Celeste Haselrig, Senior Student at Parsons School of Design

0.75x 1x 1.25x 1.5x 2x 0:0000:31:15 Celeste Haselrig, Senior Student at Parsons School of Design

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Lisa Woolfork

Lisa Woolfork is an associate professor of English, specializing in African American literature and culture. Her teaching and research explore Black women writers, Black identity, trauma theory and American slavery. She is the convener and founder of Black Women Stitch, the sewing group where Black lives matter. She is also the host/producer of Stitch Please, a weekly audio podcast that centers Black women, girls, and femmes in sewing. In the summer of 2017, she actively resisted the white supremacist marches in her community, Charlottesville Virginia. The city became a symbol of lethal resurging white supremacist violence. #Charlottesville. She remains active in a variety of university and community initiatives, including the Community Engaged Scholars program. She believes in the power of creative liberation.


Celeste Nicole



Insights from this episode:

  • How did Celeste know she was in the design world
  • How her family influenced her artistic processes
  • What type of things did Celeste study at Parsons that helped her nowadays
  • Celeste’s thesis and how it has become truly personal for her
  • What is Rat Virginity
  • Celeste’s first collection “American Dream”
  • The paradox of the United States’ democracy
  • Gucci Changemakers Award
  • What’s next for Celeste’s life
  • Celeste’s advice for keeping your stitch together


Quotes from the show:

  • “I think American Dream for me is about telling the story of being un-American and anti-American while being also all American because these experiences that I’ve had in childhood, being part of an amazing beautiful Black family, but then also having like these really common American things like my nuclear family breaking apart at a young age” —Celeste Nicole in “Stitch Please”
  • “We are the bed on which the American dream was slept. We are the sediment that allowed this country to be a country. There are few things more American than Black Americans” —Lisa Woolfork in “Stitch Please”
  • “[About the Gucci scholarship] We got like this amazing opportunity to sit on different guest speakers, who would give us insight into the industry and sort of open our minds to the possibilities of where we can fit in within the industry because is not just all about making the clothes, there’s so much that happens from production and distribution” —Celeste Nicole in “Stitch Please”
  • “What has taken me most of all on this journey is just being very connected to my child self that was not afraid to dream big and see big things for me” —Celeste Nicole in “Stitch Please”

Stay Connected:

Lisa Woolfork

Instagram: Lisa Woolfork

Twitter: Lisa Woolfork

Celeste Nicole

LinkedIn: Celeste Nicole

Instagram: Celeste Nicole

Facebook: Celeste Nicole

This episode was produced and managed by Podcast Laundry.

Read Full Transcript

Lisa Woolfork  0:10  

Hello Stitchers. Welcome to Stitch Please, the official podcast of Black Women Stitch, the sewing group where Black lives matter. I'm your host, Lisa Woolfork. I'm a fourth-generation sewing enthusiast with more than 20 years of sewing experience. I am looking forward to today's conversation. So sit back, relax, and get ready to get your stitch together. 

Hello everybody, and welcome to the Stitch Please podcast. I am your host, Lisa Woolfork. And as I say every week, this is a very special episode, because this episode is what happens when you are fortunate enough to be in the right place at the right time. And I speak of myself!, being fortunate enough to have visited the Parsons School of Design to speak with a class that was working on fashion and social justice. And, as part of that wonderful experience, I got a chance to walk around these amazing studios. And, students are working on all manner of things, and I saw these two Black young people through the window; I think was the first studio I saw, and I was like, "What manner of magic is this?" And there were two wonderful young people there ai, so shout out to Ajai if you're listening. And Celeste, and I invited Celeste to be part of the podcast because she was working on something that I thought was absolutely stunning. And when I saw it, I wanted everybody to see. So Celeste Nicole, thank you so much for being here and welcome!

Celeste  1:51  

Thank you so, so much for having me. That was such a beautiful intro. Also, it really was like a moment of the right place and the right time, because when you walked in, I'm like, "Who is this?" You're just happy to see us. I was happy to see you. And we connected. It was great.

Lisa Woolfork  2:05  

It was just wonderful. Just wonderful. Now, you'll have to tell us a little bit--now you are currently a senior at Parsons School of Design; you will be graduating in May of 2023. Congratulations. And as part of this process, you are working on a senior project. So you are here at the end of a four-year educational journey. But before you ended up here, as a senior at Parsons, you were a small child elsewhere, studying and growing. How did sewing first come into your life? And how did you know that design and apparel would be something you would be interested in?

Celeste  2:41  

Oh, fashion design sort of came into my life before sewing did. My father's an artist; my mother has worked in cosmetics and women's beauty care my whole life. So there's just been this interest in, like, the way that women dress and the way that we posture ourselves before we leave the home. That's always just been so inspiring to me. So, as a kid, I would really have my dad draw my coloring books. He would draw women for me, and then I would draw the clothes on them. So that's kind of how I fell in love with clothing. My dad was like my team designer when I was a kid. So that's how that started. And then sewing kind of started in, like, elementary school. 

I think the first thing I ever sewed was a poodle skirt for a school concert I was doing in the fifth grade. And, naturally, there's just stories that I got from my mom, as well, about how her mom sewed, how her grandmother sewed all of her children's clothing. And back then they hated it. They never had clothing from the department store. And I remember a story my mom told me, that when my great aunt turned-- or when she got her first job, she bought a three piece suit from Kaufmann's, and it was like the first item of clothing she ever got from a department store that wasn't handmade. So there's just been this natural tradition in my family of the women making every garment, down to the underwear. So, just being related to those stories kind of sparked the interest of, like, knowing that I can do this, and knowing that I have my mom to ask questions and go to as a resource for information. So, just having that tie has really helped the interest started, I guess .

Lisa Woolfork  4:05  

It sounds like such a beautiful story, a beautiful family story, both of something that you have inherited from your mom's side, but also something that your father was able to lay out for you by drawing your coloring books.

Celeste  4:19  


Lisa Woolfork  4:19  

And then you would draw the clothes. But this is very much like a team group art project. And the idea that your father could just create your coloring book images. Like, oh no, "We don't have to struggle about finding a coloring book where the girl has hair like Celeste. We will make sure this person has hair like hers," etc. I mean, it just feels incredibly powerful. Do you feel as though this somehow authorized or invited you into the process of making art? Do you feel as though--that having this as part of a heritage in some ways that might make you trust yourself more as an artist than you normally would? Or are there other-- or am I a little bit off base on that? You understand what I mean? 

Celeste  4:59  

No, I think I understand what you mean. I definitely felt invited into artistic processes as a way of expressing myself very early on, just because I saw that as a way that my parents used to express themselves. So, like, when I got older, that was always a part of how I was creatively expressing myself, whether it was creative writing, or drawing or sewing- there was always some form of creation coming out of me, because that just felt natural to me as a person.

Lisa Woolfork  5:24  

And this idea of like, some folks, they want us to kind of live with these very bifurcated lives where you either do one thing or you do another, but we actually are--is whole organic beings that do lots of things at once. And I get the sense that your art practice has been such an innate part of your growth and development, the family you landed into--I imagine this kind of beautiful pillow, like, catching you as you fell from the sky. And that pillow is the family. And it's all, like, stitched together with art and drawings, and they're ready for Celeste to hit the world so that she can go out and start making her own art. 

Have you always been, from your earliest days, someone who has been so committed to fashion, to design, to the practices of apparel? And you mentioned the poodle skirt, but I'm wondering if, as your development grew, did you have some type of, you know, pretty powerful experiences in middle school or high school or something where you felt like, "Okay, I'm surprising myself now."

Celeste  6:25  

I think, yes. I think I have always felt drawn to art and design as a way of expressing myself, and clothing and I have absolutely grown together. But I think it's been a difficult relationship, growing older, and my relationship with clothing--'cause it's how we express ourselves, but it's also a way of, like, signaling different statuses that you hold in the world, like how people are perceiving your clothes at school, or how you're--just approaching the outside world by dressing yourself. So it's been an up and down relationship as far as that's concerned, especially once I got a little bit older and learned more about the fashion industry and where me, or people that look like me, can fit into those spaces, and how sometimes that relationship can be difficult.

Lisa Woolfork  7:08  


Celeste  7:08  

So I think fashion and I have had just a regular relationship that has ups and downs. But, at the end, it's all love because this is, like, the primary way that I feel so connected to expressing who I am. And, like, what you saw me working on in the studio that day, I think was like a perfect--what you just said about my family and landing in the pillow. Like, that's such a great description, because that's really what this thesis is about, is kind of like reworking those steps backwards, retracing who I am, where I come from, where does this artistic identity start? And when I'm tracing that back, it's my dad, it's my mom, it's my brother, and my sister. It's my whole family, like unintentionally weaving together parts of my identity and me using that as, like, an inspo starting place to start--to have my own collection identity.

Lisa Woolfork  7:54  

Now, that's a beautiful segue into--what is it, in terms of, to be a student to arrive at the four-year mark at Parsons, as someone who is studyin' fashion? Can you tell us, or paint a picture, of that journey, of that process? What type of things do you study in your first year that prepare you to do what you're doing now?

Celeste  8:16  

The Parsons first-year program is very interesting. And I have to be honest, when I first got to the school, I wasn't in love with it, because it's kind of fractured from what you come to the school to study, if you know what you're coming to the school to study. And, you know, some people are coming and needing to figure that part out. But I very much knew what I was there for. But the first-year program is about, just, introducing you to certain ways of creating. Ways of thinking outside of the box. 

Lisa Woolfork  8:41  


Celeste  8:41  

And also familiarizing yourself with, just, different programs like Adobe Suite. [Chuckles] Learning how to do different projects with that. And in my first year, when I'm, like, so ready to get into fashion, it was really difficult for me to pace myself and wait for that moment. But in hindsight, of course, hindsight is 20/20. 

Lisa Woolfork  8:58  

Of course.

Celeste  8:58  

Looking back at those experiences, yeah. I'm like, okay, I needed to learn how to do those things so I can do these things now. But it's an amazing, like, full circle moment of--even those early first-year moments of feeling like, "Ach, when am I gonna get the chance to really dive in? When am I going to do this? When am I going to do that?" Now I'm here and I'm doing it; I'm like, okay, I needed that first year. I needed that class that kicked my butt. Like, I needed--

Lisa Woolfork  9:21  


Celeste  9:21  

--these experiences. And I needed to realize that sometimes the journey really is just putting one foot in front of the other. It's not racing to the finish line; you just gotta take your time. So it's been beautiful, especially going through the pandemic. And, at that time, during 2020 was back home. Home for me is in Pittsburgh, so I felt even more far removed from New York, and from fashion, and closer to my family, funny enough. So that was kind of, like, putting me in that place of thinking, like, "Why am I even doing this? Why did I come to this school?" And thinking through those questions is what got me to this thesis that I'm working on. So it's like, in the moment sometimes things aren't making sense, but when we're getting to the finish line, like where I'm at now, approaching that moment, it can be beautiful to the point of bringing me to tears, 'cause I'm like, "Wow, this was all for a reason." 

Lisa Woolfork  10:07  


Celeste  10:07  

Like, I'm understanding and seeing it. So. There's been ups and downs. It's been beautiful; it's been difficult; but I'm happy. I'm very happy in this moment.

Lisa Woolfork  10:16  

I am absolutely delighted. And one of the things that, in asking you to think back over the four years, is because that's part of, I think, what your process journal is also doing, is asking you to look back, to figure out how you got to where you are today. I keep thinking about, like, imagining you in some class, and it's like, "Oh, my goodness, this is like watching paint dry." Or, "This is so hard. And why do I need to know these things?" I'm not going to ask you which these classes were, but I can say for myself, like, there were classes when I was doing my PhD, and I wanted to study African American literature. And it's like, "No, you still have to do all of this 19th and 20th century British and American literature. And yes, you will read these very long and boring books," you know? 

Celeste  10:19  


Lisa Woolfork  10:26  

And now I'm like, "Well, at least I know how to answer some questions on Jeopardy." Like, the knowledge never goes to waste. It never goes to waste. 

Celeste  11:06  


Lisa Woolfork  11:06  

And speaking of, I absolutely want to hear more about your thesis project. So what questions are you investigating for your thesis? And how is the process book kind of helping that get started?

Celeste  11:18  

So for my thesis--my work in general at Parsons has really dealt heavily with femme identities. How we structure ourselves, how we build ourselves, and curate how we present to the world, and why we choose certain imagery to inspire that. Why? It's just like asking the style questions of "why." For my thesis, I'm sort of investigating my own all-American girlhood, but, at the same time, these things that kind of have structured my identity, which is my racial identity, my gender identity, my sexuality. This has all been a part of me my whole life, but it puts me in this place of also being un-American in a way. So it's like being--

Lisa Woolfork  11:54  


Celeste  11:54  

--all-American, but, through your identity, having these feelings of being un-American, and not fitting into this quilt that's already made. But then somehow situating yourself in it perfectly, making the experience your own. So it's investigating my gender and my experiences with race growing up in a suburban neighborhood, and taking cues from my mom, taking cues from my grandmother, taking cues from my sister, stylistically. And just the way I approach the world. The way I chosen to see myself as an artist, as a woman, as a Black woman, as a queer woman. And how I've postured myself style-wise, and, just, my attitude and the way that I wear that as a clothing choice, as hair choice- whatever I choose. There's this investigative research that we can do to, like, unwrap every part of our identity. So that's really what my thesis is doing, finding the roots of me and why those roots have taken me to art, taken me to design, and why that matters, why that's an important part of a fashion narrative that is, at this point, really heavily missing from the fashion industry, because there isn't a lot of diversity. We're getting to that point--

Lisa Woolfork  11:55  


Celeste  11:55  

--where people are working their way in, but we're still at the brink of it. So there's so many important stories missing from fashion, because these narratives have been limited to only certain people having the stage. So I feel like--there's just so many beautiful people, even at the school that I'm surrounded by, that are making amazing things and writing amazing stories. And it's just really about finding where my story fits in. Or making my own path to fit my story in there. And that's why my thesis feels, like, so special at this point, because it's my little baby. [Laughter]

Lisa Woolfork  13:31  


Celeste  13:31  

And it's very personal. It's like a diary at this point.

Lisa Woolfork  13:34  

It was incredible to see. Celeste, y'all, was incredibly patient as I "nosey parker"-ed myself all the way into her process book. And she was flipping through and showing me the images. And when I looked at it, it felt like a photo album that you might find at a gramma's house. And it's, like, pictures from multiple generations. But she also had--you had swatches, you had stickers, you had all manner of things. You know, I think pictures of yourself as a young child, like, there were all these wonderful things that kind of helped to build in the basis or foundation for who you were as an artist and as a person. And one of the stickers I remember, and I want to ask you about it to get some more clarity, was I dunno if it was a sticker or maybe it was the cover image that we're using for this episode. And it said, "I lost my rat virginity." And I am very curious about rat virginity, and what that means. And I am just guessing that it has something to do--with my sister, for example, who lives in Texas, says--swears that if she ever sees a rat in New York--she's very grateful that in all the time she's been, she has never seen a rat, because she says if she ever sees a rat, she will never, ever return to New York City, ever in life. 

Celeste  14:49  


Lisa Woolfork  14:49  

And I'm thinking, "Wow, that's really a hard promise." I hate rats. I don't want to see one, but I don't think I could say, "I'm never, ever going back to New York City ever again if I do see?..." Anyway. I was thinking that maybe that had something to do with it, but you'll have to tell us a bit about, like, what is "rat virginity"?

Celeste  15:09  

[Laughter] That's a really funny question to hear someone... but, I mean, warranted. Also, that's impressive that she's lived in New York and has managed to not see a rat.

Lisa Woolfork  15:19  

Oh no, no, she doesn't live here. She just visits.

Celeste  15:21  

Oh, okay.

Lisa Woolfork  15:21  

She just visits.

Celeste  15:24  

Still very impressive. 

Lisa Woolfork  15:25  

My sister-in-law lives in New York and absolutely has seen a rat before, in life. 


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Celeste  16:18  

So your guess is correct. The whole slogan is "New York took my rat virginity," and it's similar to the conversations that it sounds like you were having with your sister and sister-in-law. But I'm from Pittsburgh, my friend is from Utah, and we both go to Parsons. She's a product design student--shout out, Ryan. [Laughter] 

Lisa Woolfork  16:34  

Hey, Ryan. [Laughter]

Celeste  16:34  

But we were talking when we had both gotten back to the city. She had been in Utah and I had been in Pittsburgh for a little bit. We were talking--walking through Bryant Park, and she was like, "I haven't seen a rat since I've gotten back." And then, almost as soon as she said that, we saw rats running around in the park and I was like, "Hey, he took your rat virginity." And it was just this funny thing that we laughed at the rest of the night. 

I'm taking a screenprinting class this year, and that shirt was one of my first projects. But that laid the groundwork for a little bit of what I'm doing in my thesis, because I love graphic design. I love these absurd shirts and slogans where people are looking at, like, "What on earth does that mean?" But that's really how I love to approach any sort of statement I make with my art, is through humor and a little bit of warmness, because it's absurd--"rat virginity." What is virginity? Like, what are we talking about? I like to do that in my art. I don't want to inspire discomfort, but it's almost a way of inspiring thought because- Really, like, the bigger joke between Ryan and I--we're very similar, her and I. The bigger joke is just poking fun at these structures within a woman's life, like virginity. 

Lisa Woolfork  17:38  


Celeste  17:38  

This is such a big thing that we grow up with, hearing about being deflowered and our worth and--being tied to a virginity. So it's just joking at the absurdity of the construct of virginity. Virginity was something that people talk about a lot. I have a big interest in women's studies, and that changed my life--when I took a women's studies class. But this is, like, something that you grow up being so concerned about as a woman or a femme-identifying person. 

Lisa Woolfork  18:00  


Celeste  18:00  

Once you introduce concepts of your sexuality and your gender, I feel like virginity sorts to collapse on itself because we're defining it by heteronormativity. So, it's just making a joke at the absurdity of it. Everything can be a virginity if you've never done it before, so why not have a rat virginity? [Laughter] Why not have a roach virginity? Like, why not?

Lisa Woolfork  18:20  

Yes, yes. And I think that one of the things that women's studies and Black feminism, at least for me, has taught, is that it definitely is worth asking these questions of, Who created these systems?

Celeste  18:32  


Lisa Woolfork  18:33  

And for whom were they designed to benefit? And, if you look around, and you're like, "Wait a minute, this belief that I have to work twice as hard to get half as much, like, who benefits from that?" Et cetera. And it seems as though these are very much cultural beliefs, similar to how we think about clothing. I imagine thinking about like, as you're saying, like, what makes something femme, femme? Like, what makes a skirt versus trousers? Clothes should not be gendered, and yet they are absolutely gendered. And so, it becomes this really powerful question that you're asking us, to kind of interrogate. In the same way that the idea that rat virginity makes us interrogate the concept of purity culture, moreover. So thank you for that. 

Now, you're working on your first collection. And I wondered if you could talk a bit about the American Dream by Celeste Nicole. And how does this dream work? Of course, as you were saying before about your American childhood, etc, but "the American dream" is a very loaded phrase, and I'm very curious to see what the American Dream by Celeste Nicole, as a fashion brand, as a fashion question is answered. 

Celeste  19:40  

Yeah. It's so exciting to even hear you saying the words "American dream," because, like, I've just landed on a lot of these concepts, so like hearing it, it's like, "Ah."[Gasps]  It's like affirmation in a way. So thank you again for having me here to talk about it,

Lisa Woolfork  19:52  


Celeste  19:52  

because it's beautiful. It's, like, becoming a part of my process to think it through. But-- 

Lisa Woolfork  19:56  

Well, thank you for sharing your story with us. This is a delight for me as well, thank you.

Celeste  20:00  

Absolutely. I think American Dream for me is about telling the story of being un-American, and anti-American, while being also all-American. Because these experiences that I've had in childhood, being a part of, like, such an amazing, beautiful Black family, but then also having, like, these really common American themes, like my nuclear family breaking apart at a young age, my parents divorced, and, like, the fracturing of my household, changing the way that I interacted with the world, and saw marriage and commitment. And being, like, the starting point of me being someone who asks "why?" at an early age helped me investigate some of these themes in my life where I'm like, this seems like a very American life, but I've never viewed myself as, like, an all-American patriotic person. That's not what my ancestors have modeled to me, where it's like this all-American passionate love of this country. It's this disjointed, rejected feeling that I have towards this country. And a lot of gripes that I have, and a lot of concerns that I have. 

Lisa Woolfork  20:57  


Celeste  20:57  

And it's speaking to that, from the point of my voice, people that look like me, other Black creators, other Black artists, like, our voice is so important and should be centered in these conversations we're having about being Americans, and our history as Americans. But we're often still gatekept away from these industries, because [Scoffs] we're just not a part of that American dream. We never were a part of that dream. So it's this fun way of coopting that and being, like, "Well, it's mine, because it is mine, it always was mine. It's a part of who I am." There's nothing more American than my family and the experiences that I've had in this country, but it's not really looked at as an American dream or an American experience. 

I think, also combining a lot of the imagery. It's developed a lot since we saw each other, and there's a few more graphics that have come about, and they include, like--

Lisa Woolfork  21:46  

Oh, wonderful.

Celeste  21:48  

I really want you to be at my thesis open studios, whenever that happens.

Lisa Woolfork  21:52  

Oh! Is it gonna be in May, by any chance?

Celeste  21:54  

It is gonna be in May.

Lisa Woolfork  21:55  

[Gasps] Ooh, my classes are finished in May [sing-song]. So I might be available.

Celeste  22:02  

I would love that. 

Lisa Woolfork  22:03  

I'm excited. 

Celeste  22:04  

But yeah, some of the imagery that has sort of developed even further from the rat virginity is--I have a graphic that says "Wear a strap." And it's a Black cowboy, and she's shooting a gun and she's also wearing a strap-on, and it's about Black woman being armed. But it's also about centering conversations about queer sex, queer women, queer people-- 

Lisa Woolfork  22:22  


Celeste  22:22  

--and, like, how we relate intimately to one another. So it's taking something that's very American, like the cowboy, and just completely--

Lisa Woolfork  22:29  

And the guns.

Celeste  22:30  

--transforming it. And the gun. Absolutely. Nothing more American than the conversation about guns. [Laughter] But yeah, it's taking these things and reclaiming them, and putting new meaning to them. And that's what "American Dream" is about. Taking these super, all-American, whitewashed concepts of purity, and dreams of capitalism and freedom--

Lisa Woolfork  22:48  

Manifest destiny.

Celeste  22:50  

Exactly. And making it queer, and Black, and powerful, and shining a light on how we've always been a part of the American dream. We just weren't invited into it. We weren't included into it.

Lisa Woolfork  23:00  

We are the bed on which the American dream was slept. We are the sediment that allowed this country to be a country. There are few things more American than Black Americans. Because, in the same way that the disenfranchisement and the destruction, or the attempted disenfranchisement and destruction of Native peoples in this country, is also American. It's the paradox at the heart of this nation's democracy. Which is a freedom that has been crafted constitutionally by slave owners. This is a contradiction that we have had from the very start. And it is one of the reasons that a lot of scholars argue that the Black body--it has a limited representational capacity for the American. At the same time, it seems to me that the opposite is true. And I think that--one of the things that I find very frustrating in the story that the nation likes to tell about itself, is its fondness for forgetting. It's fondness for its own version of revisionist histories, that would absolutely wipe out any understanding of American slavery. And so when you were speaking, Celeste, about, "Yeah, you know, I'm American, but also I have gripes about America," and I'm like, "Ma'am, every gripe you have about this country you have earned." When I hear complaining for no reason. I mean, I was just thinking about this today. I was like, it's really interesting the way that whiteness operates. And I know you understand when I say "whiteness," that I'm not talking about, like, necessarily individual white people. Like, whiteness as an idea. Only whiteness will enslave you for 300 years and then demand that you not be mad. 

Celeste  24:33  

[Laughter] Yeah.

Lisa Woolfork  24:34  

And then look at you sideways when you complain, like you're a griper. And, don't be mad and don't stop liking me, or loving me, or putting me at the center of your things. Honestly, it's preposterous, but that's the nature, of course, as we know, of white supremacy in this really very vexed nation that is ours. It is completely ours. Whether the benefits accrue to us evenly or not, it is ours. 

And, also, I'd love to hear more about your Gucci award, your Gucci Changemaker award. That is not a small deal. 

Celeste  24:44  


Lisa Woolfork  24:44  

One would imagine being the study of fashion, and the challenges in that, here you are being awarded as a changemaker. So tell me a bit about that, and what that project entailed.

Celeste  25:20  

So the first year that they rolled out the Changemaker Award was in 2020. That was when I applied and was selected, along with--I think there was 23 of us? I might be a little fuzzy on that. It was in the 20s. But there was 23 final scholars selected. Unfortunately, it was during the pandemic, so it was all remote. But in addition to the scholarship support, we also were given the opportunity to work an internship over the summer, which was their Scholar Program. And we got, like, this an amazing opportunity to sit in on different guest speakers they would have who would give us insight into the industry and open our minds to the possibilities of where we can fit in within the industry. 'Cause it's not all just about making the clothes. There's so much that happens-- 

Lisa Woolfork  26:00  


Celeste  26:00  

--from production and distribution. So it was really just getting a chance to see what's there. What happens, where you can fit, in where you can see yourself in the future. But I think the best part about that scholarship program has just been connecting with other Black creators, Black and brown creators. The award is specifically for Black and brown students. And I've met some amazing people. Ajai is actually one of the other Changemakers that I met through that.

Lisa Woolfork  26:00  

Oh, you came in the same year through the same--,

Celeste  26:02  

Absolutely, yeah. That's how we met. 

Lisa Woolfork  26:06  

What a small world!

Celeste  26:20  

And we've had such an amazing opportunity to grow together as artists and collaborate. Gucci has been very generous and fun to interact with. I just, actually, was given the opportunity--they're filming--well, they filmed--an ad, a commercial for their next upcoming award, Gucci Changemaker Award for 2023, I believe? And I am going to be in the commercial along with one of the fellow Scholars, Gabrielle, and a good friend that I met, Samuel, while filming. But yeah, it's just been a great way of, like, networking, meeting people within the industry, staying connected to Gucci. It's been a gift that keeps giving and it's been fun to experience, honestly. It's like, being on set filming for Gucci sounds like such a big deal. So it was such an amazing opportunity. [Laughter]

Lisa Woolfork  27:16  

Yeah, it absolutely is a big deal. And I can't imagine somebody being like, "[Scoffs] What, wait, you're on set for Gucci? Big whoop." No. No one is saying that. No one is saying that with seriousness in their heart. 

And, so, tell us what's next for you. I guess the next few months for you are working on getting this thesis submitted, and this wonderful show that will happen in May. And then next? Do you have any ideas about what you'll do next? Or is that a question that's like, "Oh, it's still so fraught," or, "You know what? I am not ready to answer that, because I am still in love with this process."

Celeste  27:49  

I'm in love with the process. And the process is igniting being connected to be such a dreamer. Because I think what has taken me most of all on this journey is just being very connected to my child self that was not afraid to dream big, and see big things for me. I think as you get a little beat up in life, sometimes you drop parts of that, 'cause it's like, oh, that's childish. Oh, I just need to do this, that, or the third. But really, this journey is igniting that part of me that's like, "Yeah, I want to do big things. And I see big things." So American Dream was my thesis. But now American Dream is becoming my brand. So post-graduation, I see myself investing a lot of time and energy into bringing that baby up. Because I'm ready for that moment. I'm ready to invest in me and ready to invest in the American Dream by Celeste Nicole. So I see a lot of collaborating with friends, and getting that off the ground, and just nurturing that- this moment to turn into something bigger. So that's what I see for right now. And yeah, for right now the focus is just putting my all into making a beautiful thesis and taking care of me in the process.

Lisa Woolfork  28:55  

That sounds delightful. And so I'm gonna ask you one last question. This is a question we ask everyone- the slogan of the Stitch Please podcast is that "we will help you get your stitch together." So Celeste Nicole, what advice would you have for our listeners to help us get our stitch together?

Celeste  29:12  

Keep always investing in yourself. Always putting time into what makes you passionate, happy. Investigating the "why"'s of what brings you the most joy. Why does that bring you joy? What about connecting to that makes you feel whole? Where can you chase these feelings of complete solitude, happiness, and peace? Find those things, answer those questions, and then just go for those. Just keep going for those things.

Lisa Woolfork  29:34  

I love it. And where can we find you if we wanna follow you on socials? How can we keep in touch with you? I don't know. Do you have time to be foolin' with social media? Like, honestly.

Celeste  29:43  

I'm the worst at social media, actually. It's a problem, because I'm realizing that social media is the new resume. So I'm in the works of getting an American Dream Instagram together, but right now I have a personal Instagram. I don't even know what my handle is. [Laughter]

Lisa Woolfork  29:59  

Listen, if she chooses to tell us her handle, y'all, we will put it in the show notes. How about that. She is working on a thesis, give her a break. She does not need to also be answering a whole lot of questions, I'm sure.

Celeste  30:09  

Yeah. So whenever I figure out what my handle is, I will give it to you, so that people- if they wanna connect with me-, I would love people to connect with me. The more the merrier. But soon I will have some official sites. It's in the works.

Lisa Woolfork  30:21  

Wow. Well, I thank you so much, Celeste. This has been a real delight. Thank you for speaking with me today. 

Celeste  30:28  

Likewise. This has been amazing. Thank you so much, Lisa.

Lisa Woolfork  30:31  


You've been listening to Stitch Please, the official podcast of Black Women Stitch, the sewing group where Black lives matter. We appreciate you joining us this week and every week for stories that center Black women, girls, and femmes in sewing. We invite you to join the Black Women Stitch Patreon community with giving levels beginning at five dollars a month. Your contributions help us bring the Stitch Please podcast to you every week. Thank you for listening. Thank you for your support, and come back next week and we'll help you get your stitch together.

Hosted by Lisa Woolfork

Lisa is a fourth-generation sewing enthusiast who learned to sew while earning a PhD in African American literature and culture. She has been sewing for more than twenty years while also teaching, researching, and publishing in Black American literature and culture.

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