Lifeway President and CEO Julie Smolyansky shares the luxuries that keep her happy, healthy, and inspired in Chicago and beyond.
“I wear a lot of hats,” says Julie Smolyansky. She’s not kidding: The Lincoln Park resident leads Lifeway Foods, the nation’s leading supplier of kefir, having become the youngest female CEO of a publicly held firm when she assumed her role at 27; a mother of two daughters, Smolyansky is also a passionate advocate for women’s rights, particularly through her nonprofit Test400k (which challenges the backlog of 400,000 untested rape kits in America), and as executive producer of the sexual assault documentary The Hunting Ground (which notably features Lady Gaga’s single “Til It Happens to You”); she’s run 13 marathons; and she’s the consummate jet-setter, regularly traveling to places like Mexico, China, and Bangladesh. “I definitely go inward and consider how much gratitude I have for all that it took to get to this point—good and bad, it’s all connected,” says Smolyansky, who notes that she always wants to give back to the community that’s empowered her. Here, she shares life’s luxuries that continue to keep her leading the way.
Favorite label: “I wear a lot of Gucci.”
Jeans: Rag & Bone and Cynthia Rowley.
Shoes: “I have a ton of YSL booties, and I wear Havaianas all the time. I have to be comfortable.
Good ink: Smolyansky’s symbol on her right wrist holds special meaning: “Five days before the Oscars, I was invited to join Lady Gaga onstage with 50 other survivors. It was incredible, and one of the other survivors drew this sign of unity and Gaga’s favorite flower, which is a rose; everyone went and got matching tattoos, including Lady Gaga. When I look at it, I feel like it’s reflective of all that I overcame, and my journey, and that spirit of survivorship.”
Favorite salons and spas: Salon 1800, Polish & Pour (“I can get some wine there!”), and Waldorf Astoria.
Vacation spot: “I fell in love with Tulum because it feels incredibly healing.”
Go-to hotels: The Four Seasons (“You will fall into their arms, and anything you need, they handle”) and Soho House.
Reading material:The New York Times.
Apps of choice: Uber, GrubHub (“I order Freshii smoothies all the time”), Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and ClassPass.
Favorite Chicago restaurants: Summer House Santa Monica (“I like the Baja surfer tacos”), Shine (for takeout), BOKA, and Piccolo Sogno.
Guilty pleasure: Gino’s East. “When I run my marathons, I get through the finish lines by thinking about that damn pizza!”