Cinnamon Girl: Leah Lu

Celeste Scott

Cinnamon Girl is a column introducing the staff and support who help run the magazine, featuring a series of profiles on the people who are helping bring this project to life — aka your chance to get to know the early members of this blossoming collective. The title is an homage to the Neil Young song, but we’ll update it for boys, non-binary and all other preferred gender presentations.

1. Hi, what’s your name?

My name is Leah Lu.

2. How are you involved in Cinnamon?

I helped develop Cinnamon’s visual identity by illustrating the mag’s logo, as well as the little icons you see across the site.

3. Wow, what a cool talent! When did you first get interested in that?

Thanks! I’ve been an avid doodler from as long as I can remember, mostly focusing on text-based typographic illustrations. I started “formally” illustrating in college, creating designs for various publications, brands, musicians, weddings, etc. I feel like my style has changed a lot since I first started, though, and I still haven’t quite figured out how to describe it, which is something I’m working on. Whatever feels fitting in the moment, I guess. It’s not my full time gig by any means but I’d really like to do it more and more.

4. Can you tell me about the food and drink you like to put into your body?

Embarrassingly enough, I’ve only recently started actually thinking about the food and drink I put into my black hole of a body. I am famously addicted to fast food. Growing up in the suburbs within a half-mile radius of Del Taco, Wendy’s, McDonalds, you name it – has made me a bit of a trash food connoisseur. As I get older, though, I’ve been paying more attention to choosing healthy and hearty foods with ingredients I can actually name. I recently moved to a new city and new apartment, so I’m hoping to fill into this aspirational vision of a linen-clad woman that floats around the kitchen cooking vegetables from the farmer’s market and brewing her own kombucha. Once I finish the 2 dozen frozen dinners in my fridge.

5. Can you tell me about the kind of art and literature you like to put into your brain?

Loaded question! I had a pretty interesting relationship with art/literature/music/film/~culture~ et al growing up in a somewhat sheltered environment, which I won’t dive too deep into now, but a way I’ve often found myself describing it is that “I’ve spent my whole life catching up.” That being said, I’ve always seen all art as a form of escape (is that cliché enough?), and clung to it in order to indulge my imagination and emotions (I am very emotional). The ones I enjoy the most are songs and stories that I feel seen and represented by, no matter how “lowbrow” or “basic” those things may be. Anyway, to answer the question…I am mostly drawn to things created by witty, wonderful women. To name a few – writers like Helena Fitzgerald, Molly Young, Jenny Zhang, Jia Tolentino. Musicians like Mitski, Sharon Van Etten, Julien Baker, Phoebe Bridgers. Films made by and about women… especially coming-of-age movies, duh. But then my most listened-to artist on Spotify is The National and I have a Bon Iver tattoo, so I am also very much a trope of a person.

6. How do you like to care for yourself?

I take very long walks through the city and spend hours on the phone with my friends.

7. In your dream world, how would you spend the majority of your time?

(See above question)

8. Tell me about a living creature you’ve had a lot of love for that wasn’t a human, or about your favorite plant.

I have this plant that I don’t even know the name of that has died completely and come back to life nearly a dozen times since I got it when I was 17. It now lives at my parents’ house. There have been points where I really thought it was completely beyond saving, and I’ll leave home for, like, 6 months, and when I come back it’s somehow as healthy as I’ve ever seen it. Most likely because my parents actually know how to care for it. There’s probably a metaphor here somewhere.

9. Speaking of the L word, what does love mean to you?

I don’t know if I can say I have ever been “in love,” and often I don’t think I am doing my best at loving, but I’ve felt the most real love in my friendships. Is it cheating to use that monologue from Frances Ha here? I’m doing it anyway:

“It’s that thing when you’re with someone, and you love them and they know it, and they love you and you know it, but it’s a party… and you’re both talking to other people, and you’re laughing and shining… and you look across the room and catch each other’s eyes… but – but not because you’re possessive, or it’s precisely sexual… but because… that is your person in this life. And it’s funny and sad, but only because this life will end, and it’s this secret world that exists right there in public, unnoticed, that no one else knows about. It’s sort of like how they say that other dimensions exist all around us, but we don’t have the ability to perceive them. That’s – That’s what I want out of a relationship. Or just life, I guess.”

10. What were you like when you were a little kid?

Very dramatic! And quite reclusive. I made up a lot of ultra-nuanced scenarios in my head, ones I’d pick up from where I left off later on and often spanned extensive imaginary timelines. I liked gathering information that was really quite useless. I listened to a lot of music. I probably was very annoying to my parents. Now thinking of it, I am still exactly this way.

11. Where do you live now and why did that place call out to you?

I live in Williamsburg, Brooklyn. I am one of those potentially insufferable people who has always dreamed of living in New York, so it still feels sort of unreal. I’ve said that my current stage of “New Yorker” can be described as “headphones in so I look stoic and unbothered, but no music playing so I can take in every decibel of potential tenderness.” I’m very happy here.

12. Tell me about your personal style and how dressing your body is part of your life.

I was not friends with my body for a very long time! We still don’t get along swimmingly. But in the past year I’ve tried to be softer with it, and a big part of that has been by playing with clothes. I like wearing things that make me feel fun and free or powerful and put-together – crop tops! Patterned pants. Bright colors (and monochrome neutrals). Midi skirts and fun shoes. Whatever energy I want to channel that day.

13. Tell me about a record that changed your life.

Like I mentioned before, I have a Bon Iver tattoo (my only tattoo currently). It’s the word “UNBURDENED” in my handwriting, from the line in the track “8 (circle)” off of 22, A Million: “I’ll keep in a cave your comfort and all / unburdened and becoming.” That album came out when I was halfway through college, at a point when I was questioning nearly everything. It was scary, because it felt like the entire identity and set of beliefs I’d built up to that point was beginning to fizzle out (or combust violently). That record also symbolized a departure of sorts for Bon Iver, too, and people seemed to either love or hate the sudden obscurity of the new direction. I found a lot of solidarity and comfort in that. I could go on and on on what it means to me. But you should just listen to it yourself.

14. Tell me about a person you admire with your whole heart.

There are many, but for the sake of choosing one, I will go with my friend Celeste Scott. She is one of the funniest people I know, and also one of the smartest. We’ve been there for each other during some of the most formative moments of our young adult lives, which has formed a really special bond between us. She is meticulous with her thoughts, beliefs, and actions, and even just being around her makes me better, I think.

15. Tell me about a time you showed resilience and grace, even if it was tough.

I graduated college a few months ago, then moved across the country to start a new job, move into a new apartment, try making new friends, get evicted from said apartment after 2 months (not my fault I swear), move into another, etc. Big identity crisis! Big conflicting understanding that I am extremely lucky to be where I am, but still feel very sad and lonely and lost nearly all of the time. So maybe I would say I am displaying resilience by just continuing to show up. You know those clown punching bags with the weighted bottoms that pop back up to a standing position no matter how hard you hit them? I would like to think that’s what I look like these days. A full clown, but an endearingly unrelenting one.

16. Who is your favorite rapper? (Oh yeah? Name five of their albums! JK, continue.)

I am exclusively listening to Tyler, the Creator and Lizzo this summer.

17. What is the best skincare or makeup item you’ve ever encountered?

The Ordinary’s Salicylic Acid has been a great product for me (Editor’s note: hard same). I use it at night after I moisturize. I had really painful cystic acne during college and it still pops up on occasion, and I don’t want to say definitively that this product “saved” my skin because I’m sure it was a mixture of other factors, but it’s really helped.

18. What is your favorite place to visit?

This may sound weird but my family made this habit of taking trips to Las Vegas at least once a year since I was a kid, and I’ve become far too fond of it than I’d like to admit (I feel like there’s a sort of relief in enjoying things that are universally viewed as grossly unsophisticated, which is maybe what ties my answers to all of these questions together).

19. Who in your family are you the most like or closest to? (If it’s no one, pick someone else relationally close and describe why you’re similar or have a close relationship.)

My dad and I are very similar, both in terms of personality and the way we look. One time I caught a reflection of myself in a window and thought it was my dad. Low moment.

20. Is there life on Mars?

I really hope so.

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