[dropcap]W[/dropcap]hen I told Alexis Wolfer that I feel like I’m flying blind most of the time, she said “Enjoy it!!” Who wouldn’t want to know more about a chick who dishes out that kind of awesome advice? The jet-setting Mistress of Make-Up Free Mondays is a smart, passionate warrior for women’s empowerment. But I suspect she just kinda likes to help people in general. When Hurricane Sandy ravaged NYC in October 2012, Alexis rallied volunteers at her apartment to make and distribute sandwiches to those in need. Keep reading to find out more about the commander of Operation: Sandwiches For Sandy and why she rocks our socks!
Full Name: Alexis Blair Wolfer
Hometown: Cresskill, NJ
Fav Color: I’m going to go with grey, but really it’s gold and silver
Fav Song/Musician/Band: Counting Crows
Fav Quote: “I have no interest in living a balanced life. I want a life of adventure.” ~ chris guillebeau
A little known fact about me: I don’t know how to ride a bike, although I am currently trying to learn – which, I’d like to say, is NOT easy and has given me a newfound respect for 5-year-olds everywhere!
My most prized possession is: A thin gold ring with a small heart my dad gave me we when I was 6 or 7. My mom likes to say we’ve spent more money making it bigger than it ever cost, but I never take it off. It’s my good luck charm.
You’re considered a “real beauty” expert and activist. Tell us about your journey to embracing your true beauty and what made you want to empower women for a living.
I wish I could tell you I have it all figured out but, as the adage says, “you teach what you need to learn,” and I too am trying to embrace my real beauty – and am hoping I can bring more women along on the journey. That being said, I got here via a long and somewhat unusual path which, with hindsight, seems extraordinarily obvious…
Having suffered with an eating disorder in my past, I have been working on loving my body (flaws and all) for quite sometime – sometimes with more success than others! On a professional level, I have my master’s in women’s studies from Columbia University and a background in editorial so it was with a desire to marry my passion for women’s rights and wellness and my passion for beauty and fashion that I ended up writing my graduate school thesis on women’s magazines and their influence on body image and eating disorders. It was then that I realized what a profound impact women’s media has on how women experience their own bodies. Add to that my belief that without respecting our own bodies, it’s exponentially more difficult for us to ask others to respect our bodes, and, well, it seemed like working to change the way women consume their lifestyle content could profoundly affect the way women experience their own bodies. So, I started working on TheBeautyBean.com quickly thereafter!
As you mentioned, you’re the Founder & CEO of TheBeautyBean.com, an online magazine. How did you first conceptualize The Beauty Bean, how has it evolved since you first launched and what are your goals for the brand?
The Beauty Bean was designed to be the ultimate online destination for women to get their beauty, fashion, wellness and lifestyle content in an empowering way that very subtly promoted self-confidence and prevented eating disorders, all without compromising the glamour of our favorite magazines. We’ve maintained that mission over the past three years and will continue to do so, although the means by which we do that have certainly evolved. Most dramatically, we’re in the process of a major redesign that will ease navigation and take into account all the lessons we’ve learned over the last few years! We have a new tag-line “Bold. Brilliant. Beyond The Bullshit.” which speaks to the things that make women truly beautiful. We’re also adding more video content, a larger focus on real women doing beautifully bold things and more… so stay tuned!
As a successful female entrepreneur you’re a role model for many women hoping to start their own businesses. What has been the most challenging and rewarding part of running your own company?
Thank you! I hope I can just inspire more women to turn their passions into profits! By far the most rewarding part of running The Beauty Bean is the feedback I get from women around the world who appreciate the ability to get their beauty content in an empowering way! As for challenges, there have been a lot, but they have all been great challenges and (even through the late nights and sometimes the tears!) I’ve enjoyed the process of working to overcome them – and continuing to work through them. Some challenges have been relatively easy to overcome: when I struggled with not knowing very many other women entrepreneurs, I joined ‘Prenuer and met a lot of great women running businesses, and when I wanted to meet more young entrepreneurs I joined YEC. Some of the more trying challenges – the ones I’m still working though, and likely will always work though – have to do with overcoming my own fears.
You created the wildly popular Makeup Free Mondays movement. What inspired you to take your make-up off and encourage other women to do so as well?
Makeup Free Mondays is all about embracing our Real Beauty. It’s about putting makeup in perspective. It’s about taking a day to put the focus on the things that really make us beautiful – and it’s not having perfectly coiffed hair, or the latest lipstick. It’s not an anti-makeup movement, though. It’s about saying that makeup is fun and glamorous but that it doesn’t define my beauty. It doesn’t define me.
For many women, we all had an experience when tried on a bight lipstick as a little girl and looked in the mirror and thought “wow, this is fun and glamorous but it doesn’t look like me” – but at some point our perspective changed and a lot of women now wake up each day, look in the mirror fresh-faced and think “this doesn’t look like me” because they’re not wearing their “faces.” Makeup Free Mondays is about appreciating our beauty both with and without makeup. It’s about knowing that makeup doesn’t define us. It’s about knowing that we don’t need to “put on our faces” because we already have faces on – and they’re f’ing beautiful just the way they are.
Your work is impacting female culture in a positive way. Is there something that sticks out in your mind, an event, a reader email, a moment when you knew you were making a difference?
I have two… When we first launched The Beauty Bean we ran a twitter contest where we asked our followers to tweet to us what they liked most about The Beauty Bean in order to enter to win a beauty bag (or something, I don’t even remember the prize!). At that point, The Beauty Bean was extremely (and intentionally) subtle in its promotion of positivity, empowerment and confidence. We expected the entries to be about learning celebrity beauty tricks or our beauty-boosting recipes. Instead, the vast majority were about not being inundated with negative messages, weight loss tips and airbrushed images. It was then I knew that people were “getting” it.
The most touching moment, though, came for me right after we launched Makeup Free Mondays and AOL put the story on their homepage (where it was one of their most popular articles, receiving millions of hits). I received hundreds of emails. One was from a single father of two daughters saying how much he appreciated what I was doing for him and his daughters. Whenever I feel down and frustrated and “stuck” I think of that.
In your opinion, what’s the biggest culprit in the current body-image madness?
Photoshop and airbrushing. No longer are we comparing ourselves and our bodies to those of extraordinarily beautiful women who are paid a hefty living to fit a predetermined beauty ideal (which is problematic enough when these beauty ideas are so one-dimensional and impossible for the vast majority of the population to achieve given the variety of genetically pre-determined body shapes in the world), but now those women don’t even look like the images of them we see on billboards and in magazines. With computer technology the way it is, as Cindy Crawford once famously said, “I wish I looked like Cindy Crawford!” When computers are used to manipulate these images, we’re perpetuating beauty ideals that truly do not exist in reality and setting women up to fail.
What can woman do for themselves and each other to cultivate authentic self-esteem?
A few things. First of all, let’s all stop beating each other down and instead support each other and rise together. We need to stop supporting media outlets that follow every starlet’s last pound lost and gained. We need to stop measuring our worth by our weight and our prettiness by our pant size. We need to throw away our scales. We need to stop commenting on weight and engaging in conversations that reduce women to their body shapes. We need to celebrate real beauty. We need to recognize the beauty within. We need to expand the definition of beauty. We need to respect and love our own bodies so that we can hold others to the same standard. We need to stop airbrushing and Photoshopping images. We need to stop abusing our bodies. We need to stop valuing thinness above all else. We need to treat ourselves, our bodies and others with respect. Most importantly, though, we need to raise confident daughters. We need to teach young women and girls that “Fat” is the F-word. We need to set a good example. We need to make sure that they don’t see us abusing our bodies, that they know that they’re strong, beautiful and powerful, and that they appreciate their bodies for more than what they look like, but rather for what they’re capable of. We need to tell them (and ourselves) that they’re Bold. Brilliant. Beyond the Bullshit. Tell them they’re beautiful. Tell yourself you’re beautiful.
If you could only share one piece of advice with all the Functional Girls out there, what would it be?
Can I make it 2?!
Uh, yes please!
First, stop weighing yourself. The number on your scale provides no information of value. It doesn’t determine your health, happiness or hotness. You are more than a number and there is no reason to have some arbitrary digital display determine your mood for the day ahead. Your weight isn’t your worth. Second, try to start your day with a compliment. Most of us start the day being nothing short of critical over our hair, skin, jean size, etc. Try to give yourself a compliment first thing in the morning. It will set the tone for the day ahead.