Episode 124: Naomi Shimada, Brian Hollingsworth and Natalie Lue on Focusing on You

Jul 07th

Our guest this week is Naomi Shimada. Naomi is a body positive model, known for her work on shows such as the BBC’s Beauty Fix, and has starred in campaigns for some huge high street clients including Gap and H&M. However, her dependence on social media platforms such as Instagram began to take a toll on her wellbeing and mental health. As a result, Naomi ended up co-authoring the book Mixed Feelings: Exploring the Emotional Impact of our Digital Habits. 

Naomi has lots of wise words to share on how she now navigates the digital space, how’s she’s trying to reconnect to her inner child through creativity and what it’s been like for her studying for a Masters degree online during the pandemic.

Key Takeaways:

  • Naomi is following Julia Cameron’s course The Artist Way in order to reconnect with her creativity
  • Safeguarding her private life has become sacred and Naomi now spends most of her time offline
  • She talks about the difficulties that come with trying to unlearn unhealthy habits around productivity
  • How social media produces a curated version of reality and unrealistic expectations
  • The importance of taking time off, nourishing yourself and prioritising your health

We also hear from Brian Hollingsworth. Brian, also known as The BKH, is a graphic designer who now specialises in helping brands creating the best content they can. Brian tells us why he thinks video is vital, and also lets us in on a book that’s been pivotal for him.

Finally, author and podcaster Natalie Liu tells us about how she’s had to ignore some terrible advice to get where she is today.


Imriel Morgan
Welcome back to Wanna Be, the podcast that takes you from where you are now to where you want to be in 30 minutes or less. I’m Imriel Morgan, founder of Content is Queen, a podcast agency and club for ambitious podcasters with phenomenal taste, high expectations and a desire to sound as good as I do now. You can now become a member and get unlimited access to both of our podcast studios for just £199 a month. Head on over to contentisqueen.org to learn more and to elevate your audio. Thank you so much for taking the time to be here. Wanna Be’s focus is to help you take consistent action to build a successful life and career in the creative and entertainment industry. Today I am back with three uplifting guests who are going to help you think about your video presence, to not chase the things everyone else is doing, and to check in with your body. Let’s get into it.

Today’s guest is model, author and student Naomi Shimada. Naomi is the host of Beauty Fix on BBC Sounds and the co-author of Mixed Feelings. She has starred in campaigns for Nike, H&M and Gap, and her writing has been featured in Vogue, Elle and The Observer. In this episode, Naomi and I talk about the effects of overwhelm and taking a step back from the online and digital world. We explore how our lifestyles can contribute to our health and why we should be listening to our bodies and intuition when it comes to our work. Let’s go.

Imriel Morgan 1:50

Who did you want to be before you became who you are today, and why?

Naomi Shimada 1:52

I’m actually currently doing The Artist’s Way. I don’t know if you’ve ever done that program? It’s all about unblocking your creativity. It’s like a 12-week program and a lot of the exercises are about: who were you as a child? What did that child want and desire? Do you still express those parts of yourself? Or it’s about connecting to that person and starting to draw again, and play outside. I’ve been really trying to connect with that part of myself. I think when I was young, I wanted to be out in the world. I played in front of the camera for as long as I can remember. I’ve worked as a model in the fashion industry for over 20 years now. I’ve been captured in some way or another. Even that word ‘capture’ is like… I’m really trying to delve between the lines of what does it mean to just be me and not perform a version of myself that I’ve been taught how to do since I was really young.

Imriel Morgan 2:57  

Have you figured that out yet?

Naomi Shimada 2:58 

I think for me, it’s very particular, because a lot of my work is aligned with me and my spirit and the things that I’m thinking about and dealing with. So my work is very personal. And so it is also safeguarding a lot of stuff to just be private. I’m offline most of the time, for example, and I’m choosing my privacy as something that is sacred to me. And then once I do dip my toe at being able to think a bit clearer about what feels right to share, and what feels powerful to share, especially once I’ve been able to reflect on it a little bit. Instead of it being like updating the world with every thought constantly. I’m definitely not on that tip at all anymore. And not to say that no judgement for people who are, it’s just not my path anymore. And there was a moment in time where I was very reactionary, I was very instantaneous. And I’m just trying to practice a different slower version of living.

Imriel Morgan 3:50  

How’s that working out?

Naomi Shimada 3:51  

I mean, it’s up and down, you know? How do we undo or unlearn a lifetime of unhealthy socialisation? And also just this modern way of living, even though if we haven’t learned from this moment in time, the pandemic etc, how to care for ourselves, how to go slower, when will we? I feel like work culture and just this such intense hyper-productivity that we’ve normalised, it’s exhausting, and I can’t keep up. And I don’t know if I want to. So those are the things that I’m navigating, of just getting caught in moments where I feel like ‘I’m slipping behind everybody else, oh my god!’

Imriel Morgan 4:27


Naomi Shimada 4:28

But actually, no, this is a mirage. I think what we see online is a very curated version of people’s lives, and we have to remember that. If we allow ourselves the time to rest and reflect and also to make stuff from a place of richness, sort of a place of like, ‘I just have to produce, produce, produce, produce’, what will that work look and feel like and be like? And I just feel like there’s no way that it can’t not be powerful if we take the time to really decide what it is that we want. We’ve really been confused. We think it’s more important to put out than it is to really think about what it is that we’re making.

Imriel Morgan 4:58

I have been grappling with this because my body is saying, ‘please stop making things and stop producing’, it’s actually saying, ‘you actually need to stop’, and I’m having ailments I’ve never experienced before. I feel so exhausted and so tired. And it’s definitely trying to just like, ‘no! If you don’t stop, we’ll stop for you’.

Naomi Shimada 5:23  

I’ve had two injuries. I have two repetitive strain injuries in my hands, that means I can’t type.

Imriel Morgan 5:30

Oh, wow.

Naomi Shimada 5:32

And I have been like this for last eight months. And if you think about the metaphysical reasons behind pain and injuries, right, like what is actually going on, when the thing that I need to actually make the thing isn’t working? it means don’t make the thing!

Imriel Morgan 5:48


Naomi Shimada 5:50

We’re so socialised to wrap our sense of self… our sense of self is built around what we do and our achievements, right? And our achievements, how they are seen by the outside world, by institutions, by our professional peers. And at the moment, while I can’t make anything, my thoughts are literally like, ‘if I never make anything again, will you all still love me? Will you all still care for me? Is my humanity only seen through news articles and clickbait worth posts?’ Or whatever? You know, is that how I am seen? And I think this is what this disability is like. How do I really sit with myself in a way where I already am enough from the get go? If I am already right in this moment in time, if nothing else ever happens, changes, or I never put out, make another piece of work, which obviously, that’s not going to be the case. But how do I sit with that feeling as if that is? What’s going to happen?

Imriel Morgan 6:42  

I’ve never had to ask myself those questions. And I think it’s quite an interesting thing to ask: at what point? If the answer is still ‘no, it’s not enough’, for some people, even for me, like, what will be? Just hearing you speak and hear what you’ve had to go through, and I’m like, very much at risk of creating a repetitive strain injury with my shoulder right now, If I don’t cut it out. What have you found in the time that you’ve kind of had to take a step back? What practices have you incorporated? What have you learned from the kind of forced stop that you’ve been on?

Naomi Shimada 7:14

It’s a journey that I’m still on. And it’s still something that I’m trying to practice. And I started a Masters in October, and I’ve never been in higher education before.

Naomi Shimada

Oh, wow.

Naomi Shimada 7:31

That’s been a test in itself – of being in a completely different kind of institutional space that I’ve never entered, but also it’s a virtual space because I haven’t been in school physically. And just the high pressure learning environment, the competitiveness, just squashing so much reading, the cramming of learning. I just think the commodification of all expression and creativity is not the problem, because we all need to work and make a living. But I just mean, how we only see it as that and not just versions of our expression and playing. The stakes feel so high, don’t they? Creativity is living. It’s how we make our food, how we engage with our loved ones, how we enjoy our life, not even enjoy, but how we prove that we’re living and alive and breathing? And how do I practice that part of being that part of myself without the fear of being judged all the time?

These are things that instantly make me feel better. So I haven’t painted or drawn since I was a kid. But I’ve been doing that a little bit every day, even just to get my hands moving again, in a different way. So as part of the exercises, I’ve been really trying to practice. I’ve always cooked anyway, but I’m really cooking myself meals that are really good for me, trying to actually enjoy the power of my learning. My injury has meant like I have to put school on hold for a little bit. But I think it’s also allowing me time to reassess. When I am in that space, how do I take that space in? Do I put it on a pedestal? Or am I just there to just like… how can I just enjoy it instead of it also, because I already I’m like, have a career, you know? I’m going because I want to learn more. As soon as I was in that space, I felt so stressed. It’s a stressful environment, they make it that way on purpose, and how do I not engage in it in that way? Like how do I just write essays without thinking about the grade? How do I just write something because I love it?Because I’m studying what I love, you know, and how do I just maintain that feeling? And I think that can be approached in so many things that we do, right? Like, how can I do this from a place of love and not a place of fear?

Imriel Morgan 9:27

We’ll come back to Naomi in just a few minutes.

Okay, so I was thinking you probably already invest a lot of time and energy into your skin care, health care and hair care. But what about your brain care? Why prioritise what’s on your head over what’s in your head? I was recently introduced to the Braincare podcast which is dedicated to helping you care for your most important organ. Hosted by Dan Murray-Serter, co-founder of Height, a brain care company, you’ll learn about how to optimise your brain health and mental wellbeing through a series of bitesized interviews, all between just five and 15 minutes, with the world’s leading scientists and experts. Dan interviews brilliant brains like Stephen Fry, Jay Shetty, Dr. Rangan Chatterjee and Dame Kelly Holmes, to name a few. So go to your podcast player of choice, the one that you’re listening to right now also works, and search for ‘brain care’ to start improving your brain today. Right. I want you to get to know Brian Hollingsworth who is a social media expert. Here he is with a quick message for you.

Brian Hollingsworth 10:27  

My name is Brian Kofi Hollingsworth, also known on the internet as The BKH, and I’ve made it my personal mission to help guide your brand online. Whether you’re an influencer, a creator, a personal brand or a business, I’m here to help you traverse the plain that we call the internet with social media, blogging, YouTube, podcasting, anything a brand can use to put value out and to show the world why they are worth attention and spending time on.

One thing I’m currently working on is my video presence and my video creation skills. Video is one of the harder formats to create in because the bar is so high. If you’re taking a picture, you just probably need a good camera and some good lighting and look good, right? If you’re writing some text, it’s pretty easy, you just type. If you are recording audio, there is no camera needed, you could be in your PJs, and you’ve got a good mic and you’ve got a good set up, soundproofing, you know exactly how to sound. Whereas video you need lights, camera, smoke, makeup, hair, clothes, background, all kinds of things go into video production that make it that much more difficult and that much harder to produce. But I believe that video is the format of the future. Having a good video presence to me is going to be very paramount to anything I probably do or want to do in the future. So that is one of the things I’m really focused on improving myself in right now.

One book I really recommend is called Known by Mark Schaefer. He says it’s the handbook for building and unleashing your personal brand in the digital age. This book really helped me decide what I actually want to be known about and narrow down how I look and how I present myself online with some really, really actionable steps. And it’s not specific to any platform like just blogging or email or just Instagram or Twitter. It’s really got a lot of principles and actionable steps that guide you just to become a person to be known about whatever platform you want. I really highly recommend that.

Imriel Morgan 12:32

You can always rely on Brian to keep things straight with you. I am not sure video is the next frontier but I do know I now have to add practising my video presence to my ever growing to-do list. You should a hundred percent be following Brian on Instagram @thebkh if you aren’t already. He’s forever dropping gems on how to be a better content creator on social. So if that’s your bag, go and follow him. Now, back to our incredible guest Naomi Shimada.

Imriel Morgan

I mean, so many people are trying to incorporate what they love into their work, or the other way around. So you find something that you love or enjoy, and then you try to make it something that you monetise or it then has to have new meaning or a new skill or something has to be attached, like an achievement has to be attached to it, which then makes it work. And then when it becomes work, it becomes far less enjoyable. I did not think we were going to go down this road today, but I’m glad we did because I think it’s an interesting discussion and we’re asking all of the right questions.

Naomi Shimada 13:48  

I mean, the only thing I would really… when I think about what this show is about, or what I understand it to be about, speaking about work in the creative industry etc, I think master your own voice, no one can be you. You are the only you. Don’t forget that. And journeys are not linear, journeys of progress. And I think that’s the problem with things like social media, because you only ever see the finished product of something. And you have no idea what’s going on behind closed doors and what people’s lives are actually like. Take it with a pinch of salt. Take your time. Take time offline. Nourish yourself and good things will come from that place. I’m on that trying to nourish myself right now. I’m not trying to make anything right now. And I know that I’ve done certain things in my life. I am in a certain position of privilege because I have. But I think that that message of only do something when it feels really right is applicable to everybody, no matter where you are, because things only start happening and fall into place when you are listening to that intuition.

Imriel Morgan 15:08

Yeah, I feel like you just took me to a place that I was avoiding going to, in terms of my own inner voice, not with the podcast. Because I was just like, ‘the signs are telling me one thing, and I have not been listening’.

Naomi Shimada  15:21

It’s hard. It’s hard, trust me. I am definitely not above falling into the trap of days where I just feel this is like… eight months after depletion, of feeling like I literally haven’t been able to do anything. This is like eight months of tears and frustration and feeling inadequate and feeling like I’m being left behind by the world and blah, blah, blah. And feeling like I can’t keep up at school and all of these things. But what comes first? Without my health, I am nothing. That’s actually not right. I mean, my health comes first actually because I’m still of value if I started to take that back, like I am still of value in pain. I am still a human being, but it just means I need to put myself first.

Imriel Morgan 15:54  

I think that’s really important. I have a friend who has lupus, and so often has to just stop because the consequences of her not can be fatal if she’s not careful. And I think that is the thing she was telling me over the weekend, it’s like this message of ‘you need to prioritise your health’. You’re so right that when we’re in these spaces, especially the creative and entertainment industry, which feels like it’s more liberal and more welcoming, in some ways, there’s still things that will make us feel like we have to do more and produce more and produce excellence at a level…

Naomi Shimada 16:26  

But I think that is dangerous. And that’s the the danger of liberal ideas and spaces: it convinces people that they’re not part of the problem. And they are open, they are. But it makes actual conversations when it’s actually in reality not, more difficult to have. And it’s more difficult to be seen and heard. Sometimes I think it’s very gaslighting in that way of ‘No, what do you mean?’. My only advice I can give you is that these are little messages from our bodies being like, ‘hello, I am here. Please take care of me. Hello, don’t forget about us’. We are one, the brain and the body are not separate entities we are together as one. And they are speaking. These are messages.

Imriel Morgan 17:09

I love that. I would just love to know — and don’t take this the wrong way — But where do you get your audacity from?

Naomi Shimada 17:15

I mean, audacity is something I think about a lot.

Imriel Morgan 17:10

Do you?

Naomi Shimada 17:11

I think about it a lot. And I always wonder how I can even be more audacious, to be honest. It’s funny when it’s my life and myself, but I don’t feel like I’m that audacious. And it’s something I want to harbour more. But the things that I have done, I couldn’t help but not do them. And I know that’s not really an explanation. I have problems even, not censoring myself, even in interviews, I can’t help but speak exactly how I feel. Like I don’t know. And I think that is what people feel. And that is what I hope what translates. But again, going back to the truth, speaking your truth, using your voice. Not always but when you do speak, is it truthful and honest to you? Because we can all feel a difference when people speak or are super media trained and give you a very kind of curt media answer. And then yeah, I’m just not good at that.

Imriel Morgan 18:06

Me neither!

Naomi Shimada 18:07

I don’t know how to do that, but I think that’s also my power. I want to harbour enough audacity to live my full truth, full self, in this lifetime. And yeah, not let fear and inhibition and fear of… so many things get in the way, because it’s my life. So I think about audacity a lot. I want to find the audacity to express myself fully, physically, but it is something I really think, ‘how can I be more daring? How can I just live?’ Even that thing of like ‘dance like no one’s watching’, like how do we apply that to our life? How do we do all of these things just in a super hyper surveilled world? Not only do we live in the most like surveilled country in the world, where everything, we’re constantly being watched. And then social media where we’re constantly policing each other, judging each other in this way, I just don’t enjoy that surveillance. I’m not into it. I feel like it robs us of presence, of joy, of everything. It used to be a place where I used to feel so free to express myself and now I don’t. I feel scared all the time of everything. It’s just not loving. It’s not a place to grow in a safe space. And we can’t grow as creatives like that.

Imriel Morgan 19:45  

Yeah, I suppose it comes full circle to what you were saying about being a child again, like how do we bring that back? Because children are just uninhibited. They’re gonna scream if they want to, dance if they want to, sing if they want to, run off, do what they want.

Naomi Shimada 19:43

Just trying to be that child. I just, yeah, that’s the kind of audacity I’m looking for.

Imriel Morgan 19:50

Dude, I love that!

Okay, let me tell you, Naomi and I were vibing In this episode. I can only hope that all the goodness transferred over to you too. To find out about Naomi’s work, you can find her on Instagram @naomishimada. Before we wrap up, here’s author, writer and podcaster, Natalie Liu with some must-hear advice about carving your own path.

Nathalie Liu 20:14

There’s been a few but the best one, I think, was when a friend who’s also a medium actually, she said to me: ‘how many mountains do you need to climb before you acknowledge that you’ve climbed?’. Like how many mountains do you need to climb before you acknowledge that you’ve already made it? It was the realisation of basically, you climb a mountain, and you already are a success, you already are enough. But you then just go and climb another mountain, and another mountain, and at some point, you have to acknowledge ‘I climb mountains already. I’m already more than enough’. So that was brilliant advice for me.

I can’t say I’ve had massive amount of bad advice, but I really identify with what Keke Palmer actually said on your episode about how people give you some weird advice about what you can and can’t be. So I was told that I was crazy to go off and decide to explore blogging full time. I was told: ‘we’ll hold your job open for you’. I saw my boss a few years back. We were gathered together for an old colleague who passed away and I think at that point, I’d been gone nine years. And he said ‘oh, you know, obviously, you know if it’s not working out, you know we can always find a job for you’, and I went: ‘I’ve been gone for nine years! I think it’s fairly safe to say I’m doing all right’. And he’s like, ‘oh, you’re still doing that blog thing?’, and I was like, ‘yeah’. But if I had listened to people saying, ‘you’re crazy to go self-employed, you’re crazy to go and write a blog. Write an e-book? What the hell are you talking about?’. That’s bad advice. I can see why the woman from Spanx kept her product to herself for a whole year, because people will turn around and say stuff to you. And if you pay too much attention to that, you can get deterred from who you are and your dreams.

Imriel Morgan 22:08  

That’s a wrap! Thank you so much for listening. I hope this half an hour has made you think, reflect and contemplate what your next step should be. I’d like to encourage you to think about one person who would benefit from the messages shared today, and I’d love for you to share this episode with them right now please.

If you’d like to hear the extended interview with Naomi, all you have to do is screenshot and share this episode to your Instagram stories and tag @contentisqueenhq, or better still, you can subscribe to our channel on Apple podcasts for just £2.99 a month, you’ll get the extended interviews as well as ad-free versions. Remember, you can now become a member and get unlimited access to both of our podcast studios for just £199 a month.  Head on over to contentisqueen.org to learn more or to sign up if you’re ready. Until next time, bye!