Home & Garden: A Comfortable Calling

 

Written by April Wilkerson in the August 2009 Issue

It’s far too simple to call Edmond’s Mi-Ling Poole a newspaper columnist and radio host who dispenses terrific information about home decorating and design. Rather, she uses those topics as a vehicle to inspire and encourage readers and listeners with respect to other issues in their lives.

Mi-Ling is a well-known name in decorating circles, both in Oklahoma and across the country. She writes a weekly column for The Daily Oklahoman, answering readers’ questions about design, and a syndicated column spreads her message to newspapers across the country. Her weekly radio show on KTOK, “Mi-Ling’s Comfort Zone,” lets her talk to callers about their decorating concerns. And she’s written a book, “Ask Mi-Ling! When You Want the Truth
About Decorating.” But Mi-Ling’s own story is about far more than design.

Mi-Ling grew up in Minnesota, dreaming of becoming the next Barbara Walters. Her uncle worked in the entertainment business, and from a young age, Mi-Ling rubbed elbows with some of R&B’s biggest talents.

In college at the University of Kansas, she studied journalism and pursued her passion of writing. But her penchant for design began presenting itself with a vengeance.

“I would nail bamboo mats onto my apartment wall. I just wanted everything to feel good. I was away from home and wanted to create a place that was comfortable,” she says. “My friends said, ‘We’re trying to buy meals, and you’re decorating.’”

Mi-Ling’s talent for decorating continued to grow, even though she hadn’t acknowledged it as a career possibility. She married and had two children, and when her husband was in medical school, she improvised and designed her home on a small budget. When her family entertained other medical students and physicians, she managed to come up with creative meals and eye-catching decorations for her home.

When she went to friends’ homes, she found herself wanting to help them with their design issues. “I’d say, ‘That chair would look better over there. Would you mind if I rearranged that for you?’ Then people started coming to me for
help,” she says.

All the while, Mi-Ling worked in the entertainment industry booking celebrity talent. In 1991, she formed Exact Image Entertainment Group; her first celebrity client was Esther Rolle from the TV show “Good Times.”

But it was the terminal illness of her brother that spurred Mi-Ling to look to the next phase of her life. While her brother fought lung cancer, he pushed her to consider her unaccomplished goals. “One day he said, ‘Hey, sis. What about your dream? What about the books you wanted to write, the things you were going to do?’ I was tired of the entertainment industry at that point and was searching for my passion and creativity,” Mi-Ling says.

So Mi-Ling took a leap of faith and approached a local paper about writing a weekly design column featuring Edmond homes. They said yes, and her new career was under way.

“It was like I was creating a whole other life,” she says. “I really gave up everything and started all over. People loved the column and were calling me to have their homes featured.”

More opportunities arrived. Mi-Ling began appearing on radio’s The Joey and Heather Morning Show. She started by redoing Heather’s living room over the airwaves, which led to answering listeners’ decorating questions.

Next came The Jack and Ron Morning Show, where she redid their office and again answered radio listeners’ questions.
Mi-Ling was branding herself and expanding her opportunities, which eventually led her to her current projects. She’s also a lifestyles contributor for KWTV.

She says she considers herself a journalist with a passion for design. Her columns end with the admonition, “Now go out and create your own unique comfort zone.”

“Everybody wants his or her comfort zone,” she says. “I realized how much it means to people when they create a space they can call their own. It warms your heart.”

Mi-Ling offers far more than decorating advice, however. She weaves in stories about her personal life – from the deaths of her father and brother to her children’s growing-up escapades – to connect with people and give them a boost. When her father was in a nursing home, she shared her grief with her audience, as well as how to create a comforting space in her father’s room.

She’s tackled every topic – from “green” decorating to health and fitness to style. Her background in the entertainment industry has led to big names appearing on her radio shows, including Taniya Nayak from “Designed to Sell” on HGTV.
“I know there’s a purpose to what I’m doing, and that’s to comfort people,” she says. “I tell people to find something that’s comforting to them – for me it’s my grandfather’s chair and my family’s book collection – and to work around that. Your house defines who you are and who you want to be, and you don’t have to spend a lot of money to make it look nice.”

Mi-Ling says her ultimate goal is to have her own show on HGTV and to reach even more people with her particular brand of advice and inspiration.

“I just believe this is what I’m supposed to do, and I believe something will happen to take it to the next level,” she says. “I’m all about sharing my stories and inspiring other people.”

To learn more about Mi-Ling and her projects, visit www.mi-ling.com

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