#SWAAYthenarrative

Elizabeth Molina On Going Beyond The Superficial Beauty

8 Min Read
Culture

Working with thought leaders on shaping their speaking platform is an incredible privilege. And one of my speakers, Elizabeth Molina, is a model on a mission. Known as "your beauty mentor" in the influencer space, she is redefining the modern superhero in all of us, by asking the "why" around beauty. She speaks about how beauty needs to go beyond the superficial, in the world, in ourselves, and ultimately for our children.

Tricia: What got you into beauty?

Elizabeth: Beauty has always been a part of me. I'd like to say what got me into beauty is the phrase that I have always heard. "Beauty is pain." My Grandmother said that to me when I was 5 years old and I have lived with that concept for a long time. I was always told to eat certain types of foods that were unbearable as a child. Like, raw aloe vera. "Just eat it with a spoon", she'd say, "It will make your skin beautiful." All kinds of different bitter adaptogens and holistic remedies that were just mixed in with warm water for me to drink. "Drink this and it will make you more beautiful," she'd say. I wish I could actually have a conversation with my grandmother and find out what her "why" was. Thinking now, I believe why she hid behind her beauty choices was from the lack of primary food, love. My grandmother was orphaned at the age of 4 and was taken in by her uncle. She never had love. She was so invested in her beauty. She would get fully "dressed" every single day. No one knew her pain. I believe her "why" was totally hidden behind the mask of perfection and beauty because she never had connection and love.

"Beauty is pain." My Grandmother said that to me when I was 5 years old and I have lived with that concept for a long time.

And I know that she wanted to be loved, by how together she made herself every day of the week. She taught me about beauty. My fascination with beauty treatments and DIY beauty treatments were passed down from all the generations of women and greatly affected my life. Honey on your face, oatmeal mask, carrot juice body glow, etc.

Tricia: We forget about all of the beauty treatments you can eat. I love those and how they get passed down, like recipes in Italian families. How did you come to the "why" of beauty?

Elizabeth: I teach that beauty is a gateway to self-love. I ask women to tell me why they want a certain product or look or design. Because I'm curious, I can identify when anyone is hiding behind their beauty choices. Exploring your beauty decisions is the key to unlocking the door to your happiness.

When I help uncover the reason for beauty choices, whether it's makeup, hair color, clothes, the gym, or the beautiful home, even branding and help you return to your natural state, then self-love becomes possible. Esthetics seem superficial, but when I ask my clients to remove the cape from their super-hero and share the "why" behind their makeup or hair color or workout and help them identify their truth, this is when we uncover the reasons we are mostly looking for external validation or external love.

When we uncover our "why" behind the beauty, we can begin to fully step into self-acceptance. And we are being forced to do this now more than before because we are not able to go to the salon: no hair color, no waxing, no mani-pedi. Our "why" is reflected back at us every time we look into the mirror. We have a big opportunity right now to uncover our "why" so we can get back to ourselves. And I want to help people do this.

Exploring your beauty decisions is the key to unlocking the door to your happiness.

Tricia: What makes you so passionate about helping people in this way?

Elizabeth: Because we get one chance at life. And every day I am alive is a gift. I'm a survivor of kidnapping, sexual assault, and abuse. I'm going to use the gift of my life and the gift of my time to help others.

I have seen a lot of pain, a lot of low self-esteem in both men and women, and tremendous confusion in people on what to do to make themselves better or "more beautiful." There are two types of pain: physical and emotional. Physical pain, I think we can all relate to that infamous expression someone's mom or grandmother told them. "Beauty is pain" and they weren't joking. The procedures that social media expose us to today are more intrusive than ever and it is just getting more and more in our faces. The plastic surgeries, the eyeliner, and lip tattoos, women sewing things on their tongues so they can't eat and will stay slim. The list is endless and painful.

In terms of emotional pain, there is depression, drug addiction, and even suicides are on the rise. More and more people today are in a state of anxiety from not being Instagram beautiful in real life. The pressure to look like a filter is becoming more of a real-life demand than one of a simple app where you share pictures and play with cool filters. It's become a booming business for influencers. And it creates unrealistic expectations for followers in real life.

Tricia: Why is uncovering people's beauty important to you?

Elizabeth: The reason uncovering people's beauty "why" is so important to me is because I myself was living in the eye of the tornado, which I call the beauty industry. I, too, suffered physically and emotionally from the expectations that society burdens us with. I did the painful facials and the extremely painful hair removal treatments, just to name a few. I suffered from tremendous anxiety with always wanting to be photoshoot ready in person. The pressure I put on myself because of the standards that are put on us was unbearable. After searching high and low for a solution I got real with myself. I asked myself the scariest question. I asked, "Why?" "Why do you do this? Why do you need it? And does it serve you?"

I'm a survivor of kidnapping, sexual assault, and abuse. I'm going to use the gift of my life and the gift of my time to help others.

After having these talks I soon realized I no longer wanted to buy into this lie. Slowly, I started to feel better and be less anxious about these expectations. Because beauty isn't just superficial, it comes from within. Now, that's what I do. I help people get to that place. I help them break free from those limiting beliefs. That's why it's so important to me because when you finally have self-love, you can literally have anything you ever wanted or dreamt of. This three-letter word, why, will give all of us the power to prescribe to ourselves what we actually need to change our lives.

Tricia: How do you teach your daughter about beauty and self-esteem?

Elizabeth: Less is more is what I always tell my daughter — who also thinks applying more makeup will make her look more beautiful. She will give me attitude and tell me "Mom, what do you know?" It's definitely challenging to have a teenage girl on your hands. It requires patience and a lot of understanding on why it is that the child feels the need to put so much makeup on. And her "why." What is really going on in her life that she would feel the need to cover herself up more and more? I try to communicate and reach into the root of the issue, whatever that might be. I teach her to look within. I also teach her through modeling beauty and what it means to me. I show her the beauty of life and nature. I show her how to be kind, empathetic, and most importantly how to lead with her heart.

As for teaching her about self-esteem, I try my best to model that for her as well. But really, I support her in all her passions and encourage her instead of discouraging her. I believe we are all born with high self-esteem and because of life experience it slowly starts to diminish. I think the goal of parents is to always make sure we fill that cup up. Then the rest is easy.

Tricia: What do you want people to become aware of after reading this?

Elizabeth: I would like people to become aware of their beauty and that you don't need 50 products, every new beauty fad treatment that's on-trend, or all the handbags that just hit the runway. I want people to see beyond the BS. Because, let's face it, if we identify why we are doing it and become aware of our actions towards ourselves and our beauty, our self-confidence will be restored and our self-love will grow. This leads to fully owning your superhero power.

Elizabeth Molina is a certified Holistic Health and Life coach, speaker, and model. She created Molina Glow to be a place for women to have access to the latest innovative beauty treatments and also provides them with a no B.S. look at beauty routines. Elizabeth's personal story of survival has led her to become a model on a mission and redefine the "why" surrounding beauty practices. She is also the Mother of an amazing superhero, her daughter, Ellie-Marie. You can download her new app The Beauty Circle here and be sure to subscribe to her YouTube Channel.

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.