Here at To Your Health we’re continuing our April of female empowerment with a conversation with Selita Ebanks, model, actress, philanthropist, and a role model for women everywhere.
Selina Ebanks does it all. She found her start as a fashion model, working with high fashion brands, appearing in magazines like Vogue and Glamour, maybe best known, in her earlier career, as one of Victoria Secrets Angels. Since then Selita has worked as an actress, helmed her own fashion line, called Selita’s Accessories Shoes and Swimwear (or Sass), and has fought to bring positive change into the world with her far-reaching philanthropic work. In 2013, Selita joined Cash & Rocket, and has helped raise over $4 million to help women and children all across the world.
We were very fortunate to have had a chance to ask Selita Ebanks about her incredible career, her perspective on life, work, and her mission to empower women in this country and abroad. Read our interview with Selita below.
What is your passion in work and life?
My passion in work and life is to create. I find great pleasure when I can create characters with diverse story lines for women or design a swimsuit that will empower a woman, feeding her confidence.
How have your accomplishments forged a path and place for women in the field and beyond?
I hope my accomplishments have forged a path and place for women by showing them that dreams do come true. That there can be women on tv or magazine pages that look like you and have overcome obstacles and created their own paths.
What advice would you give to young women forging their own careers?
My advice to young women trying to elevate their careers would be to think outside of the box, do your homework, and stay committed. One door closes, another is there for you to open. Also don’t take people’s opinions personally.
What have you sacrificed—personally and/or professionally—at each stage of your career and what lessons did this provide?
I think the one sacrifice that stands out the most is that, throughout my career, I didn’t put myself first. When I was young and successful I put everyone before myself. My friends and family, what they thought of me and how I could help them. The lesson in that is that it didn’t serve me in any way. Many of those friends have disappeared and my family can’t be saved unless they want to save themselves. Today I have learned that being selfish isn’t a negative word. Sometimes it’s a priority.
Can you share an experience in your life when women supported other women and what you learned from it?
Every year I have the opportunity to be a part of something bigger than myself. It brings 70 women together from all over the world to drive for change. We drive through 4 cities in 4 days to raise money for 3 charities. It's called Cash & Rocket and we have raised over 4 million dollars for women and children. It's all about women supporting women, and it has given me an immense amount of understanding and love for women. Together we can move mountains.
Tell us about a time that you faced adversity as you chased your dreams?
For the greater part of my youth I faced quite a bit of adversity. Despite poverty, foster care and homelessness, there was always love. My mother did the best she could and beyond. She was a fighter and she fought everything and everyone that said we couldn’t have a better life. Success doesn’t take adversity away. It gives you the opportunity to shine light on someone else that may need a hand to overcome their own hardships.
Who are the women that have inspired you?
I have been blessed with phenomenal women in my life. My mother, my grandmothers, aunt and cousin have shown me true resilience. To never give up, to always dream, and to educate yourself. There is no door that cannot be opened. I tend to gravitate towards strong women. Usually older, more successful women.
How can women be more powerful?
Together we can move mountains. Each woman is unique, like snowflakes. Individually we can gracefully land on mountain tops and create majestic landscapes or cascade into an avalanche, clearing the way for the new, and creating change. We are so powerful.
Do you have any “life hacks” that you can share with us? Something that helps you maximize your time and balance personal and professional life?
My real life hack is to write out my days, create a check list, and when I feel overwhelmed I take ME time without any shame. Whether its 5 mins of deep breathes, or a few hours at a spa.
How have all the different experiences that you have had affected your mental health and how do you take care of yourself?
My life is a whirlwind. It has definitely affected my mental health throughout the years. I’ve had several unpredicted melt downs, still do. I think throughout the years I developed an imaginary thick skin that didn’t serve me any good. I have learned to be vulnerable and ask for help. It's ok to cry and scream out frustrations. I am so blessed to have women in my life who don’t judge me. We all have our days and I know I can lean on them for sound advice and love!
Later we spoke to our own Robin Henderson, PsyD, Chief Executive, Behavioral Health for Providence Oregon, who was happy to weigh in with a clinical perspective.
“Selita highlights an important fact for women,” Henderson says. “We tend to put the needs of others before our own. Whether with family, in the workplace, or in social settings, women are more likely to put the needs of others before themselves, and that can lead to dissatisfaction, anger, and even depression. In her book The Gift of Imperfection, author and researcher Brene Brown talks about ‘Wholehearted living,’ and encourages everyone to adopt the mantra, ‘No matter what gets done and how much is left undone, I am enough.’ Fill your own bucket first, then you’ll have enough left over to take care of others, and be healthier and happier.”
Learn more about Providence St. Joseph Health’s history of empowering women, and about the work we’re doing to empower women today, by visiting this article from president and CEO of PSJH Rod Hochman.