Written by Kitty Williams for The Refined Woman
“New York has a bustling creative energy. It brings people that have big dreams and deep passion,” she says. “You move here because you want something extraordinary.”
“I am a teacher and a ‘psychologist,’ though I have degrees in neither [field],” says Hilary Rushford, referring to her work as a stylist and business coach.
Guiding others on how to feel at peace in their wardrobes and grow their business was not her original plan.
Rushford was a performer, including with the Radio City Rockettes, before she decided to take a hiatus from auditioning. “I thought I was just starting a side job to replace all of the side jobs I hated,” she says of her start as a stylist. She began by teaching one-on-one but knew that what she was sharing would help many other women as well, so she started teaching online courses.
When she was three years into her business, one of her Instagram courses went viral. Keeping up with the growth took a toll on her wellbeing. “When you’re so deep into something, it’s hard to see all of the other effects of it,” says Rushford, reflecting on how this stress led to a total burnout.
She hit rock bottom but recognized what she needed to do: rest. For Rushford, this rest began with a plane ticket to Europe.
“I got on the plane thinking I was going for six weeks,” says Rushford. However, three weeks in she found herself reflecting on the trip. “I didn’t know what I was trying to accomplish, but I knew I wasn’t fifty percent of the way there so I just didn’t get back on the plane,” she says. She had been traveling, but exploring and experiencing new things left little time for rest and personal growth.
“Traveling itself is doing, and if you really want introspective time to heal and grow and learn… that’s different than traveling,” Rushford emphasizes. Her final weeks on sabbatical were spent focusing on healing, growing, and learning in the South of France.
“I ended up traveling for four months until I felt ready to come home and then I bought a ticket,” she says. Rushford recognizes that quick fixes are highly sought after, but they never give the results you need.
She is grateful for the burnout she experienced because it made her realize that adjustments needed to be made in her life. She returned to her dear Brooklyn feeling refreshed.
Having lived in Brooklyn for over a decade, Rushford has a sincere appreciation for this city. “New York has a bustling creative energy. It brings people that have big dreams and deep passion,” she says. “You move here because you want something extraordinary.”
Rushford herself has big dreams and deep passion. A defining New York moment for her was when she was talking on the phone with her mother after a final round of callbacks for Thoroughly Modern Milly on Broadway. She remembers thinking, “Even if I don’t get this role, I’m in the game. In the hardest business, in the hardest city, I’m in the mix.”
She also has sincere relationships with those in this city. “I know the names of my local flower guy and the guy who makes me avocado toast every morning at the café,” Rushford says with a smile.
On a more personal level, she treasures her relationships with her friends. She has a supportive community around her and knows that those friendships are something to prioritize. “I want to be the kind of friend who, if you got into a massive row with your boyfriend at midnight, you wouldn’t think, ‘she’s probably busy, I shouldn’t bother her’,” says Rushford.
There’s something electric she finds in the women drawn to New York. “The thing I appreciate most about them, whether they’re 23 or 51 is their incredible wisdom, earnest vulnerability, and ridiculous shenanigans that make me laugh,” Rushford says as a laugh escapes.
Another priority of hers is empowering women. “I really believe when a woman feels beautiful, she’s so much more powerful,” she says, “whether that’s in how she talks to her daughter or how she walks into a boardroom.”
Rushford was a powerful force even as a high school student. She remembers showing great leadership skills as an active member in the theater department. “It was an SNL cast of horrible theater teachers, yet that gave me a lot of opportunity to be a leader,” she reflects.
She continues to lead as her team grows. Rushford is now writing a book, is already thinking about the next book she will write, and is planning on creating a docu-series. Spending time traveling with loved ones and seeing loved ones is also on her agenda. “One of the reasons I started this business was I wanted to travel more,” says Rushford. “Whether that’s with my passport or to play Aunt Hil.”
As a dancer, she was always tied to the city in case she got an audition. Now, she is a thriving entrepreneur who has the freedom to travel, and who will still remember to stop for a dance break every once in a while on Instagram.