Mia Selway: Finding Home

“The courage to be you: I think we fear that. The biggest thing that I’ve realized is that there’s nothing scarier than embracing who you really are.”

They seemed like such wise words from a person so young. But interviewing Mia Selway made me recognize that youth has little to do with life’s experiences or their lessons. And I couldn’t help but believe she, like Dorothy from The Wizard of Oz, was discovering the power of the ruby red slippers.


Carol and I interviewed Mia over videoconference from her current home in London, where she is pursuing her bachelor’s degree in acting at the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art. RADA, one of the oldest and most prestigious acting schools in the UK and famous worldwide, is literally two hours from West Sussex, where Mia spent most of her growing-up years. But the distance she’s traveled to find her place as an actor is anything but a straight line.

 

We see Mia’s journey to becoming a professional actor as intricately woven with her quest to find her home, her purpose, and her place in the world.  But what is home?  At the deepest level, we understand that home is more than just a place to live. Our human need to be nurtured, find connection, feel safe, and have stability provides the roots we need to support our alternative drives to grow and pursue our wildest dreams. This need for grounding and human connection is just as strong as our physical need for shelter, food and clothing.

 

 

 

Mia Selway, now 30, is the youngest of seven children, from a considerably large family for the modern UK. Her father was a traditional Church-of-England Brit and her mother a Thai Buddhist, but together they converted to Mormonism in their hometown of Kent long before Mia’s birth. When Mia was just 18 months old, her mother passed away, and the children were separated to live with relatives and friends because of her father’s debilitating grief. Mia was passed around between families and doesn’t even know today who took care of her for the better part of two years. Her father eventually brought the family back together when she was three and moved to Utah, where he remarried. The marriage didn’t work out, and within a few months, they moved to West Sussex, where Mia spent her life until she was 18.

“Looking back, I was always an actor,” Mia said. “I’m sure that because of the early instability in my life, I would literally create my own worlds where I could feel safe. Even growing up in a large family, I was a lonely child. Every child was grieving because we had lost our mother, and our father was in agonizing grief, so we were isolated from each other. I would draw pictures, and cut out photos from magazines to create a family to place in a world of my own. And then I’d close my eyes and they’d come alive in my imagination. And when I watched movies as a child, if I liked a character, I would just become that character for sometimes weeks at a time. I would dress like them, and talk like them, so even as a child, I was stimulating my actors imagination.”

 

“When I first started at RADA, our director, Ed Kemp, gave us a quote by Alan Rickman (the British actor, instructor and mentor to many aspiring actors, famous for playing Severus Snape in Harry Potter), who was alive at the time:

‘Your job as actors, with the help of your teachers and directors, is to rid yourself of the brick walls, bad habits and inhibitions which prevent you from communicating that imagination. Actually, we are employed because of our imaginations.’”

But Mia’s journey to acting has taken a circuitous route from London, to Australia, to America, and back and forth between the three countries many times, always driven by a desperate search for something she has not understood until recently.  As a teenager, she was compelled to get a job at the airport, because she found all the activity exciting, and was energized by the idea of travel. She said she felt suffocated by the culture of her community in West Sussex; the area had the highest teen pregnancy rate in the country and she loathed the plainness and predictability of such a lifestyle.

“I came from a town where most people never left, and I remember the youngest kid who I knew who had a kid was 12 years old.” She worked for several years at the Gatwick airport with a single mindset of leaving, and just before she turned 18, saved enough money for a one-way ticket to Australia.

“I had only about forty pounds to my name, but I went to live with an Australian family as sort of an au pair. They were very kind to me, and encouraged me to have different kinds of experiences.” She felt welcomed in this family with traditional parents, and settled comfortably under the wing of the surrogate mother as her own.

Growing up as a Mormon, Mia felt she always had a safe network of people around her, but also had little exposure to other ways of thinking, and this often caused her confusion and deep conflict. In Australia, she found a job in an organic food store, where she met many different kinds of people, who stimulated her thinking about her life, and planted the first seeds of doubt about her beliefs. “I think it was one of my favorite jobs, because of all the interesting people that I met.”

Eventually, she saved enough money to study, and found scholarships and support to attend Brigham Young University in Provo, Utah. In spite of her growing internal conflicts, she still found shelter and comfort in her Mormon community at BYU.  She was drawn to acting, but started by trying to go around it in several ways. She studied journalism, envisioning herself in documentary making. She then decided to go behind the cameras and learn film work.

Mia worked for Women’s Services and Resources at BYU where she organized campus events that focused on women’s empowerment. One such campaign, called “Recapturing Beauty” featured a woman, Stephanie Nelson, a wife, mother of four children and a blogger who was in a horrific airplane crash that left her severely injured and disfigured at age 27 and threatened to “forever change her relationship with her children” because they couldn’t even look at her.  Another campaign called ”Voices of Courage” focused on female victims of abuse and one of the events showcased a collection of artwork created by abuse survivors. But even as she worked tirelessly to promote women’s issues, Mia continued to be drawn toward acting. “I was always too scared to just kind of go for it,” she lamented.

“I always had this thing inside of me,” she continued. “Maybe I didn’t know it was acting, maybe it was performing, but I always had that desire to…I don’t know…to entertain, or to tell stories, or to connect. There was always just something there.”

While still a teen in England, Mia had often taken the train into London, where she liked to hang out on the West End and feel the vibe of the performance community. She imagined herself as a journalist, and would pretend to interview the actors to see if they would talk with her.  

“I was bold back then, and very talkative. At the time, I was studying media, and we were learning how to be journalists. I got myself into the press section with all the reporters, and they asked me who I was, and they encouraged me to go for it. So, I got my notebook out of my backpack, and I would go up to the actors and just start interviewing them, as if I was a reporter for a magazine, and they would literally talk to me and answer my questions. So, I thought, ‘I could really do this’, and I started going to events and being a reporter.” She told them she was with a publication she invented called “Freestyle Magazine”—a magazine created for young people about young people.

Mia studied at BYU for several years, and worked summers in Australia. She eventually took classes in acting, and found instructors she described as both inspiring and nurturing. But she became increasingly conflicted and unhappy, and described some dark times of self-destructive thoughts, behaviors and relationships. She began to question everything, from her beliefs, to her identity, to her sexual orientation. Mia started to recognize that she had been searching for a mother all of her life, and began to look back and see a pattern of attaching herself to mother figures.

“For so long, I’ve looked for a mother or a family, like a baby that wants to feel nurtured and safe. When you don’t have that, it’s hard. You feel like you’re blowing in the wind. I’ve quite literally done that,” Mia recalled.

“WHAT COULD I POTENTIALLY LIVE FOR THAT WOULD GIVE ME MEANING OR PURPOSE, THAT WOULD EXCITE ME AND MAKE ME WANT TO REALLY BE ALIVE?”

She described her lowest point in 2010 when she was at BYU and feeling increasingly despondent, alone, and suicidal. “My whole life started to turn upside down. I was questioning everything, including my purpose. For so long, I’d been defined by my religion. My whole network of people was Mormon, and if I left, I was going to be the bad person. I felt panic about who I was and what I really stood for. Leaving the religion meant there would be family repercussions; my identity was built on the definitions of my siblings.”

She recalls one night in this dark time, lying in her bed in Provo, Utah, and asking herself this question: “What could I potentially live for that would give me meaning or purpose, that would excite me and make me want to really be alive?”

“I didn’t know of anything else but acting,” she said. “There was just nothing else, and I remember making that conscious choice. It was very powerful and I will always remember it. Ever since then, I just started looking for as many opportunities as I could to be the type of actor that I wanted to be.”

Mia applied for and attended two short courses at RADA before she was accepted to their full-time program. Her circuitous route to becoming a professional actor has wound over several years and over many different paths, from BYU to Sundance, to London and LA, with a myriad of opportunities pulling at both her heart and her purse strings. Many times along the way, others recognized in her a raw and natural talent for acting, and she was courted by schools and influential people in the entertainment industry. She considered many different options, but her desire for classical training, and her reconnection to her roots in London swayed her decision, and she committed to a 3-year program at RADA that began in 2015.

In the meantime, she sought therapy to help her understand and resolve her self-destructive patterns and keep her focus on her goals. She believes she was about 25 when she started to define herself as “not Mormon”, and credited moving back to London in 2012 as the first opportunity she allowed herself the chance to discover who she was and what she stood for.


“It’s been painful,” Mia said emphatically. “Sometimes when I’m having a particularly hard time, I say to my best friend, Dalton, ‘I better make it as an actor, because I didn’t go through this shitty life for nothing.’”

“I KNOW I’M NOT THE ONLY ONE THAT FEELS PAIN, AND YOU KNOW THERE’S A CERTAIN COMFORT THAT COMES WHEN YOU KNOW SOMEONE GETS IT.”
"If you can somehow empathize with your characters in order to tell a story, and communicate to touch another human being, and if that means that someone in the audience, when they look at me through my acting, can look at me, and say, ‘I get that pain,’ then I’ve done my job.” - Mia S.

"If you can somehow empathize with your characters in order to tell a story, and communicate to touch another human being, and if that means that someone in the audience, when they look at me through my acting, can look at me, and say, ‘I get that pain,’ then I’ve done my job.” - Mia S.

Mia describes acting as an incredibly vulnerable experience. “You have to be so vulnerable, and you constantly wonder if you’re enough. I can’t bullshit my way through life. I know that I have a long way to go in terms of learning and figuring it out, but it’s really, really hard sometimes.”

She said feels most authentic and most happy when taking risks and being “all in” to make human connections. She said, “Like Brene Brown talks about when you’re in the arena and you fall flat on your face, having given your all to someone or something that didn’t work out, and as hard as those experiences are, it’s in those moment when you know you're most human. Life is a verb. It’s something that constantly moves, and you just have surrender and go with it sometimes. Otherwise you can end up loosing yourself.”


Even though she’s now on more solid ground with her career path, Mia still reports dark times. She’s struggled with health issues like chronic tonsillitis and glandular fever, sometimes being so sick she questions whether she should continue for the sake of her health.  “I’m telling you right now, it’s not easy, and the number of times I’ve texted my friends and said, ‘I can’t do it anymore…like I mean literally. I have to make a daily choice to really engage at school. And not just at school, but in my life as a whole. I’m really learning that at the moment.”

“I recently read somewhere that self-love isn’t optional, so that’s kind of been my mantra for the past six months. And part of loving myself is following this path as an actor. But training to be an actor is exhausting; this work is very exposing. I am constantly being challenged to question who I am and everything I believe about the world around me. Its draining, but if I’m honest its one of the most wonderful parts of being an actor. We get to dedicate our lives to exploring our hearts and guttural instincts, and asking ourselves daily, what it means to be human, and as such we get to be society's voice, heart and soul.”

“Brene Brown talks about this concept of wholeheartedness. I genuinely want that in my life. I think we live in a world where we are constantly wearing masks. For me, I think that’s why I chose acting because, again, going back to this quote: ‘You rid yourself of the brick walls and the inhibitions…’ and essentially the masks that we wear. And you take it off, and whether it’s to an audience member, or your best friend or your sister, you say, ‘Here I am, this is me. I see you, and I allow you to see me, too. I don’t think there’s anything more powerful than that, when we’re willing to take off our masks.”

“AND IT WASN’T UNTIL RECENTLY THAT I REALIZED THAT I’M THE ONLY ONE THAT CAN EVER REALLY CREATE THAT, AND I HAVE THE POWER TO DO THAT. BUT THAT’S A VERY SCARY THING, BECAUSE YOU REALIZE YOU’VE HAD THE POWER ALL ALONG.”

For all the extreme challenges, Mia’s life path glows with a beam of resilience and resourcefulness. From finding physical or emotional strength to keep going, or scraping together the resources she needs to support herself, she somehow always makes it work. We asked her where she gets her courage and stamina.

“I have a strong vision of what I want my life to look like. I’ve been guilty of focusing on the future of it, but particularly at RADA, you don’t get to think about the future because you just have to be in the present here. So really, I’m learning that I have to embrace the journey of it.”

In Mia’s journey—seeking a mother and a family, a purpose and a career path, she’s collected a backpack full of wisdom and insight. Returning to study at RADA in London--so near to the place she wanted desperately to escape just a few years earlier--seemed puzzling to us. Many people who move away from their roots do so to start a new life, and free themselves of their sometimes painful histories. Listening to Mia’s story prompted us to ask her the question that now seemed central to her story: “Where is your home now?”

“It’s funny. I was just talking with my dad about this not too long ago. A lot of people have bases, like parents’ homes. A place where if something happens—a crisis or something—a place where you can go and you’ll be ok. It’s that place—that sense of stability. I guess because I didn’t have that, because I’ve moved around so much from Australia to London to back to Australia to America to London to America and back and forth from London, just in the past two years, I think I’ve been searching for that home. That’s been the most unsettling.”

“I’m learning now that home comes from within, and I have to build it from within now, rather than look for external things. That’s been quite a light opener for me in my life. And it wasn’t until recently that I realized that I’m the only one that can ever really create that, and I have the power to do that. But that’s a very scary thing, because you realize you’ve had the power all along. And that can be very intimidating because then you have to give up all these ideas and stories you’ve told yourself that, ‘I can’t. I can’t.’”

“I think that’s real bravery.”

- Mia Selway, Royal Academy of Dramatic Art

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Posted on May 14, 2017 .

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Welcome to The Villa—we’re glad you stopped by.

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Our stories connect us. In time, they become the fabric of lives and relationships. In our years of working with women from all over the world, we’ve collected amazing stories. We’ve been privileged to hear women’s tales of strength and courage in the face of hardship, and been guided by their struggles with fear, self-doubt, and seemingly insurmountable obstacles. We are all the same in many ways; we may take different paths, but we share common sentiments:

“I thought it was just me who lacked confidence.”

“It’s hard to find work and life balance.”

“I want to be myself at work.”

“If I can’t negotiate flexibility, the big job isn’t worth it.”
“I want my work to make a difference.”

“I don’t have time to network, and I can’t stand the thought of self-promotion.”

The Villa is our new blog, designed to bring you into our community to enrich our collective experience through shared stories.

In our monthly feature, Aluminaria, you’ll read about inspiring, real women who are authentic, who’ve taken risks, and experienced as many failures as successes. They also possess the courage to keep moving forward in spite of the fear. You may not find them on the covers of business magazines as the most powerful or the most celebrated, but you will find in their stories something that will help you see that you aren’t alone in your own big dreams and self-doubts.

You will also find story snippets, photos, videos, and resources that will return you to The Villa every day for more of what you need to enrich your own story.

Join us. Bring your friends. Share your ideas and your experiences here at The Villa.    

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Posted on March 8, 2017 .

Velvet Rodriguez-Poston: The Artist of Law

By Merrilee Buchanan

Photographs by Carol Storey

Carol Storey and I interviewed Velvet Poston-Rodriguez for our first Aluminaria feature on inspiring women who are taking risks and being bold for change. #BeBoldforChange

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We rode the elevator to the 7th floor of the McIntyre building in downtown Salt Lake City. It was not the typical law office I had expected. Rows of teardrop-shaped glass crystals hung from the ceiling in the lobby and all the way down the main hallway. The walls were colored in deep rust-red, and a bright, brush-stroke painting greeted us at the entry.

“Did I tell you that Velvet bought the whole 7th floor?” Carol whispered as we took in our new surroundings.

Honestly, I had not known what to expect when meeting Velvet Rodriguez-Poston. Velvet is a partner in Rodriguez-Poston & Fackrell PLLC Mediation Services in Salt Lake City, Utah.  Carol had set up this meeting, with little more to say than, “I can’t fully describe her, except that she’s one of the coolest people I know.” And, “You will love her. She’s exactly the person we want for our first story.”

I recognized Velvet instantly in the group of women chatting near the reception desk. At least I had done my homework and stalked her website and LinkedIn page so I would have some thoughtful questions. She walked over and met us with a life-sized smile and a warm hug, even though this was my first meeting with her. She and Carol are long-time friends.

There might not be a more suitable name for this woman greeting us than “Velvet”. Her graceful presence is smooth and soft like the fabric that bears her name, and her personal style is modern and elegant. Simply put, she glows. Her long dark hair tucks behind one ear and falls casually to her shoulder, and her eyes shine with radiance and her lips with perhaps newly-applied gloss. There is nothing formal about her, but she exudes a warm, welcoming professionalism that instantly makes you trust her, and a familiarity that suggests you might have grown up together.

“Would you like a tour?” she asks before we start our interview. Carol and I practically stumble over each other with exuberance to see each room and absorb every detail. We follow her into the glass-lit hallway as she opens every door and provides a brief explanation of the room’s purpose. The first conference room is painted in a rich plum color. A round conference table sits in the center beneath a sparkly chandelier. It’s surrounded by white leather swivel chairs.

“We call this room “Vegas”, Velvet says. “Every room has a name and a character.”

This is clearly not a traditional law office with wood-paneled credenzas, over-stuffed leather chairs and framed diplomas reminding you of the formality of your business there.  Originally built in 1909, this building’s 7th floor is filled with personality and color. Art is everywhere: Each door has a unique, delicate, stained-glass insert. Velvet shyly admits she made all of them.

“You’ll see I’m passionate about art,” she said. “I could give up my law practice in a heartbeat and just be an artist full time. But I don’t have to. See?”

At this point, she opens a door to a full-blown art studio, stocked with racks of oil paints, brushes, chalk, and all manner of art supplies. Several canvases lean against the wall with early suggestions of what they may become.

I hear Carol gasp audibly in disbelief.

“I know, right? Isn’t it great?” Velvet quips with a hint of sass.

“This is my work/life balance, right here in this little room.” She holds up a painting while Carol snaps a few pictures. “When my girls come to my office, this is where they hang out. My daughter did this little painting right here,” she says while gesturing toward the wall on my left. Her face wears a proud parent smile.

“Sometimes I have a little down time while my clients are filling out paperwork, or deliberating on their options. Five minutes here, ten minutes there. It’s just enough time for me to come in here and throw a few strokes of paint on the canvas. It helps me focus, and re-set my energy, especially if we’re working through something that’s really tough or stressful. I want to be fully present with my clients, and when I come out of this room, I’m calmer, and my thinking is clearer.”

The number of different rooms seems endless. There are now nine mediators, including Velvet’s husband, Scott, working in her practice. The practice grows by word of mouth only; aside from doing speaking engagements, providing training classes, and supporting a myriad of community causes with fund-raising, their firm does no formal advertising.

“I decided early in my career that traditional law was not going to be an option for me. It seemed like it existed in a very small box. And it’s not my personality to be super aggressive if I don’t have to be. So I was in my 2nd year of law school, and my professor started a community mediation center, and she said, ‘Who wants to be in charge?’ I didn’t even know what mediation was, and I raised my hand because I didn’t know the difference.”

At last, Velvet leads us to a semi-hidden room around a corner. It has light blue-green walls, a bright window, and a wide, black velvet tufted Cleopatra sofa, adorned with two gold lamé pillows.

I laugh out loud in surprise. I’ve never seen anything like this—in a law office or any kind of office, for that matter. Carol, however, signals me to turn around, and I see her sitting in a full massage chair, tucked in a small alcove.

“This is where we bring people when they’re really stressed out or upset,” Velvet said. “Or when we are, of course,” she adds playfully. The room is unquestionably soothing and calming. I could imagine myself as a cat curled up in a sunbeam on the sofa on a sleepy Friday afternoon.

In spite of their differences, I noticed something consistent in each of the rooms: a large bowl of packaged snacks perched on a corner table. Granola bars, chips, cookies, crackers, popcorn, and nuts were plentiful. Velvet explained, “People come to mediation, and sometimes they’re here for a long time. When we’re under so much stress, sometimes we forget to take care of our own basic needs, and if you get really hungry and your blood sugar drops, you can’t think clearly or make good decisions. So we anticipate that and try to take good care of people with snacks and drinks. It’s just being human, I guess.”

We returned to the Vegas room for the interview.

“I am a political refugee from Guatemala,” Velvet began.

“My parents were chased out of the country essentially because my dad was a big part of the civil rights movement in the 1980s when Guatemala was going through a civil war. There were hundreds of thousands of deaths and people escaping the country. We were on the no-fly list and the no-travel list on all the borders. So we had to actually sneak into Mexico, and then seek political asylum in the United States.”

It was again not the story I was expecting. It was hard to imagine this woman in a position of oppression of any kind, given all that we had just seen in the expressed freedom of the artful office décor.

Velvet went on to describe how the family had arrived in Utah. When she was 8 years old and crossing borders with her parents as refugees, her uncle provided one name of a person with whom he had served an LDS mission some years before.

“So when we arrived in Salt Lake,” she said, “we just had this name. My parents looked up the name in the phone book, and called up—cold call—and said, “Hey, I think my brother served a mission with your son.” Bless these people’s hearts, we didn’t have anything with us…just a tiny little suitcase, and they said, ‘We’ll be right there.’ They came to greet us with leis, and welcome signs, and it was really something.”

Velvet grew up in Provo, Utah, and said it was not an easy time to be Hispanic or an immigrant, as there were not many people who understood either her plight or her aspirations. She spoke no English when she arrived in the US with her parents. Her first language had been a Guatemalan indigenous dialect because she was raised by a nanny while her parents worked. Her second language was Spanish, and she had attended a private German school. She said she thought English sounded a little like German, and picked up the language in a short time, becoming the interpreter and translator for her parents and relatives who arrived later.

She remembers vividly an encounter with her academic counselor when she was in the 9th grade. “As she led me into the office, I said, “What classes will I have to take to go to a good university?”

“I will never forget what she said: ‘Your people should concentrate on graduating from high school, not on going to universities. Statistically, you’ll never make it to a university. You’ll only hopefully graduate from high school.”

Velvet continued. “But I know I can make it to university, so what classes do I have to take?” And she said, ‘Well, you would have to take honors classes, but I actually dropped all of your honors classes because I don’t think you can handle it.’ That was with a 4.0 GPA.”

She pauses with a chuckle, and takes a deep breath in the way you might before climbing a long flight of stairs.

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“And I remember at that moment I thought to myself, “I’m going to make it. You watch me. You may not believe in me, but I’m going to do this thing. The way I’m going to get it done is by studying really hard and applying myself. So that’s what I did. Isn’t that funny? That was like my pinnacle, where I thought, “Oh, no, you don’t get to tell me anymore what I can and cannot do. I get to decide what I do, even if everything is stacked against me. I don’t care.”

Velvet has carried that determination into every part of her life, and carving out a niche for mediation services in a traditional law environment has not come without setbacks. I asked her how she deals with challenges and pressures, both as a professional and as a mother.

“I get a lot of pressure and criticism from the law community,” she said. “People are uncomfortable with change, and have a hard time accepting things that are different from what they know. I understand it, but some people have said some really hurtful things. ‘Go over and see Velvet’, I’ve heard they’ve said, and ‘she’ll charge you while she paints.’”

“Sometimes I break because it gets so hard,” she continued. “I cry a little, then I recover and move on. I’m not going to let other people’s opinions ruin my life. I decided that in the 9th grade.”

With parenting, Velvet said that she built her career to be inclusive of her children. Her daughters, now 17, 14, and 11, are regulars in the office, when they’re not tied up with their own individual pursuits. She remarked that they had all worked together painting, cleaning and remodeling the offices before they moved in, and they provide her with frequent feedback and advice.

“When I’m preparing for a talk or a training, I always sit them down and practice in front of them, and they are my biggest fans and critics. I want my communication to be understood by a broad audience, and they tell me things like, ‘Don’t say it that way, Mom, or use this word instead of that one.’ It’s really valuable to me.”

She and her husband, Scott, are raising their daughters with the same kind of support and high-expectations that her parents provided her.

“My parents definitely were a source of strength for me. It wasn’t an option for them for me not to succeed. It was never an option to not go to college, or not be a doctor or a lawyer. They had given me two choices—lawyer or doctor, and I honestly thought those were my only two choices on earth. I had no idea I could choose anything else.”

Though they are not prescribing their daughters’ career paths, they are intentionally shaping them to be strong, independent women. Velvet said she keeps a note on the bathroom mirror that says, “You are beautiful, you are smart, and if you work hard enough, you can do anything you want.” Her girls have repeated this mantra daily since they were toddlers, and she feels it’s paying off. “We have this opportunity to raise a generation of young people who think differently, who see their own capabilities, and it’s normal for them. This is the stuff that will change the future.”

When I asked Velvet what advice or wisdom she would like to share with regard to International Women’s Day’s 2017 theme: #BeBoldforChange, she didn’t hesitate.

“We have to start with being bold for ourselves. We as women are often brought up to serve others and take care of other people’s needs first. But we can’t be bold out in the world if we’re not bold with ourselves, and that often means setting limits, saying no, and not trying to keep everyone else happy all the time.”

“Be bold. Be colorful. Be yourself. That’s what I would say,” she concluded.

Velvet walked us to the elevator as we absorbed the last details of her story and Carol clicked her shutter a few more times.

“Funny story”, she said. “Just to make your day.” Velvet then described the process she went through when she decided to buy the 7th floor of the McIntyre Building.

“I heard it was on the market, so I made arrangements with the agent to come see it. I was dressed a little more casually that day, so when I arrived to meet him, he looked at me with that up-and-down once-over, and said, ‘You can get the key from someone on the 3rd floor.’”

“I’m sure what he saw was a young, Hispanic woman who obviously couldn’t afford the property, so it wasn’t even worth his time to show it. I got the key and showed myself around.”

“I was really interested,” she said, “but I had to do all my own research to get the information I needed, and I learned that his listing was expiring in a week. I waited it out until a new agent had listed it, won a short bidding war, and it was mine.”

“But here’s the best part,” Velvet continued. “A few months later, I ran into this agent at a fundraiser, but I was dressed up and he obviously didn’t recognize me. He approached me and introduced himself and started to hand me his card.”

“’Actually, we have met,’ I told him, and he looked puzzled. I said, ‘I came to look at the property and you refused to take the time to show it to me. Then your listing expired and I put in an offer, and the 7th floor is ours now. But it’s great to meet you again anyway.’”

“You should have seen his face,” she said. “He put his card back in his pocket and excused himself.”

“You can always count on Karma Bitch."

       

Do you know a woman in your life that has left you inspired and empowered? Nominate her to be highlighted in our features below!

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Posted on March 8, 2017 .

#BeBoldForChange2017

The theme for International Women's Day this year is "Be Bold For Change".

We asked some women this question: “How will you #BeBoldforChange in your life this year?” and received some incredible answers. Some of them are posted here, but we would love to hear your ideas, too. Reply in the comments, or send us your thoughts (and a photo!) to: info@villaleadership.com.

Kate Della-Piana Age 62

Kate is a licensed Clinical Social Worker in Salt Lake City, Utah.  She is currently in private practice and a former Director of Family Counseling Center that is a  non-profit and is the only organization of its kind dedicated to serving low-income families.

Kate's #BeBoldForChange statement: 

 "I will be bold by actively creating a path that works for me at this stage of life. Although circumstances change and events outside of our control occur, helpful principles can serve me well.  I want to continue to cultivate a fearless heart, seek understanding, self-awareness, insight, and learning to be passionate about my work, and express support and love to others as they journey."

Mia Selway Age 29

Mia is an acting student at the Royal Academy of Dramatic Arts. She lives in London, England. 

Mia's #BeBoldForChange statement:

"I feel like I am constantly having to be bold for change in all areas of my life.  I guess that's because my deepest desire is to live my most authentic self.  But that requires constant self-reflection and transformation as I learn more about who my most authentic self is.  It's an ongoing challenge, but the more I'm leaning into the truth of who I am, the bolder I'm having to become in facilitating my personal evolution."

Courtney Kenefick Age 26

Courtney is a fashion editor at Surface Magazine and lives in New York, New York.

Courtney's #BeBoldForChange statement:

"To fight the monumental fights that we need to take on collectively--from inclusiveness and equal pay to standing up against discriminatory policy--I put pressure on myself to be stronger and non-complacent as an individual.  That means making bold changes on a smaller scale:  at work, amplifying my voice (and the voices of my female colleagues) so we are heard equally as loud (and paid equally as much) as the boys, even when it's uncomfortable; or taking on a project that scares me, but will propel me forward to a place where a female opinion is very much needed.  I approach relationships socratically, wanting to learn about and better understand a reality that is different from my own, so I can speak intelligently on the behalf of those who are marginalized.  More recently, I'm focusing on finding time daily to help somebody else.  No matter the size of the gesture, I find it more clarifying than meditation."

Mollie the Feminist Pug Age 14

Mollie likes chew toys, dog bones, and equal rights for women. 

Mollie's #BeBoldForChange Statement:

 "I will be bold for change as long as there is food involved.  Otherwise, I am indifferent.  Thank you very much."

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Posted on March 7, 2017 .

Celebrate International Women's Day 2017

International Women's Day isn't just about giving a flower to a woman you appreciate and telling her she's great. This day, March 8, is a symbol of the struggles that women around the world have undergone to gain equality and rights and a reminder of how far there is still to go. Fortunately, there are some things that you can do to help celebrate this important day.

Posted on March 7, 2017 .

The Benefits of Being

Sitting across the table from me today was a person very different from the one I had seen a month before; with tearful anger, she had told me she was looking for a new job. She needed inspiration, and a team that valued her commitment and wanted to be part of her high-performance machine. She felt undervalued and unappreciated, not to mention undercompensated.

Posted on February 9, 2017 .

Reduce Stress by Living in the Moment: 3 Essential Tips for Practicing Mindfulness

We've all heard the buzzword "mindfulness" in recent years. Many organizations are realizing that in order to reduce stress, we have to stop thinking about the future all the time and just be in the moment. Here at Chocolate Villa, we teach different ways to focus in, listen to your emotions, and reduce stress. Mindfulness is a great way to do all three. But just what is mindfulness?

Posted on January 30, 2017 .

Following Your Big Dot Dreams

We need the combination of intention and structure to actually help us “live the life we have imagined,” as Thoreau encourages us to do. If we imagine the Big Dots as our dreams, we can use the Little Dot actions to keep us moving in that direction, as in “living the life”—the daily practices and behaviors that actually create the movement we need to achieve the dream.

Posted on January 16, 2017 .

The Cookbook Has Arrived!

Filled with recipes, photos and conversation games to take you right back to your Chocolate Villa week, the Cookbook is colorful, dynamic and rich with the tastes and memories of your dining experience at Chocolate Villa. A little self-indulgence—er, we mean self-care—goes a long way.

Posted on December 22, 2016 .

Are you Choosing Love or Fear?

In conversation with a dear friend and colleague earlier this week, she said, “I want to do all of my work from now on in the spirit of love—with my work partners, with my clients, and in the projects I am choosing to do. To do anything else, at this point in my career, is a waste of energy.”

Posted on December 1, 2016 .