Cleo Wade, the celebrated poet, artist, and author, known for her empowering and thoughtful words, shares her path to the world of poetry, revealing the inspirations and experiences that have shaped her unique home. Listen in for an uplifting conversation filled with Cleo’s insightful perspective on how work, family, and art can all coexist within one space.
Ideas of Order, the California Closets podcast, is produced by Rob Schulte at SANDOW DESIGN GROUP and is part of the SURROUND Podcast Network. Discover more shows from SURROUND at surroundpodcasts.com.
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Cleo: [00:00:00] I grew up with very, very little money. And so I think for us, all the action was always happening in the kitchen. You know, that’s where our visitors would come and sit. ’cause my mom was always cooking and, and having wine with her girlfriends in there. So wherever there was the most life happening in the house is always the house.
You have the most fond memories.
Jeremiah: Welcome to Ideas of Order, a podcast dedicated to answering the question, what does home mean to you? I’m Jeremiah Brent today, guys, it is really special because we have someone whose words exude, warmth and love and healing to countless measure. She is a renowned author, an artist and activist, my personal favorite poet, and a friend.
Welcome to the show, the Ever Talented Cleo Wade.
Where did you
Cleo: in New Orleans? I, I actually feel like because I grew up, I feel like new Orleans is such a huge part of. My personality and and identity. And I used to always say that I had three parents, which were like my mom, my dad, and the city of New Orleans.
Jeremiah: Will you describe it to me? ’cause I’m fascinated with new Orleans. I’ve never been. It’s like on my list of places to go. I know
Cleo: that is freaky for you. I know. Especially
Jeremiah: it’s what’s wrong with me. I know. Plus I design, dunno what? Either
Cleo: I’m judging.
Jeremiah: I feel like I, I feel like I wouldn’t come back. Um, but what was it, so explain that to me, third parent, like what was it like growing up there?
Do you know the thing about New Orleans is New Orleans, really, you know, when people say that New Orleans is a place that has this kind of European sensibility in America, I think what they mean when they say that is that it’s really a city centered on culture, um, over commerce. Mm-Hmm. So, ’cause of that, you know, you, you don’t.
I personally have never met a workaholic from New Orleans ever. Like, I, I could never say that that is, uh, like I’m, I’m like scrolling through my mind to be like, I, I never met someone whose job was so [00:02:00] important. They didn’t sit down and go out to lunch. Yeah. Or, um, you know, have time to go to Mardi Gras or Jazz Fest or, um, any, I mean, there’s Po, Boy Festival.
I mean, we go very hard with Festing. This idea that you are rooted and centered in community and music and food and family, uh, and friends that are family and, and real neighborliness. I mean, we really knew all of our neighbors and they’d give us a ride to school and they, you know, and, and I think and of that, or every kid played at the same ballpark and all the parents were friends and, and it was very, um, kind of centered on.
You know, personal relationships and connection and so, yeah. And so I think for me, um, something that really I think benefited me when I moved away from New Orleans is that I never really lost that. You know, I’ve always, if I sit next to someone at the dinner table, I always end up being friends with them.
I’ve never kind of had that like really transactional or wonder kind of what you could do for me if I talk to you or you, you know, or I’ve never had that. I’ve always kind of wanted to really know about someone’s life and what they like. Right. And I wasn’t really, um, I guess drawn to the boxes they fill or tick because that just would, I think if I just sit down in new Orleans and say to someone like, what do you do?
I think is is a really weird question. It’s really not. I. Like real, I don’t know, as your first thing, right? You’d be like, oh, what’s your favorite Mardi Gras parade? Or like, oh, where’d you da da da. Or like, what neighborhood are you from? Or, and so I think it’s, that really tells a lot more about people than however they make money.
that question. When people ask what you do. It was one of the reasons that first, like the first reasons that I fell in love with New York, because I went to dinner and there was a writer, there was a ballerina, there was somebody that was an art, there was a designer. You know, it was like all these different facets of life and everybody’s [00:04:00] just looking for a connection, which is what I think has always been about.
Um, what was it like growing up there? Can you paint me a picture of like, like what was home like for you? Like what it look like, what did it smell like? What did it feel like?
Cleo: So there’s a running joke that I’m always trying to turn wherever I live into new Orleans. And so like I always want these like dark velvet curtains and I paint rooms really dark colors or these really weird like, no, I don’t if you can see this.
So this painting behind me, I dunno if you can see it. I’m gonna move my computer a little bit. You can do it. Lemme
Jeremiah: see. I always see as a
Cleo: shoe. It’s okay. So this painting is so crazy. I love that painting. So it’s um. When I was in, around my 30th birthday, I am having about to have a really big birthday in New Orleans and um, a bunch of my friends are going in for it.
And I see this painting on like first dibs right before, and I was like, you know what? I am gonna buy that painting for myself for my birthday. I didn’t see the seller, I didn’t see anything. I just saw that it was there and I was like, Mm-Hmm. I was like, you know what? Let me get through paying for my birthday before I buy this piece of art.
But. I’m going to like, this is what I want to have. I go to my favorite interior design store in New Orleans called Sunday Shop, which you would love. Literally writing down everything about it is just beyond, it’s like the first place I tell people to go because it’s the perfect mix of this kind of really present, I, I can’t say modern because you don’t feel modernism there, but it’s a very kind of present current.
Like kind of perfectly married aesthetic with kind of that ancient Southern New Orleans rusticy. It’s, it’s so beautiful. Um, and they, I walk into this store ’cause I always go with a big group of my friends on that in the morning before lunch. And I walk to the back room where they used to have these kind of linens and things, and this painting is on the wall.
Cleo: The one that you liked and I had no idea. Like, I love collecting [00:06:00] African American portraits because I find that so many just kind of had got, you know, sent to like, you know, were devalued into thrift stores and whatever. Mm-Hmm. And so I always say that I, I like rescue black portraits, bring them into my home and give them this, like, a beautiful place to live.
Yeah. And so, um, I, I see it there and I really can’t believe it because it’s. The reason I was drawn to it is ’cause it’s like my exact color palette of everything I like, like I always have. Something has to be mustardy and something has to be kind of like a really dark red, rich, burgundy, velvet and cognac, and a really like light, happy blue and brown and black.
Like I love these really. Deep, rich colors beautiful. But it’s because I grew up in the French Quarter and so I, I actually really grew up in that really old French aesthetic of this. Mm-Hmm. Kind of really like rich, dusty, like everything feels like an old playhouse. Um, and my fantasy. So I, um. Everywhere.
I feel like home has that, so I always have some room in my house that is either like dark, dark green, or, you know, and it has to have this really kind of juicy, almost like jazz club. You feel like there’s, I have like an incense burning and you feel like there’s smoke in the room. Um, at my house, like my house here in LA has a, our entire bottom floor is like painted, almost like a dark navy black, amazing, and everything.
Like green velvet and gold and it’s very moody.
Jeremiah: What, was there a space when you were growing up in your home that was really important to you, that you like, looked back finally?
Cleo: You know, I think, um, you know, I, I grew up with very, very little money and so I think for us, all the action was always happening in the kitchen because, you know, that’s where our visitors would come and sit.
’cause my mom was always cooking and, and, and having wine with her girlfriends in there. So I feel like. Wherever there was, the most [00:08:00] life happening in the house is always the house. You have the most fond memories. So I think for us, like, you know, we always had a playlist on and we’d listen to, you know, Nina Simone or James Taylor Aretha Franklin, uh, or you know, Curtis Mayfield in the kitchen.
And so the kitchen was our dance floor and, and my mom had this like, awesome, it was kind of like a, you know, those like kind of square islands that. Also your dishwasher. Yeah, of course. Um, but hers was on wheels. So it would Of course, because you had to move it. Yes. And we would move it around. ’cause it was, and because it was, it was not big, it was like a big island, you know?
And so we’d move it around so that we could dance on these linoleum floors. And, um, so I think. Any room where we really danced. And then my dad lived in these little apartments in the French Quarter, um, and they were all like so tiny and we were literally like sardines on top of each other in there.
There was like one point where my dad lived, like my dad’s bedroom was like the living room on like, like leather couch that folded out into a bed. But they all like, no matter how kind of tiny your apartment is in the French Quarter, you had these balconies. And so I think when I’d be at my dad’s house and.
Um, this idea that you could just sit outside and watch people and be in this really kind of loud, I mean, I grew up one block from Bourbon Street, like lively, you know, really like, you know, you’d be in the middle of Mardi Gras, you’d see the outfits and it’s such a culture of people. Um. W who are so ornate and they really just kind of love wearing costumes and laces and boas and sparkles and so sounds fucking great.
You know? It was really cool.
Jeremiah: Do you
Cleo: miss it? I think I would if I didn’t go back so often. Okay. You go off, you know, I go back, go Mardi Gras. I go back for two weeks during Jazz Fest. I go, I’ll go on my book tour and to, I mean, I’m, I’m probably one of the only authors that really like tours in New Orleans.
Um, I like make sure I go every, [00:10:00] um, time. I have a book and so, and my kids like, you know, I feel like. I mean I, I mean, my kids were born in Los Angeles, but I, like I tell them they’re from New Orleans, which I guess is a weird lie. And so I’m like, like there’s this B.J Morton song called New Orleans Girl.
And I was like, this song’s about you. ’cause you’re from New Orleans. Gosh. They’re like, they’re, and they’re like, huh. And so I think I try to like bring them there so much. And so they can also just have a different kind of, you know, LA is a really interesting place. I never really spent time here until I had kids.
What do you think of it? You know what I’d never experienced? Because I, you know, was in New York for almost 15 years straight from new Orleans that like, it’s a really like kind of single industry town. So like you just didn’t, I never realized that like you could sit at a table and like everyone works in entertainment in some way.
So you’re like, you’re either the entertainer and this is your lawyer and this is your yoga instructor and this is your agent and this is your agent’s friend who’s also an agent who like is also an account. You know, the manager and Yeah, yeah, a business venture, whatever. You’re like, whoa, like. All of these, um, energetic streams lead to the same river.
And that is so not what it’s like, I think to be in New York. Yeah. And so to me it’s interesting ’cause it’s a very, um, different space and, and I’m always just sitting there like random poet in a corner. So I’m like, I don’t know, like, and I’m like, I was like, I don’t even know what I’m doing here to be honest.
Jeremiah: do you think it’s home? Do you think you’ll stay there forever?
Cleo: Uh, I think we’ll probably go back to New York. Um, you know, Simon, um, my partner has two kids from his previous marriage that live here. Okay. And so when I got, when I was pregnant with Memphis or got knocked up, as I like to say, I like that better.
Um, I. You know, I, I, I wanted everyone to be together. Yeah. And so, I mean, it’s cool. I mean, we live, you have to come over. We live in, um, like a canyon, so it’s very, I feel like I’m living this kind of like Joni, Mitchell fantasy. Ugh.
Jeremiah: Don’t get me started. I I’ll come there with you. You’ve got the bandana on [00:12:00] tonight.
I know. I’m ready. I mean it, you’ve, you’re ready. Um. Speaking of your partner, your aesthetic obviously is so rooted in kind of your history in the past and kind of where you’re from. How is, what’s his, his style, aesthetic with your house? And I mean, is he open to it? Does he, is he just kind of go with the flow?
Cleo: no, we’re like in couples therapy over
Jeremiah: it. Oh my God. Welcome to my world. I was gonna, I was really looking forward to you telling me that he just does what you want, but that’s not how it goes. Mm-Hmm
Cleo: mm-Hmm. He’s got things like, he’s got little things he can’t, like Simon has like certain things where he is just like, oh no, this just makes this feel this way.
And all of it is irrational. And you’re like, I
Jeremiah: love that. Really? How fun. Yeah. What sign is he? ’cause you’re a Virgo, right?
Cleo: Oh, yeah. Big
Jeremiah: time. Oh, no. I married a Virgo.
Cleo: Ugh. Like, to me, everything makes, has to make sense and I trust experts. So I’m like, I really trust. Yeah. You know, who has like, who knows more than me?
Yep. Not him. Um, whereas he’s very like, uh, what? Um, and so we, when we first got together, Simon lived in this like evil Marvel villains like lair and hang on a cliff, and it was all glass and all Marvel and all steel, and it was really like, beautiful. You know, I, I forgot the architect, but it’s like a, it’s a really beautiful, like it was a beautiful home.
I mean, you walk in and you’re pretty much like, wow, this is a real stunner. Yeah. But the idea that you live there is like, who lives here? Do you know what I mean? Who’s not gonna be like, like a. Serial Killer Silicon Valley Crypto Serial killer. Yes, exactly. You know, I, I, even when I moved in, um, I, I, I lived in the house, that house with him for a few months before we moved, but I truly, I took over like a little.
Tiny bedroom that was kind of like on the side of the garage and I painted it all dark green and dark velvet. And like, I mean, I, I had like a, you walked into it and I’m sure when they like resold the house, they were like, what the hell [00:14:00] goes on here? Like, it was like, I’d, I’d carpeted, like a really, like antiquey looking carpet.
Like motif over Yeah, like the marble of that room. So I can like just, they’re like just the one room that hasn’t been redone. Like, yeah. I was like, uh, yeah, truly it was like, this is, is this grandma’s room? And it looked like that. It was insane, but it was like. Fabulous. And my friend Ed Eduardo had helped me do it.
But what was really cool is, you know, it was also during Covid, so everything was happening. I had to tour my books on Zoom and on Instagram live. And So you were never like what we’re doing now? We did 10 times a day every day. Ah, yeah. And so Eduardo had created this amazing color Green. He like calls it the Clio Green, but it.
Truly makes your skin tone look amazing when there’s natural light. Like the second you turn a camera on, you just look stunning. Like it was like just kind of blue or warm. It’s something enough that you were just like, whoa. It was so pretty. But it looked like it was an, it was a nuts room, like for in comparison to the rest of the house.
And then when we decided to kind of, when I got pregnant by you, I was like, I can’t chase after two. You know, my kids are a year and a half apart, so. I couldn’t chase after two, like under three-year-olds that small in like an all with a floating staircase. Okay, my
Jeremiah: worst nightmare. Also truly hate a floating staircase.
Don’t understand the point. Oh my God, what’s the point? Why does it need
Cleo: to float? I can’t even express like the house was. And it was like, I had a friend come over one day and she was like, I mean this house is so beautiful, but it’s like oppressive. ’cause you’re really at the mercy of the elements.
’cause it was like all glass, you know? So you’re just like, every room has like a glare and you like have to move all over. Like when the sun, I mean it was, it’s beau, it was so right. Beautiful. But you were like, it’s like, it’s like a house for Instagram or something, or like Yeah. You know, sometimes even in ad you’ll see these insane houses and you’re like, this is amazing.
But like. How do you have children there? Yeah. Or where do you put
Jeremiah: your feet? Yeah. We had somebody, a girlfriend come [00:16:00] over and she is, I she’ll rename nameless, but she has a pain in the ass and she’s older and she sat down in our house and she was like, there’s nowhere to sit in your home. I don’t understand.
Nothing’s comfortable. And I was like, but she was right. We ended up changing it because I was like, she’s right. Why is this family room so uncomfortable? Can I ask you, you know, you guys have obviously two completely different design aesthetics. Did you find something in the middle or like, how does, where did you land on it?
Because my husband and I have completely different aesthetics. Um, and he’s a decorator on top of it, which is so annoying. Um, so you think your husband’s opinionated imaginative firm behind him, but we found like a joint style that works where like I see myself in it enough and vice versa.
Cleo: Something I’d advise for people who are like more newly living together is that, um, what we did when we got moved into our new house was we um, we kind of like agreed on a base layer, right?
And then we decided that we’d like live in and develop it kind of room by room in a way that like felt right for us. ’cause the thing is like what we forget, and I was just having this conversation with a girlfriend of mine yesterday. Her back into her house, um, with construction. And she was like, called me and she was like, I don’t know, I’m just overwhelmed.
It’s like, I’ve got my in-laws here, and then we’re back in the house, but the water’s not on. And it did it. And I was like, first of all, one of those things would bring me to tears. Like, I was like just, just even moving back and finally being able to move into your house is so stressful. And she’s like, and during construction, a 2-year-old and you know, she’s like having showered since Sunday.
Like, I mean, it’s like a thing. And so it’s. It’s, it’s already, I think moving and moving is emotional. And so I think a lot of the times, even your, I think your aesthetic and even your aesthetic choices are end up being emo emotional decisions. Whether that’s like who you decide to work with on it, you know how that dynamic works in your working relationship, um, or what you’re picking.
And so for us, we. Simon really loved his old house. It was hard for him to wanna move. Um, [00:18:00] I was super, I was 10 months pregnant. I mean, I gave birth a week after we moved in. Oh, what a nightmare. So for us, we were very like, we don’t, let’s not make a big aesthetic decisions like, you know, perhaps like this room should be like a beautiful dark green or gray or something like that.
But why don’t we just have a base layer of like a really nice. White and kind of like just keep it really. Like in like inoffensive basically, right? And then really decide to build the personality of the house over time. And it just takes a lot of restraint because for me, as a Virgo, I just like look in my dining room all the time and I’m like, check that box.
Oh, like, yes. So like, like, there’s cool art in here, but I’m like, it’s just like it’s, this is just so bland, like. And I’m, I’ve never even, right now, it’s like I can’t even do a zoom without like a painting and a mood board and whatever. I’ve never had white walls in my life. Like, no, my mom’s house is like 30 different color walls and fucking like yard art in the house and like, I love it.
My mom is like a crafts art collector, so she like, oh, perfect. Goes to her little markets and it’s like, there’s 14 different portraits of street cars in our kitchen. Like it’s. Insane. Like I go Monica from friends that her apartment beyond, I just, I have no relationship to like white walls or white, anything like white carpets and, but it was kind of what we needed for the transition because it helped kind of bring in that like lightness of the modern.
High ceiling, you know, minimalist space that Simon was living in. Yeah, yeah. Without kind of just moving him like kind of to a d whole different place and an entirely different house type of house. ’cause it’s, we have a very traditional house now. Um, and so it doesn’t freak him out, but I am like just dying to be like, what can I paint?
Jeremiah: That’s your love language. Yes. Was there anything that you refused to let him bring in the house?
Cleo: The hardest part is our differences in architecture. I [00:20:00] mean, he wants to live in a modern house. I mean Yeah, like a circuit city. Yeah. He’s like, he mourns it to this day. Like we’ll be like, it’s like been two years we’ll be in therapy together, and I’m just like, okay, we gotta hear about this house
You’re like, I just want it
Cleo: So molding. Like I, I was like, I just, I was like, well, you know how it is. You watch your kids fall so often and you’re like. Damn. Like if they were falling on marble every time, like, I mean, I have a runner on my wood stairs here. I can’t even tell you how many times these kids have, like, slid down the stairs or thought it was funny to play on the stairs or whatever.
I’m like them doing this on floating marble stairs. I’m just like, what?
Jeremiah: How has it been with them, um, you know, two kids under five? Have you watched your space change at all since they were born? You know, how has it, how has it affected the design of the house? There
Cleo: are two things. One, I didn’t want someone to walk into my house and feel my kids.
I wanted to feel that it was a family, but I didn’t want them to feel my kids before. They felt that like adults lived here too. I love that. Yeah. And so it wasn’t that I’m like trying to hide my kids by any means, but I was like, you know, we like, I. I do believe that our personhoods are important as our Parenthoods, and I wanted people to feel, and I, I needed to feel and know that like an adult, that this is an adult house and a house for adults too.
Yeah. It’s not the whole story. Yeah. And so, um, we like, you know, the kids have their playroom where like no one messes with them and like their rooms, you know, but I think everywhere else they’re like, the kids can go there and we’re never gonna, we’re never mad at them for spilling or, um. You know, we don’t have, like, even though there is so much white in our house, like we don’t, like, we’ll always just clean up the, the thing or Spray the couch or whatever.
Um, I never want them to feel like they can’t live in the house. Mm-Hmm. Um, but I don’t want them to like, also like. Falsely think that they like co-own the house. So
Jeremiah: that’s smart. I feel like we’ve been the same way. I, I’m like really? You know, when I got so much shit when my kids were little ’cause we didn’t baby proof everything and Yeah, everything didn’t have plastic on it.
[00:22:00] But, you know, I think also partially ’cause I also grew up, I. From a really low-income family, it was, you had to respect the things that were in the home. Mm-Hmm. And you were a part of the vibration of that household. Yep. Um, and I, when I felt like, at least for us growing up, you know, when, when you have a sense of responsibility and some ownership around what you’re a part of, it just changed the way you navigate.
And luckily our kids so far, um. They’ve been, but we the same way we had a, we gave them a space. We’re like, go for it. Yeah. Live your life.
Cleo: Exactly. And like, don’t, you know, if you wanna just color whatever happens in like, their space, it’s like, you know, I really feel is for them. Um, but we, you know. Other than that, like, I mean, we even that, and it was, and that’s the cool thing about even redoing parts of your house, um, after you’ve lived in them.
Because like, I think six months into the house we live in now, you know, we, I think I told you this, we, this is a crazy flood. Yeah. I remember. Um, and I had to redo the entire basement of floor, but when we first moved in, we were like, it was a, it was a floor that was kind of like, um. You know, everything.
It’s like, I think people do this in their basements a lot where it’s like all miscellaneous things. Yeah. So it’s like a spare bedroom and there’s like, you know, kind of workout space and then it’s like the kids, the whole thing’s, a kids playroom and it’s kind of like, it’s like a non-aesthetic kind of, yeah, just transactional.
Yep. So when we decided to redo it, we really like, wanted to be intentional. We were like, you know what? Like we should, the kids don’t need like a whole kind of basement to like peanuts. They’re, you know, three and two. Yeah. And so we, um, kind of took this little sunroom upstairs and made that their playroom.
And then we made it like a cool, it feels like a kind of like a speakeasy and we really like. Made the like a, like a cool bar in a really loungy place. And so it actually feels very divorced from the breast of the house almost as if there’s like, kind of like a New York apartment down there. Mm-Hmm. Um, and so it’s really fun because that’s where like my girlfriends come to stay when they stay with us.
And so it’s, [00:24:00] it feels like you really kind of get away from the family home. Yep. Aspect of our like really That’s nice. Kind of family style house. And then we have a kind of like sexy,
Jeremiah: cool, grown up space. Do you wanna use this opportunity to own up to the fact that you just flooded the basement so you could finally paint it a color?
Yeah. This is your opportunity.
Cleo: Okay. Simon, I have an impression to make to you and our children. Yeah. Like next week in couples therapy for design.
Jeremiah: Yeah. Surprise. What’s the biggest like aesthetic difference between your life in LA versus your life in New
Cleo: York? Well, I think for the most part people move to LA to have more space.
So, um, you find that people, uh, have much less multi-use spaces. Yeah. Whereas in New York, um, you know, your living room is also the playroom. You’re, you know, you, you don’t necessarily have. Space for kind of every function of your house with your family and your kids. Um, and so, or, or anything. So I feel like, you know, New York, um, you know, your dining space is often right out off of your kitchen, which I also love because it’s this kind of shared space.
Um, or your dining room is also your office. And so I think that, um, because of that, you find that people kind of like think about, could I, what is. Could I work here? Could I eat here? Um, and I think that informs it because you, you know, you may not want to like look at white walls all day, or you may feel like I need to look at white walls all day.
But I’ll have a really great light fixture that will kind of bring warmth to it in the evening for when my kind of office table turns into my dining room table. I love that.
Jeremiah: I’ve been a huge fan of your, your work and what you write and, and more importantly, kind of what you. Curate, um, for a long time. [00:26:00] And it’s funny, my daughter, the other day, we were talking about life and you know, the weird thing as your daughters get older, which you probably already know being a woman, but they’re so far superior in my opinion.
And when you raise a woman, you really understand. Um, but we are talking and. About life and the future. And my daughter was like, you know what dad? The truth is I just, I want to have a farm with some horses and I wanna be a poet. I just wanna write. And I was like, oh my God. What? I go Also dream sounds
Yeah, you’re like dope.
Jeremiah: How did you find poetry? Did it find you? Have you, were you always a writer? Like what? What was your entry into it?
Cleo: Well, you know, now, like. 10 years in where the world is very, you know, the literary world is so different and there’s this big market for poetry. I think I did always wanna do that, but I, I didn’t think I could.
Um, and it’s amazing even to hear your daughter say that, because I would’ve never said that at her age because I didn’t see people make like, like there’s some part of her that knows that you could make a living doing that. And I didn’t think that that, that you could. Yeah. And so I feel really proud because I do feel that.
You know, so much of what some of my books like Hard Talk or even What the Road said because it is a children’s book, but it’s a kind of a poem, a long poem. You know? I think it really made this kind of idea of expressing yourself through words in a way that can’t be right or wrong possible for kids.
And I think that that’s why children, I know, that’s why when I was kind of six or seven, I had gotten a scholarship to this creative arts camp at this like kind of like really fancy. The, and my brother went to, and we both signed up for our poetry class. Um, and I, and I swear, I think it’s because someone told us you could nap in it.
Like you could like lay down. And we were both very athletic, so we’d like, you know, we played all the sports and we played soccer and we played, you know, I mean we did like every really like, recreational thing that like our city could offer us, right? And so we were like, oh my God, amazing. But now I like [00:28:00] think, I’m like, oh, it was.
Meditating. Yeah. They’re like, everyone’s just like, oh my God, I heard you could take a nap if you do this thing at sleep. Period. Yeah. Literally. And I was like, and she was actually having us meditate before every Yeah. Class. And so I took it, but she really, um, this teacher really, I. Impacted me because you know, we all kind of asked like, what’s a poem?
I don’t understand. Like, what do you mean? Like write a poem? She’s like, well just start about something you’ve never seen. And I was like, well, what do you mean? She was like, I want you to think about every bird you’ve ever seen and every color you’ve ever seen a bird. And now I want you to describe the one bird you’ve never seen.
Okay. And that, um, exercise into this like, idea of truly putting your imagination on paper in a way that had no rules. Mm-hmm. Was so fascinating for me. Um, and, and really like just, I mean, to this day I never forgot that first exercise ever. And I was so young and I remember being like, and I remember it was the bird and I remember, um.
I think I remember writing about like a rainbow bird or something like that, because I had never seen that. And I think for me, as someone who wasn’t a great student, um, I, you know, I think a lot of that I, I, in, in, in, in school, you get kind of caught up in like, this is right or this is wrong, or this, like, you know, you were right and how you wrote about this kind of figure in history or you were wrong about this, or do you know?
And so I think in poetry I was like, wow, it’s a space where. Yes, there’s like kind of different ways to write and you can write in iambic pentameter and you can write in poetic prose and you could, there’s all these kind of, you know, there’s a true way to kind of study and have this beautiful skill set in this, but no matter what, there’s always gonna be like a Maya Angelou or a Nikki Giovanni, or a, a Rumi, or a Hefez or, and they’re all so different and it doesn’t.
You know, matter. You know, who’s writing in Haiku or who’s not, or who’s writing in what format. And that was so freeing to me. And so I really kind of fell in love with the idea there. And I’d write [00:30:00] kind of my own little poems and things as a kid. And then I kind of buried the dream because I didn’t see it.
You know, I think I, yeah, obviously I remember seeing Maya Angelou as a kid. Um, but you know, by that time, even in her career, it was like she was making. Films and she was, you know, she was so many things and she had her doctorate and she had, you know, it was, she was beyond, she was a, a pop culture icon.
Yeah. And then in my late, in my kind of early twenties in New or in New York, um, I started writing again and I really started writing as a way to kind of give my friends. Like, and, and, and, and I didn’t realize that, but I remember like even when I was just telling this story the other day, one of my kind of more, well-known poems is some this says, um, baby, you are the strongest flower that ever grew.
Remember that when the weather changes, and I remember writing that because a friend had called me, I was on a vacation and she called me crying about a breakup. And we talked about it for a long time, and you know. Like many of us, like when we’re listening to someone, all of a sudden, by the time we hang up, we’ve like had enough space to reflect and have that final thought.
Mm-Hmm. That’s why we usually like send a text being like, you know, and just so you know, remember da-da-da-da-da. And I’d written it down in a notebook and I’d taken a photo of it and I’d sent it to her. And that was why I had written that. And I wouldn’t have even thought about that as home. I just was like, this was like the idea that came to me when I was talking to her.
Um. And then from there I started kind of putting those ideas on the sides of buildings or online or in books. And to this day, I think of myself more as like a friend responding to another friend. Um, more than anything than I feel as like an artist or a poet or a writer. Um, I always kind of feel like a friend first.
Jeremiah: Does it bring you joy?
Cleo: It really does. Yeah. It’s like, you know, it feels. It’s such a privilege to [00:32:00] have something that brings you joy and makes you feel like you’re doing the right thing for yourself or in your Mm-Hmm. Purpose or, or, or makes you feel purposeful, um, and you know that you’re helping other people.
Yeah. Um, I think that’s one of the like, or bringing even just like. We forget that even just bringing delight to others, um, you know, I don’t think that it’s like, I don’t necessarily feel like, oh, it’s just amazing ’cause I help people because they’re going through the hardest time ever. But some things just make you smile and you need a smile.
Like, and I think that that’s why art is of every medium is so important.
Jeremiah: How do you incorporate that into the way you live? Like, is there a spot in your house that you ride? Is there a ritual around riding? Is it sporadic? Is there like a space in between spaces that’s yours? You know, is there a ceremony to it all?
Cleo: Definitely, I, I have a, um, I, I have to write on a, first of all, I, I have to write everything first by hand, so I have lots of, lots of great notebooks and, and pens. Love that. Um, and so everything I draft and, and actually Simon’s the same way, Simon, I. My partner writes every script by hand before he inputs it.
You’re kidding. So you’ll see, like even he has the, um, you know, his like college thesis paper ended up being the movie Mr. and Mrs. Smith. And he has the first draft written, um, all by hand. And every X-Men movie is written by hand. I mean, it’s, it’s kind of amazing. Like you see these just tall. He basically starts this process by buying four big bricks of white paper from Staples and.
Sits like clumps of them on his lap bit by bit and writes a script and then inputs it. Wow. I mean, it’s, it’s amazing. And so, um, I write in, I write in notebooks, but, um, so I have like hundreds and hundreds of notebooks as I also, like, never like finish one and then I’ll be somewhere, you know, traveling somewhere and see some beautiful notebook and wanna buy it and then write that one.
So it’s like a little grave yard. Yes, I’m like a little disorganized in my, um, and so I have to have space for my notebooks. I have to have space [00:34:00] for mood boards. I always have a board. Um, you know, even with my new book, remember Love, I had the title as kind of a mantra for the book, um, before I’d written anything.
And so I had these big linen boards and I put, you know. The first thing when I started that book is I had a post-it that said, please remember love. And then I started drafting from that, like, you know, and then this board even behind me is, um. I wrote another kid’s book that comes out next year. And this one I drew myself, um, for the first time and I’m like a, you know, I like got a D in art class, so it’s like kind of crazy that I would draw a book.
Jeremiah: I’m sure it’s gonna be fantastic.
Cleo: So I took a year to like teach myself like, uh, how to like draw objects because, you know, I painted, I paint my letters. I, you know, but I’d never drawn like a teapot or something. And so I grabbed every type of image that I thought I. I was like, I feel like I couldn’t understand how to draw something like in this style.
Um, but I have to board everything. And then I, when I, when I input, I have to have a really big screen. So I have like a kind of a big computer screen, so I always need a desk. I always need Sage. I always need incense. I’m using Athena’s incense right now.
Jeremiah: It’s good. Right? I love it. So nice, so good. I have the most insane in since I have to send you this.
Really. Please. Gonna change your life. That, I mean, I love Athenas, but this is another one that’s for the books. Oh my God. I need them. It’s so funny. I’m like sitting here. It’s, it really in, there’s like a candle, like with smoke blowing in my face. I’m the same way. I feel like my office, I look like a serial killer because I just, it’s all these different things and for me, creativity has to be in conflict with something else and, and I do the same thing.
I’m not. Classically trained. So I just have always sketched an idea visually in my head. Um, do you guys like leave little notes for each other around the house or is it strictly work that everything has to be in handwriting?
Cleo: No, we definitely, I mean, I think I’m part of how I probably [00:36:00] Rude Simon was like, I, I do like to leave my little notes, so I, um, and you think
Jeremiah: that’s, you think that’s what it was?
Huh? Your, your love notes. Love notes. I love you, but I’m not sure. Sure. That’s,
Cleo: it was, remember there’s this one on one of our really early, like, kind of early dates. He leaves this like very fancy watch. Mm-Hmm. By mistake. Yeah. And so I say to him, I was like, Hey, you left your watch. Um, so I’ll leave it with the front desk, but in it, I left this little note it that I was like, dear Simon, like last night was the best night ever.
Please accept this token of my appreciation like. I like a Rolex or something for, for like such a wonderful night, like all wine and dine. Yeah. Like I was like, I like acted like I was giving it to him as a gift. That’s genius. Um, so we, um, do, and then Simon will like leave me little notes if I’m traveling and I come home and, you know, if he’s not gonna be there, be it’s my favorite.
But yeah, we, we, we take advantage of Post-its in this house, I’d say. Yeah.
Jeremiah: Same. I mean, I travel everywhere with them. Yeah. A psycho. Yeah. Nate is not romantic. So I’ve gotten very used to, whereas I would love a beautiful poem, it’s more like thinking of you. And I’m like, I’ll take it. You’re like, I’ll take it.
Oh, take it. It’s words of affirmation is not my love language, it turns out. But I would like it. Um, you spoke, um, briefly about remember love, and I wanted to talk to you about it because I read it and I am obsessed. Oh my God. I didn’t know they sent it over. They sent it, I read it twice. What’s held I thought was, um.
I mean, I was a mess because it was just so poignant. ’cause the thing that I love about the way you write and what you write is you could turn to any page at any moment in your life and there’s a connective tissue to what you’re sharing with a a a million, a multitude of different things. But at that moment with what’s held, you know, calling yourself the glue and then figuring out what’s holding you.
Um, I was like. Uh, nobody asked me that, and I thought it was so beautiful. Yeah. What was the [00:38:00] impetus for writing? Um, remember love,
Cleo: you know, remember love is so different than anything I’ve ever written. Um, because I really wrote it in like absolute privacy, which I’d never done before. So no one read this book until it was done.
Not a soul. So Simon didn’t read the book until it was done. My best girlfriends, a lot of them still haven’t read it. You know, there was no feedback loop for me. And so it was really scary to share it because I never had that much of a gap between me and even my friends having read it. ’cause I didn’t realize how much of a softener that is of the bravery of like.
Yeah, I’m feeling this thing and I think this thing is really important to say, and I really feel like people are going through this, and I didn’t realize that before. I was like, yeah, I kind of knew that because I, you know, call Athena. I talked to her about it. I, you know, I knew like. That I knew. And so this one I really didn’t.
And so I’d, I felt called and, and I was really severely burnt out kind of right when I had Memphis. And so I remember thinking like, I don’t know when I’ll have, write another book. I don’t even know if I have another book in me. Like I don’t even know if that’s creatively what I wanna do next. And then as I was kind of going through postpartum and you know, kind of.
Watching so much of life change with my friends. They were, you know, getting divorced. They were moving, they were trying new jobs. I mean, so much so people were going through such incredible transformation, rebirths like change and they were really struggling through, and I was like, there’s, I. Like, I wanna write something that speaks to what I feel like people are truly going through right now.
Um, and there were so many people I knew, like I don’t, I don’t have a single person who didn’t bring up that poem to me who has read it. The glue one, like, which is really. If I’m, so, if I’m not butchering it, it says basically like, um, you know, you, you call yourself the glue, but while you hold it all together, who is holding you?
Mm-Hmm. And [00:40:00] so this idea of asking like, who holds me? Um, when I find all this pride and being the one who holds everything, like, don’t I need that tenderness also?
Jeremiah: And I thought what was so beautiful about is, I mean, and correct me if I’m wrong, but it felt kind of like this love letter. To yourself. It felt like a love letter to women.
I thought about my daughter a lot while I read it, um, because of some of the things that women just have to navigate, the expectations placed on them, with the people around them. And I just felt like it was again, which is, uh, I think so much of your reading is just felt like you were reaching your hand out to the people reading.
Do you feel like this is the most personal thing you’ve written or how, like how does it stack up in what you’ve written so far?
Cleo: Definitely the most personal thing I’ve written because, you know, I kind of felt like. I revisited the moments where I was like kind of stumbling around in the dark, looking for the light, and then realizing that I had to like turn it on within or refind it within.
And so it was this kind of, I wanted to kind of create this book that was like the breadcrumbs back to your own light. Even when you’re kind of externally searching for it, and whether that’s in your career or whether that’s in your romantic relationships or your relationships with your kids, um, or your friends, you know, I write about friendship breakups, which I think are something we don’t really talk about a lot, but are, you know, big spaces of grief for people.
I didn’t wanna write, you know, a memoir. And I also wanted to always make sure that there was this lightness in the reading for my readers, because that’s what I really feel. An effervescence. Yeah. But that’s also what I feel like my purpose as a writer is. Like, I think you can go and read the, like, you know, something that’s the entire book on vulnerability.
But if you actually don’t have a bandwidth to do that right now. Or like you don’t have the bandwidth to sit inside like the trot, like, like, you know, the really hardest moments of someone’s life in their memoir. Yeah. You can kind of come to my books or to remember love and I’m gonna say like, here’s a real story for context, but I’m always gonna like hold you at the end.
Like, this is always a way for like [00:42:00] you to be kind of in conversation or in relationship to a friend. Always have your hand held like, and it’s not about doom, but it’s about kind of moving through. Yeah. And kind of finding your resilience in, in tender moments. You walk
Jeremiah: through it with the reader. I mean, that first opening line in, um, in a world, you know, I’m tired of feeling strong.
I want to feel nourished and everything that goes on there about your body. I. Wanting it to feel soft and not, you know, not armor all the time. I don’t know. It was all, it was really beautiful. I thought it was just, I thought it was really spectacular. It definitely sucked with me. Thank you. That’s why I’ve read it twice like a crazy
Oh my God. I, I can’t wait for you to, ’cause you probably have what they, they emailed you like a PDF. Oh yeah. But I’ve printed it
Jeremiah: and bound
Cleo: it. Okay. But wait till you see the actual, oh, I saw.
Jeremiah: It looks beautiful. It’s.
Cleo: So, do you wanna, actually, I’ve never told anyone this story. Do you wanna know the crazy story about this, this cover?
Yeah. And by the
Jeremiah: way, you finally got your color that you’ve been starving for in your own personal home.
Cleo: Exactly. And okay, so this is like a crazy story about this color. So, okay. I’m writing this book, I’m, I’m doing the cover. Yeah. And I’m like, doing my Virgo nuts. Like, love it. Ugh. Like, I can’t figure it out.
And like, and I’m saying that I’m just like, these just don’t feel like I want it to feel nostalgic, but I want it to feel present. I want it to feel like. I want it to feel like a book that you found in your grandma’s house or like, but I also wanted to feel like I just had all these, and I was like, and, and everything was like flat, like every version they gave me.
And I was like, I was like, you know, it just needs this, like, it’s like, it needs that, like joy, but like comfort and groundedness of like an Amy Sherald painting. Ugh. Like, do you know? I was like, genius. Yeah. You know, because she, she just has the best colors, like Yep. You know, because there’s somehow it’s like, it’s always backed by like, however she does that kind of like.
Really gritty gray-black. I know. Skin tone. And then the pop of like the bright reds and, but then I forgot. I know Amy, so I call her no. [00:44:00] And I’m like, Amy, please feel free to be like hell. Motherfucking no. Like, are you insane? Like are you like an actual crazy person that you could ask me this? So I say to her, I was like, listen, I have, like, I, I know the font.
I know, like I’m, I, I’ve gotten to this place. I was like, the colors, like I’m basically trying to knock you off. Can I please just not knock you off and actually like, have permission to use your colors? Amy says yes, and then sends me an email that is her entire archive with every color. No, no. The cover of the book is this Deep red with this kind of beautiful sky blue and this, um, really kind of beautiful, like almost beige, but leaning towards mustardy kind of yellow.
It’s amazing. And so we picked this painting. I. Become this cover. We pan-toned everything exactly out of her painting to make the cover of the book. And I would not have, she’s in my, that’s why she’s in my acknowledgements because I’m like, wow, she brought the life to this book,
Jeremiah: honestly. But only you would be like, you know what, lemme message you.
Lemme just, oh my God.
Cleo: I was like, I was like, please say no if you, I was like, I, yeah,
Jeremiah: right. She’s like, here’s my entire collection.
Cleo: And then, but by the way, like the day I opened that email and I saw it, I was like, she is just, I mean, she’s probably like one of my favorite living artists, so I was like, yeah.
Seeing it. Like, I mean, I’ll never forget the first time you like see her, Michelle Obama. Like, you know, you, I know. And, and, and I mean, but all of her work is so incredible and you’re like seeing it all in one place. And then she says to me, she’s, I was just like, obviously I was like, it can be like a, you know, one of your like lesser-known paintings.
I was like, or just give me a painting you like hated and didn’t even release. And like, I’ll take your reject colors. And she’s like, I don’t care. Whatever you want. Even if you want the Michelle Obama blue, I’ll give it to you. And I was like, what? What? Like she is the most generous.
Jeremiah: Oh. But that’s the way it’s [00:46:00] supposed to be.
You know, this collection of creatives, like we’re all supposed to be here to champion each other. Yes. And to support each other. I love that. And it’s only fitting. Can I ask you, um, a last question and then I’ll leave you be, when do you feel the most at home? You know, I
Cleo: wrote, um, and I, I’m sad I didn’t, didn’t remember love, but I wrote this, um, thing a few years ago that, um, home is where your exhale feels best.
Hmm. And so I, I do try to follow that feeling. Um, and I think that something that we can always gift ourselves is, um, having flexibility in where that feeling is. Like I think that sometimes that exhale feels best and like your, the first place you ever lived and you’re going home to that space. Um, sometimes it’s like.
Where when you’re kind of in your kid’s bed with them reading to them, um, or sometimes it’s like that hug from a friend when you like, Mm-Hmm. Really, really needed it. And so I, I try to follow like the best possible exhale.
Jeremiah: That is the best answer I’ve ever heard and I would expect nothing less from you.
It’s nowhere to go but down from here. Oh God. Thank you for doing this. I really appreciate you. I know you’re super busy and navigating a ton of things and this has been a super, like a big highlight of mine. So thank you. Oh my God, for the time. Thank
Cleo: you so much.
Jeremiah: I just want to personally say thank you to Cleo for joining me today. As usual, her words have such a profound impact on me. I mean, her answer to where is home, you know, wherever you take the, the deepest exhale, I thought was one of the most beautiful things I’ve ever heard. So thank you so much and I’d love to hear about the special places in your life that maybe you’ve shared with a loved one.
Please be sure to post, comment, or tag us on Instagram at caclosets Ideas of order is a California Closets podcast. A special thanks to the team behind the scenes. This episode is produced by Samantha Sager and Rob Schulte at Surround Podcast Network [00:48:00] by Sandow Design Group.