If you’re anything like us, you’re already quite familiar with Cleo Wade. In fact, we’ll be quick to say “I love her!” anytime someone brings up her name up in conversation. We follow her Instagram account loyally and save posts to our collection page for those not-so-amazing days when the poet’s words feel especially poignant. But the artist has now officially taken her self-help and social-activism-sparking work off social media—where it’s garnered her close to 350,000 followers—and into a (somewhat) more traditional format: her first book, Heart Talk, which was released last week.
“I really didn’t want to write just poems for the book. I really wanted the book to function more as a tool,” Wade told Who What Wear over the phone. Heart Talk, which included 90% new work you haven’t seen on her Instagram yet, is “really designed to be able to be picked up at any page, but also be read in flow if you did want to read it from front to back,” the author explains.
This trailblazing approach feels aligned with Wade, a person whose work so often serves to celebrates and uplift the unique beauty and strength of women everywhere. This can be seen in her ability to trust her own gut—“It is one of those feelings when you have to believe in yourself more than the people who believe in you,” she says of releasing an unconventional book—as well as her approach to personal expression. This includes her relationship to fashion, an industry where Wade is definitely considered an insider and influencer.
“Fashion and grooming is such a deeply expressive experience,” she tells us when we ask about how her work as a poet has shaped the way she thinks about style. “My biggest desire for all people is for them to find different ways of expressing themselves. I don’t think that one way is better than another.”
Wade adds that one of the simplest forms of self-expression can be wearing your favorite color. “Whether you want to express yourself through your work or poems or a painting or dancing with your girlfriends or wearing a floral dress, the important thing is that people are expressing themselves and not bottling up who they really are, because I do think that breeds so much more insecurity and shame.”
That said, we look at Heart Talk as Wade’s own method of sharing her authentic self with the world. “The most challenging part of this book was deciding where to stop,” she admits. “Creating artwork or a book is almost like the way you feel about yourself: The book never feels perfect, just like we never feel perfect as people. And you also have to let it live and have its own life and have its own joy and do what it is meant to do.”
Heart Talk: Poetic Wisdom for a Better Life is available for purchase now.