Amanda Gutierrez: Hotel Boutique Owner

A few Sundays ago I attended a yoga class in what is one of my favorite hotels in South Beach, Soho Beach House.  The house is almost secretly nested at the center of all the hustle and bustle of Miami Beach.  Ironically, it’s location is as paramount as it is easy to miss; right before the epitome of Art Deco in Miami Beach, the huge and glitzy Fontainebleau Hotel, SoHo House as locals call it, is a beautiful little-hidden heaven for the bohemian, creative and intellectual South Beach visitor.  The House has this charming, cozy, beautiful tree-house energy to it.  We rushed pass the wood-smelling vintage lobby, through the cute shop, up a round staircase, through the spa rooms, and into the incense-infused yoga classroom to sit quietly in our lotus position, to get our bodies ready for yoga.  As I closed my eyes, the images of the little two-story shop were vivid, fresh in my head; I remembered lace, colors, wood, a nice beachy smell, the wooden staircase, an old New York bookstore-meets-boho Caribbean island energy.  I wanted to go back to this little shop!  The seconds I rushed through it on my way to yoga had made me feel everywhere and nowhere in particular.  It was lovely!  The shop was curated with lovely taste,  it was obvious someone had carefully crafted it carefully and organically adding pieces from trips, from conversations, from personal favorite items, from word-of-mouth, just as I decorate my house, not so much a one-time decorating experience but more of a collection of memories: sandals from Australia, a soap from NY, sunglasses from Puerto Rico, a teacup from Spain, a bikini from Curaçao…  I wanted to meet the soul behind this process, and non-surprisingly, it was a woman.  A cosmopolitan woman born in Europe raised in Latin America and living in this tropical paradise.  Meet Amanda.

Profession or Passion/Title-? My passion is to travel.  The owner of several beachwear boutiques in Miami Beach, Florida.

Where are you from? I was born in Miami but spent some years of my childhood in Madrid. My mother is half Norwegian half British and my father is from Spain.  We lived in Madrid until I was 9 and then we moved to Mexico, DF.  I moved to the US when I was 14, I was a swimmer back then, that’s why I moved to the USA, to continue training.  I went to high school here in the US and then moved back to Mexico to go to Law School.  From vacationing and from the times I had been here, Miami had always been a special place for me, because of the ocean and the warm climate. Every time I came to Miami I felt that this place was unique, there was something about this city.  At 28, I packed only two suitcases and moved to Miami.

How did you get into this industry? I was working as a property manager and event planner for a celebrity, but it was very time consuming and I had the goal of becoming independent and working for myself.  So my best friend said to me “you love fashion, why don’t you open a boutique in a hotel?”.  I thought about it for a while, saved up, came up with an innovative concept and with the help of partnering with my brother, opened up my first shop in the Gansevoort Hotel in 2009.  The shop was quite successful because nothing like it existed before.  Hotel shops offered souvenirs and basics, but more generic.  At my shop you find all sorts of essentials, full of character, mindfully and carefully picked.  Each piece transmits a story, a feeling, they are beautiful and special pieces.  I travel often and also select many of the items during my travels, which makes them even more unique.  

The St. Regis Hotel in Bal Harbour approached me and I currently run that shop as well.  It is interesting because the two markets are very, very different.  The St. Regis clientele is mostly from Brazil, Russia…  they have a very high purchasing power, the market in Soho House is more of a creative, bohemian, artsy crowd.  Surprisingly, the dominant part of my clientele are men because they forget to bring certain essentials (giggles!), and also because they know exactly what they want, they are loyal in the sense that if they try something on and they like it, they purchase it.  Us, women can be a little more complex, we think about it, we want reassurance that it looks good or that we don’t have anything similar.  Men are very practical in the decision-making.

As a major goal, what would you like the impact of your work to be?  My passion in life is traveling, traveling, food & wine.  I enjoy experiences.  I like my work to reflect that.  I like my shops to reflect that part of me.  I’d like to inspire. Regardless of how materialistic a piece of clothing may seem to be, a beautiful bathing suit, a pretty dress, a unique item makes us feel beautiful, it brings a thrill, an excitement about this new object in our lives.  Especially considering that I work with people from all over the world, I know that when they wear the item they purchased at my shop, it will bring back memories of their time here, it will bring laughter, happiness, they will be transported to that moment.  It fills me with joy to know that what I sell will make people feel that joy.

If you could publish an autobiography, how would you title it?

Honestly, I don’t think I would publish an autobiography.  I am a very private person, I wouldn’t make my own life public.  If I am approached and feel comfortable, I can talk for hours!! But I wouldn’t write a book about myself.  I find autobiographies somewhat egocentric.  I have an exciting life, but I believe we all have stories to tell and not one is more important than the other and I actually think there are people with much more interesting stories than my own!   

What advice would you give to your 20-year-old self?

I would tell myself to think more before making important decisions.  I wouldn’t be quick to make a decision that can impact the rest of my life.

What is your choice of each of the following:

  • A place: Cozumel, a small island on the Caribbean side of Mexico
  • A moment in your life: It’s memories I lived in Cozumel, it was a crucial time of my life, I was very young when I lived there, from 12-14 and the happiest moments of my life were spent on that island.  Then I was free, living day by day, not thinking about the future, just living the moment.
  • The song:  I don’t have a favorite song, but during that same time of my life my uncle owned a restaurant and during that time the song UB40 song Red, Red Wine was played often.  When I listen to it, it transports me to that time of my life.  I like island-life a lot, that’s why I like Miami because it is a combination of the city and beach life.  When I’m older and retire I could live on an island.  

Are you dreaming your dream life? I am.  I love living in Miami, I love that there are people from all over the world. I love my business because it allows me to meet people from different parts of the world. I do what I love, I wake up happy every day with what I do.  I can’t think of anything else!

 

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Joanne Encarnación-Health and Nutrition Coach + Founder of GOFITJO.com

This lovely health and nutrition enthusiast is an example of how live’s challenges and emotionally low moments, can be the silver lining of something beautiful, in this case, a wonderful life filled with joy and health.  Our 33-year old San Francisco Bay Area native is pure inspiration, her project GOFITJO started with a struggle that causes much pain to many, particularly women.  Now she has become a source of inspiration for her daughters and her more than 41K followers.  Meet Joanne…

You’ve mentioned how becoming a mother at 21 somehow made you feel “robbed” of your childhood and youth, due to the dramatic changes in your body, which affected your self-image.  Nowadays this is hard to believe, considering the beautiful life you’ve managed to create based on your body and health.  What triggered you to redirect this energy from hate and negativity towards your body into the beautiful journey you have embarked on?

This is such a touchy one for me because every time I have to answer it, I think about my daughters. Being a woman and raising young women is a tough job. You’re having to help them navigate around media and other messages in the world that are already telling them that they are not enough as they are. The moment I realized that the negativity I had about my body would begin to affect my kids is when I knew I needed to make a change. My eldest daughter was 9 at the time, she’s about to be 13, we were both getting ready in her room for a Sunday family brunch. I remember fixing my dress, adjusting my hair, and just staring at myself. She watched me carefully, as if in she was observing my every move, and noting it in her little beautiful mind. She said to me, “Mom you’re so beautiful.” I quickly turned at her and said to her, “No, I’m not I’m ugly and fat.” It was that moment when I realized “OH SHIT. I need to start making changes.” The words came out of my mouth in the same way it would’ve if I were trying on clothes with girlfriends at a department store. I fat shamed my self. She quickly left the room and the look on her face is one I’ll never forget. It was like I robbed the truth from her that I was the most amazing woman she’s ever met, I was her queen. It was that day that where the apathy needed to stop and I just needed to create a better life for me, my husband, and my daughters.

What recommendations would you give to women struggling with their self-image?

Learn to love yourself and I know that this sounds like such an easy concept, but it’s also a hard one. Loving yourself takes acceptance for what you cannot change and empower yourself to change the things you can. In my experience, I couldn’t change my stretch marks, the loose skin that still hangs over my belly. But what I could change was my perspective on health and exercise. I could use it as a self-love practice rather than a punishment.

What does a day in your life look like?

Currently, a day in my life varies. I workout first thing in the morning and then come back home, eat, and head to #mytinycorner to get some homework or work done. My kids come home at 2PM and I’m juggling work emails, blogging, my homework, and their homework. I try to head to bed by 10 PM so that I can repeat my day the following morning. Some evenings I’m in SF for events or heading out to SoulCycle with some girlfriends for a little sweat session.

If you could have dinner with one woman you admire, who would that be and why?

Oprah! I would love to have a meal with Oprah. Oprah is one of those women who is just so wise, so real, authentic, and unafraid of her own truth. I respect a woman who can stand up for what she believes in without fear of judgement. And when judgement does fall into play, she can look at it without overly analyzing the situation and accept the criticism she needs and walks away from the bullshit she doesn’t.

Twenty years down the line, what would you like the impact of your work to be?

In 20 years I would hope that my coaching business would mean that I would have other coaches working with me, alongside me in different ways and forms. I’d love to shape the world with other female thought-leaders who are empowering others to live their most relentlessly beautiful lives. Most importantly I want my daughters to grow up in a world where beauty standards have broken down just a little more and where women of all shapes and sizes can believe that they are beautiful and capable.

How would you title your autobiography?

Unleashed

What is your definition of a “dream life”? Are you living yours?

I think I’m currently living mine, however, if truth be told I would love to be more financially secure. Raising children at a very young age didn’t give me the opportunity to save, invest, and truly focus on laying that foundation down. It’s never too late to, but it’s a bit of a challenge since my husband and I both own our own businesses. I would also love to be traveling the world with my kids and share different cultures of the world with them.

What is your choice of each of the following:

  • A song: “Love on Top” by Beyonce
  • A place: Kauai
  • A moment in your life: Sunday mornings in bed with my family snuggling and making Snapchat stories with all the face filters. My youngest daughter gets a kick out of it.

Follow her: GOFITJO & Instagram @gofitjo

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Leyanis Diaz: Blogger, Motivational Speaker & Entrepreneur

Leyanis doesn’t stop!  She is a Blogger, Motivational Speaker and Co-Founder of Major Marketplace, an online marketplace for minority businesses and those who want to support them.  To top it all off, the 24-year-old is also the current Miss Black Florida USA.  Leyanis was born in Cuba and arrived in the US with her immigrant family, when she was 3.

What or who inspired you to do what you do?

My family. I wouldn’t be here without them. More specifically my two little sisters: Sinayel and Leyanelis. Our story is very similar to many other people’s stories. We’re immigrants and came to this country with nothing. We came in search for the American Dream, which my parents are still in search of. I do this for them so that their sacrifices, all the odd jobs, long hours at work, all the opportunities they tried to provide for me, weren’t for nothing. Now, as for my two little sisters..they look up to me. Being a big sister is by far the hardest job in the world. I have these two little people watching my every move. I watch the steps I take for them. I want them to grow up to be powerful, confident, and to know that they’re beautiful and capable of anything they set their minds to, regardless of where they come from or what they look like. 

As a major goal, what would you like the impact of your work to be?
I want to be known for making a difference and for empowering others. That’s what Major Marketplace is about. It’s about helping others. Helping small minority businesses succeed.  

Minority businesses are on the rise but only make up 12% of all sales

,and likewise, that money rarely circulates long enough in the minority community to make a profound difference. My team and I are hoping to change that.

How would you title your autobiography? 

“Orgullosa Poderosa Afro-Latina (Proud, Powerful Afro-Latina)” I owe my successes not only to the support from my family and friends but also, to knowing myself. It is with knowing myself that I learned to love myself.  

Growing up Afro-Latina, wasn’t easy, I was too Black to be Latina and too Latina to be Black.

or at least that’s what I was told. I didn’t fit in here. I didn’t fit in there. I didn’t fit in anywhere, which made me despise my skin color, my curls, my culture, my Cuban-ness. It took me a long time to look in the mirror and see someone I thought was beautiful but this wouldn’t have been possible without finding, knowing and loving myself. Today, I am orgullosa or proud to be Afro-Latina because it means that I am poderosa or powerful. To me, it’s important to know where you come from and where you are so that you know where you’re going. My mission is to push others to find, know and love themselves just like I do!
What inspiring woman would you most like to have dinner with?
If I could have dinner with Michelle Obama, Oprah and Beyonce I would probably need to be resuscitated! Each one of them is my idol for a different reason. Michelle Obama for not only being the First Lady but for doing so as a Black woman with class and poise and exceeding expectations. She set the bar for future First Ladies. Oprah, for her story. She started from the bottom and built a name for herself in an industry I’m passionate about. I always said I wanted to be the next Oprah but rather than mimic her I want to do things my own way. Beyonce, because she’s one of the hardest working women I know. She’s talented but always remains humble and never ceases to give back. Each of these women have something we can all learn from. I hope to be looked up to too one day. 

What advice would you give to your 20-year-old self?
Don’t be afraid of failure. Failure means you tried. Failure is success because as one door closes another opens. Never be scared to fail because it’s means you’re on to something. Your time is coming! Keep pushing and stay ready for your moment.

Emma Rose Gray: Executive Women’s Editor, The Huffington Post

During Emma’s time as the Executive Women’s Editor at The Huffington Post, the traffic has tripled within a year and the Facebook community has grown from 50K to 1.5 million.  She has appeared as an expert on TV shows including The Insider, the Today Show, Good Morning America & Entertainment Tonight.  Emma is also the co-host of the podcast “Here to Make Friends”.  The 29-year-old is originally from Silver Spring, Maryland and currently lives in Brooklyn.

What is a (work)day in your life like? Usually, it involves starting from my apartment by 8:30 a.m., looking at the news of the day and doling out assignments to myself and my team. Then the rest of the day is filled with writing, editing, and meetings. It’s not glamorous, but I love it. I have the most incredible team of women around me every single day. Currently, I am on a month of leave from HuffPost to work on a book about young women and activism. So my days are currently a bit less scheduled. I get up, go to yoga and then write for chunks of hours, spaced out with interviews and walks to get myself motivated. I usually write from The Wing.

What was your first job out of college? I worked writing directory listings for a hyper-local news site. It was totally uninspiring, but it allowed me time to write on the side and make connections. Plus, I worked with other overqualified young people, and I made (barely) enough money to live in New York.

What or who inspired you to do what you do? I’ve always found writing to be an incredible tool for processing the world around me. As someone who struggles with anxiety, writing feels like a necessary part of my decompression process. I feel better and more alive when I’ve written. Plus, reading women writers growing up and in college, like Nora Ephron and Joan Didion and bell hooks, helped me understand the world and myself better. So if I can potentially do that for someone else, even briefly, then there’s nothing I can imagine being more fulfilling.

Makers Town Hall

How would you title your autobiography? I Told My Therapist About You

As a major goal, what would you like the impact of your work to be? I hope I reach other young women and that those women connect to my words in some small positive way.

Here To Make Friends with Caila Quinn

What inspiring woman would you most like to have dinner with? My dream dinner party would include Gloria Steinem, Solange Knowles and the late Nora Ephron.

What advice would you give to anyone who’d like to follow your career path? Write, write and write. Just sit down at your laptop and do it. And keep doing it even when it feels like the hardest thing in the world or you think everything that comes out is terrible. Also, get on social media: Twitter, Instagram, Facebook etc.

Jessica Bennet, author of Feminist Fight Club

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Sarah Margaret Knox Moody: Artist, Photographer

Name Sarah Margaret Knox Moody

Age 29

Profession or Passion Photography, Creative Expression

Where are you from? Another World

You were nominated by the beautiful music healer Jessica Freites, whom we interviewed a few months ago.  As an artist, what or who inspired you to do what you do?

Jessica is a dear friend and inspirational guide – she’s a ying to my yang – she inspires me. Women inspire me, and always have, sisterhood. My sister and mother have been my subjects since day one – since my father gave me a camera 19 years ago. All of the images in this interview are of my sister, darling Claire BE Moody, my main muse. Sisterhood inspired me to open Maggie Knox,(link), a creative incubator space for gathering, making and exhibiting work.

What has been your favorite project so far?

That’s a tough question as each project is a stepping stone into the next – they’ve each paved my path bringing me to where I am today. I love to take photographs, to make collages, to tell stories through my own experience. Sharing the people, spaces and places I have encountered.

Describe a day in your life

Haha that’s so hard for me to do. I am a gypsy, a traveller. Every day in my life is completely different – though they all start with a glass of water, a cup of coffee with nondairy milk and honey.

What would be the title to a book about your life?

Be You.

What advice would you give to your 20-year-old self?

Don’t take things so seriously.

Are you living your dream life?

Absolutely, life is short and so very sweet. Each day is brand new, I try to enjoy them all as deeply as I can.

Your choice of

  • A song Love & Hate full album by Michael Kiwanuka
  • A place Savannah, Georgia
  • An inspiring woman in history Claire Gyllian Knox Moody, Mary Margaret Phister, Georgia O’Keeffe, Joan Didion, Annie Leibovitz, Harriett Tubman, Rosa Parks, Michelle Obama, Sally Mann, Patti Smith, Peggy Guggenheim, in no particular order, all in deep love.

Sarah is opening a solo exhibition at Maggie Knox in the next few days (February 2017), for details see her Instagram: @sarahmkmoody

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Andrea Bühler Wassmann: PhD Student in Human Development

With each interview I conduct, I am reminded of how wonderful women can be.  Because of our child-bearing nature, often times the well-being of others depends heavily, if not solely, on us; we are often seen as the caretakers of society.  It is magnificent to see us extend that role outside the realms of our biological abilities, turning it into our life purpose.  Along the lines of our latest interview of Princess, here is yet another wonderful woman devoting her life to the underrepresented of her community.  Andrea was nominated by Pola Bunster.  She is from Miami, but was born in Mexico from Nicaraguan and Dutch German parents.  Usually, Barnard College women kick ass and Andrea is no exception to that.  She is currently working towards her Ph.D. in Human Development, at UC Davis.  Andrea is taking on the challenge of helping include the Latino community in the conversation of human development research.  Before this, she co-founded an awesome project that offered a creative solution to one of the main issues caused by climate change.  Andrea’s achievements go beyond the scientific into the creative entrepreneurship; she was involved in starting an independent music label, always having the end goal of benefiting the community.  Even her internships are impressive!  Meet Andrea.

What are you most passionate about? I’m passionate about learning how we become who we are, the experiences that shape us (our behavior and our biology), and especially how we can be resilient in the face of adversity. Currently and in my last position, I’ve been working on projects that research the relationship between parents and children in Latino families living under the poverty line and how stress gets under our skin (measuring cortisol, a stress hormone, and heart rate and sleep data). To collect this data, we visit the families in their homes. I get to play with the young ones, collect the physiological data, and interview the mothers. It’s been shown that social support promotes resilience (good developmental health outcomes, competence, success) in stressful situations. Early childhood is an especially vulnerable period in our lives. A lot of development is happening at a fast rate, and it’s the best time to intervene and understand how we can help people start their lives in a positive, healthful way. There’s a big cultural gap in human development research, which is why I am involved in expanding the research to include Latinos. I’ve always found it so rewarding to work with children; they really are our future! I plan to dedicate my career to enhancing science, learning more about ourselves, and supporting women, children, and underrepresented communities.

You were also the co-founder of an amazing water-collection project…PHOG Water is a project that works to use alternative, environmentally-friendly methods to collect water directly from the clouds using energy-free nets. This was developed at Princeton University in 2013 during an entrepreneurship lab. We tested the technology in St. Vincent and the Grenadines and then returned to the island in 2015 to collect more water from a volcano. Right now one of my teammates is in law school and I’m working on my PhD so we’re not really working on PHOG at the moment; however, it is super rewarding to know that we can create the method to access an untapped water resource. Environmental issues are critical with climate change, and I think we’re going to have to continue to think creatively for solutions.

And created a music label!! From 2012 to 2015, I was on the spearheading team for GroundUP Music, an independent music label started by Michael League – the leader and bassist of the Grammy-winning band, Snarky Puppy – that (like the name suggests) works to build community through music from the ground up. Before that, I was an intern at Universal Republic Records (2010), United Talent Agency (2013), and Vogue (2011). I’ve always been interested in the arts and my hope is to expand my research at some point to learn more about the development of creativity, and how people use their creativity in stressful/adverse situations.

What was your first job out of college? Right when I graduated from Barnard College, I started working on PHOG Water at Princeton. Then, I moved to Washington, D.C. to work as a researcher on the Buffering Toxic Stress project with University of Maryland, which put me on track to start my PhD here at University of California, Davis.

What or who inspired you to do what you do? Inspiration feels like energy to me. It’s an everyday thing. I get that energy from connecting with people, in conversation and from those who share their ideas and creations with the world. As a research scientist, I’m very inspired by Carl Sagan, Jane Goodall, and Sir David Attenborough, who have all communicated truth in a way that has revolutionised how we see ourselves in the context of this planet and our universe. Children always inspire me because they embody the potential we have as human beings to enjoy and explore.

As a major goal, what would you like the impact of your work to be? I’d love to contribute to people’s well-being and sense of connection within themselves and with humanity and the universe. If my work could help illuminate the ways our environment and early experiences affect us and our bodies, we can adapt our environments and our relationships to nurture healthful and happy lives. One person who is doing this is Dr. Nadine Burke Harris. Her TED talk on childhood adversity and its impact on health is so powerful.

If you could publish an autobiography, how would you title it? From Everywhere and Now Here

What advice would you give to your 20-year-old self Keep asking questions, trust in the process, and be good to yourself. You are on your way.
What is your definition of a “dream life”? Are you living yours? Loving. Being aware, happy, and thankful to be alive. Sharing and building connections and making a positive impact. Being free to learn and evolve as I please. Traveling. Forgiveness for mistakes and no fear in trying times. Creating opportunities for myself and others. Writing. I’m very appreciative for my life, but I acknowledge that sometimes I don’t feel like I’m living my dream life. But it’s just a difference in a state of mind. We’re all experiencing life for the first time. I’m here for it. I love it.

What is your choice of each of the following:

A song: Erykah Badu’s “Orange Moon”

A moment in your life: Now, the present.

 

 

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Princess Manasseh: Journalist and Lawyer-To-Be

I met Princess at a University of Miami panel.  All the future lawyers at the panel were impressive in their presentations, but there was something about Princess (besides her awesome name!).   I was moved by her passion, honesty, and sense of responsibility towards her community but above all, by how genuine she is.  There was a sense of realness about her, of being worldly and wise.   A Journalist finishing her third year of law school is already making an impact before she’s even finished her degree; she has been awarded more than five scholarships for the study of law, including being the Champion of the John T. Gaubatz Moot Court and the University of Miami Dean’s Honor Scholarship among others.  Princess worked in the Health Rights Clinic, where she successfully advocated for a denied case to be reopened, resulting in approval in less than 30 days.  As if this wasn’t impressive enough, this woman still has time to kick ass as a UM Law School website writer and as a Volunteer in the Income Tax Assistance Program and is, at the moment, gloriously finishing her last semester of law school in Madrid, Spain.

You are a third-year law school student.  What motivated you to pursue law?

I decided to pursue a career in law because I saw it as an opportunity to propel myself forward as a leader in my community. I saw so many areas where my community was lacking and in need of a shift in the right direction. I viewed law school as a means for me to learn how to transform my community structurally and on a foundational level.
I didn’t know what all law school entailed but I knew lawyers were leaders in their fields. As a journalist, many of the accomplished journalists I looked up to had J.D.’s. Not entirely sure how it would help, I felt confident that earning a Juris Doctorate would serve to advance my goal of uplifting the Crenshaw District of Los Angeles.

What are you most passionate about or in other words what is your life’s purpose?

I’m most passionate about community. I grew up in Los Angeles, California where I had the benefit of living in a variety of different neighborhoods. In high school, I lived in View Park, which is in the heart of the Crenshaw District. I fell in love with that District and the community there. I see so much undeveloped talent in the Crenshaw District—so many marginalized individuals. Not only Los Angeles, but California, the United States, and the entire world would benefit so much from a thriving Crenshaw District. The achievements of the people there would propel society forward.
Beyond just my hometown, all over the country, there are marginalized individuals who the system is not serving or serving to keep back. That is to the detriment of us all. I’m passionate about transforming the Crenshaw District because that is my home and therefore I believe where I can best be of service. I value culture. I want to see a healthy culture all throughout America that serves to benefit everyone and advances us all.

What has been your most valuable life lesson?

All over the world, people are more or less the same. Racism, sexism, bigotry and the like, are all diseases of thought afflicting those who are ignorant of how similar we all are.  

I have had the privilege of traveling to well over a dozen countries. The lessons I’ve learned traveling the world have been some of the most valuable to me. I’ve learned that race is truly a social construct and that the differences we construct between ourselves our meaningless. We all love our families, want the best for them, and carry on day-to-day in pursuit of living prosperous lives.

I’ve learned that the most important thing you can do in life is to pursue your dreams. You will be your best self if you go after what you want. Racism, sexism, fear, pettiness, all of those things are hindrances that keep people from experiencing life abundantly.

I’ve learned to have compassion for those who suffer from small-mindedness however it’s manifested, whether it be in the form of racism, sexism, or anything else. I realize that their small-mindedness is keeping them from being their best selves. I realize also, that to allow those “ism”s to discourage me would diminish my own capacity for success. Instead, I choose to have compassion for those who’ve succumbed to the traps of prejudicial thinking. Most importantly, I choose to have the boldness to believe in myself and prove my beliefs right—the belief that we’re all in this together, one race of people.

What was your first job out of college?

Tennis instructor—I attended California State University, Los Angeles on a tennis scholarship. After graduation, I taught tennis in Los Angeles and abroad before entering into my field of study—Journalism—in 2013.   

What or who inspired you to do what you do?

My parents are really my biggest inspiration. They taught me so much about community and culture from such a young age. I feel so privileged to have been raised by such conscious individuals.

Growing up, both my parents were entrepreneurs. Additionally, my mother’s identical twin was an attorney so the legal field was always in the back of my mind as something I could do. Between my Mother, my Father and my Aunt, I always felt like every door was open to me. I knew I was capable of being whatever I wanted.

My parents have always shown through their actions more than their words the importance of community. I know that whatever I do must be done for the development of my community otherwise, it’s pointless.

It’s not that I’m such a selfless person I definitely have goals of personal financial success. It’s just that my upbringing has shown me how my success is tied to that of my community. I’m so grounded in my culture and the well-being of my people that I know any success that doesn’t include uplifting my community would for me be empty. Because of my parents, I’m inspired to use all the gifts, talent, and privilege I’ve been afforded to the benefit of as many people possible.  

How would you title your autobiography?

Unlearning The Lies: The Journey to Knowledge of Self

What advice would you give to your 20-year-old self?

Spend as little time possible worrying about romance. Love is inevitable it will come. Instead, devote all your attention, focus, and efforts to your passions and dreams. Work toward them with full force. Love interests are fun but don’t take them seriously. When your life long partner arrives it will be apparent and you won’t have to guess, worry or stress. Focus on what you can offer society, that’s where you’re at your best.     

What is your choice of each of the following:

  • A song: When You Praise – Fred Hammond  
  • A place: Dakar, Senegal  
  • A moment in your life: Summer 2008; 21 years old; Guatemala City, Guatemala; first time abroad; all by myself. Beautifully terrifying

 

Valerie Moreno: Visual Content Creator

What lead me to Valerie was her project Afros in San Juan, which”exists to give visibility to Afro Latina beauty as seen on the Streets of San Juan, Puerto Rico and beyond”.  Being Afro-Puertorrican or even Afro-Latina, can be compared to feeling like an unexpected adopted child.  When people who haven’t had cultural exposure to Afro-Latinos me meet me, the first reaction is “you don’t look Puertorrican”.  Of course, the implications of that statement are quite lamentable and we can’t blame anyone but the media.  When people think of a Latina, many picture Sofia Vergara, Salma Hayek, or even Penelope Cruz (who is actually European), not so much someone like me or the beautiful women Valerie photographs in her work.  I am certainly a social media enthusiast because through these channels, we, the everyday people, are reclaiming power over the narratives, the images and conversations that for such a long time were only directed by large media companies.  Creatives like Valerie are gracefully dismantling stereotypes that have been long rooted in the collective consciousness, one picture at a time.

Age: 31

Profession or Passion: I am a multi-passionate creative. That’s a pretty way of saying that I wear many hats and that I love to be part of many different projects.  That being said, I mainly create visual content for blogs, magazines, and businesses to post on their social media but I also teach part-time.

Where are you from? I am from Montreal, Canada but I am of Latino descent. My parents are originally from El Salvador.

What lead you to start the project Afros in San Juan?  In short, curls and justice. Before I got married and moved to Puerto I had never really seen black Puerto Ricans because though there are quite a few on the big screen they are always cast as other cultures. This led me to believe most Puerto Ricans looked like J-Lo which is not at all true. When I moved here I would swoon over the beautiful Afros I would see and tell myself “someone needs to be documenting this!”. It took me 3 years to actually get the courage to just start and here we are.

What would you like the impact of this project to be? I want people to get used to seeing beauty in different ways and forms. To break out of the typical mold of what we are told is beautiful and teach our eyes and heart to see beauty everywhere. I hope to see more Afro Latinas featured on mainstream media as Latinas that they are.

What other projects are you currently working on? Mostly keep building my creative career which is taking most of my attention these days and keep taking pictures of things and scenes that make me happy.

Describe a day in your life? Never the same but mostly I work for myself during the day and teach in the evenings. During the day it could mean; shooting, meeting clients, editing, submitting portfolios, etc. I usually start working at 9:30 AM after having breakfast. I usually take a break for lunch at 12 as I watch something funny or fun and then go back to work until 2:30. After that, I pick up my husband from work and usually spend some quality time together for 2 or 3 hours before going to work in the evening. I work hard now because I’m in the “building” process of my business but I truly hope and plan to work solely for myself soon.

What hobbies do you enjoy? Do you have any routines, rituals or practices that help you keep focused and motivated (meditation, spiritual practice, affirmations, etc.)?  Prayer and meditation are big for me. I also stretch during the day at random times. I try to eat well, on time and in a balanced way to fuel my body for the type of life I lead. Sometimes I fail but the trick is to keep trying. I allow myself time for pure fun and uninterrupted self-care moments. I like to read. I read a lot but these days I find myself reading articles and blogs more than anything else. I also travel quite a bit because most of our friends and family live abroad but we also like to explore new places.

Instagram: @afrosinsanjuan

How would you title your autobiography? Good question! I don’t know but it will probably be related to “always in the making”

What advice would you give to your 20-year-old self? Everything will work out. You don’t have to have it all figured out. No pain, no gain. Every desert or dark valley is meant to make you strong not to destroy you so take it like a woman and grow by learning your lesson in every season. You will heal from that heartbreak. You will meet the love of your life when you’re not looking and at the moment when you are finally ok with being single. He will be gold. Nothing in life will get easier, you will just get stronger. Nothing can replace hard work. Turn your dreams into goals. It will be your light and not your darkness that will intimidate you, press on, you are magic. It’s about quality, not quantity so purge all the unnecessary: relationships, clutter, attitude and thought patterns, debt. Don’t hold grudges, forgive and renew your mind daily. Have faith. You were made with purpose.

Your choice of

  • A song: at the moment “we can take the world” Johnnyswim
  • A place: inside a hug of the people I love most
  • A moment in your life: every beginning of new adventures in my life are my favorite moments

Joanis Duran, Co-Founder of Nomad Tribe: Fair Trade Clothing

If you have been to Miami lately, as in the last few years, you must have noticed a big shift in this city’s cultural makeup.  Thankfully for creative, artsy and intellectually curious souls like my own, Miami is growing from the plastic, glitzy, bright neon lights with Barbie-like and heavily muscled figures dominating the scene.  Don’t get me wrong, the tropical city still has a place for plastic surgery lovers, but it is becoming more, so much more!  Miami is performing some serious soul-searching and it’s turning out to be pretty amazing; it is colorful, artistic, a bit of a rebel with art on the walls, on the sidewalks, and virtually anywhere there’s a space for it.  The Miami Art Week has played an important role in this major city transformation, and the Miamians have responded at an impressively quick rate, with innovators in all areas bringing in their skills and passion, turning parts of this vibrant city into an open lab for art and culture.  Wynwood is at the center stage of this transformation, and Nomad Tribe,  founded by Joanis and two colleagues, is at the heart of this movement.  The shop’s slogan is “Fashion + Social Impact”, reflecting Joanis’ desire to move beyond offering stylish pieces, towards a socially conscious broader impact.   Unsurprisingly, Joanis is as Rad as her shop.

Name:  Joanis Duran, but people call me Jo

Age: 32

What’s your title?  That’s a good question! I’m in charge of  Human Resources, oversee sales, manage four sales associates, manage online, manage wholesale, manage marketing, networking & events, and I do Visual Merchandising for both of the stores.  So we could say 9 titles!!

That people walk out and feel inspired to do whatever it is that they are set to do in this life. All these brands have an amazing story to share and each peace is personally handmade that on it’s own is powerful to move anyone who walks into our stores. Whatever it is that they are doing right now in their life that’s making them unhappy, drop it like it’s hot and run after your happiness even if they don’t purchase an item… this is why we chose our slogan Fashion for Social Impact.

Where are you from? I’m from the Dominican Republic.  I was raised in Miami but every year my parents took me back to the Dominican Republic, so that’s what I consider myself.  That’s where I was born and I love my culture, I love my island.

 

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What or who inspired you to do what you’re doing right now?  How did you come up with this idea?

Inspiration wise, when I was little, I thought I wanted to be a lawyer, a police officer, a prosecutor.  I have a minor in Criminal Justice but it wasn’t my passion, I ‘m not meant to be in an office or be in a car.  At the Art Institute, I took some classes while I worked there, I started my business.  Valeria and I used to work together for a designer and when I launched my business, I knew it needed to have a cause.  Valeria’s brand is Nomad Tribe has a cause, and we just remained friends.  Then Alvaro, has a background in it as well and it worked, he is currently the CEO of Nomad Tribe… perfect timing just came about.  

But also… life happened.

I went through a lot in my personal life, I had some setbacks and I told myself “I can do it! I can freaking do it”.  I was married to a cop and she always kept me down.  I was called an “ambitious gold digger” because I had certain goals.  At the time, I was working for corporate America and I was miserable.  I was working in front of a computer, some days I would cry, I couldn’t understand why my partner could be happy, fulfilled in her career and I could not.  I knew what I wanted, I knew what I could put out there and after some time we got divorced and all that negativity, all that putting down… I took all of that energy and focused on working, going to school on campus as well as taking online courses with a different school, I volunteered with the school and I would self-educate, listen to podcasts and I gave myself the courage and strength.  I worked hard.  I  promised myself I would make my dream happen.  That’s where I got my passion from.  I turned this experience of being with someone who did not believe in me and fought against that.  Some nights I would go to sleep really late at night, wake up the next day and do the same thing over again, work hard, no rest.  I think sometimes you need those kinds of experiences that tell yourself “what the fuck are you doing?  You can do this!”  That was my breaking point, that was my make it or break it time.  I found the silver lining.

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How long have you had Nomad Tribe for?  The Wynwood store has been there for a year, the South Beach location has been open for 7 months.

One year? It feels longer than that. I feel like Nomad Tribe is part of the Wynwood fingerprint, of it’s culture, it feels as if it’s been there since Wynwood started being Wynwood.

Yes, that’s because our brand is not fast fashion, it’s a lifestyle. When you walk in, the energy is amazing.  Each piece has a story about who made your clothes, which adds to it, there is positivity going into each piece.  It feels like we have been here forever.

As a major goal, what would you like the impact of your work to be?  

That people walk out and feel inspired to whatever it is that they are going through, because all of these brands have a story behind them, they help people get to where they need to be.  That would be my goal when they walk in here, that if for instance they’re working a corporate job and feel like they wanted to do something different, even if they don’t purchase a piece, I’d like them to walk out feeling that they can do it because that’s our slogan Fashion for Social Impact.

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Where are your brands from?

Nomad Tribe items are made in Peru, the brand is from Miami.

What would be the title of your autobiography?

I would call it Niña or One Girl.

What advice would you give to your 20-year-old self?

Fuck everyone that’s holding you back.  Fuck’em, they won’t be in your future

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What is your definition of a dream life? Are you living yours?

Currently, yes, I am dreaming my dream life.  Because it is exactly what I pictured in my twenties and being pushed back.  I honestly thought this was not accomplishable.  I can go back, and see myself cry in those several moments, where all I would do was pray and think “if it’s not meant for me, then it’s not meant for me, because I believed in it and couldn’t have it”.  So yes, I am dreaming my dream life!

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A song that keeps you pushing, that you identify with:

Rihanna, Kiss It Better

A memory that brings you happiness

When I was little, I remember a moment when my family and I went to Disney.  After spending the day in the theme parks, we went back to the hotel room and we were all playing on the bed, and my dad took a picture of that moment.  I remember so much happiness in that moment.

 

 

 

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Pola Bunster: Director of Storytelling, Prism Creative Group

To say that the arts, culture and music scenes in Miami are changing is an understatement.  The cultural offerings in this city are growing at a blinding rate and it is in large part due to the passion, hard work and vision of culture lovers like Pola, who refuse to bound Miami to the limiting associations of leisure tourism.  As the Director of Storytelling, for the Prism Creative Group, Pola is at the center stage of the magical unfolding of Miami as a culturally rich city.  As an adoptive Miamian and a glutton consumer of all things culture, music and arts-related, I am enjoying what’s happening in this city and see what the magic hand of passionate locals like Pola is achieving.

Name: Pola Bunster

Job Title: Director of Storytelling, Prism Creative Group

Age: 26

City: Miami

The title Director of Storytelling sounds exciting and somehow romantic.  Describe your job in 2-3 sentences. From overseeing the editorial strategy and content of our three blogs (Prism and two clients), to newsletter content and event verbiage, I act as the overarching voice emanating from Prism at all times. Basically, It’s a whole lot of writing and talking—aka my two favorite things.

SONY DSC

SONY DSC

You have a background in Creative English and Theater.  What career path did you envision for yourself when pursuing your studies and how is your current role similar or different from your expectations?

It’s funny, every job and experience I’ve ever had can be seen in my work. I studied Theater because I wanted to work in film and had also been acting on stage since I was a kid—a family trait since my mother is a theater director and my grandmother is an actress in Chile. I studied English because I’ve always had an affinity with writing (always sharing my journal entries in English class) and it seemed like a good fit. What I do at Prism incorporates a lot of writing, but also much of the production design background I gained while studying theater as we actively try to be thoughtful in our physical experiences and initiatives.

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What was your first job out of college?

I was a props designer for a local children’s theater called Area Stage Company.

Describe a day in your life.

I prefer to have a long and slow morning to myself so I can start the day stress-free. I hit the streets and run so that I can get my thoughts in order for the day, and then I snuggle with my cat a few times (purrs are therapeutic). The day then picks up from there, fast and full of meetings/writing pieces/creative brainstorming with Isabella, the Founder of Prism (and an amazing soul). Then it’s family time, which I find most important of all, with movies and wine to de-stress. End with some reading and more cat snuggling, and that’s about it in a nutshell!

Besides running and cat purrs therapy 🙂 what hobbies do you enjoy? Do you have any routines, rituals or practices that help you keep focused and motivated (meditation, spiritual practice, sports, etc.)?  

I think having a healthy amount of reading and listening to music can keep your brain and creative instincts alert. I love to cook and make things with my hands. I live at the beach when I can or exploring my city in every way possible. Traveling the world is also a passion of mine, discovering cultures and experiencing the dots that connect us as humans. Most importantly, I love to have profound conversations about life with friends and family, new or otherwise. Connecting with people verbally is my favorite thing to do in the entire world.

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What would be the title to a book about your life?

Between the Lines or Cats are Nicer than You Think

What advice would you give to your 20-year-old self?

Be nice to everyone you meet, even if it seems hard and have to work on your inner patience. You never know who you will work with down the road, how your paths may cross again, or what you will need from them.

Are you living your dream life?

Many areas are pretty spectacular in their own right, but since I know that I am currently on my way to something even bigger, yeah I guess I could say I’m currently living a part of a dream. I want to connect with people and incite conversations and I get to do that every day.

Your choice of

A song – Something with a groove and catchy hook – “Claire de Lune” by Flight Facilities

A place – Something surrounded by nature, rich in history, and full of areas that welcome conversations and connection. Case in point: Fairchild Tropical Botanic Garden here in Miami.

An inspiring woman in history – Coco Chanel.

Coco Chanel, Vogue. Douglas Kirkland.

Coco Chanel, Vogue. Douglas Kirkland.