through authoritative and compelling storytelling
By speaking clearly and forcefully to empower all those who are so personally invested in health
by creating an environment where people can express themselves freely and truly be heard
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I have been passionate about musical theater ever since I was 5 years old. Back then, my mom would watch me try to imitate all the dancing while watching Cats on VHS. I would even make music videos and put on plays with my sister when we were young. During college, I applied for the performing arts to pursue this passion. My favorite part of performing was the adrenaline rush it gave me. I’m happiest when other people are happy, so when I would see an audience cheering and applauding, I felt like I helped contribute to their joy. Today, I continue my love for singing through songwriting. I actually wrote a song for my sister’s wedding, which followed the theme of building a home and how she should enjoy the love she found.
Songwriting is an expressive and creative outlet that allows me to stay in touch with my musical side. It has also become cathartic for me; I even work better because of it. Music is so vital to me because of the impact it has on me, personally, and those around me. It amazes me how just the power of one song can make someone’s day.
I started drawing at a very early age and always wanted to be a unique creative. This lifelong pursuit came together when I lived in Sydney, Australia and got my first break as a face painter for a party services company. The nicheness of face painting and the joy it brought to my clients made me fall in love with the craft. Once I returned to America, I was excited to start a business of my own. In addition to this, I also paint at fundraising events, such as the Autism Awareness Fair, to raise money to support causes that are important to me. My favorite part of face painting is not necessarily the execution, but seeing the designs take a life of their own. Even if I personally don’t think I did my best, I’m more focused on whether or not the kids are enjoying themselves.
Running this business for the past five years has felt like running an agency of my own. I need to determine the needs of my customers and deliver the creative to provide the optimal service. Face painting allows me to explore another creative outlet, while developing my skills as an art director. In all honesty, face painting even makes me feel like a kid again and I love it!
My parents are travel enthusiasts and reinforced the importance of seeing the world throughout my childhood. After having not studied abroad while in college, I swore not to miss out on an opportunity to travel ever again. With that, I traveled to Australia for a month, went on safaris in Botswana and Zimbabwe, traveled to Morocco with close friends, and have planned future trips to Singapore, Bali, the Philippines, and the Galapagos, not including the 20 plus other countries that I have visited. On these trips, I love to walk around and explore the city for myself. I like to get the local perspective rather than seeing the popular tourist attractions. In order to get the most authentic experience, I seek local recommendations for places to visit or eat. In Thailand, a local gave us a dinner recommendation where we had to walk on the beach, off of the hotel area to a remote road, and ate dinner in a local’s kitchen. It was some of the best food of the whole trip!
My trips have taught me to truly understand cultural differences, while opening my eyes to new experiences I’ll remember for a lifetime. Traveling is a great way to connect and bond with people over shared stories of similar experiences. It’s also very motivational to have a planned trip to look forward to, because I know in a month, I’ll be somewhere new, living my best life.
From my first Curious George book, I’ve been fascinated by monkeys and apes. At 21, I interviewed to take care of baby gorillas at the Bronx Zoo; I walked towards the babies and 1-year-old Hodari climbed up right into my arms. I was hooked, he trusted me—we had a moment, and I had the job. For 1 ½ years, I took care of 2 young gorillas, Hodari and Mopi. We played games, they napped on my lap, and I made sure they were happy and healthy, while talking to zoo visitors about their behavior. Eventually I graduated to Mammal Zoo Keeper, and wrote some papers on animal species preservation. I support good, humane, educational zoos because they connect people to animal species they would never see otherwise, and create an understanding of why we need to protect these animals in the wild, and what we will lose when they’re gone.
Creating connections is integral for humans and animals alike. Someone once said that each human is a single species of their own, and that’s how I approach people in my life—everyone has a history, a legacy, and a rich story that is uniquely theirs, and they should live it every day.
Being underwater is pretty surreal. We’re humans. We’re not supposed to breathe underwater. So much of the ocean has been unexplored so you’re in this whole other world a lot of people haven’t seen. My husband actually got me into scuba diving. When we were dating, one of our first trips was to Costa Rica where I finalized my certification. Now we plan our trips around diving. Some of the places we’ve been to include Belize, Aruba, Mexico, Bimini, Key West, and Thailand. What I love the most is seeing the sea life. In Bimini, we dived with great hammerhead sharks and in South Africa we did cage diving with great white sharks.
Seeing the effects of global warming, especially coral bleaching, during a dive is really eye opening. My husband and I are members of Project Aware. The foundation works with scuba divers to create awareness of threats to the ocean and promote conservation of sea life. I feel like the more people who can go diving and see this first hand, it’s like “Oh, this is really having an impact, what can I do to help this?”
I have always been into storytelling. In my 20s, I met a friend who had just sold her novel, and it was motivating to see someone I knew succeeding in the publishing world. She invited me into her writing group, where I was encouraged to chase a story I submitted. For about two years, I woke up at 5:30 every morning to write before work. At some point, I realized that what I was writing was a novel. After a laborious process, I sold my first book, Where Earth Meets Water, and two years later, my second novel, The Faces of Strangers, was published.
What I love about fiction writing is how it satisfies me. Even if the pages I write don’t get published, I feel invigorated. I can handle whatever life throws at me, because I did something for myself that day that no one can take away. Part of it, too, is the challenge. I would hear people say that they’ve always wanted to write a book. My first thought is, So do it. You can do this. That’s not to say that I haven’t faced lots of challenges along the way; there have been plenty. But when you have a passion, just because you have children or a day job doesn’t mean you shouldn’t follow your dreams.
I grew up in the late ‘60s when activism was not uncommon. I remember being 11 years old, marching around our public school when Martin Luther King died. It was a culture I was attracted to—I don’t like to see suffering or injustice, and I like to help people, to try improving their lives. There’s also an inquisitive side to it, finding out the causes to problems.
Sometimes, obvious things can be addressed but aren’t because of barriers from culture and society. But people should feel free to speak up if something isn’t quite right in their neighborhood or community. If you have the urge to help, go with it. Think about the skills that you have and where they could be helpful to people. It’s good to volunteer where it’s needed the most. Everybody could do it, even in a little way.