, I’m not a parenting or child development expert at all, but I think that “successful” homeschooling really depends on the parents and the kids. But I can see the pros and cons of homeschooling, especially if your child has special needs.
Growing up, my neighbors were homeschooled and I saw how they had the best of both worlds: Their mom was very hands-on with some things but free-wheeling with others and let them fully pursue their interests. They also had a group of home-schooled friends so they’d do activities and trip together, so they weren’t missing out on the social aspect.
One thing I’ve learned from my mom (who raised 5 of us!) is that it’s important to be in tune with each of my kids’ temperaments, interests, and learning abilities. It’s one of those “no duh” pieces of advice, but some kids thrive in structured learning environments and need discipline, while other kids are very independent learners. I really see it in action now that my kids are 3 and 5.
Right now I don’t think I’m the personality type to be a homeschooler parent because I’m not ready to divert my “professional” time towards their full-time schooling. I want my kids to learn viewpoints other than my own, and I also don’t want my blind spots to hinder their development. I think that’s something that every parent should consider.
We plan on sending our kids to a public charter school, but we also want to teach them the history that we didn’t learn when we were in public school — that’s a whole other conversation about the American education system and rewriting of history. We’re watching Will Smith’s Netflix docuseries, Amend, and I am outraged and heartbroken (all of the feelings!) that I’m only learning this history in my 30s…again, that’s a whole other chat over drinks! I want our kids to learn media literacy and social justice issues. I want them to learn the history of colonization, sort of like a kid-friendly version of Howard Zinn’s A People’s History of the United States. I want to encourage them to question the status quo, but without being so anti-establishment that it’s a detriment. These are all things we can teach them if they don’t learn them in “formal” school.
And my husband and I have always known that we want to include them in our hobbies — like gardening, camping, playing music…anything and everything that will help them build character and discover their interests in the school of life.
That being said, it’s so different for everyone — some parents are incredible at home-schooling or “unschooling” as some people I know call it, and I know some families who travel around the world (well, pre-pandemic) as a way to educate their kids. That’s amazing!
6. When it’s time to sit and work, where do you pull inspiration from to create?
Anything and everything! I definitely have more writer’s block after having kids — probably because of lack of sleep. I try to read about topics that are seemingly unrelated to the things I write about — I just got a subscription to Jacobin magazine and I like to read other styles of writing to challenge my own creativity and think outside of the box, so I subscribe to a lot of email newsletters. Or I’ll read prompts from a few of my writing books to get the creative juices flowing — The Pocket Muse by Monica Wood is one of my favorites or sometimes I’ll even flip through The Elements of Style, but the illustrated version.
As cliched as this sounds, sometimes I’ll just stare out of the window of our vintage trailer (which we bought at the end of 2020 and is being used as my “office” until we can go on road trips) and watch the trees, or listen to the birds. I also try to give myself enough time to be bored. I think that’s where we give ourselves the mental space to cultivate creativity.
7. With sustainability being such a big topic in fashion, what do you do with all the clothes your little ones have outgrown?
We get plenty of hand-me-downs from family members whose kids have outgrown their clothes, and we also give our castoffs to family and friends whose kids are younger than ours. That revolving cycle also helps us to not consume and buy so much, but of course we have our moments when we just need to stock up because toddlers grow so quickly. There’s also a nearby women’s shelter where we regularly donate our old clothes and toys. I like knowing that our pre-loved belongings don’t need to travel far to be appreciated.
8. Being a mom is of course a dream but do you see yourself fulfilling another dream (job) in the future?
I’ve always been a writer, but at times it can be creatively and mentally draining. I’d love to see UncoverLA grow to the point where I can hang up my editor/writer hat for a while and just wear the entrepreneurial hat. I’ve daydreamed about having some sort of vintage or antique furniture shop! I’d love to switch gears and have a non-writing job for a while and let my brain take a break.
Image Source: Instagram @danielledmeston
9. You wake up at ___ and then what? Describe your day.
On a good weekday, I:
- Wake up at 7 a.m. — but I’m trying to wake up earlier and be more of a “morning person”
- Do a short “wake up” mediation on the Headspace app, then check my email and news headlines even though I know all of the experts say not to do that in bed (oops)
- Get the kid ready and dressed for daycare, then drop them off between 7:45 and 8
- Try to do a 30- 45-min. workout on my P.Volve app when I get home. Then I have breakfast — usually a homemade spinach/banana/date smoothie with some sort of adaptogen powder, or avocado toast on sweet potatoes, or some kind of dairy-free yogurt with fruit; plus whatever fancy pour-over coffee my husband makes.
- Head into our vintage trailer (which is my “office” right now) between 9 to 10 a.m. and get to work. First hour is answering emails, and checking the news. I try to get as much writing as I can done, but full disclosure, I get pretty distracted by my gazillion open tabs for “research”
- Take Zoom meetings or calls in the late morning or after lunch to help break up the day. My lunch meals are all over the place and I’m terrible at being consistent!
- Leave to pick up the kids around 4:45 p.m.
- Get home around 5:15 p.m. and hang out with the kids for a little bit before I or my husband starts dinner
- 6/6:30 p.m. is dinner time! We always sit down as a family together — no phones or screens allowed.
- 7 p.m. is bath time (if it’s a bath night) and bed time. We all read 2 books together, sing 2 or 3 bedtime songs, do a short wind-down meditation, and hopefully lights out in by 7:30/8 p.m.
- Enjoy hang-out time with my husband after the kids are asleep. We’ll stream a TV show or movie, and most likely I’ll be multi-tasking and working on my laptop at the same time. I know, bad!
- Start getting ready for bed around 9:30 — since I’ve been trying to shift my sleep schedule, I take my Rae Sleep capsules and then finally head to bed at 10:30. Most nights I try to be asleep between 11 p.m. to midnight, but some nights I might be up until 1 or 2 a.m. writing.
Fire Round Questions
10. You have 5 minutes to yourself. What are you going to do?
If it’s before 3 p.m., I’ll fix myself up a yummy matcha latte with coconut milk!
11. Minivan or SUV or Tesla Model X?
SUV! We just bought a vintage camper trailer and we’re excited to tow it around on road trips.
12. Homecooked meal or takeout?
Homecooked meals for comfort foods, takeout for lazy Friday nights.
13. Netflix or Cable TV?
Hulu! (I’m biased because my husband works there.)
14. Red wine or white? And favorite brand?
Neither (sorry) — I’m more of a cannabis connoisseur since I’m kind of allergic to most alcohol. I don’t think marijuana is legal in every U.S. state so DM me on my recs 😉
15. Last time you wore heels and where did you go?
Oh boy! I think it was Valentine’s Day 2020. We went to a Frieze LA party at the incredible Flamingo Estate and I think it was one of the last pre-pandemic events we went to. It was a really inspiring crowd, we had so many incredible conversations, and the property itself is just mind-blowing, so I think we really appreciated the moment even though we had no idea what we were in for a month later.