Culture 02 May 2019
Ready to embark on a new chapter in her life, the newly-wed actress, Priyanka Chopra Jonas recently interviewed three inspiring women who have shattered glass ceilings in their respective fields of work.
In her half hour YouTube special "If I Could Tell You Just One Thing," Chopra sat down with Simone Biles, Awkwafina, and Diane Von Furstenberg to ask them about one piece of advice that has made them the women they are today.
The Quantico star first interviewed Simone Biles, the most decorated gymnast to date, and asked her about her experience dealing with the expectation to always be perfect. Biles expressed that dealing with people's expectations has been the hardest part of her career thus far. "I feel like if I don't meet their needs then I failed," she confessed. Even after winning four gold medals in the Olympics, Biles was hard on herself after receiving criticism for only winning a bronze medal.
Biles credited therapy for not only helping her deal with the pressure she has been constantly put under by the world and even herself, but for also having helped her heal as a victim of sexual abuse from her then coach, Larry Nassar. Despite the hardships she faced coming out as a victim of sexual abuse, Biles did not regret her decision. "I feel like I'm a stronger woman today and I feel like telling my story has helped younger girls," she expressed.
When Chopra asked her what her one piece of advice would be, Biles said "If I could say one thing it's risk-taking." Taking risks has helped her realize who she was as a person and taught her more about herself.
For her next interview, Chopra met up with one of her favorite stars, Awkwafina, who most recently starred in the box office hit, "Crazy Rich Asians." Awkwafina shared that despite her success, she hasn't felt like a different person because of it. She stated, "When you think about going through such an immense change in your life, you think that everything is going to change but the truth is you're the same person, you're just going through different things."
Curious as to how Awkwafina's comedic nature developed, Chopra asked the star if her talent grew from a place of hurt. Awkwafina confessed that after losing her mother at a young age, she used comedy as a defense mechanism to prevent people from seeing her as an "emblem of sorrow." She wanted to make people laugh and feel joy. The comedian also confessed that another thing she has struggled with throughout her life has been people categorizing her under the typical Asian stereotypes of being quiet, shy, and fragile.
When asked what her one piece of advice would be, Awkwafina offered up some words of wisdom that her beloved grandmother had given her. "Life is only a series of ups and downs. When you go up there's nowhere to go but down and when you're down, there's nowhere to go but up," she said. They are words that Awkwafina not only finds to be relevant to her life today, but are words that she has and will continue to live by.
For her final visit, Chopra stopped by the home of famous designer Diane Von Furstenberg, to talk about life, love, and success. After getting married, starting a business, and having a child at age 22, and another child the following year, life seemed to be perfect for Von Furstenberg. She described the love between she and her then husband as being "very sweet," but believed that part of the reason why the marriage did not last was because she wanted something more. "I wanted a man's life in a woman's body. That was my dream," the designer confessed.
On the topic of getting older, the designer stated that, "At my age now, I want to use my voice to tell all women that they, too, can be the woman they want to be...'Cause I've never met a woman who's not strong. They don't exist." Despite being a strong woman, Von Furstenberg admitted that she still has days where she doesn't feel on top of her game even if the world sees her on top. However, she finds solace in knowing that life is simply full of ups and downs.
When Chopra asked what her one piece of advice was, Von Furstenberg said, "The most important relationship in life is the one you have with yourself." Working on that relationship comes before your relationship with anyone else.
Despite how much success these women have achieved, they have still endured their share of hardship battling sexism, stereotypes, and unrealistic expectations. Although their lives have been vastly different from one another, their overall message is the same—work on loving and owning who you are, take risks in order to become the woman you want to be, and know that life will drag you down sometimes, but you will always stand up stronger.
With so many groundbreaking medical advances being revealed to the world every single day, you would imagine there would be some advancement on the plethora of many female-prevalent diseases (think female cancers, Alzheimer's, depression, heart conditions etc.) that women are fighting every single day.
For Anna Villarreal and her team, there frankly wasn't enough being done. In turn, she developed a method that diagnoses these diseases earlier than traditional methods, using a pretty untraditional method in itself: through your menstrual blood.
Getting from point A to point B wasn't so easy though. Villarreal was battling a disease herself and through that experience. “I wondered if there was a way to test menstrual blood for female specific diseases," she says. "Perhaps my situation could have been prevented or at least better managed. This led me to begin researching menstrual blood as a diagnostic source. For reasons the scientific and medical community do not fully understand, certain diseases impact women differently than men. The research shows that clinical trials have a disproportionate focus on male research subjects despite clear evidence that many diseases impact more women than men."
There's also no denying that gap in women's healthcare in clinical research involving female subjects - which is exactly what inspired Villarreal to launch her company, LifeStory Health. She says that, “with my personal experience everything was brought full circle."
“There is a challenge and a need in the medical community for more sex-specific research. I believe the omission of females as research subjects is putting women's health at risk and we need to fuel a conversation that will improve women's healthcare.,"
Her brand new biotech company is committed to changing the women's healthcare market through technology, innovation and vocalization and through extensive research and testing. She is working to develop the first ever, non-invasive, menstrual blood diagnostic and has partnered with a top Boston-area University on research and has won awards from The International Society for Pharmaceutical Engineering and Northeastern University's RISE.
How does it work exactly? Proteins are discovered in menstrual blood that can quickly and easily detect, manage and track diseases in women, resulting in diseases that can be earlier detected, treated and even prevented in the first place. The menstrual blood is easy to collect and since it's a relatively unexplored diagnostic it's honestly a really revolutionary concept, too.
So far, the reactions of this innovative research has been nothing but excitement. “The reactions have been incredibly positive." she shares with SWAAY. “Currently, menstrual blood is discarded as bio waste, but it could carry the potential for new breakthroughs in diagnosis. When I educate women on the lack of female subjects used in research and clinical trials, they are surprised and very excited at the prospect that LifeStory Health may provide a solution and the key to early detection."
To give a doctor's input, and a little bit more of an explanation as to why this really works, Dr. Pat Salber, MD, and Founder of The Doctor Weighs In comments: “researchers have been studying stem cells derived from menstrual blood for more than a decade. Stem cells are cells that have the capability of differentiating into different types of tissues. There are two major types of stem cells, embryonic and adult. Adult stem cells have a more limited differentiation potential, but avoid the ethical issues that have surrounded research with embryonic stem cells. Stem cells from menstrual blood are adult stem cells."
These stem cells are so important when it comes to new findings. “Stem cells serve as the backbone of research in the field of regenerative medicine – the focus which is to grow tissues, such as skin, to repair burn and other types of serious skin wounds.
A certain type of stem cell, known as mesenchymal stem cells (MenSCs) derived from menstrual blood has been found to both grow well in the lab and have the capability to differentiate in various cell types, including skin. In addition to being used to grow tissues, their properties can be studied that will elucidate many different aspects of cell function," Dr. Salber explains.
To show the outpour of support for her efforts and this major girl power research, Villarreal remarks, “women are volunteering their samples happily report the arrival of their periods by giving samples to our lab announcing “de-identified sample number XXX arrived today!" It's a far cry from the stereotype of when “it's that time of the month."
How are these collections being done? “Although it might sound odd to collect menstrual blood, plastic cups have been developed to use in the collection process. This is similar to menstrual products, called menstrual cups, that have been on the market for many years," Dr. Salber says.
Equally shocking and innovative, this might be something that becomes more common practice in the future. And according to Dr. Salber, women may be able to not only use the menstrual blood for early detection, but be able to store the stem cells from it to help treat future diseases. “Companies are working to commercialize the use of menstrual blood stem cells. One company, for example, is offering a patented service to store menstrual blood stem cells for use in tissue generation if the need arises."