The MNY Spotlight

Meet Sophia Michelen, Co-host of the PBS show America: The Land We Live In

Introduce yourself! 

Hi Everyone! I’m Sophia Michelen, a photojournalist and explorer currently living in Manhattan. While I began my career in neurobiology and public health, it was my passion for international relations that led me to live, work, study and travel to over 70 countries in 6 continents throughout my twenties. Most recently, I’m the co-host of a new PBS travel show, America: The Land We Live In, which explores America through a 150-year-old travel guide as we travel across the country retracing the footsteps of the original explorers in hopes of find the exact locations where the artist stood to paint the beautiful artwork in the book. I’ve long held a deep curiosity to explore the world through art, history and culture – aspects that have ignited my passion in photojournalism and cultural anthropology – and this show really brings the passion to the homeland, to America.

Sophia wears the Carmen Mini Dress

You are the co-host of a show that travels through America’s history and highlights the past and present of our country’s “treasures.” Where did your passion for American history originate? What was the inspiration for the series?

The inspiration for the series came through the discovery of an old American travel book, Picturesque America, which was a two-volume set of books describing and illustrating the beauty of America in a post-Civil War era. The goal of the book was to highlight and ignite an appreciation for America’s “treasures” in all aspects of the word - showcasing America’s unique beauty to unite us all. It was a way to highlight the need and the significance in preserving America through its arts, music, food, natural beauty, history and heritage. Going back to the locations from the book feels like an honored responsibility – like a “check-in” to see how or if the places have been preserved after 150 years. For me, my passion for American history really stems from my passion in storytelling and the ability of preservation through history. I have been surrounded by history from birth - from growing up in an historical town to attending my high school (one of the first all-girls schools in the country) to college in Boston, I feel that I was constantly living through American history. I’ve extensively traveled abroad, but hadn’t explored America outside of major U.S. cities and it’s about time I do! Through every frontier experience, I’ve immersed myself into the culture and history of each location to gain a comprehensive perspective for understanding the present time. This propelled my enthusiasm for cultural preservation through storytelling and photojournalism, and the skills and perspective I’ve gathered abroad is now being brought back to my own country – and I love it! It gives me an even deeper appreciate for all that America has to offer and all the incredible people (and their stories) that unify us.

We adored seeing you rock the Mestiza Odette Midi on your Charleston outing! As a brand rooted in tradition and high-quality pieces, what are your thoughts on the importance of timeless fashion?

For me, timeless fashion is everything. I am grateful to have a mother who has taught me what timeless fashion is and the heritage behind it – what it represents, what you carry with you, and why it matters. I find timeless fashion to be a physical component of legacy and heritage through art and what it can preserve. I believe that timeless fashion is a way for generations to pass down elegance, sustainability, beauty, creativity, and culture through the garments – it is physical storytelling at it’s best!

Sophia wears the Odette Midi Dress from Spring 2023

If you had to pick one historic city to visit on vacation - where would you recommend?

Having lived in the U.K. for several years, I realize that I’m a bit biased – but when it comes to historic cities, London never gets old. I try to return every year, and every year I learn something new, discover new places and build on the history of the nation and its ties to American history. The proximity to other European countries is wonderful, but the diversity of unique locations within the country itself is astounding. London itself is wonderful, but I also always recommend leaving city centre and exploring the surrounding towns to appreciate more of the history and natural beauty of the U.K.

What Mestiza styles would you pack for your trip?

Definitely a dress! I adore the Mestiza dresses – from day dresses to more formal midi dresses, like the Odette Midi Dress I wore on the show, I’m never disappointed. The quality of the fabric, the flexibility of the feel (and the pockets!) really elevate an experience when I wear it. I own several Mestiza dresses, and I cherish the memories I’ve had whilst wearing each dress through various sentimental celebrations and occasions.

What message do you hope viewers take away from your show?

For me the show is about the people we meet on the journey to get to our destination. However, I can’t emphasize enough that you don’t need the book to explore America – you can do it right in your communities and learn American history with the people within proximity. Take an old family photo and try to go back to the exact location from the image and use this as a way to talk to people, to learn directly from people, to learn your own family history or that of your own town/city. While the digital world in which we live in can be a wonderfully uniting and educational tool, we may forget the value of people-to-people connections and how powerful and uniting that, in itself, can be. I love that we didn’t use GPS or technology to find the locations on the show, and I’ve taken that aspect with me now when I travel to new cities. It allows me to more deeply acquire a flavor of the culture and the history around me. Go out, meet people and explore! You’ll learn something you might not have otherwise thought you would.

We connected in March during Women's History Month. Why is this important to you?

I really love Women’s History Month. I feel that it’s a time of reflection for how far women have come through the generations (and still have to go) and it’s a time when we can reflect on the women in our lives who inspire us. I am in awe of the older generations surrounding me and I make an extra effort this month to reach out to those women I admire - to listen and to learn. Growth as individuals and as a society comes, in part, through reflection, and I especially love learning about women’s history to inspire, motivate and fuel my own personal growth as a woman and as a woman in today’s world.

What draws you to the Mestiza brand?

Apart from the beautiful feminine pieces, I was especially drawn to the brand after knowing it is women owned and women honored. I love that it goes beyond just promoting the brand – it promotes the women who wear the pieces, their stories and the impact they have on their communities.

Follow along with Sophia @sophiamichelen

How does wearing your Mestiza piece make you feel?
To put it simply: GREAT! The quality and the beauty of the fabric bridges my love of femininity and of adventure. The pieces are so versatile (I can’t thank you enough for the pockets!) and they’re wonderful for any occasion. I feel elegant, timeless, strong and feminine whilst wearing Mestiza pieces, and feel that I can wear them for years to come. I can’t wait to continue creating memories with the Mestiza brand!

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