Everybody’s path in life is unique and can be full of unforgettable experiences. For UCLA Extension Architecture & Interior Design alum, Leslie Shapiro Joyal, those experiences started with a happy accident.
At an early age, Leslie was determined to become a successful painter—that is, until she accidentally stumbled upon design during her education at community college. “The drawing class I applied for was not open,” she recalls, “and my only option was a design composition class.” This “happy accident” ultimately led her to the Architecture & Interior Design program at UCLA Extension. The schedule was demanding and projects were challenging, but the experiences Leslie had during her education were priceless. “I had the opportunity to work with some of Los Angeles’ design luminaries – including interior designer Kerry Joyce, textile designer Jack Lenor Larsen, and gallery owner Mark Krasne.”
After graduating in 1991, she was hired as design assistant to modernist architect Frank Israel. It was in this studio that she felt her sensibilities evolve. Only a few years later, she opened her own interior design company shapiro joyal studio, which also features some of her custom designed furniture pieces.
To add to her list of amazing life experiences, Leslie was chosen to participate on the hit HGTV reality show Ellen’s Design Challenge, created by Ellen DeGeneres. When she received a random email from her casting agency inviting her to apply to a reality show about furniture designers, she glanced at it for a second, deleted it, but then thought “why not” and resurrected it from email trash. After tons of interviews and paperwork, Leslie finally received the news that she would be competing on live TV among five other designers for a chance to win $100,000 and the opportunity to see their work featured in HGTV Magazine. Unfortunately, Leslie was eliminated early, but just being recognized for her talent, being selected among hundreds of other applicants, and having the opportunity to compete was, as Leslie put it, “truly one of the highlights of my career.”
We asked Leslie to share some advice based of her life experiences. Here’s her insightful tips:
- Be prepared. There will, absolutely, be a moment in your career that is a potential game changer. Be ready for it. Keep taking classes, and keep meeting people. Connections are your biggest asset. You will learn things from people you like, and people you don’t like, and through those experiences you will form your own voice.
- Be courageous! Walk head first into what scares you. In 1985, I went to a showroom on a field trip that I fell in love with. I knew I had to work there. I waited until the tour was over, pulled the owner aside, and begged him to give me an interview. I got the job and on my first day, right before the elevator doors opened, I took a deeeeep breath and walked into the next chapter of my life.
- Be YOU! My final piece of advice, and I know how cliché it sounds, but it is true for me. Listen to your inner voice. Let you be you. You may be doubted, and you may be told that your ways are wrong. Stand your ground! As artists, you are the rule breakers, and you are the ones that change the paradigm. Own and unleash your artistic spirit so that others can benefit from it. What is often misunderstood at first usually becomes the beloved. Don’t be afraid to be different, and let your inner sense guide the way.
Below, enjoy a collection of images from Leslie’s career as a designer and (brief) career as a reality TV star:
To see Leslie’s full collection, click here.
To see more images from the HGTV show Ellen’s Design Challenge, click here.
We are so grateful to have Leslie share her exciting adventures with us! If you have a success story, we want to hear about it! Click here.