…and then there was Occupy Beauty.

occupy beauty even hosted by melanie elkin

This past weekend, I (reluctantly) attended a six hour yoga/mind/body/female empowerment/pretty-much-anything-you-can-think-of-that’s-positive seminar that my roommate signed us up for. With my in ADD, how could she ever expect me to pay attention for six hours? But alas, we’ve both been in a funk, so, hey, why not? Like I said…I was hesitant (as well as a tad hung over). Moving on.

To say that I was completely wrong about any and all assumptions I made about Occupy Beauty hosted by Melanie Elkin would be an understatement—but not a surprise, because I am wrong about most things. The yoga only hurt my body about 40% as it probably deserved (considering the previous night’s shenanigans…bleh!), I was not being judged by a room full of stereotypical supermodels and/or beauty pageant contestants trying to pick up some “feminist buzzwords” for their next event. Nope! It was literally none of those things

After we found the location to the day retreat in the sticks of Summerland, California, we parked at the Pacifica Graduate Institute. If you have never heard of it before, then we have something in common. But now, you don’t really have that excuse, because now you know. If you ever find yourself in the Santa Barbara, CA area, I recommend you give it a look. There was a wonderful African photo exhibit and book signing. Going to assume they have rad events like that regularly. Plus, we were all there—being awesome. It’s a cool place, and easy on the eyes if you know what I’m sayin’. Scenic and whatnot. No shoes, no problem kind of deal. Anyways, moving on!

Welp! Within the first ten minutes of hearing the host, Melanie Elkin, aka the creator/founder/visionista of Yoga’licious (the host of the event) talk, I had a crush on her and was pretty much willing to do any and everything she would ask me to do for the next six hours. Don’t judge! You all would have felt that way too.

We opened up the floor in a circle *classic*, and I used it as an opportunity to scout out the 70+ women standing in the room with me. I didn’t hate it. Then we went around the room and introduced ourselves with our name and one word that represented something that we wanted to walk away from the day from. Feelings? Absolutely not! But Melanie asked, so I had to think of something. My thought pattern went something like this….

“Okay, what’s my goal for today?…c’mon, Andrea, think! Something sarcastic…lighten the mood? Yes. This is always the way to go. Wait. Uh. What is that weird feeling inside of me? Like, that lump in my throat? Why is my heart beating faster? What is this trickery?!”

Everyone kept saying their names around the circle and slowly but surely before you know it, it was my turn. So what did I say? What happened next?

I threw up. Not actual vomit. But more like “truth-vomit”. I said, “Hello, I’m Andrea, and ‘direction’.” Yep! That lump in my throat was a feeling, a goal. And I shared that shit. It felt good, and I felt lighter. Who was I fooling? I do need me some good ole fashioned direction.

The next part was probably the most interesting. Melanie spoke for a bit and we all teared up, laughed etc. Then she asked for us to think about a part of our bodies that we don’t love. Mine was easy. Come on, Mel, give me a challenge! I jotted down “love handles”. Plain and simple. But here’s the kicker. Then she asked for a volunteer to share with everyone what they had put, and to explain why.


Being the impulsive person I am (and extreme advert to awkward silences), I volunteered to go first. That’s right people, if I was going to do this, I might as well do it 100-effing-percent. Also, Melanie is adorable. What would you have done?!

This is an accurate depiction of how I felt as soon as I did it:

ET dressed up occupy beauty

(photo via E.T.)

She asked me to please stand up (by the way, we were all sitting on our yoga mats). So there I was, the first volunteer. I stood up, put my hands on my waist like I owned the place, and I shared. I also think I might not have been breathing. I might have also been sucking in my stomach, but it’s hard to say….the memory escapes me! Moving on.

She asked me to repeat. I did. Then she stared, where I think might have been into *my soul*, but I’m not positive, and then she asked me to explain why. By then I had exhaled and pretty much surrendered and residual possibility of  not becoming  a total Yoga’licious believer by the end of this thing. So, shit, may as well just be honest.

At first, I wasn’t really sure what I wanted to say about not liking my love handles. All I knew was that they existed, and that I did not love them, and I was resentful for them having such a misleading title. But then, more of the truth-vomit! (What can I say?! That’s girl is good!). I wanted to accept my love handles, the same as how I appreciate curves in other women…as a sign of femininity. Curves are beautiful, so why not give myself the satisfaction of appreciating my own curves? Some feminist I am. I’m trying! I even volunteered one of my go-to cover-up moves…in other words—putting my hands on my hips like I own the place to cover up my love handles. I put my arms down, and still felt like I owned the place. Sort of.

Everyone listened to what each other had to say. We took in deep breaths to absorb our thoughts and to give our minds and bodies a chance to process. Duh.

We moved on to what seemed would be a simple task. Just to find a partner that you don’t know and sit down facing them. Check and check. Naudia from Argentina. I was clearly going to kick ass at this task.Then we got our instructions to just stare at each other. Piece of cake! Naudia had pretty eyes, and beautiful curly hair. Lots to look at! But then the second part of the directions—-don’t talk to each other.

Um, this was going to be an issue for me. How would I embrace a moment of true beauty and acceptance without being able to crack a joke? Welp, we found out. I could barely look at her in the eye. Why? I felt, I don’t know, guilty or something. She didn’t have a problem with it. It was easy for her. She just had a little smile the whole time.

When we were done, everyone kind of had a sigh of relief, and then we went around the room and found out how everyone’s experiences differed from each others. Holy mother of pearl! Light bulb moment. Our perception of staring and admiring is linked with negative association of judgment and hate, rather than the association it could have, of admiration and appreciation. Whoa! This is a totally different conversation for a different day, but I felt compelled (okay and impulse-d) to share now. That’s a pretty big concept to wrap my mind around! And I did it in three minutes of staring.

Like I said, this Melanie woman is good.

She had me thinking all like:

tina belcher strong sensual woman occupy beauty

(photo via Bob’s Burgers on FOX)

Not going to beat around the bush. The rest of the day was awesome. We did an hour of yoga. I lost my footing, felt things crack, pop back into place, and burn. I felt light hearted; I felt air fill up my lungs all the way as opposed to the short spurts of breath I tend to experience during the work week. I felt…pretty good. Who’d-a-thunk-it?

Then we had a board of lecturers. They were inspirational, and I also had a crush on all of them. Shocker. Oh, give me a break…you should have heard these women speak! I fell in love and I’m feelin’ good about it. While I filled up half a notebook with quotes and ideas that I jotted down whilst they spoke, I’ll just share a few of my favorites:


  • Kenetia Lee– This is what Kenetia’s bio says on her website: “Kenetia Lee is one of today’s leading authorities on beauty empowerment. She is a highly respected professional Makeup Artist, Author, and Speaker with over ten years of hands-on experience.” I can dig it!

“What people project is literally never about you. Learn the difference between judgement and discernment….and get a picture of yourself that you like. Look at it when you’re feeling down. Or just use my picture. I look amazing.” (by the way, I paraphrased the last part myself…sue me)


  • Kellen Brugman– This is a little about Kellen, as per her website also: “Kellen Brugman is an Ayurvedic Lifestyle Counselor, yoga teacher, writer and self-reclaimed artist based in Santa Barbara, California. Nestled between the Pacific Ocean and Santa Ynez mountains, Kellen shares the beauty of Ayurveda, yoga and writing so people can experience greater ease, peace, and creativity in their lives.”


“Don’t wait for the conversation you want to hear…START the conversation you want to hear!”

“Eliminate the idea of competition. Competition doesn’t exist.”


“Never cast your line in the old main stream.”


  • Dr. Tumi Johnson-…. and Tumi (whom I adored from the moment she opened her mouth!)!: “Dr. Oluwatumininu (Tumi) Johnson is an Integrative Holistic medical doctor. She is board certified in both Internal Medicine as well as Integrative Holistic Medicine….Dr. Johnson is an Assistant professor of Internal Medicine at New York University (NYU)…. She graduated with honors from Vanderbilt University Medical School and completed her medical residency at NYU with a focus in Internal Medicine/Primary Care, receiving special training in psychosocial health care during that time…. She also has expertise in nutrition with past experience running a weight management clinic in New York, serving in West Africa with Doctors without Borders to oversee nutrition clinics, and is a graduate of the Institute of Integrative Nutrition. ” Oh! AND she is a professional dancer too. My theory is that Tumi is actually 200 years old. That  is the only logical explanation I can come up with when I think about how one person can fit so much into one life. Her LinkedIn Account probably shut down because she had so much information.


  • Jackie RuckaJust a little bit about Jackie via her website…” A true Renaissance woman, Jackie is a talented artist, a highly trained psychotherapist and business professional. With an extensive background as a top-rated corporate marketing expert working with many of the world’s largest pharmaceutical and Fortune 500 corporations, she incorporates her knowledge of building billion-dollar brands into building a billion-dollar mindset for success during life transitions”

These are the “Gems” of wisdom Melanie asked all the speakers to share with the group. Not sure exactly who said what, so let’s just give everyone credit! Credit isn’t what it is about anyways, right? Right…?!

“Drop your ego. Drop your control. Drop your judgement. Let it go, let it go, let it go.”


“Be fearless, and fear less. Love it is. Beauty is being. -Kaneisha

“Follow your calling, and never, ever give up.”

“Your happiness is your calling…by the way—your calling is LIFE.”

“Outer glow is a direct representation of internal happiness.”

“Am I willing? Can I commit to myself? Can I accept myself as beautiful?”

“Align yourself with YOUR truth and YOUR nature.”

Some of the generous sponsors (that I remember, and sorry in advance to the ones I failed to mention) were…

  • Lulu Lemon– Even though I think it is funny to wear the band’s shirt to their own concert, I totally came decked out in my hand-me-down Lulu Lemon garb. And I was NOT the only one, that’s for sure. We got little goodie bags at the end, and I guess they are really supportive of Occpy Beauty, so they are okay in my book.


  • Heather Houser handmade jewelry….we got goodie bags with really cute handmade jewelry made by one of the attendees!


  • The Juice Club – I drank some good juice ! There were some juice conosoirs, that’s for sure. I don’t know anything about juice other than that I drink it. But it was yummy and served to me by a tall and statuesque woman (the owner, perhaps). Not sure. But I didn’t hate it! Go get yourself  some!



  • The Power of Om Yoga Studio– I took a class here and it was fun! Cool building and good instructor. A couple of the instructors were at Occupy Beauty and proved really helpful. They don’t judge when you’ve got a mad case of shaky arm! (not that that happens to me…because it doesn’t. My arms are muscular and balancing all my weight on one arm is a piece of cake…said no one ever.) Sue me!


We finished up the day learning a dance by non other than the marvelous Dr. Tumi, and we danced in group across the room. We were all a bit unsure and timid at first. OKay, maybe that was just me—but then I realized that wasn’t what it was about. We were all there having fun. You can’t look stupid if you are having fun. People look beautiful when they are having fun. We all looked really beautiful.

I felt like this…in a good way:

little miss sunshine occupy beauty

(photo via Little Miss Sunshine)

So I guess, in conclusion, I didn’t really take away anything from this day at Occupy Beauty. JUST KIDDING. It moved me beyond words and I can’t wait for the next one. Everyone was awesome, and I really did walk away feeling good! It just confirmed what I already knew. It just reminded me of what I already have. I had direction all along! I just wanted to ignore it. This helps with recognizing it again. Let’s not become strangers to our self-love, y’all! Let’s occupy ourselves, and let’s occupy beauty,


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