As apart of our lovely stay here in Toronto, we had the opportunity to listen to four very inspirational, successful women. The purpose of this was for us to learn some really valuable lessons from true stories full of inspiration and meaning. The four women who we had the pleasure of listening to were Melanie Chong- the athlete turned model, Katrina Hadden- the model who had once felt she couldn’t fit in anywhere, Alexandra Orlando, the olympic athlete turned author and motivational speaker, and Dr Archer, the powerful dentist and full time mother.
Melani had spent her teenage years heavily engaged in athletics, especially track, until one day that all changed. Her father had heard about the Canadian Ford model search, and asked her if she would be interested. Her initial reaction was to laugh it off, since she could never imagine herself as a model. That soon took a 180 turn. After a week or two of continuing with her busy, hefty athletic based schedule, Melani’s father asked her if she’d like to go shopping at the mall. Like any teenage girl, her instincts quickly accepted the invitation. That is, until Melani had discovered it was all a clever trap. As they shopped through the busy, bustling hallways of the mall, Melani’s father said to her “Oh look, the Ford model search is here today!”. I think the
rest is quite predictable. Melani applied, and her natural beauty was quickly discovered, landing her a spot in the agency. Something about Melani’s story that really struck me was that she wasn’t restricted to being successful at one thing. Being a high school jock and a feminine model seem like completely different ambitions, but she was able to accomplish both. As if that weren’t impressive enough, before becoming a mother of 2, Melani also earned a university degree as a chemist, and started her own natural, organic skin care brand, Soya Boutique. One of Melani’s favourite quotes is “The wisest is he who knows what he wants what he does not know”, by Socrates. Her advice to us is to maintain our passion, which leads to drive, which leads to core actions. Although rejection is crucial, you must always stay focused and confident.
Although radiating with beauty and confidence on mentor night, Katrina had confided in us of her childhood and teenage years resulting in low self esteem due to bullying to her tall height. Also like Melani, she spent most of her free time participating in sports, although in particularly basketball. Her dream was to make a team on the WNBA. Something Katrina shared with us that really related to me was when she told us that she went in to make a shot, she would visualize the ball going through the hoop before it even left her hands. Even though I can’t relate in the way of being tall enough to have a chance at basketball, one of my secrets is that I love imagining my goals and dreams coming true before they do. Back to Katrina. Although basketball helped her find her place in the world, her world quickly crumbled like an old chocolate chip cookie, due to an injury.
Her dream of the WNBA seemed unreachable. Because her height opened some opportunities, she tried modelling. However, she once again felt that she couldn’t fit in, and had no place in the modelling industry, or really anywhere. Unfortunately, this eventually lead to an eating disorder, in order to try and feel adequate to the strict standards of the fashion industry. After a steady recovery back to her own beautiful, healthy shape, Katrina was contacted by the Ben Barry Agency. Their motto is “A Real Woman is Every Woman”. After the agency sent her on an audition for a commercial, she was shocked to have won the part despite the competition of stick thin girls. She asked the director why, and he replied that it was because the confidence and positive energy she exuded. This even led to landing a spot on the Toronto Fashion Week runway, with the designer Sunny Fong. She says that you should always use your uniqueness to your advantage. She also gave us 5 tips to living a happy, successful life.
- Take care of your body and health.
- Find a way to forget the world.
- Carry an attitude of gratitude.
- Forgiveness- don’t hold onto negative energy.
- Don’t quit.
For as long as she could remember, her life and identity had been focused around gymnastics. However, she admits to growing very arrogant, and believing that if she worked hard enough she could make the olympics, simply because she had always gotten all of her goals. The sharp reality of failure then hit her when she missed qualifying by 1/10 of a point. Although she had spent her time mourning, her family and friends told her that enough was enough. This learned to an incredible self discovery, and she even has written a book (by one of our sponsors, Burman Books), and has another in the progress. What she realized that what her goal was , was to stand on the olympic podium for a few, short lived seconds. What would bring her there would be years of training, thousands of dollars, and countless support and energy from multiple people. Even though she didn’t make it to that moment, it didn’t erase the 12 years of what gymnastics taught her, aside from repertoire. During her soul searching, she realized that she didn’t love her life as a gymnast because of her talent, but because gymnastics brought out the best in her. She grew resilient, she had endless efforts and took peak care of her body- it wasn’t being able to do double back twists that made her love her life.
First off, I must say that Dr Archer shared a quote that I’ve grown up with. My mom has also always said that “Nobody can take an education away from you”, which I absolutely love. Its so true! Clothes go in and out of style, the economy rises and falls, but your education is always valid. Something very admirable about Dr. Archer is that she’s such an overachieving, modern day, super woman. Not superman, super woman, since she exercises her abilities that only a woman can possess. Not only has she dedicated over 8 years of her life to university to build such an impressive career as a dentist, she’s also a full time mother and wife. I thought it was so important that she stressed to us that even though its important to want to have a strong relationship and maybe even kids one day, that we must be so careful. She really explained to us that although having a marriage and a family appear that it can be fun, that they’re huge commitments and steps in life that you won’t be ready for until you have a very clear understanding of yourself, and the life you surround yourself with.