Victoria Emanuela is a jack of all trades. And honestly, that's an understatement. She is a writer, therapist, coach and survivor. Victoria recently launched her online magazine, Femtrospection. She is currently in Costa Rica at a yoga training, and is launching her "Trigger Challenge" this Fall. Victoria and friend Rachel Bixler cofounded a nonprofit, TAGbag, also launching this year. --
LH: Hi Victoria!
LH: I'm so thrilled to be chatting with you. As soon as I shared your story with the Lady Hustle Mag team, they immediately agreed that we had to do a Hustle Chat with you.
LH: What would you like to be referred to as?
VE: My full name is long and Polish, so I go by my first and middle name now: Victoria Emanuela.
LH: Haha! My mother is 100% Polish American!
VE: No way! That's awesome. Well, I'm 100% Polish too. I was born in Warsaw, I'm the only child to both of my parents (unfortunately they're divorced now). We immigrated here when I was young, but I still speak Polish and feel connected to my European roots. I lived in London a few years ago and reconnected with some of my family who also moved there, which was amazing because I felt disconnected from my family in Poland after my beloved grandpa passed.
LH: Amazing! Can you tell us a little about yourself?
VE: Oh boy. I wish I had an elevator definition for "myself" but I don't. It's something I should work on! Maybe I can try right now! Haha.
LH: Haha, you definitely can!
VE: Well. I used to be a wounded healer for quite a large portion of my life. I always knew that my purpose in life was to help people, especially those who were vulnerable to immense suffering. I could say the universe granted me such purpose, but my childhood has and will forever have a profoundly lasting effect (and affect) on me. I struggled for a very long time trying to run away from the wake it left me in, one where I was constantly picking up the pieces. It wasn't until I stopped being a victim to my past and transformed that energy to "evolve" the effect that it had on my present and future. Everything in my life branches out from that journey.
LH: You have a gorgeous way with words.
LH: You mentioned that you have always known you should be helping people. So how did you become involved in being a therapist and coach?
VE: Thank you! Well, I was born into a family where two people struggled very hard to maintain balance in their lives. My father suffered a lot, as did my mother at the time. My father struggled with alcoholism and drug addiction and was both emotionally and physically abusive towards my mother--while I was inside of her womb and out. I never had a childhood. I was never a little girl, or a kid, because I rarely ever felt like one. I was launched into survival mode where I had to protect my mother from my father, and I felt that it was my responsibility to for a very long time. I remember sleeping on top of her when I was only 3 years old, so my Dad wouldn't hurt her. I was always the red-faced child screaming in the middle of them, so they'd stop. I was the sponge, mediator, and healer. I was a source of unconditional love for them, which was something I've channeled into a super power. Once I worked through all the resentment, I realized that I had a gift: my capacity for unconditional love. Growing up I was always an old soul, I connected more with adults than people my own age, I had a wisdom about me as a child that was difficult to understand. I was always saving animals, helping people, making friends with complete strangers, and extremely affectionate. When I was 16, I started working with children who had Cerebral Palsy and then children with Autism. Throughout my college years I was involved in many organizations and took on career and volunteering opportunities to help anyone I could. I created and facilitated programs for communities that didn't have proper resources or funding, like a literacy program for adults with mental illness, I came in during the week and read with them. Eventually, I got really burned out, especially caregiving for children with severe autism. I gave too much of myself and for reasons that weren't always healthy, especially because all that time I was suffering from undiagnosed chronic complex PTSD and an adrenal disease.
It wasn't until I hit rock bottom and crawled my way out, that I realized how many people (especially women) were suffering like I was and worse and didn't have the tools or means to help themselves. I knew that despite my challenges, I had an enormous reservoir for love inside of me and I began to trust myself, and my strength. Trust me, it was one of the most fucking trying experiences of my life, and sometimes it still is. I started getting certified in alternative therapies, going on workshop binges, and hoarding information on healing to expand my knowledge. I went to workshops, trainings, eventually mastered certain therapies and became qualified to teach them. Which is what I do now. I'm currently working on a new "trauma-informed" alternative therapy that I plan on being able to one day create into a training / certification program for people with stress disorders. I've always had a strong intuitive knack for helping people grow and heal, probably because I've been deeply in touch with suffering. It's a blessing and a curse sometimes because I feel absolutely everything, which can be overwhelming, but I channel that into my passion to create change in this world--even if it's just a ripple. It's my drive, my everything. Right now my mission as a healer, coach, etc is creating an unrivaled integrative healing platform for individuals ready to feel radically empowered and change their lives, where curiosity and the insecurities of being human are their biggest tools.
LH: Your self-awareness is incredibly refreshing. Your story is so heartbreaking and dreadful, and here you are with such a clean and bright perspective. I love the fact that you are able to see the positive outcome of the situation you were thrown in (although I'm sure it wasn't always easy). I'm so glad you were able to come up on the other side of the darkness.
LH: When you realized that you had this gift of healing, is that how you decided to start your own nonprofit?
VE: Thank you so much! I appreciate all of that very much. It was bleak more than I can count, but plenty of things grow in darkness, especially when we're capable of controlling that darkness (perhaps not as a small child, but definitely as an adult)! The non-profit...I've always felt this unquenchable duty to help people and when I think about it, even right now, my heart feels like it'll pop and I just want to sob. Mainly, because I can't. I can't save everyone and that's where the non-profit came into play. I used to make goody bags for the homeless in my community, and I'd pass them out or throw the bags into my car and give them away when I traveled around. My best friend who I met in college started doing it too and the idea got out, more and more people realized how creating a network of resources in one community to save lives from starvation. Eventually we decided to register our business and start doing whatever we could to become a 501 C non-profit and create a network across America called TAGbag ("take a goody bag"). We've since then tweaked the idea quite a bit by utilizing social media as a platform for people to empower and validate one another to make a difference in their communities, and we're launching this Fall, which is exciting!
This is basically the spiel: TAGbag is a start-up non-profit activating the human desire to give through the distribution of biodegradable bags. We utilize the hashtag #mytagbag and social media as a platform for Taggers to spread awareness for ways you can help your community. For example schools, shelters, and vulnerable neighborhoods are in frequent need of supplies. By sharing your story on how you choose to donate your TAGbag's, you can empower others to do the same!
My best friend and co-founder Rachel Bixler have worked our assess off this year to make this finally happen. We went from paper lunch bags to oxo-biodegrable plastic bags and a mission for America. I AM PUMPED!
LH: What an amazing idea! I'm all about this! I AM PUMPED as well! I can't wait to see where this goes!
LH: You have so much on your plate! What would you say your main "hustle" is?
VE: Thank you so much! Yeah, I tend to be a plate hoarder. Hahaha.
VE: My hustle is being aware of my life's purpose this young and turning it into a mission, I refuse to take it for granted anymore. I'm hustling my ASS off! My hustle is knowing that I've been through hell and back, and I can transform people's lives to know that they too can return from hell. My hustle is all about transforming the lives of myself and others through the very notion that we are ALL one another's teacher. We're a social species that thrives on love, connection, vulnerability and I want to help people get more in touch with that. We desperately need more selfless endeavors as opposed to self-preserving ones in this world.
LH: What a perfect answer. I truly love how raw and open you are.
VE: You're making me feel empowered and loved, thank you for being so sweet. Yeah, I use social media as a place to be raw especially because I noticed that when you share your story, people feel less isolated, and so instead of suffering quietly I started being loud and sharing my healing journey. I've met amazing people along the way, especially you ladies and the incredible work you're doing for women!
LH: So on the topic of hustle, who inspires your hustle?
VE: Who inspires me?...My mom and my partner Jon. My mom is a prime hustler! I don't know how she does it. How many times she's been knocked down only to stand back up with more passion, selflessness, creativity and positivity than ever before. My mom is my hero and someone who is the epitome of unconditional love and acceptance, she's my best friend. Jon has helped me grow into the woman that I've worked very hard to be, it would have taken me a lot longer to get there without him, not that a "man's" presence does that, but unconditional love does that. I think Jon and I have done that for each other, we mirror each other in a way that creates profound growth in us individually. Both amazing and shitty days, we just have a unsurpassed devotion to being each other's cheerleader. (load on the cheeeeese!)
LH: We love cheese! The cheesier, the better. We also love hearing about unconditional love moving people forward to where they are supposed to be. Your mother sounds like she raised you so well, and you've really learned a lot from her.
VE: Oh good, because I have so much cheese, you'll become lactose intolerant!
LH: Can you tell us about your new project, Femtrospection? Love that name, by the way.
VE: My mom has done her best and she was also an only child who came from domestic violence. She didn't escape that cycle, but I vowed that I would, not for myself but for the both of us. It wasn't easy, I unconsciously replayed my trauma in many of my previous relationships until I had enough. Femtrospection has been brewing for the past year and a half, it sprung up when I realized how many women I had met via Instagram were so empowered reading and witnessing my healing journey. I started sharing my story two years ago with only 200 followers and now I have about 6500. The community of people, especially women who I've interacted with or have become my clients, made me realize that in a world where we constantly live behind a photographic facade, being transparent about your humanness is extremely valuable. Femtrospection (modeled off of introspection) became a space of empowerment for women to feel less isolated through the act of community.
It's pretty amazing how willing people are to share their stories, it's so healing, for themselves and others. It's just fucking awesome! Women are amazing.
LH: Clearly we agree! I love hearing about your words helping women and allowing you the opportunity to share their stories as well. I know I've read some of your Instagrams on a few particular dark days and felt a surge of relief that I'm not wrong to feel emotions, but need to learn how to wrangle them to become something positive. So thank you for that.
VE: Those dark days aren't my favorite, but we need them. Thank you! It means a lot to me that you felt relief. Sometimes I feel kind of ashamed or even embarrassed when I hit "enter" and post something super raw. Like, are they going to judge me because I don't have my shit together today. But I do it anyway because who honestly has their shit together EVERYDAY?
LH: What is your main goal for Femtrospection?
VE: My main goal is I want to create a network, an insuppressible network of wisdom, resources, friendship and unconditional support for women in this world. The initial platform features stories of women who have overcome trauma and share their journey and self-empowerment. My hope is that it'll help women stand together as opposed to feeling isolated or in competition. When I come back from Costa Rica in December, I'm going to teach a couple of workshops in California and the Midwest. I'm a women's circle facilitator and I'd like to create Femtrospective Networks across this country as much as I can to connect women of trauma.
LH: I cannot wait to dig deeper into Femtrospection and see where it goes! What an exciting journey you're on.
LH: You're headed to Costa Rica for a yoga immersion, correct? Can you tell us a little about that and your new yoga/wellness center?
VE: Yes! I'm so excited and I really hope we can collaborate to create a larger network for women. I've been delving more into trauma-informed yoga and therapy in general. In my experience of healing my PTSD, along with my clients, and people in general—talk therapy was not going to do it. Trauma treatment that truly works involves alternative and integrative intervention platforms, which talk therapy doesn’t usually consider. Trauma is also "in" the body and somatic and alternative therapies like yoga are crucial in processing and getting us back to a state of equilibrium.
My studio is going to offer an integrative healing platform that I've been working on for years. It serves as a womb to my community in St. Louis where I provide transformational and trauma-informed life coaching, nutritional counseling, alternative therapies including energy healing, yoga, sound healing, color therapy, etc and workshops, trauma support groups, women's circles, and meditation drop-ins. It'll be both on a virtual and physical platform. I work with a lot of long distance clients, so we can't always meet in person!
VE: Costa Rica is just another learning experience for me, so I can come back a better person and healer. I also would be lying if I didn't want to rock a kickass tan in the dead of winter. LOL I've hustled hard for this and I'm hoping to take away a lot.
LH: Hahahaha don't we all! It sounds like this center is going to provide you with a place to reach out and help even more people that you already have. I'm so excited for you! And for them!
VE: Hahah, I get winter blues so badly and it's nice to get away this year so it doesn't hit me so hard. Last year was rough, but I just moved to St. Louis and it's a bit less cloudy here. Thanks! I appreciate that! I'm excited too, but I have so much work left to do. Sometimes I want to hit the hills and live on a goat farm, buuuuuuut I'm going to hold out for a little longer.
LH: You mentioned your struggle with PTSD - is that from your experiences in your childhood?
VE: Yeah, yeah complex post traumatic disorder. It's a little different because the "complex" part is usually acquired when you're in a prolonged situation that's traumatic and damaging that you can't escape. As a child, I didn't have many options. I always used my imagination and the love I had for nature and animals to get me through.
LH: What's your favorite book you've read this year?
VE: "When Things Fall Apart" by Pema Chodron. I think it should be everyone's favorite book, but I'm a little biased!
LH: Haha! So final question: pizza or tacos?
LH: YAS! PIZZA ALWAYS!
VE: Taco pizza?! Just kidding.
LH: Hahaha if you can dream, you can do.
LH: Well Victoria I honestly can't thank you enough for sharing your story with us. I've been so excited to chat with you for many months now, and I'm so glad it has happened!
VE: AAAAAAHHHHH!!!!! That's SO exciting! I'm so happy for you, wow. I feel so inspired now.
LH: Thank you, thank you. thank you!