An Instagram “It Girl” Shows Us Imperfection Is Beautiful

MARY ALICE STEPHENSON

Style & Beauty Expert, Humanitarian, Mom
Founder of GLAM4GOOD

Artist Libby Schoettle didn’t set out to intentionally inspire women and girls when she created Phoebe, her ultimate exploration of self in the form of one very cute, stylish, sassy and outspoken Instagram character that now has a cult following. “Phoebe is always true to herself and that resonates as inspiration”, says Schoettle .

“Phoebe is about emotion, and humor. I think people identify with her because at the end of the day, just like Phoebe, we all want to be noticed.”

GLAM4GOOD sat down with Schoettle to hear more about our favorite Instagram “It Girl”.  We love the way Phoebe shows us her vulnerability instead of just showing off her outfits, body, food and vacations like so many Instagram stars. From moments of self-doubt, heartbreak and failure to cute expressions of bravery and empowerment, everything is not always picture perfect in this young lady’s life and that makes following her so refreshing! GLAM4GOOD loves the way Phoebe wears her heart on her sleeve and never tries to be anything other than her fabulous, imperfect self.

WHAT INSPIRED YOU TO CREATE PHOEBE?

I created Phoebe out of a very personal impulse around 2004. It was during the intersection of several artistic processes when she simply materialized for me in the form of a face—Phoebe was quite accidental actually (one day I was on the floor cleaning up spilled paint the next second I was drawing a strange mouth and an eye), the most surprising really, and so natural.  My literary process was definitely influential; In fact, I recently completed a novel/memoir I began working on in 2001. Phoebe is the protagonist, and so she lived in my subconscious for quite a while.

DOES PHOEBE HAVE A MISSION?

I would say Phoebe’s mission is specific to each piece.  She’s always trying to communicate something about herself— in an honest, yet provocative and thought-provoking way, and it is up to the viewer to interpret what that is. I never set out for people to understand me, but if my art translates, it means Phoebe was able to make you feel something, which in turn makes me feel something, and so that then is the mission, to evoke a feeling.

Her following on Instagram is very important to me. As an artist I’m typically on my own, so I’m thrilled at how many people are relating to her. Many leave comments about how deeply they connect with Phoebe and what she’s going through, and every one of those comments moves me. What else I have found is how well she relates to people of other countries. I only speak English (with a little French) so to have other nationalities following tells me emotion, especially that of love and loneliness, is universal to all language.

Look-What-You_ve-Done-To-Me
tumblr_nxpu570tnG1tfbe1oo1_1280

HOW DO YOU LIKE YOUR WORK TO BE ADDRESSED AND WHAT ARE THE MEDIA AND MATERIALS YOU USE?

Collage, or mixed media. I’m partial to vintage materials, because I often feel like I was born into the wrong time period, and so the past is where I feel the most comfortable. I use very familiar materials in my work; nostalgia is important, things we remember we tend to feel safe with, and happy looking at. Though I have recently started collaging more contemporary images, as can be seen on my Instagram account. I cut up found photographs, books, frames, record albums, sheet music, and magazines. My favorites lately are old magazines like Details, Interview, Life, Seventeen, True Romance, Look, etc…none of which are easy to find and all fairly expensive.

HOW LONG DOES IT TAKE TO CREATE ART WORK THAT WILL BECOME AN INSTAGRAM POST?

It can take anywhere from a few minutes (which is always nice, when the magic is right there!) to many days. At times I worry I won’t be able to create another Phoebe because I’m all out of ideas—I tend to compete with myself—but then frustration is a place I’m comfortable with, and it is in that place I find what I never would have found had I quit. Just keep going.

I’m very selective and careful about every element of Phoebe, including the words. My never-ending quest for printed text consumes much of my time. I search for words in bookstores, markets, on the street, everywhere I go. Art is a way of life, so depending on my current issue (it’s always something), words find me at the time I need them. Phoebe often has hidden messages, or double meanings based on words, not even I see until much later. She’s like a Rorschach Test that way.

Mood
I_m-Your-Woman

HOW DO YOU THINK POP CULTURE IMAGERY SOMETIMES USED IN FASHION CAN NEGATIVELY AFFECT WOMEN?

I’m not sure I can answer that question without stating the obvious—TV shows, movies, magazines and pop culture (in general) make women feel like they have to be young, sexy, beautiful, perfect, etc… but it’s much more complex than that. Why is one girl affected and another isn’t? I use magazines dating to the 30s and 40s, and definitely see how pop culture and fashion cast women into negative roles even then (housewife, vixen, damsel in distress, ‘woman’), however they can also be viewed with humor as well. Nothing should be so taboo it can’t be talked about. I like when I can highlight, or even critique the way society ‘thinks’ women should be through the style and sass of Phoebe.

Phoebe is very careful about how she portrays herself as a woman. I’ve always used fashion as a way to express what Phoebe is feeling, not what she’s supposed to be feeling. And I think that’s one of the reasons people connect: they understand she’s celebrating fashion, beauty, and glamour, while at the same time looking at it with a sense of reality and perspective. In one image she’s a diva, in the next she’s a misfit, or an awkward outcast. I like that she has the confidence and maturity to express both aspects of being a woman, and also a girl. She understands fashion can be a fun and truthful expression, yet it also has the power to embolden and destroy if you let it.

WHAT IS THE MESSAGE YOU WANT PHEOBE TO CONVEY?

The two things I always forget, and am constantly reminded through Phoebe are: to have fun, and to remember: you are not alone. We are all struggling. And we all need to express ourselves.
I add words to many of my collages, and I work extremely hard to find the right words to address a particular piece. A word changes the meaning instantly, so I really think about what am I trying to say, what feels right. I think poetically of my art, and like to think of Phoebe that way as well, a quiet poet with a lot to say.
All-I-Want-Is-Everything

PERSONALLY, HOW DOES ART FUNCTION AS THERAPY FOR YOU?

Oh, that’s the Million Dollar Question!  When I’m working with Phoebe I feel alive, excited, focused, and productive. I learn more about who I am through her, which in turn begins to make me feel whole. When I wake up in the morning, Phoebe (like my child) gives me a sense of purpose. And she also gives me a place to put all my energy! I surround myself with things I love and that give me some assemblance of identity. I immerse myself in creating those things with her. I can be all the women I want to be through Phoebe: playful, mysterious, seductive, serious; I work through my struggles, and dreams with her. It’s not about reaching the dream either, it’s about having it. I often use pain as a “jumping off point” for my collages, and in the process of creation, I find hope, love, or inspiration. She always changes my day around, and gives me a reason to keep going. I also love looking for things, and so my search for materials to make Phoebe with definitely gets me out of my apartment—when I’m looking for something to make art with I have a purpose.

ARE THERE ANY CAUSES CLOSE TO YOUR HEART THAT PHOEBE HAS CHAMPIONED?

Helping women with body image disorders, and bullying, are close to my heart. I was bullied most of my childhood, partly due to how I didn’t “fit it.” I feel very fortunate to have met Mary Alice Stephenson, and would love to support GLAM4GOOD any way I can!
FullSizeRender
Un-Stopable

WHY DO YOU THINK WOMEN EVERYWHERE ARE RESPONDING TO AND LOVING PHOEBE?

Ah, so nice! Thank you! I am really grateful for this question, especially after years of worrying that maybe they wouldn’t understand Phoebe. I often think of Phoebe the way I’d think of myself walking into high school, with that same insecurity. Will they like what I’m wearing? I would say women appreciate Phoebe’s freedom of expression to dress how she likes, say what she wants, and to make fun of herself. I think one of the most important traits a human being can have is the ability to laugh at themselves. I also hope they like her sense of mystery, as well as her defiance (Phoebe can be difficult and talk out of turn), as well as her silly awkwardness as she tries to fit in.

HOW DO YOU HOPE YOUR WORK TOUCHES THE LIVES OF YOUNG WOMEN AND GIRLS?

I really hope women and girls understand that behind Phoebe there actually is a real woman (and former girl) creating her, and that this real woman has most likely experienced what they are experiencing as well.

“The experiences we don’t talk about, in fact are the universally important ones. Phoebe not only exposes them, but she’s using them to entice a reaction…create a connection.  It’s not about being perfect—in fact the one huge lesson Phoebe has taught me, is that  imperfection is beautiful. And that there is nothing wrong with failure. Keep going.”

PHOEBE ON INSTAGRAM

3 Comments

Talk to Us

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *