Monday Evening at the Westin Bristol Place, four amazing and inspiring woman came to visit us. Each and every single one had a story to tell. About their life, their journey, and what they had to go through to become the incredible woman they are today.
The first speech was delivered to us by Melani Chong, who now runs a natural skin care company. Melani was originally very interested in sports. She was very athletic, and participated in various high school sports. She was a strong believer in giving it your all, and going for your dreams. When she was 17 years old, her father came to her with an idea. He had heard on the radio that Ford modeling agency was having a model search in a local mall. Originally Melani had laughed at the idea, and told her father he was being ridiculous. All of her role models were track stars. She was an athlete! And not by any means a model. She had doubted herself. So her dad had to trick her into going to the mall anyway. Once Melani knew what was happening, there was no backing out. She decided it couldn’t hurt to just take one photo, and once it was over she left. Expecting nothing to come from the experience. Two weeks later, she received a phone call. Melani’s picture had been chosen for the top 100 girls to become a Ford model, out of the thousands that had auditioned. She was shocked by this, as she believed nothing would happen, but eventually she signed with Ford. Melani began her professional modeling career at the age of 18, and used her love for make-up and clothes as a way into the world of modeling. Eventually she decided that maybe modeling wasn’t her thing. She wasn’t completely 100% sold on the idea. So she branched out, to try new things in the industry. After modeling, she tried her hand at being a hair stylist, and then a make-up artist, a designer, and then decided to go back to school. Melani visited many skin care laboratories, and did her research. As a model, she was always looking for a quick fix, or some natural solutions. Using her passions for health, beauty, and fashion she decided to create her own soy boutique. She liked demonstrating the beauty in simplicity within her products. Her life was on the move, always developing into something new. As long as she kept dreaming; she kept achieving. In her mind, persistence is key. Melani also believed that “As long as you can maintain your integrity in what your dream is, you can achieve longevity in your health, beauty, and success.”
Our next speaker was very motivational, and encouraging. Her name is Katrina Hadden. Always believing that “Beauty is from the inside out.” She is an inspiration to many young woman. As a child, she was bullied for being the tallest. In grade three she couldn’t be seen without one of the kids yelling “BIG BIRD!” or “GREEN GIANT!” Katrina did her best to ignore the nasty comments, and instead of breaking down she embraced her height and joined the basketball team. Her dream was to become a basketball star, but in her senior year she wrecked her knee. Her friends had always suggested she try her hand in the world of modeling; after all, she was certainly tall enough! However Katrina just thought thought to herself “Modeling is not for me.” She had never been one of those toothpick thin girls growing up, and still was a size 12. Maybe she could be a plus sized model? But she couldn’t meet the specifications for that either. She wasn’t big enough. Katrina tried to lose weight, and eventually developed an eating disorder, but nothing worked. Suddenly a thought dawned on Katrina; why not have an in-between category? For models not quite small enough, and not quite big enough. So, she came to a few modeling agencies with this idea, and decided upon Ben Berry. An agency that excepts diversity, and all different sizes! She realized it was okay to have other dreams, than just pursuing the career of a basketball star. Katrina surrounded herself with friends that chose to eat healthy, and were interested in proper nutrition. Resulting from this, Katrina then began to lose weight, the healthy way. Her perseverance in chasing her dreams is a huge inspiration to me. She left us with some very powerful words, and a quoted poem by Jill Wolf:
Don’t quit when the tide is lowest,
For it’s just about to turn;
Don’t quit over doubts and questions,
For there’s something you may learn.
Don’t quit when the night is darkest,
For it’s just a while ’til dawn;
Don’t quit when you’ve run the farthest,
For the race is almost won.
Don’t quit when the hill is steepest,
For your goal is almost nigh;
Don’t quit, for you’re not a failure
Until you fail to try.
Following the wonderful Katrina, our next speaker was Alexandra Orlando. Alex is an olympian in rythmic gymnastics, and is the author of two very motivational books. Growing up, Alex had a very limited social life. She was very interested in her gymnastics, and thats all her busy schedule would allow. Alex trained very hard, and a lot of the training was very tough and strenuous. When you win an award in the olympics, everything looks goon on paper, but what people don’t see is the grit. The giving it your all, the injuries, the sweat, the practice, and the skill. When you fall; you better remember to pick yourself right back up. She believed that you should benefit from all of your experiences, and learn from every mistake. Alex has always been very gracious, and surrounded herself with good people. People that won’t get you down, or take you down the wrong path. She contradicted the statement “These are the years [your teens] where you find out who you are.” by stating “These are the years where you discover who you want to be, what you want to do, and how strong you are.” Alex talked about life and all that it has to offer. The challenges you will be sure to face, and the wonderful outcomes appearing after these struggles. She stated that “People categorize you. They put you in a box, and keep you there. Life isn’t like that, there are many opportunities to change and be who you want to be.” Instead of fading away, she encouraged us to try something else that would work for us. To hone our crafts. Alex chose gym as her craft, because she got the best out of herself. She was constantly challenged to do better, and keep striving forward. She told us that “Rejection makes you stronger. Your not going to put up that fight, and push yourself to continuously do better unless its what your passionate about.” Alex encouraged us to give it our all, because in the end, picking yourself back up tastes so much sweeter than defeat.
Our last speaker was Natalie Archer. As a Toronto dentist since the year 2001, she had a lot of career and life management advice. Today she is a hospital dentist at the Runnymede dental center. She encouraged us to pursue careers which appealed to us, yet at the same time warned we should always make time for our children.
When life throws you a hard ball, Natalie wishes for us to embrace the experience. Take all that life has to offer, and make something beautiful out of it. There is beauty that can be found anywhere, and in all situations. Look at the bright side, but don’t plan to far ahead. Teens often don’t know how the future will turn out, and it can sometimes be quite scary if your unsure of which path you’d like to pursue. However, we must still embrace every opportunity. Always make the positives in life outweigh the negatives, otherwise you’ll live your life unhappy. Make sure you get a good education, it is KEY. Nobody can ever take away your education. Getting a good education leads to a good career, which means you will be able to support yourself in the future, and not be dependent upon someone else. Natalie wishes for us all to THINK BIG, and left us with a few tips:
1) Woman need to take calculated business risks. Believe in business, leadership, and success will come your way.
2) 38% of woman are the breadwinners of the family. She hopes for us to not shy away from taking on this role.
3) Family is very important. Having children is THE most enriching part of life, but it us important that you wait until you are sure you can support your family.
4) Join Boards. Get involved. PLAN PLAN PLAN.
These woman were all very inspirational to me, and I am pleased I had the opportunity to meet these wonderful ladies. Each and every one had a story to tell, and by the end of night myself and all the girls felt very motivated. It was an absolute honor to participate in the mentorship night.