Carolyn Manning : Community Builder & First Time Model

Community Builder, First Time Model, Truth Bomb Dropper

Carolyn began her career as a lawyer, but traded her pantsuits for yoga pants, and is now the US Director of Brand and Community for lululemon.


interviewed by Kejal Macdonald


I met Carolyn for the first time at our most recent Icon photoshoot. We were looking for badass non-model moms to model for us, and she graciously volunteered. Despite just meeting, we had no trace of small talk, and found ourselves swapping birth stories within 10 minutes. Carolyn is one of those women who would be intimidating if she wasn't so fucking cool and down-to-earth. She's just as funny and warm as she is driven and self-aware. I adore her refreshingly genuine, no-bullshit attitude, which she applied in spades when answering our questions below. She's a true gem and a beautiful human being. Enjoy!


Which of your body parts do you have the most affection for?  

Affection?  I’m not sure I have affection for body parts.  Gratitude, maybe?  I feel grateful for the strength of my legs.  I’ve relied on them quite a bit - I just feel like they’ve allowed me to enjoy a life full of activity.  I’m also grateful for being flat chested.  I hated it as a young girl, but now, it just seems easy, and I like being able to see my breath come from my belly and move into my chest.  I like seeing my breath puff up my chest.  Weird, I know.

What’s making you leap out of bed in the morning these days? 

Milo.  He’s just over one and wakes up calling for me, or Evan, my man.  It’s generally around 6am.  Every now and then, I work out an early morning class, which gets me up out of bed and onto a mat.  I drag myself, but I’m happy I did.  I think generally, responsibility gets me out of bed these days.

What’s causing you pain right now?   

Lately, I’ve been getting stuck on how so little feels like mine, and when I work to create space for myself, I feel a pretty acute guilt, which surprises me.  I know better.  Two kids has been a big shift, and I think I’m mourning a bit: I spent a lot of years fully focused on me, and that’s changed.  Having, wanting, loving and raising a child, or two, was the only thing I ever felt truly sure of, and I’m still adjusting to what it means for me, as a woman, a person, to be a mom.  I’m fighting something for sure.  I need to release something for sure.  The resistance is creating some pain.


Where do you turn for inspiration and guidance?  

My mom gives me a lot of practical guidance - she knows babies inside and out and she’s pragmatic, which I value.  I read a lot.  A lot: articles, books, blogs … I just like knowing what’s out there on food for kids, parenting styles, education options … the internet is a beautiful thing.  And I ask my friends - some mothers, most not.  I ask them to give it to me straight.  Am I fucking up?  And they tell me.  And I try to do better the next day.


What’s the biggest risk you’ve ever taken?  

I think getting married is pretty risky.  Evan and I have been together for 12 years.  I think he’s hilarious and sexy and smart and kind.  And every now and then, I want to set his head on fire.  We went into marriage eyes wide open that it’s a crazy proposition.  I mean, careers, families, jobs, houses, dinners, cleaning, sex, loving one another … for our entire lives ...making it all work, and thriving, it’s a dance.  I guess the thing is … there are times when we think, “Fuck it.  This is crazy.  Let’s call it.”  And we don’t.  We stick in it and move through it and recommit to the promise we made and fall a little more in love with one another.  Yeah, I think marriage - good, solid, hard working, fun - marriage is courageous and risky.   

What little activities or personal rituals do you do just for you?  

I take time at night to properly clean my face.  Sadly, as I’m 37, it’s a new ritual.  But I enjoy the self care.  I practice yoga.  Not daily, but often and reconnecting with my body helps me feel grounded.


I think being a woman gives me access to a full and complete life.  I feel both grounded and magical. 


What makes you feel strong?  

Exercise.  I guess that’s a simple answer.  But, I know it’s important for me.  If I go a few days without sweating, I get cranky.  I need to move to get that energy moving through my body, to clear space in my head.  I also feel strong when speaking to a group.  Generally, it’s at work.  Don’t get me wrong, I want to vomit before I have to speak.  But once I’m up there and in a groove, I feel really strong.  Both in my ability to inspire a group of people and in my ability to clearly communicate an idea.

When do you feel most vulnerable?

When I have to acknowledge a shortcoming with Evan.  It’s hard for me to do, even after all of this time.  And I feel vulnerable all of the time with my kids.  Having them is heartbreaking in a way … their existence makes me vulnerable.  Should anything ever happen to either of those kids, a piece of my soul would break away from me.

In what ways has motherhood most impacted your creative life?  

I think being a woman gives me access to a full and complete life.  I think this is the only chance I’ll have as human and being a woman … I feel both grounded and magical.  Capable of magic, but with two feet firmly planted on the earth.  It’s a nice combination.  I feel uninhibited.


Complete this sentence: Womanhood is __________.



You’re responsible for building and fostering the Lululemon community. How has your work impacted the way you see the importance of community and the power of groups?  

I've always worked in community.  It’s the only way to work.  I think being able to create from a smart, interesting and kind community is important - diversity of ideas and ways of being in the world.  It creates better results.  I think the greatest power of a group is that it forces you to rely on one another - reliance is cool.  It creates vulnerability and depth of relationship.


What role does exercise and fitness play in your practice of self-care? What does that connection between inner and outer self-care look and feel like for you?  

I talked a little bit about this above.  I need to exercise to feel like my best self. And I could do a better job of having a mindfulness practice.  That is an inner self care I know I need and don’t honor.  It’s time.

What is something you’re actively striving to model and teach by example for your daughter?

Two things: 1) How she feels, not how she looks, matters.  I don’t speak about my body or the way I look. I can’t ever remember my mom talking about her appearance and so I had the freedom to not think about mine. 2) Take some time to breathe.  I take deep breaths when I’m losing it and ask her to do the same.  Every now and then, it works.


We believe in giving ourselves permission and striving for guilt-free womanhood and motherhood as much as humanly possible. Tell us about a source of unnecessary guilt that you’re ready to let go of.  

I travel a lot for work, so I’m away from my kids a bit because of this.  Right now, I feel guilty when I take time away from them if it’s not because of work.  I’m committed to letting this go.








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