Are You Really Living Out Your Purpose? An Inspiring Interview With Natalie Manuel Lee

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Fashion stylist tackles purpose, identity and success in new, faith-based docuseries.

How do you know whether you’re living out your purpose? You have to dig deep to find the answer. But when you do, only you can recognize its truth. And as they say, the truth will set you free.

Fashion stylist and co-executive producer, Natalie Manuel Lee, aims to put the truth on display as the host of her new six-part docuseries Now with Natalie—the truth about your purpose (and how to find it), your identity (and what not to put it in) and your successes (and how to not measure it by other’s Instagrams). Premiering March 3rd on Hillsong Channel, Lee’s show delves into various celebrities’, scientists’, professionals’ and not-so-professionals’ lives to try and  answer the posed question.

What is really driving our purpose when we’re stripped of titles, social class and wealth? About halfway through the first episode, cognitive neuroscientist Dr. Caroline Leaf drops a gem: “The reason we don’t know who we are is because we are letting others define who we are.”

Many can resonate with this earth-rattling statement, including Lee: “If you don’t know who you are, if you don’t know where you’re from, you will never know why you’re here. We are created in God’s image, so who we are is who he created us to be.” Those who lack a strong sense of identity often end up desperately sifting to find purpose. “We’re not searching for purpose; we’re in it today. And that’s what I’m hoping this program is able to dismantle,” Lee explains.

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Cling to peace; trust the process. Lee asserts that the millennial generation tends to abort the process prematurely when we don’t get an immediate answer or quick fix. Throughout the episodes of Now with Natalie runs a much-needed cultural check: “I think that as a society and as a culture, we think what we do defines us.” We’ve been belittled to how much money we earn, what shoes we wear, what car we drive, thinking all these things define us when none of them really do. “Don’t get me wrong—God wants us to have an abundant life, but danger comes in resting our identity in material things,” Lee adds matter-of-factly.

There’s this storyline out there right now that reads, job titles and followers create your purpose. Former Teen Vogue editor in chief, Elaine Welteroth, told Lee, “There is no title, no salary that can evaluate my worth.”

Lee co-signs: “It’s a false narrative that’s being told to our culture …when in reality, we don’t have to earn our identity; we just get to experience it. We get to experience who God created us to be.”

Like Welteroth, recording artist Kelly Rowland, NBA player Tyson Chandler and fashion model Hailey Baldwin Bieber are all creating healthy conversations around living out true purpose. “We’re a culture that glorifies the position [of celebrity] and not the purpose of the position,” Lee continues. “The greatest way for us to serve is to tell our stories. There’s so much power in vulnerability. There’s so much freedom in being honest and vocalizing what we’ve all gone through.”

Lee praises her parents for passing on their strong work ethic. Her father, Jerry Manuel, professionally played, managed and coached in the MLB. “I did what I saw,” Lee confesses about growing up. She also thanks her parents for grounding her in her faith and setting an example of Christ-centeredness: “They showed me the importance of being in [the spotlight] but not of it.”

Within the season, you’ll see Lee interview a homeless man who claims he’s the richest person in the world with his pocket housing only $1.68. This radical contentment, to Lee, was indicative of what true success and happiness is—joy. “We think that we have to have a certain dollar amount in our account to fill this void in us. We’re a culture that is yearning for this external win to satisfy this internal longing,” she explains.

But the opposite proves true. Like Ms. Lauryn Hill once asked, “How you gone win when you ain’t right within?”

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We wake up every morning chasing after this thing only to feel like we’re coming up short. Comparison steals every last big of joy. On one episode of Now with Natalie, Hailey Bieber discusses this issue, explaining that our feed’s posts (hers included) are frequently fabricated to project a certain image. Then us followers log onto Instagram, scroll, like, repeat and compare ourselves to that fabrication. Rowland, when asked if her no. 1 records define her, says on camera, “I think that for me, if it wasn’t no. 1, I’d probably be really hard on myself. Or I would measure myself to other artists or other females out, and it’s just like, ‘Why do that?’ One, it’s a waste of time, and two, it’s a reason why everybody has a role. It’s a reason why everybody has a different thumbprint.  If everybody did the same things, it would be boring. It would be a boring world.”

Lee agrees: “I can only do what I can do, and you can only do what you can do. Once we realize that, we’re no longer a threat to each other. God is always trying to do a new thing, so why try and duplicate something else?” After finishing the first season, she wants women to take heart and know that who you are is enough. Know that your success is not in your doing, but in your being, she says.

“We have to come to the end of ourselves in order for God to do what he wants to do.  We can’t be in the driver’s seat. We just can’t,” Lee explains. Trying to do all the things we were never intended to do is exhausting. Lee suggests sitting in the back seat and chilling out for a moment:  “We are successful because we are just living our everyday lives. We were born in purpose, on purpose, for a greater purpose.”