ONCE UPON A TIME… I was a shy 9-year-old girl that just moved from Louisiana to Iowa. I didn’t talk to anyone for very long periods of time, years even, because if I did, my southern accent told the world I was not “fahh-rom here.”
Even I’m amazed myself to realize my inner socially awkward 10-year old self would grow up to become an entrepreneur, an owner of my own business by age 26, a real estate investor owning ten properties by 29, and a fitness model/ celebrity trainer in my 30s? Who does that?
How did I get to the point where I was in a beautiful relationship with a respectful, spiritual man, living in paradise of California, taking weekend trips to Malibu and basking in sunshine, and becoming pregnant with a healthy baby and waking up to what I could have only imagined as my dream life previously.
Developing the Fairytale Project, I the ask myself all the time what drove me to do some of the things I did…I feel lucky every day and want to help other women feel the same way.
Did my mother smartly and strategically tell me I was way better than I actually was and ingrained that in me until I actually believed it? Probably.
Did fairy godmothers and angels guide me? I know for a fact God was highly involved (more on that in blog posts to come.)
Was it the sheer will I was born with or a determination?
Not to ever be considered mediocre in my own eyes?
Was it all those self-help books I poured over even as a kid?
Those many workshops?
Was it destiny?
At one point, teachers and parents were worried, they held me back a grade although I was advanced academically my “social skills” were non-existent. I remember, on top of everything else, getting lice and crying by myself at recess watching everyone play tether-ball in the distance, haha!
I quickly learned to hide my accent until it fell away, and soon I was confident enough to become the “funny girl” who grew up very quickly, and awkwardly I transitioned to become “that girl.” You know, the one that looks like a grown 5’6” adult in 4th grade. So that’s fun. By the time middle school rolled around, I was 5’6” and had a large chest that again placed me as a target for older boys attention and older girls’ hatred. Girls spray-painted in bathrooms I was a “slut” before I had even ever even kissed a boy.
By the time I was in high school, I had found that middle ground that kept me away from scrutiny. I became chubby, dyed my very dark hair as blonde as I could, joined the danced team… I faded into the landscape to avoid judgment. It was comfortable, for a while. Until I knew what I was doing… I was living for others acceptance of me rather than what was truly going to make me happy. I entered Miss Teen Iowa USA, possibly the most people-pleasing thing a classy Iowa girl could do. I didn’t make top three, my best friend at the time, who had entered with me, WON. I was told by the stunningly beautiful Indian woman judge that my interview was so insightful I would have won the competition had I been, ohhh about 15-20 pounds lighter.
I was okay. I was good, but I was never the standout. I never won anything. I ran for class President four years in a row and never won, never was the star or captain of the dance team, never got a solo routine at my ballet studio, never made the top 3 in the pageants, never made Homecoming court and was never Valedictorian. I achingly wanted to be great and it tortured me. Instead I experienced a lot of heartache. A lot of Pearl Jam was played in my room with the door shut.
Looking back, all of the worst things that happened might’ve been the best things that ever happened to me.
There was just so much I wanted for my life and so little I felt I had actually accomplished. I just felt like my time had not come or maybe I was in the wrong place.
After high school, I lived a summer in Italy to get in touch with my Italian roots. Looking back, I felt special, like a super special, different, blonde-ish American. I cut my hair off and was almost fluent in Italian before I left. It was amazing.
College was as refreshing as a tall glass of ice-cold cucumber water. I worked hard, and played hard. I was accepted into the Iowa’s Writer’s Workshop, took classes in economics and entrepreneurship, solidified my love for business and writing, dyed my hair pink then back to my original dark color, took French, Italian and Spanish classes, went out for solo dinners at Indian restaurants and sushi places, wrote poetry into the late hours of the night, wrote stringer stories for the Des Moines Register and had an exciting internship at WQAD doing investigative journalism.
But after school I felt thrown back into the cog of the wheel. There were no jobs for writers, it was post-September 11th and even the most talented of journalists were being demoted, downsized or fired. I remember a phone call with an editor at the Chicago Tribune; someone who I had approached to do some business writing, literally laughing at my expectation to be a writer, as I choked back my tears realizing this path was going to need to be re-routed. To where, I had no idea, and it was supremely unsettling.
A career-counselor at the University of Iowa (a Godmother? An Angel?) suggested I try Public Relations, that my resume was perfectly suited for it. At the time I had a really vague, almost non-existent idea of what PR even was.
Under her suggestion, I beat out over 5,000 applicants to become an intern at Edelman Public Relations, the largest PR Agency in the world, based in Chicago. The first time I had ever “won” anything! Sure I was getting paid peanuts, barely a salary to live, but I was working off Michigan Avenue, and the opportunity was there! I was thrilled.
Because of my strong journalism background, I was put on projects that gave me a lot of autonomy. At 23, I was billing Fortune 500 companies and was doing the bulk of the “work” on these huge accounts. However, I was working long hours, most days 7am to 8 or 9 at night, getting paid barely enough to share an apartment. I was in debt from school and credit cards thousands and thousands of dollars. Every day I was exhausted.
Some days I felt mad, trapped, and frustrated and would go to a boxing class after work, shuffling home in my sleeping-bag of a coat in the bitter Chicago cold at 9 or 10pm only to eat a one-dollar frozen dinner, watch a bit of the Apprentice to keep myself motivated, pass out and repeat the same thing the next day. I was throwing PR events at the Four Seasons in NYC but yet was living on a $50/ a week grocery budget myself.
Is this what it could possibly feel like to “win?” I’ve learned since then, sometimes when you lose, you actually win. And sometimes when you win, you actually lose… or maybe just have a whole higher level of work ahead of you, and you have to grind it out to get to the other side.
I truly believe all the “bad” happens only to re-route you to a new direction, one that is better meant for you.
And I truly believe everything that’s happened has lead me here, to creating Fairytale Project. I want to be that Fairy God-sister to other women. I want to show others that there’s a path OUT. To freedom, to happiness, to your life’s plan. Financially, physically, emotionally and spiritually I have pulled myself from some pretty deep depths to some of the most scenic highs. By no means is my work done.
The Fairytale Project has only begun.