VICTORIA - LOS ANGELES
'Be gentle with yourself.' Such is the current mantra of Victoria Hoff, the Los Angeles based writer for beauty and lifestyle websites, Byrdie and THE/THIRTY. She comes from a dynamic east coast upbringing that simultaneously included team sports, artistic endeavours, academics and a deep connection with nature.
It's therefore no wonder she has recently begun to transition from intense workouts and juice cleanses to a more holistic lifestyle, one involving not only slower modalities like journaling and meditation but also an attempt to be more patient and empathetic, starting with her self.
Inside/Out: What’s the first sport you ever practiced?
Victoria Hoff: I had a (very) failed dance career from the ages of 4-8. I definitely lacked the grace and discipline to be a ballerina, but I have so much admiration for dancers to this day.
I/O: And the first one that made you feel confident?
VH: I played soccer for 13 years. I was always an emotional kid and I loved having that outlet to channel any aggressions into something productive, especially as part of a team. Plus, my dad was my coach until high school, and we’re really close, so that was always fun. Well, almost always!
I/O: Was physical education a central element of your identity at school when you were a kid?
VH: Sports were a huge part of my hometown culture, but that really wasn’t my personal identity. I played three sports in high school, but I was also really involved in theater, music, and art, and that was definitely more of who I was.
I think my current wellness identity actually stems more from the fact that I’ve held a really deep connection with nature and the outdoors from a very young age. I used to spend summers at my grandparents’ lake house; climbing rocks, swimming, interacting with animals, always barefoot. Those are my fondest memories, and that’s definitely the driving force behind my current lifestyle.
I/O: Are you a sports fan?
VH: I was raised on an array of New York teams: the Giants, the Yankees, the Knicks, and the Rangers. I haven’t had cable for several years, though, so I don’t really follow them anymore. I get very into the Olympics, however. I was totally mesmerized by all the skiing and snowboarding events in February. And figure skating, always figure skating.
I/O: What sports s/heroes do you remember from childhood?
VH: Michelle Kwan! I was obsessed with figure skating growing up and wrote a report on Kwan in first grade. I always felt so connected to her and the emotion she put into her craft. I actually interviewed her a few months ago and I completely geeked out. It was a childhood dream come true.
I/O: Do you have a mantra?
VH: My mantras change on a fairly regular basis, but right now, it’s 'Be gentle with yourself.' Since I was a little kid, I’ve always put my head down, powered through to achieve my goals and hardened myself to criticism in the process. The flip side of this ambitious streak is that it can be really difficult to slow down and remember that softness and vulnerability are integral parts of the journey. I have a habit of constantly asking myself 'Ok, but what’s next?' instead of just looking around and marinating in everything I’ve already built. And above all else, practicing empathy and patience for the parts of myself that are still growing.
I/O: How would you define the relationship that Angelenos have with the active lifestyle?
VH: It’s interesting, because even in the two-ish years I’ve lived here (I moved from New York in late 2015), the landscape has totally changed. Part of my job at Byrdie is speaking with wellness influencers and experts on a daily basis. My colleagues and I have all noted a shift from obsessive, tough workouts (things like SoulCycle or Orangetheory 5-7 days a week) and juice cleanses to a more holistic, sustainable approach to wellness. I led a focus group with some influencers last fall about this very topic, and they all said that their prior routines had left them stressed and fatigued. We’re seeing a lot more emphasis on wellness activities like active meditation, energy healing classes, and different varieties of yoga. The most interesting element of this is that people aren’t just exploring these things to supplement their workouts, but rather to replace them entirely at times.
I/O: Is there a certain active style there? What about beauty?
VH: I’ve lived in New York and Paris where 'activewear style' is all about keeping it seamless with your daily wardrobe. You’ll wear your (black) leggings, but with a chic wool coat over them. In LA, the activewear style is the look. Lots of matching sets, bright colors and patterns, all worn on the street at any time of the day. Having a wellness routine is something worth flaunting here, which is definitely a departure from what I’m used to. In terms of beauty, it really depends on the neighborhood. I work in West Hollywood, and I’ve seen full faces of Instagram-ready makeup at 7 a.m. fitness classes there. While in Silver Lake, where I live, it’s considered cooler to have a very pared-down look with bright, dewy skin. I definitely opt for the latter.
I/O: What is your ideal performance garment or product?
VH: I’ve never been one for really over-the-top activewear, but I do appreciate the fact that we have so many cool options now. Ideally, I need the design to be flattering, minimal, and performance-driven. Nothing ruins a workout like an unsupportive sports bra and soggy leggings.
I/O: Your favorite activewear brands?
VH: I mainly wear Outdoor Voices, Girlfriend Collective, and Live The Process. All three have phenomenal, comfortable designs and most importantly, prioritize sustainability and ethical manufacturing practices. I also really love JoyLab, the activewear line Clique Brands (the company I work for) designed with Target.
I/O: What lifestyle rituals or routines do you do before or after training?
VH: It depends on what I’m doing, but I always have to feel hydrated and if I’m hiking, I better have a kickass playlist. I also love coming home after a tough, sweaty workout and just kind of leaning into those endorphins with some deep stretching.
I/O: Favorite beauty brands?
VH: As a beauty editor, I’m always on the hunt for plant-based, sustainable products that are also highly effective. Grown Alchemist, RMS Beauty, and Noto Botanics are the three brands that I always have on daily rotation.
I/O: What activities say 'Los Angeles' the most?
VH: Definitely hiking. It’s such a solid workout, you get your vitamin D fix, and the views are unparalleled. Plus, there’s access to trails in several neighborhoods across town - Griffith Park is just a 7 minute drive from my house.
I/O: What trends do see happening? Which do you like? Which ones are over (or should be)?
VH: Again, I think it’s more about having a holistic, personalized point of view then sticking to a hard-and-fast routine. There’s more respect for wellness as an ongoing process than as an arbitrary end goal. We launched The/Thirty last year with this ethos in mind, the idea that wellness should be an ongoing conversation, an opportunity for community, and that it can be as simple as setting small intentions every day or every week or every month. The response has been amazing, because I think people were like, 'Finally! A message I can actually relate to!'
I’d say that one thing that remains a source of frustration is the commodification of wellness and the fact that it’s often approached from this place of immense privilege, rather than inclusivity. Just look at the term 'self care,' which has taken on this sort of 'Treat yo’self' mentality. In reality, the term was first popularized in the 60's and 70's as a way for women and PoC to empower themselves in a society that constantly chipped away at their autonomy and access to healthcare. Getting a manicure and a facial isn’t self care, it’s a luxury. Meditating, journaling, and going to therapy so that you’re better equipped to be a positive force in the world? That’s self care. Wellness should be accessible to all.
I/O: What activities have you recently discovered or want to try?
VH: One of the things I really love about LA is that the climate and landscape really allows for so many outdoor activities, and I’ve been thinking about ways to get out of the studio, change up my scenery, and challenge myself. My friends and I plan pretty regular weekend trips to nearby destinations, Joshua Tree, Yosemite, even Malibu, just so we can really unplug, embrace the gorgeous atmosphere, and also hike these different terrains. I’m starting to get the itch to take this to the next level by backpacking, boldering, and more. I’m also dying to learn how to properly surf. I tried it once a few years ago and was completely hooked by that adrenaline rush.
I/O: Favorite studio and class? Other activities or groups that you like?
VH: Aside from my regular yoga studio (One Down Dog in Silver Lake. Great teachers, great music, great community), I’m really loving LEKfit recently, which is a rebounding class led by celeb trainer Lauren Kleban in her garage studio. It’s tough but so much fun that you don’t realize you’re dead until it’s the end of class and you’re drenched in sweat. She also streams most of her classes online, so I do them at home, too. I also love Y7, which was one of my favorite haunts in NYC. They just opened their second LA location right down the street from my house.
I/O: Have you ever traveled for sports or wellness?
VH: My job has afforded me a few amazing opportunities to check out wellness destinations around the country, and sometimes the world. Most recently, I spent a week in Paris reporting on the fitness scene in the city. Last year, I stayed a few days in northern California on a self-sustainable farm for a yoga retreat, and that was also highly memorable.
I/O: If so, is it something you do on your own or with friends or a partner?
VH: It depends. For work, even if I’m with a group of editors from other publications it feels more like a solitary exercise since I’m doing any reporting on my own. But, I’m lucky to have a group of like-minded friends who are always down to explore new places, hike, and spend time outdoors, so I really love our group trips.
I/O: If you travel alone, how do you connect locally?
VH: I’ll hit up friends for any recs or people they know, or connect with people via Instagram. One of the great opportunities of working in the digital space is having such a wide network of virtual friends who are always down to offer their tips. When I travelled to Paris alone in February, for example, I got a lot of DMs from French readers who wanted me to try out some of their favorite restaurants and studios, as well as my usual circle of friends who wanted to connect me with someone they know in the city.
I/O: When do you feel that you are part of a sports or wellness community?
VH: When there’s an ongoing conversation. That’s really why we built The/Thirty in the first place: We wanted to build a safe space where women could actually talk to each other about all things wellness and the very real questions they felt weren’t being addressed by other platforms. In this case, my community is digital. It’s so cool that readers can reach out to me on Instagram about a story I wrote with their own experience. We really want to expand on that and start doing more IRL activations as well, because I think the flip side to our digital age is that people are really craving real-life connection to complement their social media habits; to put a face to the Instagram handle.
But I also have a wonderful network and support system here in LA: my friends who hike with me, my friends at the yoga studio, the friends who are always down to talk about the latest research on adaptogens and Ayurveda.
I/O: What destinations are on your wish list?
VH: I’ve always wanted to do a yoga retreat in India, it’s been on my bucket list since I was a teenager. I’d love to also go on a solo trip to Bali, and I’m dying to check out the wellness scene in Australia. Everyone keeps telling me I need to check out Sedona, Arizona, so I’m planning a trip there in the fall.
I/O: What role does music play in your practices?
VH: It’s everything! I am music-crazy (since birth) and it’s such an important part of my life. I’m always listening to something. It’s something that fuels a lot of introspection for me, so instead of traditionally 'meditating' I really like to just chill and listen to music to clear my head. I also do this while hiking a lot: To get up those hills, I just turn up some really bass-y ‘90s rap and zone the f*ck out.
I/O: Are exercise and self care the new social/nightlife?
VH: I’d say that for some people, it is! I think it’s more about people doing whatever they want to feel happy and whole. For me, that’s definitely laying low a few nights per week to recharge, and saying 'no' when I need to. But going out with my friends also feels like a form of self care to me.
I/O: Do sports or physical activities impact your eating habits?
VH: I’d say it’s actually the opposite. I went vegan seven years ago and it completely changed my life and the ways in which I care for myself. Now I identify more as 'plant-based' and 'sustainably-driven' than strictly vegan, but eating in a way that’s good to my body and the environment is really important to me. I feel stronger and more motivated in my exercise when I’m eating well. (Although there’s plenty of wine and french fries in the mix, too.)
I/O: How do you strive to find balance between different areas of your life?
VH: I struggled with this for such a long time! It’s actually the main reason why I left New York for LA - I was working around the clock and feeling so anxious all the time. That fresh start inspired me to really start putting myself first for a change, and my life completely transformed for the better. Now, I really try to make sure I’m leaving the office by a certain time each day to take an hour or two for myself. If there are emails that still need answering, I get to them after I’ve worked out, read, or just had some general me-time to decompress. I also rely on so many more tools for my emotional health (meditation, journaling, therapy) so that it never feels insurmountable again.
I/O: Thoughts on feminism? Do you feel that women go further together?
VH: I am a proud feminist. There’s still so much unwarranted stigma with that word, since the definition is quite simple. But I feel that connection, that sisterhood, with women on such a spiritual level. There are so many women in my life who inspire me deeply. I think that fighting for the right not just to be seen and heard, but to proudly take up as much space as we want has bonded many of us in incredible ways. But there’s still so much work to be done, and I think it’s our duty to continue to demand this space for those who haven’t been afforded the same kinds of opportunities, and above all else, to continue listening and evolving.
10 TIPS AND ADDRESSES
1 tip to improve performance: Consistency is everything.
1 trainer or practitioner: Kelsey Patel - I’ve attended a few of her reiki classes and she basically made me believe in energy healing.
1 app: Co-Star
1 podcast: Second Life, which features women who made badass career shifts.
1 blog/site: The/Thirty and Byrdie, of course. I also read nymag.com religiously.
1 food address: Kismet in Los Feliz.
1 beverage: My kombucha home-brew.
1 inspiration: My mother, and the music she raised me on.
1 woman we should interview: Gloria Noto.