Cleo Wade On Spreading Joy Through Travel And What She’s Dreaming Of Right Now

by Freya Drohan

Seeing as our dream is to have a resume that reads like Cleo Wade’s, we’re curious as to what her world looks like—both when she’s asleep and awake. The poet, author, style maven, mom, and activist recently added another line to her curriculum vitae after being named as the first-ever poet-in-residence at Fairmont Hotels & Resorts, to coincide with the brand’s new global brand campaign, “Experience The Grandest of Feelings.” The Daily called her up to hear more about the inspiration for the poem she composed, her hopes, dreams, and where’s still on her wanderlust bucket list. 

Tell us about becoming the Fairmont Hotel & Resort’s first poet-in-residence!
I was so excited to be asked to be a part of the Fairmont family in this way. [The role] is a whole journey and process to capture, not just past experiences I could have had at a Fairmont, but hopeful future experiences too. It’s also about the frame of mind when you get away from regular routine. I wrote this poem, That Fairmont Feeling, and it’s really about trying to reflect and put words to the feeling of being able to escape and the surreal becoming real—especially after the two years we’ve lived through and continue to figure out! These places where you can steal away from your day to day have become more and more valuable; it’s something we’re all looking for and trying to get in any way we can.

Let’s go all the way back. What did you originally want to be when you grew up?
I really still have no freaking idea! Oh my gosh, two kids later and I’m asking, ‘Am I a grown up?!’ I definitely didn’t think I’d be a poet. There weren’t really any modern day poets—there were obviously the greats like Maya Angelou and Alice Walker—but there weren’t people in my age range making a living. And so I didn’t think it was possible. Whenever we tell young people to write the books they want to see in the world and just do the thing, I know that to be true because I actually lived it! I wondered…could it be me? Could I be the one to do it first? I feel so lucky that there’s so many ancestors I could look to, but in my generation, I didn’t see anyone doing it the way I really wanted to. I’ve been a babysitter, worked in retail, in fashion…I literally sold t-shirts in New Orleans with crawfish on them! And then it happened. I wrote books and I tried a lot of things. Like any good dream, you’ve got to listen to it when it keeps calling.

Henry Golding, Mansi Vagt, and Cleo Wade attends Fairmont Hotels & Resorts “Experience The Grandest Of Feelings” Unveiling (Getty Images)

You initially moved to NYC to pursue fashion—what area of the industry were you interested in pursuing? 
Honestly, I love fashion and it was always the way I could express myself as a kid who didn’t have a lot of money. It was all thrift stores and hand-me-downs growing up, so when that’s your experience, that what you buy isn’t brand new and from a store, then you’re figuring out ways to make it yours. But shout out to Cassie—she gave me the best hand-me-downs in my childhood! [Fashion] felt like something I was good at and people always told me to do it, and so you make lemonade out of lemons. I really moved to New York because it’s the best city in the world and I wanted to be in the melting pot. Growing up in the French Quarter surrounded by so much diversity, I wanted to expand on that even more. But then I started writing, so [my fashion career] was short lived.

And now you work with brands in the fashion and luxury space in the capacity of artist and poet…how does that full-circle journey feel?
It just feels natural! We often feel like writers are just going to write and a fashion person is only going to care about fashion, but we’re all multi-faceted beings. These past few years during the Trump era were about realizing that we can, and probably should, live with all of our interests, cares, concerns, love, family, and work mixed together and not just fit into one box at a time. I didn’t want to check boxes—I wanted to take all the boxes and fit them into one big box.

Is this your first travel-related partnership?
Yes and that’s what’s amazing about partnering with the Fairmont. When I was little, we went on some vacations, but I hadn’t really left the country except for a very special trip to Jamaica when I was a kid. I hadn’t been to Europe, Africa, or Asia. It just wasn’t how we spent our summers. To have this role with Fairmont and travel and be in the world is fulfilling my own childhood dreams and continuing my own personal happiness journey. When we move through the world as happy people, then we’ve more energy to spread that type of joy—and that’s powerful.

What are you enjoying about the role?
I’ve never had a role specifically with a hotel group, which is so cool to do. I’m learning so much! It’s really exciting because learning more about travel and places makes you dream more. I can’t wait to take the kids traveling soon and see it through their eyes.

Where was the first place you traveled to post-pandemic?
I haven’t really traveled because I had my first child a month before COVID and I just had my baby [seven weeks ago]. Road trips through California have felt like a safe, fun way to get out!

What are some unforgettable places you’ve been?
I feel a strong connection to Africa. Kenya is one of the most beautiful places I’ve ever been to. Another is Ethiopia, and I love South Africa; I truly can’t wait to get back to Africa. I was just saying to my husband, I really cant wait to take my kids to Jamaica too! And I miss New Orleans so much. I used to go there four or five times a year. I literally feel like it was my third parent. This is the longest time I’ve been away from my hometown.

 

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When’s the last time you visited?
Right before I had my daughter in October 2019. I went there with three of my girlfriends just to eat my way around New Orleans! It was only for 36 hours because I had to go somewhere right after.

If I only had 36 hours there what should I eat?
It’s so hard to choose!! I think you have to get a Po Boy or find somewhere with great red beans and rice. I really can’t even choose!

Where’s still on your travel bucket list?
I really want to go back to Africa and take my kids there. I just recently found out that Fairmont has a safari property. I’ve never been to the Maldives either, I’d love to go there! We’re dreaming about travel again because it’s less scary and now I feel like I broke the seal going from L.A. to New York for the Fairmont event. I was a little scared, but doing that was a breakthrough moment for me so I’m even more excited to travel again.

Beyond travel, what else do you dream of?
As always, I’m dreaming about love, people, relationships, friendships, and all of the different ways we can be better to each other. I’m ready to write books again soon too. I have been enjoying time with my kids and much-needed maternity time, which every woman needs and deserves after having a kids. But yes, I’m dreaming of travel, love, and food, and being in the world in a better way!

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