#womenempoweredproject

May 15th, 2018

     

“There’s a single mom with two kids whom I meet with at the gym everyday. One child has special needs and she herself just got diagnosed with thyroid cancer. She’s an inspiration to me - it's amazing to see her every day and see how she just gets up and goes about her life. Everyday could be her last day and she's dealing with all that pressure on her own. Every time I'm having a bad day, I force myself to not complain because I know that there’s always someone else in a far worse position.

 

I try and inspire moms in my own way and have always loved doing it! I started out as a young mom and know first-hand that every mom wants their pre-pregnancy body back. I know that no matter how hard you work on getting your body back to its original state, some evidence of your pregnancy will always show. It’s just the way it is. To be honest, I think the evidence is beautiful. I think it’s wonderful for moms to not shame themselves and to be confident and comfortable in their new bodies. I mean, your body is amazing and it is an incredible thing you can transform over time. You may not look like a supermodel now, but you can always work at it, little by little. It’s up to you to see that you can be beautiful - no matter what.

 

It takes a lot of determination to lose the weight you gain during pregnancy. Determination can get you really far. It's a matter of deciding how badly you want it. Any mom would agree it's tough. Whether you're working a job and/or have kids to take care of after school or a baby that's keeping you up at night - it's tough to have the time and/or even have the energy/motivation to go to the gym. But I believe going to the gym is good for your mental health. It separates you from your busy life and helps you focus on yourself for some time. I always feel more determined to go to the gym knowing that I'll feel better after it too. While exercising, I know that I'm doing something good for me and that it will ultimately make me better for my family. So if you want to make time for you at the gym – just go and do it! Do it for you and for whatever reason you feel is important to you.

 

My kids are my motivation for everything. I mean, I have them in mind with everything that I do. I see my new career as definitely being a big accomplishment because of them. I got pregnant with my first daughter during my first year in college. Then had my second, and my third child soon after. One right after the other. I didn't get to finish college and was basically was just getting by doing what I had to do – as a single mom. It was tough finding a good job that would support my children and have me be there for them at the same time. It was a huge challenge. But now, I have a great career and I am thankful for it. I’m working for an engineering firm - something I would never even imagined was possible back then. It might not seem like a big accomplishment for others, but it’s definitely something I'm very proud of."

 

- Kristina Gabrielle.

   

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May 8th, 2018

     

“There was one night I could never forget. It was a turning point in my life. It was 9 o’clock at night and two days before Christmas. I had no place to sleep and no person to turn to. So I weighed my options and I instinctively walked to the church I has always been a part of and grew up near. The church had always preached about love, peace and unity. I decided it was my best option. To my surprise, they turned me down and told me to walk to the homeless shelter a mile away. Not a single one of my so-called friends wanted to help me that night. They ignored my desperation and that’s when I knew, I didn’t have any real friends. That experience made it clear that I needed new friends.

 

From my experiences in America, it’s a custom to call the people you know ‘friends’ – even if you aren’t very close to them. We’re more reluctant to call them ‘acquaintances’. In Russia, where I grew up, when you say that somebody is your friend, it means that you will go out of your way for this person - at any point in your life without expecting something in return. To me, friendship is deciding that you make time to be available for that special someone. Especially when times get hard for that person. Like when they might need your help or they might just want you to be there for them.

 

I really work hard to build and maintain the relationships I have now. I work hard to nurture them, cherish them and grow them to just see which ones naturally flourish and what friends reciprocate. I've luckily now found a wonderful community of people in Italy who are open-minded, intelligent and view friendship just as seriously and as strongly as I do. Dancing and traveling has brought me into this community. I find that the more I travel, the more I challenge myself to stay in a new location longer and to live and experience all different cultures I may want be a part of.

 

I started dancing when I was eight years old because in the Soviet Union, everyone I knew was expected to develop a skill. As soon as I moved to America, I further pursued ballet and music lessons. What inspired me to continue was the special treatment and attention I had received from the dance teachers. From there I realized, wow, I could be really good at this! It built up my confidence and before I knew it, I had skipped three or four levels that year, being one of the youngest in my class. I really fell in love with the discipline and the beauty of ballet. I discovered I could use my body as a medium for the artsy lines and shapes that I create. The hard work was extremely inspiring to me. I’m also inspired by the amount of dedication and discipline that you must put into it. Dancing had always motivated me to work on my body and a push me further in all levels of my life.

 

I’ve learned to live for every single day and for every moment. I look forward to what my future has to bring. My life story has taught me that you will not always have time to stop, breathe, and reflect - so I try to be present in each moment and enjoy life’s moments - even as chaotic as some moments might be. I’ve realized that time passes in just a blink of an eye and I encourage women to know that negative experiences will happen and that they should just let it happen and let it go. Because ultimately, no one can do anything about the time that has passed and you can just keep moving forward. It's your choice to let it affect you or not, no matter how painful the memory of it is. And no matter what big impression it has made on you - it's still your decision to a certain extent. If you want to suffer and continue to let it affect you it’ll cause you that same amount of pain and trauma over and over again. You decide if you want it to stay in your pattern of thinking or you can let it go and move on."

 

- Poppy Seed Dancer.

   

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May 1st, 2018

     

“My biggest passion of all is coaching middle school and high school girls in soccer because I feel that I really make a difference in the community I am in. I love being a role model to the girls and really feel that I touch the hearts of many I speak to - especially on the topic of body positivity and self-esteem. I love that they look at me as a role model because I don’t look like a fashion model (I’m not thin or six feet tall). I’m someone that gains weight and has muscles- lots of them! I’m proud of who I am and the girls see that. They believe in me and believe that they too can work hard to obtain the body they desire doing it in a positive way - through fitness and eating healthy foods.

 

As young girls, they are constantly bombarded by all the images of very thin models on social media. They're getting so many mixed messages about eating/dieting – and ultimately feeling that they need to deprive themselves. A lot of them mentally create these unattainable goals and high standards for themselves. It breaks my heart because they don't see how beautiful they are and how much they have in front of them. They can get lost along the way because they get so focused on reaching unattainable goals. Or they think that their worth is only about how thin they are and what the scale reads.

 

A common theme I see in girls and women alike is the feeling of not being beautiful or good enough. I encourage women to see that fitness can change their own perceptions, help them set higher and newer standards for themselves, and keep on track to become the most beautiful and strongest version of themselves. It takes time, determination and overall courage for women to stay in their own lane and to not compete or compare themselves to others while they are on their own personal journey to success.

 

It’s empowering to see women at the gym experience their own personal and ‘silent victories’ - I feed off of that energy. Whether it is running a faster mile or lifting a heavier weight – I know that ‘silent victories’ are little accomplishments that will add up over time. ‘Silent victories’ help drive me forward and show me that I am progressing. From experience, I know that they will later empower other parts of my life. Which is why I prioritize working out and make time to schedule it in my day-to-day. It’s become so natural to incorporate it in my daily routine – I don’t think twice about it now. It’s just like brushing my teeth.

 

In order to feel like I am the best version of myself, I feel that I need to be the strongest version of myself. When all those things align and are in sync, I feel I have a more productive and purposeful life. With it, I feel like I can really accomplish anything - whether it’s daily tasks or long-term goals. If I slack off for more than a day or two, I feel the consequences afterward and tend to slack off in other parts of my life. I’ve learned that if I stay on track with my workouts, I can balance out and control other aspects of my life that I want to have stay in order."

 

- Mandy Dimarzo

   

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April 24th, 2018

     

“I was approaching my 30th birthday and I knew I wanted to feel differently about myself. I recently went through a break up that left me with the voice in my head saying, “no one will ever love or want me”, it had been since I was a teenager that I was confident enough in my body to wear a two piece bikini and I was just pulling myself apart physically and mentally. So I set a goal.

 

It started as wanting to look perfect in a sports bra in my favorite fitness class. I would be side by side with my favorite instructor in a room filled with friends and family and would have gotten rid of all of my bodies imperfections. A few months into the process, my perspective unexpectedly shifted. Instead of seeing myself on my 30th birthday looking confident in a sports bra, I instead saw all of my friends and family in sports bras, too. It wasn’t enough for me to have discovered self-love…I needed to help every other woman in the world discover how to love themselves, too. It’s been a few years since that time, now. And leading people to self-love has been my mission ever since.

 

My body isn’t “perfect”. It jiggles, there are rolls, there’s cellulite. But when I look at it now, I see strength and power. I am surrounded by a community of women from all different walks of life, all different ages, who are constantly trying new things and pushing themselves to achieve new goals. Our mentality: put our own oxygen masks on first so we can then better support the people we love. They inspire me, and I inspire them to go out, live loud and love even louder.”

 

- Kelsey Colosimo

   

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April 17th, 2018

     

"Now that I’m twenty-five years old, I wake up every day and feel like there is this pressure to look your best and always put your best foot forward. In life unfortunately, looks are the first impression people have of you. Looking back, ever since I was eight years old, my hair had always made that first impression on people. My black hair was curly and a bit uncontrolled but I liked it because it was me. When I first got my hair relaxed/straightened for the very first time, it was a big deal for me because it made my hair easier to handle and ‘pretty’. Throughout middle school and high school - when I would get my hair straightened - people would tell me, “Wow you look so pretty today!”. And it's one of those things that – you don’t really think twice about when you are thirteen or fourteen years old. But looking back, yes – today it does chip away at my self-esteem.

 

With societal standards being high, I still struggle each morning to find the balance between wearing my hair naturally versus ‘unkept’. I believe wearing your hair naturally is such a special and empowering thing because it teaches women to feel comfortable with the unique characteristics they are born with. The natural hair movement is very prevalent now and is a very important topic that I continue to discuss and create awareness of. I believe that as women are very lucky to be living in a time where we see that the status quo is being challenged and that there is less pressure to ‘fit the mold’.

 

The natural hair movement relates to my passion of being a producer for an Off-Broadway play. The show I’m producing is called “Tumbleweed”. Written by Marcus Scott, it is about a mixed race family with twin girls growing up on the Upper West Side. It's a family drama involving a black father and white mother, raising and ultimately trying to empower their mixed race girls to become strong women but more specifically - strong African American and mixed race women. The story is presented through the view of one of the daughters – the one born with natural big, crazy, curly hair. While her twin, is born with natural straight hair, the story develops and reflects on what it means to be a mixed race girl wearing your hair ‘natural’ and what it means to be judged differently for it too."

 

- KC Morse

   

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April 10th, 2018

     

"My mother and I moved from Russia to Germany when I was just 7 years old. I had a hard time adjusting to my new life because we felt uncomfortable telling others we were Jewish. School had been difficult for me because I was bullied by not just the students - but the teachers too. I was both verbally and physically abused by them. I was told that I was foreigner and that I looked different. Looking back, I couldn't understand why people were so mean to me. In my eyes, I was just a kid who happened to be taller and more dark-haired than the others. But it turned out, I got bullied by them because of my Jewish name.

 

My life quickly changed after I started modeling. The same teachers that once bullied me, recognized me from the catalogs I had modelled for and proudly spread the word about me to the other students. Soon after that, everyone was nicer to me and ironically wanted to be my friend. Modeling and pageants were what I embraced to feel a sense of belonging, in a country that didn’t accept me for who I was.

 

After becoming the first-ever Jewish Miss Germany, Miss Universe, I was in Brazil when I read a social media comment that read “Hitler forgot about Valeria and her family”. That comment made me think about how 90% my family got wiped out in the Holocaust. By that time, I felt independent enough to not live in Germany anymore. And although it wasn’t easy for me to go through immigration, I finally made it to America and am very happy calling New York my new home.

 

My first name Valeria, means to be strong in Latin but - back then, I didn't know any of that. I wish I would have believed more in the message I tell myself today: “No matter how long and dark the tunnel might seem, there will always be light at the end of the tunnel - it's just a question of time”. My career has expanded to public speaking to influence and inspire other women on the topic of how to become a successful model, the topic of anti-Semitism and immigrating to a new home."

- Valeria Brisco

   

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April 4th, 2018

     

"There is a fire inside of me. It is what makes me keep going and what pushes me forward each day. My experience may be different from others because I've been homeless. I know what it's like to have nothing - no food, no family and no money. From these experiences, I've learned that you have to continue be confident and believe in yourself. I've had to realize that once you have hit rock bottom, the only way is up. And you can do it.

 

I've learned that you can't let even homelessness prevent you from doing what makes you happy and fulfilling your passion – mine was to become a model. You've got to work hard at what you want in life and not ever give up. I always try to reflect these philosophies to other women – especially those women who think that keeping yourself maintained costs too much money. But I know that there is always another way around any negative situation. For many years, I had modeled for free because it had made me happy doing it. I knew that one day it would all pay off – and it has. I am now getting paid to model – which is the dream."

- Stephanie Rosa

   

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