#SWAAYthenarrative

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.

5 Min Read
People

Judge Tanya Acker On Overcoming Racial Barriers And Her Rise To The Top


You may recognize Judge, Tanya Acker, from her political and legal commentary on different networks and shows like Good Morning America, The Talk, Wendy Williams, CNN Reports or The Insider. Acker is more than an experienced commentator. She is also a Judge on the fifth season of Emmy nominated CBS show, Hot Bench.

The show, created by Judge Judy, is a new take on the court genre. Alongside Acker, are two other judges: Patricia DiMango and Michael Corriero. Together the three-panel judges take viewers inside the courtroom and into their chambers. “I feel like my responsibility on the show is, to be honest, fair, [and] to try and give people a just and equitable result," Acker says. She is accomplished, honest and especially passionate about her career. In fact, Acker likes the fact that she is able to help people solve problems. “I think that efficient ways of solving disputes are really at the core of modern life.

“We are a very diverse community [with] different values, backgrounds [and] beliefs. It's inevitable that we're going to find ourselves in some conflicts. I enjoy being a part of a process where you can help resolve the conflicts and diffuse them," she explains.

Acker's career has been built around key moments and professional experiences in her life. Particularly, her time working right after college impacted the type of legal work she takes on now.

Shaping Her Career

Acker didn't foresee doing this kind of work on television when she was in college at either Howard University or Yale Law. “I was really open in college about what would happen next," Acker comments. “In fact, I deliberately chose a major (English) that wouldn't lock me into anything [because] I wanted to keep all of my options open." Her inevitable success on the show and throughout her career is an example of that. In fact, after graduating from Yale, Acker served as a judicial law clerk to Judge Dorothy Nelson who sits on the Ninth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals.

It was not only her first job out of law school but also one of the formative experiences of her professional life. “[Judge Nelson is] certainly, if not my most important professional influence," Acker says. “She is really the living embodiment of justice, fairness, and believes in being faithful to the letter and the spirit of the law," she exclaims. “She delivers it all with a lot of love." Judge Nelson is still on the bench and is continuing to work through her Foundation: The Western Justice Center in Pasadena, California, where Acker serves on the board. The foundation helps people seeking alternative ways of resolving their disputes instead of going to court.

"I enjoy being a part of a process where you can help resolve the conflicts and diffuse them," she explains.

“It was important to her to try and create platforms for people to resolve conflict outside of court because court takes a long time," Acker explains. “I'm proud to be a part of that work and to sit on that board."

After her clerkship, she was awarded a Bristow Fellowship and continued building her career. Outside of the fellowship, Acker's legal work incorporated a broad variety of matters from civil litigation, constitutional cases, business counseling, and advising. One of her most memorable moments was representing a group of homeless people against the city. “They were being fought for vagrancy and our defense was, they had no place to go," she shares.

As part of her pro bono work, Acker was awarded the ACLU's First Amendment Award for her success with the case. Though, she has a hard time choosing from one of many memorable moments on Hot Bench. Acker does share a few of the things that matter to her. “Our show is really drawn from a cross-section of courtrooms across America and the chance to engage with such a diverse group of people really means a lot to me," she discusses.

How Did Acker Become A Judge?

In addition to Judge Nelson, Judge Judy is certainly among her top professional influences. “I think it's incredible [and] I feel very lucky that my professional career has been bookended by these incredible judges," she acclaims. “I've really learned a lot from Judy about this job, doing this kind of job on television." Before Acker was selected for Hot Bench, she hadn't been a judge. It was Judge Judy who recommended that she get some experience. Acker briefly comments on her first experience as a temporary judge on a volunteer basis in traffic court. “I was happy to be able to have the chance to kind of get a feel for it before we started doing the show," she comments. “Judy is a wonderful, kind, generous person [and] she's taught me quite a lot. I feel lucky."

Judge Acker in white pantsuit with her dog. Photo Courtesy of Annie Shak.

Acker's Time Away From Home

Outside of Hot Bench, Acker took recent trips to Haiti and Alabama. They were memorable and meaningful.

Haiti, in particular, was the first trip she excitedly talks about. She did some work there in an orphanage as part of LOVE Takes Root, an organization that is driven to help children around the world whether it's basic aid or education. “Haiti has a special place in my heart," she began. “As a person who's descended from enslaved people, I have a lot of honor and reverence for a country that threw off the shackles of slavery."

She was intrigued by the history of Haiti. Especially regarding the communities, corrupt government and natural disasters. “They really had to endure a lot, but I tell you this when I was there, I saw people who were more elegant, dignified, gracious and generous as any group of people I've ever met anywhere in the world," she goes on. “I think it left me with was a strong sense of how you can be graceful and elegant under fire." Acker is optimistic about the country's overall growth and success.

“[Judge Nelson is] certainly, if not my most important professional influence," Acker says. “She is really the living embodiment of justice, fairness, and believes in being faithful to the letter and the spirit of the law."

“There are certainly times when people treated me differently or made assumptions about me because I was a black woman," Acker says. “I've got it much better, but that doesn't mean it's perfect...it certainly isn't, but you just have to keep it moving."

Her other trip was different in more ways than one. She traveled there for the first time with her mother as part of a get out to vote effort, that Alabama's First black House Minority Leader, Anthony Daniels was organizing. “It was incredible to take that trip with her [and] I've got to tell you, the South of today is not the South of my mother's upbringing," she explains. Originally from Mississippi, Acker's mother hasn't been back in the South since 1952. “Every place has a ways to go, but it was a really exciting trip [and] it was nice for me to connect with that part of the country and that part of my history."

Overcoming Racial Barriers

As a black woman, Acker has certainly faced challenges based on her race and gender. But it doesn't define who she is or what she can accomplish. “There are certainly times when people treated me differently or made assumptions about me because I was a black woman," she says. “There's no sort of barrier that someone would attempt to impose upon me that they didn't attempt to impose on my mother, grandmother or great-grandmother." In a space where disparity is sometimes apparent, she recognizes that there is no barrier someone would try to impose on her that they didn't attempt to impose on her mother or grandmothers. “I've got it much better, but that doesn't mean it's perfect...it certainly isn't, but you just have to keep it moving," Acker states. The conversation continues truthfully and seriously. Acker shares what it can be like for black women, specifically. “I think we're underestimated and we can be disrespected, whereas other folks are allowed the freedom to enjoy a full range of emotions and feelings," she articulates.

At times black women are often restricted from expressing themselves. “If someone wants to make an assumption or jump to a conclusion about me because of my race or gender, that's on them, but their assumptions aren't going to define me," Acker declares. “If something makes me angry or happy I will express that and if someone wants to caricature me, that's their pigeonholing; that's not my problem." A lifelong lesson she learned and shared is to not let other people define who you are. It is one of three bits of wisdom.

Three Pieces Of Advice From Judge Acker

The Power Of Self-awareness

“It's really important that you have a really firm sense of what you want to do and be, and how you're moving in the world because when people try to sway you, judge you or steer you off course you've got to have some basis for getting back on track."

Know Your Support System

“Have a strong community of people who you trust, love and who love you," she advises. “But also learn to love and trust yourself because sometimes it's your own voice that can provide you the most comfort or solace in something."

Learn From Your Experiences

“Trust yourself. Take care of yourself. Don't be too hard on yourself. Be honest with yourself.

“There are times when it's not enough to say this is who I am. Take it or leave it. Sometimes we've got things that we need to work on, change or improve upon," she concludes.

Acker stands out not only because of her accomplishments, but the way she views certain aspects of her life. These days, she's comfortable accepting what makes her different. “I think there's a time when you're younger when conformity feels comfortable, [but] I'm comfortable these days not conforming," she laughs. She enjoys being a decision maker and helping people work through it on Hot Bench.

This article was originally published May 15, 2019.