If Stacie Hess reminds you of a real-life Disney princess, that’s probably because she kind of is. In a serious case of art imitating life, the Hawaiian-native landed a role in an original Disney movie about a surfer in Hawaii when she was just 14 years old, a role that you could say was always written in the stars…
These days Stacie is more comfortable behind the lens, combining her namesake jewellery label with her self-taught photography business – a combination that puts her creative prowess at the forefront of everything she does. How does she juggle the two? It’s all about scheduling and getting things done, fast. “When I have deadlines for jewellery and I’m travelling for my photography, I sit down with the calendar and map it all out… I’m very quick and precise when I shoot. I spent so many years in front of the camera and hated the 8+ hour long days to end up with five photos. It takes me a fraction of the time to get what I need in a shoot.” We caught up with the gorgeous mama to Amelia to find out how her work and family life are inspired by her Hawaiian roots, how she’s navigating motherhood with a pre-teen and why Aussie label bassike is her ultimate pick when it comes to her jewellery line and personal style aesthetic.
Talk us through some vivid memories of your childhood...
I’m so lucky to have been raised in Hawaii. It’s unlike any other place. Even with all the traveling, I do now, nothing compares to the air, the water, the light and the smells of the islands. It’s a very respectful culture – where we call all of our elders “Aunty” or “ Uncle” – and everything is about family. I have two brothers (I’m in the middle) and we spent our childhood playing sports during the week and having potlucks on the beach every weekend. There was a lot of boogie boarding and swimming and fishing with family friends and summers spent on ranches and in beach houses.
Talk us through your earliest memories of being in front of the camera when you were 11. What do you love about modeling and what do you find challenging…
I started modeling locally, in Hawaii, when I was 11 and I absolutely loved it. My first big agency was Wilhelmina in NY when I was 12 and I just kind of grew up in the industry. At the time, it was all I wanted to do. Looking back on it now, I realize that what I loved about it was the whole production of a shoot. The energy and all the people that became a family. I loved being in that atmosphere.
Honestly, the challenge of modeling for me, is the attention. Haha. It’s odd because growing up, between acting and modeling, my place was in the “spotlight” but I’m a very private person. Even shy at times. I’m really not good talking about myself, I’m much better being on the other side of the camera nowadays. Where I’m not “ON” all the time and I get to control the energy and atmosphere.
You were one of the original Disney movie girls. Can you tell us about that experience?
At the age of 14, I came to Los Angeles having switched from modeling to acting. My dad gave me one year in LA to land a “big” job or I’d be going home to Hawaii. That one year finish line was coming up and I was readying myself to move back home when my agent called with this role that couldn’t have been more me. It was an Original Disney movie about Hawaii, as one of the leads, who was a surfer. Naturally, I booked it and we filmed in Queensland, Australia. It was a dream. We were there for months, living on the beach at Burleigh. We’d get up every morning and go for a surf then come in and do hair and makeup and film all day. That was perfection for me – surfing and working. At that age, and at that time, it was all huge. Just a whirlwind.
Did you always want to be a mother? And how has your daughter changed your life?
I did always want to be a mother. But I always thought I wanted three kids. All boys. The moment I got pregnant I just knew I was carrying a girl and I couldn’t even imagine anything else. Now I can’t even fathom what I’d do with a boy, let alone three! My girl keeps me busy and life is non-stop with just the one hahaha. I have the utmost admiration for big families and still do dream of having a big chaotic home with barefoot babies running naked on the beach. I’m not sure how she’s exactly changed my life as I was young and (compared to now) directionless. I’d say she IS my life. She has encompassed my entire being and moulds my future.
What kind of mother do you aspire to be? How would you describe your parenting style?
Above all, I’m trying to raise a good person with a heart of gold and compassion. We’re very open and honest and loving in our household. I talk to my daughter constantly, about everything, and I expect and would only want the same from her. As she gets older, I want her to come to me about anything and everything. I have a few hard rules and ways of doing things and other than that, I’m very flexible and open. If we don’t see eye to eye on something, we talk it through till we get to a point where we’re both happy and on the same page. We fight and argue, like any other parent raising a pre-teen (maybe four times a year, if that, thank goodness!), but we have rules in how we argue as well. We do it respectfully and never become “the victim”. And it never lasts long. There’s always a lot of “I’m sorry’s” (even during our disagreements) and hugs and kisses and her climbing into my lap, after our little tiffs. If anything, these moments are so important for us to have as it just makes us understand one another better and our love and connection somehow gets stronger.
You’re a self-taught photographer. Talk us through a day on set with you – how you like to work?
I’m very quick and precise when I shoot. I spent so many years in front of the camera and hated the 8+ hour long days to end up with five photos. It takes me a fraction of the time to get what I need in a shoot. I like to work one on one with my subject(s) and let the rest fall away. I don’t over plan as it tends to take the creativity out of it for me and one little change (say, in the weather) can throw a shoot into chaos – I like to go with the flow. Many shoots have ended up with us shooting in a downpour.
Have you ever felt insecure and if so, how do you overcome these feelings?
Oh absolutely! I think my 20’s were confusing – with having a child early on and being alone and trying to find myself. We’re always growing and changing and often times trying to find the right footing in life. These are definitely moments that we all have… I try to do things for myself though. Everything I create, whether it’s my jewelry or my photography, I do for me. I’m my hardest critic. I’m always striving to do better. As long as I’m happy and secure within myself, other people’s options don’t matter. If I get passed up on a job, I know it’s not personal. People have different tastes and aesthetics and I’m happy with who I am and what I put out.
In a selfie obsessed world, what will you teach your daughter about self-love?
It’s horrible. This selfie obsession is just the opposite of self-love. It’s an insecure society that we are living in. She’s currently into Musical.ly, which I’m not all on board with at her age, but I’m indulging her. Because, on the flip side, she’s also discovering herself – the way her body moves, her voice, her image – and I don’t think it’s a bad thing. I want her to love her. We talk a lot about inner beauty. How it reflects outwardly. She gets it.
What excites you about being a woman today?
Independence. We are so capable and strong. My parents’ generation is just so different. My mom and I talk about this constantly. Even though she worked, my dad courted her and never let her pay for anything. When my parents see me paying for a dinner or a flight, they’re a bit appalled but it’s amazing to me that I CAN do that. I have a career and a life to call my own. I’m ok to be on my own. Even with a child. I can do this by myself if I choose to do that. Because we are capable and strong and able to, today.
Motto you live by?
“It is what it is.” Because it is! We worry and stress so much and at the end of the day, there are no “what if’s…?” We roll with the punches and keep moving forward and upward.
What inspired the launch of your namesake jewellery line and how would you describe the aesthetic?
I’m obsessed with jewelry. Namely gold. And always have been since I was a child. In Hawaii, gold is very prevalent. We grow up with our fathers wearing gold chains and pendants and our mother’s arms jangling with Hawaiian bracelets. I grew up making jewelry – beads and wire and friendship bracelets. Basically, anything I could get my hands on. And when my daughter was a baby I took some metalsmithing courses but it just didn’t click at the time. My boyfriend had been telling me for years that I needed to create my own line because I literally dream in gold and diamonds. I was shooting lookbooks for a very dear friend of mine who makes the most amazing jewelry, Communion by Joy, and doing it on a trade basis as I didn’t want to charge her, as a friend. But by the third job together she said, “Look. You don’t need any more jewelry. You need to learn how to do this and create your own line.” She told me what tools to buy and I sat with her, eager to start the learning process and she says, “Actually, I’m a really bad teacher…..” So, again self-taught, I kinda just figured it out on my own. As far as my aesthetic – just gold, gold, gold and diamonds. This line started out with one piece here, that I wanted for myself. And then another piece there, that I was craving to add to my everyday look… and it just grew from there. It’s a representation of who I am and what I love. I’m attached to the idea of jewelry being passed down from generation to generation. As a child, my mother’s jewelry box was filled with heirloom pieces that her grandmother brought over from Korea and as she remembers, never took off – and so my focus is in quality and durability. I want your pieces to last forever. I want you to pass your rings down to your children who will wear them as adults and then pass them on to their children. I believe that jewelry is meant to be worn and beaten up and become a part of you. I personally don’t take my pieces off; I wear them to sleep, in the shower, in the ocean, at the gym, diving off cliffs…
What about the launch of Stacie Hess Littles – what can we expect from the range and who is your muse/inspiration for this range?
My Littles collection is ALL Amelia (my daughter). She’s inherited my love of jewelry and gold and the idea of not having to take your necklace or earrings or rings off. The children’s collection has been a rotation of what she’s wearing and loving lately. With real gold, it can be a bit difficult to commit financially for a child but I’ve noticed that it’s given Amelia a sense of responsibility. Jewelry is so personal and already at such a young age, she’s so attached to her pieces and on top of taking care of them.
You are stocked in well-known Australian brand bassike’s store. How did you meet the women behind bassike? What do you love about the brand?
I’ve been a fan, from afar, for years! It was always very difficult to get bassike here in the states until they opened their first international store in Venice about two years ago. I immediately became a regular customer and met Deb while she was in LA, through their amazing California manager, Chloe. Chloe had been telling me about Deb for months before she came and vice versa. The simplicity and quality of their brand is what initially drew me in (and their jeans of course! Can’t get any cooleR). I literally live in bassike. My boyfriend and I are constantly on planes and it’s all we wear when we travel. The moment I launched my jewelry line, Deb reached out to express her congratulations and interest and we got it in the store. I was honestly just so ecstatic that Deb was loving what I was doing – I would have been happy with just that – Deb’s aesthetic is just so on point. All that those ladies do is just phenomenal.
What’s a typical look for you? What items in your closet are on high rotation?
I’m very simple and all about comfort. I live in jeans (bassike) and T-shirts (also bassike). Actually, thinking about it now, it’s not a joke that my entire closet is bassike. A night out to dinner with friends is usually black Lo-Slung Jeans or the Classic Crop and my current favorite, the One Shoulder Jersey Tank in black with a pair of heels. On the flip side, I also do a lot of surf brands – Billabong and O’Neill and I live in bikinis during the summer here in LA.
What about your beauty essentials – what products do you use?
Pawpaw! Oh, I am the biggest fan. It’s a cure-all. Got a scrape? Pawpaw. Dry skin from flying? Pawpaw. Mozzie bite? Pawpaw. Pimple? Pawpaw. It is the BEST! I have tubes all around the house, in all our little travel bags. Nobody in our house gets on a plane without it. I’m also a big fan of aloe vera. I use aloe vera at night on my skin instead of the normal moisturizer. Makeup and cleansing is also simple and streamlined – all Glossier products. Their Milky Jelly Cleanser is on another level. That is the one beauty product I stock up on because I can not ever be without it. The Solution is also great. I use their concealer and highlighter and have been using the same Covergirl blush since I was a teenager.
Are you a night owl or early riser?
Definitely a night owl… and definitely NOT an early riser. I tend to be most productive and creative at night. If I’m editing for a client, that could easily go till 4 am and then I’m sleeping in till 11 am. A normal day at home doesn’t start till about noon, dinner around 10 pm and working through the night.
What kind of things do you typically eat in a day?
It always always starts with an iced vanilla latte. My normal diet consists of avocado or salmon toast. Salads (with french fries). Lots of fish and veggies. And if a cheeseburger is on the menu, I’m having it!
What about exercise – when did you start surfing/how do you feel when you’re in the water?
I actually started surfing quite late for a kid that grew up in Hawaii. I was 13 or 14. I took a year off from acting when I was 17 and went back to Hawaii and just surfed every single day. At one point, before I had my daughter, I was in the water every day… chasing swells up and down the coast, in Mexico every other weekend… these days I don’t get out very often. When we’re in town we try to make a habit out of going to yoga 2-3 times a week and in between there is cardio and EMS training. But when we do get in the water, it’s just a reset. Life is that much better. The stress melts away. There are no worries and my body feels stronger and in tune.
Advice to women looking to launch their own business?
Patience. Launching a business is overwhelming. There’s so much to learn and so many pieces in play before you even put your face out there. Having a real passion and believing, with your whole being, in what you’re doing makes all the difference as you need to be your own cheerleader. It takes time but it’s so worth it.
Highlights since you launched your own jewellery brand?
Hands down getting into bassike. And recently, having my profits from my jewelry line surpass my profits from my photography!
What have been some challenges you’ve faced since launching your own business and how have you overcome any challenges?
My biggest challenge has been juggling my businesses. I’m already non-stop with photography. And then I started my jewelry brand. When things get really busy and I’m traveling like crazy, I’m not home in LA and that’s where my jewelry production is. I need to be in LA and working from home to be productive and meet deadlines. It’s all about scheduling though. Between my work schedule, my boyfriend’s work schedule and Amelia’s schedule we’ve gotten quite good at making it work for everyone. When I have deadlines for jewelry and I’m traveling for my photography, I sit down with the calendar and map it all out. I know that I have to have this piece cast in gold and dropped off to my diamond setter before I leave for this job… and then I’m back on this day and immediately downtown to pick my piece up to get it finished by this day, before I leave on that flight. Beautiful madness.