christa-meola-personal-branding-photography-nyc-000

Spotlight on Jolene Smith Garcia

Ever meet someone who you know will impact your life in important and positive ways?

That’s how I felt when I met Jolene Smith Garcia.

Jolene is former co-founder of Free the Slaves and a Life Strategist who contacted me to shoot photos and video for her new website.

Her work is about bringing “all the soul-satisfying energy of ancient spiritual traditions, with none of the musty smell.” She wants you to have a repertoire of short, easy, free things you can do to make yourself feel like your SELF again.

Despite the briskness of the NYC winter, her recent photo and video shoot contained all the warmth that Jolene exudes. (My fav photos below, video to premiere in tomorrow’s blog post!)

christa-meola-personal-branding-photography-nyc-01christa-meola-personal-branding-photography-007christa-meola-personal-branding-photography-nyc-05christa-meola-personal-branding-photography-nyc-006

We started at the studio and then turned to the magic of NYC streets for the perfect backdrop of spiritual magic with an edge…

christa-meola-personal-branding-photography-nyc-03christa-meola-personal-branding-photography-nyc-005

Jolene believes that asking a simple question such as “Would you like a glass of water?” can be the beginning of envisioning a new future for yourself.

christa-meola-personal-branding-photography-nyc-02christa-meola-personal-branding-photography-nyc-004christa-meola-personal-branding-photography-nyc-003christa-meola-personal-branding-photography-nyc-001

She’s spunky and spiritual, transcendent yet grounded, with a bit of ‘tude. I fell in love immediately and had to know more! Here are Jolene’s engaging A’s to my Q’s…

What do you do?
I help people access magic in their lives because when we do, we tend to do the most good in the world.

Can you tell us a favorite inspirational story of someone you’ve helped?
Suraj Kali was enslaved in Uttar Pradesh, India, and forced to pound gravel into sand with a hammer and paid nothing. Her five children and husband were also enslaved, as was their entire village.

With our support, Suraj worked with other women in her village to convince everyone to band together and stand up to their slaveholder. They literally joined arms and refused to move. The slaveholder sent his thugs to beat them up, and yet they still stood strong.

Finally the slaveholder gave up, and they were free. Almost immediately they began to do their own quarrying, sell sand for themselves, and eventually sent their children to school.

Now Suraj has a job as a caretaker at a guesthouse, where she is earning many times what she did selling sand. She’s still an inspirational leader, coordinating a women’s microcredit group and spearheading village healthcare efforts. She says, “I have come out of slavery. Now I will never go back into it, neither will I let anybody from my village be a slave.”

What are you most proud of?
The people we helped to freedom are still free. They haven’t fallen back into slavery. Many have helped other people to freedom, started businesses, and are employing other people.

What is your greatest gift?
Spotting the sacred and basking in it, bathing in it, and making it easy for others to join in.

How do you keep inspired?
Reminding myself that there is Divine within each of us, including me. Which means we can act like it.

What’s your favorite book?
“Let Your Life Speak” by Parker Palmer

Favorite quote?
“Tell me, what is it you plan to do with your one wild and precious life?” –Mary Oliver

Favorite object in your home?
A painting by Paula Barragán that my husband gave me.

Favorite hangout?
With a babysitter: Seseribó in Quito, Ecuador. With the kids: Our street, which has a lot of block parties.

Favorite can’t-live-without item?
85% dark chocolate, French roast coffee, red wine, an occasional night of gin tonics.

What’s the biggest challenge you’ve overcome as an entrepreneur?
When I was 25, I was deciding whether to go all-in to work against slavery. It would mean quitting my job, and being seen as a kook, or even worse (at that time): irrelevant. Not many people knew about modern slavery yet. Even most of my mentors in the human rights field told me I was throwing away my career. It took every drop of courage I could muster to decide: I don’t know whether I’ll make a difference, or be successful at this, but I do know that I want to be the type of person who tries. And I did.

What is your craziest goal?
It would be amazing to serve as an intern to one of the survivor business owners for a week, if she’d have me, and then go on to intern for another. Mining, shop-keeping, farming, bead-making, whatever. After our daughters are grown, I’d love to do that for a year-long trek through villages in India, Nepal, Haiti, Ghana, Brazil, and DRC where we worked (and where Free the Slaves still works). I think I would cry every day at the poignancy of it all.

###

To say this beautifully spirited woman inspires me is an understatement.

Check back on the blog tomorrow for the premiere of the little film we shot for Jolene.

It contains the incredibly easy and powerful tool you can use to change how you’re feeling instantly, and feel more like your SELF.

Love,

Christa