AUde to Women

Women Raising the Bar: Aurea Sanabria Molaei

Part of being a New Yorker is daring to have it all. We all find ourselves struggling against the various challenges of day: whether it’s dealing with uncomfortably crowded subway rides, jumping over unexpected puddles, or responding to a never-ending flurry of emails, making it in New York is a hustle. And while we all find a way to survive, some manage to thrive, as is the case with Aurea Sanabria Molaei.

Aurea wears many hats, acting as a creative director, artist, floral stylist, and producer. Any one of these professions boasts a remarkable amount of responsibilities, and yet Aurea tackles them all with expertise and grace. In short, multi-tasking has never looked so effortless.

Name: Aurea

Title: Founder & Creative Director, Flower Bodega

Title you would give yourself? Dancing Queen

What did you want to be growing up? Growing up, I wanted to be a costume designer. I studied fashion design at a vocational high school on 24th street in Manhattan, then went on to study fashion at FIT. I loved studying movies, music videos, going to the theatre and enjoyed ballroom and salsa dance performances. I wanted to be the next Catherine Martin, immersed myself in art history and thought I'd for sure win an Oscar by the age of 40. I ended up costuming for two dance companies following college, but found that I liked the backstage production of it all more than sitting behind a sewing machine for hours and hours. I still make my own Halloween costumes, which are pretty epic, so I still find fulfillment in that!

What do you still want to be when you grow up? A World Traveler. I’ve been to a handful of countries, but not enough. I am deeply influenced by the visual arts and music, so would love to be exposed to as much of it as humanly possible before my time on this earth is done. 

What gets you out of bed in the morning? Usually some sort of floral obligation will get me out of bed in the morning. Depending on how much we have going on that week, I can be up as early as 3AM preparing for an install or project. On my non-early flower project days, it's usually my 3-year-old Shiba Inu who is getting me up for his morning walk. Usually around 6:30am/7ish.

What gets you into bed at night? Catching up on enough emails to not give me anxiety before bed. If there's too much to still do, I won't go to bed until I feel like I can handle the rest in the morning. 

Where is your favorite place? Ho'okipa Lookout in Maui. It's a platform overlooking Ho'okipa Beach that gives you a full view of the sun setting, the ocean peppered with surfers patiently wading in anticipation of the next wave, sea turtles laying in the sand and the tall grass leaves blowing in the wind. If you’re lucky, a local family may be grilling there while playing old Hawaiian tunes on a small portable stereo. It’s the most beautiful place on earth and marked a very special moment in time for me during my honeymoon. It will be imprinted in my mind forever.

What makes you laugh? The art of shade. Well-written and well delivered comebacks containing zero profanity but enormous amounts of passive aggressive, eloquent reads crack me up. Any episode of the Golden Girls, 1980’s Dynasty, To Wong Foo, Ru Paul’s Drag Race, Pose, and most recently everything that comes out of Meryl Streep’s mouth on Big Little Lies Season 2.

What’s on your bucket list? Learning French. I'm obsessed with the idea of learning how to speak French fluently. Also learning how to make oil paintings of some of my floral creations. I want to paint a really huge one for my mother one day.

What is your favorite book? Night of the Cotillion by Janet Dailey. It's a romance novel from the 70’s that’s equally cheesy and endearing. I found it in my late grandmother’s closet in Puerto Rico one day when I was a kid. She had dozens of Harlequin Romance novels that my cousin and I split up. She died before I was born, so I connected to the small things I would discover about her that countered other family members’ descriptions of her character. She was described as a tough woman and I never really saw a photograph of her smiling. Discovering this book collection told me something a little different…Maybe she had a soft side and was really a hopeless romantic underneath her tough exterior.

Favorite piece of art? There's a photograph of Jean Patchett sunbathing on a fire escape taken by Nina Leen (circa late 1940's) that I love so much. It represents summers in New York City. She exudes a timeless elegance and sense of calm that I aspire to.

Favorite past time? Dancing. I love to dance. If there's great music, I don't need a sip of alcohol... I feel so free with the right music.

How do you stay motivated? I'm in constant competition with myself. I always think I can do more, I can do better. So I jump at the next opportunity that allows me to push and challenge myself to produce better work.

What does giving back mean to you? I’m a Puerto Rican girl from the Bronx, so giving back is my way of paying it forward. I was exposed to so many incredible people along my journey through childhood and their influence helped shape who I am today. They showed me there is a way out of a system designed to keep us a statistic. I want to pay that forward by helping young girls as much as possible. I have a lot of amazing things in the works designed to help inner city girls be exposed to the arts and new experiences that can open up their worlds and possibilities.

Who is someone you admire or look up to and why? There’s an executive producer I’ve worked with on many projects called Eve. She has taught me so much about production and maintaining a cool, level head even in the hardest situations. She really knows her stuff, is an incredible problem solver and takes care of her team. She is GOALS. I aspire to be that type of leader: someone who is prepared, tough but fair, can be silly and have fun, cares about her team and the experiences she’s creating, and is always willing to lend an ear or incredible advice.

What’s the best advice you’ve received? Sometimes saying "no" gives you space for the right “yes" to come along.

What does balance mean to you? Being a small business owner means I wear all of the hats. I’m my own product photographer, accountant, web developer, social media manager, marketing manager, florist, and more. It’s exhausting. I also freelance as an event producer on select projects, am married, and have a dog. It’s a lot to juggle. Being able to enjoy a night out with family and friends or a night in watching re-runs of the Office with my husband or taking my pup to the dog run are all things I’ve been making an active effort to do more often. It’s evening out my excessive workload with some personal time and I’m finally feeling a sense of balance.

How do you break the rules? I believe in learning the foundation then running with it. You have to crawl before you can walk, sure, but I often bypass the walking phase and head straight into a sprint. A gift of mine is being able to learn things quickly, adopt the concept and find efficiencies to get to the same end result. When it comes to art and creating, there are foundational practices you have to abide by (like removing leaves beneath the water line to avoid bacterial growth), but I am constantly challenging color theory, mixed mediums and playing with scale. I don't believe in perfection, so I never strive for it especially when I'm creating.

What does being a female in your industry mean to you? In both the event and floral industries, there are many females that take up space here, so at times it can be very competitive, but mostly there's a shared sense of camaraderie. More specifically, being a successful inner-city bred Latin woman in my industry is harder to come by, so I feel great strength, pride, and a sense of responsibility to my culture and my city to inspire more women to join in. Sure, I'm emotional and fiery at times, but I'm also smart, ambitious, kind and always willing to help. That to me is what femininity is. Being able to take on any challenge with brains, creativity, grace, and a little bit of sass.

What’s your favorite AUrate piece? I love all of the jewelry with the Sensu design. It's feminine, art deco yet modern and still unique.

What're your guilty pleasures? Keeping up with the Kardashians. ¯\_(ツ)_/¯

What're your summer escapes? I love to go to museums on my own and must lay out on the beach. That signifies summer for me!

When it comes to jewelry, what's your approach? Very, very minimal. I love thin yellow gold jewelry. I love timeless elegance. I think these pieces are very feminine, soft, elegant and can be worn daily. I do, however, love a fist full of statement rings. Gold rings across multiple fingers with cool stones and character evoke gangster chic that I'm really also into. Pinky rings? I mean, come on! They're so cool!