LOUISA - PARIS
Born and raised in New York City, followed by a stint in Los Angeles, presently based in Paris, Louisa Pillot -aka LOUISAHHH- has led a colorful life. She is a DJ-producer-vocalist who has been dubbed the 'new queen of techno' by DJ mag, was a member of the Bromance Records family and founded RAAR, along with her creative partner Maelstrom. Her post alt industrial pop is recognizable for brutality and beauty. Be on the lookout for her first solo LP later this year.
Louisa shares how she has made peace with her body and mind, and let go of some of her toxic obsessions through a weekly routine that includes running, horseback riding, cardio and strength training, combined with meditation, prayers and intuitive thought.
INSIDE/OUT: Was physical education a central element of your identity at school when you were a kid?
Louisa Pillot: I grew up in New York City, so physical education was not a particularly exciting part of the curriculum for me. I felt like a spaz and was not really drawn to or talented at sports as a kid. My journey in sports, other than equestrian activity, started in my adult life, as part of my recovery from addiction.
What sports heroes do you remember from childhood?
Obsessive since day one, my heroes were all riders. Margie Goldstein-Engle, the Madden family, George Morris. I wanted to be like them when I grew up.
What’s the first sport you ever practiced?
The first sport I ever practiced was horseback riding.This has been a pretty consistent obsession since I was about three years old.
And the first one that made you feel confident?
As long as I can remember, I’ve had a lot of trouble feeling comfortable in my skin and confident in my body. The first time I can remember feeling powerful and in equanimity, in love with the world through a physical lens, was on a horse.
Left photo by Sebastien Novac. Right photo by Marylin Clark
Do you ever feel intense emotions during your workouts?
Of course, it’s probably during training that I experience the most powerful feelings. When I got sober in 2006, I was really shut down emotionally. Part of getting back to life, and keeping anxiety at bay, connecting to a higher power, has been learning how to train and finding joy and freedom in that. Within the structure of a good workout, the physical-mental-emotional-spiritual connection is paramount.
Your usual week schedule regarding workouts and activities?
I have a pretty rigid workout schedule. I train 5 days a week, around 90 minutes a day, and ride as much as my touring schedule allows. My training is split into cardio and strength, with about 45 minutes each per session, plus a weekly long run of 15-20k. I am really attached to self discipline in this area, and I take great comfort in structure and muscling through challenge. Right now my focus is actually on trying to better listen to and respond to what my body is asking, to go where the love is as opposed to what my somewhat militant self imposed training plan dictates. I’ve been on the road a lot this summer and I’m finding myself pretty burnt out, so instead of powering through that and getting sick and injured, I’m trying to be more compassionate and sensitive and use training as a place for joy and healing.
You’re a rider, tell us about your story with horses.
I first sat on a horse when I was about three years old, and got more serious around age six, when the obsession really took off. I became a ‘barn rat’ and began working as a student at the place I grew up riding, training and showing at. This was the primary purpose of my life until I got serious about music at around age 18. For me, horseback riding is sports, passion and therapy, and it definitely saved my life, especially as I started to battle drug addiction. Horses were always the anchor that kept me from getting too dark. I’ve owned a couple of horses, and leased a couple, and they were all special relationships. I’d say my 'horse of a lifetime' was a Dutch warmblood gelding, Jesse James, who I owned for 16 years. He really taught me how to be a better rider, and without a doubt I am a better human for loving him, and being loved by him.
How would you define the relationship that people from Paris have with the active lifestyle? Do you feel it always been this way?
When I first came here, I was coming off training for ultra-marathons; it felt like being ‘cool’ and an athlete couldn’t really co-exist, that these were two separate universes. My introduction to Paris was in great part through Nike Paris Running Club, which was basically the cool kids who I’d normally meet in the club or through work, training together as runners. This was kind of mind blowing to me at the time. It seems like this idea has really spread over the last 5 years I’ve been living here, that the ‘active’ lifestyle is really catching on and that people are interested in health and fitness because it’s chic and cool and creative, not just for its own sake. This is fine. Whatever gets you in the door, you know...
What is your ideal performance piece?
I’m still looking for a top that won’t give me weird tan lines when I go for long runs or rides in the summer! Tell me if you find one.
Your favorite activewear brands?
Nike is always at the top of the style game, I wear mostly their products because they look great and they’re highly functional. For long distance and trail runs, I like Hokka One One; I have a bit of a ’turf toe’ and these shoes resolve that.
What lifestyle rituals or routines do you do before or after working out?
I like training in the morning, it sets my brain for the day, allows me to test new music or listen to mixes. I have a 10-30 minute daily stretching before working out, just checking to see where there is tightness or soreness and find some love for the vessel I’ve been given. Afterwards, I try to eat something light and clean because I find myself quite hungry and bonking -mentally and physically hitting a wall- if I don’t get some calories within about 30 minutes after training.
What about beauty?
I’m growing my hair out at the moment, it was shaved or in Chelsea (Plume) most of last year, so it’s been interesting learning how to wear it in this awful in between. I try to encourage the curls with Bumble and Bumble Curl Conscious styling products.
What activities say Paris the most?
This is a great city for runners, even though the air is trash and there aren’t enough trails. Out on the canals, by the Seine, in the Bois, around the many wonderful parks, there are great places to explore Paris as a runner.
From street to studio, define your style.
I try to keep it pretty low key in the street and the studio, and really make an effort for performing, like putting on armor and war-paint for the stage. My favorite brands are Alyx, Stüssy, Acne and Alexander Wang because they can all be played high and low, and are equal parts weirdo punk and cool modern. For training, again, Nike and Hokka serve me really well.
What lifestyle trends do see happening?
I think 'wokeness' is really up this year, or since the 2016 elections. I like this because it’s really, really important; 'not being interested in politics' is a luxury none of us have any longer. This is reflected in social activism, more awareness on the part of both brands and consumers as to where our money is going and what these products are saying about conscious consuming: are they sustainable? Are the work practices of the brand in line with the values that they preach? Are there people other than cis white men in charge of these corporations? These are questions that are more pertinent than ever.
What activities have you recently discovered or want to try?
I am really curious about primal movement and functional mobility practices, it seems like it could be hyper beneficial to body-mind connection and general muscle and joint long term health.
Where does mind/body training fit into your life?
This is the alpha and the omega. Without training as kind of a keystone of sanity and grounding, the rest of my life is non-functional; my natural inclination to self loathing, anxiety and depression gets on my back really fast. Working out is the daily process of digging out of that, reconnecting with joy and spirit.
How do you strive to find balance in your life?
I’m not very good at balance, rather, I have obsessive tendencies, so I try to use my spiritual connection: prayer, meditation, service to others to create balance organically. If I follow prayer and intuitive thought and stay spiritually nourished, the balance takes care of itself.
What is the strongest wellness experience you went through?
There is a trail I run in LA, and every time I do it I am humbled by it. It kicks my ass and then gives me faith in a power greater than myself, teaches me how to live without fear. Every. Fucking. Time. This is the most powerful wellness experience I have the pleasure of re-calibrating with, over and over again.
Are selfcare and working out the new nightlife in Paris these days?
I don’t know if they’re the new night life, but they feel like a nice thing to work in tandem with clubbing, or a way to spend time when you’re less interested in going out but you still want to be socially and physically active. I think some people may start down this journey for some reasons, like this might be ‘cool’ or ‘chic’, but along the way those reasons might change, like ‘i’m learning to love myself and respect my body’, ‘i want to inspire others because I didn’t think I could do this and now look at me. Over time, it gets revealed, as with any kind of spiritual growth, that this is an inside job.
How have sports or physical activities impact your eating habits?
Oh god. I’ve forever had a disordered relationship with food, but training has definitely made me focus more on how strong and fast I am, as opposed to how skinny I am and what tiny size I can fit into. For me, it’s maybe all a trap of ego, that maybe I’ve traded anorexia for exercise bulimia, but I think it’s a journey. I try to eat clean and listen to my body and not bully myself too bad if I don’t think I look perfect - I’ve never in my life thought I looked perfect - and now realize I’m 32, maybe it’s not gonna get better but maybe it is just very good as it is, now that I am not obsessed about my lack of thigh gap and that I try to enjoy my life and help people.
Does challenging yourself physically take you out of your comfort zone in other areas of your life?
Especially running, if you’re 10 miles out in the middle of nowhere, you can’t really stop if you’re uncomfortable. You can slow down if you need to, but ultimately, in order to get home, you’re gonna have to keep running. This lesson has invaluable in life. Do not stop if it gets hard. Have some water and a little stretch and keep running and eventually you’ll finish the hard thing.
Have you ever traveled for sports or wellness?
There have been so many awesome adventures for races and trail runs. I’ve had the great pleasure of traveling to Copenhagen, London, Marseille, the Mojave desert, the Santa Monica Mountains and more for the joy of racing and training and friendship. I am lucky.
When travelling, how do you connect locally?
I used to be much more proactive with this, now my travel is mostly touring and I tend to stick to hotel gyms to avoid stress while on tour. If I get to be somewhere for a while, however, it’s been really nice to be shown around by local runners.
Do you feel more connected to communities online or physically?
I feel connected online to the world of running crews. While presently, my training is mostly solo, it’s been so nice to see the growth of these communities, especially on instagram. I know if I travel or move anywhere in the world I can find friends to run with and to show me around, and this is a really special thing to be a part of.
What destinations are on your wish list?
I’d love to train in Denver, Colorado as they have so many amazing trails to run, and the elevation makes it a challenge. I’d also like to visit Onnit Academy in Austin at some point, and maybe travel for some equestrian clinics in the UK. I love the British attitude around horse sports, they’re very gung-ho.
What role does music play in your practice?
It’s more how does my practice work with my music! I do all of my cardio to music, except trail running, which is a meditation. I can generally tell if a song will work on the dance floor if it makes me feel powerful, or gives me energy. Every song in a set will have been ‘gym tested’ this way.
What does female empowerment mean to you?
Honestly, for me it’s about giving hope and courage to other women, women who might struggle with what I struggle with, or lack the confidence to try new things, to create space for ourselves in what can be traditionally male-dominated everything.
The gym is a good place to start. Not only socially, in feeling comfortable and confident lifting heavy weights, but also physiologically. Fun Fact: when we lift heavy weights, testosterone is produced. This is good for libido, muscular function and metabolic function.
You’re an advocate for gender equality, can you elaborate?
I just think it’s absolute bullshit that in my line of work, it’s still acceptable to have a 23:1 male/female ratio on a festival lineup and I’m advocating to change that.
There is something dark and almost punk in your creative environment but we can sense as well a joyful positivity embodied by your Instagram tagline 'Thrilled to be alive'.
For me, the darkness is the way to the light, and unless I accept and celebrate that part of myself - which is admittedly a big part- the ‘thrilled to be alive’ part is a farce. For me, the forces of destruction and creation run very close together and I must be working in the constant awareness of both in order to survive.
Do your wellness practices give you a sense of community?
Even though I’m training mostly solo these days, I love the feeling of mutual respect and encouragement I feel from my peers trudging this path. I love seeing the same people at the gym every day; I don’t know their names, but we nod and smile at each other. I love looking at Strava and seeing the progress friends are making from around the world and feeling grateful to bear witness to someone’s growth, and that people are bearing witness to mine. I am naturally quite judgemental, especially of myself, and to be reminded that ‘we are all in this together’ and that i am not aware of what anyone else is walking through today, that we are all running our own race, is a helpful way to practice love, rather than judgement, with my fellow striving athletes on this planet.
Do you have a mantra?
TIPS AND ADDRESSES
1 trainer: India Paulino is a great trainer who I had the pleasure of working with. Knowledgable, dynamic, holistic, just competed in IFBB 7 months post partum!
1 app: Garminconnect to link with Garmin watch. Heart Rate, Step Count, Activity Tracking, GPS, VO2 max...great performance analytics!
1 podcast: Swole Patrol with Dr Drew and Mike Catherwood for jokes with meathead nerds or Rich Roll Podcast for endurance sports
1 blog/site: Jessi Kneeland's, a site to teach you how to learn to love your body.
1 food address: Miznon, in Paris, for all the delicious vegetables you can possibly stand.
1 book: Centered Riding by Sally Swift
1 inspiration: Amy Graham, an amazing horsewoman, trainer, rider. She makes me want to be better
1 woman we should interview: Summer White
Thank you: Haras du Ry