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Koreen Odiney: “How’d you get over your first heartbreak?”

“Relationships first.”: When you’re in the midst of following your passion, it’s easy to forget to call your mom back, or not check up on your friends as often, etc. Nurturing your genuine friendships is so important along this journey. As a part of our series about women who are shaking things up in their industry, […]

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“Relationships first.”: When you’re in the midst of following your passion, it’s easy to forget to call your mom back, or not check up on your friends as often, etc. Nurturing your genuine friendships is so important along this journey.


As a part of our series about women who are shaking things up in their industry, I had the pleasure of interviewing Koreen Odiney. Koreen is a model and artist based in L.A. She created the We’re Not Really Strangers card game with the intention of empowering meaningful connections with others. As a photojournalist, her camera was a passport to people, allowing her to talk to anyone about anything. She built the WNRS platform to bring more meaningful connections to everyday life.


Thank you so much for doing this with us! Can you tell us a story about what brought you to this specific career path?

Growing up, my passion was always photographing and interviewing people. I’d go up to people with my camera and ask them questions like, “How’d you get over your first heartbreak?” I soon realized that my camera was my passport to people and was helping me heal through whatever I was going through. One day, a stranger I photographed and interviewed told me I’d write a book one day and it would be called “We’re Not Really Strangers.”

Can you tell our readers what it is about the work you’re doing that’s disruptive?

We’re Not Really Strangers is a purpose driven card game and movement all about empowering meaningful connections. Something I like to emphasize in my work is that we’re all more alike than we think. I think that when we see someone different from us, it’s easy to let those differences create a divisive border. Instead of creating boundaries to separate us from the unknown, we can ask questions. I’m a firm believer that everyone we don’t know has something to teach us. I hope that the work I’m doing is able to inspire others to create meaningful connections, and to promote always showing up as your most authentic self in all of your relationships and creating a movement behind that.

I recently partnered with the ladies of Red Table Talk, Jada Pinkett Smith, Willow Smith and Adrienne Banfield-Norris, to launch the We’re Not Really Strangers x Red Table Talk Inner Circle Expansion Pack. The Inner Circle Expansion Pack was specifically developed for the purpose of getting to know people in your inner circle on an even deeper level than you (think) you already do. It brings the transparency of Red Table Talk to you, so you can grow deeper with whoever you are closest too. I’m very excited to work with them to bring more meaningful connections to everyday life.

We all need a little help along the journey — who have been some of your mentors? Can you share a story about how they made an impact?

I’m lucky to say that the people in my life have been my mentors. My mom, who’s helped me through this whole process and made this possible. Even shipping all games from her living room for the first run. My sister Cheryl helped me brainstorm questions in the game even adding one of my favorite wildcards of “Write down the three most important things in life to you. Then compare” A personal favorite of mine. My best friend, Emon, has helped me since the beginning, too, becoming the first official We’re Not Really Strangers team member. She’s helped me in all the areas I struggle with and that’s been such an important component in the journey. Before I could even pay her, she showed up for me and asked, “How can I help?” Allen Chui, who’s been a close friend for years, is an incredible designer and taught me photoshop and all things design that I use today, especially with the WNRS art on the Instagram. Ashley, Chloe (who created the “Final Card” of the game), Austin, Keaton… the incredible people in my life have been mentors and made this project possible. Not just as support, but creative contributors, and honest feedback that has helped WNRS be what it is. My boyfriend, Chris, has also been a great mentor, especially in all things business with WNRS. Having him to bounce ideas with and get his input every step of the way has taught me so much and given me an added level of confidence I didn’t have before.

In short, my relationships have been such a key part of WNRS’s success. That’s why I value the connections we have with one another — when built of a great loving foundation, anything is possible together.

Can you share 3 of the best words of advice you’ve gotten along your journey? Please give a story or example for each.

  1. “Pursue your passion.”: In a Joe Rogan interview, he talked about how people think he works really hard, but he argued that when you’re working on something you love it hardly feels like working. Because I’ve chosen a career path I love, I’m always having so much fun, even during the hard times. When you’re following your passion, it comes together.
  2. “Follow the flow.”: Oprah talks about when you’re in the flow, things are easy. For a long time, I was doing things I wasn’t passionate about, and I kept getting so burnt out. I didn’t understand how people could wake up every morning and be so motivated, until I started doing WNRS, and now it comes easily.
  3. “Relationships first.”: When you’re in the midst of following your passion, it’s easy to forget to call your mom back, or not check up on your friends as often, etc. Nurturing your genuine friendships is so important along this journey.

How are you going to shake things up next?

It’s a surprise! …Mostly because I’m not sure yet, but hopefully something really cool! I just hope to continue doing what I love, and in that, making a positive impact.

Do you have a book/podcast/talk that’s had a deep impact on your thinking? Can you share a story with us?

“Daring Greatly: How the Courage to Be Vulnerable Transforms the Way We Live, Love, Parent, and Lead” by Brené Brown. It’s definitely a must-read.

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 would like to inspire people to try to find the similarities in others, rather than the differences. I hope to inspire people to talk to someone they wouldn’t normally talk to. I hope to inspire meaningful connections, and to deepen existing ones. I hope to bring to light the power of asking good questions.

Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?

“Love is but the discovery of ourselves in others, and the delight in the recognition” — Alexander Smith. It’s a quote that’s always stuck with me and a huge inspiration for the game I created.

How can our readers follow you on social media?

My personal Instagram is @koreen, but you can follow the movement at @werenotreallystrangers.

This was very inspiring. Thank you so much for joining us!

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