You’ve seen Elizabeth Mayhew on the Today Show giving us Kentucky Derby party tips and Christmas gift-giving ideas. Her takes on how to live beautifully have graced the pages of Real Simple, House Beautiful and the Washington Post. As the current Brand Editor of Reese Witherspoon’s Draper James lifestyle and clothing brand, her charming southern stamp is evident the moment you walk in the door with an offer of sweet tea while you shop. Now, that’s southern hospitality.
Speaking with Mayhew, she exudes a genuine sweetness and absolute joy at living her life. And why wouldn’t she? “I’ve been able to take what I’m naturally good at and make a career. Most people have a career and then the stuff they love.” She credits her parents for giving her the freedom to pursue her loves and trust the outcome. She misses her community in Goshen where she grew up, the gorgeous Kentucky spring time, the Derby, bluegrass and magnolia trees. But their essence is peppered throughout her career and everything she touches.
She never saw her tremendous success coming, but it wasn’t about that for her. She just loved pretty things, a lovely home and baked goods. “I didn’t see the importance of being from Kentucky. It was never something I thought would be of interest. I spent years running away from it, and it’s actually become an important asset.” She admits there is absolutely no way she would have her current position if she hadn’t been from the South. She speaks the language of the Draper James customer quite eloquently. And as keynote speaker at the Kentucky to the World event this week, you can personally hear her words slip right out like honey in her talk “From KentUCKy to KenLUCKY.” (Photo by Sandy Lee)
An avid reader, her current night-stand occupant is “What She Ate: Six Remarkable Women and the Food That Tells Their Stories” by Laura Shapiro. “I’m obsessed! Obsessed! It’s so fascinating.” The subtle nuances of a woman’s culinary preferences will no doubt inspire her in ways she’s yet to realize and the masses will benefit from. (After only reading the first paragraph on Amazon, I was hooked.)
She advises other creatives pursuing their dreams to stick to their gut and never look at the competition. “It’s very hard to get to the essence of what you want and what you think if you’re constantly comparing.” She cautions that there really aren’t that many original ideas left, but you don’t have to re-invent something. “It’s not whether or not someone has done it, the creativity is in the execution. I always focus on one to two notches different—finding that unique little kernel that you can use at just the right time.”
With a daughter in college and a son who’s a high school senior, her children have taught her a few lessons along the way. Her daughter once said, “Mom, you don’t always have to be perfect.”
Perfection isn’t something she strives for. She finds her children to be far more balanced and mature than she was at their age. “They’ve taught me to listen more than to speak as a parent.” Something she does happily with her high school sweetheart in New York.
Her favorite etiquette tip? She never goes anywhere empty-handed. “I always, always bring something.” It’s usually something home-baked and beautifully wrapped. Once she gets there, she’s more likely to have a glass of champagne than a smooth Kentucky bourbon. “If I were to drink anything, it would be champagne: Veuve Cliquot Champagne, Rosé…the pretty pink one.” With so much to celebrate in her every day life, it only seems fitting. Cheers to this Kentucky girl who’s done us all prouder than a peacock struttin’ in the southern Sunday sun. She definitely brings the best of Kentucky to the world.
Kentucky to the World showcases the talent, ingenuity and excellece of outstanding men and women with strong Kentucky ties. Visit kentuckytotheworld.org to stay updated on how to hear from other fascinating Kentuckians like Elizabeth.
(Published in The Voice Tribune 8/23/2017)