Just because you can’t see it doesn’t mean it’s not there. Looking ‘perfect’ on the outside does not reflect how we feel on the inside.
As a part of our “Unstoppable” series, I had the pleasure of interviewing Alexa Carlin. Alexa Carlin, nationally renowned public speaker, Founder & CEO of the Women Empower X and Creator of the speaker training program, BeAPublicSpeaker.com. Alexa launched Women Empower X in 2016 and grew it to become the largest event for female entrepreneurs and change leaders in South Florida and Washington D.C. within its first year. Today, WEX is in four markets around the country attracting thousands of diverse women from around the world at each event.
Thank you so much for doing this with us! It is really an honor. Our readers would love to get to know you a bit better. Can you share your “backstory” with us?
I’ve been an entrepreneur since I was little, starting my first “real” business at the age of 17 years old, using fashion to help build schools in Africa. From there I started a blog and began to see how the power of social media could make a positive impact. While growing multiple entrepreneurial endeavors in college, I had a near-death experience that left me with a one-percent chance to live, and a chronic autoimmune disease that is extremely hard to live with. Making it through these experiences led me to my current path, as the Founder of one of the top conferences for women in the country, Women Empower X. Today, I share my story with audiences all over the world as a motivational speaker and CEO of my company. Women Empower X has now become a go-to platform for bringing together a diverse community of women around the country.
Do you feel comfortable sharing with us the story of how you became ill? What did you do to not let that “stop you”?
When I was a few months away from college graduation I started having flu-like symptoms. Out of nowhere my body contracted a bacteria that went into my bloodstream and caused me to go into septic shock. I was induced into a medical-coma and given a one-percent chance to live. I was in a coma for 6 days, in the ICU for a total of 10 days, and during that time, I experienced a different reality than the one we are living in today.
Six months after being discharged from the hospital, when I was now a college grad working in NYC in the fashion industry, I ended up getting sick again. Due to all the antibiotics that were pumping in my body for so long, I was diagnosed with a severe autoimmune disease called Ulcerative Colitis. This challenge changed my entire life. I had to move back home to Florida to gain support of my parents, and I spent the next 4 years in and out of doctors and hospitals, many times too sick to even leave the house.
I was waiting for a long time for something to change until I was sick and tired of waiting. That day I decided I was going to embrace my autoimmune disease, but not allow it to define what I can or can’t do. I started sharing my story online through live streaming and when I felt okay, I would speak anywhere and everywhere possible, even hosting my own events to get experience as a public speaker.
When there was no hope, I turned to curiosity. So curious as to what may happen if I don’t give up. Through action I turned this obstacle into an opportunity that didn’t stop me from achieving my dreams and following my passion.
Can you tell our readers about the accomplishments you have been able to make despite your disability/illness ?
Since 2013, when I was first induced into the medical-coma, I have started Women Empower X, growing it to become one of the top events for women in business, attracting thousands to each conference from around the world. I have spoken on 100+ stages in 20 different states. I wrote and published a cookbook called, “The Simple Gluten-Free Vegan Cookbook.” I was on the cover of Meetings + Conventions Magazine, named as one of the “Top Go-Getters To Watch.” I’ve been interviewed on NBC, CBS, ABC, FOX, and the Oprah Winfrey Network. I’ve interviewed on 200+ podcasts, radio shows and blogs. I started a clothing line with Women Empower X. I’ve grown my social media following between my personal brand and business to over 50,000 people. I opened myself up to love again and met a wonderful man who I am spending my life with.
What advice would you give to other people who have disabilities or limitations?
You have to see your limitation as a blessing, regardless of how challenging and hard it can be. Understand that your disability is helping you become the person you are meant to be. It helps you connect with others on a deeper level, it makes you more compassionate and empathetic. It even makes you a more grateful person, as you know how hard it can be, and are truly grateful for the good days.
The number one thing though, is to never let your limitation hold you back from what you want in life. Sure the path to get there may change, but be open to changing the journey, and always believe that you are capable of turning your dreams into reality.
None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are?
My mom and dad have been there for me through it all. My mom was my caretaker and I really don’t know where I’d be without her. She helped me stay strong and not give up during times where I saw no other option. My dad is my sounding board and has always been the person I have gone to for business advice. He’s an entrepreneur and a great role model for me, as I’ve seen him go through extremely tough times and never give up.
How have you used your success to bring goodness to the world?
I work to make a difference in at least one person’s life every day. I bring goodness to the world by empowering and instilling confidence in women to take action on the things they care about most. I believe that when more people are doing what they love, the world becomes a better place.
Can you share “5 things I wish people understood/knew about people with physical limitations” and why.
- Just because you can’t see it doesn’t mean it’s not there. Looking ‘perfect’ on the outside does not reflect how we feel on the inside.
- Try not to offer your advice on what food to eat or remedies to follow unless asked. More often than not we’ve tried it, and it only causes frustration being given advice from someone who doesn’t have what we have.
- Post-traumatic stress is something to be taken seriously and happens when anyone goes through a traumatizing event.
- If we are doing things you think we wouldn’t be able to do as a sick or disabled person, that does not mean we aren’t in pain. We are doing our best to live a ‘normal’ life in spite of our limitations.
- We can be feeling good one moment and not the next. It can literally turn off and on that quickly, so if at one moment we say we aren’t feeling well and the next we are out with our friends, that is truly how many invisible illnesses feel. Do not judge or think we are ‘faking it’.
Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”?
“It Only Takes One.” This is a motto I stand by and one of the keynote speeches I give at events around the country. It represents the possibility of one- that you are just one connection, one idea, one decision away from changing your entire life. I was given a one percent chance to live, and while the odds were not in my favor, all I needed was that one percent in order to survive. With this life lesson, you have the drive and curiosity to continue to take action, believing that you may just be one step away from everything you can possibly want for your life.
Some of the biggest names in Business, VC funding, Sports, and Entertainment read this column. Is there a person in the world, or in the US whom you would love to have a private breakfast or lunch with, and why? He or she might just see this 🙂
Sara Blakely! Her drive, authenticity, and determination to achieve her goals against all odds has inspired me since I started as an entrepreneur.
Thank you so much for all of these great insights!