She Stories shares the inspiring stories of the every day woman. Each week, we feature an amazing woman and her incredible story of courage and resilience.
CELEBRITY FEATURE FRIDAY | ASHLEY GRAHAM
Another week down for She Stories as 2019 is beginning its exit. It’s been a while since Feature Fridays have been in rotation, but we’re back at it. This year isn’t over yet and there’s a ton of women out there who’s stories still need to be heard. So this week, we’re kickin’ it off with a woman who’s a literal brick house. She is absolutely beautiful with a perfect smile, a tall and curvy frame. Despite some personal struggles she had within herself early in her career as a plus-size model, she rose above to turn those pains into purpose.
We give you, ASHLEY GRAHAM!!!
While being the first size 16 model to grace the cover of Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Issue, she’s also been on the cover of Vogue and Glamour. Ashley has marked several campaigns and appeared in many TV shows. She’s been a pioneer in giving women of all shapes, sizes, and ethnicities a voice and a platform to feel confident in their skin. But this light she gives to others was bought with a hefty price. Ashley grew up in Nebraska where she was diagnosed with Dyslexia and ADD. She experienced moments of verbal abuse over her size. She was molested at a young age and often traded her body for bits of personal validation, and she’s a survivor of domestic abuse. Even her modeling career came to a crossroads when drugs and alcohol became an issue. Despite the many harsh words from managers, photographers, and designers, she knew that if she was ever going to succeed, she had to first love herself. It took years to transform herself from the woman that used her body to please men, into a woman who uses her body to show women how to love their own bodies.
Ashley is now an advocate for women everywhere struggling with the acceptance of their own skin. She’s fighting to encourage women to think outside what society deems beautiful. She rallies around the idea that being “plus-sized” doesn’t mean you’re unhealthy, or lazy, or don’t love yourself enough to work on your body. She’s proof of this herself. Her fans on social media praise her for posting pictures with cellulite and curves. Even more so now that she’s pregnant. Ashley’s shown transparency in learning to embrace the new changes her body is making, and that her belly is just more of herself to love. She’s telling women that you can be whatever size you are and still slay because society doesn’t get to dictate your self-worth.
We need to always remember this. Scars, stretch marks, moles, hair, cellulite….none of that determines your beauty. It’s the light that pours out of you. It’s the energy you give others. It’s the sincerity in your words and the intention in your actions. These are all things that give us our beauty DESPITE the ugliness we may have experienced in the past.
Be beautiful this weekend! Be you!! LOVE YOU GUYS!!!! #tribestrong
Feature Friday | Viel Catig
As we close up another week and head towards the weekend, we want to take the time to celebrate another awesome Feature Friday. Today’s feature is a woman who’s seen the many ups and downs of entrepreneurship, owning a business, maintaining a corporate job, on top of the other curve balls life throws. She arrived in California by way of Manila, Philippines as a teenager and has since found a place to plant her creative side and allow it to take root in her community.
Viel is the mastermind behind 23rd&Hare, a combination of vintage findings, found objects, and recycled materials used to create the authentic and eclectic pieces they’re best known for. She’s found a way to mash up The Roaring 20s, Asian pop culture, and Victorian literature in her pieces. They’re known for their unique and one-of-a-kind pieces. Her venture into this market began while she was in college, looking for a way to break up the monotony of Nursing school. She had taken a “homecoming” trip to the Philippines where her sister-in-law had a business doing hand sewn beadwork for tsinelas (flip-flops in Filipino). By the time she was headed back to the States, she was already formulating designs and pieces. In 2008, she began selling her work at various events and forums. She began making pieces that shared the same uniqueness as the owner that purchased them.
In 2012, Viel’s mother because sick with Type II Arteriovenous Malformation, a rare neurovascular disease. She soon had to become the caregiver to her mother since the disease left her bound to her bed. Her creative work had to take a backseat. She then realized that making jewelry and accessories for other people served as a type of therapy against the mental, physical, and emotional hardships she was facing.
Viel’s mother lost her battle in 2017, but by this time, Viel had learned what her biggest inspiration was and what she needed to do to keep it alive. Her mother had always taught her to hold onto the things in life that bring joy and lessons. Keep pushing to be the best version of yourself. Chase your dreams, and be brave in the face of defeat. This combination of fire and love allowed her to relaunch 23rd&Hare. Along the way, she’s learned that owning a business isn’t just profits and networking. Sometimes it’s being in the “red”, or having to learn on your own about permits and regulations for small businesses. But she’s taken each step with courage and a deep breath. She reminds herself to not give up and keep going.
Her mantra is simple, “The dream is free, but the hustle is sold separately.” Anyone can have a dream, but many give up when they see all the work that goes into the hustle. It’s not glamorous or “easy”. “Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged, for the LORD your God will be with you wherever you go.” Joshua 1:9 Just a simple reminder to stand strong and do not be afraid of what the world or its struggles might throw your way. You’re a fighter! You’re a SURVIVOR! And you’re an OVERCOMER!!!
We love you Viel!! Keep rockin’ it sis!!!
Feature Friday | Charlene White
HAPPY FRIDAY TRIBE!!!
We’ve made it through another week in 2019! This week, we have another amazing woman who has experienced some bumps and bruises along her path of genuine joy and happiness. But she’s learned through those scrapes where her heart’s joy really is, and she’s found a way to plant, grow, and harvest happiness around her.
As many women do, Charlene wears several hats. She’s a mom, a wife, a blogger, and an artist! She’s a true creative and has learned what fuels that fire in her to love and push forward. What’s amazing about her, is that she found a way to turn her sadness into real happiness. Many women and mothers suffer from postpartum depression and anxiety, and Charlene was no exception. Shortly after she gave birth to her first son in 2015, she began to feel moments of fear, sadness, loss of hope, and an overall complete lack of joy. Of course, this wasn’t what she had expected when becoming a first-time mom. We always hear about the overwhelming amounts of love and joy mothers often feel after giving birth, but this wasn’t at all what Charlene was experiencing. About 6 months after her son was born, she took it upon herself to get some professional help and to seek therapy, which was working out great! She was starting to feel refreshed, like her own self again, so Charlene and her husband decided to go ahead and have another baby. Fortunately, once she had her 2nd child, she felt like she had dodged the “baby blues”. However, 2 weeks after her son’s arrival, her grandmother passed away, which woke up her depression and anxiety all over again, but this time it brought along anger and rage. While this was possibly one of the darkest moments in her life, she knew that she had to keep pushing, because now there are 2 children that depended on her. Over time, she was able to push through her depression and get back on track. Charlene still felt like her family wasn’t quite complete, so they discussed having a 3rd child, under the condition that a game plan was set in place in case the depression tries to creep back in. Which it did, but with the unconditional love from her husband, support from family and tribe, medication, and most importantly, SELF LOVE, she was able to keep the depression in check.
She’s found that some of the most important lessons she’s learned as a mother has come through her children. With each birth, she fell into a deep low, but she also learned how to get back up. She recognizes that healing is an ongoing process, but that she’s worthy of everything on the other side of her depression. Charlene lives by “Just do”, Always more”, and Be Kind”.
When you’re trying to get everything done all at once, it’s okay to stop and JUST DO one thing at a time.
Just when you think you don’t have any more to give, dig deep because there’s ALWAYS MORE, whether it’s love or energy.
Instead of being so hard on yourself, BE KIND to yourself, and know that you are worthy of life’s greatest joys.
Charlene is a prime example of pushing yourself through your dark times and learning where your peace and joy truly come from. She’s a beautiful reminder that we can ALL push through whatever we have on our plates, no matter how big or small. We love you, Charlene!!!! KEEP PUSHIN’ SISTA!!!
- Leilani White
Feature Friday | Desirae Ramirez
Ladies, it is that time again where we a spotlight an awesome Boss chick that is making moves!
Today we are honored to present Mrs. Desirae Ramirez.
Desirae is an overcomer! In 2016 she was followed, robbed, and sexually assaulted. At a time where she could have allowed this horrible act to dictate the rest of her life in a negative way, she decided to use it as empowerment to advocate for other sexual assault victims. Desirae has professional experience as a social media strategist and she is able to use her knowledge to bring much needed awareness to the issue of sexual assault and the strength of survivors. Desirae exhibits an immense level of strength through the work that she does. She explains that her greatest challenge was in finding healing from the sexual assault. It was a process of about 2.5 years where she experienced trauma, daily triggers, and night terrors. In her own words, Desirae shared, "I have suffered PTSD, Depression, Bi-polar type 2 and Panic Disorder through the entire time of healing. YET, that is not who I am!" This statement is the essence of the overcoming nature of Desirae and the hope and encouragement that she endeavors to share with other survivors. Desirae is currently working with survivors in Riverside County as an Advocate & Communications Specialist. By creating a safe space, Desirae is able to inspire collective healing through support and embracing of their truths, their voices, their stories, and their "becoming" journeys.
Besides her work with local communities of survivors, Desirae has recently launched a podcast entitled "BecomingRamirez" where she is able to share about the aftermath of sexual assault with an emphasis on emotional wellness, creativity, and the power of vulnerability. Desirae has used this platform to reach out to the world and connect people from all over who need to hear her story and feel the same level of collective healing offered in her advocacy work. Desirae shares that much of her healing was accomplished through therapy, support groups, and the support of her family and friends.
Desirae's mantra is "Show up and Show Out" and this is what she continues to do. Desirae understood that in order to give herself grace she also had to challenge herself. The challenge that she gave herself was to "show up"! By showing up Desirae overcame the temptation to isolate herself or wallow in despair. By showing up, she looked fear and trepidation in the face and exhibited that she would not be stopped. By showing up, Desirae inspires others to continue to show up. Desirae is a wife, a daughter, and above all else she is #BecomingRamirez!
And because of this, She Stories honors Desirae for continuing to "Show Up and Show Out"!
Feature Friday | Stephanie Klemons
"Hello Beautiful Ladies! It is inspirational to witness the rise of women who are excelling in their areas of expertise. It is a reminder to us all to continue to strive toward our dreams.
This week we have the pleasure of being inspired by the life and work of Stephanie Klemons.
Stephanie is an award-winning Broadway performer and choreographer who has most recently added Directing to her resume. Stephanie ventured into the Directing profession when she directed and choreographed In the Heights at the Kennedy Center.
Stephanie grew up in Central New Jersey with her parents and her Brother. From a young age Stephanie showed an interest in dancing. Stephanie studied at a number of dance studios from Gallery of Dance, Colts Neck Dance & Theater School, and then Center Stage Dance & Theater School. Stephanie went on to join the professional world of dance and is now making waves in the industry through her long list of accomplishments. Currently, Stephanie serves as the Associate Choreographer and Global Dance Supervisor of Broadway’s smash hit Hamilton. Before there was Hamilton, Stephanie worked on the Broadway and pre-Broadway productions of Bring It On (Associate Choreographer), In the Heights (Dance Captain, Assoc. Choreographer of the 1st Nat’l tour), and If/Then (Dance Captain).
When asked what inspires her, Stephanie explained "I’m always inspired by artists who are fearless. There is no such thing as perfection in art and yet we always let the fear of our work not being good enough stop us from sometimes creating in the first place. I love to surround myself with people who face [it] head on." Stephanie continues to inspire all through her creativity on and off the stage. Stephanie most recently choreographed the viral sensation Super Bowl LLI Commercial for the NFL, “Dirty Dancing”, starring Eli Manning, Odell Beckham Jr. and the offensive linemen of the Giants.
Stephanie’s life mantra is to allow abundance into all areas of her life, and to not fear the stretching and growth that comes with its gifts and challenges. Stephanie is living her best life alongside her wife Colleen and their two cats, Tank and Charlie.
Thank you Stephanie for being a light in the world!"
Feature Friday | Suvi
Happy Friday, Gorgeous! We’ve made it another week, and that is no small thing. Learn from the mistakes, build on the successes, and remember to care for yourselves.
Hailing from India, where she was well known for her talents as a multilingual playback singer, Suvi has broken into the American music industry on her own terms. She is a DJ, a deeply honest singer songwriter, and a shining example of self-empowerment.
As a child in a small town, the rules of her existence were laid out plainly before her. They were, in fact, her first substantial memory. Good girls wear dresses with frills and play with dolls, while bad girls reject feminine expectations and do what pleases them. These rules never sat well with Suvi, and she quickly found herself well outside the strict gender binary. She wore pants and shirts and cut her hair. She climbed trees and played outside and ran wild through her neighborhood. She pursued the freedom and liberty that her male friends enjoyed so effortlessly.
However, society has a way of punishing those who boldly defy its rules, and at eight years of age, Suvi experienced her first sexual trauma. This was followed by a number of other similar instances which left her bereft and confused about how a free-thinking woman was supposed to exist. “I decided to grow up fast to protect myself from the wrath of this lust lurking world.” Grow she did.
Guided by her unwavering belief in the limitless power of women, Suvi continued to follow her arrow. Her talents behind the microphone brought her much recognition, as she was involved with the music of over 100 Indian films before trying her hand in Los Angeles. There, she expanded her territory as a singer/songwriter. Her song, Wonder Woman, speaks directly to the oppressive patriarchy. “Father, can you hear me? Cause if not, I’m gonna shout through these walls.” She is a woman who refuses to be ignored or relegated to the quiet corners of history. She will be heard by a society that would silence her, because she knows that a woman’s voice has intrinsic worth.
She understands that women are often caught in a vicious cycle whereby we are discouraged, and at times systemically prohibited, from doing things. Thus, we become less skilled than our male counterparts, which seemingly proves the oppressors right. It takes a deep self-knowledge and a steadfast determination to break the cycle. Suvi’s music inspires others to recognize their true capabilities and act on them positively in the world.
Her song, Human, blazes a trail through the arbitrary categorizations that define a culture. “I don’t think in binaries, no zeros, no ones for me. I believe in memories that you cannot delete.” Suvi has always lived outside the binary, and that fierce spirit colors her song writing sensibility. She boldly thrives despite circumstance, because she knows that women were bestowed with a certain fierceness. Of this, Suvi is in no short supply.
As we break each link in the chains that try to hold us, we reveal our true talents, ambitions, and resilience. Suvi is proof that attitude determines all. Our circumstance, our traumas, our ups and our downs, are only events. They need not confine us to less than we are.
“We are all Wonder Women capable of wondrous tasks.”
- Christa Youngern
Celebrity Feature Friday Edition | Ellen Pompeo
This weeks celebrity feature is Ellen Pompeo! She is the center of attention on ABC's hit series Grey's Anatomy. Ellen has given us the complex life and story line of Meredith Grey, whose history of ups and downs can leave us all wondering how she is still going. Yet Ellen's personal life has had some complexity to it as well.
Ellen was born on November 10, 1969 to Joseph Pompeo and Kathleen Pompeo in Everett Massachusetts. Ellen is the youngest of 5 siblings. She has 3 sisters and 2 brothers. Her mother passed away from a pain killer overdose when Ellen was just 5 years old. Ellen's father remarried soon after her Mothers untimely death. Yet, Ellen reflects on the life of her mother and pays respect by living her life to the fullest.
Ellen began working as a barmaid in Miami when she met and began dating fashion photographer Andrew Rosenthal. In 1995 they moved to New York where Ellen was approached by a casting director to audition for commercial ads. From there, her career unveiled on the Hollywood scene. Her early work included commercials and small independents films. Her television debut came in 1996 as a guest star on NBC's hit show Law and Order. Ellen's film Debut was in 1999 in the movie Coming Soon. From there, Ellen landed multiple roles in a variety of media types. Yet, she hit gold when she landed the role of Meredith Grey in 2005 on Shonda Rhimes created Drama Series Greys Anatomy. On this show she began as a surgical intern at the fictional Grey Sloan Memorial Hospital. Now she holds the position of being a surgical genius in her field while being a widow and raising 3 kids of her own. Ellen has won a variety of awards and honorable mentions for her role on Grey's Anatomy. Also, in 2018 she was reported to be the highest paid actress at a whopping $20 million a year. That's about $575,000 a episode y'all !!!! Ellen is making money Moves!
In 2003 Ellen met Chris Ivory while shopping at a grocery store. They married in 2007 and gave birth to their first daughter in 2009. In 2014 they announced the birth of their second daughter via gestational surrogacy. In 2016 they announced the birth of their third child, a son. Ellen is very private about her personal life but it seems that she is holding it down.
Ellen rocks her family life and her professional life and that is why she is our celebrity feature! Go Ellen! We salute you!
- Tammi Terrell-Morris
Feature Friday | Julie D. Harbour
Happy Friday, Beautiful! I hope this week has you feeling loved and appreciated for being the talented individual that you are.
Julie is an age-positive personal stylist, a fashionista, and a sartorial inspiration to her many clients. We know you’ll be uplifted by her belief that women can be runway stunning at every age. Whether or not you were voted best dressed by your high school class, Julie can step up your game and make you feel fresh, powerful, and inspired. While her passion is for fashion, Julie’s story runs much deeper. As a child, she was the youngest of six children and sometimes felt lost amongst the charisma of her older siblings. However, she found a wellspring of joy by making outfits for her various dolls. She would spend hours cutting fabric and fitting each of them perfectly, an early sign of her gifts.
Her childhood and adolescence would be shaken, though, by several instances of molestation and sexual assault, traumas that would take time and intentionality to work through. Her self-esteem was harmed further by her sixteen-year marriage to an emotionally and verbally abusive man. As voiceless and as lost as she had ever been, she decided to divorce her husband and begin anew. She later remarried, and through the support of her close circle of friends, founded her business, Stylish Paradox, at the age of fifty-one. “I consider myself a flower that has just begun to bloom.” Her business caters to women over forty who aim to reinvent themselves. As someone who has initiated her own transformation, it’s only fitting that her business helps others do the same.
Since style precedes everything, it should be carefully crafted. Through a plethora of services that includes partnered shopping, closet cleanses, and personal styling, Julie empowers other women to take the next step into their fashion journey. Julie does not believe that skinny jeans have an age or that white should not be worn after Labor Day. The entire concept of dressing one’s age is anathema to her professional goals. Each of our bodies and minds are unique, so there are no rules to what makes each of us feel fabulous.
Empowered women dress to please themselves and not the society that would sentence them to mediocrity. It’s not just about looking fly; it’s about feeling at home in yourself. It’s about being authentic. It’s about poise. Julie understands that when outer beauty compliments inner beauty, it results in a crescendo of light and love.
“For I know the plans I have for you, “declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.” Jeremiah 29:11
- Christa Youngern
Celebrity Feature Friday Edition | Michelle Carter
Happy Friday, All! I hope this week finds you in a positive place with your mind, body, and spirit. No matter where you may be in your life, there are always good things to look forward to. Take a moment, take a breath, and then get back to it!
On this Celebrity Feature Friday, we know you’ll be inspired by Olympic Gold Medalist, mentor, and motivational speaker Michelle Carter. We love her for how she has elevated the sport of track and field and for her strong belief in the power of community. She is the American record holder in the shot put, the founder of the You Throw Girl Sports Confidence Camps, and a certified makeup artist to boot. In the oft overlooked specialty of the throwing events, she exemplifies the character of a true champion: One who commits herself fully to the challenge, who respects herself unequivocally, and who knows the value of giving back.
The shot put, an 8.8 pound metal sphere reminiscent of a cannon ball, is not the most approachable sport. Most people have casually kicked around a soccer ball on the playground, but very few people who pick up the dense shot put walk away feeling encouraged. Carter is a different story. Her love for the throwing events, one of the specialties of track and field that includes the shot put, discus, hammer throw, weight throw, and javelin, began in 1997 while in junior high school. In most American schools, only shot put and discus are allowed to be contested, and Carter ran the table in both events. As a high school student, she set the Texas state record in the discus, along with two national girl’s records in the shot put. As if that weren’t enough, she went ahead and won a Silver Medal at the 2001 World Youth Championships.
With the guidance of her father, an Olympic Silver Medalist in the shot put and three-time Super Bowl Champion with the 49ers, she earned a full track scholarship at the University of Texas, where she graduated in 2007. A person of Carter’s caliber could not have hoped to graduate at a more opportune time, for the next year were the 2008 Olympic Games. After her Olympic debut in Beijing, she went on to compete in 2012 in London, but it wasn’t until the 2016 Rio games that she achieved her ultimate goal: an Olympic Gold.
On her last throw of the competition, she bested the imposing favorite and two- time Olympic Gold Medalist Valerie Adams of New Zealand. To lend some perspective of just how far her 20.63 meter throw was, if you laid six basketball hoops end to end, it wouldn’t be enough room for her shot put to land. Her father and life-long throws coach could not have been prouder. She often refers to him as “Coach Daddy,” and when she won Olympic Gold, they became the first track and field father daughter duo to ever win individual event medals. If you’re looking for goose bumps, you should also know that she became the first U.S. female athlete to win the event since the women’s competition began in 1948. Throughout her nearly two decade career, Carter has won numerous gold medals nationally and internationally, but the Olympic Gold Medal stands as her crowning achievement...so far. She has no plans to slow down. In fact, she has set her sights on a fourth Olympic run in Tokyo in 2020, and there is no doubt that Gold will be the first thing on her mind.
It was not enough for Carter to be the best shot putter in the world, though. The Longhorn had to do one better. She put her degrees in Youth and Community Studies and her minor in Kinesiology to perfect use in 2016 when she founded the You Throw Girl Sports Confidence Camps. This organization emboldens female athletes in grades 6-12 through discussions on self-love, body image, and confidence building. In her camp, young women are taught to value themselves as athletes as well as people.
This holistic view of one’s athletic prowess and one’s inner knowledge is quite rare in the world of sports, where most athletes are acknowledged only for their tangible contributions to the team and not for their power as distinctive individuals. Through her organization, Carter teaches that each of our true strengths is unique to whom we were created to be, and that to respect our gifts is to empower those around us as well as ourselves. In addition to serving young women through her camps, she can also be found volunteering her time at her local church near Dallas, Texas, where she mentors some of the youngsters and speaks on the value of positivity and hard work.
Michelle Carter has a closet full of Team USA gear and enough gold medals to start a jewelry store, but she has not rested on her laurels. Instead, she has used her elite position to inspire the next generation of young women to be their most powerful and effective selves, which is the sign of a true champion. Whether in the throwing ring or elsewhere, character counts, and Carter walks the walk with confidence, kindness, and a dash of panache.
“I have a chance to inspire these kids and let them know that they’re important, and they’re special, and they can do anything they want to do. It may be hard, but it can be done.”
- Christa Youngern
Celebrity Feature Friday Edition | Jennifer Aniston
It is the time that we take a moment to reflect on women who are making moves in their field of expertise. The celebrity features are fun to write because it gives me a chance to research and learn about the ways different women have overcome struggles, yet attained certain levels of success. Success looks different for many people, but just the fact that they are represented in the She Stories Celeb Features is a level of success in its own rights.
She is best known for her portrayal of "Rachel Green" the suburban Princess turned Coffee peddler on NBC's hit show "Friends"(1994-2004 ). Jennifer captured the hearts of Americans from the first episode. What some may not know about Jennifer is that she comes from a legacy of actors. Her Father, John Aniston, was a popular actor on the Soap Opera series "Days of our lives". Jennifer Joanna Aniston was born on February 11, 1969, in Sherman Oaks CA. Jennifers Mother is Nancy Dow. Jennifer and her family spent a year living in Greece as a young child. Then her parents returned to the states to live in New York City. It was then that Jennifer's parents divorced when Jennifer was 9 years old. Jennifer began her acting career at the age of 11 years old while attending Rudolf Steiner's School's drama club. This is where she developed her passion for Art and Acting.
In 1987 Jennifer starred in her first Off-Broadway Production "For Dear Life" and "Dancing on Checker's Grave". By this time she knew her destiny was to be an actress and carry on the legacy of her Father. By 1990 Jennifer landed her first Television series role on Molloy and also Ferris Bueller. This would be the beginning of a series of television roles that would lead her to the famed "Friends" series. In 1991 Jennifer was featured on the series Hermans Head and then in 1992, she was on The Edge series. In 1994 she was invited to audition for a pilot series called "Friends Like These". This working title would end up to be shortened to the catchy title "Friends". Originally, Jennifer was called to audition for the role of Monica but Jennifer felt that she did not fit the role, so she opted to audition for the role of Rachel which she landed and made history.
When questioned about the decisions she has made professionally and personally, Jennifer graciously responds with the notion that "It is impossible to satisfy everyone and I suggest that we all stop trying." It is this graceful wit that Jennifer has mastered. This keeps her relevant in today's ever-changing Hollywood business. Jennifer has obviously proven that her success is not found in luck, but rather in skill with numerous Movie hits. Picture Perfect (1997), Rock Star (2001), Along Came Polly (2004), Rumor Has It (2005), The Break Up (2006), Marley and Me (2008), The Bounty Hunter (2010), Just Go With It (2011), Horrible Bosses (2011), Horrible Bosses 2 (2014) and Office Christmas Party (2016) are just a few of her theater hits.
Throughout it all Jennifer Aniston represents the American Dream. She has faced and continues to face trials in all shapes and sizes. Being in the public spotlight has left little room for her to process the many life changes she has experienced. Yet she continues to shine! Jennifer has not allowed any of the negativity to stop her grind and that is why we salute her. Keep shinning Jennifer!
- Tammi Terrell-Morris
Feature friday | Nicole Benjamin
Happy Friday, Gorgeous! Whether or not you have crushed your 2019 resolutions (or even written them down yet) you are still powerful, talented, and worthy of all the good things this year has in store.
This week we have the pleasure of profiling entrepreneur Nicole Benjamin. Her company, Handmade Events, allows people to experience the biggest al fresco dinner party they’ll ever attend. We admire Nicole for her spirit of love, her intentionality, and her desire to bring people together in the most special way: through food, drink, and music. While the world has many natural splendors to behold, some beauty must be intentionally created, and this is where Nicole’s talents shine especially bright.
Imagine this: You’re taking a Saturday afternoon stroll, your best friend by your side, when you notice something extraordinary. Across the street, in a large park that you pass every day, are thousands of people outfitted entirely in white. They’re clinking glasses, laughing together, and blessing the space with their happiness. What are all these people celebrating? You wonder. Cheerful music drifts toward you as you cross the street to get a closer look. Beneath the strung paper lanterns, irreverent guests chat warmly over shareable homemade dishes and bottles of wine. It appears that all these people have gathered for the sole purpose of enjoying themselves. One could not imagine a more delightfully subversive notion.
The idea was born when Nicole’s husband and business partner read about a similar event in Paris. With a desire to bring that relaxed simplicity to the states, she began her journey. Her first event, hosted in San Francisco, had over 4,000 guests. With eight years in the rearview mirror, she now hosts events in up to twelve cities annually. One of the remarkable things about Nicole is how she seamlessly blends her family and work life. Her guiding light has been an unyielding sense of who she is and what she values. “Every person that I do business with is subject to the occasional conference call with a screaming toddler in the background.” For Nicole, the goal has always been to live a completely genuine life. One which honors not only her role as a mother and wife, but also her unique gifts and professional acumen. It’s safe to say that Nicole has done just that.
Whether she is in Brooklyn, San Francisco, Los Angeles, or Minneapolis, her aim is to inspire a sense of connection and spontaneous community. In times where various forces seek to divide us, what Nicole offers the country is a return to the personal. It is a welcome salve to the unpleasantness that characterizes the upper echelons of our government. It reminds us that we are far more similar than different. That the simplest lessons are perhaps the most valuable: treat others with kindness, listen deeply, and enjoy every moment you are given for the sake of joy itself.
When you refuse to be anyone but yourself, the universe meets you halfway, and Nicole’s journey is proof. Through her strong vision and sense of self, she has crafted a life that brings joy to tens of thousands of people. Whoever said that one person can’t make a difference clearly never met Nicole Benjamin.
“I am driven daily to create beautiful things that I want to see in this world, and to build a life my family can be proud of.” - Nicole Benjamin
- Christa Youngern
Celebrity Feature Edition | Cynthia Cooper-Dyke
Happy Friday, All! I hope the New Year finds you refreshed and ready to tackle your 2019 aspirations.
Today is a celebrity feature Friday, and we are thrilled to pay homage to WNBA superstar and Olympic Gold Medalist Cynthia Cooper-Dyke. We love her for her trailblazing efforts in women’s sports and for her voracious energy on the hardwood. She is a three time WNBA Scoring Champion, an author, a Naismith Basketball Hall of Famer, and an inspiration to women everywhere. Our athletes are our heroes, and if you were a young woman who grew up with a basketball in your hands, there was no one more heroic than Cynthia Cooper-Dyke.
At first, her story stands out for its sports statistics alone. As a Trojan, she led USC to back to back national championships before making her presence felt professionally. Before the WNBA was formed, she took her talents to Europe and collected her share of trophies in Spain and Italy. She later dominated the nascent Women’s National Basketball Association in its first four years, where she won four consecutive titles for the Houston Comets and subsequently sparked the fan bases of WNBA teams across the country. She was voted the Most Valuable Player for the WNBA twice and couldn’t buy a bag of chips without someone asking for her autograph. Success always seems effortless from the outside looking in, but Cooper-Dyke’s journey was far from expected.
As a kid growing up in Watts, a Los Angeles community where opportunity is rare, she often felt inadequate and overlooked. She was the middle child of eight siblings and was a shy and introverted little girl. She wasn’t shy about her love for the game, though, and college coaches took notice when her Locke High School team won the state championship. It was when the head coach of USC visited her home that her life took a different turn. That coach convinced Cynthia and her mother that she could play ball at one of the most prestigious universities in the country. Not only that, but she could do it on a scholarship. With that promise, the world began to open up before her.
Nothing that Cooper-Dyke has been given has been wasted. She is a true example of personal transformation and the power of living intentionally. At every step of her journey, she left behind the parts of herself that were no longer fitting to make way for who she truly is: a person who is sure of what she wants, where she is going, and that her faith in God will see her through. She is less interested in proving others wrong than she is about proving herself right, which is not only the sign of a true leader but of someone who knows herself deeply and without a hint of shame.
The wins follow Cooper-Dyke like a shadow at sunset. We revere her for ability on and off the court, but we especially love her for the light that she shines on the possibilities within all of us…if only we choose to believe in ourselves. It’s radical, it’s rare, and it’s a prerequisite for success, but she has shown us that the only expectations that matter are those we choose for ourselves. Currently, she inspires an entirely new generation of young women as a head college basketball coach, and one can only imagine the thrill of sitting at the feet of such a bold and accomplished figure.
“Something special happens when you believe in you.” -Cynthia Cooper-Dyke
- Christa Youngern
A tribute to 2018
I always do a lot of reflecting during the last few days of the year. I think about what the year brought, what I gained, what I’ve given up, etc. And hopefully, I’ve learned (and applied) some sort of life lesson that I can use in the upcoming year. Does anyone else do this? Well, I’ve been waiting a few months to write today’s feature!
She Stories started Feature Friday to showcase a boss babe that’s handling her business, whether it’s being a mom, running a company, maintaining student life, or just being a creative spirit who pours into others. We sought out to share a piece of each woman’s journey along her path. We firmly believe that EVERY woman has a story, and we wanted to share it!
Every week, we shared stories of women who had overcome, women who had survived, women who had to make a decision at some point in their lives to do better. Our features have covered different cultures, different lifestyles, and different ages. Our features were women that volunteered their stories in the hopes that someone else would read it, receive it, and grow from it, in some fashion. While our features told different stories, they all had a common thread of paying it forward.
All of our women shared about a crucial decision that needed to be made in order to graduate to their next level. This decision was usually made at some of their lowest points, but it was always a decision of survival. Sometimes, the choice was easy to make, and sometimes it was a choice of blind faith. It’s not an easy thing to be able to share your story and be transparent about some intimate moments in your life. It’s not easy to share your weaknesses with strangers. But these ladies did it! They continued to share, and the tribe has embraced each and every woman who stepped in line to tell her truth.
Thirty-two women have shared their testimony with She Stories this year, as a Feature Friday. And at first, it was like “Cool! She’s got a good story!”, but then it quickly changed to “WOW! How did she do that?” And I have to say that it’s encouragement to myself, to be able to read the submission of each woman, and to know that they came out of whatever funk they were in.
We are a tribe of super-women, we come in all shades, we come from all over the world, we all have different strengths, but we lean on each other during moments of weakness.
I personally want to thank each and every one of the 32 that allowed me to share their story with our community. I guarantee every feature has reached who it needed to reach. I know that sometimes, it’s not easy to share personal stories with people who don’t know you, but our aim is to provide women a safe place to be able to share without judgement, without shame, but with love and inspiration. I pray all our features this year continue to grow and move in their purpose. And I welcome the ladies that will be sharing their story in 2019. Somewhere out there, is a women wondering how she’s going to get out of the place she’s at. She might be thinking there’s no way she can do it by herself, but that’s what the tribe is for. We stand for each other. We ride with each other.
WE ARE THE TRIBE!
Feature friday | Nesha Dickson
Happy Friday loved ones! We hope that in the midst of all the hustle and bustle going on around us this holiday season, that you take time out for yourself and breathe. Try not to get too caught up in the commercial mayhem that is Christmas, but take time to remember what’s important to you during this season of togetherness and memories. And while you’re doing that, we’re gonna continue to roll out this week’s Feature Friday. She’s absolutely gorgeous, youthful, vibrant, well spoken, and did I say gorgeous already? Yeah, that’s her.
Meet Nesha Dickson
I first met Nesha at a She Stories event we had this Fall. Her presence was mature and graceful, but her vibe was young and fresh. She was moving around, helping out, walking with urgency, but flowing like water. At the beginning of the event, she grabbed the mic, and gave a warm welcome with instructions for anyone who’d like to record a testimonial after the event. I was impressed with how smooth she worked, and how you could easily see that she was in her element. She’s also an important piece to the She Stories puzzle.
When Nesha was just a baby, she had lost her father in a murder. Her mother had to make the decision to bring her back to California, where she’d be under the creative influences of her grandma. The first movie she saw was The Wizard of Oz, and this sparked a love for theater and music. Shirley Temple and Judy Garland added fuel to her passion for song and dance. And thanks to her grandma’s love for soap operas, the wheels of acting were greased by the entire cast of One Life to Live (circa 1993). Nesha knew that whatever she was going to do in life, it would involve her love for creativity.
When she was in her senior year in high school, her life took a major turn when her mother was diagnosed with colon cancer. She was forced to put her dreams of attending the American Academy of Dramatic Arts in New York on hold so that she could help her mother through this. And then in 2011, her mother’s battle with cancer came to an end, leaving a 21 year old Nesha in a place where she had to “figure it out”. She was the oldest of 3 kids, with a 19 year old sister, and a 9 year old brother. While her brother went back to Louisiana to stay with relatives, and over the next 5 years, she secured a stable place for her brother to come back and live with her. She was also in the process of ending an emotionally abusive relationship, which forced her to make some grown decisions as to where she wanted her life to go. She quit her office job to take a leap into her dreams that she had put on hold.
And now, Nesha’s a photographer, content creator, and social media influencer/manager. Her sister started a non profit to coach youth basketball, and her brother is a freshman in college. And they’re all living together, just as her mother prayed for before she passed.
And it dawned on me! The reason I was so impressed with her hustle during the event was simple. While she’s fresh and youthful, she’s no stranger to the decisions and choices a grown woman has to make to survive. Nesha is a true gem, and an intricate piece to the She Stories tribe. We love her, and can’t wait to see what the next 10 years holds for her. #tribestrong
Celebrity Edition: Ava DuVernary
Friday is here again, and we’ve arrived to unfold another woman who’s crushin her dreams and goals. Today is a celebrity feature, and we love her for the work she’s done, the platform she continues to provide, and the passions she’s stirring up in other women. She has directed and produced some of the best storylines in film and television. She has been nominated and won several awards for her work in film, and we can’t wait to see what comes next from this week’s FEATURE FRIDAY…..
Like many others, I had first caught wind of Ava after seeing the award-winning Selma in 2014, but then got another dose of her groundbreaking work in the documentary, 13th. Both left me wanting to see more from this amazing director, producer, screenwriter, the list goes on. And before long, I started seeing her name in television for Scandal and Queen Sugar. The woman is completely unstoppable. Her vision is amazing, and she works hard to share her contributions to the world.
What many don’t know is that Ava had initially set out to become a civil rights attorney, and I’m sure she would’ve been awesome at that too, but her passion for bringing her screenplays to life overpowered anything else. And so she found a way to actively stand for the rights she believed in while making films that bring forth conversations about those rights.
Ava was born in Long Beach, CA, and raised in Lynwood. She began to learn the differences between herself and her colleagues. She realized that there weren’t many opportunities for minority women in film. Ava set out to change that platform, and to give more women the opportunities to create works that they’re passionate about, rather than just “taking what you can get”. She has dedicated herself to the fresh and upcoming faces in the industry that are often overlooked because of their skin color or sexual identity. She brings awareness to real-life struggles through a creative lens of strength and perseverance. She shows the journey of women in cinematography who have to fight twice as hard to speak their truth on the issues that matter to them.
We see the brightness of Ava’s light in an industry that doesn’t always embrace that kind of diversity. We witness the efforts she’s made for young women to learn and grow their own independence in a pool of sharks waiting to devour them alive. And she’s given a voice to minority women in the film industry who wouldn’t normally be given the mic to speak. She Stories loves Ava for her journey in film and the moves she’s making for women to follow. It’s about giving women the mic to tell their story, and of course, that’s what Feature Friday is all about. We love Ava, and we stand with her in support of everything that brings women’s issues to the forefront.
We hope today found everyone blessed, motivated, and warm in this chilly weather. We have another treat for you this week as our Feature Friday rolls on. In the season of giving and receiving, we’d like to gift you with a special feature this week. Her beginnings were rough, to say the least. And at the age of 40, she’s been able to make the appropriate adjustments in her life to better serve herself and her children. She’s used every negative experience she’s faced for a greater good. Whether it’s coaching other grown women to find their voice, or teaching young girls how to recognize their own potential. She’s absolutely amazing, and we couldn’t wait to feature her.
I met Valerie a while ago at a Storytelling night She Stories did in Fresno at Her Space. She shared her story of struggle and survival. Now when you see Valerie, she’s a little lady with a powerful presence around her. She’s not loud and she doesn’t scream for attention, but when she speaks, you listen. Her story of survival began as a young girl. Being orphaned and pregnant as a teenager left her homeless by 19. This eventually led to an abusive marriage of 17 years. 17 YEARS!!!! Her marriage forced her to be silent, not to speak her thoughts or her heart, she built walls up to not only protect herself, but she was conditioned to keep others away and not get too close. By the time her husband left her, she only found herself alone. No family, no friends, no sisterhood that she could lean on. But one thing about Valerie, she’s a fighter, and she knows she’ll figure it out. That’s exactly what she did.
Valerie started do all the things she wasn’t able to do during her marriage. She began pouring into herself and learning how to use her bad experiences for a good purpose. She tuned herself back into her passions, and the things that inspired her. She realized that people can steal many things from you, but they can’t take away your passions and desires. She dove into reconnecting with her spirit through books, online courses, and YouTube mentors. This transpired into her being able to throw lifelines out to other women who have gone through the same things. Valerie admits that seeing other women “give up” inspires her to try harder to reach them, and the pay-off is when women are finally able to see themselves for who they really are.
The part of Valerie’s story that I found so unique is when I asked her, as I ask many of our features, “Why is having a tribe important to you?” She shared that she is just now learning what a tribe really is. You see, during her youth, being homeless, and being in her marriage caused her to seclude herself from everyone around her. She depended solely on herself. So unfortunately, many of her struggles were alone. But as she continued to grow, she learned the importance of having others in your life that you can depend on for strength, a good laugh, a solid prayer, or just a nice bottle of wine.
It’s important to share our stories, even when we’re used to being quiet. There are always others who are going through the same things you made it out of, and they need your words of encouragement. Thank you Valerie, for sharing your truth, and for allowing us to be apart of your circle and growth. You’re strength and your ability to persevere is beyond inspirational, it’s HEALING! We love you!
Celebrity Edition: Elle King
It’s Friday ladies! The weather’s cooling down, but the fire and heat our features give us will definitely get us through. I’m a fan of the cold weather myself, but I know much of our tribe may prefer heat from the sun instead of a heater. Well, this week’s feature brings heat, soul, heartache, and love. She’s an overcomer, an innovator, and an amazing talented musician/singer. She is…..
I first fell in love with Elle when I heard Ex’s and Oh’s. The soul in her notes and the grit in her voice gave me Stevie Nicks vibes. If you’ve ever experienced true heartache, or was in a relationship you knew you had no business being in, or the freedom of not being “tied down”, then you can probably relate to much of Elle’s music because it’s full of all those things, and MORE!
Her love for music started early on. She was given a record of a rock group made of all women called The Donnas. From there, she dove head first into Blondie and The Runaways. Elle started to identify the strength in her voice and the very specific sound she gave. Later, her ear leaned more towards the soul of Etta James, Otis Redding, and Johnny Cash, among others. She listened to the instruments used in the production, and the delivery of the lyrics that pulled on her emotions.
Later on in life, Elle began a journey of learning her self-worth. She found herself seeking out who she really was, and in doing so found herself seeking attention from any man who’d be willing to give it. She entered a whirlwind relationship after only a few short weeks and revealed that she had secretly gotten married. At the same time, she also announced her divorced. Elle also shared that her ex-husband had been abusive and threatened her life. So her journey then transitioned into one of self-healing. Learning how to cope with anxiety, depression, and PTSD after her divorce, and trusting that she can get through all this without her dependency of drugs. Instead, she took the story of her journey and put it into her music. She sang about things like hurt, weakness, and not knowing who she was. You could feel the impact through her voice, almost as if the wounds were fresh. But she also sings about love, and the joy that comes from being completely connected to someone, the strength in being able to make her own decision and the accountability to stand behind them.
She Stories is a strong believer in women sharing their stories. Not all journeys have a sad ending. And not all stories are told in a book. Many women share through their voice, their music, and their art. We love when a woman can go through such darkness, and later lead others to light and self-discovery. Elle is that woman, and we love her!
La Teisha Donyea Johnson
We hope everyone had a warm, tasty, and full Thanksgiving! With November winding down, we’ve brought you another fierce Feature Friday. This week’s special guest has made it through some major milestones as a woman, a mother, a business owner, and a wife. She’s learned some lessons that haven’t always been easy, but they’ve been necessary in her growth. And on top of all that, she’s absolutely beautiful!
After growing up in Inglewood/Carson, CA, she left to further her education in Baton Rouge, and later moved to Dallas. She began her work as a Laser Hair Removal Technician, and found that she really enjoyed making other people’s skin glow. As a Licensed Esthetician, she’s been able to help others by offering relaxation and beautification all in one visit. But while her passion began growing inside of her, she was going through personal journeys that would later tie into her profession. Donyea found herself divorced with a daughter to raise, and at a fork in the road. Would she settle at the feet of her circumstances? Or would she rise to the occasion and adapt to her new lifestyle as a single mother with a growing passion to serve. Fortunately, she chose the latter.
She began working 2 jobs in order to sustain her household and start her business, Destiny Day Spa by Donyea. It’s been a long road that has seen some easy and not-so-easy days, all while raising a young girl of her own. Fast forward through continued watering and growing herself over the course of 8 years, Donyea’s daughter and her business have grown right along with her. She’s now married with a teenager, 2 sets of twins (3 and 5), and a teenage bonus son! All of this abundance coming from a woman that was told many times that she’d never even get pregnant. She had already beaten the odds, and accomplished what “they” said she wouldn’t. So what was going to stop her from pursuing her heart’s passion?
Donyea also found her own relief and relaxation in her business. While she’s able to offer her clients a safe and tranquil place to release their stresses, she’s also able to build relationships, network, and council. One of her favorite scriptures is from Ecclesiastes 3:11, “For He has made everything beautiful in its time.” This passage speaks volumes, because it shows us that we can’t rush anything. Many times we have to go through the process before we can enjoy the fruits of the labor. And it’s been a long journey for Donyea, but she’s thriving and still growing, and the most important part, SHE HASN’T STOPPED YET!
We’re here with you Donyea! We support you! And we love your passion to serve and encourage others. Keep goin sis!
Celebrity Edition: Lena Waithe
This week's Feature Celebrity is a woman that definitely has a story to share. It was her coming-out story that made waves in Hollywood that people are still talking about and referring to.
Lena was born on May 17, 1984. She is a known American Actress, Producer, and Screenwriter. Her smooth charisma and grace make her stand out in a crowd. She is known for her skills behind the camera as a screenwriter. Lena took Hollywood by storm as she became a writer for the Fox television series Bones. She continued to display her skills of writing by working on varies shows such as Nickelodeon’s How to Rock, 2014 satirical comedy Dear White People and 2013 web series Hello Cupid among many others. Lena uses her comedic style and satirical nature to tackle controversial topics on and off the camera.
Lena allows her authenticity to shine through every project she takes on. She is known for her undeniable pride in being an LGBTQIA + Black Woman and her desire is to be an example for young girls of color who may feel they are different. She wants to show them that there is nothing wrong with them. She relates her experiences of feeling different and coming out as Lesbian to the many struggles of women in the world and welcomes others to share their experiences in ways that will bring value to their existence.
Lena Waithe is a game changer and has brought a new level of transparency and confidence to Hollywood and the world. She continues to take on new challenges without losing sight of her uniqueness. In a world where fitting in is the mainstream norm, she continues to push past the norm and celebrate all that makes her who she is. We celebrate who she is alongside her and cheer her on as she continues to make new waves.
—Tammi Terrell Morris
Happy Friday ladies!!!! We hope you’ve all had a smooth week, but even if you ran into a few obstacles, we’re glad you’ve made it to another Feature Friday! This week’s feature is a phenom force of bravery and courage, and we couldn’t wait to share her story of survival. She’s learned through her own experiences with domestic abuse how easy it is to lose your glow, and how hard it can be to try and light the flame again. But she’s a living testimony that it’s possible.
MEET the fierce and bold, Raina Knox!
Raina’s story begins just as she’s getting out of an abusive relationship with her ex-boyfriend. Staying in the relationship as long as she did eventually led to a near death experience. Having your life compromised, as she did, can have long term impacts on your emotional stability. Often times, people in abusive relationships suffer with PTSD and other side effects from on-going traumatic interactions. Raina had many emotional wounds that would take forever to heal from. She knew this when she finally made the decision to leave. She knew that starting over wouldn’t be easy, but she also knew that she deserved better. Raina discovered a love for herself that would carry her out of the weakest moments.
Over time, Raina continued to grow in her journey. In sharing her story with others, she quickly learned that many women shared her experiences of abuse. Many women were still in their relationships, because they had no idea how to leave. She understood the feelings of hopelessness and despair. She later went on to create her own online business, Pretty Gurlz Hu$tle LLC, which revolves around inspiring other women to take that first step in leaving their abusers. She recognizes the amount of courage it takes to make that step, and that it can take months and years before the first step is taken. But she’s obligated herself to helping others that are in the same place she was in. She walks the steps necessary to teach others through her actions. And her reward is when others go on to share their stories of survival.
This year, Raina branched out and wrote her newest book, Broken 2 Blessed. Here, she creates and clears a path for readers to learn and grow their way out of an abusive relationship. She shares her story in an effort to reach the woman who doesn’t see a silver lining yet, the woman who is broken inside and out, and the woman who has lost her glow. It’s common for women going through a similar journey to not see a way out or to feel hopeless, but Raina gives a glimmer of light to the darkest corners of these souls.
She Stories joins Raina in her endeavors. We stand for the women who can’t find the strength to stand by themselves. And we shout for the women who have won their own personal wars. We love you Raina! #tribestrong
FEATURE FRIDAY | Gina Farrar
October is winding down fast, but She Stories is keeping the same energy going as we move into a new Feature Friday. As you know, Feature Fridays are a staple for She Stories because we get to introduce a different woman every week that shares her journey of growth and revelation. Our features hold a common thread of overcoming obstacles, no matter how big or small. This week’s feature is just that (and then some). She’s an overcomer who has beaten the odds set before her. And she’s made it her work to help as many as she can along her journey.
welcome GINA FARRAR! *crowd goes wild*
Gina recognized from a very young age that certain decisions she made had an impact on the path she traveled. Many of us don’t grasp that concept until our late 20s or 30s. But the challenges that Gina faced forced her to experience things that most kids don’t. She was born to a teen mom, her father had abandoned her, and her step father abused her. She grew up with the understanding that she would repeat the same cycles, and that she’d never be any different than those that came before her. By the time she hit 3rd grade, she had already been to 5 different schools. It’s never easy being “the new kid”, but all this transitioning forced Gina to be resilient, and to develop a skin that was tougher than most.
By the time Gina was a teen, she struggled with her own identity, not sure of who she really was. Witnessing her mother’s experiences, she believed that somehow, her worth and happiness laid at the feet of men. But she never got used to her value being decided by someone else. This would all be the ground work for what Gina was to become. She soon realized that her steps mattered, and her decisions held power. She learned that each of these steps could change the entire course of her life, so she became more mindful of what each step meant.
Gina learned that SHE held the balance of her life, SHE was the deciding factor in everything, and that SHE had more power within herself than any man could give her. She’s now the mother of 2 successful and equally strong women. She’s a wife to a man that recognizes her strength, but knows she's to be handled with care. She’s been able to use her experiences to help others along their path of purpose. She’s a life coach, a podcaster, a public speaker, the list goes on. But one of the most valuable pieces to Gina’s puzzle is that her work doesn’t stop with herself, she reaches others to develop their strengths and passions as well. Sometimes, when we find something good, we may want to hide it away so that nobody else will see it or try to take it. But Gina’s passion is sharing what she’s learned with as many people as she can reach, and hopefully teaching them to share what they’ve learned, and so on. You can check out Gina’s podcast, Feminine Roadmap, where she covers everything from self-help and mental health to grief and divorce. Check her out!
Gina, you’re such an amazing woman. Your strength is admirable, and we love you!! Keep it up girl!
Celebrity Edition: Emily Blunt
Feature Friday wouldn’t be what it is for She Stories without the amazing women who have dedicated themselves to making women’s voices stronger and louder. Our goal is to feature a woman who’s journey hasn’t always been easy, a woman who’s been able to use those struggles as a catapult to something better, and a woman who never fails at helping others be the best they can be. This week’s celebrity feature is one who’s gone through challenging times as a young girl, and instead of letting those things hinder her, she used them to encourage and motivate others.
I admit. I hadn’t really learned of Emily until I saw her “The Devil Wears Prada” (easily one of my favorite movies). She’s absolutely beautiful, but in the movie, she portrays an assistant to a fashion mogul. She plays a woman with confidence, yet crumbles with humility whenever her boss is around. She yearned to emerge onto the fashion scene, but often found herself in the shadows of Miranda. You didn’t want to be a fan of Emily during much of the movie, but as it progressed, you see that she’s just struggling with her voice of strength. Many of us can relate. We have so much to say, but don’t want to say them too loud.
As a young teen, Emily battled with stuttering. She found it hard to not only speak, but to get others to listen. With the help of a teacher, she was able to work through this, which gave her the confidence to pursue acting more seriously. But it wasn’t easy. Kids at that age can be cruel, and often times, she just found it easier to be quiet. She found acting to be a safe place to work on her verbal skills, and also gave her an outlet to use her voice with confidence. She now sits on the board of directors for the American Institute for Stuttering.
Emily has also taken a stand on furthering education for girls and women everywhere. She admits that after having daughters of her own, and asking them daily what they learned at school, how important education is for a young woman. Education is key to adding value to a woman’s life and it’s something nobody can ever take away. So Emily has used her platform to raise awareness around educating women. Earlier this year, she was honored at Variety’s Power of Women event for her work with the Malala Fund, which focuses on helping young girls further their education and shares with the world that it’s a luxury not given to all.
We love Emily, not only for her roles on the big screen, but for the roles she plays in bettering women’s lives everywhere. And for using her voice to bring recognition to the impact that education and self awareness has on all women. Keep it up Emily!
FEATURE FRIDAY | Michelle Hardy
This week’s feature is endearing. She’s special and unique, like all the features before her. But as I read her submission for the feature, it left me with a calm and relaxed vibe. She’s a woman “of a certain age”, she’s been through things, and her years have gained her the ability to spread gold with her wisdom.
Michelle is a 50 year young woman by way of Oakland, CA. She does a little bit of everything. She works a “regular day job”, but that’s only a small piece of what she does on a daily basis. Michelle is a small business owner, and is also a licensed CA Bail Agent. She has the blessing of being able to help others in a tender and meaningful way. Many people are good at helping others, but we all have different WAYS of helping. Her words and actions hold weight, so she’s earned the favor of those around her. She’s a “Jill” of all trades and regularly does random acts of kindness for people, wherever she’s needed.
Several years ago, Michelle found herself at one of her darkest times. She was losing her glow. Like many of us, her personal relationship had gone bad, and she found herself left with nothing, completely lost. She began reading different self-help books to try and relight that spark, because she had to do this alone. This ultimately ignited into a story she had written, Mrs. Eel’s Basement of Beautiful Magical Things. The story is so tender, humble, and impactful. It’s a story of appreciating the things in your life that maybe you’ve forgotten about. The things that you once loved, but allowed to get dusty and left in a dark corner. The story carries the message that life’s simplest gifts are rare, but mean the world. They’re to be honored. You should definitely go and read it!
After writing the story, Michelle found herself in a financial hardship during the holidays. With no money to buy gifts for her kids, friends, and family, she decided to gift them her story. And to share with them, the intimacy that helped her gain her voice and strength. And ever since then, she’s made it her mission to give to others, help those around her wherever she can be of service.
Many years later, she gained the friendship of an elderly woman. And if you read the story, it’s closely resembles her relationship with this woman. Many years after that, the older woman died, leaving her all the things she had acquired during their time together, and she realized that the story had come to life. She knew that she was created to be of service to others, whether it’s her job, or her work in the community, she gives of herself every day. As we approach this upcoming season, let’s remember to not get consumed with the commercial holidays, but let’s seek out ways to give gifts of service to others. Many times, it’s those gifts that outlive the gift cards.
We absolutely love you Michelle. Thank you for sharing your story, and a piece of your journey.
Celebrity Edition: Solange Knowles
Hopefully everyone’s week has been full of positivity and productivity, with the right balance of rest and self-care. It’s the first Friday in October. The weather is cooling. And you can smell the scent of pumpkin in just about every coffee shop. This is my absolute favorite season! It’s the last season of the year, and everyday seems to be the perfect temperature. It just puts me in a good mood automatically. So today’s feature is one that puts us in a good mood. She’s strong. She exudes confidence. She embraces her nature, and lives in her own light.
Solange has fought long and hard to create and develop her own identity outside of her elder sister, Beyonce. It wasn’t always easy being compared to her sibling, especially since they’re both singers. But this forced Solange to create her own path, her own sound, her own look. After all, isn’t that what we teach our young daughters? To be unique, and to be an individual? You have 2 options, you can either go with what everyone says and rely on others to create who you are…or you can rely on yourself to know and understand who you really are and who you were created to be. What do you do?
There are plenty of celebrities with siblings. Many times, you don’t ever hear too much about them. But then, there are some siblings who create their own identity. Solange could’ve easily faded into the background, while her sister rose to the top. But when she stepped out and started to create a name for herself, one of her many hurdles were the countless times she was asked about Beyonce. She had to birth what SHE was purposed for, on her own. Nobody could do that for her. But doing this allowed Solange to learn herself from the inside, from her heart. She grew up with so many strong women in her family, that strength was already embedded in her wiring. Having a child, going through a divorce, the infamous “elevator” scene, her music, and her passions have all molded the woman she is today, and she fully recognizes it.
She’s used her unique platform to stand for ALL women, those in the LGBTQ community, those of color, and those of religions that are frowned upon by American society. Solange’s music speaks of many things we, as women, struggle with in silence. And most women can relate to her lyrics in some way or other.
We love Solange for taking the time to learn who she was and is. We love her for showing others how to discover themselves. She Stories is a tribe of uniquely strong women from all over the country, from all different backgrounds, with all beautiful complexions. We don’t lie in each other’s shadows. We stand in each other’s light. #tribestrong
FEATURE FRIDAY | Vanessa Woods
Hey Hey Hey!!!! It’s that time again!!! Our favorite day of the week, Feature Friday. This week’s “feature treat” comes to us from Dallas, TX! She gives of herself in such an enormous way to everyone around her. She’s constantly seeking out ways to pay it forward, and make a difference in some fashion.
show some love to our sister Vanessa Woods
As a child, Vanessa was able to see community service through the hard work of her mother. Vanessa learned what it meant to offer your time to those in your neighborhood, and to offer services when needed. Her mom had a great passion for helping others in need, and the seed was planted in Vanessa as a young girl. Of course, life takes its twists and turns as we experience it, and eventually Vanessa found herself to be a single mom, raising a daughter of her own. This didn’t slow down her pace when it came to helping people though. She soon realized that being of service was a way for her to deal and cope with the turmoil that was on her plate. It gave her the energy to handle life’s trials, and a charging outlet for her soul.
Professionally, Vanessa worked in Human Resources, which took much of her time and energy. But as many mothers know, the job doesn’t end when you clock out. You only take off your “corporate” hat, and exchange it for your “mom” hat. In an effort to maintain her own self-care, she began making bath salts and candles to help her unwind and relax at home. Friends and family encouraged her to step out on faith and she found herself heading down the path of entrepreneurship, where she was hosting small parties to sell her candles and bath essentials. The support she received was shocking, but soon became a burden as she strained to juggle her job, her home, and the increasing demands of her hustle. Something needed to take a back seat, and candles came up short.
Fast forward 10 years, and Vanessa discovered the flame for owning her own business had reignited. She was ready to move forward, and so Divine Perfection Body Care was born. Her aim was, and still is, to give people the relaxing spa experience in the comfort of their home using her handcrafted body care products. She remembered how busy she was being a single parent and working full time, that she sometimes neglected taking the time for herself, and she found the demand for her products in people who shared this struggle.
Divine Perfection Body Care is in full swing and thriving. She’s also very happily married. Her daughter is now a junior in college, and she’s been able to flourish her purpose and her calling to serve. Vanessa continues to work in her community and with those around her. She actively volunteers with Habitat for Humanity in Texas, and has a distinct passion for the work done at Children’s Hospital Los Angeles. Just as her mother passed the baton of servant leadership down to her, she has also passed it on to her daughter, who is also a student athlete. She’s shown her how lending a hand to others can be a blessing for self. This is such a priceless gift to not only possess, but to share.
We love you, Vanessa. And your efforts to help and serve others are to be commended. As you develop your tribe there in TX, you will ALWAYS have a squad in CA! We can’t wait to see what’s next for you on this journey. I know there’s big works being done, and we’re ALL here for it!
Celebrity Edition: Yvette Nicole Brown
It’s FRIDAY!!!! And not just any old Friday, it’s FEATURE FRIDAY! If you’re not already familiar, Feature Friday is a day where we highlight an amazing boss chick among us. Sometimes, they’re women right here in our community, and sometimes, they’re celebrities. This week, we’re bring you a woman who’s taken control of her body, health, and weight. Not to fit into a smaller sized dress, but to live as long as she possibly can without making overwhelming adjustments to her life
You’ve probably recognized her face, as her smile creates a glow you can’t help but get caught up in. At least that’s what initially captured me. But what really drew me in was her outlook on her image and her health. Yvette was diagnosed as a Type 2 diabetic back in 2013. Like all our features, she was faced with a decision to make. She can either take control of her life and her health, or she can become a victim to diabetes and allow it to overtake her existence. If you’re familiar with diabetes, you know that this calls for a complete lifestyle change. Since diabetes is directly related to the amount of sugar in your blood, and just about everything we eat contains sugar, it’s crucial that someone with diabetes maintains healthy sugar levels. Yvette made the choice to fight for her life and take back her health.
As many of us women struggle with weight loss and dieting, it always seems like we’re always on the next train to a slimmer body, and smaller jeans. Many critics attributed Yvette’s weight loss to her wanting to “be skinny”. When in reality, she was only trying to live healthier. Yvette admitted that she’s never been one to try and be a certain weight or body type. She even admitted that she’s never been a big fan on dieting, but in an effort to take a healthier road on her journey, she’s committed herself to making smarter choices with her existing diet. She did this by cutting her portions, and of course, cutting as much sugar as possible from her diet. She’s also made the decision to keep her body moving as much as possible. Although she’s not a fan of strenuous exercise, she walks a lot more, and has increased her water intake. Making these small adjustments to her life have given Yvette a whole new outlook on her health and that since she only has one life, she’s decided to make it the best life she can possibly live.
We love Yvette for taking a stand on her own life. She understands that in order for her to do all the things she wants to do, she has to actually be alive to do it. She’s also partnered with the American Diabetes Association to share her story, and to teach others that making small changes can make huge impacts. A woman’s health isn’t always about being a certain size. Sometimes it’s the simple choice to live your best life and to get as much as you can out of it.
WE LOVE YOU YVETTE!!!!!
Hey tribe! We hope everyone’s week has been productive and full of self love, self awareness, and self truth. And wherever you’re located, we hope you found at least one thing you’re thankful for, and you shared the good vibes with someone else. In remembering the events of 9/11, we’re bringing you a feature right out of New York. This week’s feature has devoted herself to her passions of yoga, creativity, and her beloved hometown of NYC.
MEET IANA VELEZ.
Being born and raised in New York allowed Iana to be molded by art, culture, and the city around her. Like many other big cities, New York is a petri dish of raw talent and creative art. Iana grew up knowing this was her hometown, and over the years, that love for her city grew. She also developed and nurtured her
love for art. Over the course of 15 years, she was working internationally as an Art Director in Los Angeles, Sydney, and New York. She had taken this time to fine tune her skills in her profession, but was also in preparation for her next venture in TV and film. From there, she advanced to print magazines and event producing. During the time, she developed a passion for yoga and loving yourself from the inside. Before long, Iana decided to combine her love for the city, art, and yoga. This dream birthed the vision of NY YOGA + LIFE™, of which she is the Publisher and Editor in Chief.
While NY YOGA + LIFE™ is in its 3rd year of publication, it still remains New York’s only free print and digital magazine yoga, art, music, wellness, and the NY lifestyle. Iana has committed herself to a cause that is FOR the community, BY the community. NY YOGA + LIFE™ has created a place for creatives and lovers of mind wellness to network their businesses and share their stories.
As fast paced as New York is, Iana expands her brand by hosting events that promote mind, body, and creativity. She knows her community is full of people who are always on the go, and offers them a place to retreat and unwind. These events often include meditation, yoga, and art, all taking place in culturally rich venues throughout the city.
This Saturday, Iana and NY YOGA + LIFE™ will be hosting the 3rd Annual Art & Yoga Urban Retreat, in collaboration with the Rubin Museum of Art. It will be a day to feed the mind, body, and soul. She’s brought along an amazing panel of speakers to enlighten everyone in the practice of meditation, attention to breathing, intentional movement, and peaceful stillness. The entire day will be centered around mental and spiritual growth, and will definitely be a powerful experience that you won’t want to miss if you’re in the area.
We’re all on a movement to spread self love, growth, and healing to anyone who may need it. Iana has made it her life’s work to bring her community along on her movement, while sharing her love for New York. Keep up your good work Iana. We’re on the movement with you!
PS…For more info on the Art & Yoga Urban Retreat or to order tickets online, click here!
Celebrity Edition: Melissa McCarthy
It’s Friday!!!! YAAAAAAY!!!! Today we’ve got a fun feature. She’s absolutely hilarious, and she’s an amazing actress. I think I first fell in love with her in Bridesmaids (definitely one of my favorite movies).
Today, we’re bringing you Melissa McCarthy!!!
I absolutely love her sense of humor, and the way she makes others laugh so effortlessly. She made her debut on television in 1997, and has been going ever since. The reason I chose Melissa for this week’s feature is because I came across something I had read where she was speaking about the different sizes in women’s clothing and how we’re so stuck on the size numbers. Almost like we let them define us as women. And for me personally, this was true. I used to squeeeeeeze myself into a smaller number, for the mere fact that it was a smaller number, thinking it would make me feel better about myself. When, in fact, it didn’t make me feel better, and I’m sure it didn’t look better either. Melissa stated, “People don’t stop at size 12. I feel like there’s a big thing missing where you can’t dress to your mood above a certain number.” And I thought to myself, “She’s right!” Melissa began her own clothing line, Seven7, in 2015. Her line caters up to size 28.
This stigma that happiness comes in smaller sizes is not true. Happiness comes in ALL sizes, from size 0 to size 28, but so does depression. And I’ve learned that a smaller size doesn’t automatically mean a more content life, and that happiness has to come from the core of you, NOT what you put on your back.
I just wanted to give Melissa a feature spotlight, because this is something that so many women struggle with on a DAILY basis. To some women, dressing rooms are the devil. They hate the curves on their body. They despise their own skin. But then on the other hand, there’s women who could put on a burlap sack, and work the hell out of it! They’re aware that the size of their clothes doesn’t define their level of happiness. They let their body make the garments and not the other way around.
This feature is for any women who’s been on both sides of the spectrum, MYSELF INCLUDED! I haven’t always felt beautiful in my size, but as I’ve marched through 40’s door, I’ve learned that I’m way more than a number or a size. I’m beautiful in my skin, and anything I put on is an accessory to my body.
Melissa is a simple reminder that we’re all beautiful. We’re all sexy. And we can ALL be savages in the clothes we wear, as long as we love ourselves first.
Love you guys!!! Here’s to FRIDAY!!!!
FEATURE FRIDAY | Andrea Hamilton
Women, we’re such resilient beings. So many different fibers that make us who we are, and then they’re woven together to make this beautiful creation that matches no other. I always share the common thread of survival between the women we feature, but the small details in between are what makes each woman unique and intricate. This week’s feature has an amazing story of the power of love through pain.
This midwest girl from Kansas grew up writing songs and growing her passion for singing. Of course, this wasn’t the most practical of careers in comparison to her parents and her brother, but it’s what she loved, and she happened to be very good at it. She enjoyed writing her own music, and had won awards in school for her songwriting. By the time she graduated high school, she was packed and ready to take her dreams to the next level in Los Angeles. She never stopped pushing to get her voice and music out to the masses, so she began writing and recording anywhere she could. Andrea was booking her own work and was able to survive off her music.
By 22, Andrea was touring the US, and by 25, she moved onto international tours. Amazing, right? Well, it was during this time that her health began to take an unhealthy turn. Her symptoms were all over the place, and doctors couldn’t pin point what the problem was. Before long, she was too weak to continue touring. Andrea made the hard decision to go back home to her parents. This allowed her to get some much needed rest. Over the course of a year, she lost the ability to eat, drink, and swallow correctly. Her heart, eye sight, and immune system had slowly began to shut down. And doctors were still not able to give her a diagnosis to her symptoms. Her love for singing carefully hung in the balance of her life and her health.
It was at the peak of her symptoms, she found herself in a dark abyss of emotions, not quite sure what her next move was going to be. In an attempt to keep her music from dying, she threw herself into her songwriting. She wrote about pain, surrender, and fear. She struggled with losing her fan base, feeling invisible, and having her booking agent steal money from her. But as darkness was trying to take over her glow, she remembered how God has always had her back when others turned their backs on her. This forced her to put more focus on things that were solid in her life. Things like her family, her faith, and her passion to share her music.
Although she still had many unanswered questions from doctors, she began to feel better. Her symptoms still lingered a bit, but she finally made the decision to move back to LA and give it another shot. This meant altering how she performed, moving a little slower, and re-establishing a fan base that could appreciate the pain in her songs. Her songs became a little deeper and she was able to turn her pit into a peak. Andrea grew into the artist that spoke her heart’s truth through her voice and words. And now, years later, she’s transformed herself into a woman who’s grown from her trials and gives life to anyone under the sound of her voice.
“Trust steadily in God, hope unswervingly, love extravagantly. And the best of the three is love.” 1 Corinthians 13:13
Love has motivated Andrea to be the best she can be, and She Stories loves her for sharing her journey of personal growth and healing. #tribestrong
Celebrity Edition: Jenna Kutcher
It’s Feature Friday again people!!! I know you didn’t forget, and we didn’t either! The women we feature every week have so many things in common, but the most powerful of those is triumph and courage. All our features have overcome some major trials during their lives, but they’ve all made it through. This week’s feature is no different-- she’s a survivor, a conqueror, and a boss!
MEET JENNA KUTCHER
As we all know, women have the ability to carry a heavy load. Sometimes heavier than what we think we’re able to manage. We wear so many hats, many times for other people. And we’re easily some of the world’s greatest jugglers. As I was prepared to share Jenna’s story about how she became an amazing photographer, or a social media guru, I realized that Jenna’s about to embark on her most important job yet, A MOTHER!
Jenna’s a Minnesota girl who often shares her story of how she purchased a $300 camera off Craigslist and turned it into an entire empire. I was in search of some not-so-well-known facts to share, and it dawned on me that Jenna’s story of losing a child is something that many woman have gone through.
In 2016, Jenna had shared that her and her husband had miscarried at 10 weeks. She shared how excited they were to share the new baby news, picking out clothes, deciding on colleges, and all the other “crazy” stuff we do to prepare for a little bundle. Only to hear the words from the doctor’s mouth that there’s no heartbeat, and the immediate pit that her heart fell into. What I found most admirable about Jenna’s loss is that she never lost faith. She admitted that she wasn’t mad at God for taking her child because she was chosen to walk this journey. And over the course of the next few years, she would survive another miscarriage.
At this point, most people would be asking themselves “Why is this happening to me?” But Jenna knew that she was meant to travel this journey for a bigger purpose than she was able to imagine at that time. It takes an amazing amount of strength to be able to go through something so traumatic, and still have that outlook. But she was right! The only way Jenna was able to survive that experience was by strengthening her faith, and drawing closer to the things that held her fragile heart — her family, her business, and her passions.
Just a few months ago, Jenna announced that she was once again pregnant. She also explained the emotional rollercoaster that this journey has created. Being torn over the excitement of becoming a mother and the disappointment of the last pregnancies were enough to send Jenna over the edge. But she stayed rooted and took on her pregnancy day by day. She’s already on her way to becoming an amazing mother and baby is due in early December.
One of the most important hats a woman can wear is that of being a mother. A mother is a boss babe all by herself. Not only is she running HER life, but she’s responsible for another person’s life as well, on top of everything else she does.
We love you, Jenna. And we’re excited to see what the future holds for your new baby!
FEATURE FRIDAY | Angie Hancock
Sometimes it seems like it takes FOREVER for Friday to arrive! But we’re here! We finally made it to another FEATURE FRIDAY!!! This week's feature is resilient, courageous, and has a solid belief in her ability to succeed. She’s been able to apply much of what she’s learned as a child to her adult life and her work.
Angie was born to 17 year old parents, and from that beginning, she’s learned the importance of how to deal with challenges and how to get back up. Her parents were forced to get married, and were divorced by the time she was a toddler. Primarily, Angie was raised by her grandparents, especially since her mother was so young herself. But she also knew that her mother tried and did the best with what she had at that time. She started having responsibilities around the house at a young age. She often cooked, cleaned, and watched after her sibling. Having these tasks developed her maturity, and she was able to understand how important her roles were.
Angie’s grandparents and mother all had small businesses on the side, where she would often work on weekends. She would also go to work with her mom sometimes to help file papers. Literally, she’s been working since she was 12. Her mother taught her the valuable lesson of taking pride in your workmanship and that your performance should always speak for itself. Thus, the entrepreneur was born. She instilled a solid work ethic in Angie that has rewarded her over and over again.
Her work ethics have given her favor in the Fortune 500 club, where she’s been able to partner with such companies as Hillshire Farm, Ann Taylor, Essence and Ebony magazines, and Mars Inc. She’s received multiple recognitions and awards for her hard work and dedication. Angie was honored to receive The Network Journal’s 40 under Forty Achiever Award. She finally stepped out into her own purpose and established Experience Harlem, which is a complete guide to local businesses in Harlem and Washington Heights. She covers any and everything you could possibly want to do in the area, from restaurants to live music to shopping to churches. Being that she just moved to New York from Chicago 15 years ago, she fell in love with Harlem, and has made it her mission to give back to this community, by showcasing and supporting all the business that flourish within Harlem. Since she’s not an NY native, she was often questioned on her motives and intentions for being so passionate to help Harlem. It took years to break through that ceiling, and now the community has embraced her right back. She’s a member of the Greater Harlem Chamber of Commerce, Women of Distinction, and has received the Bradhurst Merchant Association’s Business of the Year award.
Many the tools Angie has used to level up as a community leader and business owner were developed from youth, and the greatest “thank you” for those gifts is being given back to her community. We love Angie’s story because it reminds us that while life isn’t always “easy” and sometimes we have challenges, we still have something within ourselves to give to someone else. Sometimes it’s a smile, sometimes it’s time, and sometimes it’s just being pointed in the right direction when we’ve lost our way. Angie gives back to the same community that she fell in love with, even through challenging times. We love your strength and boldness Angie!!!! #tribestrong
Celebrity Edition: Lady Gaga
It’s FEATURE FRIDAY!!!!! And like always, we aim to feature a woman who’s moving her way up and bringing her tribe with her. This week’s feature is multi-faceted in her abilities and talents, but she’s mostly known for her voice and her eccentric style. Her loyal following calls her “Mother Monster”,
but we love her as Lady Gaga!!!
Stefani Joanne Angelina Germanotta is a 32 year old phenom who was born and raised in New York City. And while she was raised in the Upper West Side, her parents came from humble beginnings. As a child, education was very important, and she took it seriously, but her mother also wanted her to balance culture and the arts. Before she even started school, she began playing the piano. Not only was she able to play by ear, but she also began writing her own music and lyrics while other kids were playing tag outside. From there, she continued lessons, played at several open mics, and began acting. Lady Gaga went to an all-girls Roman Catholic school, and she was often made fun of and bullied for being so “different”. She owned who she was at a young age, and made no apologies.
That same mind set is still at her core. She’s passionate about humanity and doesn’t wait for anyone else to speak up first. She’s committed herself to natural disaster relief, politics, youth empowerment, and LGBTQ campaigns. Lady Gaga is an active educator to young women about HIV/AIDS, and has raised over $200 million to that cause alone. She’s also spoken alongside the Dalai Lama. She speaks on behalf of anti bullying and online harassment. What I love most about her philanthropy is that she’s all for the underdog. She speaks for those with no voice, and brings awareness to the forefront. She’s absolutely amazing.
We are the biggest fans of celebrities who use their status for good in serving others. We stand with those that lend their voices to causes that we, as a community, hold close like self-love, mental health, and empowerment. She Stories is only a baby right now, but as our community grows, our voices get louder. Featuring Lady Gaga this week has challenged me to speak louder for the things I care about. What about you?
We love you Gaga, and we stand with you!
FEATURE FRIDAY | Erica Brewster
Today’s not just any old Friday. It’s FEATURE FRIDAY!!!! Today’s feature is absolutely amazing. She’s a survivor, but her story isn’t all unicorns and glitter. Her beauty comes with scars that aren’t all are visible.
As I read Erica’s story, I noticed that some of the words had pain attached to them. Words like molested, depression, infertility, and loss. Anyone that has experienced any of these things knows all too well the flood of emotion and hurt that comes with them. She also recalls that while she was raised in the church, she wasn’t exempt of life’s struggles or tragedies. She learned as a young girl that just because life shows up, it doesn’t stop. It keeps going on and on and on. Erica has overcome so many obstacles in her life that could’ve easily held her down. But the tools and lessons she learned as a child helped her conquer those monsters.
Erica’s story is filled with courage and resilience. But I get the impression that she’s been blessed with the inability to give up. As if it were never in her vocabulary. Usually this is something that we, as adults, struggle with. But Erica has always believed that things in life may slow her down, she might even pause to gather herself, but she never gives up on herself.
After going through some of the things she’s gone through, many would have already gave up. Unfortunately, this defeat happens to many, and it holds us down. It makes us think that we’ll never be able to stand back up, and that this is as good as it’s ever going to be. But Erica perservered in the face of that defeat. Going through depression alone, can be life wrenching, but to add in things like loss, sexual assault, and even infertility. These things can push people over the edge. Unfortunately, it happens too often.
Erica has learned how to stay afloat, but she also learned that this doesn’t come easy for everyone. And so she’s taken on the task of empowering others with motivation and affirmations to keep themselves afloat as well. Some days, we may feel like we’re drowning, but all we need is someone to throw a lifeline. That’s Erica’s mission. To teach others, to empower others, and to motivate others through the darkness she’s lived through.
Erica is now a mother, with 2 kids of her own. And if that wasn’t enough, she’s also a mother to her 2 nieces and nephew. She’s has recently lost her sister to cervical cancer, but has used this experience to grow and expand more as her family grows through tragedy. She never stops her pursuit to expand through lessons and appreciate her blessings. So while her story may have chapters of pain, I see the triumph in Erica! We love you E!!!! And we’re proud to have you in our tribe of conquerors and survivors!
Celebrity Edition: Angela Bassett
It’s FEATURE FRIDAY again, and of course we have another female powerhouse who’s crushin her goals and helping others do the same for theirs. This week’s feature is a celebrity, one who possesses strength, endurance, and resilience, both on and off the big screen.
Angela was born in 1958, and her upbringing wasn’t without hardships. She recalls being raised by caregivers when financial burdens became too heavy at home. She had an estranged relationship with her father, and wasn’t too close to her mother until her later teen years in high school. Her mother stressed to her the importance of continuing her education and obtaining a college degree. And she did just that when she graduated from Yale, and then later graduated from the Yale School of Drama. As a child, she loved putting on shows with her sister, and performing in front of people. This passion really began to flourish throughout her college years.
I first took notice of Angela on the screen when she played Tina Turner in What’s Love Got to Do With It. She was so empowering in that role, and even at that time, I didn’t really grasp the magnitude of strength her role really entailed. Her message of bouncing back speaks volumes. Especially after abuse, many women fall into this deep endless abyss of unworthiness. They feel that there’s no possible way to rise above being beat so low. But her role and character showed great resilience in not letting her abuser have he final say so over her worthiness. She picked herself up and fought back.
After surviving the trials of her childhood, and becoming an award winning actress, Angela blended both worlds to develop her voice on campaigns for children’s arts, children’s health, foster care, and became an active Ambassador of UNICEF for the United States. She realized that children needed a voice to speak up on crucial topics for the youth. And that by empowering children while they’re still young, this can directly influence who they become as adults.
Her endless pursuit to give back, whether it’s for children, politics, or basic human rights, Angela is forever gaining new ground and finding new ways she can use her platform for a greater good. We, at She Stories, are on this same mission to support, uplift, and motivate other women who might be on a down slope. We may need to throw a rope down to someone who can’t find their way out, and to help them create their own “bounce back” story.
We love you Angela!!!
FEATURE FRIDAY | Cristina
It’s our favorite day of the week again, FEATURE FRIDAY!!! We love to feature women near and far. This week’s feature comes to us from beautiful Portland! She has a deep seeded passion for music and a never ending need to help those around her, primarily foster care and at-risk youth.
Cristina was born in Rome, Italy, but was reborn in Portland in 2014. Before she even knew English, she was introduced to American music. She developed her love for singing through such artists as Mariah Carey, Michael Jackson, Jimi Hendrix, Bob Marley, and Culture Club. When she was ushered into the world of music videos, this only extended her love because now the music was visual. She loved that the artist could bring the words to life using their voice, while the video gave a visual interpretation. This was also a major tool in her learning English. For her 6th birthday, she bought Michael Jackson’s Dangerous album. She wrote down the lyrics and recited them over and over again, until she knew the song by heart. But she also wanted to know what the words meant, so she used a dictionary to interpret their meanings. As we know, music is a universal language, but Cristina was able to apply this learning to assist her in communicating with others.
As she fell more in love with Portland and the energy she received, she was able to plant her feet in film and new media. But she also developed a love for humanity, and began volunteering for causes both in the US and in Italy. She found herself moved to raise awareness for children in the foster care system, and has used her voice to bring this matter to surface in her community. Cristina has a heart to help others, especially those that aren’t in a position at the moment, to help themselves.
Since Italy is such a major part of who she is, she’s used her abilities to evolve the Italian Film Festival in Portland, OR. Cristina and her crew bring movies, entertainment and the Italian culture to her community. After seeing how many people really enjoy the taste of Italy she brings, she was able to redefine and eliminate stereotypes that many had of Italians. She features great quality and ORIGINAL films with English subtitles. And the best part is that this festival is completely free for anyone who’d love to attend. It’s important for her to educate and spread her love of Italy to those around her.
Cristina is a leader, and uses every avenue she’s travelled to bring joy to others, whether it be through her music, through her events, or through her campaigns. She Stories is right along with her. We all come from somewhere, we’ve all experienced some sort of fear when it comes to learning new things, but we’re all driven to help empower and educate those around us, by using whatever tools we’ve been given, and Cristina has done just that. Keep it up Cristina! We got you!!
PS…Cristina’s new music video for her song, Call Me, has just been released. This is her first music video, so please don’t hesitate to click the video below and show some support and encouragement. #tribe
Celebrity Edition: Joanna Gaines
We love us some celebrities here at She Stories, so today we’re having another “CELEBRITY EDITION”. In keeping up with our upcoming event, “Behind My Smile”, where we’ll be discussing mental health, we wanted this week’s feature to have first hand experience of going through and overcoming a major mental health obstacle. Being that celebrities may be put on a pedestal different that you and I, one thing in common are the mental health issues. As we know, mental health can break a person on any level. It doesn’t discriminate against race, religion, sexual orientation, criminal background, IQ scores, or credit rating. Literally ANYONE can have a “mental health moment”. This week’s feature has experienced these moments from the young age of 5.
She’s amazingly crafty, and has one of the greatest eyes for design. She’s also gorgeous, with such simple yet classic features. She’s also a mother of 5……YES! 5!!!! I believe anyone with more than 2 (or 1, depending on the kid) can be considered a SUPER MOM, but 5? I applaud any mom at this level of the game.
Joanna has spoken openly about her history and experiences with being bullied as a child, and the long lasting effects it had on her as an adult. Being that she is Lebanese, German, and Korean, she learned early on that she was “different”. In Kindergarten, she recalls being made fun of by the other kids for looking different than everyone else. Of course, at that age, she didn’t know how to process that kind of behavior or those words, but she felt “not good enough”. The feelings of not really fitting in or being popular became all too familiar as she carried on through school. She remembers not knowing who to sit with in the dreaded high school cafeteria, so she ate her lunch in the restroom. All those years of internalizing everyone’s scrutiny for not fitting in or looking like everyone else. That’s a lot of stress on a person’s mental health!
She has also admitted to putting on a smile and covering up the fact that she was hurting inside. Doing this is one of the most powerful ways to break down your own mental well-being. We can feed ourselves endless reasons why we’re not good enough, or why we’re not worthy of greatness. It happens every single day.
Joanna has also gone on to mention that her experiences as a youth gave her a unique tool as a mother. She has used these lessons and in turn, teaches her own children to be a friend to someone who might not have many friends. Kids learn at a young age to either sink or swim, and she’s teaching them to swim, but to help someone who might be struggling. What an amazing life tool, because this also applies to us as adults. That’s what we’re about at She Stories, using our life experiences to help other women overcome theirs, and to keep the cycle going.
We’re forever a fan, Joanna! (And congrats on the new baby!)
FEATURE FRIDAY | Dawn Benson
Hey ladies!! (and any gents that may be reading this…) *we don’t discriminate* ; )* I hope you ALL had an amazing 4th of July, and that your month has started off with a bang, both literally and figuratively. It couldn’t be any more fitting that this week’s feature is a great big amazing firework herself.
Those who know me, know that I weigh heavily on words, meanings, and understandings. And as I got to going over Dawn’s information she had sent in, I kept seeing fireworks in my head. I was visualizing the process a firework goes through to have this amazing end result of lights, sparkles, and color. And it all seemed to fit with Dawn’s story.
Like many young girls or young women, Dawn felt she was ahead of her time. She was eager to see what the world had out there, and felt that she was mature enough to handle it. So she began exploring her curiosity a bit prematurely, which is typical with most teens, but as we know, most teens aren’t anywhere NEAR ready to handle the world and everything it throws at us.
At the tender age of 16, Dawn fell in love. She was in love with him, and he was “crazy” for her. It was perfect! This is the lighting of the firework in my analogy. A flame is sparked, and it looks great. We’re excited to see it shoot off.
Well, before long, she was learning what an abusive relationship looks, feels, and acts like. She wasn’t learning this through seeing a family member go through it, she was experiencing this all herself. She found herself being completely controlled by her boyfriend. He kept Dawn on a tight leash. He made sure she didn’t go out looking too attractive. Eventually this lead to him beating her, just to make sure she was less desirable to the opposite sex. He let her know that nobody else could have her, and that if she ever thought of leaving, her family and friends, AND HERSELF, were all at risk. Her flame was dying. Similar to how you light the wick on a firework, and sometimes the flame goes out right before it blasts off. This is what was happening to Dawn, she was losing her glow.
But like we all know, right when the flame on the wick goes out, it’s only a matter of time before the firework takes off. It climbs higher and higher. This is exactly what took place in Dawn’s life. Just when her light faded, she didn’t see a way out. But one day, IT HAPPENED! She saw God standing by an open door, waiting for her to find her way to it. She was eventually able to get out of the chains she was in, and be set free. And just like the firework, she climbed and climbed, to seek the woman she was designed to be and to develop the purpose that was on her life. Her firework exploded to show the amazing display of light, sparkle, and color.
Today, Dawn serves others as a Minister and a Prophet, but she’s also a wife, a sister, and a friend. She uses her journey of abuse to help women going through the same journey. She owns the responsibility she’s been given to encourage and motivate others, and to use her story as a tool to repair broken spirits and hearts.
Dawn is absolutely amazing AND she’s a SURVIVOR! We love you, Dawn, and are honored to help you spread your testimony of strength during weak moments. #isurvived
We always think of our features as bold and fierce women from all different parts, and diverse backgrounds. If I had to visualize a random feature, it’d definitely be in the form of Wonder Woman. This week’s feature is more of a Tinkerbell with magic under her wings.
Let’s give a standing ovation to this week’s Feature Friday, Chante Cruse!
Chante is a true creative, in the entire definition. She’s a musician, a dancer, a natural hairstylist, a radio personality, and an educator. She has her hands in so many different places and making so many different moves, it’s no wonder she looks as young and as full of life as a high school graduate. She has played the Saxophone since she was 8. Then in 2015, she relocated to New Orleans to immerse herself fully into jazz music and arts education. Chante is also a professional Modern and West African dancer. She’s been featured in videos for Solange and Tariq Al-Sabir. Her ultimate professional goal is to found and manage her own performing arts school. SIGN ME UP!
Moving back to Cali has allowed her to gain experience as a natural hairstylist. Chante is also the host of an amazing self care podcast called, Good Morning, Bae. You can catch her live every Tuesday morning! She’s also a co-host on Dani’s Dilemmas, where I had initially met her. She’s absolutely beautiful on the outside, but then she speaks, and she captures you in conversation. I love when a person speaks with authority, but doesn’t hog the mic. She speaks with confidence and knows how to use her words. On top of all that, she also loves to write, paint, and meditate. She’s unstoppable!
Chante has always had a spiritual connection with God, even as a child. From a young girl, she was surrounded by spiritually gifted people, who enabled her to align herself with the voice of God, which set her apart from the “rest”. Being unique as a child developed her to be unique as a woman. Pair that with her natural leadership skills, and you have a female force with mogul minded intelligence. It’s only right that Oprah is one of her major inspirations.
Being that Chante has lived in 4 different places in the last 10 years, she’s learned to tread lightly on the word “friends”. And she considers her true friends to be the ones who hold it down no matter the distance, time, and moves. Her tribe is one she can count on to push her to the finish line when she feels she’s falling behind. They remind her of how far she’s come whenever self doubt tries to make an appearance. She leans on her tribe, and when they need to lean, she’s there to support as well.
She’s an amazing soul, with an even more amazing mind. And we can’t wait to see what’s in store next for our girl!
GET IT CHANTE!!!!!! You are loved!
Celebrity Edition: Gabrielle Union
Sometimes, we enjoy featuring our favorite celebrities. We like doing this for a few reasons. One, because they’re using the platform they’ve been blessed with to speak on topics that they’re passionate about. And two, because their stories aren’t too far from us “commoners”. Not everyone has a traumatic story, but everyone has a journey of growth. And one thing we believe is that we’re all headed up the same mountain, we just take different routes to get to the next level. Some are harder than others, but we’re all striving to be greater, while throwing down some rope to the climbers below.
This week’s feature is an award winning actress, the wife of NBA star Dwayne Wade, an activist who’s voice has been heard speaking for assaulted women, rape victims, political outreach, equal rights campaigns, and an award winning author.
She is none other than Gabrielle Union.
Born in Nebraska, Gabrielle was the daughter of a social worker and a military sergeant. As a child, she was always raised to stand on her own and to be independent. So she had a sense of discipline, while also having empathy for other people’s situations. Her parents raised her to look at the world as a whole unit of uniqueness, and to appreciate the differences in others, not just herself.
As a young girl, Gabrielle struggled with her personal appearances, and always felt that she wasn’t pretty enough. She didn’t see many people that looked like her on the covers of magazines. Her idea of what real beauty was consisted of blonde hair and porcelain skin, and it took her a very long time to see that the outer appearance was a very small piece of what made people like her beautiful. Then, at 19, she became a survivor of rape, and she gradually learned that despite this low point, she had a voice and an obligation to stand for herself.
After making her debut in television, she later transitioned into movies, and so she began building her own safe place to speak on matters that moved her personally such as sexual assault. She also made a way to share her voice in movements for Trayvon Martin, abortion, and violence against women.
If there’s one thing that personal experience teaches us, it’s that we have the ability to overcome. And this is exactly the lesson that Gabrielle needed to receive in order to turn her circumstances around, and help others through their growth as well. Having the experience of sexual abuse, lack of self love, and the passion to stand for the underdog has given Gabrielle the volume to speak her truth. She’s a survivor! She fell back on the words she learned growing up about standing for herself. This has allowed her to help others that have gone through some of the same issues.
Last year, Gabrielle published her first book, We’re Going to Need More Wine, where she elaborates on her personal stories that range anywhere from sexuality to womanhood to marriage. She also acknowledges that she’s graduating to another stage in her life, where she’s more concerned with her inner well being, rather than the outer beauty she once idolized.
We love you Gabrielle, for your growth, your beauty, and your transparency. We love you for creating a safe place for women to embrace their flaws and to grow through them. She’s #tribestrong and we couldn’t love her more!
We’re back ladies! And we have another treat for you today. This week’s feature has her hands in a little bit of everything; modeling, writing, podcast personality, a mother, a wife, and most importantly, she’s a survivor.
MEET DANIELLE aka Dani!
When I first met Dani, I was greeted with a huge smile, and easily one of the best hugs ever! Have you ever given someone a hug, and felt a connection of real sisterhood? Like an old friend you haven’t seen in forever. Yeah, that was her hug. Her smile was big, and her energy was even bigger. But just like every diamond, she went through a long, hard coal phase.
Shortly after having children, Dani found herself in a spin cycle of hormones and emotions which lead to postpartum depression. This spiral grew further into anxiety and PTSD. All the while, she’s having to maintain appearances to her family, her friends, and her associates. In order to cope with everything, she relied on anti depressants and opioids, which also took her down path of addiction.
Anyone who’s ever experienced these things knows that having young kids alone, is an on and off battle of sanity. Let alone any mental health issues or addictions to go with it. Dani was on the verge of losing her mind (literally) and most of all, losing herself. In a society that didn’t embrace all her attributes, her light was dimmed by endless amounts of criticism, lack of respect, and little support for who she was and who she wanted to be.
It took quite a while before the wheels of change gained their momentum, and she was able to make some revisions in her life. Part of that was owning her truth, and knowing 100% who she was. She’s black, she’s loud, she’s raw, and her presence was not to be shut down. Society had tried to force her to tame herself, quiet her voice, and blend in a little more. But she knew she was purposed for something greater.
She was learning to embrace her body and her curves, which turned into modeling. She also developed a platform which allowed to speak freely about topics she felt needed to be heard. As the host of the weekly podcast, Dani’s Dilemmas, she turned the same voice that was once criticized into an open forum to discuss real life issues like parenting, divorce, LGBTQ related matters, and cultural appropriation.
Dani is now thriving and paying it forward by helping others in her community to acknowledge their own voice, and teaching them how to use it effectively. She’s managed to uprise her downfalls, while maintaining a career, a home, a marriage, and her sanity.
We love you Dani, and we’re honored to have you as a part of our TRIBE!
On a side note, you can listen to SheStories on Dani's Dilemmas below. We laughed, sipped some wine, and discussed parenting.
Celebrity Edition: Blake Lively
G’mornin tribe!! HAPPY FEATURE FRIDAY!!! This week’s feature has her hands in television and movies, her smile can light up a midnight sky, and her husband is none other than Ryan Reynolds *swoon*. Yes, this weeks feature is BLAKE LIVELY!!
Growing up, Blake always had the gift of acting, but didn’t want to professionally pursue it until later in life. Her mother was a talent scout, and her father was an actor. So her creative side was heavily nurtured at a very young age. Her parents also taught acting classes, and instead of paying for a babysitter, they brought Blake along to the classes. She would soak up the lessons like a sponge. Before she was even a teenager, Blake had learned so much from watching her parents coach up-and-coming actors and actresses. This led to earning a role in her first movie, which her father directed in 1998, Sandman. Applying the skills she learned, Blake gained self confidence and discipline. She was coming out of her shell.
But acting and Ryan aren’t her only passions. She’s a skilled and credited pastry chef, and has a love for interior design. She’s a perfect match with Martha Stewart, who she’s also done projects with. She’s also given her voice in politics, showing her support for Barack Obama. She’s used her acting to star in campaign commercials for the 44th President. She also involved herself with MoveOn.org as an advocate for their Youth Vote program. She spoke out for awareness in support of women’s issues in education, justice, and health. Her plate has been filled with more projects that she holds close, while maintaining her presence in Hollywood. She’s unstoppable!
Other than Blake’s bright smile on the screens, we’re in love with her passion to not be silenced for what she believes in. She goes all-in for the purposes that she can have the most impacts. And she does it with grace and style. She’s learned to take some of the things she learned as a child in those acting classes, and use them to broaden her voice and audience. Blake is fully aware of the gifts she’s been blessed with, and has paid it forward to bring awareness to important topics concerning women.
We love you Blake! (And Ryan too!)
Glenda K. Harrison
The more we do Feature Fridays, the more I’m reminded that there are so many dope, courageous, inspiring women out there. It doesn’t matter whether they’re business owners, students, or just your normal day to day hustler. These women all have something to give; their voice, their truth, and their journey.
This week’s feature has had several ups and downs along her path. She’s covered a majority of the spectrum when it comes to chasing her dreams.
Tribe, meet Glenda K. Harrison!
As a girl, when all the other kids in the neighborhood were outside, riding bikes, and jumping rope, Glenda could be found in her mother’s closet, trying on her clothes. Putting different pieces together and learning how to appreciate a pattern and texture. Some little girls like to wear dresses, but Glenda took it to the next level. In her free time, she loved to go to the library, browse all the fashion magazines, then go home to call her friends and coordinate the next day’s outfit for them to all wear.
Later, as a young woman, she was groomed to believe that her dreams wouldn’t bring much success or wealth. She was encouraged to chase a typical 9 to 5, that it would be more stable. But her heart knew what it wanted. So Glenda continued to pursue her passion for fashion by furthering her education at FIDM (Fashion Institute of Design and Merchandising).
Then, 30 plus years later, life had brought her along a different path. She had married, birthed two sons, buried her mother, and internalized years of harsh words and people telling her she couldn’t. All this weighed heavy on her, as she was prepared to bury her dreams and goals. And in doing this, she would essentially bury herself. But Glenda knew her truth, which was to take these experiences she’s had over the last thirty years, and use them to proceed down her journey and passion. It took the launch of a non profit in her mother’s memory and some other life changing moments to reveal that she was ready to let the world know who Glenda K. Harrison really is, and to be the woman she’s always desired to be.
At the seasoned aged of 48, she began her blog, So What to Twenty. This was used to relaunch her way into the fashion industry. While the industry is head over heels for the twenty-somethings, Glenda used her platform to let everyone know that the elder woman is a vibrant and bold being, and not to be overlooked. On her road of self discovery, she shared her journey with her readers, and this eventually turned itself into her first book, A Place Called Peace.
Glenda has gone on to be featured in Chico’s blog and campaigns. At 50, she began a project that has unfolded over several decades - a book on the subject of fashion and style. As she continued to peel away her own layers to discover her true self, she learned that fashion is not just about the clothes you wear. It’s more than that. It’s the essence of the very beauty we see in ourselves. Last year, Glenda published TRUE STYLE: A Look Beyond the Surface, launched her website, STYLE, and a virtual styling service called The Harmony Approach.
She is currently finding every opportunity to share her findings with the rest of the world. Showing other women how to use their past to make their future flourish, and that there are no mistakes, only learning opportunities.
One thing her mother told her before she left this earth was, “One day, you’re going to fly.” Her mother was right, because she’s still soaring. She’s proven that there’s still power left in her wings.
We've added an excerpt of her books, The Purpose of Butterfly Wings. It's an amazing piece about the significance and beauty behind a butterfly's wings, and every woman should read it.
We love you Glenda! #tribestrong
It’s our favorite day of the week at She Stories, Feature Friday! Last week’s feature was a woman who pushed for loving your body. Well, this week’s feature pushes for loving what you put ON your body. It’s almost cliche to say that self love and fashion are like Christmas and Santa, they just go together. When you’re on a journey of loving your body, it’s easy to take notice to how things hug your curves, or what colors favor your skin. And our feature this week sees the beauty in all of it.
Meet Marymarie Nevels!
I’ve had the pleasure of meeting Marymarie at a recent Shestories event, and let me just say, “She’s a brick house!” She is amazingly beautiful. Like a queen palm, tall and mighty with a flowing crown of fronds. Absolutely stunning! Upon meeting her, I had no idea she had such a long journey in fashion, but once I learned of her passion, it made perfect sense why she was flawlessly put together.
Marymarie has made it her mission to spread the importance of self acceptance and diversity in fashion. She’s a born Southern girl from Nashville. As a young woman, the modeling bug had bitten her while she was in high school, when she was asked to take part in her school’s prom fashion show. Shortly after, she was requested to model for a local department store. Marymarie knew she was onto something.
Armed with her brains and her beauty, she graduated high school, and went on to intern for Tommy Hilfiger New York, and was mentored by Ginny Hilfiger, Tommy’s sister. During her internship, she was able to shine and flourish, so it wasn’t long before Ginny encouraged her to enroll in the Fashion Institute of Technology in New York. This lead her to complete her Bachelor’s Degree from Middle Tennessee State University and then go back to New York city where she graduated with honors from F.I.T. Marymarie didn’t stop there though, she proceeded to work for such companies as Fendi, Diane Von Furstenberg, and Ralph Lauen. She thrived in fashion, and eventually came to a plateau. She wanted to expand on her purpose, so she set her eyes on Los Angeles, where she’s been able to grow her career opportunities by getting back into modeling, and also working in styling and sales.
One of the greatest things about Marymarie is that she doesn’t quit. She’s continuously setting new and higher goals for herself. She’s been in LA for 5 years now. And while she’s a signed model in Beverly Hills, she’s also known as a micro influencer/blogger. She’s been a model for Tasha Apparel, and an Instagram model for Fox Bait LA. She’s also been featured in Oxygen Magazine for a piece with Moriche Palm, a fitness platform that celebrates women’s curves.
She wants to eventually work around the world as a model/fashion influencer. Her hustle is inspirational, and it’s pretty safe to say she was (literally) built for this. She understands the importance of feeling good in what you wear, while looking good and living your best life possible. Her work mode is unstoppable, and she’s proven over and over that she can crush any goal she sets her mind to. The words she lives by are simple, “GO BIG OR GO HOME!” And it’s applied to almost any and all situations she may come across.
We love you Marymarie, and we love what you bring to the self-love community!
As women, we tend to get sucked into society’s definition of what’s beautiful. Your skin can’t be too light or too dark. You can’t have too many curves. God forbid your thighs touch! Well, She Stories embraces all of it. The light, the dark, the slim, the thick, the curly, the straight, every single little detail about your body is exactly what makes you beautiful.
This week’s feature has seen the dark side of self harm and eating disorders, and has transformed into a body loving coach. She’s nothing short of DOPE.
Meet Cera Byer!
If you were able to make our event last weekend, you caught a glimpse of this femme fatale in the black dress. I had the opportunity to chat with her before she went on to speak, and it was just like having “girl talk”. We laughed about thigh sweat, and other joys of womanhood. She’s got curves for days, and you could tell that this woman loves her body and loves herself. This was the exact focus of the night.
Cera comes from Oakland, and everything about her mannerisms, vocab, and expressions give life. She has a flavor that you can’t quite put a finger on, so you take another bite, and before you know it, you devoured your whole plate.
She was put on her first diet at 6 years old, and addicted to ephedra from 11 to 22. She learned from a young age that her body wasn’t like everyone else. She was bullied and teased, and by the time puberty hit, she hated the skin she was in. At such a sensitive time in her life as a young woman, she was already carrying several years of baggage of this shell that never quite fit in anywhere.
This lead her to a path of self destruction. She began cutting and starving herself. She comforted the years of self hate with sexual encounters that did nothing to ease the pain. After a few times of almost losing her own life, she knew she was at a crossroad. It wasn’t until she was 27 that she realized that she wanted to live. The sole thought of “Maybe I don’t want to die yet” was exactly the tool she needed to begin the shift. After that, came several “Maybe I should” moments.
“Maybe I should stop being so mean to myself.”
“Maybe I should giving BS people access to my body.”
“Maybe I should support my own dreams without reservation.”
After years of learning how to shift her heart, she soon realized that she was absolutely in love with herself. The moth emerged from the cocoon as a butterfly. The same body she was groomed to hate and tried to change, was the same body that she now embraced. She found the “flaws” to be unique, like a custom designer dress. Cera knew that the only door to self love was through her own heart. And instead of changing how her body looked, she changed the way she felt about it.
Before she knew it, people were reaching out to Cera, letting her know how much of an inspiration she is. And this triggered The BodyLove Lab, a 7 week program that offers healing in the relationship between you and your body. She coaches women on how to love every curve they’re blessed with, and how to not look at our bodies as “the enemy”. She’s also a dancer, an artist, and a writer. She’s absolutely limitless.
So many times, we hit dark times in our lives, but it’s what comes out of he dark that really matters. Cera has managed to turn every thought of self hate into the exact opposite, and she’s teaching other women to do the same.
We love having Cera in our tribe of fierce women!
Celebrity Edition: Demi Lovato
This week’s celebrity feature is bold, strong, and courageous. Like most of the feature’s prior, she embodies perseverance, determination, and is no stranger to the struggle. She’s managed to overcome hurdles like being bullied as a child, being raised in a split household, an abusive relationship with her father, eating disorders, addiction….the list can go on.
Meet Demi Lovato!
A young girl, born in New Mexico, but raised in Texas, Demi struggled with finding her own identity, like many children. She had been bullied for years, until she finally begged to be homeschooled. She knew from a young age that she was different. She wasn’t like everyone else. She didn’t realize how much of a blessing this would later be.
Demi has spoken on her abusive and strained relationship with her father, and even acknowledges the mental illness he suffered with. She’s also been through her share of romantic relationships, but later learned that in order for her to love anyone else fully, she would need to first love herself.
She’s been vocal about her issues with depression, self harm, bulimia, and bipolar disorder. All of which are far too common among young women. Demi soon found herself on a road of self destruction and a false sense of self acceptance.
This would eventually lead her to rehab and recovery. Not only recovery from her substance abuse, but a full recovery of herself as a capable woman. Her strength was rediscovered, and she knew that she had to completely shift her focus to healing herself. She stayed in a sober living facility until she felt it was safe for her to return to her own home. In a sense, she was starting over, but with time came her motivation to stay clean and sober. Embracing her addictions and what she needed to overcome it, Demi was also able to tackle her mental health matters as well as her self harming behavior and bulimia. Dealing with addiction alone, is a huge mountain to climb and conquer, but to add everything else to it was on another level. She found that her ability to endure was greater than herself, and this ignited the fire to keep going.
In an effort to maximize her voice on the issues that mattered most, she used her platform to gain awareness on matters like gay rights, mental health, addiction, and eating disorders. She has also become a spokeswoman for an organization called PACER, who stands against bullying, as well as a school advocacy program, children’s hospitals throughout Souther California, and several campaigns for the LGBTQ community. She’s lent her voice to companies who build and encourage others, especially the younger generation.
SHE’S A BOSS!!!!!
What we love most about Demi, is her ability to not be held down by her faults. They’re nothing more than mere speed bumps in the road. She’s accepted that some things may need more time than others to work through, but she’s willing and capable. And while she’s healing herself, she’s also trying to lend her hand out to help others. And that’s what this is really all about. Learning from your struggles, and using those lessons to teach others. Seeing what’s missing in our younger generation, and filling in those gaps. Demi is so dope, and her strength continues to motivate us to keep going.
YOU ARE LOVED, DEMI!
We, at She Stories, are always moved by fellow women’s strength, endurance, and resilience. This week’s feature is nothing short of all this. She’s a creative, a nurturer in her community, a business owner, and a mom. Need we say more?
Meet Samantha Davis!
Samantha grew up in a single parent household. Her mother was an immigrant from Guatemala, who also pursued furthering her education and went on to earn her Master’s Degree in Psychology. She always taught Samantha the importance of success through hard work, and nothing less. With this drive and motivation, she applied herself and graduated college, after which she began her career in Visual Communications. This eventually developed into her role at Anthopologie as a Visual Manager. Samantha is no stranger to hard work.
But her story doesn’t end here.
While her corporate career allowed her to grow to the next level, she learned many new truths about herself, her life, and her purpose. Samantha knew she wanted to help others through healing and the growth attached to inner peace. In 2016, she became a Yoga Instructor, which was also a personal goal of hers. This new journey gave her the opportunity to be instrumental in other’s healing. She found this to be one of the most gratifying moments in her life. This was all prepping Samantha for her next role.
Only months later, she found that she was pregnant, and she’s been on the move ever since. Being pregnant renewed her mind, her body, and her soul. She was empowered more than ever. She realized that she was capable of anything. Samantha took full advantage of everything her pregnancy had to offer, from prenatal yoga, to water birth, and to placenta encapsulation. Despite all her joys from being pregnant, once she gave birth to her daughter, she found herself with an overwhelming sadness. Self doubt had taken over, and she felt like she was losing herself. She questioned her ability to be an adequate mother and partner. She had to rediscover herself, so while she was out on maternity leave, she started Mommy Made Encapsulation SoCal, which offers postpartum support to new mothers. Adapting to life as a new mom wasn’t even close to wearing Samantha down, she was also adapting to a new way of life, and a new business.
YOU GO GIRL!
Before this life, Samantha felt the need for things to be as perfect as possible, and to always do things herself. Now, she owes much of her drive to the support of her tribe. She learned that life isn’t perfect, things go wrong sometimes, but that there’s a lesson in every trial. Her business has given her the gift of witnessing woman persevere through postpartum, and this has allowed her daily motivation and inspiration from the very women seeking her professional support. What a blessing!
Samantha’s favorite quote ever is from Maya Angelou, “Strong women. May we know them, may we be them, and may we raise them.” This week’s amazing feature is doing just that.
WE LOVE YOU SAMANTHA!
Celebrity Edition: Adrienne Bailon
In continued celebration of powerful women using their voices to encourage and feed other women, we wanted to go with a woman who’s cultured, a women who’s seen trials both personally and professionally, and a woman who uses her platform to help others going through similar trials. This week’s feature is none other than the beautiful Adrienne Bailon.
This 35 year old Puerto Rican/Ecuadorian gem grew up in New York. Even though she wanted to pursue a medical career, it didn’t take her long to discover her true passion for singing and performing. Early in her career, Adrienne began singing in the group 3LW, but later expanded her audience by becoming a Cheetah girl. She’s been in a huge range of tv shows, and more recently, a member of the panel on The Real.
I didn’t really follow her in her music, and The Cheetah Girls was my daughter’s generation, but the more I watched her on television, the more I admired her transparency in sharing personal bumps in the road along with the viewers.
Adrienne recently opened up about being sexually harassed by a record executive, and how going through that made her stronger. She admitted that she was young at the time, but that the fear she felt was strong enough to keep her quiet. She decided that she would never allow fear to compromise her strength in standing up for herself or anyone else. She is also no stranger to failed relationships that required healing and inner growth to overcome. Adrienne has shared how she’s taken lessons from these relationships to fine tune her strengths and recognize her weaknesses in the dating world.
She has gone on to confirm that her greatest support has come from her faith in God, and that He carried her through the Hollywood scene during her younger years, and really protected her from taking darker roads when times were tougher. We all know the power of those who try to knock us off our course, but much of our inner strength comes from above.
Adrienne is a ray of bronze beauty, with the balance of sweet and spice. We love her energy, and the light she gives off despite the darkness she’s passed through. She’s relatable to women on all levels, and has the heart for uplifting women through her struggles.
She’s a part of our tribe! We love you Adrienne!
This week’s feature has a personal closeness to our tribe at She Stories. As a matter of fact, she’s the head of the tribe!
Meet our very own EHMANDAH!!!!
If you’ve ever gotten the chance to meet Ehmandah in person, you know her vibe is infectious. The energy she gives off leaves you feeling like you can take over anything that comes your way. This gift was evident as a young girl. She was raised to know her worth, recognize where it comes from, and to remain humble no matter how successful she becomes. Ehmandah belonged to a tribe of women that grew her and motivated her life before it was cool to belong to a tribe. Her support system consistently nurtured her dreams, desires, and goals. The force was strong!
As a young woman, like many of us, she fell in love with the man of her dreams. The honeymoon phase was an understatement. And she knew that he was THE ONE, even with the normal ups and downs all relationships go through. However, a few years into this love affair, she found herself in a real life domestic violence relationship. Before long, her own life was being compromised. She knew she had a choice to make, but she had to make this decision on her own two feet. Like most women in domestic violence situations, we hide the truth from everyone, our family, our friends…our tribe. The glow she had as a young girl had dimmed to a flicker. But she also had a daughter in this relationship, and she knew that this decision wasn’t just for herself, but for her child. She accepted the only way through this matter, was to get out. That one choice added just the right amount of fuel to get a spark going again.
And through the journey of emotional healing, self awareness, and forgiveness, she was able to bring that young girl back to life. And she came back fierce! The support from the sisterhood she left out for so long was stronger than ever. Ehmandah went back to those self affirmations from youth, and remembered how dope she really is. “You are worthy.” “You’re a bad chick.” “There’s no one like you.”
These little reminders were strong enough to keep the fire going, but she knew that she didn’t go through all of this just for the experience. She needed to use her experience to help others that might be going through similar situations. The more she shared her story, she found that her scenario wasn’t that uncommon. There’s women everywhere who’s light has lost it’s glow for whatever reason, and she made it her mission to help them switch the light back on.
Ehmandah has always known she had a purpose. She called on God to help direct her path as a Life Revisionist, because He had also directed her path when her own life was being revised, and it’s been non stop ever since. She Stories is the product of that choice she made several years ago. She Stories is about seeing your own self worth, and growing it to the next level. She Stories is a tribe of women that all have the common thread of empowerment.
WE LOVE YOU EHMANDAH!!!!!
Celebrity Edition: Danai Gurira
When we were thinking of who the celebrity should be, we thought “Who embodies a tribe mentality?” Danai Gurira won the vote.
This week’s feature is an actress who possesses everything powerful and beautiful about a woman. She’s known for her role in The Walking Dead, where she plays Michonne, a fearless femme hero who’s as cut-throat as the zombies.
I’m not too sure if there’s anyone left that hasn’t seen Black Panther yet, but if you haven’t, YOU SHOULD! The movie itself, is a masterpiece flowing with a great storyline, strength, beauty, and a message. Danai played a leader named Okoye, over the Dora Milaje tribe of women. She lead the tribe, stood loyal to her king, and fought courageously for her country, Wakanda. There’s a million reasons why Okoye would be a great feature, if I ever started doing fictional features, but I was eager to learn more about Danai.
She has her hands in so many different causes, but mainly pursues opportunities to empower women, women’s equality, and women’s rights. She founded a non profit called Love Our Girls, a group driven on equal rights and higher education for young girls and women. Danai believes that empowered women will empower women, and She Stories believes the same.
Her mother was a librarian, so books on any subject were homed at her fingertips. Her father was an educator. This allowed her to see the benefits of having further education, and gave her the push to continue hers. She works to make higher education more reachable for young women. Danai's from a small town in Iowa, where she went by Dede. Overall, she had a great childhood, but always knew she was different. Her family was 1 of 2 black families in her town. Going by Dede helped her “fit in” as a child. It was a lot “safer” for people to read. Shortly after, her family moved back to Zimbabwe. Over the next few years of her adolescence, her cultural roots began to take hold in her. She questioned why she didn’t speak Shona, her parent’s natural language. Danai quickly embraced the language and learned to appreciate it’s phonics in comparison to the American English she was used to. By embracing who she was culturally, she was able to set her longtime nickname free, and taking on her original true form, Danai. She came to recognize that she had rejected her own culture in an effort to blend in with everyone else, and that it was highly unacceptable. She was finally enjoying the fact that she wasn’t born to fit in. She was birthed to be bold.
Loving who she is has helped strengthened her platform, and has given her the tools to bring this out of other women. Danai understands that women are not second class citizens. We’re leaders and brave beings. She also understands that part of who she is, is an American. She’s appreciative of what being American has given to her, but has learned to balance this appreciation with the love for her culture.
Love Our Girls is the outcome of this balance. She Stories seeks out to celebrate strength in women, and everything that unites us, no matter how different we might be. The single thread that combines us is our love for self, and spreading this to everyone else.
We love you Danai!
She Stories is all about sharing amazing stories about amazing women. Women that have gone through various challenges in life, and have overcome. Women that use those lessons as a game plan for their ever-changing lives. This week’s feature is just that woman.
Meet Melody Godfred.
This particular woman is a mama of 5 year old twin girls, Stella and Violet. PLUS she has a bun in the oven. Teddy is set to arrive next month, and if there’s one thing we love more than an awesome boss babe, it’s a PREGNANT awesome boss babe! Especially while we’re in a season of honoring phenomenal women with the rest of the world, it’s awesome to be able to share living proof of what a woman is really capable of.
Not only does she juggle motherhood in with all her daily ventures, but she teaches others how to fall in love with themselves. This can be a challenge all in itself because it takes a WILLING participant and unfortunately, the willing are fewer. The average person will say they’re willing, but won’t be actively seeking to love themselves first, for whatever reason. Something like your typical New Year’s resolution.
Melody was a very successful litigation lawyer, and thrived in her position in a prestigious firm. However, over time, she realized that this career was sucking every good force of life right out of her body. Law is about conflict, and in many cases leaves a sour taste in one’s mouth. She began to feel a stronger disconnect from the good inside of herself, as she grew within her firm. She eventually rounded up the courage to venture down a more creative path by writing and publishing a novel, The Agency: Hollywood Talent, CIA Managed. She also launched her first company, Write In Color, a career development and personal branding company, that is still growing today. This is where she plants the seeds in others, and also provides the water to help it grow.
Melody is also the founder of Fred and Far, which is a Self Love Movement, powered by her first Self Love Pinky Ring. She realized that she needed daily affirmations to make sure that if nobody else built her up, she would do it herself. She vowed to honor herself first, and to always be mindful of her purpose and worth. Others around her began to jump on board, and together they made pinky promises to themselves to love themselves first and to always push for self discovery. The women that took the leap of faith to follow her make up Melody’s tribe. They provide her the encouragement and inspiration to keep seeking the best version of herself. Fred and Far is her heart’s passion.
She’s also managed to spread her word’s throughout California and beyond. Melody was a featured mentor at the Teen Vogue Summit, as well as speaking at Claremont McKenna College for the Claremont Women in Business.
Her mantra is also the Fred and Far pinky promise pledge: “I pinky promise to choose myself, honor myself, and remember myself daily.” She confirmed the magic that takes place inside yourself when this is the intention. I am definitely going to give this a try, and challenge my sisters to do the same…Choose Yourself, Honor Yourself, And Remember Yourself Daily! We can do it!
Love you Melody,
You’re an amazing BOSS BABE!
Celebrity Edition: Gina Rodriguez
In continued celebration of all things WOMAN, we wanted to feature another celebrity she-boss that embodies empowerment, self love, and dedication to her purpose. This week’s feature is GINA RODRIGUEZ!
She’s more commonly known for her leading role on Jane the Virgin, where she plays a working class Latina who becomes pregnant by accident via artificial insemination. But she’s also a woman that stands for higher eduction among Hispanics, as well as supporting causes that promote self love and positive body image.
Gina was raised in Chicago, under a Puerto Rican roof, where both her parents raised her. Gina was 1 of 3 girls, and the importance of education was instilled early in life. She absorbed information like a sponge and knew that her education was one of very few things that nobody could ever take away from her. She was the recipient of the HSF (Hispanic Scholarship Fund), which allowed her to further pursue her love for theater and fine arts. She later on became a board member of the HSF, where she’s able to use her platform to raise awareness of the importance in higher education. She thinks of this as “giving back” since this is the same program that helped birth her platform. She also has her hands in anti-bullying movements, such as the “Be Good to Each Other Campaign”. She was reminded how her parents taught her to treat others with respect, and felt the need to take a stand to help younger generations understand how bullying can impact lives, and to teach kids of their power against bullying.
Gina also knows that part of being a woman is learning to love yourself as well as your body, your curves, and your shape. So she joined Naja, which is a lingerie line that pushes to help women and the environment at the same time. After witnessing some of the struggles that single moms face on a daily basis, she was moved to collaborate with a company who’s foundations were built on the backs of single moms. Naja understands that it’s not always in a company’s best interest to make an employee choose their job over taking care of their family, so they primarily employ single mothers, and offer programs to help pay for school uniforms, books, and lunches. They offer a flexible work environment, and the ability to work from home and provide for their families. Naja has also adapted their lingerie to suit women of all sizes, and to make every woman feel sexy and desired in her skin. And since over half of the pieces are made of synthetics manufactured from recycled bottles, they’ve found a way to incorporate used resources to turn it into a piece that any woman could love herself in.
Being a SHE-BOSS is all of the above. It’s growing your knowledge. It’s standing up and using your voice, and empowering others to use theirs. It’s loving yourself first so that you can spread that love to others. It’s protecting your environment. It’s loving your body, and it’s loving your life to it’s highest potential.
March is Women’s History Month! We celebrate amazing women’s accomplishments, both known and unknown. And it’s fitting that we kick off our first feature this month with a woman who brings life, love, and laughter through her journey and trials.
Meet TAMIKA MICHELLE!!!!
This woman, like many she-bosses, wears several hats. She’s a single mother of 3, an author, a mentor, a life coach, and an inspirational speaker. I’ve been honored to see her speak myself, and let me just say that she pulled me right in. She has a gift of speaking life into people. Especially in today’s climate, where women are seeking, finding, and defending their place in society, She Stories looks for those women and shines some light on them. Tamika is a force that comes in love and transparency, but allows herself to meet people exactly where they’re at. Not all women are in a place where they can stand on their own 2 feet, some have fallen, and need help getting back up, and she does just that.
Much of her strength has come from her hardships earlier in life. As a youth, she was physically and sexually abused, which trickled over into unhealthy relationships. She found herself seeking the unconditional love that she didn’t feel as a young girl, from men who consistently put conditions on her. Through two unsuccessful marriages, the struggle to find her voice and her own strength. This later led to a suicide attempt and a cry for help, but when all the stress piled on her back, she had a stroke!
Since we are all blessed with free will, many times God will allow us to hit our own heads over and over and over again, until we finally throw our hands up and let Him take the wheel. And that’s what she finally did. Tamika realized that they only way she was going to end this vicious cycle in her life was to stop using her struggles as crutches, and to use them as steps to the next level. Having that epiphany caused her to take a look at her life and the big picture. Even though it took her some time to cross the bridge from unloved to self love, she’s been able to teach women to do the same. She travels all over, speaking at schools, churches, women’s events, and domestic violence shelters giving a breath that has probably saved a few lives.
We are such resilient creatures as women. We were made to withstand severe trials. Even though we may feel broken at times, we have the ability in ourselves to patch our wounds and keep movin. And Tamika is one of those women that will help you clear your lenses so that you can see your way. She has dedicated herself to showing women how to turn their trials into treasures!
We love you, girl!
Celebrity Edition: Jennifer Lawrence
This week’s FEATURE FRIDAY is a celebrity edition! And we’re happy to feature Jennifer Lawrence. She’s a 28 year old femme leader, but more notably recognized as a leading actress. She’s was raised as a “tough girl” in Kentucky. Being that she’s the only girl of 3 kids, she had to be tough to keep up with her brothers, but Jennifer always knew she was meant to be an actress. She would often pull her dad aside so that she could act out scenes for him, and her mother didn’t like her playing with other little girls because she was “too rough” on them. It’s funny because if I had to picture her as a child, I could see her being tough, and not takin mess from anyone on the playground.
This character trait spilled over into her adult life. She’s known to be an amazing actress, but also has a very reachable vibe about her. Like she could be one of the girls, the more bold and loud one, but hilariously funny, and will have your back in any situation. Her ability to move through her characters and breathe life into a script has allowed her to be nominated and win several awards. My favorite JLaw movie is Joy, where she plays a single mother with a knack for inventing. She’s taking care of practically everyone in her family. She comes up with this new invention for a mop, and literally starts off selling them in a parking lot. Every obstacle that came her way found no place to rest because she fought to find a way to overcome it. This took her all the way up to getting them sold on QVC. And my favorite part was when she had to handle a matter where her manufacturer was trying to steal her idea. She went and faced him directly to demand that he stop, which he did eventually. This is definitely not a movie review, but if you follow our passion for strength in women and overcoming the impossible, then it should be pretty simple. There’s a little bit of “Joy” in all of us. We handle dilemmas, no matter the size. We take care of family, no matter the price. And we fight for our dreams, no matter WHO stands in the way!
Jennifer is also well known for her feminist movements with Planned Parenthood, her firm ground on women’s rights, and her fight to decrease the gender pay gap. She, and several others, started the Time’s Up initiative, to bring sexual harassment and assault to the foreground of conversation and increase awareness. Jennifer has used her platform to educate young women to “get tough” and to demand our respect.
Jennifer exhibits what She Stories is about, empowering women to be great in our skin, our abilities, and our purpose.
This week's feature is nothing less than a powerhouse of feminine strength, brains, and beauty. Meet Kwayera! She was raised in Queens, NY and now lives in Jamaica, where she’s a mother of 3, and an international entrepreneur.
Kwayera’s youth was fueled by her parent’s unrelenting devotion to make sure she was grounded with an excellent education, the strength of a queen, and the ability to survive in a man’s world. She has a strong sense of a village and her tribe, and the purpose they serve to her. As a child, she soon learned to not take “no” for an answer and to always have pride in all she does. And her parents made sure she knew this wasn’t an option, but a prerequisite. Failure did not reside anywhere in her core, even when she didn’t reach her goals. It just reminded her that she hasn’t found the right combination, yet. She doesn’t believe in giving up, which has served her well. Instead, she pursues her obstacles like hurdles and her upbringing has trained her well. Her father taught her to demand her respect, and would sometimes include her in conversations with the elder men. Doing this gave her the ability to run businesses, both local and national. She learned how to effectively reach people. Her mother nurtured her with humbleness, but taught her to keep a strong backbone. This balance is the root of her favorite quote by Mahatma Ghandi, “The weak can never forgive. Forgiveness is the attribute of the strong. When we forgive we are free."
Kwayera’s now runs the Immersion Retreat series, which includes focus groups in a resort setting, cultural activities, and tours. This is a time for reflecting, growing, and sharing. It’s also fitting that one of her greatest inspirations is water. The flow of water moving allows her to cleanse her mind and get her thoughts and goals aligned. She’s also inspired by the purity of genuinely good people. She’s found that when people have a blazing fire inside of them to bring joy and truth to others, that light burns so bright that others around them can’t help but be touched. Kwayera believes in spreading her light and equipping others with the tools to breathe life on their own fire. She’s an inspirational force and living reminder of a woman’s true beauty and the power her crown possesses. YEEEEEEEEEEEES!! This is needed now days more than ever!
Her mantra is this: “Everything you think, say, do, and desire is creating your next moment, your future, your destiny.” We must be mindful of all the steps we’re taking on our journey. One wrong move can set us back 10 steps, so even if our moves are small, make sure they’re made with intention and courage.
We love Kwayera for her pererverance in sharing her knowledge and passion for women around the world to thrive in their tribe!!
Celebrity Edition: Reese Witherspoon
As you know, we LOVE celebrating women and their accomplishments. From the everyday woman who pours into her community and squad, to the celebrity that thrives in her position in life, and spreads the love to everyone in her reach. This week's feature is the latter, but none other than THE REESE WITHERSPOON!
We admire Reese because there's something so comfy about her. It's probably her Southern roots, and her warm smile. But we also love her because she also believes that women are capable of great things. Reese shares our passion for celebrating us as women and sharing with the world ALL that we accomplish. She uses the platform she's been blessed to have, to reach out to women and children everywhere. Reese is involved in many child advocacy programs, and is involved with movements that uplift women and their journeys. In 2017, Reese teamed with Elizabeth Arden to build marketing content that highlights the female centered brand. As a creative partner, she plans to build the brand by focusing on women's real life experiences, and turning them into powerful, "she boss" campaigns.
While she's mostly famous for her work on the big screen, we love her for the organic woman she is, the down home Southern girl, the mother, and hard worker she is. These are just some of the things that we can ALL be. You don't have to be a celebrity. I guess my main point to featuring Reese this week, is to show that she's done some great things in her life that many of us know nothing about, and sometimes as women, we can feel overshadowed by others. We might feel that our hard efforts go unseen, when that's really not the case. Your tribe sees your efforts, even when the rest of the world doesn't. Your circle will lift you, when you need to be picked up a bit. There's a little bit of Reese in all of us, we love, we're amazing, and we're capable!
We love you Reese!
Hello…My name is Leilani. If you’ve been keeping up with our weekly features, the name might look familiar. I’ve personally had the honor of reading each woman’s story, learning about their ups and downs through life, and how that all ties into who they are currently. One thing that these women have in common, is that they all recognize what their tribe pours into them, as well as what they give back to their tribe. They’ve pushed themselves through barriers, and they’re STILL growing!
Those closest to me knows that I’m not one for the spotlight. I appreciate the “behind the scenes” work, but I mostly find joy in taking a step back every once in a while, and seeing the beauty of the big picture that I helped paint. I love showcasing other strong, beautiful women, because I also find a piece of myself in their stories.
I wouldn’t really call this a feature, but more of an introduction of myself to the rest of the SheStories tribe.
I’m a 39 year old, southern CA native. I’m a wife, a mother, and a step mother. I serve ONE God, I love music, and I find peace with my laptop on a rainy day. I’m about 2 months into a new piece of my journey that includes daily exercise and not eating everything that smells good and contains massive amounts of cheese. I’m a late blooming writer/blogger. In college, I used to write papers for people for a small fee, but I never guessed that I’d later be using my love and gift for writing to try and change lives.
I don’t own a business (yet), but I’m still in the process of learning and growing my gifts to eventually serve a bigger purpose for myself and for others. Being a “BOSS” doesn’t always mean you have to own and operate a company. You can still be a boss and work for someone else. If you’re a mom nursing scrapes and bruises, YOU’RE A BOSS! If you’re accomplishing goals, no matter the size, YOU’RE A BOSS! And if you are working on being the best possible version of yourself, then guess what, YOU’RE A BOSS! There’s a boss in each and every woman.
I’ve been in the Design industry for the past 15 years, and just stepped away from a company that had employed me for the past 6 years. I enjoyed my job, but I knew my purpose wasn’t being served. I made a promise to myself to never work another job that didn’t serve MY purpose in some way. And in doing that, I’ve opened myself up for more gratifying work. I'm Founder of LyfeShowsUp, where I write and share motivation and inspiration. I'm long overdue for new material, not because of a shortage of life events, but because I'm working on my consistency (work in progress). I’m also a Behavior Interventionist working with children with autism, and I LOVE knowing that my work is helping children as well as their parents.
There have been ups and down throughout my life, but one thing has remained consistent--there’s a lesson to be learned through the downs, and there’s laughter and love to be had through the ups. My favorite scripture comes from Proverbs 3:5-6, “Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways submit to him, and he will make your paths straight.” If I ever feel like giving up, I repeat this to myself. Lately, it’s been when my muscles hurt after a good workout the day before…lol. But even in my sweat and pain, I’m learning to take better care of myself. I don’t always make the right decisions as a mother, but I make every effort to make sure my kids feel loved and to lead by example.
My tribe consists of several people who sharpen me in different ways, but always with love. I trust their input because I know where it’s coming from. I know that if I have a problem, I can bring it to “the board” to get sound advice, prayers, and encouragement. My tribe pushes me to reach goals, they encourage my greatness even if it looks different from theirs, they love me despite, and they allow me room to grow.
I love my tribe of sisters, friends, cousins, aunties, pastors, YOU NAME IT! My tribe is strong!! And that’s what She Stories is…..STRONG!!!
It’s FEATURE FRIDAY y’all, and of course, we have another phenomenal woman to share with you this week.
Meet Myisha Croom-Turner!
Before we dive into who Myisha is, I’d like to paint a picture for you. Do you remember Denise Huxtable from The Cosby Show? For those who might now know, Denise was the free spirited, bohemian butterfly who endlessly tried to find her place in the world, and in her family. Being that Denise's parents were a doctor and a lawyer, she wanted to find her own way. She moved with the flow of her passions and inspirations. Well, after reading Myisha’s story, the first thing I thought was “Denise finally made it!”
Myisha is a 43 year old serial entrepreneur by way of Compton, CA who now resides in the Inland Empire. Seven years ago, her and her husband opened their first Heritage Farmer’s Market with less than 10 farmers and vendors. Now, they have 6 farmer’s markets with over 40 vendor stalls. She finds joy in promoting business for local farmers and educating her community on healthy living.
While Heritage Farmer’s Market was flourishing, she began to feel the demands of her time, so she chose to sell a successful art studio that she co-owned. She felt the stress of everything that goes along with selling a business, and as a way to cope with the anxiety, she started arranging flowers for her home. She kept freshly arranged flowers on her nightstand, and called them her “Bedside Pretties”. She posted her floral companions on Instagram every week, and before long, her followers were sending her messages and pictures of the arrangements she inspired them to make for themselves. Eventually, people began to request her floral arrangements which then birthed Bohemian Blooms.
Along with these two businesses, Myisha is propelled by God, her husband, and her talented tribe of girlfriends. But one of her greatest inspirations is her 17 year old son, Myles. At the age of 8, Myles was diagnosed with Type 1 Diabetes. As she nurtured him through insulin shots, and an altered diet, she watched Myles take an illness that life handed him, as he drove himself to be limitless in his abilities and to live a better life than statistics calculated. His courage and resilience inspire her to be more flexible with the ups and downs of adulthood.
Her mantra is simple, “Why are you trying so hard to fit in, when you were born to stand out?” She is unique, and she embraces and grows others to be unique and beautiful in their own skin. Living a life that’s true to herself has worked for her, and she has no intent on “fitting in” to society’s norms.
Myisha’s favorite scripture comes from Psalms 139:14, “I will praise thee, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made; marvelous are thy works; and that my soul knows right well.” She has put all faith in God that He knew what He was doing when He created her.
She Stories is about all women finding their unique beauty and being the greatest version of themselves as possible.
Myisha does just that, and we love her.
PS….Denise Huxtable was my favorite!
It’s FRIDAY guys, and we have a new feature to share with you! She’s conquering her roles in the international corporate world, while killin it in her community by feeding souls.
Meet Patrice Russell!!! She’s a self-proclaimed “African Butterfly”, but after reading her story and checkin out her IG…she’s more like an “African Butterfly with lion tendencies”. She’s a 47 year old woman who strives to nurture her community as a human connector and seed planter. Planting seeds in others is an important role. Sometimes that’s all people need to get going in their purpose, is someone to come along and plant a seed, water it a little from time to time, and watch it grow. Her love for mankind and the arts (especially music) has allowed her to plant seeds in her community. Patrice is a certified life coach, vocalist, and poet. She loves to empower others to be the best version of themselves they can possibly be. And she knows that her strength is built through her tribe because they’re a major pillar in her sanity and success.
But that’s only half of what she’s made of!
Patrice also has a flourishing career as a veteran marketing executive, with a leading global commercial real estate firm where she leads marketing efforts for over 8 million sqft of Class A office towers and retail right in the heart of downtown LA. She’s a leader, and a striking force within her profession.
One of Patrice’s favorite quotes is from Maya Angelou, “I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.” These words are put into action by planting the seeds necessary to help others succeed. What a gift! And with that gift, she’s reminded that “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.” (Phillipians 4:13)
She is bold AND beautiful, and we couldn’t be more honored to have Patrice in our tribe of greatness!
You know, I still come across people who don't know what a "creative" is. For those who might not know, a creative is a person who uses their imagination to fullest. They see the world with a different set of eyes. Well, then...What is a SUPERCREATIVE?
/sōō-per-krē-ā-tîv/ noun; an individual exceeding the norms or limits of originality of thought, expression; über imagination.
Coming straight outta Inglewood, CA., she was nurtured by her community's raw arts and natural breeding ground of champions. This watered the future entrepreneur in her. And she developed a hunger to always turn nothing into something. Brandi is always challenging herself to make things better, no matter how great they already are.
Amongst her flourishing greatness as a she-hero, she has also found ways to grow her empire as an owner of a boutique bakery and cafe, a grounded mother of 2 young men embarking on college and middle school, running a catering company, and owning a farm salad company. Her passions include photography, writing excerpts for an unwritten book, and creating new fashions. When she's not concurring all of the above, she's also able to juggle world domination by inspiring others to be free. Can we even keep up?!?
Brandi's mantra is simple: Take good care of what you already possess and operate in humility; your blessings will flow freely from there. This also ties in to one of her favorite scriptures: "I am not saying this because I am in need, for I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances. I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want. I can do all this through him who gives me strength." (Philippians 4:11-13) Be content through life's ups and downs because we have the strength to overcome it (whatever IT might be!)
When asked what her tribe means to her, Brandi boldly states, "I have HUGE dreams which requires HUGERRIFIC TRIBES and teams!!! It’s most important to surround ourselves with people that are passionate about what they do AND are smarter than us and are moving toward the same things." She recognizes that in order to fulfill her purpose, she has to lean on others who share her drive. She knows that the strength of her tribe maintains momentum when they push forward together as a unit, and that her tribe is only going to polish her shine.
Brandi's SUPERCREATIVE self is exactly what SheStories is all about. We aim to show the rest of the world see our vision, we show others that loving yourself from the inside out makes you even more beautiful, and that sometimes we need others to help straighten our crowns out.
If Brandi's story is a preface to 2018, then our year looks pretty bright, wouldn't you say?
We love you Brandi!
Each Friday, we like to feature a woman who’s killin her goals and helping the next person kill theirs too. We like to dive into how they got to that place, and some things they learned along the way. This week, it’s our pleasure to feature Lecia Fox!
Lecia was born and raised in Kansas, but now lives in Southern California, where she’s a fitness instructor, and a body-positive mentor. About 5 years ago, she began to notice some negative changes that were going on with her body. Things like skin rashes, weight gain, hair loss, fatigue, and severe anxiety. Her doctor had diagnosed her with Chronic Stress Disorder. She wasn’t comfortable with the “magic pills” that were prescribed because she didn’t want to live in an altered state of feeling nothing. Instead, she sought out ways to balance her life out a little better. She found an integrative nutritionist who taught her how food can heal the body. She also started seeing a chiropractor who helped align her body, as well as an acupuncturist. Incorporating all this together allowed her to find a love for meditation.
For the next year and a half, Lecia turned this alternative lifestyle into a whole new way of life. She found that by doing so, many of her ailments had vanished, she lost weight, her skin irritations cleared up, and her hair began to grow back. With the help of professionals, she learned how to fall back in love with her body, INSIDE and OUT!
She found the courage to eventually leave the service industry, and became a personal trainer and coach. She used the things she had learned along her journey to help other women that were going through the same things. She took the typical fitness regimen and completely transformed it into a makeover, not only for the body, but for the mind and soul, through meditation and affirmative prayers.
FoxFitness was birthed as a way to help women reconnect to their bodies on a deeper level than just aesthetics fitness. She’s combined building muscle, faith, and confidence into a whole movement that’s growing by the minute.
Lecia’s inspiration comes from finding time to be still and present in the moment, feeling her heart beat and her lungs fill and release air. These simple moments of awareness refuel her fire to spread this to others.
Way to go Lecia! You’re our FABULOUS FITNESS PHENOM FOR FEATURE FRIDAY!
Well, it’s that time of year again! We always tend to love the beauty of Christmas. The colors, the festivities, and the sense of family and togetherness. Even the grinch, and crazy holiday shoppers are a staple in the overall Christmas experience. This week, we want to celebrate another joyous soul, by the name of Brittni Richardson.
Brittni is a 32 year old Cali girl, who’s also known as B. Rich. She’s a wife, mother, makeup artist/beauty educator, and owner of the B. Rich Collection, which is a cosmetic collection “for the celebrity inside every woman”. Talk about a SHE-BOSS!
As a young girl, Brittni had an appreciation for the real power a woman holds. She witnessed this firsthand with the older women in her life, primarily her Grandma Barbara. She admired how these women were able to take life’s lemons and turn it into some sweet lemonade in an ice cold mason jar on a hot summer day. Brittni ended up working in financed, and progressed in her job, when her Grandma Barbara fell and broke her hip. She took care of her, made decisions on her grandma’s behalf, and had to call out many times, which eventually took it’s toll on her, and her job. As many of us know, everyone is expendable in the corporate workforce, and Brittni was no exception, so they let her go.
And ever since that day, she’s vowed to never give anyone the power to fire her in her darkest moments. Just like the women before her, she made her own lemonade. She threw herself into braiding, singing, and doing makeup to keep her hustle going, and often remembered how it felt to be thrown away. Brittni has used this to fuel and ignite a fire in other women to know their worth.
Brittni’s favorite saying for herself and others is “YOU CAN DO IT!” It’s so simple, but so powerful. This very phrase can make the impossible possible! Having a tribe is important to Brittni because “You can’t do everything alone. It’s important to have people who can push you further when you want to stop.”
“And we know that God causes everything to work together for the good of those who love God and are called according to his purpose for them.” (Romans 8:28) This is her reminder that even through life’s hard roads, it’s all leading to something greater.
We love you Brittni, and blessed to have you in our tribe!
I believe that some of life’s hardest lessons give the biggest rewards. I also believe that we all play a small part in a bigger picture of making the world a better place. When we are able to rise up from our ashes, dust ourselves off, and then pay it forward to teach someone else, we’re having a positive impact on the world.
So that brings me to Terica Wright. Terica is the oldest of 3 kids, and was raised in a humble, farming community just north of Seattle. At a young age, she learned that crying was a form of weakness, and to never show your true emotion. So she developed a thick skin, and unfortunately, dropped out of school at the age of 16, and became a single mother at 21.
As many of us know, having children will throw you into a life of HUGE responsibility. The type of responsibility that can either make you or break you. Terica wasn’t going to let these things break her, so she found herself in the corporate world chasing the “American Dream”. She threw herself completely into work and moved up the ranks to success, only to over exude herself, and eventually break down mentally.
Her rock bottom came when she lost two loved ones within 9 days of each other. Again, she’s faced with something that can either make her or break her. Through her pain and grief, she realized that she needs to make some desperately needed changes, and one of the biggest lessons she learned was that her time here in this life is SHORT. She started making positive changes mentally, physically, emotionally, and spiritually. Terica began a journey of weight loss and learning how to love herself unconditionally. She began reading and listening to inspirational podcasts, and reaching out to others she knew would help build her, because she couldn’t do it on her own—NONE OF US CAN!
Now, years later, she has completely transformed into a woman that loves herself, INSIDE AND OUT! She values the struggles she went through, and uses them as a tool to help other women become the best version of themselves.
Terica’s favorite quote comes from Maya Angelou, who said “My mission in lie is not merely to survive, but to thrive; and to do so with some passion, some compassion, some humor, and some style.” This is really what She Stories is all about. Living versus existing, laughing, loving, crying, and building— while makin it look good. When asked why it’s important to have a tribe, she gave a quote by Jim Rohn, "You are the average of the five people you spend the most time with.” If you immediately started thinking of those 5 people in your life, you’re not alone. She Stories wants every woman to have a tribe of love, support, challenges, and victories.
Terica is tribe strong, and a goal crusher! We love you!!!
Let’s introduce LaKisha Johnson, an awesome she boss, who’s triumphed some of life’s hardest blows. She’s the mother of 4 sons, Glorie, Germaine, Jaleel, Josiah, and Judah. She’s the CEO/Founder of several movements. She’s also lived to overcome the loss of her husband and survived being a victim of domestic violence in her earlier years. WOW, RIGHT? This doesn’t include all her other hats in motivational speaking, community advocacy, and business leadership.
LaKisha founded LMJ Ministries, where she uses her unique evangelistic outreach, along with her nurturing spirit to reach others. She’s been blessed with the ability to draw people in, as she walks them through the Word, and uses her life’s stories as a tool.
In 2014, she lost her husband due to complications with the sickle cell disease. This moment would later birth Sickle Cell Support Services where others going through this battle can find resources, encouragement, and strength to keep going.
A major part of her life are her 4 sons, one of which is a national recording artist, Ki’shon Furlow (Glorie). She also knows what it’s like to be a teen mom, and a survivor of domestic abuse. These parts of her journey has allowed her to reach a broad spectrum of women who have gone through the same thing, something similar, or knows somebody that has.
One of LaKisha’s favorite scriptures is Jeremiah 29:11, “For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.” What an awesome reminder that during hard times, His ultimate plan is to help us prosper, not to hold us back.
When asked, “Why is it important to have a tribe?, her answer was simple: The tribe is a necessity, we were not created to operate in this world by ourselves. I call it the partnership, and when your partners are in place, then your cup never gets empty. Be sure to watch the YouTube video below to see LMJ talk about pouring from or into an empty cup, and what that means. You’ll be happy you did!
Coming out of the recent Thanksgiving festivities, it’s only right that we feature a woman who’s driving passion is to promote a healthy and active lifestyle. Amy Stanton started her business, Stanton & Company (S&Co), to help build brands for other women in business, and to grow and inspire more role models.
From a young age, Amy was taught, “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.” This saying still holds true today in her daily living. She embodies the belief that by uplifting and encouraging other women, this will leave a lasting impression on the world, not only for her generation, but for many after.
Amy promotes this belief in her work as well. S&Co offers services such as brand marketing, public relations, and sponsorship/partnership cultivation. Everything about her business screams “YOU CAN DO THIS! YOU’RE A BOSS!!” Teaching other women how to polish their brand is a powerful tool to give someone.
Amy’s grandfather planted a seed in her by saying, “Things are never as good or bad as they seem.” This sits as a reminder of the many ups and downs of running your own business.
A tribe is intimate. They will push to do to better, while helping you when you fall. Sometimes they fall with you, but you both get up and keep going. Your tribe will lift you up and help you shine, because they know they can look to you for the same thing. Amy is a strong example of tribe unity, and everything that She Stories is about.