TWO PASSIONS, ONE PROJECT
You may already know I've been supporting my mother's charity Women Like Us Foundation for many years. A few summers ago, I was forever changed after meeting the extraordinary young ladies living at The Olmalaika Home in Kenya. The space is a place of refuge for girls who are victims of FGM. They are taken in, rebuilt, educated, supported and inspired to do and be anything they could ever imagine. Seeing their strength of spirit was truly like witnessing a miracle. Secondly, I've always always wanted to design a handbag. With the creative genius of Lulu Eschelman at Lumilla Mingus, I've done my first ever collaboration for charity.
Girls at the Olmalaika Home beading leather for the Jacki Bag.
Introducing the JACKI bag, named after my sweet friend from The Olmalaika Home who sadly lost her life this year after becoming gravely ill. Her story spawned me into action. I am beyond honored to announce that we've made these custom, one of a kind exclusive bags that can be yours online as of October 8th. The hand beaded straps were made BY THE GIRLS, for the girls. My portion of the proceeds from the bags' sales will go directly to the Women Like Us Foundation which will continue to support the Olmalaika Home and other women led initiatives.
Email: email@example.com to learn more
Pretty much the best job in the world. E sends me to NYFW to see the shows, interview celebrities on the red carpet, and film both E! News and Daily Pop each day sharing all the juicy fashionable deets!
Big thanks to the digital director of theCATTWALK, Ginger, for forcing me to capture the less glamorous, real, raw moments behind the scenes. Apologies in advance for my dorky nature.
As seen on E! News and Daily Pop.
Extraordinary styling by BECCA JEFFERSON
My visit to the Wake Up with Taylor studios!
Tresemme shoot with Justine Marjan
Harper's Bazaar Icon Party
GOWN // VICTOR ZERBINATO
DRESS // AMUR
THE BODY. Who doesn't want to feel fit, fierce and sexy? We’re told that if we eat well, drink plenty of water, exercise regularly and have enough sleep our skin will be in tip-top condition.
As much as we strive to tick these boxes, let’s be honest, it can be next to impossible.
People often forget that like our faces, our skin on our bodies also need deep cleansing and exfoliants. My Clarisonic for face and body has been one of my holy-grail products over the last few years - my skin has never felt and looked better. Using it with my Kiehl's Nurturing Body Wash, the combination leaves my skin giddy with euphoria and not dry and flaky as it can be with normal bar soap.
I’m a bath girl but cleansing and exfoliating my skin can be drying, so I always make sure I’m re-injecting soothing products to rehydrate and promote new cell growth. Keeping it in the Kiehl’s family, I love the Creme de Corps lotion, but time and time again I also find myself reaching for the classic scented Kai moisturizer as well. Truly addicted to their new ROSE scent.
Now to body makeup. Damn, they didn’t have this when I was coming up. Products today are super luxurious and make a huge difference in the appearance of my skin. The Charlotte Tilbury Supermodel Body Highlighter (sometimes mixed with body lotion to de-intensify) is a major weapon in my arsenal. Along with its soothing properties, it sculpts your body to give off the illusion of definition with added illumination. My other favorite, is the Vita Liberata the perfect odourless (yes, completely odourless) organically produced tan which lasts between 2-3 weeks - perfect when you’re short on time. The color is warm but more red, not in any orange or brassy looking. That’s highly important to me!
Beauty starts on the inside though. I mean that. I always double up with an extra boost or two: some probiotics and other natural goodies. Included are some of the supplements in my rotation on the regular! ENJOY and thank you for being curious about what I wear, lather up in, digest, and trust! I’m not paid to endorse these products but genuinely love them and hope you do too!
Healthy skin is beautiful skin. Beautiful skin is healthy - Dr. Howard Murad
Welcome to week two of August Beauty Month. I’m first to admit that as a teenager and even young adult I didn’t care for my skin the way I should have. Tanning beds. Literally zero sunscreen. Hours and hours in the sun.
You can have the best skincare products and even the best makeup artist, but that lighter, brighter and more radiant skin comes from choices you’re making now.
STEP ONE: Steam Baby, Steam
Don’t have time to get a facial? When I want to get my skin it perfect condition, I plug in this Panasonic Mini Home Steamer and radiant skin is imminent. I usually mist with this for three to five minutes. It opens my pores and as a result my cleansers, masks, serums and moisturizers work more effectively.
STEP TWO: Lather Cleanse Repeat
Time and time again I find myself restocking my Murad products. Using my Clarisonic Mia 1, I like to lather up the Murad Refreshing Cleanser and together it works magic. This brush is gentle enough on the skin, but effective enough to give my face the most thorough cleansing possible.
Every couple of days, I also ensure I’m exfoliating my skin to remove old cells and make way for new ones to come through. Exfoliating helps to reduce pore size and give a dramatically smoother, brighter and healthier-looking foundation. At the moment, I’ve found myself reaching between the Bliss Micromagic Microdermabrasion Treatment, Kate Somerville’s best selling product the ExfoliKate Intensive Exfoliating Treatment and the Murad Exfoliating Cleanser - bye bye dullness, hello radiant mug! (I rotate these so my skin doesn’t get used to one particular product and stop responding to the ingredients.)
STEP THREE: Feed Your Skin
Every few days I follow my steam and cleanse with a good mask. Depending on your skin needs, masks help hydrate, remove excess oils and help pull out impurities. I have dry skin so I like to use masks that help nourish and rehydrate. One of my current favorites is the Charlotte Tilbury Goddess Skin Clay Mask. It leaves my skin feeling brand new. If aging and sagging are concerns, my other go-to: the Natura Bisse Diamond Extreme Mask. Trust me, it’s a skin tightening game changer! I honestly feel like a million bucks after this one.
STEP FOUR: Treat Yourself
There’s nothing more satisfying than relaxing our senses as we prepare for slumber. Our skin heels, repairs and rejuvenates while we sleep, right? The Murad Rapid Age Spot And Pigment Lightening Serum has helped reduce my sun spots and hyper pigmentation in a major way. I can’t go back in time and change my time in the sun, but from the minute I started using this serum, I noticed a huge difference.
You may have heard of the Sunday Riley’s Luna Sleeping Night Oil before. It’s a solution for fine lines, a pore reducer, and smells divine. I am obsessed with this product. I dab it all over my face, behind my ears, and even up my nose before slumber.
And an honorable mention goes to the Natura Bisse Diamond Extreme Oil - it’s a similar product that I use the same way after cleansing my face in the morning. A little goes a long way. You can even put a drop of this in your foundation for a glowy, dewy makeup look while doing your skin some good. (Not recommended if you like a matte finish.)
Just remember, love the skin you’re in and believe in taking care of it - because it’s the only one you have!
Give a woman the right makeup and she can conquer the world - Charlotte Tilbury
Welcome to August Beauty Month.
I’ve always been fascinated and truly intrigued with makeup and skincare products. When I was in college, I worked at a few different makeup counters playing for hours on hours in paints, glosses, and creams. Today, “What’s your favorite foundation? What bronzer do you use? What’s your holy grail mascara?” are some of the questions I get asked by loyal followers on the daily. So to answer all your questions, I’ve declared the month of August “Beauty Month” to show you ALL my favorite beauty, hair and skincare must-haves. (Also my birth month, so how timely!)
To kick off BEAUTY MONTH, I want to start with GLOW. All my favorite products that will accomplish just the right pop of dew, radiance, and shimmer. One of my most recent purchases was the Charlotte Tilbury Instant Look In A Palette. To be honest, I wasn’t sure what to expect from this compact as it looked quite similar to many of the others I already own. But boy was I shocked when it set off intensive radiations of illumination! As busy women, we’re always on the go and I’m sure like myself, none of you like having to lug around your entire makeup collection for touch-ups. So for me, this all-in-one palette with rose gold undertones is a literal miracle.
In summer especially, I like to let me skin breathe and keep my makeup as lightweight as possible. Lately, I’ve found myself reaching for the CT Unisex Healthy Glow moisturizer as my go-to. Without any effort of my own, it keeps my skin youthful and hydrated all day long and most importantly radiates the healthiest of glows. It can be worn alone or mixed with a foundation for more coverage.
You may have seen me use this product on Snapchat or post about it on the blog. Say Hello To Sexy Legs’ Tinted Glow Gel has been a tanning game changer for me. Whenever I have a shoot or want to look more sun kissed instantly, I just lather myself up in the product. You can also mix it with lotion for extra hydration or to tone down the sheen – depending on your comfort level. When possible, I work natural products into my skincare - so not only is the use of caramel, caffeine, green tea and monoi oil my kind of concoction, the ingredients all work together to nourish the skin and also minimize the look of everything we don’t want to see - body fat, cellulite and stretch marks. It really is a win win. And did I mention it’s 100% transfer-resistant? Yes, yes it really is.
So there you have it, three guaranteed, fool-proof products to G L O W . And because you can never have too much illumination, below is a roundup of other tried and true goodies that I’ve been reaching for in my vanity all summer long.
So what are you waiting for? Glow girl, glow!
If you follow my socials, you might have seen me wear Josefina shoes before. It’s a brand I truly trust. Reigning from Portugal, each pair is lovingly handmade, making every piece unique and special.
I’ve always been inspired by fashion and beauty, which is why I created theCATTWALK. Velvet has taken over the runways in the past year. Its chic and unexpected finish has quickly become the trend of choice. From slip dresses to bodysuits, the sumptuous textured fabric that has appeared in every wardrobe essential has now turned to kick-ass sneaks.
When Josefina sent me these slip ons they ticked all the boxes. They were stylish, unique, on trend and thankfully comfortable. Also available in red velvet, they feature an interior leather lining and don a chunky rubber sole for added comfort, support and a lil height.
The weather may be heating up, but it's still possible to incorporate this thicker fabric into your summer wardrobe. Pair velvet sneakers with a dress, shorts, or pants and I assure you the luxe detail will add a playful touch to any outfit this season.
Well, it’s officially summer and hopefully you’re feeling fit, strong, and sexy.
Whether you are or are not, I’ve got the perfect prescription for you.
Surely you’ve heard about the genius of fitness guru Tracy Anderson over the years? She’s transformed bodies like Gwynth Paltrow, Jennifer Lopez, and a slew of super models. She’s changed the lives of everyday women. Moms. Teens. Dudes, too.
I first experienced the TA Method about ten years ago and can affirm that this workout absolutely WORKS! I found myself going to her studio when I could, doing the dvd’s when I couldn’t, and in recent years doing isolated sculpting exercises by streaming her workouts online.
Like most of us, I was getting bored with hot yoga and running and really wanted to see a difference in my physical body again. The reason I love the TA Method so much is that it truly gives me the tightest, most toned, most sleek shape I’ve ever had. When I do the cardio and light weights combo consistently, the results are insane.
Not only has Tracy become a friend, but she’s a fellow Hoosier and I couldn’t be more genuinely happy to get behind her fitness philosophy. I’m incredibly inspired by her dedication to helping other women feel better about themselves. She’s a badass working mother, too, and operates at a rapid pace! A super woman - no doubt.
So you could imagine when I asked Tracy to help me get fans of theCATTWALK excited to work out and she offered to tailor make a video just for us, I was thrilled! Like with a lot of her moves, you’ll have to watch maybe a few times and count your reps on your own, but I promise you, once you get it down you’ll see results you will love.
So thank you TRACY for this awesome gift. Thank you, if you’re reading this, for continuing on this journey of well being with me. And please, always send us feedback about the workout and the rest of the site. Without you, there is no us!
Lots of love. Lots of toned tummies. Lots of energy, stamina, and light!!
WHAT I WEAR
MY ENTIRE SKINCARE REGIME
Everyone asks me about my skin. It’s extremely flattering honestly. I’m no spring chicken, but thankfully with an arsenal of beauty products, decent genes, moderate exercise, and a pretty clean diet, my skin is in solid shape.
I’m on TV nearly every day and have been for twenty plus years, so if that isn’t motivation, I don’t know what is! But along the way, I’ve been exposed to some phenomenal beauty lines and products. Trust me, I’ve tried them all. I know what works and what’s just a bunch of overpriced smell-good crap taking up space in my bathroom.
When The Covetuer asked to come to my house and observe my nighttime skincare regime, I was like - duh! They got me talking about my daily habits and were kind enough to include them online recently. It inspired me, however, to share even MORE with you because there are some absolute essentials vital to keeping my face looking tip-top.
Below is a list of tried and true beauty products that I genuinely love and use on the regular. I am not endorsed to promote ANY of them except MURAD, a skincare line I’ve used for a decade.
EVERYTHING I USE
psst... use code CATT20 for a discount on Murad.com!
BREAK IT DOWN
Murad Rapid Age Spot and Pigment Lightening Serum
Dermalogica SPF 50 Solar Defense Booster
Murad Essential-C Toner
Neutrogena Makeup Remover Wipes
Lancome Mousse Self Foaming Cleanser
Murad Essential-C Cleanser
Bliss Micro Magic
Murad AHA/BHA Exfoliating Cleanser
Murad Advanced Active Radiance Serum
Murad Essential-C Day Moisture
Murad Essential-C Night Moisture
Kai Body Lotion
Kai Body Glow
Kiehl's Creme de Corps
Bliss Drench N Quench Moisturizer
Caudalie Polyphenol Overnight Detox Oil
Natura Bisse Diamond Extreme Oil
Sunday Riley Luna Sleeping Night Oil
Panasonic Nano Facial Steamer
Clarisonic Mia Cleansing Brush
Panasonic Micro-Foaming Cleansing Device
Revitalash Hi-Def Tinted Brow Gel
Revitalash Advanced Eyelash Conditioner
Murad Renewing Eye Cream
Natura Bisse Diamond Extreme Eye
Dermalogica Multivitamin Power Firm
Murad Rapid Collagen Infusion for Lips
Ogee Sculpted Lip Oil
Aquaphor Healing Ointment
Charlotte Tilbury Goddess Skin Clay Mask
Natura Bisse Diamond White Glowing Mask
Murad Intensive-C Radiance Peel
I started wearing Alaïa a few weeks ago and I’m smitten. Everyone keeps asking me, “What perfume are you wearing? You smell sensational!” Well, wouldn’t be very nice of me to keep it a secret now would it?
I’m no perfumier but I know the fragrance is a mix of Freesia, Peony, musk and some animal notes. The black glass bottle designed by Martin Szekely pays homage to the label’s iconic laser-cut pattern - first debuted on a leather corset in the ‘80s. How sexy is that?
From couture to perfume, Alaïa claims to offer “more women to be part of the happy few. The extract of Monsieur Alaïa's first fragrance, his declaration of love and allegiance to women. A tribute to goddesses. An alchemy that converts femininity into divinity.”
I don’t know about you but I’m picking up what he’s putting down. Beautiful!
As a young broadcaster in entertainment it was my literal dream to some day cover the Oscars.
Thank you, E!, for making my dreams come true year after year.
I am forever grateful to get invited to this dance because of you.
OSCARS GLAM: NO SCANDAL HERE
I love love love makeup. I am always playing around with new products and learning all the little tricks of the trade that can transform my look from simple to sophisticated effortlessly.
On my girls getaway last weekend in Mexico I took full advantage of having one of my besties, Catalina Su with me and asked her to teach us how to create a youthful, sexy and luminous look for night.
If you missed my Facebook Live session straight from my hotel suite in Cabo, you can watch our video now and see the how-to from start to finish.
It's never easy knowing just how much makeup to pack when you're going on a trip, but truthfully you don't need to bring much at all. A good moisturizer with spf, a dewy foundation, and a bronzer for that sun-kissed glow. Okay, and maybe a liquid or powder highlight. (Highlight slash GLOW is my favorite trend in makeup right now. The tip of your nose should be illuminated!)
I often get asked how my skin looks so radiant (thank you) so here's my biggest tip: it's not about a good skincare regimen the day or night you're planning to go out, it's about being consistent effort every single day. I swear by Murad products. I've been using them for more than a decade and have them to thank for my skin. If you'd like to try them too click on this link and you can get 20% of your next purchase. All of the products Lina uses in this tutorial to complete my look are listed below and are shoppable.
So have a go. Try this look out for yourself, and never stop glowing from the inside and out.
If you saw me walk out the door each morning you’d laugh. I am literally “The Bag Lady”. A bag for E!, a bag for working out, a bag full of shoes and jewelry that go back and forth to my dressing room most days. Honestly, so much stuff and usually stuffed into less than glamorous places.
When I saw the SENREVE bag in storm I exhaled. Then, when I realized my laptop would fit inside, I was truly giddy. It was truly love at first sight.
It’s a modern twist on the briefcase and can even be used as a purse. You can carry it multiple ways with either the long strap, the short strap, or even as a backpack.
It’s sleek, structured, stylish. But I don’t need to tell you that - just look at it!
Here's something you may not know about me. If I wasn't a tv host or running a fashion and lifestyle blog, I honestly could spend all day every day studying home design. It's so interesting to me! I truly appreciate every aspect of home decor and certainly know what I'm attracted to aesthetically, but having the time to create the perfect space within my home is another story. It's a full time job and time is something I don't have enough of, let's be honest.
So, here's the story. I already had a comfortable room where the boys and I spend most of our time as a family. But I really wanted to create an elevated, glamorous, and sophisticated space that felt more adult in my home.
The formal living room space called for many changes: It needed to make a strong impression for my guests as a “grown-up entertaining space”, but I still wanted it laid-back enough for the boys and my girl (aka my dog), Scarlett. I knew I needed to bring in the big guns to breathe life into this underused space so I called on the help of Laurel & Wolf.
This room is the first space you see when you walk in the front door, and it always bothered me that it was unfinished. The room gets so much gorgeous light, but it was just unused space—no energy, no soul. It was begging to come to life.
I started with lucite waterfall coffee table, a champagne-colored rug, a vintage credenza, an heirloom piano, and a daybed. I purchased the rug earlier in the year and absolutely loved the lush, champagne color and texture of it. It was a core piece that inspired the rest of the design. The vintage credenza was already a feature and the heirloom piano was passed down from my grandmother.
I think my personal style is warm and inviting, but also erring on the minimal side. I despise clutter or too much of anything—it makes me feel heavy. I don't over accessorize when I get dressed, and I certainly don't want too many knickknacks in my home. Less is more. Kimberly really understood this and welcomed my cues and direction. As an celebrated expert, she then took the reins and went to work!
The team at Laurel & Wolf also knew to make good use of the space in this room. My designer Kimberly helped me figure out a more efficient plan for the furniture and created a very inviting space. I wanted a more intimate arrangement of furniture that was conducive to entertaining. I also wanted to mute the color scheme quite a bit and get away from the masculine feel. I will say I’m no shrining violet and had strong opinions about what I wanted. She really listened to my design instinct which made for a very trusting collaboration.
I’ve tried to work on the house myself in the past, and it can be so overwhelming trying to take on a job like this alone. Kimberly endlessly offered so many alternative options from fabrics to wallpaper, to key furniture pieces. It was like Christmas every time I opened my inbox. She was exceptional at listening to my strong opinions on certain decisions and ultimately wanted me to be happy.
I have to say I am ecstatic with how it all turned out! The fact this service is affordable and so extremely user friendly is such a win. I honestly can’t say enough good things about the company. If you’d like to try it, please use the CATTWALK for a discounted experience. I’m confident you’ll have a superb design experience like me.
PHOTOS BY DUSTIN WALKER/LAUREL & WOLF
Mexico keeps calling to me and I keep answering the call.
This time I was able to return to a brand new luxe resort and bring my besties with me. Aren’t girls trips just absolutely necessary for the soul? I think so. We sipped tons of tequila, laughed like we were 16, and soaked up the sun for the entire duration - while lathering in sunscreen, natch.
As promised, below are some fun snaps captured during our stay and some links to shop our looks. And, as promised if you saw my Facebook Live from Cabo, the beauty products featured for our “night-time-going-out” make up look are clickable as well.
Muchas Gracias mis amores,
Honestly, as I get older and busier and the days of the stiletto in the AM go to the wayside, I’m starting to appreciate my new mistress: flats. These aren’t your run of the mill flats, though. They’re so chic and interesting. The fabric is lush. The color is cool. Yes, you should splurge. Acne Studios' 'Amina' loafers have a collapsible heel that converts them into slippers, offering two looks in one. This Italian-made pair is crafted from plush taupe velvet and has a sleek pointed toe. Roll up your jeans to show them off.
Semi obnoxious but super fun nonetheless, I took the plunge and scooped up the IT slide of the moment: fuzzy, faux fur!
I say wear these at home to kick it or even to lunch on a relaxed day. But if you wear them, WEAR them. People might stare, but after all, that’s a good thing.
A few other favorites:
Together Changing the World
I can't tell you how honored I am to have written the introduction for my mother's third book. You can read it in full here below. My hope is that you'll be inspired to hear more stories like this when you read Women Like Us cover to cover. So proud of your efforts, Mama. Congratulations!
I was born in 1974 in a small town in southern Indiana, population about 10,000. All ‘folks’ were white, the majority of them Christian, and although I would grow to love this little slice of the world and call it home, there is a portion of Martinsville’s history I’m not particularly proud of. To this day, it’s still trying to shed its racist reputation.
As I was growing up I heard stories about KKK rallies in the woods, that the Grand Dragon himself called our community home, and that violence erupted because of this racism. There was a horrific tale about a black woman who came to town selling encyclopedias door to door in the late ’60s who was stabbed to death because of the color of her skin. These truths would haunt me as a child. I was instinctively saddened by the thought of what lurked ‘yonder.’ Lucky for me, my parents were loving, inclusive people who, by example, taught me to love and accept my human brothers and sisters regardless of our differences.
Beyond race, though, my mother (like my late grandmother Freda) is a feminist. I was not only raised to respect other cultures and ideas, but women in my family were always cherished, and valued, and lifted up like any of our male counterparts.
Freda, my mom’s mom, was what we would call today a Girl Boss. And yes, she was even a little bossy. She was sassy and opinionated and incredibly driven. She founded the first-ever female- owned real estate company in the state. She and my grandfather then raised three daughters of their own, and you can imagine that this was a house filled with girls with big dreams and big ideas.
These ideals were passed on generation to generation, and although my life began in a small town—literally next door to the one John Mellencamp sang about—I never imagined my journey would encompass the big wide world in the way that it has. I couldn’t see it as a little girl. I couldn’t predict it. But I think I always dreamt about it subconsciously.
I knew I would get “out,” that there was more. I didn’t know what was in store but there was definitely an itch as I grew older to discover what was outside the confines of Indiana life.
After graduating with a journalism degree from Indiana University, and securing my first general-assignment reporting job at a local TV station, I began feeling very unsettled. No one in my entire family or extended family at this point had ever just left ...just because. But in my heart and in my soul, I knew my life’s purpose would extend beyond the rolling hills, beautiful foliage and Hoosier hospitality my home had to offer.
Cut to 20 years later and here I am in Los Angeles, now with my own family, and boy has the view changed! I’ve worked 10 years now for the E! network and have interviewed Johnny Depp, Meryl Streep, Leonardo DiCaprio, Julia Roberts, and Oprah. Oh, and even a first lady: Michelle Obama. It has been hard work, day in and day out, but it has also been ridiculously glamorous with red carpets, designer gowns, international travels covering the weddings of royals, French film festivals, and Olympic games. I have stamped my passport dozens of times over the years and have, as a result, discovered one of my absolute obsessions: traveling. I am completely infatuated by other cultures, their histories, their architecture, their customs, and their cuisine.
All the while I was raising my two sons and traveling the globe for my job, my mom had been steadily working on developing her foundation, Women Like Us. A cornerstone of her organization has been international travel. She would arrange for large groups of people to travel to an area in need of making change at some level, while also experiencing the richness of these places themselves.
In the summer of 2014, I would go to Kenya for the first time. Mom had planned for herself and a dozen other women to travel to a number of places to do work for the many causes her foundation supports there. At the time, it sounded thrilling, but like so many of us, I didn’t have a clue how I was going to leave my kids for nearly two weeks, take time off work, and on top of that my dad had been diagnosed with stage four lung cancer. I was resisting going, but thankfully, my mother knows me well. She said, “Get on the plane.” And so, I did.
One foot on the ground in Nairobi and I knew I was a long, long way from Martinsville, Indiana. The political unrest in the country at the time was at an all-time high. There were a number of soldiers pacing through the airport with machine guns, and similar armed men greeted us at our first stop, our hotel. Oddly, I wasn’t afraid. I was calm and eager to let this adventure unfold as it was intended. After all, this experience was in line with what I had always believed was my destiny in many ways.
In the days to come, I would be changed forever—so much so, it’s sometimes hard to find the words.
I would meet Mama Margaret who heads the Tenderfeet School in Kibera, one of the poorest and most dangerous places in Kenya and the largest urban slum in all of Africa. This light, this force of a woman, shared her selfless stories of teaching to dozens of orphans who otherwise wouldn’t have an education at all. Many of them were ill, living with HIV. She not only runs a school for them but takes many of them home and nurtures them around the clock. She was the first angel I would meet.
Then, there were the faces from the Nancy Noël Preschool. This is a school Women Like Us had supported for many years, but it was our first time visiting. I lost my breath, it was so tragic upon first glance. The need, the hunger for human touch. There were hundreds of hungry children who until our visit had never used a paint brush, had never blown through a recorder to make music, had never had their own backpack. Giving to these precious little people would be one of the most rewarding experiences of my life.
In the days to come on Rusinga Island I would meet Mary and her two sons, all three of them diagnosed with HIV. We were filming our documentary and she was brave enough
to let us and our cameras into her home. There were mud floors and mosquito nets over pieces of foam on the floor that served as their beds. Mary, somewhat hesitantly and certainly embarrassed, would describe her desperation to earn money to care for her kids. Work was hard to come by and she confessed to selling her body for money, as it was the only way to make ends meet. Her kids needed medication and food and shelter, and after her husband died from AIDS, like so many do, this was her life. I remember hugging them all tightly. I wanted to fix it. Right then and there. I felt hollow and helpless but was grateful to have collided with them on this big planet of ours. I’m rarely speechless, but after that visit I remember feeling silenced.
Less than 24 hours after that I would interview the former first lady of Kenya, as if some miracle dropped out of the sky. She and her husband ascended on the lodge where we were staying, and while our group was gathered around a table in a common area, she walked by and her presence
was electric! We convinced her to have a glass of wine with us when unbeknownst to us we would learn she was a political powerhouse in Kenya who had dedicated her life to empowering young girls in education and other areas. She agreed to be interviewed by me for our documentary. Her story is incredibly riveting but also aspirational. Her life’s work: to make change for girls and future generations to come.
I had heard the phrase FGM in the news before, and I knew vaguely what it meant, but like so many of us who hear about tragic scenarios over and over again, sometimes we become immune to the true devastation taking place. The Olmalaika Home is a kind of refuge for victims of female genital mutilation. This is where I would meet Jackie and Faith and so many other beautiful, resilient, smart, young women who wanted more for their lives. They often left their families to
live in this safe, secure haven after being brutally victimized physically, mentally, and emotionally. Kim DeWitt founded this home to give hope to these girls when the culture around them is telling them that their bodies aren’t their bodies, their worth is equal to that of a cow, their future isn’t their own.
Faith wants to be a doctor. Jackie wants to find her own voice. Walking away from this place, unlike many other places I had encountered thus far, I felt hopeful. Because of one woman, Kim, and her courage to do something, I started to see the possibilities of giving the downtrodden a better life.
In bed at night, I wept...more than once. These people had gotten into my bones and I felt this overwhelming responsibility to combat the atrocities engulfing their lives. To heal them, to restore them, to protect them.
I wanted to give to them because they had given to me. The light....
What I know is that there is poverty everywhere. There is need everywhere, of some form, within a mile of each of our homes. In Martinsville, in Los Angeles, in Africa.
I was touched that my mom asked me to contribute to her book because I am such a believer in our connectedness as humans.
I feel strongly that our collective purpose is to work together, regardless of race or origin. That it is our human right—our right as women—to find peace, good health, and education.
I hope you’ll read the pages of this book and be inspired.
Perhaps you, too, have the itch but need the nudge like my mom gave me. Go ahead, “get on the plane,” literally or metaphorically. You won’t regret it.
Proceeds from the book go to funding women-led initiatives for gender equality and social justice in the areas of sex trafficking, homelessness and education through the Women Like Us Foundation.