Every single time you look in the mirror, check in with yourself like you would a best friend. Think: “How are you?” “How’s your heart?” “Not good? What can I do to support you?” “Excuse me, did you just say something unkind about my best friend? Please take that back.”
Attimes it feels like wellness or elevating one’s well being, is diametrically opposed to high achievement and high performance in one’s career. The stress, mental energy, long hours, lack of restful sleep and preoccupation that result from a high-achievement life seem to directly inhibit wellness. And yet, in order to sustain the creativity, flexibility, mental acuity and resilience that are necessary for high performance, wellness and wellbeing of the mind, body and soul are also mandatory. So how do we achieve both? This is the question I’m hoping to answer through conversations with high-achieving leaders and influencers who are practicing their own philosophies about how to maintain their wellbeing.
As a part of our series about “Social Media Influencers Share Their Top Self Care, Wellness, and Beauty Tips, I had the pleasure of interviewing Giselle Ugarte.
With over 40 million video views and a collective online following of more than 300,000 people from around the world, Giselle Ugarte is the Director of Marketing and Communications at Media Bridge Advertising, as well as a motivational speaker and an executive coach. She’s rocked the stage with thought leaders like Gary Vaynerchuk, Brendon Burchard and Gabor Mate, but her new favorite place to connect with her followers is on TikTok (@mediabridgegiselle). She resides in Minneapolis with her long-haired chihuahua Penelope Cruz.
Thank you so much for doing this with us! Our readers would love to get to know you a bit better. Can you share with us the backstory of how you came upon this career path and to where you are today?
Ilike to joke that my career accidentally started on a little platform called YouTube. Ten-ish years ago, YouTube wasn’t a verb, everyone and their mom didn’t have a blog and “influencer” definitely wasn’t a job title.
I was on a quest to build a career in the world of entertainment news. But when I found out that no casting director cared that I went to a top journalism school (USC’s Annenberg School of Communication & Journalism), I took it upon myself to learn how to get comfortable in front of and behind a camera. I also began studying consumer behavior and analytics, from my own hands-on experiences and observations, not realizing I was becoming an early adapter of our social media world.
I never had any intention of being a professional YouTuber or a full-time blogger, but I quickly caught the attention of big brands like Proactiv and COVERGIRL (it should also be known that this was even before I had 5,000 subscribers and before they had really any sort of an online footprint, so don’t count yourself out if you’re reading this and just starting out). I saw opportunities for networking, partnerships and business growth, and I pitched myself relentlessly. I became the online face for some of the biggest brands in the world, the ghost writer behind famous celebrity blogs and you can still see my face on Proactiv+ vending machines. Not only did this catapult my television and then later a radio career, but it served as the foundation as a marketing leader and what makes me so uniquely qualified to do what I do.
You can try to untangle the algorithms all you want, but the formula for social media success is the same now as it was then: people have been craving human connection and community long before social distancing was a thing.
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 about that?
I was in a pretty dark place when my Aunt Martha asked me, “What do you see when you look in the mirror?” I remember being so defensive and confused by such a seemingly stupid question.
But that’s when I realized that I looked in the mirror A LOT, but I never took the time to look at myself or into my own eyes. Instead, I’d look at my skin, because I was so self conscious about my acne and my makeup always needed to be perfectly caked; I’d look at my hair, because I hated my natural curls and needed to make sure every strand was stick-straight; I’d look at my tummy, because I always felt unattractively large in Hollywood… I could go on and on and on…
It was then that I realized how distracted I was in what I wanted to DO (or, rather, what I wished I would look like), that I really had no idea WHO I was or who I wanted to BE.
Now, every time I look in the mirror, I make sure to check in with myself and say something kind. I’m a lot happier with what I do and who I see.
Can you share a story with us about the most humorous mistake you made when you were first starting? What lesson or take-away did you learn from that?
I had a really hard time finding an agent and a manager when I first started out. I had offers, but I just felt like no one understood the vision I had for my online career at the time. (It also felt like no one understood how someone with olive skin and big hair didn’t have a thick accent, a spicy personality or an education, but that’s another story!)
Since I had to pitch myself and negotiate all of my own contracts, I thought I would sound more professional if I did have representation, and so I created different alias names, phone numbers and email addresses for my “team.” (Think: [email protected], [email protected], [email protected], [email protected]…. LOL). I never got caught, but it became way too hard to juggle so many names, stories, folders and email accounts. It was expensive too!
What I learned was confidence, power and worth knowing what it’s like to be hands-on with every single aspect of a project, from the pitch, negotiations and the scope of work to the shoot, post-production and results-tracking. As the “talent,” I used to view myself as less-than, in comparison to producers, brands and management; now, I know my deserved position is as a true equal and partner.
I handle all of my deals myself now and without fear!
As an influencer, you have been blessed with great success in a career path that many have attempted, but eventually gave up on. In fact perhaps most people who tried to follow a career path like yours did not succeed. Do you have any words of advice for others who may want to embark on this career path but know that their dreams might be dashed?
My first instinct is to say that you have to prioritize community and longevity over fame and virality.
But a big part of me wants to push back to the question itself and assert that social media should be your vessel and not your end goal.
Here’s what I mean by that…
The reason why I’ve been successful on social media and for as long as I have is because I’ve always had something else to fuel my passion and creativity besides my feed. Remember, I wanted to be a producer and a reporter, so everything online was just a little something extra — something fun and unexpected, a BONUS, rather.
When the sole purpose of your career is to thrive on a platform where your existence depends on the validation, acknowledgement and “likes” of others, insecurity, delusion and desperation is inevitable.
I was able to turn down opportunities that weren’t a fit for my brand and make wiser decisions for my business, because I didn’t need the money. I was also able to speak my mind and, in many cases, ask for more, because I wasn’t afraid of a potential partner walking away. I should also add that I’ve had the luxury of being able to take time off, because I’ve set boundaries with my community and because I’m not afraid of the very real possibility that it could all disappear tomorrow (but, don’t get me wrong, I really hope TikTok doesn’t get banned).
No matter what job you pursue, you should always have a side hustle.
Can you share with our readers some of your strategies you’ve used to build an engaged, loyal, and large online community?
IT’S NOT ABOUT YOU. Before posting anything on social media, you should ask yourself three questions:
1) What does this say about who my audience is? As an imperfect human with real insecurities, values, worries and cares, they want to see a truly good and real version of themselves in you. Connection over perfection.
2) What VALUE will this bring to their day? Whether it’s a lesson or a laugh, they should feel like they could be (or already are) best friends with you. Think about those best friends and mentors you have who instantly make you feel better (and so much less alone) after spending time with them… THAT.
3) Why does this matter to them RIGHT NOW? Especially with all of the noise and numbing happening in their lives and down their feeds, why do they need you, this message, that product more than ever?
Ok thank you for all that. Now let’s shift to the main focus of our interview. In my work, I focus on how one can thrive and care for oneself in three areas: body, mind, and heart. You are a busy person with a demanding schedule, can you share with our readers two self care routines, practices or treatments that help your body thrive? (Kindly share a story or an example for each.)
I get outside every single day and walk, especially when it’s freezing and that crisp, cold air just smacks you in the face. I love it.
I also follow a whole-foods, plant-based diet. A little over a year ago, I was diagnosed with an autoimmune condition that had my body inexplicably covered in hives from head to toe for MONTHS. (See: https://www.instagram.com/p/BwqBwY0FJDM/) My doctors insisted that the cause had nothing to do with what I was eating, but feeling uncomfortably bloated from steroid medication and seeing no end in sight, I decided to take my health into my own hands and explore natural anti-inflammatory remedies. I was already gluten-free, then came meat and dairy. I didn’t realize that, in doing so, I’d also given up alcohol, salt and refined sugar. Within days, I noticed a de-bloat. After a week, I felt more energized, often waking up before my alarm went off (I’d never been a morning person before that). Two weeks in, my always-acne-prone skin cleared up for the first tine in my life. I was hooked. Coincidentally, my episodes of hives almost entirely disappeared too.
Can you share with us two routines that you use to help your mind or heart to thrive? (Kindly share a story or example for each.)
Every single morning, I hit the snooze button and spend at least ten minutes cuddling with my dog. She’s so fluffy and her paws smell like a mix of socks and corn chips, and she’s guaranteed-smiles the best person to start the day with.
Every single night, I call my dad, without fail. Even if it’s just a quick and sleepy “I love you,” he’s my best friend and always offers the best nuggets of wisdom and perspective that I’ll never take for granted.
Can you share 3 ideas that anyone can use “to feel beautiful”? (Please share a story or example for each.)
1)“You are the average of the five people you spend the most time with,” is a quote from Jim Rohn that I revisit often to look at my surroundings both online and off. It’s important to recognize who you’re surrounding yourself with and understand how that reflects your perception of self. Make sure you’re following all different colors, sizes and genders, so that you can normalize “beautiful” in different ways (and not just an ideal and irrational version in your head) and begin seeing it in yourself. Also, start buying clothes that actually fit and not that you have to “suck in” or lose weight for. You can pull off that look and right now, but you need to buy the size that fits.
2) Every single time you look in the mirror, check in with yourself like you would a best friend. Think: “How are you?” “How’s your heart?” “Not good? What can I do to support you?” “Excuse me, did you just say something unkind about my best friend? Please take that back.”
3) Buy a plant. I was recently gifted a giant plant that I thought was for sure dead after the first few days. I chopped her down, but I saved the soil for a fake plant I’d ordered as a replacement. About a week later, she sprouted a growth that looked like a little birthday candle. Now, she’s about five inches tall with a big leaf slowly starting to unravel. This is going to sound a little weird, but I’ve named her and I talk to her every day, usually telling her how big, strong and beautiful she is. There’s a part of me that so badly wants to unstick the leaf that’s cocooning around her stem, but it’s also the friendly reminder that I need on a daily basis to give myself permission for patience, recharge and reflection.
Is there a particular resource, a practitioner, expert, book, or podcast that made a significant impact on you and helped you to thrive? Can you share a story about that with us?
At the beginning of the pandemic shutdowns, my friends and I got together in a small group to lead what we didn’t know would be the first of many virtual gatherings together. I opened up the series with something loud and bold, and then my friend Ericka closed the series with a grounded meditation that brought me to tears. It was from the book “Journey to the Heart” (https://amzn.to/37RQVUy) by Melody Beattie. It’s become part of my daily practice. Sometimes I’ll flip to the date that matches the one on my calendar and sometimes I’ll just a random page guide me. It always gives me exactly what I need.
Do you have a story about the strangest, most bizarre or funniest wellness treatment that you’ve ever experienced?
I’m not sure if getting a tattoo of diamond on my left wrist counts as a wellness treatment, but it sure did a lot of good for me. I laughed and I cried the whole time, with sensations that simultaneously soothed, hurt and even tickled. Lizzo’s “Soulmate” played on repeat in the background, and I wrote vows to myself afterwards as a commitment to self-love first. 10/10 highly recommend.
As an influencer, you are a person of great influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger.
I’ve thought about uploading a picture of my “no baby body” or “post-baby body” (after launching a new business) or something of that sort. I get annoyed when I see new moms posting pictures after they’ve birthed an actual child and giving themselves new forgiveness for their imperfections simply because of what their body has just delivered. Don’t get me wrong, they deserve every ounce of grace and have the hardest job on the planet, but here’s a friendly reminder that you can and should start loving your body, as it is right now, before, during and after creating a child and even if you never do.
We are very blessed that some of the biggest names in Business, VC funding, Sports, and Entertainment read this column. Is there a person in the world with whom you’d like to have a private breakfast or lunch with, and why? He or she might just see this. 🙂
Sara Blakely has been my mentor for years, even though she has no idea I exist. I would love to become best friends with her over a bottle of tequila. I fully believe it will happen one day.
What is the best way our readers can follow you on social media?
I play hardest on Instagram (@giselleugarte), TikTok (@mediabridgegiselle) and LinkedIn (@giselleugarte). You can also visit www.giselleugarte.com or our company website www.mediabridgeadvertising.com
Thank you for these fantastic insights. We wish you only continued success in your great work!