Staying Positive, Boundaries, & Life With Yanina Oyarzo

IW 11 | Yanina Oyarzo

 

Being an immigrant, battling racism and adjusting to a new environment are things that can be hindrances to a successful life. However, for Venezuelan-American lifestyle influencer, Yanina Oyarzo, it is all about staying positive. Through her social media channel, Yanina targets young female hustlers like her and encourages beauty positivity. In this episode, she narrates how she came to America, learned English, and enjoyed being with different races. There is good and bad in everything, and she shares her point of view about equality among people. Join Yanina as she takes us through her adventure of love and friendship, and leaves advice to young women who feel their current reality will always be their norm for their life.

Listen to the podcast here:

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Staying Positive, Boundaries, & Life With Yanina Oyarzo

We have the beautiful Yanina here. I’m super excited to be talking to her. We were thinking about what we want to talk about and I’m like, “I want to talk about you. Your life is interesting.” Let’s get started. You were born in Venezuela?

I was born in Venezuela, which for a lot of people, they don’t know where that is, which is weird. It’s in South America and next to Colombia. A fun fact about Venezuela is that they hold the reign for the most Miss Universe. It’s also the worst place right now government-wise.

Why? What’s going on?

Basically, the old president tried to turn it into Cuba. He was obsessed with Fidel. I’ll give you a little backstory. They’ll open a supermarket and it will be open for one hour and people will be making a line to be able to get one item. They’ll be making the line for eight hours. The government will turn off the internet whenever they feel like it. It’s caused a riot. They brought in Cuban doctors at one point and fired all the Venezuelan doctors. It’s intense. All my family, thankfully, for the most part, has migrated. I have my grandma who’s very old and can’t travel and a few family members still there. They overpriced everything. Something that’s normally $30 now costs $350 to $500. It’s just to the point that a lot of people have tried to cross the border to go to Colombia. There are people living under the bridge right over the border of Colombia.

People have gone from being doctors to being waiters now in different countries because their licenses doesn’t work. It sucks in that sense, but it’s still a country that I grew up in. I lived there until I was seven or eight. I remember that I moved to Miami by the time I needed to start first grade. I wasn’t supposed to start at first grade. I skipped a year and when I moved here, I remember I believe March was the month. It was the end of the school year basically, already halfway through and they were like, “She doesn’t know English, so we can’t put her in school this late in.” They told me that I had to wait until the next school year and I was either going to be an ESOL or I needed to know English. The way I learned English was, and we were living at my step grandma’s house at that time in Miami in Krome, I watched movies all summer long.

I used to watch The Fresh Prince a lot and I would put in the caption. Still to this day, I like watching TV with closed captions because I would just read that, understand what the action was happening in the movie or in the show and pronounce it correctly based on that. By the end of the summer, I went from only saying, “I don’t know,” to speaking in English. My mom bought me Hooked on Phonics, which at that time I believe it was a pricey system. I don’t ever have memories of learning from Hooked on Phonics. I never went to ESOL. I was in all honors and advanced classes. It was closed captioning and watching movies.

I learned in first grade when I came here. My mom came to two classes with me and helped me. I learned with just communicating, one-on-one experience and movies.

It also helps that we were younger.

Kids are like sponges for sure.

I wish I would have been thrown in at an Italian class or something because I would have been so versatile.

You would’ve had 1, 2, 3 languages. You speak Spanish too. What was it like in Miami? Growing up in the States, I bet it was different.

It was fun, I think. I didn’t realize a lot of differences. For one, there are so many things when you come from a third world country that you don’t realize in the States they have. For one of them, racism is completely different in a third world country than it is here in the States. There’s for sure racism in the sense of within your own culture, within your own family. I didn’t know about racism until I moved here, for example. I have a big family, fifteen aunts and uncles, over 100 and something cousins and we’re like the shades of the rainbow. The color spectrum of my family is blonde, blue eyes to very dark. I never grew up feeling anything about racism. I loved being tan. I was as tan as a kid. I remember that when I first went to school, it wasn’t a bad school, but the majority was African-American and I didn’t think it was anything out of the ordinary.

If anything, I think I felt more secluded when I moved to the States with Caucasian people because I didn’t speak their language. I couldn’t relate. I didn’t have blonde hair, I wasn’t fair-skinned and I didn’t speak perfect English. I was almost as dark as some of my friends and I had curly, frizzy hair and there were similarities in that. They also lived like my family, so I felt close to them. I learned with time that racism was heavy. I also know and even the family that my mom married into, some family members were very racist. It was something that I didn’t understand and grasp why.

What do you mean racist though? Would they make remarks?

[bctt tweet=”All religions have the same fundamentals – be a nice person, speak with love, don’t judge people, and spread kindness.” username=””]

Remarks about us not looking a certain way. I remember my mom felt affected. Mother-in-laws are tough, everybody knows that. I could tell now from an older view, looking in like a fly on the wall type of thing, I remember how my mom used to feel so attacked by his mother. It wasn’t because of anything but race. At the end of the day, it’s a family generational thing. If that’s how you were raised, that’s all you know. I am grateful that I was born in Venezuela. Beauty to me was everything. I saw beauty in the fairness of skins and I saw beauty in the darkest of skins. That’s why when it comes to my friends, I have friends from so many different walks of lives, from so many different parts of the world, from so many different tax brackets because I don’t base it on that. To me that is like, “Who cares?”

We’re all human. I think once people can see that we are all human, we’re just different on the outside. You and I have a kidney. We have a heart. You’re tan and I’m white.

This is what I was talking about that everybody’s too sensitive and people are probably going to hate me at this point and be like, “Screw this girl.” I’m all about having a say and this is what I have a strong say about. The same thing goes for religion. I grew up Catholic. I turned Christian when I was 10, 11 years old but I have Jewish friends, Buddhist friends and atheist friends. I have friends that their higher power is energy and other friends that their higher power is crystals. I love crystals. I truly 1000% believe in energy. I’ve read about Judaism and Buddhism. To me, they all have four fundamental similarities: be a nice person, speak with love, don’t judge people and spread kindness.

Be normal. Stop looking at people like, “You’re black, you’re Asian, you’re Jewish.” No, you’re human. It doesn’t matter.

There’s good and bad in everything. There’s good and bad in rich and poor people, in middle-class people. There’s good and bad in Hispanics, Latins, Asians and Europeans.

Because there are all different types of humans.

It’s all about what you have been through and how you have decided to deal with it, which then goes into the way I am as a person nowadays. I was talking to you about how I’m very girly. I’m very pink and flowers. I even talked about this on my Instagram Story because I was frustrated. I was in a conversation with my videographer and it was about the fact of being perceived incorrectly, especially in a world of social media. I don’t think people take a second to think twice before they talk to someone, before they deal with an issue. It’s my blessing and curse, you can say. When I have an argument with someone, I’m like, “How is it that they’re possibly seeing it? Why are they seeing it that way? Based on what I know their traumas to be or their weaknesses and per se to be, why are they perceiving it this way and how can I talk to them for them to understand me and for it to help them?”

I always say we don’t have to be the best of friends, but if I at least was able to help you at one point in your life in a conversation and something I pushed you in and something that when the conversation ended, whether you admitted it or not, you walked away and thought about it, cool. I want you to be able to better yourself in your own time, in your own journey. I can’t rush that journey for you. I’m not God. I’m not better than you. I may deal with anger in a different way. You may be a very angry type of person. I’m quiet and I think things through, but I’m very detailed once I talked to you about it.

It is not my job to tell you what you’re doing is wrong. Who am I to attack you? If I’m able to have enough conversations with you or be an example of how I deal with it, and you might be like, “How do you deal with it, Yanina?” that strikes conversations and whatever. At one point, it just clicks in your brain that, “I need to work on this, not because I told you, but because you realized that on your own. That’s dope to me. I planted a seed in you to be a better person on your own. I didn’t push you to it. That’s where I see my relationship.

I like how you explained that. You planted the seed and they did it on their own.

You’ve got to water it on your own. I can plant the seed and the plant will die if you don’t take care of it. I’m not you.

Do you feel like you do that a lot on social media? What’s something that you struggle with when it comes to social media?

I think the algorithm if I’m 100% honest.

Do you get a lot of hate comments?

IW 11 | Yanina Oyarzo
Yanina Oyarzo: Racism is completely different in a third world country than it is in the States.

 

No, but I have in the past. I get random fake profiles being very detailed in their thoughts. It’s usually people that I could tell some will have to know me because they’ll say certain things and I’m like, “Interesting in that you’re talking about that, but I just don’t accept it.” On Instagram, you can accept the outside DMs or not. I won’t strike a conversation with you. I’m not going to try to prove a point to a person that has no picture or that has a picture and I could tell is a fake account. I think if anything, it’s telling me more about you. You went out of your way to have to state a point to let me know what you think about whatever. There are guys that have been rude. There have also been positive comments. There are girls that have told me that my positive post that sometimes I post out of encouragement for myself because I’m going through something at the time has helped them.

It’s so funny because I post sometimes quotes that I’ve had saved for weeks or months. People are like, “Are you okay?” I’m like, “I promise, I’m fine.” They’re like, “Is it a guy?” I’m like, “It’s not always a relationship.” Just because it’s a quote about confidence or positivity or you go girl or know your worth. You can lose the value and your worth from family problems, from your own evil voice, from a job not happening, from a guy, from how you view yourselves and argument with a friend. I’m like, “If I perceived this quote this way, maybe if I post it, it will touch them as well.” I get the most replies when I post quotes from guys.

I was going to say I get a response when I post quotes in general.

No, I get it from guys being like, “I had a rough day today. I’m arguing with my sister, I’m arguing with my girlfriend, I’m arguing with my wife,” or “I have big insecurity in this.” Why they DM me, I don’t know. Genuinely there’s this one guy that has followed me for two years and he’s always like, “I had a hard day. This helps me. I’ve got to work on this insecurity or this thing of mine.” I’m like, “Okay.”

They feel comfortable talking to you, which says a lot about you as a person.

I guess they’re comfortable with me because I am still very approachable. At least, I would hope I am.

How do you stay so positive? When you’re having a bad day or something doesn’t go your way or something was off, how do you stay positive? Is there something you do? Usually, if I’m depressed or something upsets me, I let myself go through the emotions. I let myself ride the wave and then I just snap myself out of it. If I want to cry, I’ll cry. If I want to bitch about something the whole day, I’ll do it.

I’ve been going through something and I’m trying to figure out how to project it correctly because I am all about feel. If you need a moment to feel, feel. If you need a moment to cry, cry. If you need to be in bed, be in bed. I was going through something and I was talking to my friend on the phone and I just went on a tangent about an article I read online. She stayed quiet and she’s like, “Are you done?” I was like, “I ripped that article in pieces.” She’s like, “Let me know when you’re done because you’re going through it.” I was like, “It’s not even about the article.” She goes, “I know.” I was like, “I’m sorry if I sound crazy.” She’s like, “You’re letting it out. I’d rather you let it on the phone about this article than to a random friend.”

When I was younger, I was bad at that. I used to attack people a lot based out of anger that had to do with home stuff. Because I didn’t have anybody to talk to about it. I didn’t know how to express it and I was just confused a lot of the time why a lot of things were happening at home. I would be mean at times to my friends. I think now I write a lot. I’ve gone to therapy a lot while growing up. As an adult, I still do therapy or self-help books. I try to be honest with myself of, “Where are you not the strongest in?” You’re saying this is my weakness doesn’t make you weak.

I think it makes you stronger because you realize the issue.

I had a conversation with a friend and I said, “What is one of your weaknesses?” Their response was, “I’m not weak.” No, get out of your ego for a second. That’s not what I’m talking about. I said this out loud. I said, “I’m so strong in so many different parts of my life. My strength isn’t relationships.” It’s just not. Love is not a topic I’m super good at figuring out. I’m a very loving person but I don’t make the best decisions in love.

What do you mean? Like in a relationship, you don’t make the best decisions?

In friendships too. I’m extremely over forgiving. I will see too much little bit the other person’s side to the point where I become an enabler. I’m okay when they treat me like crap and they’re my friends, but I go far and beyond for them. There are times where I’ve helped people in companies where I’ve been with guys where I’ve been spoken to negatively by a guy or a friend. I always find reasoning why. “No, but I understand. No, but I know there are traumas. No, but I know what I meant.”

You make excuses for them.

[bctt tweet=”Be transparent with yourself before you are transparent with anyone else.” username=””]

When I say loving, I don’t mean only loving relationships. I mean like friendships and family. I’m so loving to a default that sometimes it’s a curse. I’m trying to learn how to have boundaries with that. I feel like I learned how to have boundaries in that with my family. It made my family relationships so much stronger. That happened when I moved away. Even after the longest relationship that I had and that ended, that taught me also how to build a better relationship with my mom. I feel like learning those boundaries and her respecting the boundaries that I asked her made our relationship stronger. Now I got to work on that in relationships, of loving relationships with a guy and in friendships. Sometimes, I’m not saying always, I stay quiet and then I’ll blow up or I’ll distance myself and people are like, “What happened? I got so used to treating you this way,” or even work-related. Sometimes I’ll be okay with not standing up for myself in the workplace. I’m like, “I’ll grow with time.” It’s like, “No.”

I have experienced that. Let’s say I had a campaign that I’ve had to do and they were like, “We’ll pay you this much.” I’m like, “I deserve a little more. This is what I normally get paid.” I’m very shy about it. I think at one point in my life and I always talk about this. When I had my son, my priorities shifted. I’m not doing this for this price because I deserve more but because the quality you’re getting is worth the price. I’m not charging you thousands. I’m not crazy. I’m not one of those $60,000 pay me for YouTube video girls. I’m charging you what I truly deserve and what you’re getting for that price. Sometimes you have to have maybe an experience like that and it doesn’t have to be a child. It can be something within yourself. Maybe at one point in therapy, your therapist will say something and you’ll go, “It makes sense now.”

It’s so weird, I always compare it and this is such a girl way to compare this too, but do you know those curling irons that have the clasp?

Yeah.

I could not for the life of me know how to curl my hair with that. It was so technical to me that I would always only use a wand. I got one time and I was like, “I am determined to freaking learn how to do this.” I would always crimp my hair wrong and all this stuff. One day I looked at it and I turned it on and it just clicked. “Yanina, this is how you do it. This is how you put your arm down.” I was like, “I know how to do it.” I feel like in life, that’s why I said I can’t push somebody’s journey. You can tell something to someone. You can try to guide them, but you can’t force them and you can’t do it for them.

Sometimes in life and everything in me from my last relationship when I decided nothing happened crazy, that’s it. We’re done. It’s not working anymore. When I decided to tell my mom, “We’re either having these boundaries and we’re going to have a relationship or I’m sorry, it’s not going to work. I’m going to love you from a far distance.” Many things from the same thing. I stopped going to a lot of events because I didn’t feel good when I was going to these events. I felt like I’m not talking to any of these girls. I’m not getting anything out of this. I’m showing on social media, “I’m busy just to show you I’m busy.” I’m not making money from coming to this event, so why am I here? I’m wasting makeup, I’m wasting time. I’m wasting energy. It’s draining me. I felt low key to depression. I was going from event to event and I was getting nothing internally out of any of these things. I was like, “I have to learn how to say no.” Even if I’m home bored, at least I’m in my sanctuary.

You’re happy in that sanctuary.

The same thing with friends. The same thing with family. Protecting your energy is so important because you only have so much of it. In therapy, they tell you that you have two water bottles. One and the other person or the other thing that you’re dealing with in life. If you’re constantly just pouring your water bottle into theirs or into the thing and nothing is coming back into your water bottle, you’re going to be a drought. You’ve got to make sure that the person, the place, whatever it is that you’re doing is fulfilling you back. Not to be taken incorrectly that friendships should be transactional because I don’t believe in that. It’s not about like, “What can you do for me and I’ll do for you.”

No, it’s not that. I know what you mean. It’s more like I pour my love into this and I just want that love back. That fulfillingness that you feel when a friendship is great and strong.

You don’t have to do anything physically for me or financially. I know you got me. I know you’re there for me and I know that you genuinely care for me. It’s not you genuinely call me to see how I’m doing because you’re going to need me tomorrow.

No. It’s because you love me and you actually care to know how I’m doing. When we first spoke, you said to me that your past does not determine your future. I want to hear more about what you mean by that.

I think coming from a third world country, I had a shock in the sense of family. I had a shock in the sense of what was what a lot of the times. For example, in a third world country, they think that you come to the States and you become an instant millionaire. It wasn’t. It wasn’t a thing. They’re like, “You’re a superstar. You’re famous. You’re a millionaire. Even now with social media, they’re like, “You’re so famous.” I’m like, “No, I’m not.”

I come from a third world country as well, Armenia. Their perspective is shifted because they see America as the ultimate place to live. This huge opportunity where the money is just everywhere and it’s not the case. I feel like the more family you have here, the more people that they know in America, it’s a little shifted and different. They’re a little more grounded in their thoughts, but I can totally relate.

There are a lot of things I lived while growing up that a lot of people don’t know and I think there are a time and place for them to come out. There are so many things that therapists, that family members, that friends, that detectives have told me and they’re like, “There is no way that you’re so sweet and nice and all this stuff has happened to you.” I sat down with a guy one time at a Panera Bread. He writes books. He’s an author and he was like, “There’s something about you that’s interesting. I want you to tell me your story from top to bottom.” I was like, “Sure.” We were in Panera Bread for 5.5 hours. I told him from the earliest memory that I had all the way until the date that we were sitting in. He was like, “What the F? You’re lying.” I was like, “What?” He’s like, “How are you just like, ‘Yeah, whatever,’ and this happened?” I was like, “Because I healed from it. It’s my journey. I feel like my purpose comes from that.” He was like, “I would have never thought all that stuff would’ve happened to you. You’re here wearing pink with the makeup so well put together, positive, striving to be better, acknowledging. Being so aware of weaknesses and of your flaws, but still being like, ‘That’s not going to stop me.’” I was like, “Because I don’t want to be one, a bitter middle-aged woman that is like, ‘Nobody cares about me.’”

IW 11 | Yanina Oyarzo
Yanina Oyarzo: Protecting your energy is so important because you only have so much of it.

 

Or, “All this happened. Why did it happen to me?”

We have those aunts, family members that you’re like, “Why are you so angry always?” I didn’t want to do that. I didn’t want to be that person. I didn’t want to be the person that said, “What if,” at 50. I didn’t want to be the person that was like, “I never tried again because this person broke my heart.” I was like, “You’re dealing with humans.” At least speaking for myself, I don’t know what I’m doing half the time. I’m still trying to figure it out.

You’re human. That’s the point. We make mistakes but we can learn from it.

When it comes to social media, a lot of people are like, “I don’t want to be looked up to.” Is that weird to say?

Why?

I want to feel like you can be me. I don’t want you to aspire to be me.

I feel like when they look up to you, isn’t it in an inspirational way like, “I inspire to have her strength?”

I don’t want to be inspirational in the sense of the travel Instagrams or the high-end stuff.

You want to be inspirational for who you are.

I want to be inspirational for my reality. I don’t want to be inspirational for the beauty behind the madness. I want to be an inspiration for who I truly am. When I’m crying, when I’m happy, when I’m freaking confused on, “I don’t know what my next move is.” I’m like, “You guys think I’m so inspirational and so great and I don’t know what to do next with my life.” I want to be that person that sees the light at the end of the tunnel and is able to do something of herself rather than unattainable. I do feel like that’s my purpose and that’s what I’m supposed to be. When I do speak at those high schools, I’ve gotten thank you letters that have literally brought me to tears because that’s what I wanted to achieve. They’re like, “I can be you.”

It’s not like this Louis bag that’s in the museum that no person’s ever going to be able to purchase. No, you can be me. You can be better than me. I want to be able to tell you what I did so that you don’t go through it and that you’re more aware sooner. I told somebody this. I said, “Why is it that we have all these women being inspirational, but they’re all in their 40s and 50s? Why is there no inspirational woman even saying, “I don’t get it all together, but this is what I got together so far,” in their twenties? That will probably help younger girls faster. If I had somebody to listen to that to be like, “I don’t have it all together, but what I have figured out is that at least these little points,” that might’ve helped me so much. If I can be that person, even if it’s just one girl, I’ll be so grateful.

I feel the same way. That’s where this came to be. I thought if I could help one person going through a divorce or hearing your story, someone who came from a third world country, who experienced maybe trauma or whatever you’ve gone through and can still find the light at the end of the tunnel, we all can. It’s a matter of shifting all the negative thoughts and stop focusing on it. Stop focusing on why did this happen in my life? Why did I have to go through this experience? That’s a hard thing. I don’t know when that shift happened for you, but as you said, you were a lot angrier as a kid. I’ve had bitter moments. I was a bitter B at one point. There’s so much that happens in your life that you go, “Why me?” and that’s okay too.

It’s also okay if you still have different angry moments in different aspects. Maybe I don’t have angry moments towards my childhood anymore, but I’m angry at times when it comes to relationships. It’s something that I’m still overcoming and I’m still dealing with. I’m angry sometimes with why certain things happen the way they did.

How do you deal with that anger?

[bctt tweet=”Blend and mold with the times and figure out how you can stand out more.” username=””]

You are real with yourself and you’re like, “This isn’t the reality.” Snap yourself out of it, feel what you’ve got to feel right or what you got right. Are you going to stay here angry forever or are you going to figure it out? It’s being transparent with yourself before you’re transparent with anyone else.

Does journaling help you?

It does to me but as of late, I’m getting lazy. Writing sometimes, my words in my brain are faster than the words I’m writing out, so I have to type. I type a lot or I’ll call a friend sometimes and be like, “I don’t need your advice,” because that’s another thing. Just because a friend is telling you your problem does not mean that they want your advice. Sometimes they just need to vent. I’m like, “I don’t need your advice. Just hear me out.” By the end of the conversation of me saying it out loud, I figured out my solution.

Are you and I twins or something? That happens to me all the time.

I’m like, “I don’t need your input. I figured it out. I’ll call you back.”

My girlfriend will say like, “I think,” “No, I got it. Thank you so much for listening. I’ve got to go. Bye.” Speaking out loud, you’re listening to yourself talk about something or you’re mad at something. During the process you hear yourself out loud and that’s when it clicks.

You’re able to categorize your thoughts. The way I see it is maybe it’s because I’m always hungry, but I always say my mind is a stew, so I’m like, “I’ve got to separate the vegetables in this to be able to be like, ‘What do you need to do?’” The moment I’m able to separate everything, there is clarity.

How do you think your life experiences have shaped you to be the woman you are now?

It depends on life experience.

Just in general, overall and everything you’ve gone through in life.

I think don’t judge a book by its cover based on my own experience. I will always be a hopeless romantic. I was in a seven-year relationship that didn’t work out. It had its great moments and it had its really bad moments. It had its horrible moments. It taught me so much about life because I lost myself so much in it to the point that when we broke up, I didn’t even know what I liked to wear. I didn’t even know what I liked to eat. It reminded me to not lose myself like that ever again in loving someone so much. In family, it taught me that every family has their crap. I don’t care how perfect, how Goldilocks they looked, every family has their thing. I don’t want to say embarrassed because it’s such a nasty word and it’s not the word I’m thinking of. Don’t ever be scared to speak your truth about your family or your circumstances because maybe somebody else doesn’t relate and isn’t having that problem, but they have a problem.

No one’s perfect. We all have issues. What is one thing you would say to any young lady or woman reading and feeling like their current reality will always be their norm for their life?

If you feel stuck, seek help and that does not make you weak. Therapy to me has literally changed my life. I wouldn’t be the person now if I didn’t have therapists all throughout growing up. I would also say it doesn’t matter where you came from, whether you had a family, you didn’t have a family, you were an orphan, a foster care, you were a single child or you had a family of seven. Whether you came from a third world country or you grew up here on a single-family home, a mansion or an efficiency. Ultimately, you’re not your parents. You’re not your background. You’re not your neighborhood. You are who you want to be. In my family, my mom is the flower child, a hippie who grew up in the ‘80s and loved rock. We couldn’t be more night and day from each other because I am my own identity and what I want to strive for is fine. It doesn’t make me think that I’m more or less than her. My sister is a freaking genius, is obsessed with everything about the heart. She is obsessed with biology. We couldn’t be more different either. It doesn’t make her any less or better or me any less or better because I’m about glam and pretty stuff and fashion.

She is so dope to me. When you put us next to each other, you wouldn’t think that I would see the dopeness in her, but she’s so dope to me. She’s so intelligent. I think that whether it’s because of your siblings, because you’re comparing yourself to your environment, your friends, school, that’s not your ending stop. What you decide to do with your life is up to you. If money is an issue, there are opportunities out there. There are ways to figure it out from different jobs to scholarships. There is Google. There is an answer to everything. The next president can be a foster child. Why can’t they? A kid that grows up rich could be a druggie. I don’t think there’s anything that can stop you but yourself. That’s why no matter what things I’m faced or what obstacles I’m thrown at, I’m like, “No, this is not my reality.” My reality is what I have in my head and watch how I make it happen.

IW 11 | Yanina Oyarzo
Yanina Oyarzo: Seeking help when you are stuck does not make you weak.

 

I think the first thing is believing that.

You’ve got to believe it. If you feel like it’s too hard to attain, it’s going to be that. You remember in that video game in Mario when you’re chasing to go get the princess Diana and it’s that dark hallway and it looks so far away. In Mario Kart, when you’re trying to rescue the princess, there’s this point when you’re in the castle and there’s this dark hallway and it just looks like it’s a never-ending hallway. If that’s your mentality, that’s how it’s going to stay. The day that you figure out that your mentality is shifting and actually does start shifting, you’re going to start seeing light coming from that tunnel. As cheesy and as stupid as it sounds, that tunnel is going to get smaller and smaller and the next thing you know, you’re getting closer and closer.

It’s all about your perspective, believing that you can and then putting in the hard work to whatever it is you want to do.

It’s not going to be easy. I’ve been doing what I have been doing since I was literally eighteen years old. The internet, economy, marketing and modeling world has changed. The hosting world has changed, which is how I started. You’ve got to blend and mold with the times and figure out, “How can I make this stand out more?” If finances are a problem from medical school, get the freaking loan. Half of America is and debt, you’ll pay it over. You’ll figure it out.

For sure the first step is definitely believing that you can because if you’re sitting there saying, “I can’t, but I want,” it makes no sense. You’re never going to get there. Your brain is your strongest muscle and you can trick your brain into believing it can. Even if you feel like you can’t, keep saying I can.

I have things in my room, “It’s not I will. It’s I am.” It’s like, “I am getting a contract of X amount. I am traveling for work. If it’s, “I will,” that can happen in five years or in five months. What do you want to happen? I want it to happen now. Whether the universe says now is three months from now or three years from now, to me it’s, “I’m putting in the universe now.”

What can we expect to see more from you? What can we look forward to seeing? Are you going to do acting soon and be in movies?

I am trying out some stuff. I’m known a lot for my commercial and print. I did start in hosting for Title and a lot of other companies, so I’m going back into several opportunities with that. A lot of people know that I did start in the music industry, in a music management company. I do handle a few different things in that sense that I’m still playing with, but I’m private about it until it comes out. Not me being a singer, don’t worry. Honing in on all my creative wants, whether it’s somebody else in front of the camera or I’m in front of the camera and not being scared. For a long time I was like, “I don’t know. Is it me setting myself out?” I was like, “No, you’re creative. Just do it.” You never know how that can throw you in a different direction. I’m running and taking a leap of faith and being more creative and believing in myself as much as I believe in other people. I’m great in believing at other people, but I put so many obstacles in front of me at times that I cringe and I freeze. I’m like, “Stop it.” I’m forcing myself.

Where can we follow you?

My website is YaninaOyarzo.com. My Instagram and Twitter is @Yanina_Oyarzo. I don’t go on Snapchat, and I haven’t gone into that TikTok phase. That’s how I am. I always reply to people as long as you’re not weird and creepy.

Thank you so much for coming on the show.

Thank you.

Important Links:

About Yanina Oyarzo

IW 11 | Yanina OyarzoYanina Oyarzo is a Venezuelan-American lifestyle influencer sharing her beauty tricks, fashion tips, music finds and adventures via her social media channels. Obsessed with sharing love, light and confidence, Yanina’s target audience is young female hustlers such as herself.

Since a young age, Yanina aspired to turn her love for beauty and music into a career in TV hosting. In 2011, she moved to Los Angeles to help expand a music management firm she helped create in her hometown of Miami. The firm was home to several chart-topping songwriters, producers and artists. With her fast-thinking and feisty personality, Yanina quickly built strong relationships with upcoming talent, lifestyle brands and music executives while building a fan base of her own. Her social media following quickly landed her partnerships with top brands such as American Express, Nike, Neutrogena, Tidal and Zara.

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IW 10 | Greta Gasparian

Solo Q & A: Knowing Greta Gasparian

IW 10 | Greta Gasparian

 

Did you have any questions for beauty blogger and makeup artist, Greta Gasparian? You are in for a treat because Greta answers fourteen of your most burning questions in this episode. Learn about her personal life from childhood and UCLA education to marriage and becoming a mom. About her career, Greta lets us in on building a business, podcasting, and time management. No holds barred, she also delves into more sensitive subjects on going through postpartum depression and struggling on being a working mom. Do not miss this tell-all episode as you get to know Greta on a deeper level.

Listen to the podcast here:

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Solo Q & A: Knowing Greta Gasparian

If You Could Go Back In Time And Change One Thing, What Would It Be?

I wanted to do something a little bit different and I thought of this cool idea of doing a solo Q&A because I get a lot of questions and feedback of people wanting to get to know me a little bit more on a personal level. I thought I would give you the opportunity to ask me questions and I would answer them. I have a bunch of questions that I screenshot from Instagram and I feel some of these are going to get me talking a lot. I feel some of these might have a lengthy response. The first question is, “If you could go back in time and change one thing, what would it be?”

To be honest, I don’t think I would change anything because I’m a firm believer that everything that’s happened in your life, all these experiences you’ve had in your life, the good, the ugly, especially the bad, these things shape you. They make you stronger. They teach you lessons. They are big learning moments and all these things shape you as a person. I don’t have regrets. I’ve made mistakes. I’ve done things that I might’ve wanted to take back. Had I not made that mistake, had I not done that one thing, I would have never known that these are the repercussions or that you should never do that again. To answer your question, I wouldn’t change anything because I will probably wouldn’t be the person I am now if I did.

How Is Your Marriage?

The next question is, “We want to know more about your hubby and your relationship if you’re willing to share.” I got this question a lot as I was briefly looking over the questions and I get this question a lot in general in my DMs. It totally makes sense that I get these questions because naturally, people are curious. They know I’m married, they know I have a baby, but they don’t know anything about my husband or our relationship because I keep that part of my life private. I probably will keep it for the remainder of my time on social media because I’m a private person. I don’t like to share that much of my private life because I don’t feel the need to. It’s not natural to me. It’s not that I wake up wanting to share these things. Because it’s not natural to me, it’s very uncomfortable for me to even talk about it. I also don’t know what I would say. Also, because my husband is a super private person and he just doesn’t get why social media even exists. He doesn’t get the point of social media and sometimes I have to sit him down, explain it to him and let him know why I personally am on social media and why I love social media. When I explain it to him, he gets it. He doesn’t get it to the extent. He’s never had an Instagram of Facebook. I don’t think he can even operate these things.

As far as my husband goes, I don’t know what to say about him exactly. I’ll say some basic things. He is five years older than me. He is a very hardworking guy. He is a family man. He is the greatest dad in the world. He’s so hands-on with Levon and that’s probably why Levon is obsessed with him and prefers him over me. He’s a good guy. I think the one thing that attracts me to him the most is his soul. His soul is so pure, kind, and caring. I don’t think there’s anything more attractive about a man than when he’s just genuinely a good man, a family man, somebody who puts his family first. As far as our relationship goes, I think the state of our relationship is great. I don’t have complaints.

We’ve gone through so much in our relationship. We’ve been together eight years and we’ve gone through a lot of life experiences specifically together. He’s experienced a death in his family. His father passed away. My father passed away. We were together when these circumstances happened. We’ve gone through a lot of hardships together in terms of our relationship, but I think the one thing that’s kept us together is obviously our love. Another thing is if he wasn’t as open-minded to communication as he has been to me, I don’t think we would be together. We discussed in our previous discussion with Gayane, the marriage and family therapist. The biggest problem in most relationships is miscommunication. I know this so it’s important for me and for him to have open communication.

If there’s anything that bugs me, if there’s anything that’s weighing heavy on my heart, him and I will sit and we’ll talk for hours. At night when the baby’s asleep, he’s home, I’m home. The day is over, it’s time to chill and spend time together. We can have hour-long conversations. I’m saying it in that way because I don’t know if you’ve ever tried to have an hour-long conversation with a man. It’s almost impossible to keep their attention span, but we can do that. It’s very seldom that we have these long conversations and it must be something serious that we are having a long conversation about. If there’s something that I need to speak to him about, if there’s something that he’s done that’s upset me or vice versa, we always talk about it. Another problem that we used to have is we used to not understand each other. We used to bump heads a lot. It was because we didn’t know how to communicate with each other. I would get upset quick and get temperamental and he doesn’t respond well to that as a person. I needed to learn how to calm myself down, gather my thoughts, and then approach them with a conversation. I think the most important thing for couples is to figure out each other’s language. Because once you figure out your partner’s language, then you’ll know how to approach them and then you’re so much more likely to have a great open communication or just a good conversation to get to the bottom of something.

Another thing I respect in our relationship is that him and I are very alike in the sense that we never hold grudges. If you asked me what was their last fight, I can’t remember because we will have that argument or that conversation and that’s it. Once that conversation is over, that’s it. It’s done and over with. I forget about it. I keep a tab open. I have the conversation, we get to the bottom of it and that’s it. It’s closed. It means I have completely shredded that file out of my head and I don’t think about it. If we argue again, I never bring it up like, “Remember that one time?” No, that one time does not exist right now. Right now our conversation is about this and only this. I think the number one important thing that I love and respect about our relationship is that we never hold grudges. That’s something that I never used to do before in the beginning, maybe because I was so young. I was a lot more stubborn back in the day. Over the years I’ve learned that we will never get anywhere if we hold grudges. We will never get anywhere if I don’t know how to approach him. I think the best way to figure out how to approach your husband or your significant other is to realize from previous fights or arguments when you approach him pretty much accusing him of something or coming at him in a negative way, how does he respond to that?

I can pretty much guarantee that he doesn’t respond well to that because nobody would. Imagine your significant other came up to you and immediately accused you of something or immediately temperamental with you or negative with you. I don’t think anybody would respond well to that. I think an important thing that you can do is put yourself in your significant other’s shoes because you know this person very well. You know what pisses them off. You know how to speak to them. You know how to word your words. Men have a very small and short attention span. You know what’s going to get your husband’s attention or your significant others and you know what’s going to piss them off. Don’t piss them off, just have a conversation, get to the bottom of it and move on.

[bctt tweet=”There’s nothing more attractive about a man than when he’s just genuinely a good man who puts his family first.” username=””]

The next question is, “Where did you grow up and we want to know more about your childhood.” I was born in Armenia. I moved to America when I was five with my family and I’ve been here since. To be honest, I can’t recall so much of my childhood so I can’t bring up certain instances. What I can say is that I feel such a deep connection with Armenia and my Armenian community, but specifically Armenia. I feel connected to that country. I feel connected when I get there. I feel good when I’m in Armenia. I miss it sometimes, especially with the Velvet Revolution. I feel the sense of longing. I want to go back and visit because I haven’t gone in years. When I go back, I almost replenish my soul and then I come back to life. To be honest, I can’t tell you so much about my childhood in Armenia, but as far as my childhood in general, I think I had a pretty good childhood. It was definitely hard moving to a new country for my parents. It might’ve been a little bit harder for us as well.

Where Did You Grow Up?

Another thing I can say about my childhood is I had to grow up very quickly. That’s one problem that I don’t that people have in America. Not everybody, but life experiences, life situations make you mature and grow up. I’ve had to mature at a very young age. I’ve always taken care of my sister. I’ve always helped my mom. I’ve always helped around the house ever since I was young because I had to. My mom had to work, my dad had to work. There was a lot that fell on my shoulders and it made me mature sooner than maybe most children. I never minded that. I never saw it as a burden. Maybe I complained when I was a kid. Who hasn’t? In fact, I appreciate it because there’s a lot that life taught me because of that. I always had to be responsible and my parents knew I am a very responsible person. I was the kid my parents never had to worry about. I could stick up for myself. I was disciplined. The one thing my mom would probably complain about is that I got into trouble a lot because I went to a ghetto middle school and I had to stick up for myself in that school. I would get into a lot of trouble in middle school because people would try to bully me and I wouldn’t have it. I have zero tolerance to that stuff. You can’t bully me. That’s not to say people haven’t tried to bully me.

I don’t remember that much of my childhood. I don’t know why. I don’t know if it’s because I have total mom brain or maybe I blocked parts of it out, but I can’t give you a certain instance where I’ve been bullied and that it’s affected me. Maybe because of just who I am. Maybe it’s because my dad always taught me don’t take things from anybody. If somebody hits you, you hit them back. Total Arma lessons in life. Those things are real things you need to know. If somebody hits you, defend yourself. Maybe that’s a reason why I never was bullied and it could also be I wasn’t susceptible to that, but I never gave somebody that opportunity, which sounds bad. I always stuck up for myself. People knew they couldn’t mess with me. To sum it up, I grew up in Armenia and I can’t recall anything bad happening in my childhood.

Any Advice For Someone Who Wants To Start A Business Centered Around Providing A Service?

The next question. “Any advice for someone who wants to start a business centered around providing a service?” My biggest advice for somebody who has a business or wants to start a business centered around providing a service is that you need to have excellent customer service skills. Try to separate yourself from your business idea and think of how you feel as a consumer when you are getting a service. When you’re getting your makeup done, has a makeup artist ever done anything that made you feel uncomfortable that you didn’t like, that maybe turned you off? Has your eyelash girl said something or done something that rubbed you the wrong way? Separate yourself and think of yourself as just a consumer or a customer. Think of the negative instances that have occurred and try to avoid that. If you have gotten a service where you weren’t happy with the results, how did you respond and how did the person providing that service respond to you? For example, if you hated your makeup and you wanted to wipe it all off because it was so bad, how did that person respond? Were they like, “I have another client and there’s absolutely no way.” Did they refund you? Did they try to accommodate you with someone else at the salon? You need to have great customer service skills to build rapport with your customers because I think the biggest way you can gain is word of mouth.

IW 10 | Greta Gasparian
Greta Gasparian: If you want to start a business as a service provider, have a consumer’s perspective. Try to separate yourself from your business idea and think of how you feel as a consumer.

 

When your girlfriend goes to a great makeup artist, the first thing she does is, “I went to this guy or girl and they were amazing. My makeup looked great. He or she did exactly what I wanted him to do.” That feedback is what sticks with a customer. How did you make them feel? Did you give them what they wanted? Were you listening to what they wanted out of this experience with you? You have to think about this because if you want to have a customer come back to you, you need to make sure that experience was positive. It gave them the result that they wanted and that they were happy with your work and you in general. Because I don’t think I’ve ever sat in a makeup chair where the makeup artist hasn’t communicated with me. Some people don’t want you to communicate and that’s okay too. I’ve provided a service. I’ve done makeup, I used to freelance. The one thing that my clients appreciated about me is that I listened to them. There were clients who didn’t want to talk at all. I could pick up on that hint that they were giving me close-ended responses. That gives me the impression that you don’t want to talk. That’s okay too.

Some people just want to enjoy, some people just want to chill and relax and you need to pick up on these hints from your customer. Some people want to talk and you might not want to talk but you can’t talk. If your customer is sitting there and talking about something, you’ve got to talk back. You’ve got to make your customer feel you care and you should care. I think the biggest thing is to think of yourself as a customer. Think of the good instances, maybe the things that you appreciated. Maybe the greeting that they gave you or they sent you off with lipstick or something in a jar and that made you feel good inside or that made you feel they appreciated you or they thought of you. You should think of how these instances made you feel, the good and the bad and try to implement or not implement these kinds of things in your business.

How Do You Come Up With A Unique Business Name?

The same girl asked another question. Her question is, “How do you come up with a unique and catchy enough name?” I’m assuming she means in terms of business. Here is my thought process when it comes to names. Throughout my life, I’ve had to come up with several business names for the different businesses that I’ve had and I’ve always wanted to give my business their own identity. That’s exactly how I see a business. I see it as its own identity. In my opinion, your name or your logo or whatever, it should somewhat be representative of what your business is. If you’re doing makeup, maybe you can have the word beauty or makeup or looks or something that pertains to that. Your customer might see your Instagram profile or might stumble upon a business card and know what you do. This doesn’t apply to all businesses.

For example, for me, my thought process is I literally take out a journal, I get a pen and I start writing words. For example, for Plan Chicly, when I was thinking of the name, I had the name Chicly previously for another business I wanted to do but never did. That word specifically I felt was very complimentary to what I’m trying to do. Chic in the sense that that’s my style. My style is effortless. It’s chic. It’s also something that will be okay generations to come. That’s my idea of chic is a staple. It’s something that never dies. The LY came in Chicly because Chicly. It made sense to me. I put the word Plan in front of it because I wanted people to know that I am an organizational and planner brand.

[bctt tweet=”Anyone who owns a business knows that one month might be good and the next month might be unstable.” username=””]

It’s obvious, but it’s not obvious. Plan Chicly, elaborate. It might get someone curious. It might get the ball rolling, they might even click on my page and get to know what I’m all about. Don’t push it with names and you should trust your gut with the name. If you love a name then you should sleep on it and see if you feel the same about it the next day. Maybe ask your friends or girlfriends like, “What do you think? Does this name represent what I provide as a business? Is it obvious what it is or maybe I should continue looking?” Another thing, if you’re stuck, there are a lot of name generators on the internet. Google business name generators and I’m sure a bunch will come up and that might help you. As a creative person myself, I’ve come up with all my business names on my own and I think about them. I take my time and think about a name because it’s important for it to represent my business and my brand. Don’t rush it. Take your time. If you want something unique and catchy, maybe use a thesaurus. Go on Thesaurus.com and put in a word chic and see what else comes up. Maybe something might spark you and it might get the ball rolling and you might take that word and implement it in a way that’s unique and catchy.

What Are Some Things That Inspire And Motivate You In General?

The next question is, “What are some things that inspire and motivate you in general?” Many things can inspire me and many things can motivate me. I might listen to a song that I wholeheartedly love. I envision where I’m listening to this song, anywhere in the world. I might envision myself on an Island listening to the song and just relaxing. Every time I hear that song moving forward, I feel relaxed, I feel great. I feel I’m going to be on an island soon. Songs can motivate me, people can motivate me and inspire me. I am truly what you would imagine a very creative and imaginative person to be. I can look at a purse and that might inspire me for a planner. I might look at somebody’s t-shirt color and I’m like, “This would look good.” I might even look at the randomness things and it might inspire me to make a product or inspire me to include that one thing in a campaign in the future. I get inspired by everything around me to be honest. There are things that don’t inspire me, but there’s a lot of things that do inspire me and I can’t pinpoint one thing. When I do feel stuck on my favorite place, depending on what I feel stuck on. If I feel stuck on my design process, I always go on Pinterest.

Pinterest is number one when it comes to being inspired by design, color, campaign, and by that creative aspect of my businesses. As far as inspiring me as a person, I listen to inspiring people. I listen to people speak. Oprah as a huge inspiration of mine. People I follow on Instagram are a big inspiration of mine. In terms of the biggest thing that motivates me in general, it’s where I see my life in the future. It’s where I want to be in the near future. Thinking of the circumstances of my life, the life experiences I can experience in the future when I make let’s say more money or when my business is stable. The things I can experience when I get to that point in my life is what motivates me. I don’t mean that in a monetary and financial way. I mean that all over. It’s not because I’m trying to get rich quick because I’m not getting rich quick. To have a business and operate it is expensive. It’s time-consuming and it takes a while and I know this. The things that come in your life along the way as you progress is what motivates me because I can’t wait to experience things that I haven’t experienced before. I can’t wait to live in a home where maybe I can decorate it to where I feel great.

I can’t wait to have an office space Kylie Jenner to where I can have total creative freedom. These are the things that motivate me to work harder, to do better, to never give up because I want to experience that. I want to progress in my life and be able to have certain things in my life where I can do more and be more. With that, I can be better and do better for people. Anything can inspire me. Motivation, it’s the progression in life and the life experiences I have with this progression that is to come.

IW 10 | Greta Gasparian
Greta Gasparian: Being a stay at home mom is one of the hardest jobs in the world.

 

Did You Experience Postpartum Depression?

The next question is, “Did you experience postpartum depression? If so, how did you deal with it and overcome it?” Yes, I did experience postpartum depression. For me, it was weird because it came a few months after I had my son and it lasted for a few months as well. This isn’t my first instance with depression and I’ve never been severely depressed, but I have gone through moments of depression depending on life circumstances I’ve had to go through. As far as postpartum depression goes, for me specifically, it had a lot to do with my hormones. It had a lot to do with breastfeeding because that was the biggest stressor in my life at the time. That was a huge contribution as to why I was depressed in the first place. I spoke about this briefly before. I put a lot of stress on myself to breastfeed. I had a very low supply of milk, but I just kept pushing myself. I also had not much of an appetite, so I wasn’t eating well. Thus I didn’t have that much milk and I didn’t deal with it in any specific way. I think when you’re depressed it’s hard for you to do things that make you happy because you’re in such a dark place in your life and for your brain to say, “Snap out of it. Get out, go for a walk, drink some water. Maybe exercise. Read a book. Take the day off, see who can watch the baby so you can get away.” To get yourself to do these things is a little bit difficult because you’re clouded by all the gloom and I was definitely in that circumstance.

The way that I overcame it is naturally. To be honest, when I had to stop breastfeeding, I got a bad infection in general. My milk supply completely stopped. I didn’t have to tie my breasts. I didn’t have to do all those remedies that women do to stop breast milk. It forced me to give my son formula and forced me that, “Your time has come to an end. You can’t breastfeed anymore.” When I stopped breastfeeding within a week I immediately felt better because this big stressor in my life had gone away. I didn’t make that decision, which I think made it easier because I wouldn’t have made that decision because I would have never given up. Because that was something I made mandatory in my life. It wasn’t even an option for me. Because that thing was taken away from me in a way, I had no choice. It was a lot easier to deal with. I overcame it. My hormone slowly started to go back to normal. Breastfeeding has a lot to do with your hormones. When that went back to normal, I mustered up the strength to hire a babysitter because I finally felt I wanted to get creative again.

I wanted to do blog posts again. I wanted to reconnect with everybody again. When I took the first step of trying to find a babysitter and then I found one, I instantly felt relieved. I also felt guilty that I felt relieved too. That might’ve contributed to a little bit of my postpartum depression lingering on because I felt guilty that I wanted to be away from my baby. That’s okay to feel that. It’s overwhelming being at home all day every day with a child. I don’t know how stay at home moms do it. It’s difficult. In my opinion, it’s one of the hardest jobs in the world and I commend any mom who can keep their sanity and be a stay at home mom because it is tough. Now that Levon is in school, I truly don’t know how I did it before. I have five days out of the week that I can work from the moment I drop him off to the moment I pick him up. I like that I have that freedom that if I want to get my nails done during the week, I can do that. Because usually, unless my nails weren’t literally horrible, I wouldn’t go to get my nails done because I knew I had two days out of the entire week to focus on work, hone in on my work and do my work. Now that I have this freedom, it feels nice. It’s also something that’s necessary for Levon and for me to progress and evolve in our lives. When I think about it that and I think of it realistically, it takes some of that mom guilt away.

If you are feeling guilty, maybe your kid is new in school mine or maybe you hired a babysitter or maybe you just got back to work and someone else is taking care of your kid, do your best to think realistically because that will help you so much more than thinking emotionally. Because emotionally all of us miss our babies. Throughout the day, I miss him. I want to be with him and I will be. I try to be realistic when I’m feeling upset or I’m missing him.

[bctt tweet=”If you want to have a customer come back to you, you need to make sure that their experience with you was positive.” username=””]

The next question is, “Was it hard getting into UCLA? Trying to get in at the moment, so scared. Also, what was your major?” When I was in high school, right when I graduated in 10th grade, I got my GED and I went straight to community college. I went to Valley College and then I did my two years there and then transferred right away as a junior to UCLA. As far as, was it hard getting in, it’s gotten a lot worse because it’s so competitive because a bachelors is nothing. A masters is the minimum at most jobs. Depending on what your major is and what industry and work field you’re in, but there are resources available to you. There are so many things that your school offers. You just need to look into it and find what applies to you. For example, when I was in school, and I’m pretty sure this program is still around, there were two programs called TAG and TAP. TAG gave you guaranteed acceptance to certain schools in California. For example, Irvine was one of them. It means that if you got into TAG, then you had guaranteed acceptance to the schools under that program. However, TAP did not give you guaranteed acceptance, but it looked amazing on your resume.

Was It Hard Getting Into UCLA?

Imagine you have a pile of admissions folders. I feel TAP bumped you up one higher and it was definitely beneficial and I think that’s one of the main reasons why I got accepted into UCLA. That’s definitely a program you should look into getting into. It’s also simple to get into these programs because all you need is a 3.5 GPA and you need to take honors classes. If you are new to community college or you’re about to finish, it might not work because there are a certain amount of credits of honors classes that you need. I would get on it ASAP and I would also do the easy classes. It’s so much easier to get a good grade in an honors English 101 class or a communications class or a sociology class versus Bio 105. I would definitely do the easier classes just to make your life easier.

Another program that I was in, the whole gist of it is you can use your volunteer hours to bump up your grade a full grade up. Let’s say I did 200 hours and all I had to do was get a B in my class and my teacher would have bumped my grade up to an A because I did those volunteer hours. I don’t know what this program is called. I’m pretty sure it’s still exists. Definitely look into the resources. Talk to your counselors, let them know you want to increase your chances of getting into these tough universities and I’m sure they’ll give you a bunch of options. Another thing that I did was there was one on our society that showed up on your transcripts. We all know that universities look for extracurricular activities, volunteer hours, and all these activities. They want to know that you are a student that’s involved because they want you to be involved in their schools as well.

If you prove to them you’re involved in your community college or your high school, if you’re trying to transfer out of high school, then they love that because they know that you’re that kind of person and that kind of person will probably be in societies and help out with the school in general. They know that you’re that person and they know you’re more likely to do the same things at their school. There’s also an honor society and it’s the only society that shows up on your transcripts. It’s called TAE. They offered it at Valley College. I’m not sure if they have it at other community colleges, but when you’re in a club or a society in high school or college, those things you list in your application. They don’t physically show up on your transcripts. However, this one society did. I definitely knew I wanted to be in that one because that made my transcripts look so much better.

Do your best in school. Try to get a high GPA. The higher your GPA, the higher your chances of getting in. As far as what my major was, I studied Psychology, so it was the only subject that I was interested in and enjoyed learning about. Surprisingly, I never took any business classes, which is weird because I feel that’s something that I would have loved as well. Maybe that happened for a reason only because I feel Psychology serves a bigger purpose in my life and I’m so happy and I say this all the time. I’m so happy I studied psychology. I apply everything I learned at UCLA in my everyday life and I read books all the time based off of research. I know also with my major what to believe in and what we sources are reliable and that’s very important too.

Why Podcasts?

Somebody asked, “Why podcasts?” I think podcasting is a very popular platform and I definitely wanted in on all the fun and action. I also love it because you can listen to a podcast anywhere. All you need is your phone or a computer and headphones and you can listen while you wash dishes, while you work out, while you’re getting your hair done. It’s very accessible and I love that. The only thing that matters when you’re listening to a podcast is what the person is telling you. That makes it so much more meaningful. I think people retain the information you’re trying to give them a little bit better. That’s why I decided to go the podcast route.

I’m so happy I did because it has been so fulfilling to see people respond and feel inspired and empowered by the things and the messages that my guests and I are providing women. I don’t know how to explain it, but I don’t think I’ve ever felt this fulfilled in my life. Fulfilled meaning I feel to my core that I’m on the exact path I’m meant to be on. I was always meant to be on this exact path, which is probably why it feels so fulfilling to me because I’m doing something I meant to do. I know that podcasting will eventually lead to something bigger and better for me, for the community of women that follows me, the audience. I’m happy I did it and I went for it. Because I genuinely felt in my heart it’s something I wanted to do and I’ve put my all into it, people have been responding well and it’s a nice feeling.

How Do You Manage Your Time And Make The Most Out Of Your Day?

The next question is, “How do you manage your time and make the most out of your day?” I struggle with time management all the time. Not as much only because Levon has started school, so I’ve gotten into a whole new routine. Previously when I would work from home, I only had a babysitter twice a week. I only had twice a week, sixteen hours total a week to do work, focus on work and only work. That was hard for me because there’s only so much you can do having more than one business in sixteen hours a week. It’s hard. Now that I have way more time, I almost don’t know how to prioritize my day because I’m so excited I have so much time. The one thing and that helps is the night before, I write down everything in my brain. I have a journal in front of me, my computer or my phone or whatever you write in and I jot down things, “Finish website. Do this, do that. Don’t forget to call and make this appointment.” It doesn’t need to be things that I need to do the next day. It’s things that are rolling through my mind and I’m jotting it down so I don’t forget. From that long list of things I need to do, I pick and prioritize the most important for the day that’s coming.

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I’m also very realistic with my time. I won’t put five tasks on my to-do list if I know I’m not going to make it to all five only because I’m a control freak and it irks my nerves that I didn’t finish a task. I don’t want to do it when I get home because when I get home, I want be with my kid. I want to chill, I want to relax, I have housework I need to do, I want to spend time with my husband, I want to watch TV, I want to read a book. I don’t want to think about work-related stuff or tasks when I get home and when my day is over. As far as how I make the most out of my day, definitely being realistic with time helps me. Also, I try not to let little stressors get to me, even though that’s easier said than done. Trust me, I know. I’m human. I have up days, I have down days, but I do my best. However, I can’t control it. There are some weeks I don’t want to do anything and I have to force myself to because if I don’t do it, no one will. Those weeks are definitely tough and I give myself a lot more leeway in those weeks and I rest because I think to myself, “If your body doesn’t want to do it, it’s probably because you’re overworked or you’re exhausted.” Take it slow, take a chill pill, don’t be an overachiever and maybe when you have better energy, you can do all the millions of things you wanted to do. Also because those things are not urgent and they can wait.

Did You Feel Pressure To Get Married/Have Babies ASAP?

The next question is, “Did you feel pressure to get married/have babies ASAP?” No, I never felt pressure to get married only because my family never pressured me. Also probably because I was young. I met my husband when I was eighteen. We got married five years later when I was 23, so it’s not like I was at an age where my parents felt like the thing that Armo parents go through when you’re at a certain age, which I don’t know why they do that, but they do. I get it. It’s just a parent’s concern. As far as children, I probably feel it more that I have a kid because everyone wants to know when I’m going to have my second kid. Although that question is annoying, I’ve just gotten used to people asking me. You know when there’s times where everyone and their mother is like, “When you having another kid?” That’s when I might feel pressure.

However, I’m a very realistic and logical person. If I feel pressure and it’s starting to bug me, I sit down with myself and I have an open conversation, me, myself, and I. I’ll sit there and I will analyze. Everyone is giving me the advice that I shouldn’t wait longer than X amount of years to have another kid. They’re saying it because it’s easier for me, because of this. I list my pros and cons in my head and I might do this throughout the day, but mainly at nighttime when I’m chilling or maybe when I’m showering and I have time to think to myself. I just logically put out reasons why I don’t feel ready to have another kid and I make my own point valid and I come to my own conclusion of how I feel about, for example, having another kid.

Do I feel pressure? Yes, sometimes I do feel pressure. I think if somebody repeats or a few people repeat the same thing over and over again, you feel some pressure. It’s also up to you to logically think through that. Either appreciate it, don’t appreciate it, agree with it, disagree with it, and move on. Form your own opinion. Listen to people. Let them tell you what they want to tell you because you never know. These people are speaking from their own experiences and what works for them might work for you, but it might not. Just be your own advocate and think things through. If something’s pressuring you, think about it. How do you feel about it? Once you’ve come to your own conclusion, then you know what to do moving forward.

IW 10 | Greta Gasparian
Greta Gasparian: Listen to people. Let them tell you what they want to tell you because you never know. What works for them might work for you.

 

Do You Have Tips About Baby Food?

The next question is about baby food. Tips about baby food. My biggest advice for moms who are starting their babies on solids, for example, is to give your children whole ingredient meals. For example, don’t give them processed applesauce or processed baby food. Honestly, and I don’t mean to offend anybody, it’s harmful for your kid to buy those Gerber baby things. It’s not healthy. Don’t give your kid that. If maybe budget or money is a concern, it’s better for you to buy a nonorganic avocado and give your kid that versus those jarred foods from Ralph’s or something.

Another tip about baby food is keep a staple things that your child likes in your fridge at all times because sometimes kids go through phases where they don’t want to eat anything and then they go through phases where they want to eat everything. Just be smart with their nutrition, but try not to be too restrictive. For example, I’m very strict on what Levon eats and I was much worse when he was younger because I know the importance of nutrition in a child’s life. However, now that he’s older and let’s say we’re out and they have French fries at a restaurant, I don’t mind. He can have some French fries and some chicken tenders. However, I will never give him French fries and chicken tenders at home because I want at least 90% of his nutritional intake to be healthy, wholesome food. This matters on age only because they get older, they see other kids doing it. They want things from you and they use their words to tell you what they want. I don’t think you should restrict your child because the more you restrict them, the more they want. You should be very smart and implement healthy smart habits when they’re younger.

I don’t give Levon sweets at home. No chocolate, no lollipops. I don’t even have these things in my house because he doesn’t need chocolates, lollipops and candy. There is no need for a child to eat these things. He gets his sugar intake from fruits, which he loves, and he enjoys way more than candy. If we are at a party and a kid is eating candy and he wants a candy, he can have a candy. That’s not a big deal because it’s very seldom that he eats it. When he’s out, it’s okay. I don’t restrict him and he can have it. I limit it. I’m not like, “Go take all 50 lollipops.” No, I’m not. I’ve also instilled healthy habits in him since he was a baby. He gravitates towards fruits, vegetables and those kinds of things versus candy, chocolates, junk because that’s all he knows. Also, if you’re looking for baby recipes, you can follow my cooking page @CookingDailyWithGreta. I have a bunch of great recipes for children. I have some of Levon’s favorite foods on there, so that’s a great resource if you’re interested. Food in general and specifically baby food.

How Do You Budget?

Another question was budgeting. I’ve had instances in my life where I’ve been good with money, meaning I could be careless. I’ve also had instances in my life where I had to be on a tight budget because I couldn’t afford to be careless with money. I have experiences with money and without money. I think my biggest tip is you just have to be smart when you buy things, especially when you are on a budget or you can’t afford it or you don’t have the means to spend so much on unnecessary things. Before I would walk into home goods and buy everything under the moon, sun, and stars that I might think I will use one day. I have a pile in Levon’s closet of things I might use one day. I’m so much smarter. I think twice before I buy something. If I have extra cash for that month that I just don’t need, all my bills are paid for, everything is covered, I will take that money and I will save it for the next month in case the next month is a little more unstable. Because anyone who owns their own business knows that one month might be good and the next month might be unstable. The best way that I’ve learned to budget is when I have an overflow of cash, I save it for the next month’s bills, insurance and all that. When I don’t, I’m very conscious with what I purchase.

[bctt tweet=”The only thing that matters when you’re listening to a podcast is what the person is telling you.” username=””]

The last question is, “What are of your pet peeves?” My number one biggest pet peeve is when humans lack common sense. I cannot even begin to describe to you how irking and frustrating it is when someone doesn’t have common sense. For example, if you see a mom or a woman struggling with a kid on one arm, 40 bags in the other, trying to open a door, push a stroller in, then the kid, then the dog or whatever, don’t stand there. Go and hold the door open. Help her with her bags. That to me is common sense. You don’t even need to be courteous to do that. If someone’s struggling, go help them. I’ve had so many instances where I’m disciplined with my feelings because if I’m not, I can probably get temperamental and angry because this lack of common sense in humans is so prominent in America. I don’t know why it is but it just is.

What Are Some Of Your Pet Peeves?

It frustrates me and I probably will be the mom that walks by and goes like, “You’re an idiot,” and walks right by you. Because if you see me struggling and you’re standing there staring at me, why are you staring? The worst is when they’re trying to approach you but they’re waiting for you to give an okay. The whole common sense portion of this all is that you don’t wait from my okay. You just come up and help. I’m not even asking you to carry my kid to the car. I just need you to hold the door open for three seconds. Common sense is 100% my number one biggest pet peeve.

My next biggest pet peeve is probably fake people, people who pretend to be something they’re not. Whether they’re overly nice, overly positive, overly bubbly, but in reality, they are negative, have no personality and not great people and they try to act they are. I’m going to call it a talent of mine, but I could sniff it from a mile away and sometimes when I can’t and I recognize these habits in people, I completely distanced myself. If you’re fake to yourself, you’re not going to be real with me. That’s just the reality. There is no need for you to be in my life. Another thing I absolutely don’t like and as a big pet peeve of mine is materialistic people, meaning people whose material objects like purses, cars, accessories, rings, diamonds, those things define them and they feel good because of the Gucci on their back, their shoes or their bag. Why should a purse define you? It doesn’t make any sense to me. Materialistic people just are so insecure with themselves that they think these material objects will make them look more secure, more confident, more pretty. I don’t understand that concept.

I feel the amount of effort you’re putting to buy these material objects you can be putting in yourself and read a self-help book and be a better person. My last pet peeve would have to be I can’t stand drivers, especially in LA. I have crazy road rage and I do my best because I drive my kid around to be calm. People are so dumb and inconsiderate when they drive. It pisses me off. I get frustrated quickly when I drive.

That concludes our little Q&A. This was super fun. I definitely want to do another one of these again. I hope I gave you good answers and good feedback. I hope this was resourceful. If there’s anything else you want me to follow up on, a follow-up question, you feel free to DM me. You can DM me on my personal page @GretaGasparian or our podcast page, Inspiring Women Podcast. I respond to everybody. I love your feedback. I love that you are open. When we share conversations or we have conversations, you respond back with your thoughts and your experiences and I love that. It connects us. Every time I feel I’m slowly building this community of women, it makes me feel happy. I’m very grateful for you all. Thank you.

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Caroline D’Amore Shares Her Life Journey DJ-ing Internationally + Starting Pizza Girl

 

 

Fake it till you make it is what they always say. For Caroline D’Amore, “faking it” just for one night started her successful DJ-ing career, and the rest is history. Caroline, aka Pizza Girl, talks about how she went from DJ-ing to launching her own organic food products. Her life journey proves that confidence and perseverance can take you far into the realization of your dreams, and even take you into surprising turns that go full circle into your inherent desires. Learn about pursuing your passion and balancing family life from this inspirational episode.

Listen to the podcast here:

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Caroline D’Amore Shares Her Life Journey DJ-ing Internationally + Starting Pizza Girl

We have Caroline D’Amore with us. She’s a DJ, model, actress, singer and an amazing mamapreneur. Her family owns the restaurant, D’Amore’s Famous Pizza here in LA and they have locations all over Malibu, Tarzana, Westwood and so many more all over California. She’s also the Creator of the famous Pizza Girl sauces, which we actually cooked with. She made a chicken ziti and it was delicious. We used her marinara sauce and I can’t wait for you to actually shop her page. She has vodka sauce.

We have marinara, we have a puttanesca. We finished our formulation on the arrabiata and we’re going to keep on rolling out these delicious organic products.

Welcome.

Thank you. I’m so happy to be here.

Thank you for being here. I wanted to get this going with you. I wanted to talk about your life, Pizza Girl and all the amazing things you’ve done and are doing. You come from a celebrity circle. You grew up with celebrities. Talk to me about that. What was life like?

I grew up in Malibu and people hear that and they’re like, “You were some rich socialite.” I’m like, “How?” My dad is the pizza man, first of all. When I wanted enough money to go to the club or something crazy that night, I delivered pizzas. I had to work. I was in this circle and I grew up with these girls that were more financially fortunate or famous than me and my family. It was a very interesting dynamic, but none of that matters when you’re all true friends. Everybody’s got your back. You become friends with who you become friends with.

It’s not just because of who they are. You’re friends with them because you’re friends.

Some of those things can actually turn you off from a friendship with somebody if they’re so into themselves or don’t have time to ask you how you’re doing.

A lot of people out there are stuck up celebrities. I don’t think you’d even be friends with them, to begin with.

Of course not. I’m sure you have all this information because you’ve Googled me and you can see tons of pictures of me and Paris Hilton all over the world. She is the kindest human that I’ve ever met. She is such a loving person. She’s always been there for me. I was actually her DJ on her Stars are Blind tour. When that record came out, we traveled all over the world together and I did all of her events.

You’ve been friends for how long?

She threw my eighteenth birthday party at her house. We’ve been friends for a long time, since I was fifteen.

That’s one thing people probably wouldn’t imagine, that Paris Hilton would be such a great friend or all these celebrity friends.

[bctt tweet=”People buy something when the label looks dope. If it’s good, they’ll buy it again.” username=””]

I think people like to hate and when somebody’s just so fabulous and on top of the world, they find things that are not cool about that person. The truth is if you looked or cared, you’d see the girl is literally the kindest person on the planet. You don’t even see that stuff.

Tell me how deejaying came to be.

Hence, the whole party girl club rat phase that I went through in my life. School wasn’t for me. Honestly, I felt uncomfortable and I didn’t have a clique. I was floating by friends with all the different groups. Maybe that’s the Gemini in me, but I didn’t have my thing in school. I wasn’t very good at school. I was terrible at math. Testing freaked me out. I dropped out. My last completed grade is ninth grade. We walked in one day and walked out and I was like, “I’m done.” I was in the club one night and DJ AM was deejaying. I literally saw the sky open and I was blown away by how he controlled the room and his energy made everybody else so happy. If you looked at him, he was joyous and it brought joy to me and everyone in the room.

Every night I was in the club, I ended up finding myself in the DJ booth with him watching what he was doing, being mesmerized. I did something a little stupid and I did accept a gig. I was acting at the time. When you’re in LA, you can try everything. A director called me and he was like, “Do you know any female DJs for this show I’m putting on at the El Rey Theater?” I fully lied. I said, “I’m a DJ.” He was like, “You’re hired.” I called up AM and I was like, “This is what I just did.” He was like, “You idiot. Come over and I’ll help you.” I spent every dollar that I had and scraped it together. I bought a brand new CDJs and a mixer and he gave me some pointers.

I was actually pretty terrible at my first gig. I was crashing and burning mixes and actually, Questlove came up to me while I was crashing and burning mixes. He goes, “Do you know why you’re good? You’re good because you’re confident as hell.” I was like, “I’m going to keep going with this.” I did get good and I signed to SKAM Artist. I got two record deals with Sony and Universal and I ended up touring the whole world, which was pretty rad. I think I was the first female to ever have a legit summer residency at the Hard Rock in Vegas. I broke a lot of boundaries.

How old were you?

I was young. When I started, I was seventeen and I was making enough money only deejaying two nights a week to pay for my own apartment, my own car. I was deejaying on Mondays and Tuesdays. Mondays was at Joseph’s, a super popular club back then. It was like The Boathouse club. Britney and Justin had their dance-off there, the funny 2005 eras. I was young. They were sneaking me in through the kitchen because I was underage. I got a fake ID and the rest is history.

Where was your favorite place that you did a tour? What was the most memorable place you’ve deejayed?

I loved being in Tokyo. I lived in Beijing during the whole Olympics. I deejayed all the Olympic parties. I was there for over a month. I got to stand on the pyramids thanks to deejaying. I was brought out to do a big Nikki Beach over in that area. I have to say, my last big adventure was in Mexico, and I headline there for 20,000 people. It was incredible. The funny thing is that my whole story comes full circle because I see in the crowd people holding up signs that said, “Pizza Girl.” That’s a nickname that I hated growing up. It was like, “The Pizza Girl is here.” That’s why I ran to deejaying. I was like, “I don’t want anything to do with this.” I started seeing Pizza Girl signs and I was like, “Screw it. I’m going to make shirts that say Pizza Girl and throw them into the crowd.” Me and my manager, Tom Hamilton, we spent the whole day spray painting shirts.

Paris Jackson was with us at that show. She was throwing them out into the crowd and it became a thing. I started developing these sauces. I have a four-year-old and I started cooking all the time, especially owning the restaurant, D’Amore’s, on 3rd. That’s the one that I operate. Everybody told me like, “You’re not going to get shelf space. You’re crazy. This is such a saturated market. How do you think you’re going to be able to do this?” What’s funny is I fully developed the entire thing myself with zero backing or funding in any way. I said, “Watch me.” I walked into Erewhon on Beverly with no meetings, nothing set up. I just walked in with the sauce and I said, “Who do I need to talk to? Who do I need to show this product to?” They literally pointed me in the right direction because Erewhon is still such a small market where you can find the people on site.

You could totally walk in and be like, “Where’s your manager? I want to talk to him.”

Vicky Osana gave me my first chance and she was just like, “This is amazing. You’re amazing. You’re clearly passionate about the project and about this product.” There weren’t many certified organic products. That process for me was so difficult. Most companies come in with millions of dollars of funding. They hire a company to do their organic certification. I had to do all of that myself because we didn’t have thousands of dollars to throw at it. Me and my assistant, Cara, who is my main girl, we did almost 600 pages of paperwork per skew. Every time you get an infraction, you get put to the back of the line unless you paid thousands of dollars. It was like pulling our hair out for six months trying to get that done. We got it done.

I almost was like, “Maybe I’ll just put out the sauce without the certification.” I was like, “No, I need that in this day and age. It’s certified organic. They are local ingredients. Why not get the love for it?” I went the extra mile. We did it. Erewhon said yes. Bristol Farms immediately gave us all seventeen locations once they tried it. What’s crazy is the guy who tried it and put it to the test, he’s the guy who developed the sauce for Bristol Farms brand. I was like, “He’s going to be so mean. He’s going to hate it.” He instantly loved it. He popped it open on his desk, pulled out a spoon. He was like, “This is fantastic.” We’re launching Amazon and we’re launching Gelson’s, all locations.

IW 9 | Pizza Girl
Pizza Girl: When you’re in LA, you can try everything.

 

You said the marinara one is vegan. You have vegan alternatives.

We do. The marinara is vegan, the new arrabbiata is vegan. The puttanesca is vegan.

Do you come up with all the recipes yourself?

I do.

What’s it like? I’m a huge foodie. Do you write down the measurements? How do you do it? Tell your process.

I worked with food scientists. You have to when it comes to pH balance tests. In order to get our vodka sauce, that was a hard one because I think a lot of people think vodka sauce is just a pink sauce and you add some cream. That is not it. A traditional vodka sauce has real Italian seasoning. It’s so much more flavorful. We went through so many different versions and what I did was I took all the different versions into the D’Amore’s restaurants. I’m having customers try it, I’m having all the cooks try it. My dad’s putting it all to the test. We had, fortunately, hundreds of customers coming in that we’re able to be like, “This is amazing.”

What can we expect next from Pizza Girl?

Under the Pizza Girl name, I’m going to continue to do all of the sauces. Next is the arrabbiata, a pizza sauce and a pesto sauce and so on and so forth. I’m also going to dive into the frozen food section. I’m going to make sure that I get you guys an amazing pizza that’s actually organic and edible, which is hard to find in the frozen food section. We’re going to make sure I get you some delicious organic pastas, pasta alternatives. I want to do an Alfredo using coconut cream. I have a lot of delicious food products that I want to bring. Pizza Girl is going to do kitchenware. Pizza Girl is going to change the game.

We were talking about this and I cannot wait. Her style is so awesome. First of all, if you look at the packaging on Pizza Girl, I would be the first one to buy it because I love cute stuff. Cute stuff at the mall, it’s heard of. There’s cute stuff everywhere, but to buy food that’s cute.

Thank you for saying that because so many people told me that was such a risk. Do you know what I did? I snuck into the supermarket. Before I was in the supermarket, I put my sauce jars on the shelves just to make sure it looks sick. It pops off the shelves. They’ve done that and broken barriers in the wine world. Why do you buy wine? Because the label looks dope. If it’s good, you’ll buy it again.

It’s like Summer Water. It’s pink. It has that cute sticker on it. Trader Joe’s has the coolest wines. Honestly, the labels and packaging are so important and it matters.

In the Italian food world, it’s so old school that nobody’s done it yet. I’m definitely at the forefront of bringing cool branding, Millennial-women-run, inspirational, environmentally conscious products to everybody, so I’m so excited.

Your market is for the Millennial woman. I would grab that versus Bertolli because it’s cute. I go to the back and I read the ingredients. I’m like, “What? Organic? Check.”

[bctt tweet=”Life is short. You can’t just make it about the business.” username=””]

I have 65 milligrams of salt in my marinara. That is practically unheard of. We don’t add anything that doesn’t need to be added. It is low because we put a little bit of sea salt in that one. The puttanesca we do no salt because the kalamata olives and capers already bring that salty vibe. We don’t do a boring pasteurization process. We do a process called heat filling where we have to cook it in these huge vats. I think a lot of people don’t do that process anymore because it’s easier to scale when you have these machines that are doing it all for you. I plan on keeping that integrity because that’s why the sauce tastes so amazing. You cannot keep Pizza Girl on the shelves right now. I’m up at the factory with a hairnet trying to get it all done in time.

My dad used those. They’re huge pots and then they heat up from the bottom. He used that for his jams. We had a jam company and I know exactly what you’re talking about. We have a factory in Armenia and all those pots are everywhere. They mixed by hand with those huge spatulas. That’s where you get the flavor. It’s like cooking it in your kitchen, except it just happens to be a way larger tank.

I love that you know about that.

You’re right, people don’t do that anymore.

A lot of these companies truly are not about bringing the very best product possible to the customers. Me, that’s all I care about. I remember my grandmother does this funny thing where she would watch us take every bite of food because enjoying the food was her favorite thing ever. Now, I see myself doing that. When I’m in the market sampling, I’m personally in there giving out samples, letting everybody try it. I noticed myself doing the same face looking at the customer like, “What do you think?” It’s the dorkiest thing ever but that shows you how much I’m so dedicated and so passionate and I will never change my process. You know it here first.

Kudos to you. That’s incredible. I wish you the best of luck and success. You’re going to get there. We were talking about the cookware merch and she’s like, “I’m going to do it. Watch me.” I’m like, “You go, girl. You go, Glen Coco.” How do you balance all this with being a mom and a wife?

It’s not easy and obviously, I’m not going to lie and say that certain things don’t suffer. At times, my marriage definitely suffered. You do need to balance it all out better, not just talking about business all the time. I’m dedicating specific days and times to my daughter where I’m not on my phone where it’s very well thought out and very present. I need to do that for her. It’s hard. I balanced it out. Honestly, Cara, my assistant, literally on my schedule it says, “Mommy-daughter day.” We block them out where I’m like, “Do not call me because I’m in the pool with my kid.” That’s what works for me. I’m not going to change anything like, “I’m going to be with my kid on this day.” Every other day I’m fully engulfed in my business.

How do you turn the switch off? I find myself struggling with that because I’ll go to the office and I’ll work, but I come back with work on my mind.

I won’t lie, I have a glass of wine.

That’s great advice.

I’ll have a glass of wine and it all starts to go out the window. Massage, little me-time, maybe a facial. I try to unplug. Hiking helps. I haven’t been working out and I need to get back into it because I am such a happier person when I do.

I think a routine is important. I don’t have a steady routine and that’s why I get so overwhelmed so quickly.

You’re all over the place and you’re trying to keep up with your business. That will happen sometimes. Every day we’re adding new supermarkets. All of a sudden, we have to do launches more and more. I have heard that the business can start to control you. We have to be careful because life is short and we can’t just make it about the business.

IW 9 | Pizza Girl
Pizza Girl: It’s easier to scale when you have these machines that are doing it all for you, but it’s better to keep the integrity and go through all the process.

 

That’s great advice. What’s next? What can we expect from Caroline?

I have a couple of television projects in the works, which I’m not allowed to talk about yet, but I’m excited.

Movies or TV?

A TV show. We don’t know where it’s going yet, but it’s with one of the most amazing producers and he’s extremely talented. He reached out to me and saw what was going on with Pizza Girl. He was like, “We should be doing a show about this. This is incredible and you’re so inspiring.” We have started filming and hopefully, I’ll have some news on that in the New Year. It’s going to be more inspiring and about start-up companies and the business. Hopefully, after my company’s fully afloat and takes off, then I’ll be able to help other start-up companies follow my footsteps. That’s my dream.

What do you want to do? Do you want to help invest or just mentor?

I want to do both. I’m going to find women-run food industry businesses.

I love women that have all this knowledge and experience and they want to share it. I don’t remember where I read this but it says, “When you keep climbing, you should take people with you.” If you’ve ever helped anybody, and I’m sure you have many times. The joy and gratitude you feel when they’re so thankful and that you’ve done something good for them, it’s unbeatable. Thank you so much, Caroline. Tell everyone where we can follow you.

Thank you so much. You all can follow me, @CarolineDAmore on Instagram, and then also @PizzaGirlOfficial to keep up with the biz.

Be sure to check out our YouTube segment with the chicken ziti. Thank you so much.

 

Important Links:

About Caroline D’Amore

IW 9 | Pizza GirlPizza Girl is a high-end organic certified Italian sauce and pasta company created by Caroline D’Amore daughter of the D’Amore’s Pizza family.

 

 

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How Stage 3 Breast Cancer Turned Out To Be A Blessing In Disguise with Arax Gevorgyan

Looking at people’s Instagrams, you would think everything about their lives are perfect – from the big smiles to the perfect poses taken from very scenic locations. Our guest today is makeup artist Arax Gevorgyan. Judging from her Instagram and not knowing her, she gives off such a positive vibe that you would never know she was battling a health condition. Getting a breast cancer diagnosis in September 2018, Arax took it as a blessing in disguise and an opportunity to redesign her life. She talks with us today to share her battle with cancer and how she turned that negative diagnosis into something to be grateful for.

Listen to the podcast here:

[smart_track_player url=”https://www.podetize.com/statsapi/www.podetize.com/wp-content/uploads/fileuploads/11-5b145ef137b51b3d1af0633e9305c43d/10/2019/9c8de40ed8755e1cd3154f3dadd4e3d5.mp3″ title=”How Stage 3 Breast Cancer Turned Out To Be A Blessing In Disguise with Arax Gevorgyan”]

How Stage 3 Breast Cancer Turned Out To Be A Blessing In Disguise with Arax Gevorgyan

We have a very special guest, Arax here with us. Welcome, Arax.

Thanks for having me, Greta.

I’m very excited to have her. I stumbled across her Instagram. I’ve seen it here and there over the few years that I’ve been on Instagram, but I’ve never honed in on her page and paid attention.

It’s not a very exciting page. I’m interesting in my stories though.

I wished I knew you earlier.

I’m not good from afar.

I love your stories. Your dry humor is everything. I’m always laughing and I love people who can make fun of themselves. That’s one of my favorite things. I feel like the most confident people can make fun of themselves. Don’t you agree?

I agree.

You had a double mastectomy due to breast cancer. I wanted to bring her on and talk about her experience because judging from her Instagram and not knowing her. I felt like she was such a positive person. I was so inspired as to how somebody with a husband and two kids in this negative situation can be so positive. Arax, tell us a little bit about yourself before the diagnosis.

My diagnosis was in September 2018. A little overview of what my life was like at that point. I’m 32. I work as a hairstylist and makeup artist. I have two kids, a two-year-old, and a four-year-old. I’ve got a husband. He’s cool, great and a photographer. I was doing hair and makeup at that time. Six years in or so, I started getting some cool gigs. Netflix, American Idol, BuzzFeed, some real red carpet celebrities, not the ones that happened to go because they happened to know somebody, it was great. My husband and I had started working together a lot to create cohesive images where I styled the brides, he did all the photos and we landed a beautiful wedding in the South of France.

Ironically enough, the entire time, everything I wore, my husband was like, “Your boobs just keep popping out.” I’m not a very provocative dresser. It was like, “I don’t know what happened.” I gained weight. I lost weight. I have two kids. I breastfed both of them. Come to find out this pap smear with my gynecologist that I’ve put off three times is coming up and I go and Pap smear is fine. My doctor does a little physical and he’s like, “I feel some asymmetry,” I’m like, the same thing. “I lost weight, I gained weight, I breastfed.” I thought maybe it’s like a thing of milk. He was like, “Just go get an ultrasound.” I’m like, “Sure.” He goes, “Now or tomorrow.” I’m like, “That sounds urgent.”

That’s when I started preparing myself because I don’t like emotional surprises. I do very well with other unexpected situations, but I would say mentally is where I am most calm, organized and Zen. I like to prepare myself. There’s this comedian Jerry Lewis. He said, “Expect the worst. You’ll never be disappointed.” I was like, “Expect the worst.” I went into Marcia Ray Breastlink in Glendale Memorial Hospital. They did the ultrasound. They were like, “You’re going to need a mammogram too.” I was like, “Are you sure? He just said ultrasound.” They’re like, “You’re going to need one.” I’m like, “Something might be up.” I asked them to use their phone charger, which is irrelevant but to show you that I am not always prepared. After that visit, they’re like, “You’re going to have to come back for a biopsy.” I came back two days later for a biopsy. That was on a Wednesday and the radiologist couldn’t even wait.

She called me on Friday instead of calling my doctor directly, which is what they’re supposed to do with the reports. She was like, “I just can’t let you go this weekend not knowing. I know we thought it might have been some old breast milk or whatever. Unfortunately, it’s not.” She goes, “It’s metastatic breast cancer. It looks like it’s gone into your lymph nodes too. We’re going to need some imaging to see if it’s gone anywhere else.” A little background on me healthwise, I’ve never had health issues. I don’t have allergies. I’m not the person looking in the menu to see if I can have this or that. I go to the doctor. They ask, “Family history? No. Allergies to medicine? No. Do you have any preexisting conditions? No.” I have chill pregnancies. I don’t get sick when people are sick. I don’t say don’t sneeze around me. I’m not a germaphobe. I was healthy. I never knew to expect this. I got off the phone. I was staying at my mom’s house and I started walking. I call my husband, he was on a pre-wedding shoot and I texted him. I was like, “It’s cancer.” I’m not very good at breaking news like that.

Did you text him?

I think somebody else texted me like, “How are you doing?” I was like, “I’m not that great. I just found out I have cancer.” I’m super casual about the delivery of bad news. I like to go above and beyond with good news.

What did he say? I bet you he called.

He was like, “Are you going to be fine?” I was like, “Finish the photoshoot.” He was like, “I’m going to do a good job.” He told them too, “We’re going to knock this because we’re going to knock that out too.” That was life. Prior to that, we had bought a house. I’ve been working with my mother-in-law at her salon. Things were chaotic and very stressful for me. I spread myself too thin. I always have. I like to under-promise but over-deliver. Right before getting diagnosed, I had talked to Roman and I was like, “I can’t imagine my calendar ever being clear.” I can’t imagine that it hasn’t been that for so long. I sometimes work twelve, fifteen hours a day. I did it when I was pregnant. I did it when I was breastfeeding. I would put color on a client, pump some breast milk, put it in the mini-fridge and come back. I got peace of mind that my kid’s going to get breast milk. This client’s going to get the best color. Everyone’s going to get the best of everything except Arax because I’m tough, I’m resilient, and I’m high spirited. I can bounce back from everything. The thing is the more you could tolerate if you’re a people pleaser, the more you take on so that you can alleviate others.

I know you said that this is a negative thing, but for me, it was a blessing in disguise because I have been working since I was fifteen-years-old. I have never had nine months off. Once I got this diagnosis and when Roman came home, he was like, “Is there anything that you want that will make you feel better?” I was like, “Just not to worry about everybody else right now.” The weekend before that I had one bride in Burbank. I had another bride in Riverside. Not just the bride, eight to ten people, bridal parties. Not just Americans. We just got to be ready by 4:00 PM. One’s Egyptian. I was up at 3:00 AM, not knowing I have two tumors, stage three breast cancer. I’m just trying to make these people’s weddings perfect. I keep wondering like, “Why don’t I have enough energy? I’m such an energetic person.” When I come home, I don’t want to shortchange my kids. I’m still going to play with them. It was a very negative diagnosis per se, but the urgency that it came with for me to redesign my life couldn’t have happened at a better time. Had it been less urgent or less of a shock, I don’t think I would’ve been on top of it.

Did you feel like that when you first got the news or now that it’s been a while?

I’m not much of a reactor just in general. I don’t do that.

You don’t panic over it.

A lot of times it’s great, but sometimes it’s not so great because I tend to put things off because everything’s going to be okay. My main thing when finding out is I know from what I’ve seen on television and heard from people, cancer is bad, but how bad? What are we talking about? Because I’ve also heard pregnancy is bad. Before I got my period, other girls who had their period made it seem like it was bad. Before I got married, people talking about marriage would be like, “Wait until you guys are together for a year. You’re going to get sick of each other. Wait until you get engaged. It can be so hard. Wait until you’re planning a wedding. Wait until you are married for a year. Wait until you have a kid.” It’s this repeating cycle in life when people tell you things are going to be bad and they’re not. I was wondering about cancer. Is it that bad? What’s going to happen? Am I going to die? Is it just going to be hard for a while? My initial thoughts were that and like, “What if my kids don’t have a mom anymore?” Some thoughts get super dark, which is new to me. I don’t get dark thoughts.

It’s because you put it off.

No, I naturally handle stuff. I like to handle things and avoid them even getting bad because I think I know myself. I know my triggers.

You take care of it before he gets to that bad place.

I’m not that organized with anything else in my life, but emotions, because I’m so full of them I learned to handle them earlier on. The initial shock was, “How bad?” When I get new news, I’m constantly trying to prepare myself for the worst because anything better than that will be at least alleviating. Thinking something’s going to be bad than finding out it’s going to be worse. That’s a terrible feeling.

Is that how he found out?

No, finding out I had cancer was the worst of it. She said such things at stage three. I talked to my doctor, he’s like, “She wasn’t even supposed to call you.” He was very upset about that, but I didn’t care. It doesn’t matter how you find out. He says, “For a lot of people, it does matter how they find out.” I like to just say, “What?” That’s my response to a lot of things. I found out we have to get more imaging. I had my imaging done and the first shred of good news, which was very highly celebrated was it hasn’t spread to anywhere else. Your lymph nodes did their job. They kept it in and it’s not in the bones. The doctor had said sometimes go straight from breast to brain and that didn’t happen. That was something to be grateful for.

[bctt tweet=”When death becomes a reality, it can be a blessing and a curse because the urgency makes you more present, but the fear makes you crumble.” username=””]

Once he told you “Thank God, it hadn’t spread.” What was the next step? What did you have to do after that?

Unfortunately, I didn’t have health insurance. Cancers were the most expensive things in the world, next to Armenian children. I was fortunate enough that at that office, they told me across the way, there’s a women’s center. They’ll help you fill out some forms and stuff. Because that visit was going to be like $495 and I was like, “I’m going to put it on a card.” They’re like, “Just go fill out those forms.” I’m like, “Honestly, I just want to go home.” She’s like, “No, fill out those forms because you might need more than this.” That was still before the diagnosis. I went there and there was this girl named Anna who I have to find and I have to thank. I have to do something amazing for her because I was shaking, I don’t know what I was doing. She helped me fill out these forms. That’s humanity. She filled out the forms for me and I had come back to see the doctor get my diagnosis. I came out, she handed me a paper with my medical ID number. She’s like, “You’re set.” To do that for somebody you don’t know, it’s new level humanity for me, I’m like, “That’s crazy.”

I know you feel uncomfortable but these things need to be released. If you’re reading, thank you for being a good human being.

She didn’t have to do that and I wouldn’t have been like, “What a terrible worker.” She helped me with the forms and I would’ve been like, “That’s amazing,” She could have just given me the forms. I would have still written a good Yelp review, but she helped me get Medi-Cal and paid for everything. That was the next step. Because I was part of this program, which is called Medi-Cal for Breast and Ovarian Cancer and it’s straight covers start to finish everything involved at some of the best institutions. A lot of people have Kaiser and they couldn’t get the treatment I had. Me, without any insurance and I got this Medi-Cal, I was able to get consultations at City of Hope, Cedar-Sinai. The City of Hope, I didn’t like it. I liked Cedars a lot. My brother’s wife Susana came. Her dad had stage four lung cancer. She was like, “They told me to say bye to my dad.” She went to this doctor and she like, “He had seventeen consults. He went to his doctor, he liked him and I want you to go get a consult.” I was like, “Before I could do that since I had filled out my forms here, I had to go to their doctor.”

I went and these two male doctors, I called them the MeToo doctors, grabbing the wrong breast, telling me I don’t even look Armenian while touching my face. This is the time where I just found out I have stage three breast cancer. I have two little boys at home. My legs are shaking. I’m sitting there with this paper gown and he keeps going like, “It looks like…” I’m like, “Doctor, it’s the other breast.” Cupping it. He goes, “We’re going to do the Angelina Jolie test on you.” I’m like, “Angelina Jolie? You mean the BRCA exam?” He’s like, “Yes.” I’m like, “These people are like coked out or something.” That was my first glimpse into finding out that most businesses run the same way. If you’ve been to a hair salon that makes you wait too long, there are doctors’ offices that do the same thing. Just because it’s a respectable field, it doesn’t mean there aren’t going to be well-run offices and poorly run offices and people who just got their license. You don’t even know-how.

That was one of my first lessons. They come back and they’re like, “What’s your name?” I was like, “Arax.” They’re like, “This isn’t even your file.” They had somebody else’s file by the door. I’m not a control freak. I’m not a paranoid person. I usually tend to feel comfortable with professionals. I’m not a micromanager. I’m like, “This makes me feel uncomfortable.” My husband’s sitting right there next to me and the guy even started grabbing my husband’s breast to make it less awkward. This guy leaves and then they’re like, “We need to have a woman here while we examine your breasts.” I’m like, “A woman doctor?” They’re like, “No, just a woman.” They grabbed some scared associate from the front. She just standing in the corner staring at me while there examining my breast. I’m like, “This is weird.” This other girl comes in, she goes, “We just need to get a blood sample.” I don’t look when they do and she was like, “Oh my God.” I’m like, “Are you okay?” She goes, “Look.” I’m like, “No.” I look and the blood coming out and it was not going in the syringe. It’s on my hand, clothes and phone. I’m like, “Let’s take it out.” She’s like, “I need the blood sample.” I’m like, “I got another consult at the City of Hope. I’m going to go.” She goes, “Are you sure?” I’m like, “Yes.”

I left that office and I went to the City of Hope immediately. I didn’t like the drive right away and I didn’t like the people were wheelchaired out. I felt like it was a good system but I didn’t jive with any people. Most of my experiences, I prefer smaller and more centralized as opposed to huge, whether it’s a hotel or restaurant. I like intimate. I went to the office that my sister-in-law Susana has suggested, Dr. Youram Nassir. I went there mortified. He looks up. He goes, “What are you so scared about?” He goes, “You’ve got this handsome husband.” I’m like, “He’s cute.” He’s like, “You’ve got the breast cancer.” These are the things that I need. I don’t like, “Honey, you’re going to be fine. Just be positive and reach for the stars.” I need facts from credible sources. I’m like, “I’m going to be okay.” He’s like, “You’re going to have a bad year.” I’m like, “I’m okay with a bad year. I have two kids. I’ve been having bad year. That’s fine. I can bounce back. Tell me I’m going to be okay.” The next major lesson I learned is all we want to know is it’s going to be okay. Once I got that little sense of relief, they were like, “Diagnosis is pretty crazy. You’re young, you’re healthy because your tumor is young and healthy too. If you’re 70, everything’s growing at a slow rate. You’re like fresh soil.”

One of my tumors is six centimeters and the other one’s three centimeters. That’s the super-aggressive one. He says it’s in the lymph nodes and he goes, “This diagnosis twenty years ago was very scary but now, medicine’s come a long way. We have these hormone receptors, which your tumors have these antennas that they will attach to and they deactivate it.” This used to be the scariest of breast cancers. Thanks to research and everything, it’s one of the most responsive to medicine and finding out it hasn’t spread anywhere. I’m in this doctor’s office, finding out I’m going to be okay and finding out that this type of thing is very treatable. The next few things that I had to worry about were so small compared to this. I’m going to be bald like Sinead O’Connor but I get to live. These workers they look scared sometimes. If you’ve ever gotten your hair done by somebody who looks nervous, it’s not a good feeling. What I liked about this office was that they were too chill. Cracking jokes, very honest about what’s happening.

I think it’s your perspective.

I’m very clear on my perspective. It’s not everybody is.

This doctor’s office made you feel good.

I liked Dr. Nassir and his approach and then they were smart. Things that were taking too long for me to get, he’d get on the phone, he’d be like, “She’s 32, she got two kids. She needs this imaging right now. What are you guys going to be able to do for her?” I’m not an aggressive person. I’m very like, “Everything’s okay. You guys can do it however you want. I’m just going to be a good sport. Just call me when you need me. I’m sorry to bother you.” To have somebody that was like, “No, she’s getting there right now. You guys need to do these tests. I need to know exactly where she’s at.” I’ve got this other peace of mind knowing they’re fighting for me. My husband the whole time is funny. I constantly kept trying to think about, “Since I tend not to feel good these days, what does make me feel good these days?” It was a few things. A lot of self-improvement books. I read about fifteen or sixteen books nonstop. It was humor, comedy, researching comedy, studying comedy and watching comedy. It’s one of the only truths in the world. If it’s funny, even if it’s inappropriate, even if it’s offensive, it’s funny. That can’t be said about religion. It can’t be said about very few other things.

Comedy was one of my biggest comforts and my husband always say like, “Why are you walking like that?” Because when you’re scared, you hunched over and slanted back. He’d be like, “Walk up straight. It’s nothing wrong with you. You look better than you did. You feel better too, don’t you?” Two weeks ago is that weddings that I described to you where I was up at 3:00 in the morning. I was working until 2:00 in the afternoon. I drove back, I got home at 4:00 and I was with my kids until 8:00 putting them to bed and then got ready for the next day. I don’t think I even ate that weekend, to be honest with you. I think maybe a Cliff Bar or some coffee. I was so bad to myself that I never knew I was bad to myself because I didn’t know what my basic needs were and they seemed like they were met.

It’s because everyone around you was happy and they were good.

IMG_0598

I was in a great mood and very happy. I took care of my staff, my clients. I try to take care of everybody.

That’s a huge lesson in life.

I wouldn’t have learned it any other way. For me to get the pair of socks that says F-cancer, I don’t have that much resentment against cancer because of everything that it gave me. It gave me a year off. I never had a year off. It gave me all these lessons that I kept reading that don’t hit home until it hit home.

Now that we know what your most life-changing lessons were, what was the process of chemo like?

I had one more life-changing lesson that I forgot. If you’re going to fight for your life, you’ve got to do a good job living it. That was the biggest one. I’m going to fight to live and I’m going to say things like, “I’m going to throw my kid a great birthday party.” No, you’re fighting to live. Live as now. Like Justin Timberlake, the famous philosopher, once said, “Yesterday is history. Tomorrow’s a mystery. I see you looking back at me.”

You got to live in the now.

Not a Marshall’s plaque that’s in your bathrooms says Live, Love, Laugh. What’s now?

You’re very present now.

I’ve never been like this before. I would’ve been here and I would have thought about, “Are you thirsty? Maybe you want some water. Does she need anything? Is anybody at home need anything? Are my clients texting me?” That lesson, I would have paid anything. I would’ve gone to one of those weird Tony Robbins things and gotten groped in the audience.

I love Tony Robbins.

I would have paid for that if I could afford it. I’ve got some lessons that people get at that type of level, just within a crash course. I needed that. My soul was thirsty for that. Perspective is everything. You’re right. Maybe there’s a bigger plan here because I couldn’t go on much longer being that person.

You would have crashed at some point.

According to my doctor, I would have crashed in four months that he thought I had to live if I hadn’t had that tumor identified.

How do you even process that or do you not process that?

[bctt tweet=”Chemo, in a nutshell, sucks and it’s temporary.” username=””]

There are people that cross the street and get hit by a bus and they never had time to call that person they got into a fight with and be like, “I’m sorry or take medicine to make that go away or go to the hospital and have a chance to fight.” Not only that is not promised, but the next moment’s also not promised either. Yes, there’s death and my future, but how do I know it wasn’t going to be closer in my future if I hadn’t continued doing things? Death becomes such a reality and a constant reminder and a constant thought, which like everything else is a blessing and a curse because urgency makes you more present. The fear might make you crumble and that’s why mental health over anything because fear is debilitating. I experienced fear for the first time. I’m not a scared person. I’m down to go scuba diving, sky diving. I don’t get scared. I don’t need somebody to walk me to my car at night. I never had pepper spray. Before I met my husband, I never locked doors. We never had keys growing up. That was a new thing for me. This is my first time and then I had to break that down too. You’re scared, but what are you scared of? Are you scared of dying? No. I’ll be honest, I’m not.

What were you scared of?

The unknown. Am I scared of being some pain? No, we’ve had kids. It hurts. Am I scared of being nauseous? Again, pregnancy. I know what that’s like. Am I scared of not being cute? I fluctuated before. I’m cute. I’ve been not cute. I know how to bring it in other ways. I’m worried about the unknown but had to break it down. Because fear is that giant shadow, the closer you get, the closer you see it. It’s like little meerkat just getting too close to the light and it looks huge. If you get further that shadows get bigger and it shows you, but if you get closer and stand up to it, it becomes smaller. That takes a leap of faith too. I couldn’t do that alone. Unfortunately I’m not religious enough. I’ve read the Bible three times in Armenian and English. I used to be, it just doesn’t give me the solitude it used to anymore. That’s okay because there are other avenues. I was like, “If I’m having a hard time finding positivity, if I’m having a hard time knowing what to do with fear, I’m sure there are experts on it.” There are researchers and psychologists. I went to Psychology Today website and I started studying all these articles on fear. I listened to different podcasts.

One, in particular, was The Goop, where Gwyneth Paltrow was. This one was exactly what I needed. I had a headphone in as I was getting my body scanned for tumors. It was this woman named Marianne Williamson. She’s running for office and somebody has said that her tagline should be, “Don’t Google me.” That does not discredit her message to me. Her message in that podcast, the title was, “Who Are you in a moment of crisis? Who are you in a moment of fear?” I was like, “It sounds like me.” She was like, “Martin Luther King and every that marched with him, they didn’t have time to get brave and find their inner strength and get ready for this. It was happening then and there.” Anybody that had to be brave, you don’t get prepared for it because that’s what I kept waiting for. Like, “I just got to wait. I’m going to be able to handle this better. I’m going to get stronger and I’m going to get desensitized to the news once I keep hearing it from a bunch of different doctors.” I did get desensitized, but there are actual ways. If a certain muscle hurts, there are therapists that will be like, “Try these exercises. That’s going to help loosen that up.” For fear, it was that podcast and from that podcast and went into a lot of self-help books and a lot of journaling.

What’s your favorite self-help book, the one that made an impact?

There’s one called Essentialism: The Disciplined Pursuit of Less.

What’s the message in that book?

Only about the essentials in life. That book taught me so much. We’d go to these jobs we hate to get money to spend it on things we don’t like to impress people that we don’t like. That’s a vicious cycle. You’ve never known what it means to be good to yourself if you’ve never canceled on a good opportunity to get some rest. That’s the level of essentialism that they’re talking about. If you’re in a deserted Island, all you got to look out for is your physical, you and your mental you. I hadn’t even thought about me. How do you not know there are lumps in your breasts? Because my constant thing is “I’m fine.” There’s another one that I read on stoicism. Stoicism helped me a lot and the image they use is of the cow that’s in the wet rain with flies by its face. It doesn’t look sad, it doesn’t look happy. It just is. The message there was everything is. If we zoom out, we’ll see Los Angeles. Zoom out more, California, the world, the globe. In the big realm of things, we are so small. We don’t know if the cockroach outside if its leg is hurting. That’s where we’re at on a big scheme of things. Do you have breast cancer? That does not throw off the axis of the earth. Everything will go on.

I remember talking to my brother and I was like, “What about my kids?” He goes, “What about them? You never grew up with anybody whose parents died?” I’m like, “They were fine, weren’t they? They were fine enough to have you as a friend.” He goes, “They’ll have a social life.” It’s such a scary, weird, twisted thing to talk about. What if I die? Honesty was the only form of comfort I was seeking. Not somebody to rub my legs. I’m not a hugger to say it’s going to be okay. It’s like, “Your kids are going to be fine without you. I’ll take care of them. Your sister will take care of them. Your mom will take care of them. Look at all these people, your kids are going to be fine. Worry about you.” I needed that to constantly boomerang back and be like, “My husband’s going to be fine. He’s not going to think I’m totally ugly.” My kids, I told them like, “I’m going to take this medicine because there’s a thing inside. It’s not too good, but this medicine helps that go away, but it also makes my hair fall out and that’s okay. I’m going to have to shave it.” He was like, “You’re going to be like dad? I’m like, “Yes.” He was like, “When I kiss you, it won’t get into my mouth?” I was like, “You guys are so pure.” I’ve had hair down to my calves my whole life.” Everything that was so bad was not that bad when you zoom in and look from a different angle.

It’s all about perspective.

If it helps, why not? It’s not going to be a pleasant ride, but you got to get through it. I want to get through it in the best way possible. I remember telling my husband, “I want to be the Serena Williams of cancer.” I want to handle it better than anybody’s handled it before. Maybe I’m a little competitive. I don’t care. I don’t want pity. There are people that felt so sorry for me. I was like, “Even with this, I still feel sorrier for you.” Sometimes it’s about how you handle it, not what you have to handle. There are some people that get a splinter and it’s the end of the world.

It’s how you look at things and the way you approach situations.

Much of your perspective is shaped by your determination to grow and your transparency with yourself and holding yourself accountable. I know the areas that I don’t need to grow anymore in. Being knowing how to please people and knowing how to speak. You’re not getting nervous in front of people. “I know all those things.” The things that you’re not good at or so hard to admit, they’re so shameful. It’s hard for me to tell somebody I don’t like something even if I don’t like it. Everybody’s got different ways to grow and forcing yourself to do it is what’s going to change your perspective and changing your perspective is going to help you glide through life. I feel like it oils the way for you.

Everybody should focus on their perspective.

IW 8 | Blessings In Disguise
Essentialism: The Disciplined Pursuit of Less

Because if we all threw our problems at a giant pile, that’d be your biggest problem. The ones that we don’t know about. You saw mine, hers and I saw yours, we would pick ours back up and go. Because we think it’s so bad, but if we put it and we saw what everybody else is dealing with, you’re like, “At least I know how to handle this. At least I’ve got some practice in this.” If perspective is going to help you handle your biggest issues with grace, poise and efficacy, why not fix it? It’s free.

It’s all up to you. You have all the control and power over your perspective.

You’re the only one in your way.

That’s the worst part. You’re the one in your way.

There’s another book, The Magic of Thinking Big.

What’s the message in that one?

The message behind that is the person who you think is the most amazing at anything is no different from you. You think smaller. Who is the master of all podcasts? You’re just like them.

Let’s say I think Oprah is the best. I enjoy every single episode of Oprah, she’s just a well-spoken.

Oprah thought she was good enough to do that. She thought she was good enough to be well-spoken and if her vocabulary wasn’t there then it probably needs some help. If I’m her pronunciation wasn’t there, then she can get a dialect coach. That doesn’t mean you can’t do work, but knowing that you have what it takes to get to your goals is everything. It seems so simple and it seems like a silly motivational thing to say, but a lot of times we don’t. There’s been a lot of workouts I haven’t tried because I truly didn’t think that I would wake up. Because if I thought squats for 30 days are going to do that for me, I’d probably do it. The people who do it, they do think it’s going to work.

Do you feel like those people will see the results?

Absolutely. Those same people, there’s another aspect of their life where if they applied that same will and determination, they would excel, but they don’t. For me, I’ll push myself in terms of intellect because that’s where I have a chip on my shoulder. I grew up with intelligent brothers and parents and I didn’t want to sound dumb. I’ll work hard on that. I came here as an immigrant. There weren’t any Armenians in my school, but I was very social. They’d speak to me in Armenian and I would speak back in gibberish just because I wanted to talk to them. Speaking well was very important to me. I know somebody that wasn’t very happy with the way that they looked growing up. She did everything to look the way that she wanted and she will preserve that until the day she dies. If she applied a little bit of that to maybe reading a book, she’d get along with her husband and her mother-in-law better and her clients. This is an imaginary person, but I know you could think of seven people off the top of your head who it applies to. That same person is probably super organized and diligent in other aspects.

You put your energy and everything. You’re will and determination, the things that are important to you and it’s probably a little bit of your unconscious in the back working because it’s the one thing you’re scared of failing at. Tell me about the chemo. What was that like? Were you scared like the first time you went in?

No, I was ready because I felt it was going to work.

You got the reassurance from the doctor. You were like, “Let’s do it. Let’s start.”

[bctt tweet=”You should treat the tragedies and the joyful occasions of your life just the same.” username=””]

Plus I love progress. I love moving forward. What gets me is anticipation, not momentum. This was easier to start than it is to continue. I want to start. That was my perspective on day one of chemo. What’s the worst hangover you’ve ever had in your life?

I’ve never had a hangover. I’m a very disciplined drinker.

You make sure you’re hydrated. You know when you’ve reached your limit.

Once I reached my limit, I’m good. I’d never had a hangover in my life.

Have you ever been exhausted, dehydrated, malnourished, overworked and pregnant?

The first four months of pregnancy.

I was extremely nauseous. I’m short and thick. I’m not a frail person. I felt extremely weak. My weight finally went down to the numbers that I’ve always wanted it to be and I was not feeling it. It hurts when you sit on the toilet. It’s not fun. Skinny is not all it’s cracked up to be. There are a lot more health risks with losing weight than gaining weight. Society adds so much shame and stigma to gaining weight. There’s so much more from losing weight. It’s much more dangerous. I will never in my life go on a diet again. I will never in my life restrict myself from eating anything again. I will never force myself to work out until I pass out. If something is a pleasant, joyful movement, I will engage. If the food is good, I will have some and I’ll stop when I’m full. That was another thing of trying to be kind to my body because I would have tried anything to lose weight before. How was chemo? My chemo was tough. I sat there for twelve hours, 8:00 AM to 8:00 PM. I had to have many bags. My tumors were very different from one another. One was more responsive to certain medicine and another was different. I had bags and bags of IV cocktails coming at me.

For twelve hours straight, you sit?

Once every three weeks, six times. That’s my chemotherapy. In between, every single week I go in for IV hydration. That thing that all the hot chicks do. I had to do that. I read a lot. They have those little trays that they keep their stuff on. My husband, he called that his laptop tray and he was there with me all the time. He would sit and edit his photos and we would have long silences. We would have long conversations. We would laugh, we would chill, start to be pissed together. It was the most organic and fulfilling time of our marriage.

No, it’s not crazy because you are just being.

I was grateful. My support system is out of this world. My mom, my mother-in-law, they took all my kids. All my aunts from everywhere, they’re trying to cook. They’re trying to make my juices I don’t want to drink. They’re asking everybody they know for all the recipes. Armenians, they come at you with like lemon things from this, “Drink this and do this.” I never thought what a fortunate problem to have that I had too much support and that’s what I was overwhelmed by. I felt like I was comforting people about my situation. I’m digressing again. How is chemo? It’s toxins, it’s poison and it’s going straight to your liver. I know you’ve never consumed too much alcohol, but it’s how it would feel if you did. It was a lot of poison.

Do you feel it while you’re sitting or you feel it for days to come?

You don’t feel it while you’re sitting. You’re just sitting and your arm’s out and there’s a needle in there and fluids are being pumped in. You don’t feel it. Just like when you’re in the hospital, you don’t feel the IV.

When do these horrible symptoms hit?

The next day after chemo has been completed, you come back and you get a shot that’s called Neulasta. What Neulasta does, it increases your white blood cells. What that does, it increases your immune system because chemo goes in and it kills your cancer cells but it also kills anything that’s good. That makes you more susceptible to other illnesses or infections, too compromised immune the system. While it increases your white blood cell counts, it fills up your bones to the rim. They feel swollen and inflamed. It gives you bone aches. The next day after that shot, the bone aches feel like I’ve been with a baseball bat. I would try to go for a walk and I felt like Bambi sometimes. That was a bit tough. Walking helped me a lot. The fresh air helped me a lot.

Anybody that’s gone through it or is going through it the number one thing that helps is hydration and it’s hard for me to keep fluids down. With the IV, I would feel like a wilted flower just sprouted up again. It helped me a lot. The first day, right when you’re done getting the chemo, you’re on steroids the day before and the day of. Those steroids want to give you strength and adrenaline because of what chemo’s about to do. You feel pretty good. You get the chemo. I went home. I was like, “I got this.” Maybe for everybody else, but I might be strong. I’m a delusional optimist. All these things could go bad, I’m like, “I might not even need all six of them. I don’t know. Let’s see.” Day two it hurts. On day three, I want to die. I don’t want to talk to anyone, I don’t want to answer my phone. I don’t want to see anybody. I can’t hold anything down.

The effects of it are a little bit residual. In the first round of chemo, you still have a lot of strength. The second round, third, fourth, fifth, sixth, your strength decreases. The steroids pump you up. The chemo messes you up. The Neulasta increases your immune system but adds a lot of pain. The effects of that died down. In week two, after chemo, I’m already feeling much better. I’m walking around. I wanted to be with my kids. That’s when I do a lot of my reading and planning. In week three, it feels like nothing ever happened and you start again. It hits you a little bit harder than the last time. If you keep your mental health up and you’re not anticipating how much worse it’s going to get, it doesn’t get as bad. While it’s hard to believe that perspective has so much to do with how smoothly this thing transitions, it’s everything.

Your brain controls everything.

It’s just a hard thing for somebody like me to believe because it’s not a tangible thing. It’s not like, “Take this pill and you’ll be fine.” It’s like work on every corner of the inside of you that you can’t see or feel.

Sometimes your hormones and all of the physical agony that you’re in, that’s the hard part.

After round two of chemo is when my hair started falling out.

What does it feel like?

You have a lot of hair. You don’t brush it every day I’m sure. You know when you haven’t brushed it for a while, you’ve got that knot in the back? Especially if you’ve been sitting with the kid on the rocking chair and you finally get through that. It just clumps and it was everywhere. While everybody I met that have gone through breast cancer said that was the most traumatizing part for them, I was a hairdresser for six years. I’m used to people’s hair falling out in clumps. It didn’t faze me.

You’d think it’d be the opposite about the perspective, it didn’t faze you.

I love progress so it made me feel like, “Let’s do this.” Honestly, I’ve had long hair down to my butt almost my entire life. We had our family photos. Roman called his photographer friend Nodic. We walked to the park down the street. We took some family photos. We came back. I put on too much makeup and I started cutting my hair. We took out the clippers and busted it off and I didn’t feel much. I feel like I put on a new outfit and got a spray tan. I felt different.

You didn’t feel any negative emotions.

No, I didn’t need my hair like I thought I did. This is somebody that would freak out to get trims. If I don’t feel cute, my hair’s going to do it. If my eyebrows don’t match, guess what side my hair is going over? The bad eyebrow. If I forget an earring but I have the other one, what’s covering it. I thought my hair was everything and it wasn’t. I shaved it off and then we went to Palm Springs the next weekend. My kids didn’t care. My husband didn’t care. Snapchat sure didn’t care because it was giving me such cute selfies. Not Instagram, ever. That was chemo in a nutshell. It sucks and it’s temporary. What I will say about chemo is there is something for every symptom. Don’t try to tough it out. That’s one of the most difficult things for me is troubling people and asking.

I would be so nauseous and I didn’t want to bother the office and tell them the nausea medication isn’t working. When I did, they’re like, “The one we gave you is way too weak. Even pregnant people take that. Try this one.” I’m like, “Thanks. Sorry to trouble you.” I was vomiting and had diarrhea at the same time and that was probably the most disgusting thing I’ve ever gone through my life. You feel so empty afterwards. Even for that, there’s an Imodium. One of the biggest mistakes I had made was trying to eat for cancer, but you should eat for chemo because it gives everybody different symptoms. If you have diarrhea and you’re trying to eat a plant-based diet, it’s not going to help you. You need mashed potatoes or bread. Once I got over my fear of food, which was bigger than my fear of death.

[bctt tweet=”We should accept things about ourselves that are too hard to change. The eagle isn’t out there trying to become a dolphin, and vice versa.” username=””]

Why?

Everything in the food world is either evil or it’s going to heal you. People come at you with a lot of different advice and this is how it’s so similar to pregnancy, “Don’t eat this, don’t eat that.” It’s usually not the doctors that are telling you. It’s other people who know someone who went through it. Some people are telling me, “Cut out meat, dairy, sugar. Go low-carb. Try Keto.” All of those vigorous conflict with one another. You can’t go Keto and cut out red meat. If I cut out sugar I’d be like, “I’ve been through basic biology. Everything is sugar.” Beets are sugar. They’re also one of the healthiest things in the world. Pomegranate is sugar or refined sugar. I’d be like, “Refined sugar or fake sugar.” I’m not saying medical medium on Instagram, but read real science books. The body doesn’t know how to distinguish fake or real sugar. People are like, “Sugar feeds cancer cells.” Everything you eat feeds cancer cells. They’d be like, “Try to starve your cancer cells.” You’re starving yourself too though. I went to a dietician at Cedar Sinai. One of the best pieces of advice I could give anybody that’s going through cancer is that there’s a lot of resources out there, especially if you’re in Los Angeles, especially if you’re in America. It is something I’m very grateful for.

A lot of these resources are free or included. I went to a psychologist and I got therapy over there. I went to a dietician and I was like, “Should I eat dairy?” She was like, “Are you lactose intolerant?” I’m like, “No.” She goes, “Why wouldn’t you eat dairy?” I’m like, “What about sugar?” She was, “Do you like sweets?” I’m like, “I prefer ranch and French fries. I’m not a sweets eater.” She was like, “Why are you trying to cut it out? Do you have a problem with it? Do you get weak in the knees when you see it?” I’m like, “I can never eat sweets again and not care, but French fries? I don’t know.” I’m like, “What about starchy food?” Which is what I prefer. She’s like, “What about it?” I’m like, “Sometimes it just feels like it’s hugging your tummy. How about red meat? How about salt?” She goes, “It does look like you have low blood pressure. Salt helps that.” I’m like, “What should I not eat?” She goes, “Don’t eat anything you hate and savor everything you love.” She told me about intuitive eating.

What’s that?

Don’t eat anything you hate, savor everything you love and learn to listen to your body. You’ll know when it’s full. A lot of times you keep eating past being full because you don’t know when you’re going to get a chance to do this again or without somebody seeing you, without you shaming yourself, without somebody else shaming you. I grew up scared of a lot of food. I don’t want to drink soda in front of my mom. If I came home with a bag of McDonald’s, I would eat in the car, throw it in a trashcan up the street. I don’t think anything’s going to happen. I used to work on set sometimes and it’s just an entire roomful of food and snacks. You walk in and it’s you grab one thing.

If I go to a vending machine, I want six things. I do think that restriction is not good. Intuitive eating, that’s what it taught me. That restriction is not good, no food will kill you and no food will heal you. It’s just in your system for about 24 hours or however long it takes you to get it out. It’s just fuel. You shouldn’t do intermittent fasting and you shouldn’t stop eating before you’re full. You shouldn’t think that it’s not hunger, it’s thirst because it probably is hunger. If you eat and get on with it, you’ll be fine. You would never take your phone off of charge because you don’t want it to reach 100%. You should fill up your gas tank until it’s full, but we don’t do that with ourselves. We don’t rest until we’re rested. We don’t eat until we’re full.

It’s because we get all this misinformation that we don’t even know is misinformation. You’re telling me and I’m second-guessing all the information about food that I’ve ever been taught or learned.

It’s like an onion. Do you know how many layers we have to peel back? Our moms or even people didn’t know. I was telling her, I was like, “How about herbal supplements?” She goes, “You’re Armenian?” I’m like, “Yes.” She goes, “You guys eat more herbs just with cheese than Americans do in a month.” She goes, “I’ve seen you guys eat mint, basil, cilantro, parsley.” I’m like, “That all is just in my refrigerator.” She goes, “The girl before you she goes, American diets were iceberg lettuce, tomato, maybe some onion. That’s nothing for us.” She was, “You guys have such rich food and nutrients.” We throw it everywhere. Our kids get used to it at a young age, Indians and Mexicans too. That’s why they’re so healthy.

In America, diet is an $86 billion industry. 95% of all stats are made up on the spot. There are millions and billions of dollars of an industry trying to get you to spend money on losing weight, not eating, being ashamed of it, and feeling guilty for it because nothing sells more than guilt and shame. That’s how they started selling deodorant and mouthwash because nobody was buying it before until they said, “Other people might think you smell.” I want to say that it was terrible, but just like everything else, it’s not that bad. I got through it. No matter how bad your day is, it’s going to come to an end if you’re lucky enough to live that long.

What happened after the sixth week, once you’re done with chemo?

It took me so long to recover. I thought like, “January 23rd, that’s my last chemo. On January 24th, I’m getting my hair back. On January 25th, I’m getting my booty back.” It took a month to be able to start eating again. I went for ten days just eating maybe four saltine crackers a day. I couldn’t hold anything down. I tried to go for a walk, threw up in all the lawns. I had all these like throw up bags. It’s bad but the day’s going to end. Every time a day ends it’s like people in jail. You just put another tally on the wall and know how much is left.

When did you finally start feeling like yourself again?

I have not yet. I think I side with the Buddhists on this one where your old self doesn’t exist.

I was going to say I don’t think you’ll ever feel like your old self. I feel like a new Arax.

I don’t even know if I like her anymore. That Arax, sometimes she would go by Roxie because it was easier for people to put it on the Starbucks cup. That’s okay. She was trying to help. Arax doesn’t mind that it’s a difficult name to pronounce. I’m not trying to fix everybody’s problems and I am not so scared about being a burden. I keep going back to how it changed me for the better, but that’s not to take away from how terrible it was.

Back to perspective, wouldn’t you rather see it that way than a negative way?

Absolutely. I posted this thing on my Instagram once when I was like, “Post chemo me hates the bubbly pre-chemo me.” Because then I’m all bitter, upset, mad at life. I was like, “This is great. Number three, halfway there.” I’d feel so silly. I’d look back, I’m like, “This was stupid. Why are you even being so positive?” That it doesn’t work. That it doesn’t change the situation, but the thing is it does change the situation. The only thing is halfway through chemo, I went to get an ultrasound and they couldn’t find anything. I’m not usually a believer in spiritual things. I’m not superstitious. There are no blue eyeballs at my house. There’s this one horseshoe that my mother-in-law gave me. She would be too offended if I took down, so that’s still up. I don’t believe in superstitious things or manifest it and it’ll come back, but now I might. Because I was saying, “I don’t need a nose job, so I can’t be one of those Armenian girls that pretend they can’t breathe to get a nose job, but I do need a breast job. What if I get breast cancer? That’ll get me some new breast, wouldn’t it?” Guess what I got? I got breast cancer. When I started, I was like, “I don’t even know if I’m going to need all these.”

Halfway through, I think they’re going to be gone because usually, I do well with medicine. I got a headache, I take an Advil, and I’m fine. Whereas some people take an Advil and they’re not. I don’t know if I’m delusionally optimistic and I don’t know if a certain perspective produces certain chemicals in your body that equip you with whatever you need to handle things. Halfway through chemo, I went to the ultrasound and they said that they see scar tissue. The lady was like, “Are you’re sure you had tumors?” I’m like, “I’m pretty sure.” She’s like, “This is wonderful. I don’t find a thing.” You still have to finish. I still went through all six rounds, but round four, five and six would have been a lot harder if I didn’t think that I was clean.

When you’re feeling bitter and mad at life, how do you get yourself in that moment of positivity? Because it’s easy to be positive. We’re having a great day, an enjoyable conversation. We had coffee. When you’re feeling overwhelmed, stressed, mad at life and nauseous.

It’s probably a little bit more than you and your willpower can handle at the moment.

What do you do? Do you let yourself ride it out?

The first thing is to permit yourself to do that. I love to share positivity, but I don’t like to share negativity. That’s where I’m a bit of more of an introvert. I like to handle my thing privately. If you need to cry, I journal a lot. I brought it. I write a lot and get it out. Like the guy who wrote A Farewell to Arms, he writes and doesn’t look back. There’s no fixing things or erasing things and then you have an outlet. If you cannot get into a positive state of mind, there are things that help like therapy. If I’ve already reached that point, I don’t believe it in my hands anymore. I’m going to go to therapy. I’ve listened to this podcast called Happier by Gretchen Rubin, and she had this what she called the Happiness Hack and she was a happiness researcher. Like the Brenè Brown but not of shame. She would have these things that make you just a little bit happier. Not much, but maybe 2%.

For example, your keys should be in the same place all the time, no matter what. The same place in your purse, the same place in your house. When you get in the car, if it’s keyless, it should always be in the same place. You never have to look for your keys again. In this long span of your life, make you about 2% happier. When you’re down, you can use all the wins you could get. When you’re not down, you need to pay attention to all the things that spark joy. Maybe even write them down and when you’re down, just give yourself all of that. I would go to a manicure, pedicure, but I don’t care for a manicure, pedicures that much. I don’t like massages. I kept trying these conventional ways that make people feel good, but they don’t work from me. Whatever works for you, foods and the conversations that I enjoyed. I had noticed I can’t watch any movies that are remotely good or deep because I don’t want to think any more than I’m thinking.

Also, those problems in those movies are so minute.

If they’re big, they’re a little too big. I don’t want to watch cancer movies. I don’t want to watch movies about somebody’s wife dying or somebody losing their mom or even their dog. I want to watch Adam Sandler be stupid and Jennifer Aniston is a little bit hot while she’s still got it. I want to watch dumb movies like that.

The whole message here is to stop looking around you. Stop looking around you and stop looking at what society is telling you is going to make you feel better. Look deep within yourself and find the things that make you happy. Break it down.

If you don’t know, it’s exciting to get to know yourself. Do you ever meet somebody that you click with? You can’t wait to have all these conversations with them. Somewhere down the line, we don’t know ourselves that well. You made all your choices for yourself. You made this person so you should get to know them. I kept a little list of things that would make me a little bit happier.

What was one thing on that list?

[bctt tweet=”Time heals everything, but you got to give it time.” username=””]

It is going for a walk. I don’t know what it is about not seeing walls. They’ve done brain scans on this. This whole concept of having buildings, that’s relatively new for humanity. We’ve been in fields, caves and open spaces. That’s why toddlers have a hard time too. Going for a little bit of a walk, it increases the production of dopamine and serotonin in your brain, which scientifically will make you a little bit happier. I’m not unrealistic about it.

No, it makes sense because when I first had Levon, that was a huge life change for me. Very exhausting and overwhelming. It’s one of those experiences. I always talk about that death it changes you to your core. You come out to another person. I remember my mom would say, “Just put the baby in the stroller and go for a walk if you feel overwhelmed.” I was like, “No, mom, I don’t want to do that.” I was mad at life, overwhelmed, tired, exhausted and hungry. I would do it or go for a walk. It seems so minute. I was like, “How is fresh are going to help me, mom?” I would do it and I’m like, “I feel better.”

We’re in America. We’re in the land of like specialized treatment just for this. There’s medicine for migraines and the medicine for joint pains. Going on a walk is across the board just supposed to make you feel good. Those are the things that we’re less likely to reach for because we want something to fix this right now. What I learned here is, “This can’t be like this for a year. I can’t fix this right now.” It’s not going to change. What can I do not to fix this right now, but what can I do just to be in a bit of a better mood because I don’t like being unhappy? They say “Happiness is as simple as choosing one thought over another.” I meditated a lot. I have this app called the Calm app and I just put it on. There’s a segment called 21 Days of Anxiety. I would do it every day. I can’t say that I’m anxious and nothing helps if I haven’t tried everything for my anxiety. I would meditate and they would say, “The anxious thoughts, you got to just see them like little sticks in the river. You see them, you acknowledge them. You don’t act like they’re not there, but just know that they’re about to pass.” If you’re trying to get some sleep and those negative thoughts won’t happen, you got to do something visual. See them as balloons or bubbles and you pop them.

There’s a reason why these games on the phone are fun because these are things that comfort your brain. These are things that are scientifically tested. I will try them and they do work. I loved things that have been tried and tested because you’re not trying to be a guinea pig for everything. You’re not trying to just figure it out yourself. I’m not trying to write a book that’s already been written. There are books on anxiety. We’re in an era of misinformation and what I’m very grateful for in terms of American education, although I’m very uneducated. I don’t have a bachelor’s degree or anything. Whatever I’ve learned in high school and in community college was how to be a critical thinker, how to check for the right credentials, how to know if a site is legitimate and how to cite your sources. Very simple things, but if you apply that to all information, there’s a lot of people will probably stop listening to Dr. Oz or that one guy on the Armenian channel that’s telling our parents everything to tell us.

I’m happy because I think you’re giving people an eye-opening conversation because you’re letting them know that it’s going to be okay.

Even if it’s not, it’s going to be okay. That’s also what you have to prepare yourself for. A lot of people will prepare themselves for this immediate, “You have breast cancer, but it’s going to be okay.” You have breast cancer. It might progress. It might come back. It might relapse. It might get worse. It might become another type of cancer and it might be death. All of that has to be okay.

How do you get yourself to that okay?

There’s this poem called If by Rudyard Kipling. I like literature a lot because words are the recipe for a lot of things and people have done it, people much smarter than me. There are so many resources. That poem I was saying, it says that “You should treat the tragedies and the joyful occasions of your life just the same.” That’s what Stoicism is. You can’t overly celebrate the good things and then just be overly taken back by the bad. If you’re neutral on things, you take it as it is, flowing will get you places forcing never could.

We’re doing a separate YouTube segment and she’s going to give advice. What kind of advice?

It’s going to be very different from everything I’ve been saying because it’s not going to be vague and far stretched. It’s going to be very specific and very clear. I’ve kept it done five or six points. That’s how it’s going to be different because very practical and applicable.

Be sure to check that out. The whole takeaway from this episode is to work on yourself, cherish yourself, and look after yourself. Stop forcing yourself to be or do the things that you think might make you feel better or look better. That’s a tough pill to swallow and I’m probably a hypocrite even talking about this because I want to lose a few pounds or a lot of pounds. Tell me what you think that you want people to take away from this. What’s the big message here? Because I think it’s about working on yourself and changing your perspective to be a positive one.

If you are not a naturally positive person, I think that is also okay because the world needs that too. The world needs people who are going to anticipate the worst. I would be a much better psychologist than a doctor because there are some things I don’t want to look into and there are some things I don’t mind digging. One of those weird inspirational people aren’t motivational people on Instagram, Gary Vee. He said, “F your weaknesses. Triple down on your strengths.” If somebody’s weakness is that they’re not naturally an uppity positive person, I feel like maybe that’s okay too. Maybe channel your energies into all the negativities of cancer. Maybe you’ll discover something. I have more to offer the world in terms of positivity because it comes naturally. I feel like I have so much love and joy in my heart that it just spills out of me and that’s why I don’t do well with chaos and I don’t do well with depression and sadness. I think my takeaway is that some things about ourselves might be too hard to change and I think we should accept them because if we were animals, the eagle isn’t out there trying to become a dolphin and vice versa. Be good at flying if that’s what you’re good at. Maybe you’ll never learn how to swim. Learn how to swim or learn new things.

The only absolute statement you’re allowed to make in sciences that nothing is absolute, if your perspective is negative, there might even be a positive out of that. If you’re naturally a suspicious thing person, maybe you’d be a great private investigator. That’s something I’d be terrible at. If I were trying to help somebody catch their cheating husband, I would fall asleep, I’d be eating in the van, I would follow them to one location and then I would be like, “It’s just not nice to follow people.” My sister would be a great private investigator. Why should she try to turn into me and vice versa? Whatever tools that you have that are your strengths might be able to help you get through whatever it is you’re getting to.

It might help you be a happier person.

I do agree with you. If your perspective is a barrier to your happiness, I feel like it’s water flowing through a hose. Whatever the barriers are, remove them and it will flow if you have a desire to be happy. If you do not have a desire to be happy, that’s what depression is. It’s not being sad all the time. Some people don’t know that they’re depressed because it just means you don’t feel like getting out of bed. You don’t feel like doing things. That’s what it is. It’s not, “I’m so sad and everything’s awful.” Sometimes you might be depressed and not know, but if it is a barrier to you feeling fulfilled, there are resources. If you can work on it and you have what it takes and the desire to do so, work on it. If not, you can outsource everything in your life.

That’s what I learned. Whatever I lacked in psychological comprehension, somebody with a psych degree more than compensated for. Whatever my ignorance is like in terms of nutrition, a dietitian at one of the best institutions in the world, Cedar Sinai, lend me that knowledge. If I don’t know what cancer cells are, my oncologist did. If I don’t know how to meal plan correctly so I can have peace of mind because the future gives me anxiety in terms of planning, I can use your planner. Removing the barriers and even knowing what your barriers are, what’s hindering your flow of happiness is huge. I didn’t know what mine was and that’s why cancer has been a blessing in disguise for me.

It’s very real. It’s not so much and people can interpret it the way that they want, but that’s just what it is.

Hopefully, they see the genuine nature of this because it’s so hard to share this. I’ve only shared good things. I have been the girl whose life you see in Instagram highlights. You see super cute photos of my husband and me. You see cute pictures of my kids and me. You see me being funny and me making girls look good. It was so hard to share something so negative and I didn’t do it for attention because I was getting attention just fine. I did it for awareness because in our community that is lacking and there is no transparency. People don’t want to talk about the bad. Tom Cruise said in a very bad movie, “The sweets not as sweet without the sour.”

It’s true, because you can’t appreciate the sweet without the sour.

The bad in my life has made me cherish the good in my life. It’s a weird time for me to talk about positivity because like I told you, I haven’t been very positive. It’s been a lot of blows. I am I got this other surgery coming up. I’ve got a lot of imaging to do. There’s this thing in the Cancer Meme Society, there’s this page called The Cancer Patient, which got me. I forgot to say that page alone got me through I would say 60% of the difficulties of cancer because comedy helps you find common ground. It’s honest and it’s relatable. The first meme I saw was a girl with her leg wrapped around the IV pole. She was like, “When you got to do chemo but ho is life.” Her little butt cheek was hanging out. I was like, “People are making fun of this? Let me get a seat at this. I got jokes. Me and my breast have been trying to get a divorce for years. We stayed together for the kids.” How’s that? Comedy helped me get through so much. Whatever you’re going through, there’s a meme for it. That helped me. Just being able to laugh with other people and finding comfort in community and even helping others know how to go through what you’re going through. I don’t know what my mom went through and I try not to think about it, to be honest with you.

Did she have cancer?

No, I did. Even knowing how to deal with the people who have to deal with what you’re dealing with. It’s easy for me to be a good sport. I just show up there. If I had to think about someone I love being in that chair, that would kill me. How did my mom go through this? How did my sister go through this? How did my husband watch me go through this? They all try to be strong for me and help me out and stuff and I appreciated it. I’m like, “This too shall pass.” Everything is temporary. The good is temporary. The bad is temporary. I read this thing once that said, “None of us are going to make it out of here alive. Let’s be nice to each other.” I found so much solstice, so much comfort in truth, transparency and humor way more than I’ve ever had, in religion or any other source of comfort where that’s the only place where you can attack anything. You can be funny about anything. Nothing’s off-limits and yet there’s a whole abundance of compassion there.

How are you now? What’s the next step now?

It’s harder for me to be positive. When there’s a big storm and you’re just trying to get through it. Afterwards you look back and you’re like, “It ruined everything.” I look back at it and I’m like, “My digestion is ruined. My skin’s different. My hair is coming back curly.” Those are nothing. My son has regressed. I’ve been absent for a year. That very precious time between two and three years old, I wasn’t around though. He was with my mom for weeks at a time. While he’s being more than taken care of, it created a lot of social anxiety for him, separation anxiety for him and a speech delay. His speech regressed. I’m dealing with all the things that everybody was trying to deal with for me while I was going through cancer so I wouldn’t be overwhelmed. Afterwards you’re like, “You still got to put this kid in school. You got to work on this one’s speech. You still have to work on all your insurance papers and then the business and then all the expenses that catch up with you.”

Moving forward with this new person that you’ve been forced to become and you have to embrace it, figure it out like a new car. Figure out how to drive it. How is it different from the old machinery because the operators the same, it’s the brain, and move forward. It’s like when you get a new BMW and the brakes are super hard whereas Mercedes is a little bit more chill? I’m a lot more fidgety. I’m more paranoid. My mind goes dark fast. I’ve never had a dark mind. I’ve never thought about death so much and I think about it a lot. Blessing and a curse because I think before I was a little too uppity. I didn’t think that there was ever a chance of anything being bad.

How do you move forward when you have days or months like that?

Everything is temporary. This too shall pass. Think about the time where you’ve been at your lowest. I do. It’s in the past. Sometimes when I’m at a red light and it seems like it’s taking forever, I think back at another red light, maybe one that had a train that just kept going and going. That past, that time where I felt all that anxiety and all that difficult things in your past would pass and so will this one. Time heals everything but you got to give time some time. Moving forward, I might not do a good job. I’m not too prepared, but you have to. You just got to keep moving. That’s why there are songs about it. That’s why Dory says “Just keep swimming.” That’s why Sia says “Just keep moving.” I listened to one of the best psychologists in the world and he was like, “A lot of times I listen to my patients and they’re telling me I’m going through this. If you have any advice, I’m going through the same thing at home.” We’re all human and just because one doctor has figured out how to solve a headache doesn’t mean he doesn’t get them himself.

You just take it day by day.

[bctt tweet=”Look forward to the future and to aging because it’s not a privilege that’s granted to many.” username=””]

Day by day, moment by moment and this too shall pass. Tomorrow might be a better day or worst day, but after that, there’s going to be another one. I do find comfort in continuity and progress knowing that things are just moving. You should look forward to the future and you should look forward to aging because it’s not a privilege that’s granted to many.

Thank you so much for talking to us about this. I know this was difficult. I can see the anxiety in your hands sometimes. I love your humor. I love your positivity. I’m wishing you good health. I’m wishing you strength. I genuinely from the top to bottom or all over my heart, wish this. Whatever difficult thing you’re going through, this too shall pass. I want to give you a big hug.

Thanks for having me. I’m not a very high profile person. I’ve never done anything like this before. I think that you and I both did it for reasons beyond ourselves and for a greater cause. I think that hopefully carries out in the message. I’m very grateful that you even had me here.

I’m very grateful that you are brave enough to talk about this. I hope you feel some sense of relief just talking about it and putting it out there. I can guarantee you, you’ve helped a lot of women reading. I don’t know anyone who doesn’t know someone who’s gone through breast cancer or cancer in general.

I think 100 people told me they went and got breast exams and that’s crazy for me.

That’s a huge thing. Did you know that 99% of the time if breast cancer is caught in the first stage? You have a 99% chance that it will be gone. Thank you so much. Where can we follow you?

It’s Araxjan. I got a salon, so when my treatments were done, my mother-in-law gave me the keys to the salon. It’s on Victory. I’m trying to remodel it and make it a chill vibe, like an Anthropologie, Urban Outfitters vibe and not too many crystals and stuff.

What it’s called?

Glamourax.

Do you have an Instagram page for it?

I do. It only has one beautiful long layered haircut. That’s what I’m good at. Araxjan is just me.

Do you still do hair and makeup so people can book you?

Yes.

If you’re in LA, Glamourax, Araxjan, follow her. Go in for a haircut.

I don’t do well with short hair and even granted the circumstances, I don’t do well with blondes. I’m not good with obnoxious makeup. If you want to look like yourself, I’ll hook you up.

Thank you and we’ll see you in the next episode.

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The Truth About The Blogging Industry + How To Monetize As A Blogger with SpecsandBlazers’ Niké

Success can be well appreciated if we have rightfully earned it. This episode’s guest is a perfect model of someone who gained the top corporate seat from being a homeless person to a woman filled with strength and goals. She is Niké, the creator of SpecsandBlazers, and she is also a stylist, an artist, and an activist. What brings her more success is her altruism as she works alongside the United Nations and volunteers weekly to feed and help the homeless. Being an alpha female, Niké shares how to empower yourself and stand out from a crowd of wannabes and influencers. Being an inspirational person, she talks about monetizing her blogs, loyalty, perseverance, and breaking norms about how women should act in business.

Listen to the podcast here:

[smart_track_player url=”https://www.podetize.com/statsapi/www.podetize.com/wp-content/uploads/fileuploads/11-5b145ef137b51b3d1af0633e9305c43d/09/2019/93775bf069e0e3489359430efd5dedf6.mp3″ title=”The Truth About The Blogging Industry + How To Monetize As A Blogger with SpecsandBlazers’ Niké”]

The Truth About The Blogging Industry + How To Monetize As A Blogger with SpecsandBlazers’ Niké

On this episode, we have my beautiful, gorgeous, amazing and talented friend Nike on here. Welcome. This is going to be one of my favorite episodes because it’s one with one of my favorite people. We’ve known each other for only two years.

It feels like a long-life friendship. I don’t see you not being in my life.

I feel like I know your soul.

Me too.

Don’t you feel that?

Yes.

We always have such therapeutic conversations that are so intense. We inspire each other and we support each other.

There’s no competition. It’s the only friendship I’ve made in this industry where I don’t feel I need to be calculated. That sounds so bad but that’s the reality of the industry that we’re in. When I’m with Greta, like which is so funny because I get all my friends to ask me, “Why do you always spend time with her?” I feel like I can be myself and I don’t have to work. I’m working when I’m even with other friends and I don’t have to work with you.

I feel the same way because I think to me, a real friend is someone that if you’re wrong they check you. We do that all the time.

She corrects the wrong out of me. She’s the only one that’s allowed.

I’m like, “You need to calm down. You can’t do that.” She’s like, “What do you mean? Are you serious?” I respect her so much as a person, as a hustler and as a businesswoman. I want people to get to know you. I know you in and out, but I want people to know you. If you follow her on social media @SpecAndBlazers, you’ll know that she’s very open and honest about her experiences, what she’s gone through in life and how positive she is, how they’ve impacted her even if it’s a negative situation, how she takes that negative situation and turns it into a positive. I want you to get to know her and then we’ll get to talking about blogging and monetization. Tell us about you, literally. This one’s going to be long but we’re going to try to give a recap. Walk us through the most important and most valuable moments of your life.

I was a miracle baby. I was born in Nigeria three months early. I was an incubator baby. The first ten years of my life, doctors always told my parents, “This is the last birthday. We want you to say goodbye now. She’s not going to make it with no guarantee medically she’s not going to make it until she’s ten.

Your mom is a doctor.

She believed that herself. It was very much like our relationship growing up was very distant I think because she was just waiting for me to die the first ten years. She kept trying to get pregnant because she knew that this baby wasn’t going to stay. I’m 31 years old and I’m still here. I’m still here because I’m a firm believer in God and I knew I was a miracle baby. I was always so strong-willed and I think even back, my earliest memory of like four, I could overhear doctors say that to my parents. I’m like, “Who are they talking about? Because I’m going to be here for a long time?”

That’s insane but I believe it.

People are saying that this is something I came up with. I was always so strong-willed and so stubborn.

It’s an innate instinct. It’s an instinct. That’s the best way for sure.

I knew myself from a very young age and my mom always says my very first sentence was like, “I can do it. No, I can do it. Don’t tell me what to do.”

Nothing has changed.

I’m still very stubborn. No one can tell me what to do. I’ve always been very sure of who I am and I’ve always been sure my path in life. I always knew that if I survived it, which you know I’ve been in the hospital even in the two years that we’ve known each other, I’ve been hospitalized at least six times.

She went back to Nigeria. She spent time with her family and attended a wedding.

It was a family reunion that was crazy.

Tell us what happened when you got back?

From childhood, I already have a preconditioned illness, a terminal illness as they say, which I won’t get into it because it’s still very personal and between me and God, but because I have this illness, it triggers anything. I had malaria and most people would have malaria and be able to survive it. Because I have a terminal illness already that was supposed to take me out already. The common flu or a common headache for me would be a blood transfusion. I had six blood transfusions and I was in the hospital for three weeks, but I came out alive.

IW 7 | Monetizing Blogs
Monetizing Blogs: You are the architects of your own life. You decide exactly how your life is going to turn out.

 

I remember I was texting you and when you didn’t respond, I would panic.

Because I would go under and then I will be like, “I know she’s texting, other people are texting me,” and then I’ll come back. I’m like, “Give me my laptop. I need to write an article.”

She’s crazy. She’s one of those people that just doesn’t stop working. She doesn’t know what sleep is. She doesn’t know what a day off is. I always tell her she has to take care of herself and she never listens or she’ll do it for one whole day like foaming at the mouth that she can’t touch her laptop. That’s how hard it is for her.

Yes. Again, as you said, I think it’s nature, but I think it also came from the fact that I know that the odds of me being here alive literally is very slim. While I’m here I make the best of it. I want to make an impact. I want to leave a legacy. I tried to work as much as I can as much as God allows me to.

What do you want your legacy to be?

That girls that look like me and girls that were born in conditions that I was born in can come out and be fabulous. They can be whatever they want in life. People think like where you started in life is exactly where you’re going to end up. My mom is one and I am one but that’s not true. You are the architects of your own life. My dad always says that to me. You decide exactly how your life is going to turn out.

I’m a firm believer of that.

Me too. You draw out the map of your life and the times where my life was going like this is because I was a mess. I didn’t put my life together myself and the times where it was going up the path that I wanted because I sat myself down and drew out a map.

You were conscious of all the decisions you made.

Yes, I went with my gut.

I think that’s so important. I’m like that for us.

She’s an alpha female.

I am. We both are.

People think two alphas are going to be best friends, which is crazy to me.

No, I felt like two alphas should be best friends. I think we should be because we push each other, but then we also stop each other like two to alphas.

Yes, we stop each other.

We need to tone it down.

I’m a proud feminist but there’s this idea that men are our enemies, but it’s not true. Women are our enemies. We hate each other more than we hate men. I think until we love each other, until we become obsessed with each other, until we don’t compete, then we can teach our boys, when we have boys. You have a beautiful masculine boy. We have to raise our little boys to be feminist, but that’s only going to change when a boy sees a woman getting along and she sees, “Mommy has so many girlfriends and mommy can get along with girls. Mommy can help girls. Mommy doesn’t get intimated by other girls.”

I don’t know why women do this.

It’s terrible, in this world especially.

I think if they changed their perspective and they changed it to abundance and let’s help each other, they would not only be happier but both their businesses would thrive and they would get more respect because it’s so rare. I feel so bad even saying that, but it is. I do my best and especially with this podcast, I bring real women on the show because I want people to feel we’re all the same.

We all have struggles. We all have pain.

I don’t care who you are, how much money you make, your occupation or what family you came out of.

When that light turns off, all your pain and your struggle hit you all at once. I was telling you, I had five breakdowns, back to back. I don’t know what’s was triggering them and I was like, “This is it. There is a lot going on. I need to take a step back.” We all have it. No one is that strong. I’ve had girlfriends that would tell me, “Don’t dress up.” I’ve had girlfriends telling me literally, “Can you not come the way you normally come to events,” when I try to hang out with them.

[bctt tweet=”When something is so natural to you, it’s about to be successful. ” via=”no”]

What do you mean?

They try to tell me to belittle myself so they can feel more comfortable.

Swear?

I swear to God.

Did someone told you to dress a little less fashion-y.

Yes or they’ll tell me, “Can you not just be so boisterous?” I love Greta because she doesn’t come to this fricking dinners because she hates them but I still go because I network.

I can’t be around those women.

She doesn’t go.

I can’t and I refuse to and I’ve stopped going to events.

I’m so proud of you. I wish I can get there.

Because I realized that’s not what I want to do and that’s not my destiny. These events bring these nasty bloggers and I feel so bad saying it because I’m a blogger. I say that to people when they say, “What do you do?”

I say, “I write.”

I write. I’m a journalist.

I say anything by the word blog or influencer.

Yeah, because it has a negative connotation as it should because these women are so catty and nasty. One time I was at an event and this girl had the cutest outfit and as we were leaving I was like, “Your outfit is amazing. You look so beautiful.” You should have seen the way she looked at me with disgust. I looked back and you know what?

You get one chance. One night, you get one chance. I need to be nice to you.

Yes and I’m not one of those people that’s like, “Think it to yourself.” No, if she looks pretty, I want to tell her she looks pretty.

That’s how we met.

Why not?

I went straight up to you and I was like, “I’m obsessed.” I want to say this though, it’s hard to find people who you connect with but Greta is one of those. You’ve shown that it’s possible to be an alpha female and be nurtured, which I lack and I’m learning how to do it. My mom is amazing. I love her. She’s just amazing but she definitely wasn’t nurturing. It’s a friendship where I can be with someone that’s like a mother to me at the same time even though I’m older than you. I want to be hugged and touched and I want to be like a baby when I’m around you and you’ve shown me that vulnerability is okay.

It is okay because it makes you stronger. When you’re vulnerable, you let it go and you heal from that. One of the most amazing things is letting all those negative emotions go. I see no point in the nastiness in any industry. I was speaking about this on Instagram a while ago and one of the women wrote to me, “Yeah, but not in every industry.” I’m like, “There are exceptions to every rule, but why can’t you be nice,” just because you have a 9 to 5. Don’t forget, there’s a Higher Power up there and he’s watching every step of the way.

That Karma thing is real.

Karma is a B and it will come back to bite you. I’m not saying it for you to in genuinely being nice to people, but once you shift your perspective, your personality shifts.

I think I told a story. I don’t know if you saw it. I shared about a girl that wrote to me like ask me for step by step on how to become a famous blogger. I sent her all the articles I’ve written which are fifteen. I’m so dumb. I sat there and tallied it and sent it to her. She responds, “Why would I read that? I need you to give me step by step. I don’t want to read that.” I was like, “That’s the problem. You have to read it.” She was like, “Why won’t you help your sister out? You need to help a sister out.” Sisters don’t help sisters out. This is exactly the problem, “How do you block emails?”

IW 7 | Monetizing Blogs
Monetizing Blogs: It is possible to be an alpha female and be nurtured at the same time.

 

People want you to chew it and put it in their mouth. When you’re being helpful to somebody, she was not receptive to it. She wants you to do it for her.

She wants me to give her ten years of pain and struggles, a year of sleeping in my car or showering at James. You want me to pack it up in a cute little ribbon and like, “This is how to get to where I’m at.” There’s literally no formula.

People just wanted easy stuff.

I always say, “It’s not me. It’s God.” God is literally directing every step. I lived in my car for a year and I used to call it Push to Start and because I had to push it off the hill for it to start. I will put it in neutral, I will get out and go to the back myself. It was a Nissan Altima. I bought it for $700. I would go to the back and I’ll push it, all 90 pounds of me at the time and I will run back and jump in and then drive it.

I didn’t know that.

I slept in that car. My windows were covered with a little tent and it didn’t have a lock on the door and I slept in it for a year. Do you think that was me? That was God. That had nothing to do with me. How do I package that and give it to you and say, “This is how.” You can’t.

I want people to know how you got started and I want them to see that getting to where you are now was not an easy road. It was a difficult one. As you said, you slept in your car for a year. How did you do that? How did you not give up without a home almost? How does that work because I don’t even think I’m that strong?

I don’t think it’s strength. I think it’s almost like a level of insanity. The people that make it in this industry, you have to have some level of it and I call that insanity but it’s faith in God. Again, it wasn’t me. I came to LA at 24. I left my parents’ home where that’s all I’ve ever known. My parents were the only friends I had and they made sure of that. They did that on purpose because they wanted to control how our lives turn out. I was the kid that was like, “No. I came to LA to visit because I love fashion and I wanted to see what it’s about and I stayed. I didn’t know a single soul in Los Angeles, not even a cousin of a cousin of a cousin, not a human. I said, “I’m going to figure it out.”

I checked into a hostel that was $25 a night. It was disgusting. You showered and after a while, I couldn’t do it there. I saved up. I bought a car and I said, “I’m just going to sleep in the car instead of staying in a hostel.” That’s disgusting. I’d rather stay in a car and shower and get a gym membership. At the time, I will blog on Tumblr. Tumblr was huge many years ago for all the depressed kids. If you were depressed, that’s where you need to be. I write. I love to write and I would write about how I deal with my depression and my anxiety. I mean I will go back and read some of my articles now on there and I would cry. I was in such a dark place, but the only thing that always gave me the light was writing and fashion. When something is so natural to you, it’s about to be successful.

When did you feel that this was it? When did you feel this is what you want to do?

When I When I finally got a good job and I would be in the bathroom writing.

That’s what you wanted to do.

I wasn’t making any money from blogging, but I will never be attached to my job. I was the worst. That’s why I went through a lot of Karma with my first few teams because I was literally the worst employee.

Where did you work? I didn’t even know that you had a job besides blogging.

I had many jobs. I did Lyft. I did it all. I was working at Nordstrom. I was working at this boutique on La Brea for this rich, white woman. I did it all. If there was a job out there, I did it. I worked on American Apparel, all in fashion because I wanted free clothes which are the second post on my blog. When you are not making money from something, but you are willing to do it anyway no matter what, that’s what’s going to work out.

Nobody makes money with blogging in the beginning.

The first four or five years are just growing pains.

When did you feel like it took a turn and people were willing to pay for content?

When I had a billboard up in Downtown Los Angeles.

You had a billboard?

It’s still there. It was there like six months at first. I had a huge billboard for FIGat7th. I was the face of the mall and I was still working multiple full-times and driving Lyft and it was weird to drive Lyft past your face. I remember going to work one day. I still had to make money from blogging, but I was the face of this mall and I was like, “Why are they not paying me? This is crazy.” I remember a brand paid me $50 to wear their shirt and that first $50 made me so cocky.

You’re like, “Okay.”

I’m like, “Something can happen from this.” I went to work and I quit. I quit both jobs. I quit Lyft. I quit it all. I was like, “I’m going to give it my all. I’m going to go hard.” I remember I started asking for $60, $70 and $80, just enough to eat.

That’s the problem with people now. People with 1,500 followers, and not that followers matter, but they’ll come to brands and be like, “I’m going to need to get paid $500 per post.”

[bctt tweet=”When you start feeling pain from your efforts, back up a little bit.” via=”no”]

It’s insane.

“No, you’re not because that’s not how much you’re worth.” You charge based on experience and worth and what you can give. If you have 1,500 followers, it means you have 40 posts maybe, max. Because it takes so much time to produce real, quality content and you’re charging $500. They don’t know that it’s okay to start small. That if you start small, it will be steady. People forget that.

Social media has sold them that. I have a team of four, they’re all young. Seventeen-year-olds are asking me for a salary of $5,000 a month. It’s because that’s their reality. Their mates are making that in high school because they’re on Snapchat and TikTok. Does that make sense?

It does make sense.

 

To them, these things are accessible. We had to struggle; we had to suffer.

It was new and nobody knew you could do anything.

Some of the stars who were big, we didn’t even know they were getting paid. One was a lawyer, one was an architect, they had a real job until several years ago too. They all were working real jobs. We all had full-time jobs until it took off. For these kids, they don’t have to have a real job. They believe that they should leave high school and get paid $5,000 a month.

I think that’s so wrong.

It’s insane.

We talk about this all the time, how education is so important.

It’s no longer important to that generation afterwards. If you go to high school now and ask them what’s their dream job, it’s all YouTubers. That’s all they want to be. That’s the only career goal in high school.

That’s so sad.

Remember back in the day when it was doctors and lawyers and astronauts?

Yes.

I think it’s because it looks easy. I think that’s why for me, I’ve used my platform to show now that it’s not easy. There hasn’t been a Monday in three years that I didn’t work for 24 hours straight. From the moment that I quit my job, I’ve worked for 24 hours straight every single Monday.

No matter what we say, they still want it and they still don’t believe you. They think you’re lying.

That you work that hard.

Do you know how many people, friends and random people are like, “I want to start a blog. How do I do it?” I’m like, “Start a blog. Just do it.”

They think that you don’t want them to have more success. It’s the strangest dynamic.

I’m very real. I would be like, “Are you sure? Because you need to be consistent if you want to do this.”

It’s hard.

“Do you think I’m going to do better than you?” I’m like, “If that’s where you think this is going, I’m going to tell you exactly what to do. Go on WordPress, pay for this, buy this and do that. Good luck.”

A year later you’re like, “What happened to your blog?” You’re like, “Did you not get the blog on?” They believe it’s so easy and I wish it was easy.

Nothing in life comes easy and people always forget that. Why do you pull this 24-hour shifts? What’s a day in the life of you like as a blogger, as a business owner and I don’t want to call it a blog? I’m going to call it a business because that’s exactly what it is. You wake up and what do you do?

IW 7 | Monetizing Blogs
Monetizing Blogs: People want to live vicariously through people who are relentless.

 

I wake up and I grab my coffee. That’s the first time I come by at 5:00 in the morning and I go to bed at like 1:00.

Is that every single day?

Monday and Tuesdays.

Why those days?

We shoot all the content on Sunday and then on Mondays, they’re editing and I’m writing for the following. I try to write three articles in advance. In between that, brands will reach out or I reach out. I do all my own outreach. I manage myself. I do all my own invoices. I’ve tried managers and it doesn’t work for me. I write three weeks in advance because if a brand reaches out, then I have a slot for them. For example, Adidas, I have a five-year contract with them and at the very last minute they were like, “We need an article next week.” If I hadn’t written three weeks in advance, I have to put them in the middle. Does that make sense?

It does make sense.

Then I do these articles in between now that’s published. That’s going up next week, so I have to write in advance. On Mondays I do all my own invoices and you know you have to chase these brands.

Your hustle is unheard of.

You just cannot let brands walk all over you because they would if you allow them.

She’s the only people that when I was like super lost in what I wanted to do, I met up with her. We were crying together. I was like, “I don’t know what to do with my life.” She was like, “Since blogging is what you do, just continue with that and see how that goes.” She gave me the strength to do that and she was like, “Why are you waiting for brands? Start pitching to them.” I’m like, “What should I say?” She was like, “Keep it short and be persistent. Don’t give up.”

I can’t understand the word no.

It’s just not now for you.

When I hear a no, every time I write a brand and they’re like, “Not right now.” I literally say, “I just love this.” I was talking about next week. There’s a motivational podcast naturally, but he’s been around for 20 years. He’s from Tampa, Florida. His name is Les Brown. He is an amazing African-American guy. He’s literally one of my idols. It’s like Steve Jobs and then him. He talks about how he struggled so much and he always says, you cannot take no for an answer. When he wanted to be a DJ, he would come in there every day to the station and they will say no to him and he will say, “I’ll be back tomorrow with more coffee.” Eventually, he told the owners, which were all whites, he was like, “You can get a restraining order on me or you can give me a job. One will cost you money and one will make you money. Pick one.”

That’s powerful.

They gave him a job and he’s probably the biggest motivational speaker.

He just doesn’t give up.

When brands told me no, it’s almost stalker-ish especially if I love the brand. If I love the brand, I want to work with them. Eventually, there are some brands I will back out. When you start feeling pain, because you’re only human, I do back up a little bit. If I write to you and you’re the secretary and you’re not giving me a yes, I will write within above you until I get to the CEO. I’m going to get to the person I need to get to that will give me access.

Every time this never fails.

I asked my therapist why does it work because I feel like I get rewarded for bad behavior, which is like almost stalking behavior. that’s why I’m single because I try to do that for every relationship. It doesn’t work with guys, but in business it works, the aggressiveness. People want to live vicariously through people who are that relentless. For most humans, that’s not natural to them. They’re like, “Why would anyone do that?” When we see someone that does it, we’re going to hand them stuff because we’re like, “This is weird.” I would love to do it but I can’t do it so let’s just go ahead and give it to her.” Does that make sense?

It does make sense.

When Adidas and I first started, it wasn’t a good relationship. It was five years of me stalking them. Finally, I got six months contracts and they will not pay and it was a lot of back and forth. We fought a lot but I always stood my ground and every time they will fire me, I will go above to whoever fires me and just be like, “This is the reason why I am not going to give up on you guys because I know that this relationship is going to be amazing. If you guys can just treat me like a boss, a brand and I will treat you the same. Respect is reciprocal.” Now, we do yoga together, the whole team. We have so much fun but it took years of me being like, “You would not disrespect me.”

Adidas is huge.

Other than Beyoncé.

I was going to say they don’t do bloggers.

[bctt tweet=”Women, in general, are taught to never talk about money and not to ever be aggressive in business.” via=”no”]

It’s me and Beyoncé, the only black bloggers on their payroll.

They don’t do influencers like that.

There are six influencers and five white girls and me and then Beyoncé.

I’m so proud of you for that one.

Thank you. It took the pain. Women, in general, we’re taught to never talk about money and we’re taught to be not to ever be aggressive in business because this idea that if you are aggressive in business unless you’ve turned off the part of you that’s womanly. Any part of you that’s feminine must be turned off. That’s the only way you can be successful in business and it’s not true.

That’s so wrong.

It’s compartmentalizing. When I’m in my personal life, I want to be soft and sweet. In business, I will not be disrespected.

The way I speak when I write my emails is not the way I speak right now or husband or my son. I’m more straight to the point. It might not sound as sweet and loving.

It should.

I always say babe and love and darling because that feels foreign to me not to speak to people I know like that, but when I’m talking about business, it’s truly just business.

Business is a war zone. My mom always told me that. She’s like, it’s like going to war. You have to get up every morning knowing that you’re going to be attacked so you have to be on the defense all the time. Especially when I’m negotiating with brands, it is insane. There’s this idea in the blogging world that brands are just throwing money at me. I can guarantee you, I think maybe I get one brand to reach out maybe every six months. Every campaign I’ve ever gotten was me going after brands. It starts out with, “We don’t have any budget.” They never want to pay.

They always say that.

Think about it, if you own a business, would you want to pay? “No, nobody wants to pay because why take money out of your pocket?” Nobody wants to pay, however, there is always a budget because for you to have a business, there has to be residual money. I’ve understood that now. When brands tell me, “I don’t have a budget,” most bloggers would say, “Okay. Great.”

That used to be mean until you pushed me and said, “No, they have a budget.”

Their budget is insane. Influencer marketing is the only marketing left which means there’s so much money. Every quarters, Q1, Q2, Q3, Q4, you have to beat the quarters. Right before the quarters, they put money aside. They’re like, “This is the money for influencer marketing. Which influencers are we going to give it to?” You stand in front of them like, “I’m one of the influencers that you should give that money to.” When they tell you there’s no budget, brands are literally lying to you.

That’s their nice way of turning you down.

That’s their way of saying, “Try harder.” I don’t think they’re turning you down.

It’s your mindset. I’m not fully there yet.

I think they’re saying to me, at least, “Why don’t you give me a better reason why I should give you these checks?”

I don’t think of it that way. I’m like, “I just lost this contract.”

They tell me I don’t have a budget and I say, “When I do this for you with this amount of budget, with this $2,000 that you’re going to give me, here’s what I can give you.” They will say, “My earlier email says we don’t have a budget.” I’m like, “Yeah, but the budget that’s available for this campaign, you put it away for Q1. Here’s what we’ll get you.” Eventually, I’ll get that money out of them. If brands will tell you, “Let’s go see if we can find the money.” That’s what I hear. “Let’s go see if I can find the money.”

“Let me talk to, I don’t know who.

They have the money so now they’re like, “She’s not going to take no for an answer. Let’s just give her the check.” Bloggers in the industry that think I don’t want to share my tips, it’s not true. It’s because I know what it takes for me to get that one check. I have to pay for people and it’s because I have to hustle. I have to plead, I have to beg, I have to threaten, I have to yell, I have to scream. I have to be what you would call the bitch in our industry. I treat this industry as a man would treat. When a man is aggressive, they are boss.

When a woman’s aggressive, she’s a bitch.

IW 7 | Monetizing Blogs
Monetizing Blogs: If you truly want something you just have to be persistent and truly give others a reason why you should have it.

 

When I first started acting like a man in this industry, first of all, bloggers don’t like it cause I would go to events and I won’t talk to anyone. I’m going straight to the PR person that needs to write me a check. Why would I have a chit chat with you? I don’t need to. I’m here to network. I’m here to get money. Let’s focus. PR goes, in the beginning will be like, “She’s a little intense.” What changed was I realized that everything I’ve ever gotten is because of the PR girls in this industry. They love me because they work in 9 to 5. Their jobs are not easy. They deal with hardcore bosses every day. When I’m around them, they see me as one of them. I don’t think PR girls see me as a blogger anymore because I’ve changed their perspective. I’ve been able to be like, “I can understand that you’re working.” When they wake up in the morning, I’m awake with them. I’m the first email and I’m like, “I’ll grab my coffee too. I should get to my office.”

You connect with them.

They go, “She works 9 to 5 like us. That’s what the bloggers I do with the other way, but I just cannot do that literally. In my business, it does not work. I know that I have to treat it like a business and I have to go home and be with my friends and my girlfriends and my parents. That’s how I’m able to turn it. I just wanted to rant.

No, but it’s so inspirational because I want people to know that persistence is important.

It works.

Especially when you want something. When you want something, you can have it. You have to be persistent and truly give them a reason why. If you were worthy of that $2,000 for a campaign, they wouldn’t give it to you.

No, they won’t. I produce great content.

Great content with excellent quality. You’ve write beautifully.

I’m going to say this, in five years that I’ve taken it seriously, I have never turned in work late ever. That sounds crazy to people because they’re like, “How?” I have six campaigns due in the next weeks. I had a mental breakdown on social media. I cry to everyone. I was shooting for Eucerin. I’m holding it in my hand and I started crying because I’m thinking of the other five that we have to shoot that same day. My photographer was like, “Do you like take a break? I’m like, “No, just keep shooting. Just edit it out. Just Photoshop the tears.” You’ll see the pictures when I post them, you can tell that it was not a good day because I was like, “Next one. Let’s just keep going. Just keep shooting.” She was like, “Nike, I don’t know how I can Photoshop tears out.” I’m like, “You’re going to have to figure it out because I’m not going to stop crying. I’m having a full mental breakdown so just keep going.”

We had two videos for Eucerin, six pictures and article all due. They wanted a 24-hour turnaround. They were paying sick money. I worked for Nivea and it’s under Nivea. They just treat me so well. They’re like, “Nike, I know this is rough, but I know you have a team. We need a 24-hour turnaround.” I said, “I got you.” I went to Beautycon all weekend. I woke up on Monday morning, I said, “We have to shoot this. We have to edit it. We have to turn it in by tonight.” Everyone’s like, “Nike, I don’t know how that’s possible.” I’m like, “We don’t do impossible at Specs and Blazers. We do it. We get it done.”

I think my last question is how do you pitch to brands? What do you feel is the most effective way to pitch to brands? Because there are those people that write an entire essay and then there are people like you that write two short sentences.

I say, “It will behoove you if you work with Specs and Blazers.”

What do you normally get as a response?

“She’s a little arrogant.” It’s usually like, “Why? Tell us more.” I think when I first started, I used to write the paragraphs too, but you have to think of these girls again. They have bosses, they’re working 9 to 5 day jobs. They check emails and their jobs are so hard. I want to say this. If any influencer is reading, please be nice to PR girls. Enough of treating them like crap. I sit at events all the time and we’re like, “Grab me water.” They’re not your slaves. They are your bosses. Imagine Kelly Cutrone was on cocaine. Their job is the hardest job in the industry. Make it easier for them. Make your emails as short as possible, as straight to the point.

When I send my first pitch, it’s, “Hello,” It says their name only in the subject, “Hello. It will behoove you to work with Specs and Blazers. If you like to learn more, I attached my rate sheet first, my press kit, my current stats and all my currents on Instagram for that week that I’m pitching,” because they need to know what’s going on that week. I tell them, “If you’d like to learn more, here’s my phone number. Let’s just go ahead and grab a coffee and let’s go from there.” It’s an immediate, “Let’s make it personal,” immediately. I go straight to like, “Let’s meet up in person.” I don’t want to do those three emails.

How many percentages of people respond positively to that?

That was about 45% and in the, 50% I have to work hard.

That’s a high number.

The 40%, they at least meet up for coffee It might not go anywhere but they would meet up. That’s why I take meetings and also be generous. In the beginning, you have to be a giver. I think that’s what I love about our friendship. Literally the first, I would say a year and until last week of friendship, she never let me pay for anything, literally.

It’s the Armenian in me.

No, it’s the you in you.

It is.

You are a giver.

It’s a cultural thing as well a little bit, but you’re right, it is.

[bctt tweet=”People think there’s this idea in the blogging world that brands are just throwing money at influencers.” via=”no”]

You’re a giver. The more you give in this world, the more you get back.

I do it genuinely. I don’t do it to get it back.

You’re going to get it back, that’s just a fact. I wouldn’t be literally, I pushed my retreat to go seek God two hours because I love you as much because you’ve invested so much in me. Friendships, any ship, you have to invest in people first. It’s like a bank. You have to deposit money to take it out. Think about it like that. I know that sounds ingenious but it’s true. In any relationship, in marriage and in everything, you have to invest. People are afraid to invest. When I was dirt poor, when I was still struggling, I was dating a guy and every Mother’s Day, I will send all my PR girls flowers.

I was so broke, but I will send all my PR girl flowers, even the ones that don’t even have children. I’m like, “For your future children, here are flowers. He will say to me, “But you’re poor. Why would you do this?” I’m like, “Because I’m going to get it back a million times.” Who do you think they’re going to call when they get that campaign on their desk? The person that didn’t send them flowers or the person who send them flowers, me? When I take them out to eat, I pay. I would not let them pay. I pay, even though they can expense it, I pay. I take it out of my money.

They can feel appreciated.

Have you been to any PR companies? If you saw how their boss talks to them, it’s like they’re slaves. I went to eight PR company and in the back, there was no AC. I told my teammates, “You guys are so lucky. They were carrying big boxes on their heads to go from upstairs, downstairs, getting paid $10 an hour.” In between that, they have to answer emails. When you’re the one blogger, I’m like, “I see you.” Because every human being wants to be seen. You’re like, “Take away the fashion, take away the beauty, I see you. Let me treat you. Let me take care of you. Come to this meeting and do not touch money.” You have to be a giver. You have to give and then when you finally pitch yourself, you have to just let them know that you are going to add value. Don’t go after brands that you don’t love. I will do Adidas for free. Does that make sense?

It does, because you love them.

I will do it for free because there’s a synergy there. I love them. I will do Nivea for free. There are brands that I will say, “Let’s keep going,” because I’m dedicated to them and so loyal to them.

That’s loyalty.

Especially with Adidas.

That loyalty is reciprocated with the brands.

Yes. When the brands are like, “She will literally do this for free, let’s add more to her money.” That’s the human mentality. When do you know that you are not going anywhere, you’re going to stick with them no matter what, the good, the bad, the ugly and I would defend them if they are loyal to you. I think what makes Apple the greatest brand of all time is because they’re loyal to the cult, that is the people that use Apple and vice versa. We are all loyal to this man that’s long dead, Steve jobs. We’re loyal to him. In his death, he’s still so loyal to us and when a brand publicly humiliates you like that, you have to break up with them publicly and I had to public break up with them. I told them, “You are disloyal and I’m heartbroken.” I cried for maybe a week. I was so heartbroken. I started the brand. I am the brand and they ran away with a person I introduce them to who’s now married to a prince so I understand. I am the brand.

They started in the basement. I was poor. We will write to each other. We will FaceTime and I’m like, “Keep making those bags. Don’t stop. We’re going to get there together.” The moment they got their first huge break, I no longer existed. You have to be loyal to the brands who are loyal to you. FIGat7th gave me my first break. I wasn’t paid and they gave me my first break. If they haven’t called me again but my face still rotates there, if Daryl calls me and say, “We want your face back on the main billboard. We don’t have any budget.” The answer would be, “Yes, absolutely. Let’s do it. I owe you.”

People forget that unless it’s a cultural thing. It’s either you have loyalty or you don’t. I don’t even think it’s cultural. I think because it’s so rare, people don’t feel that warm feeling inside of loyalty, that feeling that you and both feel.

Everyone wants to be the one. They want to be the one that made it but there’s room for everybody. There’s room for everyone.

It doesn’t make sense because I can’t wrap my head around it. If I’m not loyal too, it’s because I don’t want to be.

Yeah, because I don’t like you and I would tell you.

I’ll never you fake signs that I want to be loyal. I’m very blunt.

I wouldn’t give you bread crumbs.

I’m not like that. You either get all of me or you get none of me. That’s my personality.

Again, I’m going to keep saying this, I’m so grateful for our friendship so much because when my blog picked up, people don’t want you to do well. That’s human nature. They don’t want you to bypass them. I lost, I would say 90% of my friends and you don’t believe it until it happens. It is such a very lonely place. I was making the most money I’ve ever made in my life and I was crying myself to sleep every night because I will call friends and they won’t pick up because they don’t want you to keep bypassing them. They’re like, “You don’t change. You remain exactly the same.” Everyone around you changes because they think there’s a new person of you. I have to act like this new person. I remember even like my friends from college came over, it was a safe haven. I could be myself and I needed a friend. I didn’t even realize that I needed a friend because all my friends had just fallen off or they just weren’t real or if they do show up, it’s because they needed something.

I just genuinely just don’t care about occupation or followings. I tell you all the time, “I’m losing followers every day. I could care less.” I could care less. I don’t care. I still talk about what I genuinely want to talk about. I share what I want to share and if people like it, they like it. If they hate it, I don’t care. I don’t live for social media. I live for my family.

I think that’s why we get along so well. I leave for especially because it’s my job.

No, but you don’t live for it like that.

IW 7 | Monetizing Blogs
Monetizing Blogs: You have to be loyal to the brands that are loyal to you.

 

I check out at 5 PM. I’m done.

She knows how to check and that’s important. When I’m checked in, I am checked in. I’m responding.

This sounds so bad. Other than you and my sister, I have my whole feed muted.

Muted? As in you can’t see anything?

I can’t see anybody but you and my sister.

No way.

I swear to God.

Can you do that?

Yeah. I have everyone that I followed muted because then I don’t get social anxiety anymore. I used to get it so bad. I will watch what girls are doing like, “I love this brand. Why did they invite all those girls to a getaway not me?” How can you feel that when you don’t see it? You can’t. Ignorance is bliss.

It affected you.

It was bad. I mean I was going to therapy and take medications because of like anxiety. No one wants to feel excluded. I will pick myself and my sanity over anything at any time all the time. If you trigger any sort of insecurity in me, any sort of like, “I need to compare myself,” I’m going to mute you. Again, you and I don’t have that relationship. When I see the bubble that she’s uploaded in her stories, I want to see her just like ranting. I get so excited to watch your stories. I don’t think I missed any story of yours.

I care about social media because I’ve met such amazing people who are my real friends now and I love it and I hold it close to my heart, but I don’t let it get to me.

You’re stronger than me.

I don’t let it get to me because I’m so grounded in my core values. When you lost close people in your life, that’s it. I was talking about this, it changes you to your core. All these minute little things like looking cute and acting cute, those don’t matter. What matters is your health and your family and the real, genuine people around you.

I even said that to someone. This is me telling someone that I met and I enjoy their company, but they were like a workaholic. Imagine me but multiply it by ten. Every conversation is about work. I was even asking like, “Do you have friends?” “I don’t believe in friendships because I just work.” This person was like Steve Jobs.

I feel bad for them.

It was the first time I’ve understood how it was to be in a relationship with me and I said to them, “What an empty life you have.” It was like talking to myself out loud to this person. This person is telling me all these dreams and the goals and then this. I’m just like, “It’s your birthday. Are you got to go to Palm Springs?” He goes, “No, I have to work through it.” I was like, “I almost died in December. I literally died. I came back to life and it changed my perspective.” What’s the point of amassing success when you don’t have anyone to share it with? If you don’t have your parents to share it with, your siblings or your closest friends?” “When I buy my G-Wagon, you’re going to buy a G-Wagon so we can roll around town together.” You want those close friendships that you know they don’t want anything from you. They want you but you have to nurture them. It was through hard work. It’s possible. I have to nurture this friendship.

We do. We water this friendship all the time.

If we go two weeks without talking, I’m like, “Let’s meet up. It’s time for hugs. It’s time to touch.”

We don’t talk every day.

No, we don’t.

We might see each other every two months.

It’s picked up a little bit because I’m needier.

She’s like, “I need you.” I’m like, “I’ll be there.”

I will drive down. I become a little needier but like in the beginning, like every two months or so.

That’s what friendships are. Sometimes I might be in that place where I need you. A good friend is someone who when you need them, they’re there. With that, we’re going to wrap it up, but I wanted you guys to listen to her and her story because she inspires me in so many ways. Her drive, her genuine personality, her love and her everything is just so inspiring to me. I love you and I’m proud of you.

I love you so much.

She’s launching her second jewelry collection.

I have a jewelry collection. I wore it.

Yes, it looks beautiful. I love it.

Thank you. We are launching a second collection end of the year and I’m super excited. Check me out at SpecsAndBalzers.com the blog, not the Instagram.

Thank you so much and we’ll see you in the next episode.

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Sarah Boyd Talks About Starting SIMPLY + The Many Hats This Mama Wears

Getting your foot in the door of any industry can be very difficult without the right connections. Sarah Boyd finds this to be true in the styling and blogging industry. Sarah started her career in Fashion PR and, in 2012, started her own business and founded SIMPLY, a collective with one goal in mind – connecting. Dubbed as the “dot connector,” she is building connections for people through her platform. In this episode, she opens up about starting SIMPLY and how it supports her mission to bring together like-minded individuals in an environment that ensures constant growth, both personally and professionally, in the digital space.

Listen to the podcast here:

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Sarah Boyd Talks About Starting SIMPLY + The Many Hats This Mama Wears

We have Sarah Boyd on this episode. Sarah, welcome to the show and I‘m so excited to have you here. 

Thank you. 

I’m going to give you a little backstory of how we met. We met at Giuliana Rancic’s skincare launch and we started chatting, started following each other on social media and here we are now. I had no idea she was the Founder of SIMPLY until she told me at Giuliana’s partyI had heard about the SIMPLY Conference from bloggers that I follow. Tell us all about SIMPLY and the amazing things that it offers. 

I started it about several years ago. Prior to that, I did fashion PR. I did that for about eight to nine years after college. learned all the tips and tricks of PR over those years. I made a lot of different relationships, but I was lucky I had a sister that helped me get my foot in the door of the industry. I met so many people over the years that didn’t have that connection or that person that trusted them and gave them that leg up. I wanted to create something. After that many years in PR, I was done with thankless clients. I wanted to wake up happy and feel like I was giving back every day. I quit my job working for my sister and gave myself three months to plan our first conference. I had this vision for SIMPLY. It was to create a kind place for people to connect in the industry.

I respect that the most because in our industry, in beauty and blogging, YouTube and all of that, sometimes it can get negative. I love that you bring these women together and you show people that this is what it’s all about. It’s all about connecting and connecting the dots. 

That’s literally why I wanted to start it and I was like, “How can I do this? How can I build those connections for people? With these jobs in the industry, styling and blogging, you can’t go to school for it. You have to learn directly from that person. 

It’s all trial and error. 

What I did was I created our first conference here in LA and it was panels of fashion editors, stylists, makeup artists and all of these behind the scenes people that are making trends happen. They were super open. They talked about their path to success, their failures or successes. They got to meet everyone in the audience and a lot of amazing relationships happened out of that, whether it was someone who started interning for that person and now they’re a big stylist. They learned all these different tips and tricks. We had a whole brand area where brands could activate and meet all of these up and coming entrepreneurs and bloggers, but also meet the big people that were speaking. That was many years ago. We were the first of its kind in this industry, which was crazy. 

There was nothing like this several years ago. 

Now, there’s a lot which means that people want it. 

People follow everyone through the screen and people look at us the same way. They think we’re unattainable or all of this but there’s so much more that we can offer. Something like conferences like this and online courses that you offer, it’s nice because they get a human connection. They are right in front of you. It’s their raw emotions. It’s a Q&A. They give you everything and most of these people, editors and stylists, they’re not bloggers. They don’t sit and write about their experience and all the things they had to go through and that’s important. That’s why people love it so much. 

IW 5 | Starting Simply
Starting Simply: Being raw, authentic, and being your true self is the only way you’re going to succeed and have your customers and followers purchase from you.

Many times, I’d be having drinks with a stylist and she’s like, I need an assistant so bad,” but that connection wasn’t made yet. There are many girls out there that are dying to be a stylist but they don’t have that connection. The same with blogging and all of these jobs. That’s how we initially started a long time ago. A few years into it, we added our digital side of the business. We manage celebrities digital platforms. We do all of their brand partnerships. We do lots of events with them, but being their consultant and guide throughout this different digital landscape. 

They have lots of followers, but they don’t know how to take that and monetize it or create different platforms with it. They all have their traditional agents and managers, but that’s for them as an actress or a musician. We focused on that blogging digital influencer space. That arm has grown in our business. We’ve got twenty celebrities on that roster. That’s been fun to see that grow. We do quarterly trips with them. We go to different places around the world and take them to connect them to because they have all different audiences. What I do is connecting with kindness in all aspects of my business and I respect that so much. 

I’m always preaching, you can always be helpful and kind to people. It can’t hurt. Talk to us about the digital space and monetizing it. I get a lot of questions all the time about people who want to start a blog or who want to start Instagram. Eventually, they want to start monetizing. Talk to us about that. 

The industry is very saturated at this point. My biggest suggestion would be to have your niche and stick to it. I know everyone says it everywhere, but being rawauthentic and being your true self, that’s the only way you’re going to succeed and have your customers/followers purchase from you because that’s how you’re going to sell things. That’s how you’re going to get brand deals. If people engage with your content and buy what you’re selling, you’re a spokesperson/salesperson. 

They’re buying into you. When you connect with them by being raw, real and not phony, because I can sense it so quicklyI can tell they’re forcing to be enthusiastic. I can tell from the pitch of their voice, and maybe that’s just me because I’m in this space, but I feel that people can sniff it out. If you’re not going to be rawauthentic and real, if you’re not going to be honest and true to yourself, then don’t bother. People might follow you and love your styles, but eventually if you want to turn it into a business, it’s going to be hard to convert. Don’t you agree? 

I agree and it is a saturated industry. There are way more avenues now that you can make money. You can do it through affiliate links. There’s rewardStyle and ShopStyleAmazon has an affiliate program. Pretty much every company now has some affiliate program. If you put a spreadsheet together and go through every company that you love, I’m sure they have an affiliate program so you can organically talk about it and make money. I made money on ClassPass because they give you $40 off your membership if you refer a friend or my credit card. You can make money in so many different ways. That’s one avenue. Another avenue is sponsored content or native posts. That’s when a brand pays you a fee to naturally integrate their product, whether it’s into your Instagram Stories, YouTube or whatever your channel is. Tagging them, #aand all of that. It’s probably what most people see online. 

That’s the most popular way that my clients are getting deals. We’re seeing a lot of brand ambassadorships which is six to twelve-month campaign where you’re constantly wearing the clothes or using the product and it’s a little more organic to everyday life. There’s a certain amount of posts you need to fulfill, but maybe you’re designing a capsule collection or maybe youre integrating it into your life. If you’re doing Instagram Stories at home, you see the yogurt behind you on the counter. It’s very organic to your feed and to your lifestyle and that’s not so ROIdriven. ROI is return on your investment. For brands, they have different ways that they come at this. Sometimes they want awareness and they don’t care about sales. Some brands are so salesdriven that they only want people that can convert to sales. You have to weigh out what the brand’s initiatives are and what they’re looking to get out of the campaign. I always suggest hopping on a call with them and taking each proposal that comes to you and each inquiry on a casebycase basis. 

What if you don’t get these inquiries? What if someone out there is trying to hustle to get these campaigns and be brand ambassadors? What’s the best way to approach that? I know sometimes there are brands that I wanted to work with and I had to pitch to them. Sometimes it worked and sometimes they were like, “The budget doesn’t allow it.” I feel they say that because it’s not a great fit or whatever it may be. What do you think people can do if they’re trying to go out to find and get these brands and these sponsored contents or be brand ambassadors? 

Brands are always looking for new brand ambassadors, new people to add to their network. Micro-influencers are a huge trend because they could learn so much. There are a few ways. One is tagging them organically on your stories, DM-ing them on Instagram. It’s usually the social media manager that’s managing that account so they see it directly. If they see you organically posting, a lot of brands look to that before they hire you. Number two is a lot of them do events in a bigger city. You can attend their events, meet the people putting the event on and give them a face to the name. That can go a long way. Number three is putting a media kit together and pitching yourself. Finding the contacts, we have it so easy now. When I did PR back in the daywe couldn’t find contacts. It didn’t exist. You had to open the magazinefigure it out and pay a ton of money. 

Google has everybody now. 

Do you know Clearbit? 

[bctt tweet=”All you have to do is hustle and try a little bit and you can find any contact nowadays. It’s right at your fingertips.” username=””]

No, what is that? 

It’s a Google Chrome extension that you add to your email and you type in any company and the contacts pop up. It’s amazing. It’s like a little nugget and it’s free. We use that all the time. There’s fashion monitor you have to pay for, but they have all the contacts of LinkedIn. Maybe DM someone. It’s right at your fingertips. All you have to do is hustle and try a little bit and you can find any contact nowadays. 

It’s timeconsuming so people are like, “Ugh,” but that’s the thing. Everything takes time and you need to put in the effort. You need to take time out of your day to go physically meet these people and make connections. Those are what’s going to help you in the end. That’s what’s going to be the most helpful. We were talking about this, but I was looking for editor emails for the product I’m launchingI wish I knew about Clearbit because it took me three full days and I have 101 editors. You can’t find emails. They don’t always link it. 

Sometimes they save you. They have it and you can click itCopy paste and put it in your spreadsheet as you said. There are a lot of behind the scenes work that goes into something being great and successful. People want the easy way and they see these people on social media and they think, “People are emailing them. This is so easy for them.” It’s not. I have a girlfriend who hustles all the time and every single campaign she gets, she’s pitching and makes an income out of this because she hustles. Eventually over time, you build rapport with these people and then they’ll come to you if they like your content. I completely agree I think it takes time. Strategizing and goal-setting are so important. 

If you’re trying to spray the wall with everything, it’s overwhelming and then you’re like, I quit. I always suggest to put a target list together of ten or twenty dream brands that you would want to work with, that you love. You may categorize it like ten of your favorite beauty brands, favorite fashion and lifestyle or whatever content you create and that’s your vision board. That’s who you go after day in, day out, whether you’re organically posting on Stories, finding their events they have and going to them, reaching out and pitching yourself. That’s how you get things. 

That’s so much smarter because I remember when I was doing this years ago when I wanted to fulltime make this into a career, I would overwhelm myself because I would email so many people. I’d lose track and I couldn’t followup and I think a followup email is important. 

They’re not ignoring you, they’re just busy. 

Sometimes they forget and I know because sometimes I forget and I go, I’m so glad they wrote to me again. 

People email me ten times and I’m not being mean, but finally I write back, “Yes, the timing is perfect now. Let’s do it.” I think that‘s the PR girl in me. It’s like, “Who cares how many times you have to followup? I just closed a deal. I’ve been following up for over a year.” 

A year? 

Yes, two in-person meetings, proposal and everything. She ghosted me. I emailed her six times and she finally wrote again and she’s like, “I’m so sorry. The management changed. This changed. I’m ready to move forward. That’s how long these things can be in your pipeline. 

IW 5 | Starting Simply
Starting Simply: It doesn’t matter how many times you have to follow-up as long as you close the deal.

You can’t give up especially when you want something bad enough. That’s the one thing, people are like, “They’re not interested. They don’t care. 

That’s how you get ahead of your competition. As soon as you’re ready to give up, everyone else gives up and you push ahead and you succeed. 

We were talking about speaking on online platforms and stuff. She is a contributor to Forbes. Tell us about that. 

It’s one of the many hats that I wear. 

You do everything. You are such an inspiration. You’re a mom, wife and you have businesses. I’m so excited. Tell us about that. 

I’ve been contributing to Forbes for many years now. I do fashion and beauty content. I do about five articles a month. 

What’s that like to be a contributing editor? 

go into WordPress and upload it. 

It’s content creation like blogs. 

It’s like a blog but I talk about a lot of influencer stuff. I round up my favorite items and trends. I like it because I like to know everything happening on all ends of the spectrum of the industry. I’m getting fashion pitches and beauty pitches. I know all the Tequila days and all the things happening. It keeps me aware and it builds relationships for me and my business, but also for Forbes. It helps all around or I’ll work with a brand for Forbes and then maybe they want to do an event for SIMPLY or they want to work with one of our talents. They all work together and I get invited to a lot of events. I get to get out and meet people. I have a bit of an ADD so I like to always be doing something different every day. It helps with keeping things fresh and seeing what’s on the pulse.  

Talk to us about pitching. How many pitches do you get a day? 

[bctt tweet=”Doing something different every day helps with keeping things fresh and seeing what’s on the pulse. ” username=””]

Probably a hundred or more. I wish I could respond to everyone, but most of the time I’m just filing them or deleting them. It’s too much. That would be my full-time job and that’s a very small portion of what I do. What I would suggest if you’re pitching editors is keep it short under three sentences. Tell them what you want and what you’re looking for. Be upfront. If you want to meet with them, give them a short window of your availabilities. Attach things in small documents that have more information. Keep it short. If I get these long-winded emails, I can’t read it. I delete it. I don’t have ten minutes to read your email. I would say to keep it short and sweet and get their attention quickly. 

Attach the things that would be useful for them. 

What I have found success is people will DM me and say, “Can I grab your address? I want to send you something. It’s way better on my own time for me to open it. Maybe I’m at home relaxed, not in the middle of a workday and then I can discover your product and read through materials. Igives me more time than in my inbox. 

That’s some great tip. You are a mom and SIMPLY has so many branches and you’re a part of the whole day-to-day operationsTalk to us about being a mom and a businesswoman. 

Every day is different. Every day is a struggle. Everyday day is a new challenge. My daughter is three and a half. I‘ve been in it for a minute now, the mom work-life balance. Before, I would literally work all the time and never turn it off. My daughter now is old enough to be like, Mommy, put your phone down. I want to play doctor or nurse. I want to play with my dolls. I want to spend this time with you.” I only have a few minutes in the morning before I leave for work and then in the evening, I have maybe an hour or two and I have to shut it off. I have to put the phone and work away until after she’s in bed. On the weekends, I just cherish. I don’t do any work. I try to not do any work or events on weekends and be present, unless it’s an event that I can bring her to or have a fun experience with her. 

My priorities have shifted a lot and having a job that’s flexible that I can work from home. We do summer Fridays. I get half a day on Friday to get all my things in that I need to do, my wax and my hair and all those things so then I’m not wasting my precious weekend time that I could be spending with my daughter and my family. I try to prioritize things. I say no to a lot. I used to go out all the time to every event. I’m always trying to build my relationships. I feel like now in this stage of life, in my late 30s, I’ve built a lot of relationships. I can call anyone and I’ve had that relationship for many years now. I don’t need to be out hustling and working as hardNow, my focus is on family and that part of life. 

Isn’t it crazy how everything changes once you have a kid? 

Yeah, nothing matters except them. 

Nothing, and you’re day-to-day, God forbid she’s sick. That’s it. We’re home. Meetings got to get canceled. It’s tough. Did you ever experience mom guilt? 

Yeah, every day. I wish I could be with her and play with her all day long, but then I’m like, “If I did that, I might kill myself. 

IW 5 | Starting Simply
Starting Simply: When you try to prioritize things, you learn to say “no” to a lot.

It’s hard and I want to talk about that. It’s okay to say, I want to kill myself a little being home with a toddler all day. My nanny left me for two months to go to Russia and I lost my freaking mind. I went into a little bit of a depression and it’s extremely hard, especially when your business is new. I’m creating two businesses, the podcast and products simultaneously together and trying to have an online presence and being a wife and cooking and cleaning. I was losing it and then I felt how I felt when I first had him, which was overwhelming. I couldn’t balance anything and then you shut down. I feel that these past months, I’ve shut down. I’ve tried to save her the little energy that I’ve had to work. Imagine all day, you’re running after a toddler and then 9:00 PMyou just want to pass out but you need to work. 

That’s when I do my other business. 

What’s your other business? 

It’s called Moms + Babes. 

Yes, the subscription box. Do you sleep? 

I do manage to sleep, but I’ve hired the right team finally. On the first six months, I was pulling my hair out because I was doing everything. I was customer service. We had a warehouse that was helping with shipping, but it was a fulltime job that I was trying to do at midnight. I wasn’t sleeping. I was stressed. I wasn’t spending time with Ava. I felt guilty with every aspect of life. We did hire a couple of people now, but I still have to oversee things. We’re building a new website. All of these things that I have to approve, it happens between 10:00 and midnight at night. 

You’re a hustler. I love that about you. Talk to us about that. 

I wish I could turn it off sometimes. 

I think that’s the hardest part is telling your brain to stop. Just chill. When you relax for a few days, don’t you feel so much better? Don’t you come back fresh-minded? Sometimes we need to learn to turn it off. It’s okay. It can wait. Tell us about the box. 

The box is almost a year. I partnered with Jan Kramer on it. It’s a quarterly subscription box or you can buy a one-off box for moms and their kids. As moms, we all have the mom guilt and we don’t want to buy anything for ourselves. This is the work-around. You can get three different variations. There’s an infant mom, toddler and mom, or just mom. That comes with products for babe and products for you. You get this fun product that you can open with your babe or you can go all-in and get it for yourself. It’s relaxation items, beauty products, everything to pamper mom and what you need as a mom that you never want to buy yourself because you feel guilty. 

Sometimes when I go to TargetI’m in the baby section and then I’ll go home and I’m like, “That’s cute. I’m not going to use it. Three new Mustela products, let’s get them all,” but they’re babies. They don’t need that much and I’m slowly learning that. At first, I was buying everything under the moon, sun and stars from specific things that pull boogers out of their noses to the NoseFrida that they don’t even need. 

[bctt tweet=”The number one thing that brands look at is how they can make money and how they can make it bigger.” username=””]

I have a whole closet of things she’s never worn because she goes through all these phases. She only wears dress and I’m like, “We have twenty pairs of pants that you haven’t worn. 

Does she like to dress herself? 

I don’t have a say. You should see some of these outfits she’s put together. I’m like, “Go girl.” 

My niece is like that. My sister-in-law will pick a shoe and she’s like, I’m not wearing that.” She’s like, “What do you mean? She goes, “No, I want those sparkly red shoes. She goes, “You’re wearing a pink outfit. It doesn’t match. She’s like, “I’m not wearing that, mom.” A fun fact before I became pregnant, I wanted to start a subscription box service. My idea was a little too much. I probably would need to get funding for it because it was a little bit more complex. I had this idea of doing categories and you would check off all the categories you’re interested in. Based on that, you would get a box and you would pay extra or not. If you have pets, you could put pet travel, beauty, fashion or babies. It was a little bit more complicated, but I had the idea of the subscription box. I even ordered a few sample boxes to see what they felt like and then I found out I’m pregnant. I put the whole thing on hold and went through four months of death.  

I looked like death. I felt like death. It was horrible. I had horrible everyday sickness. I don’t even know why they call it morning sickness. It’s every second sickness. I didn’t eat for four months and after that, when I felt better, it was like a vacation the whole time which I loved. I wasn’t working at the time and so I was very Zen. I was reading and doing things I loved. That’s why Levon is so calm. He’s so Zen. He’s such a chill baby and I think pregnancy has so much to do with it. I wanted to start a subscription box and it’s not easy. It is starting to be so saturated. There are so many boxes out there and all of them are different, but this one is so cool. I love that. It’s not excluding the moms. It’s something where you can bond with your child. You can open it together. That’s so cute and fun. 

A lot of people have been getting it as a gift for new moms or a baby shower. I remember when I had the baby, I got so many flowers, which are beautiful, but it’s such a waste of money. I would’ve much rather gotten this with all of these new infant products and products for me that I needed to relax. It’s like the gift that keeps giving.  

Going back to SIMPLY, you also have online courses. Talk to us about that because I’m a huge online course girl. 

We launched into online courses. It was something that came organically after our conferences and we did lots of workshops. We found so many people that couldn’t make it and they’re asking, “Can you do an online course?” It took a lot of time. It was launching a whole new business but I’m proud of it. This is our second online course. Our first one is How to Become a Stylist. We partnered with Anita Patrickson who’s the stylist to Julianne Hough and all these amazing people and she teaches that course. Our second one taught by me is How to Build and Sell a Business in Years. You can take it even if you don’t want to sell your business, but I know a lot of people do want an exit. It’s just all of the tips that you need to learn that I made mistakes doing on all the aspects of business. 

I have eight experts that are all female entrepreneurs from all different areas of the business that came in and did guest teaching on this course. We had Katie Rosen Kitchens of FabFitFun. She grew that subscription box from 2,000 people to over a million. Jana Kramer is on the course about social media. Jesse Draper of Halogen Ventures invests in so many amazing companies like Sugarfina. She’s a venture capitalist. She’s amazing. I have the cofounder of Coolhaus, the ice cream sandwiches. We have all these incredible entrepreneurs that weigh in and gave their expertise because I don’t know everything. 

Every category is different. Every business requires something different. 

You learn all the lingo. When you walk into these finance meetings, if you’re looking to raise money or sell your business, all of these terms that I had no ideaI looked like an idiot probably in all of these meetings. There is cheat sheet. There are worksheets, handouts and all these templates that I wish I had and over ten hours of video content. It’s a stepbystep list on all things business. 

IW 5 | Starting Simply
Starting Simply: The biggest thing that companies look for is scalability – how they can take your business and make it bigger.

What’s your biggest tip if you have a business and you want to sell your business? 

The biggest thing that companies look for is scalability, how they can take your business and make it bigger. That’s the number one thing that brands look at is how they can make money and how they can make it bigger. If you’re a one-person show, how can you take that and make it 100-person show? That’s the biggest thing to look at if you want to sell. 

When is your next SIMPLY Conference? 

Our next one is going to be in September 14th and 15th in Orange County at Fashion Island. It’s free. Usually, our conference is $250 to $350 per tickets. Fashion Island is offering it for free to anyone, which is great.  

Do we know who’s talking, who’s on a panel? 

We’ve got good people. Fashion, beauty and digital marketing are the three topics. 

Will you be there? 

Of course. 

I’m going to make a trip out. I definitely want to come. I want to be in the audience. I want to consume all these amazing tips and advice people have. Hopefully, you guys can make it out if you’re in the LA area or Orange County or anywhere where you can drive to Orange County. Sarah, thank you so much for coming on the show. This was so helpful. Please make sure to follow her. What’s your Instagram handle and how can we follow you? 

It’s @SarahPBoyd. 

We’ll talk to you soon

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About Sarah Boyd

IW 5 | Starting SimplySarah Boyd is the Founder and creative force behind SIMPLY, a collective with one goal in mind: connecting. Dubbed the “dot connector”, Sarah started her career in Fashion PR, the industry she called her own for 10 years. In 2012, she decided to channel her expert industry know-how, her extensive list of contacts and her countless amiable relationships into pursuing the most challenging endeavor of her career, starting her own business.

The SIMPLY conference is the first branch of the company and under this shingle, Sarah and her team produce the annual SIMPLY ‘Do What You Love’ Fashion and Beauty Conference in LA, NY, Chicago and Dubai. Individual conference attendance has exceeded 1000 participants since the first conference in 2012. In addition, SIMPLY hosts smaller monthly workshops in LA, where local influencers share their insights with groups of 30-50 attendees looking to gain a “cliff notes” style crash course on various industries. The company also curates a popular blog and several high engagement social media channels that cater to the stylish, career-oriented readership.

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