When you first meet model and environmental activist Ali Tate Cutler, you’ll notice she’s as bold and passionate as she comes across on her Instagram, where in the past year she’s built up a mass of almost 200,000K followers. You’ll also notice she speaks unabashedly and equally articulately. That’s because she wants to provide color and context to her opinions, but mostly so that you can have a thoughtful dialogue on topics like balance, sustainability and habit formation. But mostly, she just wants you to know that life can be tough(!), and learning to roll with the punches is a part of the journey, and we have to do our best to keep loving ourselves and one another for the sake of our collective well-being.
We first met earlier this year at a wellness space in Manhattan shortly after Ali moved over the ocean from London, where she spent the past seven years developing herself personally and professionally. Freshly landing in New York, Ali’s career spiked with upward momentum, booking with brands like Madewell and NastyGal (and most recently with Victoria Secret as the first ever size 14 model). She started sharing the journey with her audience, not hiding from celebrating the good or displaying the bad in a way that — in our oversaturated, curated and ‘perfect’ online personas — is refreshing and surprising.
I sat down with Ali to learn how she creates moments to pause in her active calendar, her mindfulness routine at home and on the road, and practices to stay grounded through it all.
Simone Spilka (SS): Hi, Ali! How would you describe yourself to someone new?
Ali Tate Cutler (ATC): I’m a model, I have a podcast, and I’m an activist for the earth. I’m moving between the fashion space and the wellness space, and I don’t really see too many people in that space, but luckily the models who work a lot also have a platform and an activist mentality. So I can have a larger voice in other things. I also feel like sometimes it’s hard to straddle these realms because they seem at odds with each other, but I want to bring more consciousness and self-love into the fashion space.
SS: And what does self-love look like to you?
ATC: It means being aware that you’re going to fail and you are going to mess up and you will make mistakes, and loving yourself despite — and because — of that.
SS: Do you feel like you’re able to practice self-love?
ATC: I think it’s a journey, and it’s something that takes time. It’s not where you wake up and think “this all makes sense.” It takes constant showing up and constant uncomfortability, and being there with yourself through the process. And I think it gets easier with time.
SS: Self-love starts from the moment we wake up and carries on throughout our day. Do you wake up and have a gratitude or self-love practice?
ATC: Each morning I wake up in a different state. Some days I’ll wake up and feel anxious, or worried about my future or unsure, and it takes a lot on those days to find my space again. But I find that if I do a short meditation practice and I really try to connect with other people — community, friends, etc — and be really vulnerable, that is sometimes the best way for me to feel grounded.
So I have a morning mantra that differs from day-to-day; sometimes it’s a breath of fire and sometimes it’s a song. I usually ask source to guide me, to show me where I need to go, and to be a light for others.
SS: Do you have a meditation practice throughout the day?
ATC: If I have something big I need to prep for, I usually do five minutes of breathwork before, like breath of fire or a 5 x 5 x 5 breath. Or before big interviews that’s what I’ll do to ground myself. Before casting or meetings or anything I feel anxious or nervous I do the breathwork and it really helps.It’s about simply closing my eyes for ten seconds and reconnecting. These are different ways I can tap into the universal presence inside of me.
For the most part relationships require constant work and communication in order to thrive.
SS: How do you keep a mindful routine while traveling?
ATC: It’s about finding some kind of spiritual practice that you can bring with you everywhere, and that is really mobile for your life. The breathwork and calm music that I can come back to no matter where I am really helps. Also, if I’m traveling I like to have an inspirational podcast it keeps me feeling aware and inspired, which makes the traveling seem a lot lighter. So I’d say podcasting, meditation and breathwork are what keeps me grounded. Most importantly, we need to remember the bigger picture, which is that if we get tired, when we just want to be at home or things feel hard, we are just a soul on this human experience and to treat it like the big adventure it is.
SS: Where do you find time to pause during the day?
ATC: When I’m sitting at home on my couch with my husband and cuddling with him, and I find stillness in little corners of the day when things feel overwhelming or hectic. Even closing my eyes and focusing on the breath for a couple moments brings me back to center.
SS: What’s the best advice you ever received about love and relationships?
ATC: The best advice I’ve received about love and relationships is that people are going to mess up, and it’s our job as humans to forgive. There are obviously lines that can be crossed which people can’t come back from, but for the most part relationships require constant work and communication in order to thrive.
SS:I know nature—connecting to nature, specifically—is important to you. Do you feel like living in New York City you are able to create space for this?
ATC: Definitely not. New York is a challenging place to connect to nature. There are a lot of beautiful sunsets, and they’re loving and humbling, but you do miss that serenity and stillness of nature. I try to make it a priority to get out as much as possible whether that be upstate or on a trip, or to find myself in a forest alone or almost alone because that is the most important thing for healing, for calming down the adrenals, for health and for immunity.
SS: What are 3-5 tips you would share with others to help destress or improve everyday well-being?
1. Community: Finding people who inspire you and allow you to feel whatever it is you’re feeling without feeling judged.
2. Connection to Source or Divine: If we don’t have it, it really starts to feel bleak, but if you’re constantly connected, you can see your situation from a higher perspective
3. Practices: Find practices that bring you back to your body and awareness, so for me that would be breathwork and meditation.
SS: What do you feel like your mission is and do you feel like you’re living it everyday?
ATC: I feel like my mission is to help consciousness grow around the world, and that takes several forms, but I definitely think waking people up to the connection they have with earth and realizing its an integral part of being human and that we need to protect it, along with all of its animals. I think that you can get to that by loving yourself first, because it’s really hard to love anyone else if you don’t love yourself. So it starts inside and then manifests externally.
I think I am living that everyday because I’ve been on my own journey of self-love, and as I’ve grown more and more into the awareness of being easier on myself, and being kinder to myself and really just treating myself more gently, I find my awareness for the earth opening up even more. I’m making connections where I didn’t realize see them before.