The victory of one person can inspire many people to win. Be that inspiration. Simonetta Lein
I am a Millennial and I love to uplift and recognize fellow Millennials out there who are doing amazing things and striving every day for change. Change for Millennials is an active concept, it means making an impact, seeing dreams coming true, fighting for the chance of winning. And it's something we do with the highest of ideals. We are proud to be dreamers. There are those who think we live with our heads up in the clouds, while the truth is that many Millennials scattered across the globe are proving that our generation is steadily and surely making a difference.
Today I have the privilege to talk with a soul who works hard and never complains, who still feels and transmits joy on seeing others succeed and meets important people on the planet and convinces them to use their business to do good. She is Italian but travels the world, and has worked with the world-leading, household-name fashion labels and created a massive charity auction called Convivio in partnership with Vogue Italy. She brought together celebrities and famous brands, and she was able to unite all the Italian wine cooperatives to donate to great causes in the world. She generates business and directs it to those who are in need.
I am so honored to have her here with me today for this special interview. Let's find out more about what it is that drives Gaia Ceccaroli to create something that all Millennials - and not only - can be proud of.
Photo credits by Settimio Benedusi
When you were a child, did you wish for the career and for the life that you have manifested today?
When I was a little girl I dreamt of becoming an astronaut because I wanted to discover the secrets of the universe. Then I learnt that there are more links in our brain than stars in a galaxy, so I decided to remain on Earth.
After classical studies and graduating in Economics at the Bocconi University in Milan I worked in the luxury goods field and in the film industry, but I felt I wanted to do something different. At that time, I was a volunteer for Make-A-Wish Italia and I've always been interested in working in the area of charity, so I took an enormous risk: I turned down an interesting job offer and I started to work for an Italian start-up in that field, trying to transform my past experiences and personal connections into something good. Afterwards, I moved to Charitybuzz.com, based in NY, that raises funds for non-profit organizations through online charity auctions with celebrities and brands. I created charity auctions Made in Italy and US to benefit many not-for-profits and in these years I had the chance to meet amazing people and have incredible experiences all over the world, even though I am still young.
Now I've started to work in the communication and events department of a respected non-profit organization, Fondazione Francesca Rava - NPH Italia, that helps children in need in Italy and worldwide and is the Italian representative of NPH - Nuestros Pequenos Hermanos (Our little brothers and sisters), a non-profit organization that has been helping orphaned and abandoned children for over 60 years all over Latin America. I am also on the board of directors of The Wishwall Foundation, based in the US, with the aim of replicating the famous Wishwall of Philadelphia around the world making meaningful wishes come true and creating walls of hope as a form of permanent art for the cities.
Certainly I am not an astronaut and I did not reveal the secret of the universe, but I am discovering the universe of human beings, especially the ones who do good everyday and concretely make the world a better place.
**The world is full of people who live every day to do good and uplift others, the problem is that we do not give them the right credit. I dedicate my life in the same way to this mission; not everything out there is easy - indeed, as we know, many times it's very hard, but there is also the joyfulness in knowing that things are possible and I am so glad we can talk about that world: the world populated by those whose mission is to inspire and make great things happen.
Name a wish that you had for your life or for humanity that finally came true.
My wish was to be myself while trying to be good to people, and most importantly, my wish was to control one of the most destructive emotions ever: envy. When you lack another's superior quality, achievement or possession and either you desire it or wish that the other lacked it, you are an unhappy person and I chose not to be an unhappy person. I am very happy that I am able not to feel envy.
**Envy is something I discovered along the way in my life. I think that if you don't see it in your environment when you grow up you don't know how to recognize it; that is what happened to me. You certainly have to learn how to protect yourself from it and keep on shining as much as you can so that you can set a good example to those who are wasting their lives living someone else's life, because that is what envy is. Yet it exists but we can fight it by showing another way. Envy means that you feel you cannot reach that level, while admiration and healthy competition bring you to a place where you overcome your fears and become a better person. Admire others instead of being envious of them. Share. The world needs amazing people.
If you were granted one wish for humanity or for our planet, what would it be?
Not to be afraid. Fear of others, fear of what we don't know, fear of the opinion of others, fear of failure, fear of... Fear in excess leads to hate, and hate leads to suffering. This world needs less haters.
**Amen to that! The world of haters is another world that I have learned to discover, I think they are bound to those who live with fear and envy and maybe have too much time at their disposal. We cannot get rid of them but we can give courage to those who want to make a change to actually do it, to give love, to encourage others. Too many good souls are also shy. Social media is a place in which haters abound, but so do good folk. And for some unknown reason, the former speak too much and the latter keep quiet. Do not be afraid of telling someone if they are doing something great. Spread your positivity and ideas and you will find people who resonate with you. Your tribe is your vibe. Vibe well!
If you could go back in time and ask one question from anyone from history, who would you want to meet and what question would you ask?
John Fitzgerald Kennedy. He made the most powerful and inspiring public speeches in history. He was direct, effective and compassionate. Speaking in public is very difficult and it is even more difficult to inspire people. Sometimes I speak in front of university students to share my story or during charity events: I would ask him what his secrets were for an impressive public speech.
** "Ask not what your country can do for you, ask what you can do for your country." Those words are the key for a successful society. It means that we are all responsible, in our homes and outside, it means that if the person in front of you is unhappy, then this affects your environment. We were taught to close our eyes, hears and hearts to survive, while if instead we all do something every day to help others we can transform our planet. Pay it forward. It is not only a philosophy, it is a commitment. Every small act can change someone's life. Even if we only commit to smile more every day, or to listen more and try to do a little thing. Many little things change the course of history. Do things every day with intention and you will see a better society.
If you could go back in time is there something you would or wouldn't change?
Yes, I would have changed the way I allowed some people to manipulate me. I would have preferred to be smarter and more assertive in some relationships of my life. When we allow another person, romantic partners, friends, parents, employers, coworkers, or even neighbors, to manipulate us, we are colluding with their desire to control us through deceptive and exploitative means. I would have had more tools to recognize manipulation and defend myself.
**None but ourselves can free our minds, Bob Marley used to sing. Remember that phrase. It is up to us.
Please tell me what influences your unique sense of style?
Every time I talk about style I am used to saying this: "I am Italian and Italians have style in their veins, we wake up in the morning and we know how to mix colors and different fabrics with naturalness. It's something in our DNA." We have the extraordinary privilege to live surrounded by perfectly proportional Renaissance architecture and masterpieces by hundreds of artists: this everyday beauty influences my style. I like to think that we have the style gene.
**Yes Gaia, we have the style gene and we should be very proud of it. Even if you stay in Italy just for a short while you can soon understand and appreciate how simply observing a constant flow of beauty every day can make a difference. Beauty is one of the highest values.
Who is your favorite fashion designer or brand right now and why?
I had the honor of collaborating with important fashion houses and institutions and influential fashion magazines and celebrities. These experiences enabled me to learn many things, but most of all, I learnt that fashion is a form of self-expression. I respect and admire the identity behind every brand; therefore I can say that my favorite brand is every brand that has a precise and strong identity. Right now my favorite way of shopping is buying second-hand clothes and accessories. I think it is a nice way to benefit your own budget, save the environment and experience the thrill of the hunt. This year, from Melrose Avenue in Los Angeles to secret shops in the heart of Milan and tiny shops in Seoul, I satisfied my shopping craving and my wallet has benefited from it.
**I'll let you into a secret: I, like you, love to go to the vintage stores, thrift stores, and consignment stores. It is the discovery that makes the experience, it is the history of those places that makes the search worthwhile. It is also budget-saving and obviously the recycling of merchandise is very eco-friendly. But most of all it is so fun and rewarding. I found some of my best pieces this way. Always remember, fashion is about art. When you can enjoy having pieces of art in your wardrobe you can feel the joy of fashion. And this way you can do it while saving money!
What is your fashion mantra?
"I am a Made in Italy girl" ;
**I feel your joy. For those who are not made in Italy, follow us on social media and let's connect. You have to have Italian friends in your life.
What is your final message for our readers?
My father taught me to be strong, independent and generous. I am trying to follow these teachings by not being afraid of living. I don't stay in my comfort zone: I take risks and I talk with as many people as possible. Most importantly, if I need something, I ask for it: the worst thing that can happen when you ask for what you want, is hearing a "NO" for an answer. That's not so bad. For this reason, my message is: "do not hesitate to ask for something, because everything you want is on the other side of fear...the fear of asking for it".
**My dear Gaia, this was a very inspiring and uplifting interview. An inspiration for all and especially for Millennials. Dear Gaia, you created a business following a passion, you have won the respect of many people by holding true to the principle that doing good is the key to personal and social success. I see many businesses going in that direction and I admire you for your courage to introduce ideas into worlds such as fashion and big brands when nobody ever did. These are the Millennials who make an impact, together.
As usually, make your dreams come true.
From Philadelphia, The Celebrity Wishmaker Simonetta Lein
Credits: William Russell-Edu, Collaborator. Raphael A. Amabile Photographer. 24k Luxury Design Bag, Joy Pendleton Celebrity Stylist. NYFW The Shows