4 October, 2011

That Girl: Claudia Whitney, yogi and photographer

4 October, 2011

This week’s That Girl is Claudia Whitney, yoga teacher, photographer and all round lovely person… If you take her classes at Pure you’ll have found yourself curious about this beautiful, softly spoken, tattooed girl, always dressed in the most colourful outfits — we take a sneak peek into her obsession with plastic cameras, love of art and find out why she always carries a chicken poop lip balm around with her!

How did you become a yoga teacher? What were you doing before?

I was a hair stylist and make up artist before becoming a yoga teacher. I did hair and make up for TV, film, theater, weddings and fashion photography. Before that I worked in salons cutting, coloring, and styling hair. I truly enjoyed it and loved that my clients felt better about themselves after a haircut or a makeup application.

From my very first yoga class I was hooked. I knew right away that this was something I had to share with people, which is pretty funny because I barely made it through the class and I could not touch my toes. I guess I thought if someone could feel so shifted from a change in their hairstyle or a new shade of lipstick… imagine what yoga could do!

How did you end up in Hong Kong?
The first time I moved to Hong Kong was 7 years ago. I was born in Germany and lived there until I was 5 years old and then my family moved to the U.S. I grew up mostly in Kansas and eventually made my way through San Francisco, New York, and then Bangkok before making Hong Kong my home.

Where do you live? How have you made your home your own?

I live in Sheung Wan and I love it. Every time I turn the corner I see new boutiques, art galleries, and coffee shops and it’s great! I have a one-bedroom apartment and it’s full of color. I surround myself with a lot of art to create an environment that inspires me. I have a lot of my paintings and photos on the walls, mixed with art that I have collected from traveling.

Can you tell us about the meaning of your tattoos?

I’ve always been fascinated with body art and the whole process of tattooing. I got my first tattoo 18 years ago and have been getting them ever since. When choosing a tattoo I give the artist a lot of freedom to create something that they like too. I get tattoos based around things I love and I get them from around the world by artists that I admire and respect. It’s always interesting to hear how people interpret what they see on my body so I don’t usually go into the meaning of each one too much. Will I get more? Yes.

How did you get into photography? What is the inspiration behind your work?

I’ve always loved taking pictures and throughout the last few years I’ve gone through phases of taking loads of photos then taking breaks from it. Recently the gaps in between starting and stopping are getting smaller and smaller and now I take pictures daily.

My love for photos grew tremendously when I started using plastic toy-like cameras. I didn’t know what I was doing (still don’t most of the time) and it’s just a big experiment most of the time. Getting my film back is like Christmas. It’s always a surprise and really makes me appreciate the process. I called my first photo exhibition “plastic camera. happy accidents”. I am inspired by everyday life and objects I find on the streets. It’s all about capturing beauty in the ordinary things and I see an opportunity for a photo everywhere I look.

Now you can download phone applications to get the plastic toy camera feel so it sort of feels like cheating.I am ready to study photography further but for now I just take hundreds and hundreds of photos every week.

Any tips for Sassy girls looking to get into photography in Hong Kong?

Take a lot of pictures and don’t be afraid to experiment. There are so many interesting places around Hong Kong to shoot. You can also find photography teachers here offering everything from a 3-hour workshop to a 3-month course. HKU SPACE and the Hong Kong International Film Academy also have beginner photography courses. There are clubs in Hong Kong that organize weekly photography outings and meetings too.

You’re in the middle of a cleanse at the moment – what does this mean, and how do you fit this in with your busy life?

I was traveling for a month and I decided to do a detox when I got back to HK to shift me away from some of the bad habits I had while I was away. I do this 2 or 3 times a year to get rid of toxins and to reboot healthy habits. I have tried different types of cleanses over the years and they all have similar benefits. I feel more energized, clear, and grounded. This time I did the Master Cleanse where I had nothing but a drink made up of water, lemon, maple syrup, and cayenne pepper and I drank that for 10 days. I taught yoga classes and exercised the whole time. It’s amazing how much energy I had and now I’m onto fruits and vegetables and I feel fantastic. A detox does not have to be about cutting food out altogether. Eliminating caffeine, alcohol, sugar or dairy from your diet can benefit tremendously.

How do you describe your personal style? How does it evolve and change?

I would describe my personal style as feminine with a bit of edge. I usually wear a simple dress or skirt/shirt combo and I like to funk it up with fun shoes, colorful tights, big jewelry, or hats. I absolutely love accessories… The bigger & brighter the better. I like flirty clothes and usually I stay away from anything conservative. I like to have fun with my wardrobe and I dress so that I feel happy when I walk out the door. Sometimes that means wearing bright floral prints and high heals and other days it’s a t-shirt and sneakers.

When I teach yoga it’s hard to be too creative with what I wear because I need to move and stretch comfortably so I wear Tanya-b. Not only because of the great fit but they have the best colours and styles!

I also love to deconstruct and reconstruct pieces that I still love but don’t wear anymore. I’ve turned skirts into dresses and cut up t-shirts and put them back together so they fit me better. I love to be creative with clothes… cut off the straps or sew on a patch where there used to be a hole. I make it work and it’s fun!

Where do you shop in Hong Kong? Any secret finds you can let us in on?
I find great dresses and accessories in small boutiques in Sheung Wan, Wan Chai, Causeway bay and the sidewalks of Granville and Cameron Road in TST. The dress shops in Soho are great and I love a trip to Lane Crawford for lingerie, shoes, and cosmetics. My friends and I also have clothing swaps where everyone brings a few pieces that they don’t wear anymore but that are still in great condition (sometimes with the tags still on them!) and it’s such a fun afternoon with the girls. At the most recent clothing swap I picked up brand new Stella McCartney sunglasses, vintage suede boots, and a brand new MAX&Co. overcoat. Be green, be glam!

What are your must-have beauty products? Where do you go for hair/nails/maintenance?

I have an addiction to lip balm and you’ll never catch me without two or three tubes in my bag. My friend makes a fabulous lip balm called Chicken Poop (no actual chicken poop involved) and she recently came out with new lip shimmers that are fantastic. She even named one after me… Claudia Mauve-ia!

I’m also obsessed with skin oils and creams. I love L’Occitane Almond Supple Skin Oil and Coconut Body Butter from the Body Shop. For makeup, some of my favourites are Benefit’s BADgal kohl pencil for smoky eyes, Yves Saint Laurent Radiant Touch for concealing and brightening, and DuWop’s Lip Venom for that fuller bee-stung look. Individual false eyelashes are great for a night out and good quality make-up brushes are a must.

When I find someone I love I am faithful to him or her. I get my nails done at Kiss My Nail by Elsa. Kenny from Michell Rene Hair Design chemically straightens my hair (yes, my hair is naturally VERY curly) and Johnny from Esprit in Central cuts my hair.

What is your favourite restaurant in Hong Kong?
I can’t pick just one place! I have lunch at Wagyu often, and I love Brunch at Zuma. One of my favorite places for dinner is Shui Hu Ju on Peel Street and the Basil Grapefruit Mary’s at 208 are the best! Good quality food is important to me so I love that Linguini Fini and Posto Publicco use all-natural produce from local farms… and they also have the best service! I love J.W. Marriot’s awesome salad bar, Tuk Tuk Thai, and Anupurna for Nepalese food.

Check out the rest of our That Girls here!

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