My bravery comes from my mother. A renegade, studying photography in Africa while in college, and birthing me in Paris, her exquisite curiosity and joie de vivre ignited my wanderlust. My wide-eyed entrepreneurial spirit was passed down to me from her, as I watched her open her own jewelry boutique with unstoppable passion and originality.
I learned a few years back that not every daughter has the luxury of watching her mom live out her dreams as I have. While teaching English to young students in Thailand in 2008, I decided to take a trip to Cambodia to see the famous temples of Angkor Wat, a remnant of Cambodia's rich ancient culture. I was fascinated by the tangled synthesis of both the beautiful and heartbreakingly violent past of this small Buddhist country.
A theater major at NYU at the time, immersed in a cocoon of creativity, it was positively numbing to step foot in a country where, less than 30 years prior, artists were targeted in mass genocide. More chilling still was the modern-day reality on the streets: Girls as items for sale.
It was the brave stories passed down by my mother that led me to this faraway place, and it was pure, heroic bravery that the Cambodian people taught me through their acknowledgment and celebration of their own stories, difficult as they may be. I met artists whose parents were killed because of their craft, who were able to overcome this violence, continuing in their family's tradition and creating beautiful art today. I met survivors of trafficking who have committed their lives to sharing their painful stories of abuse in an effort to spread awareness and plant the seeds of change.
Inspired by the courage of these amazing people, most of them women, I decided to bring their bravery back to the states by sharing their stories, and actualizing my own. In 2012, I launched The Brave Collection, a line of bracelets made in Cambodia that say "Brave" in Khmer, the language of Cambodia. Each handmade bracelet is a job opportunity for a fair-trade artisan, and with each bracelet that finds a wrist, a donation is made to fight trafficking through our work with partners like Half the Sky Movement and the Somaly Mam Foundation. Our bracelets serve as a token of freedom, and a reminder of the inner bravery that unites women across the globe.
Every little girl should grow up as proud of their mom as I am, and by working together to support women from New York to Cambodia, together we can make that so.
This spring, we celebrate women graduates across the country, wishing them tremendous success as they begin to build their careers and follow their dreams. Let's celebrate the dreams of women everywhere. If we can find a way to nurture the talent, confidence and bravery of women today, we will be effortlessly inspiring the daughters of tomorrow.