Stay Sunny Girls Interview Series

Pt. 6 - Starling

Pt. 6 - Starling

Starling, London-based singer /songwriter, describes herself as a ‘real girl in an unreal world’.  To us, she’s the epitome of the Stay Sunny Chicago Girl: gutsy, determined, and destined for great things. Signed by record company Communion (set up by Mumford & Sons’ Ben Lovett) in 2015, Starling has quickly gained recognition for her songs and music, described as emanating a strangely ‘dark warmth’. She’s not afraid to explore the bleaker side of the human condition in her lyrics.  When we caught up with her she was just back from New York where she has been working on some exciting new projects. 


As a young child what or who did you want to be when you grew up? 

I wanted to be an actress as I wasn't very confident as a kid so thought they were really brave and cool. With good actors you feel like you know them, that they are somehow your friend because you relate to their story.


You started out with covers of Joni Mitchell and Bill Withers. When and why did you decide to become a singer/songwriter yourself?

I didn't really decide. I mean, I guess I did - as soon as I got over myself. I never thought I could sing, I was always too nervous; I thought my voice would shake so I didn't sing in public for the first time until four years ago. I have no musical training but I always loved singing in the shower and stuff and so when I got offered a slot in an open mic night in Soho I decided to go and that’s when I sung covers of my favourite artists. The voice didn't shake too much so I decided to follow my heart and various events followed on. I met my now manager in the bar where I worked and also Henry Binns of zero7. I wrote my first song 'take it down' with him and he produced the record. On one hand it just happened but on the other hand I worked hard: on songwriting and my voice and on loosening the grip of my fears.


What was the inspiration for the first song you ever wrote?

My parents’ divorce. I came across the paperwork when I was a kid, before they announced it and I was sad to the core.


Who gave you the support to keep writing in the beginning?

My manager, Alex Martin. He put me in loads of sessions and told me 'you know what you want and you know who you are'. The thing was I didn't but that kept me positive until I did.


Which of your songs did you have the most trouble writing? And why?

I have a few stories for you but it won't make sense as they are not coming out until the next ep. In short, the expression that ‘art is 10% inspiration and 90% perspiration’ is true. You get so inspired and buzzed at first with melody and concept and a few cool words you want to say but then the rest is like a puzzle and it’s working out how best to frame it.


Depression, solitude and a cathartic approach to writing form the lyrical basis to your work – is there a sunny side to Starling?

For sure. Like everyone I'm a million different people - and in this second ep 'the body' you will see the freedom and carelessness, I guess I’m just not afraid of my shadow hence why the debut was dark. I was giving myself the permission to sing the pain but now that’s passed through I’m in quite a bright place.


What famous musicians have you learned from?  Which do you most admire?

I watch a lot of Bowie interviews. He's a clever man. Also Prince has inspired me so much. Not afraid to push boundaries take risks and basically be an inspiration to the world - to be free with identity, gender and sexuality. I love how they constantly evolved musically as well as visually, there is nothing contrived or generic about them. Rest in peace.

What’s the advice you live by?

I have a lot of quotes in my mind. I’m a bit obsessed with quotes on Instagram but it can all be bit much. Basically without sounding morbid as hell, I just think about my funeral and what I would like people to remember me by. Life is so short that I try to remind myself to have the best life possible as there really is no dress rehearsal. So cut the small stuff and focus on what you love.


Have you had any crazy fan encounters?

Not in person but you should see the private messages I get on my fan page, wow. Some guys write telling me their relationship issues and if I could help them out. The detail is gross, honestly 


What next for Starling?

I really am excited for this year. Releasing this second ep over the next few months, then my third ep after that and then my debut album next year. I love singing more than anything in the world I can't tell you. So this dream now being my job is blowing me away!


What’s your message to the Stay Sunny girls out there who have a dream they want to follow?

You will get the break before you break. So keep going... and don't listen to your doubt, listen to your heart.



Pt. 5 - Alexandra Fullerton at Stylist Magazine

Pt. 5 - Alexandra Fullerton at Stylist Magazine


Photograph: @fullerton_fash on Instagram

Alexandra Fullerton is Fashion Director for Stylist magazine, a free weekly magazine for women aged 25 to 40, and published in the UK.  The magazine features fashion, beauty, health and travel among other areas but it also describes itself as taking an “intelligent approach over a broad range of cultures, tackling issues women face in their professional and personal lives”.

Alexandra is also a committee member (press) on the British Fashion Council. 

Her very popular Instagram is dotted with cute and wacky pieces of advice/quotes among the series of beautifully styled photographs of new looks and shoes. Our favourite is this one –



Photograph: @fullerton_fash on Instagram

But behind the cute sayings is the story of a very talented woman whom Stay Sunny Chicago is immensely impressed by. We asked her about herself and how she got to where she is today. 

At what age did you have your first foray into fashion? Were you one of those little girls intensely captivated by your own sense of style, choosing what to wear to Nursery School and getting your look just right?  Maybe helping your mother choose her clothes, and offering her fashion tips? 

I was obsessed with what I was wearing from a very early age, going so far as to rip up something my mum had laid out for me to wear – with my bare hands – because it wasn’t ‘right’ in my eyes. I also was putting on fashion shows and doing an early version of the flatlay with my clothes. Although I spent age 8-18 in jodhpurs and smelly horse-riding jumpers I would still look at Vogue and dream about the way they created a narrative through the clothes they used.

What was your pathway into the fashion business? 

I started doing work experience in fashion PR aged 16 and then got a work experience placement at Arena aged 18 as part of my degree in Fashion Promotion at The London College of Fashion. I started going on more shoots and was learning so much from being actually in the industry, I dropped out of my course to work full-time.

 Did you have an interest in art and design or photography – and if so, do you think that is important for someone wanting to be a stylist/fashion editor/fashion director?

You need to have an eye for composition, mood and also you need to have taste and to know what works together – and that’s not necessarily perfect, ‘good-taste’, ‘so wrong it’s right’, bad taste is also useful. It also is crucial to know about the history of art, fashion design and photography to help with references and knowing where collection ideas / images / shoot concepts stem from.

Alexandra Fullerton Stylist Magazine

Photograph: @fullerton_fash on Instagram


Do you think there are certain personality traits that suit the role?

Tenacity, creativity and positivity are key.

Is there a typical day as a fashion director and can you describe it?

There isn’t! I might be travelling. I might be on a shoot or at the shows, I might have an office based day of admin and creative brainstorming. I might be meeting PRs on the bi-annual seasonal press days or doing a studio visit with a designer. I could be doing HR reviews for my team or working on a strategy for the future fashion pages in Stylist.

September Issue Stylist Magazine

September Issue Stylist Magazine

September Issue Stylist Magazine

September Issue Stylist Magazine

September Issue of Stylist Magazine - Photography Victor Demarchelier, Fashion Alexandra Fullerton

Can you tell us what your role on the British Fashion Council Press Committee involves?

This morning I hosted an interview with Molly Goddard and Tom Shickle as part of a seminar for students and new business for the BFC but essentially it’s supporting the BFC and their initiatives – and sharing my experiences as a member of the press attending London Fashion Week. I also get the chance to vote for the nominees of the upcoming Fashion Awards (December 5th).

Stylist magazine advocated for and took part in Equal Pay Day for women this year, and along with your female colleagues you left work 18 percent earlier than on a normal day. This was to recognise the pay gap (18 per cent) for full time and part time women in the workforce in the UK (and elsewhere).  Are there any other issues you feel strongly about?

Personally I feel that maternity benefits need improving. While way more advanced than many countries. 

How far ahead do you need to be to forecast fashion trends? How do you research this? Any predictions?

I just work six months in advance as this is how far in advance I need to work to for my job – I get the insider track on the trends from attending the international fashion weeks – and then work out what is relevant – and most importantly, not – for Stylist’s readers. But trade fairs, fabric fairs and trend-prediction companies like WGSN work years in advance. 

Shoes feature strongly on your Instagram pages. What’s your favourite pair, and dare we ask, how many pairs do you own?

I can’t play favourites! And I have no idea how many I own. #thedailyshoe aren’t all mine though, often I snap a pair I’ve seen on a shoot or in the fashion cupboard.

What’s your one or two pieces of advice for someone wanting to follow you into the fashion industry as a stylist or fashion director/editor?

Be realistic – there are many other routes into working in the fashion industry and perhaps your skillset might be more suited to be a PR or an agent. You also need to do as much work experience as possible to understand how a magazine works, if this is the route you want to take.



Pt. 4 #bizbabes with Project NM

Pt. 4 #bizbabes with Project NM

Nicole Gonzalez Project NM

I first stumbled across Project NM when I was starting Stay Sunny and was scrolling Instagram for inspiration. Nicole's positivity was infectious and it's been such a joy to watch her brand grow into a tribe of women all supporting each other. Having a good crew is so important when starting any business, especially if you're doing it on your own. I caught up with her to see how it's all going and what's next for Project NM. 

When did you start Project NM?

I launched PROJECT NM last November! 

When/how did you get the idea for it? 

I got the idea back in January of last year! I still remember that day like it was yesterday. I was sitting at my kitchen table, drinking coffee and brainstorming ideas with my Mom-we’re total besties! I remember talking to her that morning about how hard finding women who were like-minded and understood my obsession with being an entrepreneur was- I needed a tribe of babes to hustle with and who just “get it”. And just like that, I created PROJECT NM. A place where I could build relationships with other entrepreneurs who were go-getters, determined and unapologetically ambitious.

What’s been the trickiest thing about being your own boss?

The amount of workload and responsibility that comes with being your own boss is insane! I’d say having to juggle so many things all at once could be the trickiest thing, especially if you’re a one woman show in the beginning!   

Give us your best piece of advice?  

·      Follow your intuition and let your passion(s) guide you. 

·      Never let the fear of failure overpower your desire to win.

·      Don’t take advice from anyone who isn’t where you want to be.

·      Stay true to who you are and stay in your lane. 

·      Commit and always follow through.

Nicole Gonzalez Project NM

Photo: @shop_projectnm instagram

What are your three best tips for growing your brand via social media? 

- Engage with your social media besties every single day

- Like their pictures and comment if you really love it - be genuine

- Hit that 'Follow' button at the top of other like-minded individuals and connect with them

- Produce quality content that always represents your brand 

- Focus on creating genuine relationships vs getting more “followers” 

What is a day in your life? 

Usually, it consists of countless lattes, a morning or afternoon workout, answering emails, attending meetings, posting on Instagram, planning photoshoots and drafting up content for the site and the IG!

What’s your favourite social media platform and why?  


I feel like Insta is such a great platform. The connections you can make with people all around the world are endless! 

Nicole Gonzalez Project NM

Photo: @shop_projectnm instagram

Are you a procrastinator? 

Guilty- lol. It’s definitely something I struggle with. 

What do you do if you lose motivation?  

When I'm not feeling motivated or like "things couldn't get any worse", I take a minute to look back and reflect on everything I’ve already accomplished, sales I’ve made, relationships I’ve made, goals I’ve reached. It helps me kinda snap back into reality when things seem like they aren’t moving as fast as I’d like. 

Where do you see yourself in 5 years? 

Serving as an inspiration to other women and entrepreneurs who never thought they could build a successful business all while loving what they do, organizing events and boot camps for our PROJECT NM tribe, designing all kinds of merchandise for the “#bizbabe”, the sky’s the limit!

Anything exciting coming up you can share with us? 

Actually, yes! I’m in the works of organizing our very first #bizbabe event here in Miami, FL and will be announcing the event date and deets pretty soon! I also have a few other exciting things in the works but you’ll have to stay tuned to find out! 


Follow Nicole and all of her inspiration over on Instagram at  and her website 

Nicole Gonzalez Project NM

Nicole wearing our Samantha top in black.