GET TO KNOW : CAITI RILEY
Words by Grace Hartley and Simon Clemenger
Loves: How I feel after a workout, costume parties, craft cocktails, managing personal finances, seeing the world, salt (in my food, on rims of my drinks, with chocolate and in bodies of water)… confidence, the sense of accomplishment after finishing a book.
Hates: Racism, the smell of bookstores, fantasy TV/movies, beets, getting comfortable in life, networking events, the word “potty” and crocks.
How’s your day been so far?
My day has been great, I woke up at my typical 5:11am to be at the gym at 6am to get whooped by my trainer. We did a lot of plyometric and cardio work today which I need after 3 mini vacations this month where I made poor decisions. We’re also celebrating Halloween at work today, which happens to be my favorite holiday, so I threw on a fox costume and will spend the day testing my tolerance to fend off candy.
So what’s your day job?
I’m a Program Manager in my “9-5” working in the telecommunications industry. I’m responsible for coordinating all of the moving parts and cross functional teams to deploy and decommission major network equipment, essentially to make the internet work!
My other job is running, operating, creating, marketing and spreading the word about ampuTeez, a clothing line I created to boost confidence and raise awareness for amputees and all people with unique differences. After spending nearly all of my life as an amputee and hiding my prosthetic leg for almost as long, it was time I got over it and was true to myself. The only way I knew I’d stay committed to doing that was to help and inspire others in the process, which is how ampuTeez was born.
Describe yourself in 10 words?
Joke telling, restaurant hopping, sports loving, travel junkie, motivated woman.
How would your friends describe you in 10 words?
An outspoken wild woman who somehow also remains career driven, up to date on current news, with the ability to maintain dozens of friendships across the country and can speak sports like the next guy.
What’s your view on how women are treated in the media?
For the most part it seems women are either ignored or hypersexualized and I’m not sure which is worse. Women have and continue to do and create amazing things on a daily basis and they’re often not given the praise and recognition they deserve. What makes it worse, if a woman is extremely motivated to be recognized or voice their opinions, they’re often deemed “bossy” as opposed to assertive like their male counterparts would be. On the other side of the coin, if a woman is risque or sexually suggestive they are easily headline news. It doesn’t set a positive tone for the next generation.
What’s been your biggest obstacle?
Self acceptance, without a doubt. I was born with a very rare condition which caused me to have my left leg amputated below the knee at the age of four. Once teenage years hit I began hiding my prosthesis because I didn’t want to be different, pointed at, or constantly questioned, I just wanted to be like everyone else. Luckily throughout the next twenty-ish years I met some incredible people, amputees started popping up more in the media, inclusion and positive body image became a bigger focus and I simply just grew up and decided I had enough of hiding. The day I launched ampuTeez it was via social media in a t-shirt and my underwear (I didn’t own any shorts or skirts at the time!), the first time my leg was ever shown on social media. The feedback I received was overwhelmingly, I basically cried happy tears the entire day and I’ve been so happy with my decision every since. My only regret is not doing it sooner!
How do you keep yourself positive when you’re feeling down?
Dance (channeling my inner Ellen)! I also try to just relax and remind myself things will pass and am sure to say my 10 thank yous which I try to do on a daily basis. Also, my Dad doesn’t really do emotion so I can always rely on him to give me a good ole “shit happens, Cait” or “it’s always somethin!” and that brings me back to reality.
Where do you see yourself in 10 years time?
Considering I’ve moved three times in the past three years and I constantly battle the desire to stay young forever with the idea of wanting to settle down, I have zero to no clue. While corporate America has been good to me, I thoroughly enjoy the time I spend on ampuTeez and have interest in other entrepreneurial ventures as well, so only time will tell.
What’s your nick name?
My family calls me Dids, after the cricket-like bug Katydid.
Your dream vacation spot?
My dream vacation became a reality last year, I went to Greece and can’t wait to go back. Santorini and Mykonos are beautiful, I love the water (hence my mermaid leg) and mediterranean food is my absolute favorite.
What do you like and dislike about social media?
I like that I can keep up with old friends, the pages devoted to hilarious memes when you need a good laugh and being able to find useful information and recommendations for inspiration (fashion, fitness, travel, sports updates, etc). I think it is a great platform to push positive social movements, like @effyourbeautystandards and @theashleygraham which I love.
I dislike that it has become such a part of our daily lives and the amount of unnecessary information people put on social media. I don’t need to know your every step of your day to day life. On a more serious note, I know it can do a lot of harm to self esteem growing to become dependent on likes and followers will constantly comparing yourself to others and that is what I dislike the most.
Your best memory of your childhood?
I don’t have a specific memory, but some of my favorite memories from my childhood are the times I was able to spend with my papa. He always wanted to show us a good time through games at home, vacations, dinners out and holidays. I used to spend hours just asking him questions about his life and experiences. I’d give up anything I have to spend another day with him.
What are you obsessing over at the moment?
The fear of getting older which includes trying to fight the societal norms of what I should be doing at my age while also managing to be responsible although I feel like I’m running out of time to do wild and crazy things.
What makes you happy?
The days I feel skinny, traveling, time spent with friends and family, when everything in the fitting room fits, when the Detroit Lions actually win, food (Greek salads, soft pretzels, green beans, nachos, etc. etc. etc.).
What do you think needs to change in the world?
A drastic increase in acceptance and inclusion. There seems to be so much hate and division in the world today and it is heartbreaking. Everyone deserves to be here and to live their happiest lives the best way they know how while feeling accepted, supported, appreciated and treated equally.
What’s your favourite trend at the moment?
The hipster trend, both in fashion and in food/beverage industry. I’ve never been the super dressy type of girl, so I’m really enjoying the ripped jeans, sneakers and a tee type of look. As far as the food/beverage industry going hipster, I really appreciate funky food and drink options in relaxed settings with community style tables, it’s healthy to have small talk with strangers…you never know who you might meet.
If you had to make up an emoji for yourself, what would it be?
That’s easy, a one-legged blonde woman beaming with confidence. #lovethat
Who’s the most inspirational person you have met?
My papa. He moved from a small town in Arkansas to southeast Michigan with little ability to read or write and was inspired to start his own dragstrip. The community consistently pushed back for fear of the noise and crowds, but he was determined so he laid the asphalt himself and started one of the most successful dragstrips in Michigan. He even made it on ESPN!
What’s your fav dance move?
Living in Atlanta I’d probably have to say the milly rock at the moment, although I can’t come close to doing it.
Any questions for HEY GIRL?
How can HEY GIRL further promote the idea of highlighting amazing women just being themselves?
Mmm good question .. well I guess by trying to work with many different people from around the world … look for the individual style in all of us … being different for other media …. helping others to feel positive and free… 🙂
Has HEY GIRL received negative feedback of broadening their horizons and featuring women that aren’t necessarily the women who would be featured in other publications? If so, how are you responding?
No …. and to be honest we don’t listen to negativity .. don’t let other people that may not be happy in their life… change the way you feel with yours… But the only bad feedback we have had ..was the fact that HEY GIRL was set up by a guy (me) … but we think it’s important to try and understand each other, be positive and create equality.
Where does HEY GIRL see itself in 10 years?
We want to help people be happy through creativity … to have a big following that love us all around the world … set up a charity to help lots of different people in ways of creativity xx