I am truly honored to have Julie Anderson as my #BeReal guest today.
“To live exuberantly–to fully know and be fully known by another—we must be prepared to illuminate the dark spots in our most intimate relationships and in our selves.”
–Arianna Huffington, On Becoming Fearless
When I was a little girl I dreamed big. I spent my days and nights wondering and dreaming about the future. What would I become, who I would be? Whatever it held for me, it was going to be magnificent. This I always knew.
I dreamed big.
Visualizing my world of magnificence, it was a world free from pain and isolation. I was an outsider always looking in. An outsider who wondering why I could not speak for myself, did not have a voice, have a presence or the strength to commit to my convictions.
At 17, my ticket to ride magically appeared via the high stakes all-or-nothing world of high fashion. Through the luck of amazing genetics, I was told that the camera loved me and I had a face that could sell luxury products or grace magazine covers. Overnight my magnificent future had found me. I had a presence. I was seen. I was fortunate and grateful.
In spite of this skyrocketing success, I continued to feel that my voice was still not being heard, and I was beginning to lose more inner strength. From the small town in Florida I came from, to cities all over the world I traveled, I was unable to disappear no matter how many places I called home. Beautiful on the outside. Tumultuous on the inside.
I never underestimated how fortunate I was for a life that would eventually take me to six continents, shoot me to supermodel status, and send me down the runways of Paris, Milan, and London. My face appeared on European editions including Vogue, Elle, and Harper’s Bazaar magazines. As much as I loved my success, an emotional turmoil was building inside me. Hidden. Because the only things that mattered were if I was thin enough and which fashion designers I had booked each show season.
Many Native American tribes were wary of having their photographs taken and often refused. They believed that the process could steal a person’s soul and disrespected the spiritual world. I began to understand this belief and wondered if indeed it was true.
In my late twenties, my undercurrent of continuing sense of foreboding worsened. My sense of self, my vision, and a growing depression began to send me into abysmal periods masked by anti-depressants. I could still pose. I could still smile on command, but I could not feel myself anymore.
I had gone numb.
In the fashion industry, the biggest asset a woman has is her youth. By the time you are 24 you are old. It is the end of the road. No one wants to know about a has-been or their tenth comeback. Feeling old, feeling lost, and feeling like somehow I had missed the train my life continued in spite of me.
I was barely breathing.
In 2008, the convergence of poorly prescribed medications from an inadequate physician, my continuing diminished sense of self, created a perfect storm of psychosis which nearly ended my life. I was fortunate to be living in Australia and had access to excellent health care and ultimately stability. My children and my family were my lifeline.
It became my wake up call.
A few thousand miles and a few years later, I was living in Paris, I still found myself haunted and incomplete. Haunted by my lack of a traditional education, my past, my lack of direction and by my ever advancing age.
When the darkness crept up on me this time–I knew I needed a different approach. I could no longer remain an island. I started to search for wisdom from women that I did not personally know. Thought leaders, visionaries, those women who understood the delicate balance of emotions and inner workings of a woman’s mind. The pressures I had felt were not limited by any means to the world of high fashion. Every woman, no matter what industry they happen to work in, are susceptible. I sought out these women for their life experiences and answers.
I recognized that if I wanted to redefine myself and reclaim my life, I had to begin an honest examination of my deepest feelings. I had to once and for all figure out why I chose to remain in the dark. That was a scary terrifying thought concept. This was a vulnerable proposition. And frightening. I did not know if it would be possible. I did not know if I could handle what I might find inside myself. I did not know if I was ready to let go.
But I knew this much. I did not want to do this alone.
I decided to take my personal journey out to the street. I reached out to my friends and colleagues. We discussed the ugly stuff. We unraveled our confused thoughts. We shared secrets. The dialogue was invaluable to me; I am so grateful for the honesty and truths we exchanged.
Most importantly we had empathy for each other’s journey.
I also realized that in the end, despite the various hiccups and horrendous fails, I am one of the lucky ones. I have had the ability to experience the world through different perspectives. Each country and each city taught me something valuable packaged and beautifully presented in the feminine form. I have learned that all women face insurmountable odds at one point or another in their lives. I have learned the value of one’s self should never be compromised. I have learned about the greatness of truth.
If we look at what happens to be paraded as the feminine ideal via traditional outlets, we will always feel less than perfect, no matter our age, ethnicity, education or financial status. If we decide to own our vulnerability and fearlessly face the world, we will have found the fountain of perpetual youth. If we chose to come from a place of authentic love, we would have found the door that leads to eternal happiness.
Ultimately my story wasn’t as unique as I thought it was. Everyone has his dramas and a unique and extraordinary story. A part in the collective universe.
My journey of self-discovery has taken on the form of a website called femininecollective.com. With the help of old associate from my modeling days, Marla Carlton, this platform is considered a manifestation of love. It has now morphed into a growing collective journey. Built by countless words, each one more poignant than the last, offered by women and men from around the world. The journey for clarification is a winding one. What defines us is multifaceted, sometimes brutal yet always brilliant.
What is it like to be a woman? What is it exactly that drives us? What fuels our passion? Who are we? On femininecollective.com, authors, writers, bloggers, and every kind of women will tell you their own unique thoughts on these issues.
We are what we chose to become. It is that simple. I chose to live authentically. I chose to stand up and speak out; I chose to provide a platform for those of us that have yet to find the cape of fearlessness hidden deep inside.
I am living proof that being fearless when terrified is the only option.
Finally, I am alive.
Julie Anderson is a fashion survivor, sort of. After spending decades globe-trotting wearing her “SuperModel” cape, she is now the Creator and Publisher of Feminine Collective.
Feminine Collective provides a platform for stories that mainstream media often denies. . Writer’s from around the world: women, teenagers and a few good men have contributed to the site, making it dynamic and diversified. Unlike any other site online.
She collaborates with her dynamic business partner Marla J. Carlton, in a seamless manner. The two women have recently published
Feminine Collective: Raw & Unfiltered Volume 1 : Selected Essays and Poems on Relationships with Self and Others. They have also launched the Feminine Collective Foundation, serving at risk women and children.
She is the mother of three human babies and three fur babies. She has been married to photographer Paul Empson for twenty years, because of their careers the family has lived at one time or another, on each continent. They proudly consider themselves global citizens.
An entrepreneur, publisher, writer, actress, fashion model and photographer, Julie has a creative’s vision that has yet to be satiated.
Her personal site: julieandersonofficial.com is the only authorized place on the web that showcases her career, past, present & future.