No More Makeovers

As women in our 20’s and 30’s, we are often chasing fashion fads—the latest hairstyle, smoky eyes or skinny jeans in an effort to live up to someone else’s idea of beauty. We find out years later how we looked when reminiscing over pictures. “Wow” you say, “I looked like a crazy blend of Madonna and Rachel from Friends!” “What was I thinking?” Worse yet, if we don’t stop going for the trendy looks, we find our kids saying, “Please tell me you’re not wearing that Mom?”

What we don’t know about the futility of these surface fixes is that the beauty we are searching for lies a little deeper. Whether we acknowledge it or not, we may have lost touch with the woman we wanted to be physically, spiritually or emotionally, and it could be affecting every aspect of our beauty. We don’t know what’s missing or how we lost it, but at some point there is an awakening. We spend our 20’s and 30’s in what I call our getting years—getting the job, getting the husband, getting the kids, getting the perfect house—only to wake up later on and say, “I may want everything I have, but do I have everything I want?”

If you want to find real and lasting beauty in your life and look, now is the time in your life to know that you have earned something more. Let’s stop wasting time on make overs, it’s time for a transformation!

I was lucky enough to spend the first 10 years of my career working on my dream of being a makeup artist, doing what I thought was making people beautiful. After working with top celebrities and truly amazing people who don’t live in the spotlight, I learned an invaluable lesson. No matter how good I am as a makeup artist I can only enhance your true beauty. Saying that usually brings up two reactions; “Yeah right” and “Great, but what is true beauty?” Your true beauty is in your passion, compassion, your tears and laughter. It’s also the times when you allow yourself to revel in your deeply beautiful qualities. Every line, every wrinkle, and every gray hair, is a wonderful part of the story of your beauty.

This next step is the most challenging for a lot of us: defining our beautiful qualities. In my experience, women would pop down in my makeup chair time and again with the first words out of their mouths being, “Could you cover this or that up” or “Make me look 10 pounds thinner” or “10 years younger?” Listing what we feel is wrong with us is easy. But when I ask women to list 10 things they feel make them beautiful, they often have a hard time. I’d like you to do that when you finish reading this. But don’t stop at 10. I want you to list 20 or even more of your beautiful qualities. These can be your hips, lips, smile, sense of humor, listening skills, intelligence, or anything else that makes you a stunning one-of-a-kind woman.

From there, I want you to post your list where you can see it, maybe even break it down into smaller lists. Put them on post-it notes on your make up mirror or the visor of your car. Just be sure to put these reminders of your beauty in places that constantly reinforce the definition of who you are.

Busy women fall out of touch with who they are and forget what they have to offer. Sometimes they need a reminder of the divine gifts they are to the world. They need permission to celebrate themselves and know that it’s okay to bloom, soak in the sun and express the wild colors they were created to be.

Let your list be your reminder and before you spend any time at the end of this year or the beginning of the next thinking about what you don’t have, remember the beauty you DO have!

The Power of Perspective

Have you ever felt like no one understands you? That no matter how much you try to explain what you mean, no one seems to get it? You feel frustrated and think, If I understand, why can’t they? This is what I went through during the first 18 years of my life. I saw things in a way no one else could and had trouble getting others to view them from my perspective. While I felt completely alone and misunderstood, I only realized later that most people experience the same thing that I did at some point.

Most of us have a deep desire to be understood, and while we often expect others to fully comprehend what we’re saying and see things our way, this is actually impossible. We all possess a unique perspective that cannot be shared or replicated. No two people see the world in the exact same way.

This can be quite frustrating, especially when we’re trying to communicate how we feel, what we see, or what we’re experiencing. But, if we’re able to understand the power of perspective we can find ways to get around this frustration.

To help further understand the idea of perspective, try imagining your life as a movie. Let’s call it My Life. In this movie, you not only play the lead character, but you are also the writer, director, cinematographer, and producer. After all, this is your life.

Everyone else in your film is a secondary character and plays a supporting role, and some people play more important parts than others. Every character has a unique vantage point or perspective from which he or she sees the script, sets, cinematography—everything about it. However, since it’s the movie of your life, you get to direct all aspects of each individual’s performance. You get to tell the story of your life through your eyes only. You interpret every scene through the lens of your camera.

Now to complete this analogy, all of the secondary characters (your parents, kids, siblings, teachers, friends, and so on) have also created their own movies, each called My Life. They have the lead role in their own movies and work as producer, writer, and director. In each of their films, you act as a secondary character, and it’s their turn to direct you. You can probably understand that the perspective you have as a character in someone else’s story is very different from the one you have in your own. Hopefully this illustrates how complicated things can get when you interact with so many different people, all of them directing their own life movies, all at the same time.

Can you imagine watching one of your scenes where a particular event is playing out, while simultaneously watching the same scene in someone else’s movie where you’re in a supporting role? Anyone seeing these two take place at the same time would quickly realize that while they are both about the same event, they each interpret the situations and emotions in entirely different ways. No two movies will ever be the same, because no two perspectives are ever identical.

One of the reasons I always use to butt heads with other people was because I believed they should see the world as I did. Instead of trying to understand things from their points of view, I assumed that with enough persuasion they’d finally come to see things as I did. My obsession with being right often prevented me from shifting my perspective to incorporate their thoughts and opinions. As a result, I was constantly getting into power struggles, unwilling to waver in my views.

It was only when I was able to admit that everyone sees life through a difference set of lenses and no one perspective is ever right or wrong that my relationships began to transform and I finally began to feel the true freedom that I had been longing for my entire life.

It’s unreasonable to expect others to accept or consider our perspective if we’re not willing to do the same for them. The truth is that the world isn’t really “as it is,” but as we see it, and we all see it differently.

Take Action Challenge:

Do you try to make your way THE way? Do you seek validation by trying to be right? Do you expect others to get where you are coming from but aren’t willing to see their side of the story? Are you tired of having so much conflict in your life? For the next 7 days, try walking a mile in another person’s shoes. See life from a different perspective than your own. When you get to know where a person is coming from and what they have gone through, the more you understand why they think, speak and act in certain ways. This new understanding grants you the ability to respond with WAY MORE compassion and empathy instead of anger or frustration. When you practice the power of perspective you WILL eradicate all conflict from your life, once and for all!

**Part of this blog is an excerpt from Michael’s new book Empowered YOUth: A Father and Son’s Journey to Conscious Living (Hay House, Oct. 1, 2012)**

Michael Eisen is an inspirational speaker, author and the founder of the Youth Wellness Network (YWN), an organization dedicated to inspiring and empowering youth across the globe to live happier and more positive lives. YWN specializes in creating and implementing wellness programs in schools and organizations, while providing additional programs and training online (www.ywnambassadors.com). After positively transforming his own life at the age of 19, Michael is now on a lifelong crusade to share with other young people the principles, strategies, and practices that gave him the strength to start living a more joyful and healthier life. He contributes a fresh, young, authentic voice to the field of wellness, and is rapidly becoming a youth-wellness expert. Michael’s first book, Empowered YOUth: A Father and Son’s Journey to Conscious Living, co-authored with his father Jeffrey Eisen, will be officially released October 1, 2012 with Hay House. To learn more about Michael and the Youth Wellness Network, visit http://www.youthwellnessnetwork.ca.

Miracles Can Happen – TRUST

My last day of work at Head Start was on Thursday, August 2, 2012. I had the opportunity to see Michelle Phillips own the stage as our guest speaker and watch her facilitate workshop sessions for our staff. To be able to see staff that I have worked with for over six years go through the Beauty Blueprint Process and their reaction to the process was so neat to witness and watch unfold. Their eyes lit up, they felt empowered, valued, and motivated to take action. It was so fun to watch after going through the process myself.

My supervisor said some closing words of gratitude to me at the end of Pre Service. She gave me flowers and a photo album with personal notes from staff. To have Michelle with me on my last day of work and to start the Coaching Circle retreat that weekend was the perfect time to celebrate the closing of a significant chapter in my life and my 39th birthday. A huge part of my identity was stripped away and to have so much love and support around me was a blessing in disguise as I even turned a year older, closer to 40.

We smiled, we talked, we shared, we laughed, we cried, we stayed in the present moment and we healed ourselves and one another. I got a lot of take aways from the weekend and these are just a few:

To know that all will be OK. Sometimes and at least for me it feels good to hear it from another person as a reminder.
To laugh. It is so important to not take life so seriously and radiate not only your laughter out to others, but also notice what happens when the laughter affects others or situations around you. The more positive you are, the more positive things will be around you.
To have fun, be silly and not act my age. Ahhh, tubes and placebos can go a long way and reminded me, as well as gave me permission to be a kid again.
To take time to explore. To be open to receive the messages that are coming to you based on individuals in your life, opportunities that arise, or situations that occur in your life.
To trust yourself, seek clarity and not rush it. When you get clarity and you take your time to work through the emotions and situation at hand (whatever that is) you are most likely to be doing something that you love to do that is aligned with your spiritual truth, as well as your value system. The values that I selected out of Michelle’s book and that are the top three: Security, Connection and Spirituality. You can never go wrong with trusting what your heart is telling you to do regardless of outcome.
To voice my fears and not be scared to let others know. To surround myself with supportive people. communicate my needs, be able to talk to others about what I am fearful of and allow myself to be vulnerable. When you open yourself up to others it is so freeing not only for yourself but also an opportunity for others to give back to me.
To network and learn. To take this time to observe, listen, receive the messages or signs that are coming to me and learn, as well as grow from each person or experience will only help to become a better me.
Just over a year ago, I embarked on a new adventure and opportunity to join Michelle Phillips first Coaching Circle for Woman. It was one of those decisions that I made in my life without even thinking about it. I continued to participate in her circle of support up until tonight which was my last one. Another chapter in my life closing in my life out of many.

All of this is a true testament to the miracles that are occurring in my life each and every day. I went with what my heart was guiding me to do next. You can never go wrong with that. I learned in Michelle’s Coaching Circle throughout this year as another big take away, that there is no such thing as failure only outcomes. Regardless of what those outcomes are, you learn and grow from them. Making room for the new-OH the possibilities are endless.

Sit, Stay, Heal!

sit-stay-healNegative emotions are not fun to feel. They hurt. Oftentimes, to avoid feeling the pain, we will numb ourselves and stop feeling all together- or we will mask our pain by engaging in unhealthy habits like excessive eating, spending, drinking, or drugs. We may feel hopeless or that these feelings will never go away. Darkness, doubt, and fear may have become our constant companions. We may even come to identify with them and hold on to them because it’s all we know.

These feelings can “go away”. We are not victims to circumstance and feelings- we are creators and we can be choose to be victors instead of victims. We can choose to continue to allow our negative experiences to create our reality or we can work through these feelings and invite in experiences that feel better energetically.

Instead of rejecting our negative feelings or energy, we should explore these aspects of ourselves. It’s time to get comfortable with our discomfort and make friends with it. These moments are teachable moments and they are an incredible growth opportunity.

We need to learn to sit with our discomfort and we need to learn to stay with our discomfort so that we can work through it. Think of a puppy whom you teach to sit, stay, and heel. This is your invitation to sit, stay, and heal.

Think of the warm feelings of loving kindness that you would feel towards a puppy and extend those feelings to yourself. (You deserve this!) Think of the patience you would have for a new puppy as you are teaching him new tricks. You wouldn’t get angry because he can’t sit on his first try or because he can’t stay for more than two minutes right away. Not at all! Instead you would praise him for the 30 seconds he managed to do. You would delight in the fact that in a few days from now he manages a whole minute. You would enjoy the work of teaching your new pupil as well.

Treat yourself like that puppy. You know he’s a baby and you treat him accordingly. As a species, we humans are babies in our evolution as well. Have patience with yourself. Enjoy working with yourself. Learn to sit with your discomfort; learn to stay sitting, and you will teach yourself to heal. You will teach yourself how to transmute these feelings into opportunities for growth and positivity.

Happy healing journey to you!

April Dawn Ricchuito, D.D. & MSW is a writer, speaker, and integrative practitioner who brings a unique voice to the field of health and wellness by combining traditional evidence-based techniques with ancient practices such as yoga and newer findings in contemplative sciences. She has been recognized as a part of “Generation Inspiration” and is also named as one of 20 Young Champions for Women by the White Ribbon Alliance and WIE Symposium, presented by Donna Karan and Arianna Huffington. You can follow April on Facebook or Twitter. Visit http://www.beingandwellness.com to learn about services she offers, including Reiki & coaching, or Verbal Vandalism to check out her latest written works. She is now taking on new Reiki clients.

By April Dawn Ricchuito, D.D. & MSW

Woman, You are a Goddess!

woman-you-are-goddessBy April Dawn Ricchuito, D.D. & MSW

When I was a little girl, I loved school. I loved learning and reading and was fond of history, art, & humanities. It was only natural that I loved mythology- a beautiful blend of history, art, and storytelling. I knew all of the gods and goddesses by name and I knew their stories inside and out. They were friends that lived in the magical lands between the pages of books and I visited them often.

As I grew older and subsequently more serious, I had less time for fantasy and make believe. More time was devoted to scholarly studies and secular pursuits like finding a job once I finished grad school. Then the focus became working a 9 to 5 to pay the bills so I could keep going to work. My friends- the gods & goddesses- and I grew apart. But like any good friendship, when I found them again, time was of no consequence.

In our society, we have a neurotic need to categorize and label everything. We also have a tendency to think of everything as “separate” or think of ourselves as unique and “different”. The stories of the gods and goddesses are then dismissed as fantasy and make believe. We may find ourselves hard pressed to find any value in silly stories about make-believe people from our childhood- but that doesn’t mean the value isn’t there. It just means that we might not immediately recognize or understand the intrinsic value of make-believe.

We also tend to label anything before our highly technological time as “primitive”; certainly we associate the word “ancient” with being primitive. When we hear the stories of ancient civilizations, who no longer exist today, it’s all too tempting to dismiss them, thinking there’s absolutely nothing we can learn from an ancient culture with primitive ways- but we are far from accurate in this assessment. Although the times and technology have changed, the human psyche- our souls- have not. We love, we laugh, we cry; the ancient Greeks, Romans, and Egyptians did these same things. They were just like us. In fact, we are them.

While we may find their beliefs to be incomprehensible in today’s times, we should realize that the ancient civilizations understood their gods and goddesses to be archetypes- energies to be embodied; traits to be cultivated.

The world of mythology provides us an opportunity to actively explore the human psyche- indeed, some of the dramas would put even our raunchiest modern day reality TV shows to shame. In our masculine culture, the feminine energies are often overlooked and underappreciated. We learn about very few “strong women” in our Western history books. The accomplishments of most strong women come second to their sexual histories- it is the latter which is most often discussed. Marilyn Monroe, Queen Cleopatra, & Mary Magdalen are three great examples- society may not know a lot about all the great things they did, but it is common knowledge “who” they did!

The goddesses are more than just stories. They are chances for us to stand in our sacred feminine energy and embody the divinity that we are. They are not supermodels that bear no resemblance to the “average real woman”; they are role models. They are strong, powerful women who are mothers, daughters, sisters, and friends who live, laugh, love and cry- and just like our flesh & blood girlfriends, we can learn from them. We are them. Woman, you are a goddess!

The Law of Attractive Positive Impact

law-attractive-positive-impactYour Significant…Self?  How to be the best you for any relationship

That famous country song said we were looking for love in “all the wrong places” but maybe we were actually looking in all the wrong ways.  You might have a “list” of what you are looking for in your ideal mate or you might be looking for that special someone who “completes you”.  In the process you might be bringing in that same person who we may think is our type yet the reality to finding love successfully may be asking the question, “What type are we?”

Before you put on your Friday night best or log back on to your favorite hook-up website again let’s take a minute to look and feel your best about the most important person in the next relationship, YOU!  It is absolutely true that we attract what and who we are in to our lives.  When it comes to bringing in our friendships and romantic relations what we radiate is something I call, “The Law of Attractive”.  It is the true beauty that can’t be painted on or pumped up in the gym, instead it is the kind of amazing that, when you have the confidence to let it shine, will bring in the perfect person who compliments you not completes you.

I recently had a client I was coaching and after we conquered her work fears she said that her next goal was to get back into a relationship. Of course, no one who wants a relationship truly wants just anyone, they want Mr. or Ms. Right! And most of us know in our hearts exactly what that means, when someone asks we unfurl that dreaded “List”!  It is the magic, 10-foot long scroll with every physical, emotional, and spiritual quality that we think we need in a mate to be happy.  I asked her what was on her list and she rattled off things like; patient, extroverted, and easy-going.  I have to back up by saying I had already been working with her for a few months, and, while she was working on herself currently, she was none of those things.  So when I asked how her manhunt was going she said sadly that the people she was dating were none of those things.  Shocker!

So where do you start? Think about the phrase, “He” or “She” is a good match for me.  You don’t match socks by finding some that go nicely with each other, you match them by finding two that are as close to each other as possible.

  • Check it twice.  Before you start on your scavenger hunt for love, check the list once for yourself first.  If there are areas that you find important in someone else think about if you have them.  If you don’t, there is nothing wrong with taking some time to work on you.
  • Make your list.  Make a note of all the attributes you would find important in a long-term or forever type relationship.  Be sure to list more than just physical qualities like dark hair and full lips, the values that you find important such as; honesty, integrity, loyalty, and compassion, will play a much bigger role in the long-term success of your partnership.
  • Pay close attention to who is naughty and who is nice.  All too often when don’t stick to our list out of fear of rejection, (something), or maybe just a physical connection that we mistake for love but the whole time the alarms are going off inside us to run.  Trust your gut here and know that when the time is right for you and that special someone it will work out.

While there may not be a club, church, or online dating site to find true love there is one place that holds the magic of cupid’s arrow, your heart. Find that and honor it and you will be fully capable of loving someone else.  Love and be loved, it starts with you!

Michelle Phillips is the author of the bestselling beauty and self-esteem book, “The Beauty Blueprint- 8 Steps to Building the Life and Look of your Dreams” (Hay House) is now available on major book sites. You can listen to her live onMondays at 12pm est on www.HayHouseRadio.com .  She is also a regular guest on the national TV shows, The Daily Buzz, GalTime, and Daytime. www.michellephillips.com

How To Create Your Own Signature Style

how-create-your-own-signature-styleEvery woman wants to wear clothes that make her feel amazing, but in my job as a celebrity stylist, I know that creating that perfect look requires much more than just clothes. It takes deliberate choices about who my client is, and who she wants to be. I don’t just choose clothes that flatter her figure, either. While that is incredibly important, a stylist knows that to truly flatter a woman, clothes must capture something of the woman’s essence. Style is all about spirit: who you are, who you aspire to become, and what inspires you each and every day.

So while I can’t go shopping with you (though I’d love to!) I want to share a few of my favorite style strategies from my best-selling book, THE BEAUTY BLUEPRINT. I want you to learn what your own signature style is, and then embrace it!

Find Images That Appeal to You

First, go collect all the old magazines in your house. You can also grab some clothing catalogs or even go to online stores or designers’ websites. (I love the Chico’s website, for example.) Your first assignment is to look for hairstyles, accessories, and outfits you love, and then cut (or print) them out. Whenever you see an image or photo that immediately “pops”—one that appeals to you in a real and powerful way—grab it!

“But what if I’d never wear that?” some of my clients ask when we do this exercise together. “I love the look in this picture, but I couldn’t pull it off.”

Cut it out anyway! That’s all you have to do. This is an exercise—not a commitment to buy. I just want you to collect whatever inspires you regardless of whether or not you’d ever wear a certain outfit or copy a hairstyle. Fashion isn’t always meant to go straight from the photo to the street. Fashion is an art form, with each designer expressing a unique idea.

I’ve been backstage at the world-famous Fashion Week in New York City. I’ve stood next to the teeny-tiny models and the absolutely outrageous designs they wear. And you know what? I loved every minute of it, even though I would never wear many of the fashions myself. I understand the mission of those wild, over-the-top ensembles: all that creativity, the total fearlessness of the designer, inspires the rest of us. The excitement of innovative ideas and cutting-edge styles flood the market, and it enables everyone to interpret their own style in fresh new ways.

Fashion and design is all about experimenting with textures, colors, fabrics, patterns, and styles. Good designers find new ways to express what makes women like us feel beautiful. That’s what you’re doing in this exercise. You’ve become your own designer! You have identified images that moved you or piqued your interest, evoking powerful, pleasant emotions. In fact, that’s how I want you to feel every morning when you get dressed.

I want you to collect these images so you can see very clearly what most inspires you. I am helping you, through this exercise, to understand that style is about more than just the clothes. So many times, we confuse the excitement of a sale with inspiration!

Embrace What You Love About Your Body

I want you to embrace your body just as it is today. What is it about your figure that you really like? Your hourglass shape? Your strong legs? Your toned arms? Your graceful neck? Write down your best features. Can you come up with at least three? I hope so, because I know you have them. You need to know that, too. When you begin picking clothes, it will be important to know what physical features you want to accentuate.

My number one rule with all my clients is to accentuate the positive. Even celebrities struggle with this concept. We live in a world that harps on our figure “flaws” instead of celebrating what makes each woman unique. Creating your own special signature style will keep the emphasis on what makes you unique, and uniquely beautiful.

Identify Your Style Key Words

Next, what is in your heart and spirit that you’d really love to express to the world? I call those your “style key words.” To better understand this idea, let me share a story. . . .

I once had a client who would only wear black clothes and red lipstick. She interpreted this look as “dramatic creativity,” and those words made her feel beautiful. (Did I mention she was an artist?) This woman judged all fashion and style choices by this standard, until she realized that it was actually restricting her creativity instead of enhancing it.

Together, she and I hunted for photos of clothing styles and makeup looks that appealed to her, and she chose some wild stuff—including, to her surprise, ensembles that weren’t all black. Doing this exercise gave her the freedom to fully discover her sense of style. She still loved the notion of “dramatic creativity,” but now it could be expressed in many different ways. In the past, she would have skipped aisles of clothes that didn’t prominently feature black tops and bottoms. Now, she had a clear idea on how to incorporate new pieces into her wardrobe to freshen up her look without losing her identity.

Knowing what images appeal to you, and matching them to your style key words, will give you a beauty breakthrough. So what are your style key words? Read through the following list, and in your journal, jot down the names of those that appeal to you. When you’re finished, narrow your list down to your top five.

Style Key Words

  • Accessorized
  • African
  • All-American
  • Animal prints
  • Artistic
  • Asian
  • Bold primary colors
  • Casual elegance
  • Classic, timeless
  • Clean lines
  • Comfortable
  • Contemporary
  • Delicate
  • Detailed
  • Dramatic
  • Earthy
  • Edgy
  • Effortless
  • Embellished
  • European
  • Exotic
  • Feminine
  • Flirty and fun
  • Functional
  • Jewel-toned
  • Lace and ruffles
  • Latin
  • Lean
  • Leisure wear
  • Lightweight
  • Luxurious
  • Minimalist
  • Modern
  • Neutrals
  • Outdoor adventure
  • Romantic
  • Sexy
  • Sleek and chic
  • Soft
  • Sophisticated
  • Sporty
  • Statement pieces
  • Structured
  • Tribal
  • Versatile
  • Vintage

Not only have you identified your style key words, but you can also see fresh ways these looks are interpreted in fashion, hairstyles, and cosmetics. This can have an immediate payoff. As a former salon owner, for instance, I can’t tell you how many women thought they were describing what they wanted when they said, “I like Jennifer Aniston’s hair,” or “I like the layered look.” In reality, I had very little idea why those looks appealed to a client. My stylists and I would have to make an educated guess. But if a woman came in and said, “I like a sophisticated look with a modern edge. Here are a few photos I cut out from magazines that really appealed to me.” Wow! That information gives me so much more insight—and the ability to create a hairstyle that my client absolutely loves. As a stylist, I needed both the key words and the pictures—and so do you.

You’ve just created your very own Signature Style, just like all my clients who use my techniques from THE BEAUTY BLUEPRINT. Keep a copy of your choices, words and images in your purse. You can get put this information right to work, and it will save you hundreds of dollars. You can shop with the confidence of a stylist, knowing what features you want to emphasize, and what colors and designs reflect your spirit.

Don’t go shopping without this information! Without it, it’s easy to fall back into old habits and choose items that don’t reflect your style key words and images, or your best features. You might pick up something to please your spouse or peers, or because you found it on the clearance rack. Now you have an easy way to stay grounded and check whether something is aligned with your personal style before you hit the cash register and potentially waste money.

Always remember that the more you honor your true beauty, the less prone you will be to caving in to old insecurities and making the same old mistakes in life or at the cash register. You have a signature style to come back to, which allows you to rediscover (and celebrate) the real, beautiful you every day.

Celebrity stylist and life coach Michelle Phillips (www.MichellePhillips.com) shares secrets from her new book, THE BEAUTY BLUEPRINT, to help you save money and look fabulous.

After working in the beauty industry as a make up artist and stylist for celebrities, I can tell you- first hand- that the women who sat in my chair did not look nearly the same as they did once they had an army of stylists, lighting experts, photographers, and then computer experts create their on camera look.

With so many girls comparing their looks to those of the models and actresses they see on TV, in the movies, or magazines, it is important that they understand that what they see is not reality. What we do need to see is the beauty inside of us all. While working to help my own daughters develop a positive outlook on their beauty inside and out, I encourage them to focus on all of their unique qualities. They are uniquely beautiful and it is important for them to take pride in their kind nature, compassion for others, their gifts, and talents. These are just of a few of the things that make them truly beautiful.

I am posting this video to show our girls what goes on behind the scenes to make models and on camera personalities achieve the looks that for 99% of us is unobtainable.

Hats off to the Dove campaign for their continued effort to help real women and young girls love who they are for their own unique beauty!

Fire Red to Carnation Pink: Uncovering Inner Beauty

By Asia Voight

“Some day my daughter is going to be Miss America!” my dad boasted to other parents waiting outside dance class. Standing beside him my leotard glimmered in bronze over my long smooth legs. Every daughter wants to make her father proud. Believing that outer beauty reigned supreme, and that one day I would be Miss America, I signed up for every lesson that would get me on that national stage. Gymnastics, modeling, piano, cheerleading, singing and baton twirling lessons filled weekly schedules. Determined to please my family and make myself a star I pressed hard to excel.

By my teenage years, the momentary highs of my many accomplishments were followed by a deep sense of shallowness and darkness that lingered inside me. And at night I became haunted by a re-occurring dream where layers of bizarrely expressive African looking masks came off my face only to reveal nothing but a void, a black space. I began to see myself as empty and hollow, a mannequin of changing masks. The positive outward appearance and talents of my waking self was intended to bring me love and acceptance but instead, it brought about a severe disconnection between my outward persona and what I felt. Until one day, I found myself on my knees in prayer.

“God, show me how to be real. I’m sick and tired of feeling like a hollow shell.” Like a small tornado my prayer swirled up to Heaven.

In my early twenties, a speeding semi driver crashed his rig into my van and into my dreams of beauty. Trapped inside the van, a raging fire closed in on me. Managing to wriggle my body through the partially open driver’s side window, I jumped into an inferno of flames and miraculously made it to the other side

As days and weeks passed, lying immobile in my hospital bed with 72% of my body charred, I watched lovely new skin begin to form over raw flesh.  Maybe I still can be Miss America, I thought. However, all hopes cast off with this new skin as it became twisted like roots and vines. The skin fit so poorly over my bones and muscle constricting my every movement. I could not even wipe my own tears away. Hope ebbed away as each new scar formed. All the softness and gracefulness of my skin and body had been burnt off and taken with it the only avenue to love and acceptance I had known in the world.

“It’s time to look,” a staff nurse said. She handed the mirror to me but I would not take it from her.

“No!”

“Your going home soon, you have to look, “ She jetted the mirror in my face.

“I want to remember myself as beautiful,” I kept my eyes closed.

“You have to face the truth,”

“I’ll do it on my own.”

Later that day, shuffling weakly with the use of my cane and a grip on the wall handrails I made it to the bathroom. Once in I closed the door behind me. Elated to have accomplished my longest walk since the accident I relished a moment alone. This euphoria didn’t last long. Seeing the large wall mirror caused me to break out into a cold sweat. Can I do this?

Cautiously peeking out one eye at the top of my head in the mirror I let out a sigh, Not so bad, I Initially thought. Scanning down the rest of my face I grasped the sink’s edge as both eyes fixed upon my neck covered in a speckled, discolored skin-graft that looked like dead bare chicken skin. Steadying myself against the vanity, hot tears streamed down my cheeks like water down a tumbled mine shaft.

Any illusion of beauty gone, I set into hating the hospital staff, and made God an enemy of mine. Doctors call this healing? God betrayed me by keeping me alive for this. Death would have been the miracle here. I am utterly worthless now. Hideous.

My anguish only deepened as the staff got me ready for the day before leaving intensive care. My nurse gave me a package – a Jobst pressure garment used to compress raised scars. Painfully, the tight nylon-like suit stretched over my thin-skinned legs, torso, and arms – at the bottom of the package, a facemask. Refusing to put it on the staff held vigil at my bedside. My shouts of “No!” and “Get that away from me,” would not deter them. Finally giving in, the mask came over my face like a suffocating white sheet placed over the dead. The binding magnified my shallow breathing as the Velcro at the back of my head became fully attached. The nurses walked away pleased at saving my face from contracting, while I disappeared under the restricting tan mesh and ceased to exist.

The next day they wheeled me from the hospital to a vehicle waiting to take me to the airport and eventually my hometown. A staff nurse handed me a laminated card. If anyone around me were to become overly frightened I could show it so they knew I was not a bank robber or dangerous somehow.

Sitting in a narrow wheelchair on the airport runway, the crew and my mother cautiously lifted me up the airplane stairs. Rounding the corner into the aisle, the piercing stares of alarmed travelers bore into my eyes. Tightening my throat to stifle tears, I put my head down until landing. Upon arrival at O’Hare Airport with one more flight home, my mom wheeled me through the crowds to our next gate. A stranger faced us; I shielded my heart ready to be confronted by her glare. Instead she pulled a flower from her purse and looked deeply into my eyes. My breath sucked back into my chest as our gazes locked. Mouth agape, I reached out for the flower. I felt her heart open like the pink carnation she handed me. Smiling through my Jobst mask my heart lifted.

During the next few months of recovery it continued to be painful turning over in bed and reviving my paralyzed leg, but the image and sensation of the unknown airport traveler continued to give me strength to progress with my physical therapists. Likewise, meeting new people in the hospital became easier as my skin and body continued to heal. Now it was time to take my new face out into the world.

I no longer wore the mask and yet I continued to be self-conscious about the red scar that covered the left side of my face, and the graft on my neck that looked like a patchwork quilt. I drove into my old neighborhood and pulled up to a favorite hangout. My heart raced in my chest as I thought, What if no one likes me anymore? Or worse, they don’t want anything to do with me since I’m not pretty. I sat there for long moments of breathing and searching for my confidence to take this step out into the unfriendly world.

Then the image of the pink carnation sprang from my mind, energizing me like new blood. And I heard an angel speak to me through the darkness like one of the caring night nurses; “Inner beauty and love shines out as attractiveness, be this splendor and wear it on your face.”

Every cell of my body savored this declaration and I found the courage to walk into my old haunt. And to my amazement, familiar friends from my past gathered around with hugs and kind words! Looking deeply into their eyes I witnessed authentic beauty reflected back to me as if each of them had handed me a pink carnation.

About Asia Voight

Asia is an internationally known Animal Communicator, teacher and speaker, who has worked with over 40,000 animals in the last 13 years. Asia’s inspiring work has been featured on ABC, NBC, and Fox TV, as well as, countless radio interviews like the Rick Lamb Show and dressage rider Jane Savoie’s tele-seminar. She has graced the covers, of many publications such as Brava and Women Magazine, the front pages of the Wisconsin State Journal and the Fitchburg Star with her amazing personal story and words of animal wisdom. Asia has published a chapter in Crossing the Rubicon: Celebrating the Human-Animal Bond in Life and Death, an inspirational and uplifting story of the healing aspects of her Animal Communication work.

Speaking in front of thousands of animal lovers, Asia is often a popular keynote speaker for countless events like the Midwest Horse Fair® in Madison, Wis., where she has delighted audiences with her on-the-spot personal readings, humor and warmth.

Also, a popular teacher in her Animal Communication workshops, Asia generously shares her skills by gently guiding course participants on how to connect with one’s own animal companions, through exercises and guided meditations.

What do you love about yourself and why?

This article was sent to me by Angela Jones, a plus size model whose passion is to help women break free of trying to be “perfect” and embrace their own true beauty.  I loved this article so much, I asked if I could post it on my blog to share with all of you~

In  Love and Beauty~

Michelle Phillips

Natural Beauties…by Andrea Dodd

That was the premise of our evening. Angela and I – giddy to induce an awakening, or enlightening at best; planned the second event of it’s kind, for Plus Size Models Unite. Our lovely guests offered their vulnerable hearts in the truths they imparted on the topic… what they love about themselves. What they would tell their 13-year-old selves. How do you define beauty?

Looking around the table, I was amazed at the purge of innocence. We all seemed to struggle with the first question… but allowing time to let it resonate offered real definition. If only this event was nationally recognized… what a beauty movement it could be.

As our evening progressed, our purpose broke the surface. Walls fell. Honesty rose from depths… some harder and darker than others. But, the climate was safe, radiating with an energy of feminine confidence. An understanding. We are all susceptible to the societal and cultural biases of the way a woman’s body “should” look. Some able to see through the noise. Some, if affected at just the precisely impressionable moment; are left forever fighting for clarity. So many factors shape a woman’s paradigm of beauty. Consequently, a softening of current “beauty” standards must occur. What we love about ourselves has to become the topic–not what we despise. Let the change we fight for be noble, not superficial.

Our daughters are watching.

I propose acceptance and truth. It’s there that we will find peace with our perfect imperfections and embrace our natural beauty.

Andrea Dodd

What do you love about yourself and why?

My face tells you exactly what I’m thinking~ my eyes really are the window to my soul. My smile is my truth. I love the physical strength of my body, and my endurance of my soul to obtain peace and live there ~ gratefully basking in my blessings.

How do you define beauty?

Confidence. Grace. Healthy mind and body. A strong laugh. Good posture. Defining best attributes in style and make-up. Never excusing flaws.

What would you tell yourself at the age of 13?

Be a little more daring. Don’t worry so much about your frizzy curly hair and crooked teeth. You are strong and loving. Your body is exactly as it should be and you’re loved because you’re YOU. And, one day you’ll have a fame-worthy smile, so say’s your best friend you just met, 12 years later.

Heidi Brager

What do you love about yourself and why?

I like my eyes. They link me to my family. I can express my moods with my eyes and how I make them up. They can be innocent or they can be smokey and sultry. They can be tired and sad or delighted. The eyes are the windows to the soul.

How do you define beauty?

Beauty is how you feel. How you carry yourself. I love seeing women discover their own beauty when they see themselves in a new way or through a new perspective.

What would you tell yourself at the age of 13?

Stop trying to be something you’re not. Own who you’re feeling you are. One day you’ll be happy that you are you. And, don’t get in that tanning bed!

Jill Kramer

What do you love about yourself and why?

I love that I know I’m a good person. I’m real, honest, and I laugh a lot and I pay attention to the little things. I listen when people talk, and I believe that day+day+day=your life. The little things matter. I want to make sure the people in my life know how amazing they are and how happy & lucky & blessed I feel to have them in my life. I want to make them feel unique and special.

How do you define beauty?

Real, true, honest beauty shines from within. Real beauty is honest and real. Good, sincere, genuine people are stunning. With a sense of humor, and passion are beautiful. Be passionate about what you believe in and who you are. Beauty follows.

What would you tell yourself at the age of 13?

Don’t take yourself too seriously. Have goals, be curious-but enjoy and savor each and every day along the way. Take time to find beauty, happiness, laughter & joy in the smallest, most simple things. Worry is the misuse of imagination. Laugh. Be trustworthy. Have integrity and be true to yourself. Seek wisdom in the ages but look at the world through the eyes of a child…see its beauty.

Kelsey Schalock

What do you love about yourself and why?

I love my freckles!! I think what makes me unique and special is my ability to make people laugh. I try to find the best in any situation.

How do you define beauty?

Beauty is something that can only be found in the eye of the beholder, but to me, a beautiful person is someone who is down to earth, full of life, caring, and courageous.

What would you tell yourself at the age of 13?

I would tell myself the sky is the limit.

Cortney Covert

What do you love about yourself and why?

I like that I’m compassionate, sensitive and I like that when I put my mind to something…I can do anything. I’m a good mom and very loyal.

How do you define beauty?

Being confident, and secure in who you are and just truly be a good person.

What would you tell yourself at the age of 13?

Don’t sweat the small stuff and embrace your body. Don’t worry what other people think and be confident in who you are as a person. Always love yourself.

Nicole Firestone

What do you love about yourself and why?

I love that, as I get older, wrinklier, and flabbier, I become more content with who I am. I trust my instincts more. I like my eyes. I think their honest and patient. Special ~ I have an insatiable desire to understand the human soul.

How do you define beauty?

Confidence. The willingness to take chances knowing you’ll look like a fool. Admitting your mistakes ad imperfections. Humility mixed with reason.

What would you tell yourself at the age of 13?

No matter where you go–you’re always there! Sooner or later, you have to really dig deep and face yourself. Also, be kind to yourself. You are your own worst enemy and the best friend you’ll ever have.

Trust yourself.

Sarah Howell

What do you love about yourself and why?

I love my eyes and arms. Why? My eyes were something I grew up hating and my arms…I grew to love my arms. They are like my grandma’s big and buff and it reminds me how hard of workers we are. My eyes are from my mom. When I see them, I think of her. I’m a survivor. I’ve been strong my whole life.

How do you define beauty?

Your soul! What is in your heart. Everyone is beautiful in a different way. Whether it is your eyes, lips, butt, etc. everyone has something that makes them unique and beautiful…everyone.

What would you tell yourself at the age of 13?

Stop worrying about what other people think you look like. Love what you have been given. We are all beautiful!