"I have grown stronger and appreciate the little moments, because I know how fragile and precious life is." - Addie Benson
Addie Benson is a 26-year-old Southern girl with a fondness for saying y'all and an obsession with vintage items. She created Old World New, a blog dedicated to making old things new again through reuse and sustainability. Addie certainly hasn't had the easiest life, but she has risen to every occasion like a champ. Yay, Addie!
Every Ella: Hi Addie! Tell us about yourself.
Addie Benson: I was born in Texas (in a small town), raised in northwest Arkansas, and now I'm back in Texas living in a big city, something I've never done before. I am the youngest of several children but was raised as an only child because one of my sisters raised me. I absolutely love being Southern. I also consider myself a global citizen. I'm blessed to have a family that supports my creative endeavors, being creative is how I thrive and live a full life. Dancing, especially to the music in your head and the beat of your own drum, doesn't hurt, either!
Your mother passed away of cancer when you were 4. How did that change you?
It has been difficult to cope with having neither a mother nor a "normal" family for the majority of my life. I don't remember much before the age of 6, but I recall having terrible fits when things didn't go my way. I'd automatically say "I want my mom" even though I didn't remember her at all. While it was very difficult in those early stages, I realized that everything that happens in life serves a purpose. I have grown stronger and appreciate the little moments, because I know how fragile and precious life is. Loss is very hard to deal with, especially the loss of a parent, and in my case, feeling like I've never had a mother because I don't remember anything about her. However, as cliche as it sounds, being positive and living with a purpose facilitates healing.
Your father had a difficult time coping after her death, so you moved in with your older sister. How did she balance being a college student and raising you at the same time?
I honestly see my sister as a super woman. She is my hero! She raised me well… I graduated in the top 10% of my high school class with several honors (the only African American to do so), and I went on to eventually graduate college and get a job in the field I studied. I really don't know how she managed college, working and a 12-year-old child at the age of 21. I know I was not in any place (financially, mentally, emotionally) to care for another human being when I was 21. The only answer I have is God. We were in church every Sunday and my sister is a praying woman. God, coupled with her tenacious spirit, and the prayers and help of our family made raising me a success for both of us.
How is your relationship with your sister now?
My sister is my biggest supporter and my best friend. She now has a child of her own and I talk and facetime with them several times a week. I go to her with the difficult life questions. We laugh and cry together, and I know that no matter what happens, no matter how old I get, she is my person. The person that will be there for me through thick and thin.
What did you study in college?
I jumped between architecture and interior design, eventually settling on a B.S. in architecture studies with a minor in interior design. It was my second minor in sustainability, however, that ignited a fire in me. All three of these subjects are what started me on my blogging journey, but sustainability has stood the test of time as far as subject matter therein. Teaching others how to be sustainable in their everyday lives is one of my main goals now.
What is your current profession?
I currently work at an architecture firm as an autocad drafter and 3D image creator, which is my favorite part. I love creating images of buildings that look like real existing architecture, and it is really helpful to our clients when it comes to deciding what the final building will look like. Creating and helping people at the same time keeps me happy on my 9-5.
You run the blog, Old World New. How did you come up with the idea?
Old World New was originally a class assignment for my Interior Design Professional Practice class. I didn't even know what a blog was back then in 2011. But once I started, I just couldn't stop. I've blogged about architecture, interior design, sustainability… and I even won my university's inaugural Sustainability Blogging competition. Now, my blog reflects my lifestyle and my expertise that I want to share with anyone who comes across it. Old World New's motto is "reuse, sustain, make old new again," and I try to accomplish that with thrifted fashion inspiration, getting back to some old traditions, such as cooking vintage recipes and exploring bed & breakfast accommodations when I travel and sharing ways people can make small changes in their lives in order to become more sustainable. I love that I can easily connect with people anywhere in the world with just a few keywords that lead them to Old World New.
What has been the most rewarding moment with your blog?
The most rewarding moments have been when people recognize me as an expert in what I write about. When someone comes to me for fashion advice or wanting to learn to thrift more, I get ecstatic. When someone asks me about a natural or sustainable way they can clean their home or if need a suggestion about a natural product that they can use on their body, I help them and I feel like I just saved the world. It is the most beautiful feeling to realize your passion, and have others validate it because what you do helps them.
And the biggest struggle?
Looking back over my life, I have been my biggest struggle. The moments when I didn't believe in myself or when I didn't believe that what I had to offer could help someone else were my lowest. When I started to believe in myself, progress happened. And progress, no matter how slow, is still progress. As I have believed in myself more and more, my progress has grown exponentially.
What are your goals for the site and your other career ambitions?
I want Old World New and its new community, Thrift It! Clique, to be a go-to place for people who want to learn about and share their experiences in thrift fashion, sustainable advances for the everyday person, and I want it to be a place to explore and share love for anything vintage.
As far as my career, I want to be able to work for myself and for the people who need my services with thrift and vintage shopping and I want to educate people on ways to be more sustainable. However that happens - whether it be by writing books, my online shop becoming extremely successful, hosting webinars or actually going into the community to educate people - I am ready for it, and I know it is coming soon.
Name one woman who has inspired you.
The women in my family inspire me everyday - every single one of them. Someone that we all have access to as a public figure is Tracee Ellis Ross. I originally admired her because she wasn't afraid to be her quirky self in the limelight (as an actress and as Diana Ross's daughter). She is so open about her love for vintage and thrift store finds mixed in with her designer clothes. She's the one that I see myself in - a brown woman, unashamed of who she is, and wearing vintage. I just adore her!
What advice would you give other girls who had a challenging upbringing?
Believe in yourself and don't be afraid to be yourself. Don't let group-think or what people consider "normal" control you. If you have a question about anything, go educate yourself about it. Gaining knowledge has become so easy. The more you learn, the more you understand yourself, and the closer you get to living your truth and achieving your dreams. Lastly - DREAM BIG, beautiful girls!