Cultivating Courage

Tiffany Hendra for ELLA Inspires Magazine

www.ellainspires.com/tiffany from 'ELLA Inspires (December 2020)'


Cultivating Courage


I was born and raised in a lower middle-class town on the East side of Houston, TX; my younger sister and I were born to two hard working ‘salt-of-the-earth’ parents. When I think back to my childhood and where I grew up, many mixed emotions arise. But ultimately, I feel a deep sense of gratitude.


My folks were high school sweethearts, got married at the age of 20, had me at the age of 21, and are still married today. My statuesque mom, with model cheekbones, is from a Czechoslovakian background and aptly called ‘Rocki.’ She truly is the ‘rock’ of our family! My dad, Glen, was born in Japan to an American soldier and Japanese mother and they moved to Texas when he was 5.


My first home was in a trailer park, complete with a tire swing and plenty of yard to run around in. It was the perfect setting for this precocious little tomboy. It was not in my nature to sit still long and I wanted to be outdoors exploring, playing with bugs, or playing sports with the boys. Channelview was a small town mixed with a suburbia feel where everyone knew everyone. Back then people smoked, chewed tobacco, drank beer, but went to church every single Sunday.


FAITH

My mom worked as the church secretary throughout our childhood. Much of our family activities revolved around the church and varied from summer camps to learning the piano. I even led a youth group band and attempted to sing on occasion. (Now, I definitely leave the singing to my hubby! Not my strong suit.)


My heart is full of gratitude for the humble beginnings and for the deep sense of faith my mother instilled in us early on. Regardless of my exciting global adventures, I always remember and appreciate where I came from. Like everyone, I faced challenges as a child, but I choose to focus on the wonder and magical moments of my childhood. For years, I played the victim and blamed everyone else for my circumstances.


As Dr. Dyer said,

‘Change the way you look at things and the things you look at change.’

Aside from instilling faith, my parents instilled a strong work ethic in me, for which I am immensely grateful. My parents retired a few years ago and it’s mind-blowing that my dad worked at the same place for 44 years. My mom worked at the church for about 15 years then was at her next job for 25 years. That’s unheard of these days! My mom would wake up an hour before my dad to read her Bible, drink her coffee and apply her makeup to start the day peacefully. The importance of a morning routine is something I have adopted as an adult and share with my coaching clients and community.


I rarely heard my parents complain about having to work and can’t remember my dad ever taking any sick days. It’s in my DNA to work hard and had the entrepreneurial spirit early on. As a teen, I loved babysitting for all the families in our church. At the age of 14, I started my first little business creating signs and T-shirt logos for small companies. Later, I was awarded an art scholarship to attend college; then two years later I was given the opportunity to travel through modeling. I grabbed my passport and jumped on the plane with an inner confidence that travel and seeing the world would be my university!


A LEGACY OF CREATIVITY

Slumber parties at either grandma’s house were the absolute highlight of my childhood! We never ever had a babysitter. It was such a blessing to live only ten minutes from both diverse sets of grandparents. Hannah, my Japanese grandmother we lovingly called Memaw, would make us the most unique combinations of foods. Even though she filled her sushi rolls with bologna, Kraft cheese and cucumber slices, we still dipped them in soy sauce and ate them with chop sticks. She was a tiny thing; weighing only about 85 lbs and standing 5’ tall. She wanted so desperately to be Texan that she always wore a pair of Wranglers.


Back in Japan, Memaw was a megatalented seamstress and designer. She would create us the most beautiful eyelet Easter dresses and taught me how to use a sewing machine. Going to her house on the weekends sparked such creativity in all the cousins. We were all girls so we would help her in her garden, play in her makeup, learn to cook, clunk around in her special occasion heels and she even taught us origami.


I can remember always wanting to play ‘school’ in Memaw’s guest bedroom with my sister and cousins, but I always had to be the teacher. I would create worksheets for them to fill out then I would grade them. I’m sure my cousins hated it, but they would appease me! It’s so interesting that a huge part of my life’s work now is about being a teacher. Now, I encourage my clients who are feeling ‘stuck’ to reflect on the things that lit them up when they were little.


It’s crucial to our well-being and empowering as an adult to continue nurturing our inner ‘little girl.’ My other grandmother, Betty Jo, was a tall, loud, opinionated, and sarcastic woman who was never seen without a cigarette between her Estee Lauder fuchsia painted nails. She was #soextra, yet multi-faceted and multi-talented!


Grandma had an extraordinary green thumb and made an art out of growing African Violets. She was also a talented knitter and all the women in our family have at least one beautiful tablecloth, blanket, or shawl knitted by her. I’m giggling as I write this; reminiscing on our sleep overs, playing Uno at her kitchen table, watching her wave away her cigarette smoke. She had an old green parrot named Johnny who talked up a storm and sounded just like my Grandma.


You didn’t know if it was her calling you from the other side of the house or if it was the bird. I’m positive I got my obsession with road trips, bold jewelry and bright colors from her! At the age of 8, Grandma Betty Jo took me on my first out of state road trip through Louisiana and Mississippi. Seems like it was yesterday sitting with her in the French Quarter eating beignets with powdered sugar all over my face.

That trip opened my young eyes to the greater world beyond my small town and sparked my passion for travel. I knew one day I had to eat beignets in Paris.

We have a legacy of creativity, artistry, exploration, imagination, cooking, and appreciation for nature in our family. Memaw Hannah and Grandma Betty Jo truly shaped the woman I am today, and I am so appreciative for having strong matriarchs pave my way.

She was a disciplined, nurturing athlete that wore pink floral dresses and stood boldly in her feminine power.

Aside from admiring my mom and both of my grandmothers, one of the first mentors I looked up to was my basketball and cheerleading coach, Bonnie. She was an independent, striking, tall, brunette with a wicked sense of humor. I spent my first two years of high school at our church’s private school where Bonnie was a teacher and coach. Bonnie spoke life into me and listened to whatI had to say. At those important teenage years, I’m so grateful I had a mentor and coach who saw me and heard me.


One summer, Bonnie drove a van full of giggling cheerleaders from Houston to Dallas for our big NCA cheerleading camp. I will never forget how she made our small-town, private school squad, feel like we were as important as the big public school cheer teams. She made sure we all had the cutest matching practice outfits for each day of camp. Now, as I mentor women, it’s my deepest intention to always make them feel important, to feel seen and heard.


Around 15, my mom allowed me to enter a model search at the local mall. A mall model search sounds so cliché, but it was my path; Neal Hamil, the head of the modeling agency in Houston, hand-picked me out of the bunch and signed me. Immediately, I began working for local Houston newspapers, catalogs and commercials. My mom would have to drive me all over town for castings and bookings. I loved every second until a scout from a Japanese agency said that although they liked my Eurasian look, I was too tan and my thighs were too big and muscular.

That was the beginning of my journey with body dysmorphia which led to several years of disordered eating.


A once confident child quickly became a young woman with an internal battle of low self-esteem.

Then, my junior year of high school, the battle became even more destructive. My small private high school closed so I had to attend a much larger public school. I was a #fishoutofwater.


One Friday night, after a football game, I was sexually assaulted by a football player. Let’s call it was it is -- rape. Being the perfectionistic ‘good girl’ that I was, I buried it and kept it all a secret until I was 31 years old. After that, self-loathing and low self-esteem became my new ‘modus operandi’ and set me on a path to becoming a chameleon and disconnecting from my true nature. Wearing this metaphorical mask ensured I appeared ‘perfect’ externally to the world of modeling, but internally I was slowly dying. Not only was I an actress on the job, but I began to put on an act in real life. I felt shame, anger, confusion, which led to abusing alcohol in order to numb myself; which eventually led to drugs. This church youth group leader quickly down spiraled into someone she no longer recognized.


My modeling career was both a blessing and a burden. I had this deep drive to see the world and get out of my small town and modeling was the vehicle for that dream. It’s such a gift to have been around the world several times over. I may have never had the opportunity to see the Eiffel tower, hike the German Alps, drive on the autobahn, shop in Singapore, and snorkel with Manta Rays in Belize.


When I booked a gelato commercial in Milan (which we filmed in a gorgeous Italian Castle in Lake Como), it fueled my acting bug even more and set my sights on moving to Hollywood. Quickly, I landed one of the best agents, booked prestigious modeling gigs, and fell into TV hosting. Hosting was not something I had ever thought of, but it came easy to me because I was self-deprecating, quick witted, and could improv. When you are running from yourself and the pain of feeling validated by your looks, you become a pro at keeping the trauma buried, numbing it, and staying extremely busy. I was always either in the gym, on a photo shoot, television production set, or a club on the Sunset Strip.

I was over-worked, exercising too much, starving, binge- purging, dating toxic men, and abusing drugs and alcohol. The once artistic, free spirited little girl was committing a slow suicide.

I was becoming addicted to opiates and mixing the pills (or crushing the pills and snorting them) with alcohol on a daily basis. That secret I had buried could no longer stay hidden or it was going to kill me.


Then in the Spring of 2002, at the age of 31, it all came crashing down on a bathroom floor in West Hollywood. That night, I had to get high just to go to the movies with friends. Afterward, alone in my apartment, a horrific pain came over my stomach like a 100 hot daggers. I saw stars and couldn’t breathe. The sweat wouldn’t stop pouring from my limp body! I blacked out and woke up with my face against the cool tile of the bathroom. Not knowing how long I was out, when I came to the first thing I thought was ‘I do not want to die on this old, dirty bathroom floor. This cannot be the way I go out!’ I prayed for the first time in over a decade. One simple prayer,

God, please don’t let me die.

I began to weep and felt a peace come over me, but my stomach was still cramping. I thought about calling a girlfriend but didn’t want to bother anyone so late. This dark ‘rock bottom’ moment was a gift; not only was I reintroduced to myself, but God also met me on that floor. This is when my long heroes journey began. It was time to surrender, to figure out who I was again, and to nurture that girl. It was time to reconnect to my Higher Power and honor that presence in my life. Now, what was I going to do with this second chance I had been given?


It was time to get off that bathroom floor and commit to doing some hard work. I remain a ‘work in progress.’ While I am perfectly imperfect, I no longer live in the prison of buried shame. This is my deep desire for all women to experience and live in that freedom!


The Entertainer

Being in front of the camera, photography or video, has always been something that came natural to me. I admit-- I was a total ham! (Well, actually --- I am STILL a ham.) Thinking back, it probably all started really young because my dad had a nice Canon camera and we weren’t shy about wanting him to take our pic. When I was 14, my first boyfriend was an aspiring photographer and was always taking my photos.


We would create “sets” and I would style myself to look like the latest Elle or Vogue magazine cover. I became obsessed with magazines and still collect them to this day! There are boxes in my parent’s attic filled with magazines from my teen years. Actually, as a graphic artist in college, my goal was to move to NYC and work for a magazine.

I was destined to be in the ads and photos, not design them.

I so admire Edith, the founder and editor of ELLA InspiresMagazine, because it takes tremendous work to create this piece of art in book form month after month.


THE SPOTLIGHT

There are so many pros and cons to living in the spotlight, but I choose to view it as an opportunity to use my voice to help those who feel they don’t have a voice and share my journey and platform for inspiring others. It wasn’t until my experience with Real Housewives of Dallas, that I truly learned BOTH the destructive power of being under a microscope and the wonderful opportunities it can bring. One of the aspects I find the most difficult is people wanting and expecting so much from you, your time and attention.


As an empath and former people pleaser, I’ve had to learn the power of healthy boundary setting and unapologetically saying ‘no.’ For my spiritual and mental health, I have set ‘no phone zone’ timeframes for myself on the weekends and evenings. But I am destined to do what I do, and it all comes with some sacrifice. The negatives are part of it, so I choose not to really see them as negatives at this point. I’m an open book and choose to share my life in order to be a billboard for God’s love so when you ‘put it all out there’ -- you’ve got to expect there will be some backlash and resistance. In the past, I wanted everyone to like me and was addicted to approval.


But now there is a greater purpose for being in the spotlight and I embrace all of it - the good, the bad, the ugly, the blessings and the burdens. Ali Brown, my wise business mentor and friend, once told me that when you stand for your beliefs and use your voice there will be people who won’t like it. This sounds counterintuitive, but she said to celebrate your haters because it’s proof you are on the right track and taking a stand for something.


The Life Coach

As a women’s empowerment life coach, I help women take their power back in areas where they lack confidence, feel stuck, powerless and misaligned with their true nature overall. My company, The Coaching Sanctuary™ is beginning its third year, but my coaching journey really started when I created my YouTube Channel, Sanctuary of Style, in 2010; we’ll call it a ‘side hustle’ while I continued focusing on my television hosting career. My YouTube subscribers started asking if they could hire me to help them with their confidence, low self-esteem and mindset. Then in 2014, when we moved to Dallas, I was asked constantly for advice starting a YouTube Channel or how to start a career in TV hosting. My popular live ‘Rock The Camera’ workshop was born and is now serving women globally as a digital course! TCS combines mindset techniques, spiritual modalities, on-camera confidence, brand building strategies, and overall life coaching.


For a while, I shelved my dream of being on another big TV show and graduating my YouTube Channel into a network show. To our surprise, only 6 months after moving to Dallas, I was asked to audition for a reality show about mission-driven, philanthropic women. At the time, it only had a working title of “How To Make It In Dallas” and once we completed filming, we were named RHOD. It was beyond wild to leave Hollywood to come home to Texas and book the biggest show of my career!


We can shelve a dream for a while, but never give up on it! Now, I’m excited to announce that I am the host and producer of my own show called #SOTHRIVE with Tiffany Hendra on a powerful new platform called MyWellnessByNature.com.

This show embodies all the aspects of body, mind and spirit wellness that I’ve leaned on my journey and currently practice.

It’s all with an intention to contribute in a greater capacity and use all my gifts and talents to help heal the world!


Expand in love, abundance, and success as I inspire others around me to do the same.

Recently, a client told me she has worked with various therapists, counselors and coaches over the years, but what she feels that I provide that is completely different and unique is a real, raw, genuine spiritual foundation in our partnership.(I call my clients “coaching partners”) She mentioned after each session she feels truly inspired, motivated, equipped with a strategy and more deeply aligned with God and her own truth. I say that God is our “Head Coach” and I pray with my clients before each session and really never do my life’s work alone. It is all divinely driven! Regardless of their spiritual or religious beliefs, I’ve never had a client who did not want to pray when I offered it.

Another aspect that makes my brand unique is that I have lived through most of the challenges with which I help women. Women trust me because I’ve lived through it and have done the work to empower myself in those areas. Walking my talk and leading by example are core principles I do my very best to live by all day every day.


I’m not always on point, but I owe it to my partnerships. I must SHOW UP!

SPIRITUAL DAUGHTERS

Another wise business coach called herself a “multi-passionate” entrepreneur which gave me permission to follow that path. For years, I thought I had to close the door on one career path in order to do another when I actually thrive expressing myself in all the areas I love. For instance, when I was a model, young girls asked me to teach them, but I had always heard that “those who can’t, teach” or “jack of all trades, master of none”. Then, when I was asked to teach people TV hosting, that haunting negative mindset blocked me again. This ego-driven train of thought finally shifted once I started on my spiritual journey and learned the path to true fulfillment was being of service. Also, unleashing my natural gift of teaching opened up a whole different side of me that was nurturing and motherly. We do not have our own biological children, but I’m able to pour into many spiritual daughters.


Had I stayed stuck in ego, I would still be un-fulfilled; I never would have met the many women out there whom I have coached.


A huge aspect of my coaching business is mentorship. I am part coach, teacher and mentor empowering women who are already in business and those who want to start, especially the next generation. I would say my coaching clients are a 60/40 split between women in their late 20s to early 30s and women older than me in their 50s.


Again, leading by example is extremely important to me so as I walk my talk and build my brand with authenticity and visibility -- it inspires the woman looking in under my brand umbrella to do the same through coaching or mentoring. The cornerstone of my social media platforms and private Facebook Group is to provide free mentorship to women who may not have the budget to work with me privately. Carving out time to mentor young women who want to follow in your footsteps is one of the most rewarding ways to give back!


If you are a young woman who needs a mentor, find someone who is doing what you want to do and shares the same values. Glean from them, model after them, be curious, speak up, and ask a TON of questions!


BELIEVE IN YOURSELF AND YOUR ABILITIES

Belief in yourself and your abilities is vital to starting your own business! When you are getting resistance from friends and family members, it’s important to advocate for yourself. Knowing your ‘why’ as you set out in business is also crucial to keep you motivated when times get tough for you as an entrepreneur. I remember when I started my YouTube Channel: I had absolutely no idea how hard it was going to be. There were no influencers teaching you how to start a channel like today!

I flew by the seat of my Spanx but the thing that kept me going was my ‘why.’ I had made a commitment to myself and to the subscribers to show up each week with a new video. (What was I thinking???) But, I learned that the ‘know, like, and trust factor’ MUST be established in order to be a successful brand and business.


COMMITMENT, CONSISTENCY, & COURAGE

You must have the 3 C’s -- Commitment, Consistency and the Courage to start and keep going! As I graduated the channel into a coaching business, I had stamina and my ‘never give up’ muscle had developed a bit. It took me a hot minute to actually step in and launch a full-time coaching business that had been a side hustle for a long time. I knew the dedication, grit and gumption it would take! This is what I call “using your lady balls”.


If I said I was going to do it, I wanted to follow through. After a year of coaching full time, I admit- I came close to giving it all up because I needed to learn the business of coaching and how to manage a full roster. I dove into a yearlong training for coaches and learned how to set boundaries with clients, the hours I operated at my best, and built my ‘ideal client’ avatar.

I see it as a great responsibility to pour into the next generation because many young women do not have a close relationship with the matriarchs in their family who, in the past, would pave the way.

FILL YOUR CUP FIRST

Keep honing your craft and business, adjust, tweak, reevaluate and check in with yourself. Burning out my adrenals again after I had just gotten to a place of healing was about the silliest and most irresponsible thing to do. We are our business; we are our brand so taking care of ourselves is taking care of business. There is nothing honorable about running yourself (and your business) into the ground. In fact, I no longer subscribe to the ‘hustle hard’ mentality we see on the scroll. I subscribe to ease, grace, and flow!


My philosophy, even well before I started my coaching business, is that when you help someone else’s dream come true -- God, the Universe, and others conspire to help you with yours. Collaboration is an abundance mindset and it is the only way I know to operate at this point.


The Lady Baller

My all-time favorite accessory and signature piece is the headscarf! I was fascinated with these beautiful scarves my mom always had hanging in her closet and as a young model traveling internationally, I loved the way foreign women styled scarves. I can’t remember the exact time I started wearing headscarves, but I remember I first began wearing bandanas on my head to control my hair in my late teens.


Once, on a modeling trip to the Seychelles Islands, I remember I took my sarong and wrapped it around my head. I loved that look! My friends started trying to wear them like I did, but they always complained that they couldn’t get it to stay on properly. That seed to create a headscarf that anyone could wear was planted about 15 years ago.


Fast forward to nine or ten years ago. A girlfriend and fellow model here in Dallas had a double mastectomy and was undergoing chemo. Back them, many wigs did not look natural plus they were very hot in this Texas heat. The chemo headscarves available on the market were frumpy and made with granny looking prints. So my other friend and I thought of a way to sew hair extensions into a headscarf so she could pop it on and feel cute. It was a huge hit! I scoured the fabric stores in LA and my mom was actually going to sew my first design, but life happened, and the idea was shelved. When I filmed the reality show, I made a point to wear a headscarf in several scenes (there is always a method to my madness). Many fans began asking me on social media where I got my scarves and how I tied them!


In the Fall of 2019, a local Dallas designer offered to create my first capsule collection of headscarves. It was a huge hit and the dream was birthed! When COVID hit in early 2020, I quickly created my own signature line under my own name. The first style, ‘The Rocki’ was named after my mom because she loves leopard print. When the salons closed and women couldn’t get their hair done, I kept getting more and more messages from women begging for a cuter option than a baseball hat to cover their growing roots.

It brings me such joy when a woman sends me a photo of herself, looking confident and fierce, in one of my headscarves.


The Wife

My greatest cheerleader, supporter, spiritual leader, business advisor and prayer warrior is my hot Aussie ‘forever boyfriend,’ Aaron Hendra. After a lifetime of daddy issues and dating the bad boys and narcissists, God knew I needed a strong armor bearer of a husband to partner with on my journey. We were married in February 2004; only a year and a half after I hit rock bottom. Our story is one of serendipity and spirit!


One random day in September of 2003, I woke up with this urgency to meet with my manager in Beverly Hills to discuss an upcoming project. As we were leaving her office on our way to ChinChin, I saw a hot guy coming toward me. As he got closer, we both realized we knew each other! I had dated a friend of Aaron’s a few years prior and kept up with Aaron’s band through mutual friends because I loved his music.

As we stood on the street and locked eyes, the fireworks went off, the heavens opened up and I felt beyond giddy.

I had sworn off men and wanted to stay celibate as I was healing so I thought, ‘hmmm, how can we stay in touch without it being romantic?’ I had a pen and paper in my hand, so I said, ‘Heygive me your number because I have always wanted to learn the guitar. Maybe you could teach me.’ We eloped down the street and were married 4 months later on the Santa Monica Pier. Aaron had a friend who had been an ordained minister reinstate his ordination for one day to marry us.


My sister and manager stood for me and Aaron’s Aussie bandmate stood as his witness. It was such a hard decision, but we felt it was the right thing to do since we couldn’t get Aaron’s parents over from Australia so we didn’t think it was right to fly my parents in. To represent those women, I wore a smokey topaz pendant from Grandma Betty Jo, one of my mom’s rings, and a Tiffany & Co bracelet and brown boots from my bestie. Together, we learned that what we both originally wanted from life in Hollywood - to be rich and famous - was an illusion and completely unfulfilling.


As artists and both highly independent, we understand one another and the creative processes and space we need to share our gifts. We know that God gives us all gifts and our gift back to Him is sharing it with others! We both hope our life reflects that.


The Advocate & Mentor


TREASURED VESSELS FOUNDATION

I am honored to serve on the advisory board of Treasured Vessels Foundation. TVF is a residential community in North Texas operating as a clinically therapeutic aftercare program for survivors of domestic sex trafficking.


TEXAS EATING DISORDER COMMISSION

Also, I serve on the host committee of all fundraising events for the Texas Eating Disorder Association. TEDA serves anyone living with symptoms of unhealthy relationships with food including disordered eating, obesity, eating disorders, and more. TEDA offers four different awareness programs to fit the needs of your school or group. These programs, both lecturestyle and interactive, provide knowledge on a variety of topics concerning nutrition, self-concept, and eating disorders; while giving students new tools for maintaining a healthy lifestyle.


SIMPLY GRACE HOUSE

Women’s Sober Living exists to provide a safe, structured environment to assist women recovering from substance abuse, helping them to rebuild their lives and achieve long term recovery. From emcee to opening prayer, keynote speaker and host committee obligations, I am honored to spread awareness for Simply Grace and the safe space it provides women as they are healing.


That's A Wrap

A woman who is highly competitive and resonating in the energy of scarcity -- meaning there is not enough of the pie to go around -- does not yet fully know herself and is not confident in her unique gifts and talents. Competition is negated when you know what you contribute. There is no one else who can do what you do the way you do it, therefore, there is no competition. Obviously, the primary way I support women is through my coaching. Aside from the foundation of my business, I freely and with joy, promote many women owned businesses on social media (as well as purchasing their products and services). Something simple, yet powerful we can all do to support women who are building brands and businesses online is to comment, like, and share our fellow female founders’ posts, videos, product specials and events.


COMING UP NEXT

Recently, I launched my new series #SOTHRIVE with Tiffany Hendra so we are planning new interviews and partnerships in the spiritual, wellness and mindset space with lots of fun travel involved as soon as travel bans are lifted more. Also, I’ve got several books inside me and was offered a book deal right before RHOD which I passed on. That was meant to be because so much has happened since then that must be shared in my first book. I’m in the pre-planning stage of possible live workshops again soon which I’m so excited about. The teacher in me loves LIVE events and feeling and seeing the energy of the women!


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