For my very first interview in the Live All of You Series, I am so happy to introduce you to my fellow Coloradan, Tonya Leigh. An admitted hedonist, Francophile, romantic and insatiable curator of experiences, Tonya is an absolute joy to behold.
She’s a certified Master Coach, an internationally-trained sommelier, and a joie de vivre instigator for women of every age. And she fuses all her passions into her business, French Kiss Life (which is part of her credo: “French Kiss Life. Cherish The World. And The Rest Will Follow”).
Tonya truly lives what she teaches, and I’m proud to introduce her to Live All of You readers as one of the women who inspires me to live fully.
Read on for the full interview!
Amy Segreti: Tonya, for those who don’t know you, what’s your informal, meeting-someone-on-a-plane description of what you do and why you do it?
Tonya Leigh: I do a lot! I speak, I write, I take women on retreats. My mission is to inspire women to create lives of elegance and style. I’m a joie de vivre instigator; I want people to find joy in life.
I do this through my blog and through my coaching programs, like Slim, Chic & Savvy, a French-inspired approach to weight loss. I also work privately with clients in my 3-month French Kiss Life immersion program and my high-end French Kiss the World society. My team and I and 10-14 women meet up three times a year in fabulous locations.
What kinds of ladies come to your meetups and programs?
I tend to attract affluent women in the corporate world who have been very focused on career and lost sight of what truly brings them joy, and then had this awakening that there has to be more.
Awesome! Ok, let’s get into the behind-the-scenes of your days. I believe strongly in the importance of mornings. What is a highly productive morning like for you?
I am very intentional about starting the day off with leisure—every day. I wake up and say my gratitudes. And I don’t just say them, I feel them—I breathe into them, I take a moment to feel what each one means to me. I say to the universe: “I’m excited about what you’re going to bring me today.”
How do you get your work flow started?
Well, I don’t check email in the morning, because it puts me in reactive mode instead of creative mode. A lot of people wake up with their To-Do list; I wake up with a To-Be list. I ask myself who I want to be today—some days I want to be productive, or inspirational, or fun and playful. I decide who I want to be before I do.
Once I give myself space to write that out, I tackle no more than three things to do today. I always turn on music, it sets the mood for my To-Be list; I have a cup of coffee. I get my daughter to school, and I get into my office around 9:30 a.m.
Do you typically have a planned-out schedule for your week?
I have dedicated days to work with clients, and other days dedicated to my marketing, writing and business planning. I don’t need to have my schedule be very rigid— I’m pretty organic in that regard—but I know my big plan for the week and what needs to get accomplished.
How do you make space for you in your work?
I always dress the part. I think often times especially when we work from home, we can become lazy with our appearance. Women are like, “I’m in my sweatpants,” but I believe you need to dress the part of the woman you want to be. Adornment is so important. So I decide what outfit I’m going to wear, I do it for me, and it changes my energy.
I also have my non-negotiables: one of mine is exercise. I always look at: Where is the time I can infuse this into my calendar? Also, I incorporate time with friends, and I see often times that’s the first thing people let go of when they start a business, then they complain they don’t feel connection.
I’m not willing to sacrifice; I know that the time spent with the people I love is much more important than the money I make. I have the opportunity to combine business and pleasure a lot, trips to Paris are what I love and I can do my work in that space. I’m always trying to help people infuse what they do for work with what they love to do.
We both live in Colorado, and I feel sometimes the energy here is the opposite of say, a big city, where people might overwork and get sucked into that mindset. But here, people might tend to overplay (I may be talking about myself)…
Ha! I’m a big believer in energy. And I agree, I’ve definitely found the challenge here is: you’re around people who want to play all the time. Which is fabulous, but it can be hard to find people who are creating things other than a mountain bike ride.
How do you handle that? What keeps you on task?
I believe in surrounding yourself with support. Women struggle enough without support, doing it on their own. I have a business manager in Paris; we meet once a week and look at strategy for the year. She keeps me in alignment when she sees me in my dreamy state! I also have help with customer service and billing, and an event planner who takes care of all of our retreats.
Where do you go to get inspiration?
As an entrepreneur, it’s up to you to make it happen. In this Law of Attraction world, we have this misconception that motivation is going to come knock on your door. That has not been the case for me.
I work to get inspired. I surround myself with a fabulous group of mentors and friends who support my vision. When I’m needing a boost, I call them up, they help me get back into alignment.
I’ve been called a Leisurely Hustler: for me what that looks like is that I don’t lose sight of life. By doing that I automatically get inspiration, because I step away from my business and do things I love, like throw dinner parties or go hiking. It’s those moments in which you get inspired and get ideas—through intuition, or a great conversation.
Combining leisure and hustle does require a kind of trust—I find that people get stuck because they don’t trust the process. At the same time, that doesn’t mean I give myself a cop out to sit around and do nothing.
What it comes down to is: Are you having a love affair with life or not? That’s what French Kiss Life is about.
What spiritual practices or tools do you have that keep you in check?
Just being aware of where my headspace is and practicing appreciation is a huge spiritual practice for me. One of the beautiful things about Colorado is being able to get out into nature.
I do have my go-to affirmations, like: “Girl, you’ve got this.” But, it’s about being awake. I know that sounds general, but it’s really about being alive to what’s present in every moment.
What is one of your favorite quotes that keeps you inspired or centered?
I read a lot of Rumi and Hafiz. My favorite quote ever is: “One regret, dear world, that I am determined not to have when I am lying on my deathbed is that I did not kiss you enough,” by Hafiz.
What have been some of the most influential books you’ve read that have impacted the way you operate in the world?
Some of my favorite books are: Awareness by Anthony De Mello, Conversations With God by Neale Donald Walsch, and Love Poems from God by Daniel Ladinsky. Those are my three go-to books that really changed a lot for me. I also studied under Martha Beck, and I love Byron Katie’s, Loving What Is.
I don’t read a lot of self-help anymore. The reason: I find that especially with women I work with they’re constantly trying to fix themselves. I don’t think anyone’s broken, thinking you’re broken makes you feel broken. I enjoy reading fiction, the classics, things that I would have put off before to read a self-help book.
All right, I have a fun one for you: Paint me a picture of your inner child. What’s she wearing, what’s she doing?
That’s the best question ever! My inner child is a wild child, she definitely doesn’t like to be told what to do, she has her own idea of what the world should look like. She’s wearing something frilly, a Kremlin, doing circles and her dress is flying up! She’d also have combat boots paired with that skirt. That’s a fascinating question. And in diving deeper into that, I notice I’m constantly having to battle with her, calm her down, in my day-to-day work—she wants to go out and play, she wants to have fun, and I’m constantly having to reward her.
So, as anyone who clicked on your site would immediately know—you’re really into Paris. How did this love affair come about?
I went there over a decade ago while I was working as a registered nurse, but I felt out of alignment with who I wanted to be. I was raised in the south where people are raised to be a secretary or nurse. I remember looking around and thinking, these people are French kissing life, everywhere I looked. The way they were immersed in their coffee, or reading a book or making out with each other. These people were sensual.
I started studying the culture: pleasure and sensuality, food and wine, and I started infusing my day-to-day life with those elements, the essence of that. At the same time, I enrolled in sommelier school, started doing food and wine writing, etc. When women started reflecting that this was outside of the norm, I saw an opportunity to show women how to explore their desires and draw them to them.
If you were coaching yourself of 10 years ago, what would you tell her?
You’ve got some great questions! ::laughter:: The first one would be to stop worrying about what other people think. It’s not your job; what you think of you is your business.
The other: I’d tell myself to get out of my head and take more action because clarity comes through action.
Be really mindful to how you go about creating what you want. The best analogy to use is beating yourself up to get to your ideal weight—you won’t be happy because of the way you did it. There is no happy ending to an unhappy journey. I think about: How happy is my journey?
We talk about do what you love—but it’s also do what you’re really good at, and see where the two intersect. I’m really good at helping women break through road blocks. I’m also really good at eating, but…
I’m always looking at: Is this what I need to be doing, or is this something just to incorporate into my life?
I’d also tell her: be really mindful as to what people are thanking you for. That’s always a clue to where you can give value in the world.
“Wow, you give me permission to be feminine,” people were thanking me for constantly. I didn’t realize it at the time.
The last thing is: cut out the middle man. Oftentimes, we have a middle man that we put into the equation of happiness: “When I’m my ideal weight, I’ll feel sexy, or when I have X amount of money, I’ll feel abundant.” I wish I knew that I didn’t need that middle man, that I could create that for myself now.
Just live the essence of what you want now. I know now that I am not my thoughts, but I didn’t realize that ten years ago. I really believed that I didn’t have what it took or that I wasn’t smart enough or that no one would care—I didn’t realize that’s just a thought, it’s not who you are.
Wow, that is beautiful. It seems like you’ve figured a lot out since then. When things feel off now for you, what action do you take to bring yourself back into alignment?
When I feel like I’m not being myself? Two things: I either sleep or I go for a walk. We’re usually told instead to do more! I actually do less, and my energy instantly shifts. I find that we often get into that mind space because we’re exhausted, then we try to do more to prove ourselves wrong! Then we keep up this toxic cycle of exhaustion. I give myself permission to rest and reflect.
Right on! I completely agree. Tonya, what’s something in your life or work that you’re currently trying to improve?
My financial life! I’ve always had this belief that I’ll always have money, and I’ve always had just enough money. But I’m tired of just having enough money, I want to become very financially savvy and I’m consciously doing that.
Part of my routine is that I have a date with my money every morning. I consciously sit down with my money. I open up Mint and take a minute to celebrate abundance and be really real with my money. That’s part of my improvement.
Nice. What other technology do you use to stay focused and inspired?
I am a Google whore! Google calendar, apps, docs, Gmail… I’m definitely big on those. My team uses Asana for projects. I’m also hugely into Evernote—that’s how I collect ideas on the Internet. Mint, of course, is my new best money friend. I also use the iPhone Reminders app. I’m really good at thinking of something and it disappearing, so I write it down. We also use InfusionSoft for client emails, which is amazing.
What is your one-word definition of success?
Love. Adventure. Beauty.
Wonderful! And anything big coming up that you want to share?
Yes! My Slim, Chic and Savvy program starts very soon. It’s designed to support you in becoming the woman you deeply desire to be… with pleasure and style, of course! We differ from a lot of formulas and systems that teach you what to do, because when you decide who you want to be, the doing becomes so much easier.
Thank you so much, Tonya.
Thank you! We’ll have to meet up in Colorado for a glass of champagne or a coffee.
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