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| This is the 110th story of Our Life Logs |


I was born in Murupara, a tiny rural town in New Zealand, in the 1960s. I was the youngest of three daughters. My oldest sister Katherine died after just 36 hours of life, and my next sister, Cathy, was diagnosed with Cystic Fibrosis at two years old. Cystic Fibrosis–a genetic, terminal illness that affects mucous and breathing–was not well-known at the time. Years later, the doctors assumed that my oldest sister had died of this disease.

I was 18 months old when I developed encephalitis, more commonly known as “water on the brain.” Fortunately, a quick-thinking doctor saved me from any life-threatening consequences. My parents desperately wanted to have another baby, but after such a rocky start to parenthood, they decided to adopt my brother Russell.

Jenna, Cathy & Russell
Me (far right) with my sister Cathy and baby brother Russell.

About six months later, after I had I fully recovered from my brush with encephalitis, my parents entered me in the Miss Junior Mt. Maunganui Beauty Competition. I won at two years old. This must have been when my interest in beauty began. I’ve had a long-standing career in the field later in life, though not as a beauty queen.

Miss Junior Mt Maunganui
Here I am at the Miss Junior Mt. Maunganui Beauty Competition.

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When I was six years old, my family moved to Auckland—New Zealand’s largest city. We were lucky enough to have a beach house (or “bach” as they’re known) in the popular seaside resort, Mt. Maunganui. Our summers were spent playing on the beach, I practically lived in the water. I still remember the hot days on the sand, laughing with my siblings.

When I was 14, my sister Cathy passed away. She lived for 16 years, which at the time made her one of the oldest living patients with Cystic Fibrosis. I internalized a lot of the grief. I sat for hours struggling with the “whys” and “wherefores” of life, as if I would come to a direct conclusion on my own. I also thought back to my oldest sister Katherine, whom I’ve never met. How could life be so sweet one moment, and rob us of joy the next? I tasted the fragility of life at such a young age and vowed to remain grounded in whatever I chose to do.

Looking back now, I realize that this was when I became so passionate about helping people to figure out how to live a healthy life. This grief brought honesty to life, in that, we only have one.

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My father always wanted me to become a doctor or a lawyer, but I didn’t want anything to do with it. In my 20s, I moved to Australia and trained as a makeup artist, nail technician, and facialist. This experience showed me the importance of self-care. I’m always saying that the science of beauty has rooted my career, and in hindsight, these first years in Australia helped me build my foundation in the industry.  Five years later, I moved back to New Zealand to learn accounting and how to work a computer, with a dream of opening a chain of beauty salons. But it wasn’t to be.

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Image courtesy of Pexels.

While studying accounting, I found that I loved the administrative side of business. I loved the idea of working behind-the-scenes for products and projects I was passion about. I decided to take an admin job for a while for work experience and was very happy…for a while. Life has a way of flipping us on our backs.

While on holiday from work, I was attacked with a piece of wood by a Mongrel Mob (biker gang) member, who was on parole for rape. I managed to escape but sustained head and jaw injuries, which seriously affected me. No one plans for terror, and I was blindsided. Once I was better, I decided I needed to get away from the place that reminded me of the trauma. I went with my father to meet our family in Northern Ireland.

I spent a year there, and might have spent more time, but the conflict in the country was overwhelming. During this time, there was a great territorial discord in Northern Ireland, historically referred to as “the Troubles.”  We were often told to leave the office due to a potential threat, and often I would be stopped on the train tracks for hours to a bomb scare. It was a scary time for a naive Kiwi girl, so I decided to head back to New Zealand to recover from the near war zone. After a few months I began setting myself up in London to further my beauty career.

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While back home I did some temping work to earn some money and it was around then, in the mid 90’s that I ‘fell’ into magazines. I was offered an admin job with a lifestyle magazine, and after seeing that the beauty editor and fashion editor at the time had no training, I accepted. I made it my goal to become Beauty and Fashion Editor. It wasn’t an easy time as the magazine industry can be very cut-throat and you have to be able to play the game, something which I didn’t always feel comfortable with. But at the same time, I loved it and loved the opportunity of connecting with readers. I worked hard for very long hours, and eight months later I achieved my goal. I was the new Beauty and Fashion Editor. Thus began my career in publishing.

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Beauty editor picture (my face on a Chanel ad).

 

It was not long after I took the new position, when we were all made redundant from that particular title. All the hard work we had put in, and all the time we had made the transition very upsetting, but there were just too many competitors in that genre. However, I’m glad I’d had a taste of the publishing world because I loved the work. I took a temporary receptionist role at the country’s biggest publishers and shortly after when the beauty editor of one of the glossies moved on. Once again, I ‘fell’ into the role.

A beauty editor is a bit of a pampered pet and I wanted to use my position to help others. I wrote to the Cystic Fibrosis Association about whether they would like some help with publicity but didn’t hear back. While in the US for work, I saw a breast cancer special in Self Magazine, which I brought back and pitched to my editor. It received a fairly cool response. Even so, I knew how powerful a promotion like that could be. To help others was the reason I got into this job in this first place. I knew I had to keep pushing. I kept at it, and the advertising manager, who had not long lost her sister to breast cancer, got behind the idea. Eventually my editor said if we could find a sponsor, we could do it.

Estee Lauder turned us down, Avon turned us down, it seemed everyone had a big no on his or her lips. Eventually the NZ Breast Cancer Foundation agreed to sponsor eight pages. I got to work and delivered a very in-depth report on breast cancer. Magazines are all about advertising revenue and this generated a lot. We also had readers writing in to tell us it had saved their lives, and doctors told us they were photocopying it for their patients.

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Cover of In the Pink magazine.

It was a successful innovation and my one-off Breast Cancer Special became an annual occurrence. After eight years of putting my heart and soul into it (along with my scientifically based beauty reportage) I left and wrote a book with a naturopathic friend: In the Pink, a guide to breast cancer and living well. I also co-founded Pink magazine, dedicated to raising funds for the cause. However, the business partnership soured, and I moved on.

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I stopped working in magazines full-time back in 2011 and founded Gorgeousosity, a popular lifestyle website. On advice, I reluctantly re-branded to Gems of Gorgeousness, which was a massive undertaking both energy-wise and financially. When I began experiencing anxiety, dizzy spells, fatigue, weight loss, and sleeplessness, I had no choice but to take time off from my career. Eventually, I was diagnosed with multiple lung clots and ended up in hospital. Six months later I learned the clots had been 24 hours away from cutting off the oxygen/blood supply to my heart. That was a huge moment.

I previously had five miscarriages over a period of 10 years, which impacted my health. I had developed chronic pain and a suspected autoimmune disease, which culminated in weeks in bed. Even the weight of the bedclothes caused excruciating pain. Can you imagine that? It’s difficult to imagine when you haven’t experienced it. Most recently, I’ve tested positive for antinuclear antibodies, which point to rheumatoid arthritis (RA), an autoimmune disease that can lead to disablement.

The entire period was so debilitating that I was unable to keep on top of the huge workload associated with running the Gems online platform – which was particularly heartbreaking for me. Not only was I laid low physically, but it caught up with me emotionally. The Gems project had been my baby, something I had nurtured and grown from the very beginning. It was a very low point in my life, but out of the bad always comes the good. This entire experience led me to study online with the Institute of Integrative Nutrition in New York City. The impetus was to broaden my knowledge and try to cure myself through nutrition, answer the “whys” of my experience, as well as help others.

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It’s been an incredible journey. I firmly believe food is Mother Nature’s medicine and I’m totally with Hippocrates who said, “Let food be thy medicine.” These days I’m a skin health aficionado (that knowledge will always be there) and Certified Holistic Health and Happiness Coach, which was a proud moment. My ethos is plant-based with an onus on helping people in midlife-people with weight issues, hormone imbalance, autoimmune disease, emotional hiccups and stress bunnies because I’ve walked the journey and can wear the t-shirt. I’m not a doctor, so if people are clinically depressed or very ill, I’ll refer them on.  But, holistic steps can help enormously. I know, because that’s my own story.

While it is easy to get caught up in the beauty and fashion industry, my two sisters taught me that there is another side to life. Grief brings about honesty, which is something no product can cover up. So instead of seeing self-care as something strictly trendy, I see it as a way to ensure one’s health. I want to find ways to allow women to live a more vibrant life, like the one I have had. All women—all people—should be able to experience the highs and lows of life, with their best face forward.

Section Break

This is the story of Jenna Moore

After becoming ill, Jenna Moore, a former magazine health and beauty editor turned her life around, changed her diet and trained as an integrative health coach to help others. She took her beauty expertise and expanded it to include wellness and cause related marketing in a time before it was standard practice. She’s also an example of the costs of overwork and not looking to self-care. Jenna considers herself a survivor and uses her experience to help others to take charge of their health and happiness. Jenna is based in New Zealand and runs her successful health and happiness coaching business worldwide via www.youology.co.nz.

 

 

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This story first touched our hearts on June 11, 2018.

 

| Writer: Maria Robins; Colleen Walker | Editors: Kristen Petronio; MJ|

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