Join columnist Vicky Ellison every month as she meets with inspiring women from the worlds of wellness, business, fashion and art to bring you a snapshot of their story and advice to take into your day.
“We created a movement of women stepping up and thinking that if I can do this, if I can hang upside down by just my legs, then I can go and fulfill my dreams.”
Known today for her talent as a DJ, Presenter and Creator of the SISTER Collective, Carly Wilford’s journey to get to this point took some unexpected turns. I was immediately in awe of how much she has achieved in such a short time.
Settled in a busy role in picture syndication with Marie Claire, but exhausted by the commute, Carly’s inspiration was sparked when she took a pole dancing class at her gym. Seeing the impact it had on her body in just 6 weeks, she knew it was something more people needed to do – so Carly left Marie Claire to become a personal trainer and pole-dancing instructor.
At the time, pole dancing was relatively unknown. Carly launched the first ever official ‘class’ at a health club in her hometown of Northampton. With six women signed up and one pole weighed down with sand bags, even the club managers were unsure- insisting that she erect curtains during the class.
Yet to people’s surprise, Carly’s venture was a hit. She expanded to teach at multiple sites; eventually setting up her own dance studio and teacher training course. She led classes on syllabus at Italia Conte, Pineapple and became involved with choreography at the Royal Opera House and Royal Shakespeare Company.
Carly admits her success wasn’t without its bumps in the road, “Whenever you’re doing something left-of-center people question it, but what I realised was that [our classes were helping these women change their lives]…We created a movement of women stepping up and thinking that if I can do this, if I can hang upside down by just my legs, then I can go and fulfill my dreams.”
Seeing her students make such positive changes inspired Carly to re-evaluate her own goals. At the back of her mind she had always wanted to be a presenter, “I had to look in the mirror and be like- is this where you want to be? I’d just got married and we had this business together but I realised that [I wanted something different]- so I walked away from everything- my relationship and my business. I stopped personal training, I kept my dance school and then I decided to throw myself into becoming a presenter, which was pretty crazy.”
Photo by Jack Goodman, Lefteris Primos, Antonello Zappa, RaRa
It was a tough time for Carly, reassessing everything she’d worked so hard for. “Whenever you’re going through a lot and you have a lot of time, there are two things you can do – you can sit and mull over everything that’s happened in your life or you can use it productively… I [used] it to make plans’’
She’s never looked back, going on to work with unsigned artists, interview incredible talent and DJ-ing at gigs across the world. What drives her to keep moving forward? “I can see the [potential] that’s within people if they’re willing to take risks. It’s amazing when you start to see people go after their dreams, to get on that path and [watch opportunities open up] to them.”
“I really think it’s what we’re all here to do, the world would be so different if everyone stopped worrying about the drama and just focused on what they love. I realised that if I could help people focus on what they love I could watch them fly, I just had to remember to do that for myself.”
Carly’s bravery and passion shone through as we discussed how she’s been able to identify trends ahead of others and take some scary leaps. “If there’s a load of people walking one way I always think ‘oh what’s going on this way’ and I kind of walk the other… I find it super fascinating, and I really believe in intuition- that instinct, it can lead you down incredible paths. I also believe in magic…. I believe in the fact that if you take a leap, a risk, and it feels right, if you feel that- just go with it. There are some incredible things you can find on the other side of that”.