CoolAgers We Love: Vanessa Holden

From starting her own business as a teenager when she was “too young” to moving her husband and kids to New York City when she was “supposed to settle down,” Vanessa Holden has exemplified the term “Age ain’t nothing but a number.” And we love her for it. Her sass, style and hard work have landed her gigs as the Editor of top international magazines and as SVP and Creative Director at West Elm, most recently launching a global creative network, Soul Safari. We’re keeping her on our radar for the next few decades.

In four words:

Coach, cheerleader, lightning rod and straight shooter

Absolutely not:

I refuse to fake anything.

Daily rituals:

Coffee – the day doesn’t start without it. I read the newspapers online because knowing what is going on in the world is everything, usually followed by some poetry, and then one of the books I might have in my bag, on the coffee table, or by my bed. Reading makes us rich, and when I don’t have time to read I’m miserable. Tell my husband and kids that I love them – not just once but over and over.

Vanessa’s “pinch-me-is-it real?” moments:

Imagining a magazine, Donna Hay, and not just making it real, but making something that endured – over 10 years later and it’s still beautiful, resonant and strong. I always dreamed of the top spot on the masthead and became the Editor of Martha Stewart Living. But by far the greatest accomplishment (ongoing and never-ending) is raising two awesome children who are kinder, smarter, funnier and just fun-er to be around than I could ever have dared imagine, with a man who has given me the freedom to pursue every idea or opportunity I ever wanted to run after, and has run there right beside me.

Philosophy on chronological age:

There are just too many variables in experience, attitude and exposure for any number to matter much, if at all. Plenty of people pack a few years full with great experiences as some spend many years not really living at all. If there’s a number I care about, it’s some magic metric created out of the sum of your energy, authority, attitude and ability – especially the ability to leave things be, or let things go.

Age is liberating:

I’m all on board with Gloria Steinem’s assertion that women get more radical with age, while men get more conservative. At 45, I know who I am, what I’m capable of, and what I’m worth. I’m tough to embarrass, period, which means I don’t mind taking the risk of looking stupid and as a result, learn and experience new things along the way. That’s freedom.

Little (and big!) ways she’s making the world a better place:

I’m raising good kids with good hearts–they are by far my greatest gifts and achievements. And with my career, I make every effort to create good work that does good in the world – whether that’s inspiring creatives to bring their best, or connecting people more directly with social initiatives, especially in the craft and making spaces.

Next life adventure:

Taking Soul Safari to the world. I have a big vision for it, and look forward to gathering the tribe to make amazing things happen!

CoolAger inspirations:

Anyone doing their own thing on their own terms with positive impact. I’m crushing on life-lovers like Marissa Maximo of Anaak, Lee Matthews, Pashko’s Patrick Robinson, Kelly Slater, John Moore and the team at Outerknown, fashion designers Nili Lotan, Malia Mills and Rachel Comey, Prinkshop’s Pamela Bell, Foundrae’s Beth Bugdaycay. Also, wanderlusters like Ed Kashi, Sophy Roberts and LoveTravelIndia’s Fiona Caulfield.

Follow Vanessa here:

Instagram @vanessaholden and @onsoulsafari
Facebook Vanessa Holden