Natalie Lee is a fashion blogger, former midwife and current queen of the podcast. A body positivity advocate, she’s an unrelenting explorer of emotions and flasher of the Friday Finger. Join us as we dig down to learn about how the intricacies of her life inform the space she’s created for her family of four. Natalie arrived in leafy Wanstead when she was pregnant with her eldest daughter ten years ago, buying exactly the kind of Victorian three bed she grew up in. She’s not had a chance to put her stamp on the house, what with raising two kids and, running a blog and podcast and designing shoes and all. So this year she’s embarking on an ambitious overhaul of her ground floor, which is going to transform her home. We thought we’d grab her before the builders move in.
R: So Natalie, what do you think your space says about you?
N: Oh god, I blummin’ hate it. We’ve done nothing since we moved in apart from paint the kitchen wall with blackboard paint and buy the furniture. It’s not my design and everything’s falling apart – I can’t wait to rip it out, but we’ve just not had the money. It’s been a long time coming and a really long time trying to convince my husband of my vision.
E: Is it a collaborative process? Is it your vision or does [Natalie’s husband] Matt have some input?
N: [laughs] What do you mean? How do you do ‘collaboration’? No, he has lots of opinions so it’s about managing those opinions. We’ll see how we get on with that… He’s much more practical about things like resale value and keeping things timeless and all of that kind of shit that I’m really not into. I’m like, this is my chance to flex my creative muscles, plus I’m a maximalist and he’s not… I’m all about the patterns, all the colours.
R: How much of the refurb is informed by Alexa’a condition? (Natalie’s eldest daughter Alexa has Brittle Cornea Syndrome and is now partially sighted, with no vision in one eye and limited vision in the other).
N: There have been some adaptations for her sight loss. So, we wouldn’t have a big expanse of glass as she might not be able to see if that’s closed or open – we’re going to go for the Crittall doors at the back. Because she’s so familiar with the space it’s not too bad but we just need to be mindful of obstacles and things she might not see on the ground.
E: We saw a clip of your daughter on the BBC news and she’s so confident – it’s amazing!
N: She is very confident. That was a while ago but we’ve just finished making a documentary for CBBC called My Life which will be out later this year.
R: You’ve got two cats, a dog, until recently fish – would you ever move out of London and do the full farm experience?
N: Oh man, we’re always talking about the countryside vs London. I love London, I was brought up in Wembley and I don’t think I could move, but then the lure of a big house is always tempting. My main issue with moving out is lack of diversity – that’s a real consideration to me. You can go to the North of England and walk into a pub and there might not be any black people at all and sometimes people look round at you like, ‘What the fuck are you doing in here?’ So that’s quite a consideration for me and one of the reasons I’m not looking to move out of London.
E: You’ve got an incredible collection of plates – you’re a collector rather than a minimalist, right?
N: I am a collector but I can be quite brutal – like I will probably get rid of those plates in the overhaul as they’re mainly chipped. I don’t have too much sentimentality for things. Like for Christmas this year I was like, ‘I don’t want any more stuff’.
E: What do you attach sentiment to?
N: Not objects – much more with people. I have a lot of friends from school. I keep in touch – no one will know you like the people who knew you when you were a kid know you. We often recall all those really awful stories of when we got really drunk and threw up everywhere.
E: Yeah, we’ve all been there…
R: Which place in the house makes you happy?
N: My bath is my zone-out place if I need to relax. I get very moody if someone interrupts my bath. The kids do it all the time. I have to listen to podcasts to drown things out.
E: Yes, we’ve been LOVING your podcast so far – such brilliant guests! And you have such a good rapport with them.
R: Talking of having a rapport do you ever miss the one-on-one connection of your old career?
N: Yeah, I mean I do miss the one-to-one closeness and the bond you get when you help someone deliver their baby, not so much the shift work and long hours. Plus, I earn more now and get to choose what hours I do. But it is a really good feeling when you get someone that’s anxious and make them feel a lot better by the time you’ve left them. That’s a really nice feeling.
E: It must be nice for the women too, because I know from friends of mine that pregnancy can be a nightmare of a time for juggling opinions.
N: The moment you become pregnant it feels like you become public property and everyone has an opinion on everything. That is so frustrating, and when you’re a first-time parent you listen to all those opinions and you don’t know how bullshit they are until you’ve done it. Then you’re like, ‘Fuck off, I’m not going to do it the way you want to do it.’
R: I think it’s all part of the fact that society thinks they know what’s better for a woman than she does herself.
N: Exactly. And that’s the problem isn’t it? As women, we put up with so much bullshit and not enough of us know how to tell people to fuck off. I get a comment every now and then when I do a Friday Finger – usually from another woman – saying, ‘Why are you being so aggressive?’. I’m like ‘Hold on, I’m not being aggressive. I’ve a right to tell someone to fuck off like any man. I’m standing up for myself and having an opinion, and stop trying to dampen me down cos I’m female’. It really gets on my tits.
R: Have you always been like that? A carer? Not in a swaddling way – more, ‘Together we can make this happen’?
N: Yeah, I don’t want to come and be a saviour to someone. That’s not my MO. It’s definitely, ‘Let’s try and give you tools so you can help yourself’. It just feels good and you get addicted to stuff that feels good and try to recreate that again and again.
R: The little victories make it worth it right? I think we’re feeling more empowered to feel good about ourselves, though I do sometimes feel a bit desolate for the next generation who are bashed around the head with beauty ideals.
N: But we all have been. Just the magazines we used to look at are still out there and still terrible and the articles highlighting people’s cellulite…. I’m like, ‘REALLY?’.
E: I feel like there’s a pendulum shift with blogs like yours, too – with all the body-positive things. So the cellulite circling has become more extreme and the other, more positive side is answering that by becoming more vocal.
N: Yeah, I think there’s a bit of a backlash on the body positive movement and people think it’s about people eating chocolate and doughnuts all the time and saying, ‘I’m fat and I want you to be fat too’ and it’s not that at all. It’s much more than that and the message is getting twisted so people are going the complete opposite way.
R: Where do you have a fond memory of in this house?
N: Probably the bedroom, because one of my favourite things is to get ready, put make-up on and dress up. I do like sleeping as well.
N: My husband hates it but it’s my favourite thing.
R: Most extravagant purchase?
N: I bought this amazing painting above the sofa for my husband’s birthday and that was veeeeery extravagant.
R: What little detail do you love the most?
N: I love the fireplaces. I never want to get rid of the fireplaces. And the shutters. And the coving. We’re keeping all the original features except from the floor ‘cos it’s a bit ruined. We’re going to go for parquet instead.
R: Thing you couldn’t live without?
N: Oh god I don’t know? Photos? I could literally walk out tomorrow and start again. Even the photos I’ve probably got digitally so I could walk and just have the perfect opportunity to start again. I mean my pictures, I do like my prints and my art but I’d just buy new stuff.
E: That’s it, if you don’t attach sentimental value really, you’re kind of free… I’m learning a lot right now.
N; I didn’t even realise how unsentimental I was till you two came around.
R: I have to keep everything – like it’s become a part of who I am. Is there a moment in your life that really shaped who you are?
N: I think growing up in a single-parent family has had a massive impact on me and made me really self-reliant, because I saw what my mum had to do to bring us up and cope. So I definitely feel strong and able to cope with things, and that’s made me very resilient. Stability is such a big thing. When you’re a kid and you grow up in quite an unstable household all you crave is stability. Stability to me is my ultimate, and it allows me to be a lot freer if I’ve got a stable household. Matt’s really reliable and SUCH a good Dad with the girls. But so he should be, shouldn’t he?
R: Is your mum a bold dresser – like, do you think she’s informed your style?
N: Yes, I think so… She had this creative flamboyant side. She is much more reserved now but, we used to go shopping and she was always saying, ‘Oh yes, you’ve got to have that’. I used to ride a Vespa and wear a huge bright yellow puffer jacket and red glitter Chipie trainers. You could see me coming a mile off. That’s when my husband fell for me…
R: And how has having kids changed your life?
N: I think I’d have travelled more but now they’re bigger we can go further away. We went to Costa Rica last year and we’re going to Thailand this year – we’re getting more adventurous with our holidays.
R: Do you have to plan ahead when taking your Alexa to places like that?
N: There’s some considerations like we went to Costa Rica and we always got a personal tour guide so we could make sure our daughters could get right up-close to things but we don’t even really realise we’re making those arrangements for her now.
R: What item have you had in the house for the longest?
N: The table and chairs in the kitchen belonged to Matt’s Grandma. We sanded and painted it but having it in the house is a really nice connection.
R: What’s your current most-wanted thing?
N: Copper bath in the bedroom! I don’t know how the plumbing would work but I know they do it in hotels so they could do it here, right?
E: Solid choice
E: Can I just say: there are so many positive affirmations in your daughter’s room. It’s so lovely! Such expressive walls.
N: Yeah, I love it.
E: I had none of this shit.
R: Yeah, it was the 80s… Natalie, are you your kid’s idol? Cos like mum’s a superstar?
N: Yeah, they love it!
E: They’re old enough to get what you do now I suppose?
N: Yes, but they aren’t on social media, even though their friends have started following me. They’ve all got Iphones! I’m like, ‘No, she’s not getting an iPhone yet’.
R; Have you noticed a change in Instagram, as you’ve been on there for a long time?
N: It’s more sinister. More dick pics. And more of a backlash now. I don’t look myself up but a lot of my friends have got quite upset about how they’re spoken about on the internet. It’s particularly bad for Mum bloggers. There are shitloads of threads about Instagrammers online, with people slagging them off and posting their addresses and where their kids go to school.
E: What do you do if you’ve found something like that? It’s really frightening.
N: Yeah, it’s awful – you just have to report it and get it taken down.
E: It must be tough to deal with when it mentions your family.
R: Actually, talking of family: your little sister Ciara is here now visiting from Liverpool. Are you the most outgoing of your siblings?
N: Yeah, for sure! And my two littler sisters are twins!
R: Was it tough having two little psychically-connected people come into your life?
N: Well… I was an only child for 14 years and then my mum had twins and then it was like ‘They’re stealing all my limelight’. I’m definitely the most outgoing though.
E: I even think there’s a thing about growing up in a family with other kids, you carve out your own space for yourself – it becomes really important for you to have that sense of identity.
N: Especially for twins, they’ve had to make their identities known
R: Are they similar?
N: They are identical twin sisters but they aren’t similar. I think that’s purposeful though.
R: And so much female energy! Is that nice – did you all get along?
N: Ha ha, we argue all the time but it doesn’t tend to last very long – we’re very expressive.
Natalie, we bloody love you. An incredible woman giving the finger to weird societal boxes. Take note of her latest Friday Finger, and if you don’t like it, you know where to go. Thank you, Natalie, we’ve had a bloody ball, it was a ruddy pleasure getting all up in your space.
Top ten quick question rhyme time
- Who is your ideal guy? My husband
- Dream thing to buy (if you won the lottery)? A villa in Ibiza
- World Record attempt you’d try? Longest silence
- Last thing that made you cry? A dance programme called The Greatest Dancer when some school kids did a routine, many of whom had autism. Their teacher was amazing.
- Thing you’d like to eat before you die? Garlic king prawns in butter with rice
- When did you last tell a lie? Today when I cancelled a night out!
- Top thing that makes you sigh (with frustration)? People who zap my energy – needy, pessimistic people
- Last time you got high? High? As in drugs? Last week
- The power to breathe underwater or fly? Underwater, for sure. The beautiful buzzing with colourful complexity of underwater creatures fascinates me
- Mind your own business or pry? Mind your business – I’ve got enough shit going on to worry about what other people are up to (although I can be a bit nosey too).