MEET OUR DESERVING DIVA: FELENCIA GERALD
Meet our latest #DeservingDiva, Felencia Gerald! Nominated by her daughter Alexandria, Felencia has a truly amazing story and we can't wait to share it with you. Don't forget to nominate your #DeservingDiva! And read on for a little about Felencia and her daughter.
Tell us a little about your background.
Felencia: During my first pregnancy I became extremely sensitive to many of the chemicals such as sodium laurel sulfate (SLS) and parabens, which today we see have a clear link to causing skincare problems. The only advice I received from my OBGYN at the time wasn’t helpful at all. He actually said that breaking out in hives all over my body during my pregnancy was just a “pregnancy thing” and the only thing I could do was go through a process of elimination to figure out what was causing me to have a reaction.
In some ways, I did take his advice. “Cutting everything out,” I learned a lot about what we refer to today as organic foods, green and natural products. That experience was my initial connection to “we are what we eat, our skin is an organ, listening to the wisdom of our bodies is important, and the power in nature and plants.”
In 1996, I was a homeless veteran and single mother living in California, with three children. I was the homeless person who worked every day of the week and paid for childcare, but who did not make enough money to pay for rent and bills, food for four people, healthcare, and other necessities much less organic and natural foods, skincare and hair care products.
No one knew the struggles I was facing every day almost 20 years ago, and for a long time I was ashamed of being homeless because I felt I had let my children down. But as I helped other veterans avoid homelessness, especially women veterans, I realized that being homeless had made me a better person, had brought me closer to my humanity, and had been a wonderful gift in my life building a stronger connection between my personal passion for green products and my gift to help others.
It’s been 20 years since I was homeless, and while today I am providing for my family as a diversity and inclusion manager with the federal government, still every spare moment I have is enveloped in a never ending passion for green beauty. I’ll never forget one day, my oldest daughter Alexandria said to me, “Mom you’re the most intelligent person I know. You’re always reading and researching something about green beauty and people are always asking you for recommendations. Why haven’t you ever started your own blog?” I thought about what Alexandria said, and for the first time I understood my life’s purpose and work in helping others.
That's such an amazing story, Felencia! We're so honored that you're sharing it with us—what a struggle, and how amazing that you pulled through it. Now, Alexandria, tell us a little more about why you nominated Felencia.
I nominated my mom because products are her passion and I owe her my life. Literally. Since the day I was born, she has sacrificed to be there for me in every way, shape, or form. She left the military and stayed home with me for five years until I went to to kindergarten, infusing all the love and wisdom she could. Everything I know about life, love, career, kids and family comes from her. In all those memories products were always there.
When I was small, we would have stacks and stacks of magazines full of colorful tabs marking the pages to health, beauty and travel. (And yes I stubbed my toe more than once on a stack... and knocked a few down—don't tell). I never really understood her love of research and products until I hit puberty. As the first huge red zit found its way to the middle of my forehead I remember yelling "Mom!!!" panicked at the ugly new foreigner. Supermom, however, was as calm as a cucumber. Out came tissue, creams and sprays and by the next day the zit was gone like magic.
I remember summers where I'd spend all day going through the magazines. Carefully ripping out page after page of tips and tricks, or new products, etc. so we could recycle what was left. I would tease her that she might as well have kept the whole magazine for all the pages I just ripped out.
Then, like the answer to my toes' prayers, she found Evernote. No more buying magazines. No more stacks of magazines with numerous tabs and folded pages. She could now research and try all the products she wanted in an organized and safe manner, lol.
This leads me to have to "out" her on her huge collection of products and samples. Growing up I never thought anything of it. I thought it was normal for someone to have so little counter space they couldn't even set their toothbrush down. Over time I realized my mistake as it grew from the counter, to drawers, to cabinets to what I could call a shrine of a dresser in her room.
But I can't blame her. Anytime I needed a face mask, she had it. Face wash? Of course. All natural, completely safe for baby and me body wash or scrub? Here you go! Oil and lotion to keep the stretch marks away? You bet she had it. As a mom of three myself, I've come to realize the gift that is my mom's love of products and her love for me.
As I'm sure she will tell you she only started this journey for better and more natural and organic products because, pregnant with me, she became allergic to almost everything from food to soap. Doing her research and changing her lifestyle not only improved her life but mine and so many others. From her children and grandchildren down to friends and even strangers. She shares her knowledge, experience and expertise.
She has always given so much (freely and in love) to me. Through divorce, homelessness, and being a single parent she always put her kids first and we never knew her (or our) hardship. Like I said before, having three beautiful daughters of my own has a taught me so much about what it means to be strong and independent and what true love looks like.
You can imagine my excitement when I saw that EcoDiva Beauty was doing a #DeservingDiva contest. It was the perfect way to surprise my mom. All I had to do was write what I already know. That she's a product guru and she totally deserves a gift box. It was a no brainer and after everything that she's done for me for 25 years-the least I could do. I'm just so glad that EcoDiva Beauty thought so too!
I had just come home to discover the surprise of my #DeservingDiva box. Before I even opened the box, I was excited just from the look on Alexandria’s face. As I opened the box, I squealed as I grinned from ear to ear and then as Alexandria explained that it was a #DeservingDiva box from EcoDiva, I couldn’t contain my pure joy and began to sing a little chant….”I’m a deserving diva, I’m a deserving diva...”
Amazing. Felencia, did you have a favorite item in the box?
My favorite item in the box and new favorite body lotion is the Rahua Body Lotion. While I knew the Rahua Classic Shampoo and Conditioner and Finishing Treatment were unbelievable, it’s not easy to make a lotion that actually makes my skin softer and smoother with each use.
So glad you got to experience it. Anything else we should know?
Felencia: Because of all of my experiences, I have a grateful heart for green indie wellness, skin and hair care. I enjoy hearing the stories from founders and creators of many of the green skincare lines, who many times came to develop green products because like me they had a bad reaction, acne, and/or became sensitive to SLS or other chemicals, and found the answers in natural green and organic alternatives. Curators like Eco Diva, and fellow aficionados are my champions.