A Labor (and Potion) of Love.
Written and Photographed by: Marie Spada
When I first met Hilary Shepard, I thought: “OK, this woman is a bombshell…I’m intimidated.” With a glowing smile and an out-of-this-world style, Shepard is the type of woman that makes you think, “Um, can I just be you?”
What I wasn’t expecting was such a down-to-earth, radiant soul who is truly a girl’s girl. In fact, when my life made a turn in a different direction, she was one of the people that I was disappointed I would no longer be seeing on a regular basis.
Fast forward and lo-and-behold, I ran into Shepard at Amaree’s in Newport Beach during my Donna Karan interview. As it turns out, the two women are friends (duh, why wouldn’t they be?).
After my interview, Shepard and I sat down, caught up on all of life’s fabulous changes, and she told me about her new fragrance she was launching. I laughed when she said she stopped people in the streets, that men were drawn to it like bees to honey, and that she couldn’t make enough to keep up with the orders.
I had to know more about this miracle potion, and as promised, she gave me a call as soon as she was in full production. I am honored to share what I learned about this fabulous scent, its heartfelt message, and why you need to buy a bottle as soon as you’re done reading.
Question: What was your inspiration for this fragrance?
Hilary Shepard: I was born with synesthesia, which is when your olfactory senses are really, really strong. When I’d watch TV growing up, I though television was ‘smellivision,’ and if there was a forest fire, I’d smell a fire, or if someone cracked open a beer, I’d smell the beer.
It now bleeds into other aspects of my life, and growing up; there was no definition for it. The upshot is that smells are evocative to me. As an actor, I’d always use smells for memory to bring things back. When you smell something, you go right back to where you first smelled it.
I have always been careful about what I wear on my body, because it would trigger all sorts of crazy stuff! I love the smell of Nightblooming Jasmine, which I’d smell when I walked by these bushes in Los Angeles. I love Gardenia, which I tried to grow, but they’re so hard to grow. Orange Blossom is another one of my favorites, and I started mixing those three smells on my own.
So many people would stop me every day, and I started mixing it for my girlfriends because they wanted it, and I figured if 10 people are stopping me in a day, then I’m going to have to start making this. I didn’t know anything about doing a business, though. I had a few iterations, and I started it when I was going through breast cancer recovery and moved down to Orange County from Los Angeles.
It was something I could do in my bed, and I did it slowly and gradually that way, but was always uncomfortable with the business aspect.
Summer was one of the first women I met, and I loved everything she was doing with The Soul Project, and how all of her products gave back to charity. She sold my perfume when it was called something else. It was one of her biggest sellers.
Every time I’d get ready to stop making it, I’d get these e-mails begging me not to stop, that it was everyone’s favorite scent. I understood how they felt! I would hate it if I couldn’t wear the scent.
Q: How did you choose the different oils that go into it?
HS: It was really based on my favorite smells and things that I love. Even when I step off of the plane in Hawaii, which is my soul place, the smell just hits me. That’s one of the things a lot of people say when they smell Soul Sisters, is that it smells like Hawaii.
When I was going through my cancer treatments, I had to have my ovaries out, and I found out that men find you less attractive when you’re not ovulating because there’s a pheromone that you don’t excrete anymore. This scent has a pheromone in it that attracts bees to flowers, and that’s the same thing that attracts men to you, so that’s a little boost!
When I was going through my cancer treatments, I gave it to a lot of the other cancer patients because it’s organic and good for you, but it also made them feel sexy and alive again, which is a great thing because chemo just sucks the life out of you while also giving you life.
Q: How did you and The Soul Project partner up?
HS: When Summer approached me, it was such a great fit. Her business is called The Soul Project, so the name ‘Soul Sisters’ just came to me, and I wanted proceeds to go to charity, too. Our husbands are friends, and I just loved Summer immediately.
I loved her style, and she was about to start Soul Project, so I got to watch her go through this whole process. I was so excited, and she’s such a great business mind, and she has such great style and sense. A lot of people are one or the other, and she has it all. She’s very sweet and calm, and I’m the opposite, I’m sweet, but definitely not calm.
She carried my perfume when it was in another incarnation, and it did really well for her. I’d send a lot of online orders to her for people in the middle of the country who couldn’t find it, so it was a natural partnership. I loved her whole philosophy on her business, and I love her space here. They have crafting nights where you can make things, and they print their own T-shirts and do printing nights.
We’re going to do a launch party on May 21 for our scent, and we’re going to have a woman making magic wands, a woman doing angel card readings, and giveaways. It’s going to be so fun, with great Soul Sister style music. It will be such a fun night!
Q: How did you select the charity that you wanted Soul Sisters to benefit?
HS: This was my sister’s favorite scent, and we were going through cancer at the same time. She ended up dying of lung cancer, never having smoked a day. It was very brutal, and a very hard time.
There was a local laboratory that studied her kind of cancer, which is very prevalent in non-smoking women, and they were making great breakthroughs. We set up a charity with them, and we now contribute to their research. It’s so strange, because the laboratory was only three miles from my sister’s home in Long Island. It’s called the Elisabeth R. Woods Foundation and Kathy Simon Foundation, and Kathy is my sister. They raise money for this specific kind of cancer research.
I wanted to do something that would give back. I have so many beautiful women in my life, and now I’ve lost my actual sister. I was so thankful to have my best friends in my life, like Daryl Hannah who I’ve been best friends with since we were 16 and 17. She is a sister to me.
Another girl, Daniella Clarke, the designer of Frankie B., has a new line coming out, and I just have so many stylish girlfriends who meant so much to me over the years, and I thought it was a great way to honor them, too.
There is so much in the media, especially about women my age, fighting and being petty about the stupidest things, so I thought it’d be nice to promote something positive.
Q: That foundation sounds amazing. Tell us more.
HS: The Elisabeth R. Woods and Kathy Simon Foundation is in New York, and Elisabeth Wood’s daughter set it up. She died of the same kind of lung cancer that my sister died from, which is a non-smoking lung cancer that affects women. When my sister was alive, we were in touch with them because they had all of the cutting-edge treatments.
The laboratory is run by a woman, and they knew my sister as well; it seemed like a perfect fit. They do fundraisers and have a big gala once a year, and this is the first product with which they’ve associated, and we’re all excited about it. They have a web site, elisabethrwoods.org, and it’s cool because the money goes directly to research at the laboratory, so you can be sure the money goes right where it needs to go.
One of my other best friends, Caroline Feeney, she’s another Soul Sister, her dad had a great book written about him called ‘The Accidental Billionaire,’ and he gave away his $23 billion to charity. She’s the one who introduced the concept of businesses who give back to me, and I took it to heart.
I admire that family so much for what they’ve done for the world. She could have been an idiot heiress, and she’s the most incredible and giving person. Her whole family is that way; they’ve been a huge inspiration to me.
Q: Who or what inspired you to keep going with your fragrance and do more than just giving it to family and friends?
HS: (Laughing) It was a hard decision, because I do so many things, as you already know, Marie! I felt like the world needed it because so many people stopped me —men and women! It came into the world because of the demand. Every time I tried to stop, it was like ‘The Godfather: They pulled me back in!’ I would get these crazy e-mails from the stores I was in and the women I’d sell to on Etsy and I couldn’t let them down.
I had women who would drive to my house from Los Angeles to pick up a bottle, and it just has an incredible following. Summer and I have plans to release a candle and body oil, too. We’re also going to have some other scents, another of my favorite smells that will be coming out later in the year.
Q: How did it feel finding out you have this cult following?
HS: It’s so strange, because it happens to me in different areas of my life. I was the Evil Queen on ‘The Power Rangers,’ and did the movie and the TV show, and I had no idea that people remembered me for that or that I had any kind of cult following. I kept getting asked to go to Comic Cons, and I was like: ‘No! No one will remember me! I will just sit there like an idiot! I ended up doing one, and saw how many people were dressed up as me, and that I had an impact on these people’s lives and childhoods; it was incredible.
Now to find another aspect in my life with this scent, which means so much to me because of the cause behind it, it’s awesome to make people feel good and smell good.
MS: That’s so crazy to have such a big following in two totally different areas.
HS (laughing): Oh, yeah! It’s two totally different audiences, and there’s no way to even meld the two! But that’s totally OK, because that is who I am. I have different aspects.
Q: Where else can we find Soul Sisters?
HS: It’s sold at Plenty Boutique in Santa Barbara, Ekam Yoga in Newport Beach, The Sheared Sheep in Costa Mesa, Amaree’s in Newport Beach, and Moo Country in Montana! Also Tres Chic in New York. It was one of my sister’s favorite stores; it’s a vintage store. And of course, The Soul Project!
The Soul Project
1516 S Coast Hwy
Laguna Beach, CA 92651
949.494.0489 | www.soulproject.com