The Leuven Hundreds

Portraits of a city's people, today

We’ve joined forces with Leuven to highlight 100 local people, places and projects that contribute towards making the city what it is today. From artists and architects to producers and professors, these are the driving forces powering Leuven forward one ingenious initiative at a time.

Nanja Massy

Nanja Massy

Make-up & hairstylist, MassyCreations (1988)

Can you describe what you do?

I’m a full-time make-up and hair stylist, operating under the moniker MassyCreations for five years now. I dedicate myself to making people happy and pretty from my studio in Kessel-lo, just a five-minute drive from Leuven – I love working here because it’s in the countryside of Leuven, where I grew up. It’s very peaceful and quiet here. I run workshops, do bridal make-up and hair, carry out photoshoots, and write beauty columns for the online lifestyle magazine Belmodo. I share my love for beauty through my weekly writing, videos and plenty of side projects in collaboration with beauty brands. So I’m not always in my studio, since these projects tend to be organised in Antwerp or Brussels. My career initially grew from a pure passion – especially if you consider that my first real job was in teaching Art & History at a high school. But this love for the craft is what provided me with the drive to turn styling into my full-time job for three years running now, and I’m so grateful that I get to do what I love every day.

How do you perceive Leuven?

Leuven is very multicultural because firstly, it’s a student city with Belgium’s highest-ranking university. It’s super cosy where a lot of talents are located, for instance we have the world-famous singer Selah Sue who calls Leuven her hometown. Here is also where you’ll find our beloved local beer Stella – and to be drunk on Oude Markt, the world’s largest bar-cum-square, of course. Besides a bustling nightlife, there’s also plenty of peaceful go-to spots where you can forget your daily stress, like the city park Sint-Donatus or the Botanical Garden. If you’re a fan of art make sure to visit M-Museum – and not just for their impressive collection, but also quite simply for its architecture. When I marry next spring, I fully intend on taking pictures there. On every street you’re bound to come across new, interesting things like boutiques, concept stores, lunch and dinner spots. All bunched close together, and all within walking distance of each other. The City also recently upgraded the Vaartkom neighbourhood, and which now boasts the trendy vegan restaurant Noordoever, cultural centre OPEK, ice cream bar-on-a-boat Coupe Matadi, organic concept store inLevel5 and De Hoorn, an old brewery converted into a meeting and conference centre with an in-house restaurant (their burgers are simply to die for). It’s also nice to just hang around along the waterside with family and friends. And as if this weren’t enough, there’s now also the brand new Sluispark: a great place for relaxing in summertime.

What would you say is Leuven’s main appeal as a city? What gives it its edge?

The beautiful balance between art, culture and fashion. Also the University, the biggest in Belgium. This is why we have such a beautiful, multicultural community.

The City provides plenty an opportunity to young talents seeking to develop their skills, thanks to their mijnLeuven project.

How has Leuven contributed to making you who you are today? What role has the city played in shaping your outlook and career?

The wide choice of education present here. I think anyone and everyone can find something that fits their capacities and desires. Kindergartens, primary schools, high schools, colleges and universities all with different levels and specialisations. Also, the City provides plenty an opportunity to young talents seeking to (further) develop their skills, thanks to their mijnLeuven project. They supplied a space where they could co-work and share opinions, host workshops and lectures. I’m very proud of what they get up to, and was more than happy to present a lecture myself on how to be your own boss, and the struggles you might come across along the way.

On a personal level, what would you like to see more of in the city? What could it do better?

I would love to see more road safety measures taken for cyclists. And maybe also open shops on Sundays, since I work almost every day.

To you, what is the best way to spend a weekend in Leuven?

A visit to the public University Library – it’s so beautiful. Leuven is first and foremost famous for being a student city, so this place represents it all. In addition, a list of some of my not-to-be-missed tips:

Lunch bar: Baracca, with their food-sharing concept

Dinner: the finest Italian kitchen at La Divina Commedia

Shop: LIV, a multi-brand boutique

Interior design: Plek, Design District

Concept stores: inLevel5, Thelma Coffee & Design

Chocolatier: bittersweet, ZUUT

Baby stuff: Minimals

A local legend, neighbourhood anecdote or urban myth that, to you, encapsulates the spirit of the city?

Easy, the story of Fiere Margriet, or Proud Margaret. As a result of the legend, a whole Margaret culture has emerged: pilgrims meet at the Margaret Chapel, located within St. Peter’s Church. This Chapel can also be admired from the outside. The sculpture Fiere Margriet made by Willy Meysmans was given a new resting place on the Dijleterrassen riverbanks, off of Dirk Boutslaan in August 2013.