5 Leadership Lessons With Luisa Diaz, Founder of Mi Amor Gala
In my series of profiles of strong female leaders, I had the pleasure of interviewing Luisa Diaz. Luisa Diaz is the former Ms. Venezuela International, TV host, producer, actress, author of Sexy Is Timeless: Ten Timeless Sexy Assets That Lie within You, and founder of Mi Amor Gala. Mi Amor Gala raises funds for non-profit organizations, such as those that benefit survivors of domestic violence, and empowers women to discover how beautiful and worthy they truly are. What makes this gala unique is that it hosts an annual Empowerment Fashion Show with the survivors of domestic violence as models on the Runway of Hope.
Thank you so much for doing this with us! What is your “backstory”?
I was raised by my grandparents in Venezuela and competed in pageants since a young age. As Ms. Venezuela International, I had the honor of being an ambassador beauty queen for my country in Riga Latvia. When I came to the United States to study at the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga, I had no prior knowledge of the English language. After overcoming that obstacle, I graduated with a B.S. in Business Administration along with a concentration in Marketing. That was the greatest challenge that I ever faced in my life. I went on to produce and host Luisa Su Voz Latina, the longest-running Spanish-language TV program on a major network. Then, I moved to Hollywood to further explore the world of entertainment. I have hosted talk shows, appeared in Oscar-winning movies, and dedicated my life to inspiring and empowering women. To help struggling families through the holiday seasons, I founded the Luisa Su Voz Latina Foundation. I also directed the Miss North Carolina Latina pageant and served as the pageant coach for all the contestants. In honor of my beloved grandmother who was mentally and physically abused, I chose to create awareness for domestic violence by founding and producing Mi Amor Gala. Mi Amor Gala is a celebration of kindness: angels that empower other angels with broken wings through the gift of love. My glamorously themed events benefit various charities that empower women and bring them hope. Two of the main charities that I have collaborated with are the Maria Suarez Foundation, which exists to end modern slavery, and Safe Passage, which brings compassionate transformation to victims of domestic violence. My involvement with Safe Passage centers on the Empowerment Fashion Show. I coach the survivors of domestic violence who are graduates from Safe Passage’s annual Stepping Stones to a New Life Program, and I help build their self-esteem so they can walk on the Runway of Hope into the new chapter of their lives. The work that I do with these ladies inspired me to write my new book, Sexy Is Timeless: Ten Timeless Sexy Assets That Lie within You.
Can you share the funniest or most interesting story that happened to you since you started your company?
At my first Mi Amor Gala, I discovered that my job as the founder never ends. On the day of the event, I had delegated certain people in my team to set up the Step & Repeat for the red carpet. However, when I arrived, I was shocked to see the red carpet left all rolled up. All I could do was get it done myself. So, in my glamorous gown and sparkly stilettos, I proceeded to roll out the red carpet on my own while the guests were already arriving. I realized then and there that in order to be an effective business owner, one needs to be a servant leader and not be afraid of rolling up one’s sleeves to do the dirty work in order to accomplish a goal.
What do you think makes your company stand out? Can you share a story?
My company stands out because Mi Amor Gala is a celebration of kindness: angels that empower other angels with broken wings through the gift of love.
Furthermore, with the Runway of Hope in the Empowerment Fashion Show, it empowers the survivors of domestic violence who have gone through a year-long rehabilitation program. With my coaching, I especially focus on their inner transformation by strengthening their self-esteem that had been shattered by their previous abusers. As I get them to believe how beautiful and worthy they are, they get ready to learn how to walk like a beauty queen on the runway. Last year, after all the ladies had their makeovers and walked on the Runway of Hope, they had tears in their eyes and smiles on their faces. They truly stepped into their new beginning with a new- found confidence. I will never forget one lady who took me aside to tell me that in that moment, she felt pretty for the very first time in her life. Moments like these motivate me to continue doing the work that I do.
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? Can you share a story?
I have two important people in my life who have been with me through my journey. The first is Trish Steele, the founder of Safe Passage. We connected right away when we first met. Ever since then, I have helped her raise money for her non-profit organization, Safe Passage, which brings healing transformation to women and children affected by domestic violence. Furthermore, she has been my mentor and friend.
The other important person in my life is my husband. He has always been supportive of me and my dreams, and continues to be my number one fan.
Are you working on any exciting projects now?
Now, I am debuting as the author of Sexy Is Timeless: Ten Timeless Sexy Assets That Lie within You to share my insights and inspire others. In this new, empowering guide, I show women how to survive in this transformative time from a male-dominated society to a female-dominated society while still retaining femininity. Through my simple advice, I outline ten different characteristics of sexiness that make women feel validated and more assertive. Interestingly, none of these aspects specifically address body type or images of traditional beauty. Instead, I share fun and relatable personal examples of what has worked to improve my own life and the lives of others. My insight and support help bring understanding to my reader’s unique attributes and self-worth.
My other exciting project is the Runway of Hope through Mi Amor Gala’s Empowerment Fashion Show, which showcases women who are survivors of domestic violence as the models. This is especially exciting because I coach these ladies to build their self-esteem and recognize their true self-worth so they can walk down the Runway of Hope into their new chapter of life. The guests at Mi Amor Gala celebrate their new beginning and honor these women for the commitment they made to graduate from Safe Passage’s Stepping Stones to a New Life year-long rehabilitation program. I’m excited to continue working with them in LA, and also expand it to empower women in New York as well, since that’s where my home base is now.
My dream is to bring the Runway of Hope to NYFW. It’s so timely for women to be more open about their past and bring their abuse to light. We embrace women who have come forward for help and celebrate their transformation by giving them an opportunity to walk on the Runway of Hope, which symbolizes that they are moving on and stepping into a new chapter of their lives. At the same time, these women inspire and motivate more women to come forward, get healing transformation, and share their redemptive stories.
How have you used your success to bring goodness to the world?
I used my success as a former beauty queen to bring goodness to the world by empowering women. Throughout my life, I have coached women in pageants and helped strengthen their self-esteem. Now, in my Empowerment Fashion Show with the Runway of Hope, I help women realize how beautiful and worthy they are. Kindness and empowering others has always been a common denominator throughout my life. I grew up helping my community in Venezuela. When I went to college, I became the President of the Intercultural Council on campus and organized food drives for the homeless and Toys for Tots drives during the holidays. After I graduated and was producing my first TV show, Luisa Su Voz Latina, I founded the Luisa Su Voz Latina Organization to help local underprivileged families in North Carolina. When I moved to LA, I continued my philanthropic efforts by founding my annual Mi Amor Gala, where I celebrate kindness and raise funds for charities that help end human trafficking and domestic violence, such as the Maria Suarez Foundation and Safe Passage.
Furthermore, I created an Empowerment Fashion Show for the survivors who have gone through a year-long rehabilitation. After their inside-out makeovers, I coach them to build their self-esteem so they can be confident in their true self-worth as they walk down the Runway of Hope into a new chapter of their lives.
The work that I do with these women inspired me to write my book, Sexy Is Timeless: Ten Timeless Sexy Assets That Lie Within You. This empowering guide helps women recognize their true self-worth from within. I continue to celebrate kindness and the great things that people do for each other with my Kindness Is Cool movement.
Do you have a favorite book that made a deep impact on your life? Can you share a story?
Principles of Success: How to Get from Where You Are to Where You Want to Be by Jack Canfield is one of my favorite books that has really impacted my life. This inspirational book is full of different tips and tricks that help you achieve success as you apply them to various areas of your life. What stood out most to me from this book was how it helped me organize my thoughts and prioritize my goals by taking one step at a time instead of rushing into things. One of my favorite principles is, “experience your fear and take action anyway.” That principle helped me when I launched my first Mi Amor Gala. I was scared that it wouldn’t be successful because I didn’t have experience in organizing big fundraising events. However, I knew I shouldn’t let that stop me from taking action and making it happen, so I did my research and prepared myself. Because I committed 100%, my first Mi Amor Gala was a great success.
What are your “5 things I wish someone told me before I started my company” and why. Please share a story or example for each.
1.The work never stops. When you own your own business, it’s much more than just a career choice. There’s no getting away from the office, because it stays in your mind and goes wherever you go.
2. You need to be able to wear many hats. When you’re successful, you will get to walk the red carpet, but sometimes you will have to be the one to roll it out as well.
3. Running your business is a lot more than just having a great idea. It involves building a team and learning about the marketplace that you are trying to impact. Learning how to collaborate with others in the process is much more multifaceted. For instance, with Mi Amor Gala, I have to delegate time to build my team while negotiating with different venues, discussing liabilities, finding sponsors who believe in my vision and getting them to invest, etc.
4. Get used to the word no. Persistence and determination are qualities that should be ingrained in you if you want to be a successful entrepreneur. You are going to encounter rejection. When one door closes, continue to knock on the next door. Never take “no” for an answer if you want to be successful in your field.
5. Never compromise the vision that you have. You can pivot and adjust your approach, but never compromise the true essence and integrity of your vision. There are always people who aren’t going to believe in you or who conflict with your vision, but don’t let them change your mind. Set your standards high and lay out boundaries that will protect those standards. Stay true to yourself.
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 see this. 🙂
I would love to have a private breakfast or lunch with my role model, Oprah. I admire Oprah because she comes from humble beginnings and started with just a local TV show. From there, she created an empire. What I admire the most about her, is that she always stays true to her vision, which has always been all about inspiring, motivating, and empowering people to live their best life. I would love to ask her about her personal motivation. It would be fascinating to know how she is able to wake up every morning and continue making a difference in so many people’s lives.
This was very inspiring. Thank you so much for joining us!
Originally published at medium.com
— Published on August 2, 2018