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How This Cancer Survivor Turned Her Journey Back to Health Into a Luxury Skincare Brand

Business

In 1998, Miri Torres was 16 years old. Instead of experiencing the normal life of a teenager – going to parties and hanging out with friends, she was diagnosed with stage 4B Hodgkins Lymphoma disease and spent most of her time surrounded by the walls of Sheba Medical Center in Tel Aviv, Israel. But it was Miri's discovery of the healing effects of the Dead Sea and the doctor who diagnosed her with cancer that inspired her to start Arianna Skincare.


As Miri was finishing high school, she found herself in what she describes as a crisis. The lasting effects that chemotherapy had on Miri's body were a lot for your average teenager to handle, but rather than succumbing to her ailments, Miri decided to turn her life around. "I had this crisis, I gained like 60 pounds, I had all of these scars, [but] I said to myself 'if you're going to get better and get healthy, your mission is to always be the best version of yourself and never feel this bad again.'" So as soon as she finished chemotherapy and her doctors told her she was healthy, she revolved her life around a healthy lifestyle – fully immersing herself in fitness and cosmetics.

Miri was born and raised in Israel and would make frequent trips to the Dead Sea throughout her childhood, but it was during her post-chemotherapy journey to a healthy lifestyle that she discovered the healing benefits the Dead Sea had on her own skin – knowledge that she would later turn into a skincare line. According to Miri, the quantity of salt in the sea is so high that it is basically renewing your skin and ridding it of all the bacteria. While she couldn't go to the sea as often as she would've liked while she was recovering from chemotherapy, when she did go she saw the difference in her skin almost instantly – the eczema and tiny stretch mark scars that were a result of her chemotherapy, became almost nonexistent, thanks to the contents of the sea.

Miri Torres

Upon completing high school and restoring her health, Miri joined the Israel Defense Force (I.D.F.). Typically, the I.D.F. does not typically consider people who have previously suffered life-threatening sicknesses as qualified to join the army, but Miri was determined to not only restore her health but become healthy enough to volunteer. After serving her country for two and a half years, Miri moved to the United States, settled in Boston and decided that starting Arianna Skincare was what she wanted to do.

Having learned what the components of the Dead Sea did for her own skin, Miri launched her first product and best seller, the Ultra Exfoliating Body Treatment. To create the salt scrub, Miri sought after TDOT Industries to produce her products, the largest cosmetic manufacturer in Israel and maker of products that contain the essence of the Dead Sea. For creating this first product, Miri explains that she used crystals and raw salt from the Dead Sea and combined them with water from the sea, avocado oils and natural fragrances, and boxed it up for the customer. Then came the opening of the first Arianna Skincare store in Martha's Vineyard, Massachusetts.

Arianna Skincare is named after the doctor who diagnosed Miri with cancer back in her teen years, a decision Miri made to show her appreciation for her doctor's work. "I went to the highest stage, [there are] four stages and then A and B and I got to 4B, and I was so lucky to meet the doctor who knew how to make the right move and the right treatment. I owe her so much and so when I launched [Arianna Skincare] I thought that would be the best way to show my appreciation."

Miri's entire journey with Arianna Skincare has been self-funded, never taking an investor – something that Miri claims was made possible by simply doing the right thing. "When we opened the first store, it was a very small pop-up. I was working as a waiter and saving my money. It was an investment of $10,000. It was so successful then I engaged my current business partner and we took off together, literally by ourselves, we never used funding. It was a lot of doing the right things that really worked well."

Among the various decisions that seemed to work really well? Staying strictly direct to consumer brand that allowed for building strong relationships with the Arianna Skincare customer. After opening the Martha Vineyards store, Miri received an overwhelming amount of positive customer feedback that would go on to prove how successful the line would become. "We saw a lot of people liked the product, and it was inspiring a lot of people so I started getting a lot of phone calls. Since I'm coming from a wellness field, I learned a little bit about nutrition and also personal training.

I started coaching people who felt very insecure about their body and looks. I know there are a lot of people that if it’s a hard time in life, it's very hard for people to put themselves together and go on the right track. So the entire idea for Arianna skincare – even customers coming into the store and speaking to our sales representative – it's not just about buying a serum, it's to change your vision and love yourself and treat your body the way you should treat it. This is my personal idea that I'm trying to deliver out there."

Fast forward six years, and Miri now lives in Brooklyn, New York, where Arianna Skincare is headquartered. It has two main collections: the Spa Collection that targets the body, The Elite Collection which contains luxury anti-aging products for the face, a men's collection, and six freestanding Arianna Skincare stores. Miri will be honored as a cancer survivor at the Annual Taste of Hope event on May 9th in New York City. The Taste of Hope Event is the American Cancer Society's signature culinary, wine and spirits event that is held to raise money in the fight against cancer. Each year, the American Cancer Society chooses to honor two people: a Culinary Honoree and a Cancer Survivor. This year, when being honored as the Cancer Survivor, Miri plans to show her appreciation for the honor by continuing to help sick people and empower women. "Everyone feels like they're in a dark spot in their life. [So] when they told me they were honoring me, I said 'Miri, you have a stage to put this idea out there'."

As far as the future is concerned, Miri shows no signs of slowing down: in 2019, she will introduce a new collection; the Mother Pearl collection, which will use pearl dust to combat discoloration and skin pigmentation issues. In addition to a new collection, Miri hopes to expand her philanthropic efforts with plans to introduce Arianna Pink, a project that will donate 20% of all online sales to the American Cancer Society.

The Quick 10

1. What app do you use the most?

Calories Counter.

2. Briefly describe your morning routine.

Wash my face with a gentle cleanser, apply moisturizer and sunscreen, and drink 2 glasses of water with lemon. I keep it very simple and productive.

3. Name a business mogul you admire.

Carolyn Rafaelian, founder of Alex and Ani.

4. What product do you wish you had invented?

The cure for stretch marks (cream or laser).

5. What is your spirit animal?

Lioness.

6. What is your life motto?

Be the best version of yourself.

7. Name your favorite work day snack.

Nature valley - almond snack.

8. Every entrepreneur must be what to be successful?

A believer.

9. What’s the most inspiring place you’ve traveled to?

Western Wall, Jerusalem.

10. Desert Island. Three things, go.

Breathe in the fresh air, enjoy the views. and get some vitamin D.

Culture

A Modern Day Witch Hunt: How Caster Semenya's Gender Became A Hot Topic In The Media

Gender divisions in sports have primarily served to keep women out of what has always been believed to be a male domain. The idea of women participating alongside men has been regarded with contempt under the belief that women were made physically inferior.


Within their own division, women have reached new heights, received accolades for outstanding physical performance and endurance, and have proven themselves to be as capable of athletic excellence as men. In spite of women's collective fight to be recognized as equals to their male counterparts, female athletes must now prove their womanhood in order to compete alongside their own gender.

That has been the reality for Caster Semenya, a South African Olympic champion, who has been at the center of the latest gender discrimination debate across the world. After crushing her competition in the women's 800-meter dash in 2016, Semenya was subjected to scrutiny from her peers based upon her physical appearance, calling her gender into question. Despite setting a new national record for South Africa and attaining the title of fifth fastest woman in Olympic history, Semenya's success was quickly brushed aside as she became a spectacle for all the wrong reasons.

Semenya's gender became a hot topic among reporters as the Olympic champion was subjected to sex testing by the International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF). According to Ruth Padawer from the New York Times, Semenya was forced to undergo relentless examination by gender experts to determine whether or not she was woman enough to compete as one. While the IAAF has never released the results of their testing, that did not stop the media from making irreverent speculations about the athlete's gender.

Moments after winning the Berlin World Athletics Championship in 2009, Semenya was faced with immediate backlash from fellow runners. Elisa Cusma who suffered a whopping defeat after finishing in sixth place, felt as though Semenya was too masculine to compete in a women's race. Cusma stated, "These kind of people should not run with us. For me, she is not a woman. She's a man." While her statement proved insensitive enough, her perspective was acknowledged and appeared to be a mutually belief among the other white female competitors.

Fast forward to 2018, the IAAF issued new Eligibility Regulations for Female Classification (Athlete with Differences of Sexual Development) that apply to events from 400m to the mile, including 400m hurdles races, 800m, and 1500m. The regulations created by the IAAF state that an athlete must be recognized at law as either female or intersex, she must reduce her testosterone level to below 5 nmol/L continuously for the duration of six months, and she must maintain her testosterone levels to remain below 5 nmol/L during and after competing so long as she wishes to be eligible to compete in any future events. It is believed that these new rules have been put into effect to specifically target Semenya given her history of being the most recent athlete to face this sort of discrimination.

With these regulations put into effect, in combination with the lack of information about whether or not Semenya is biologically a female of male, society has seemed to come to the conclusion that Semenya is intersex, meaning she was born with any variation of characteristics, chromosomes, gonads, sex hormones, or genitals. After her initial testing, there had been alleged leaks to media outlets such as Australia's Daily Telegraph newspaper which stated that Semenya's results proved that her testosterone levels were too high. This information, while not credible, has been widely accepted as fact. Whether or not Semenya is intersex, society appears to be missing the point that no one is entitled to this information. Running off their newfound acceptance that the Olympic champion is intersex, it calls into question whether her elevated levels of testosterone makes her a man.

The IAAF published a study concluding that higher levels of testosterone do, in fact, contribute to the level of performance in track and field. However, higher testosterone levels have never been the sole determining factor for sex or gender. There are conditions that affect women, such as PCOS, in which the ovaries produce extra amounts of testosterone. However, those women never have their womanhood called into question, nor should they—and neither should Semenya.

Every aspect of the issue surrounding Semenya's body has been deplorable, to say the least. However, there has not been enough recognition as to how invasive and degrading sex testing actually is. For any woman, at any age, to have her body forcibly examined and studied like a science project by "experts" is humiliating and unethical. Under no circumstances have Semenya's health or well-being been considered upon discovering that her body allegedly produces an excessive amount of testosterone. For the sake of an organization, for the comfort of white female athletes who felt as though Semenya's gender was an unfair advantage against them, Semenya and other women like her, must undergo hormone treatment to reduce their performance to that of which women are expected to perform at. Yet some women within the athletic community are unphased by this direct attempt to further prove women as inferior athletes.

As difficult as this global invasion of privacy has been for the athlete, the humiliation and sense of violation is felt by her people in South Africa. Writer and activist, Kari, reported that Semenya has had the country's undying support since her first global appearance in 2009. Even after the IAAF released their new regulations, South Africans have refuted their accusations. Kari stated, "The Minister of Sports and Recreation and the Africa National Congress, South Africa's ruling party labeled the decision as anti-sport, racist, and homophobic." It is no secret that the build and appearance of Black women have always been met with racist and sexist commentary. Because Black women have never managed to fit into the European standard of beauty catered to and in favor of white women, the accusations of Semenya appearing too masculine were unsurprising.

Despite the countless injustices Semenya has faced over the years, she remains as determined as ever to return to track and field and compete amongst women as the woman she is. Her fight against the IAAF's regulations continues as the Olympic champion has been receiving and outpour of support in wake of the Association's decision. Semenya is determined to run again, win again, and set new and inclusive standards for women's sports.