As I'm sure you all can gather from my previous posts, BlogHer 17 was a spectacular experience! I met so many kind, inspirational and ambitious people. Bloggers are true, dedicated hustlers! It isn't as easy as it may seem.
While sitting in one of the BlogHer sessions, I felt a particularly special connection with panelist Lorraine Ladish. There is just something about her! Her energy, her story and certainly her good-hearted advice.
So of course, I had to interview her!
Ladish is the CEO and founder of Viva Fifty! , a bilingual (Spanish & English) site celebrating life when reaching 50+. Although I, and most of my audience, am at the early stages of life, it is so rewarding to gain wisdom from those older than us.
Age and culture should be equally celebrated at all ages! Viva Life!
Meet Lorraine Ladish
Tell me a bit about where you grew up. How did it shape your character?
I was born in Madrid, Spain. My dad is Spanish and my mother is from Pennsylvania. A few weeks after I was born, we came to the U.S. (my dad was in Spain just to get his Ph.D. and for me to be born there) where we lived until I was 5. A little before turning 6, my dad, my sister and I moved back to Spain when my parents separated. The move back to Spain without my mother was traumatic because there was no warning. From one day to the next I was in a different country, in a different situation. I never saw my mother again until I was 12. In the meantime, she had a massive stroke and was not the person I remembered. All of this made me introspective, withdrawn, but also set the foundation for being a writer later on in life.
How was it like embodying your multicultural identity at an early age?
If you take my age into account (turning 54 really soon), my early childhood was in the 60s and then 70s. Back then, being of divorced parents was stigma enough to handle while living in Spain, which was then a under a dictatorship, and very closed to the outside world. Being bicultural was even harder to deal with. Now I realize it was an asset, but when I was a little girl I wanted to be “one thing”. I didn't want to have to give a long explanation about my background. I felt I wasn't Spanish enough but also not American enough (sometimes I still feel that, but now I do think it's an advantage). I attended a multicultural school where I was lucky to meet kids from all over the world. But somehow the American children seemed to be the cool ones. I wanted to be like them. Yes, it was challenging, but in the long run it helped me build character and in turn help my own children embrace their multiculturalism.
Did you ever imagine leaving Spain?
I often thought about moving to the U.S., especially since my younger sister moved to San Francisco when I was 31. But it never materialized until ten years later, and then it was not exactly a choice I made. Being from two different countries, I really don't feel one is more of my country than the other. Funny thing is now I don't know whether I would ever choose to go back to Spain to live. Despite the better quality of life there, the U.S., as much as it´s going through scary times now, is still the land of opportunity for those who are willing to do the work.
What motivated you to leave? Where did you first move to and when?
My then husband, also bilingual and bicultural, was offered a job in Florida. He'd just lost his job in Sevilla, Spain, where our kids were born. The move was rather sudden and happened right after one of my books – on pregnancy – was published with a major Spanish publisher. I missed my opportunity to promote the book and felt awful about that. But I still came to the U.S. to give our marriage another chance and see how life here would be like. We had to small girls, 3 years old and 4 months old.
How was your experience as a new immigrant? Did you face any insecurities or discrimination?
I didn't really feel like an immigrant in the sense that I've always held both nationalities: Spanish and U.S. My daughters also have both. I did not have to deal with any citizenship issues. I am also fully bilingual in English and Spanish. I read, write and speak both. I worked as a simultaneous interpreter for a while. But people would (and still do) detect an accent. I've been asked whether I'm Eastern European, French, German and the latest guess was Russian. Nobody ever asks whether I'm Hispanic or from Spain. At first I was insecure because I had to learn how to navigate an entirely different system. Just signing up for health insurance felt like a crazy thing. I was used to universal healthcare and affordable private healthcare. When I found healthcare was a luxury here, I flipped.
When did you first learn to speak English?
At the same time as I learned Spanish. When I learned how to speak. My father was key. He was adamant that his four children be bilingual, and we are. He had two more children in his second marriage. All of us speak two languages. I've been way worse about getting my girls to be fluent in both.
Why is it important for you to have a bilingual blog?
Because I am bilingual and I feel it would be a disservice not to communicate in my two languages. It sometimes feels like I have to do double the work, but I wouldn't have it any other way. If I had to choose one language, I don't think I could!
Who do you hope to empower through your work/projects?
Absolutely anyone who needs it. Both young women and girls, who need to know they are just perfect the way they are. Also older women who may feel their time has passed. It has not. We need all of us, our different ages, cultures, ways of being in life.
What is something about your culture that makes you proud?
I don't know that it has to do with my culture. It has to do with being bicultural. It is not dependent on what those two cultures are. But growing up with more than one background means you are more open, more empathetic, more understanding, more resilient. I've learned it's ok, and sometimes better, to stand out, instead of trying hard to fit in.
How do you keep your culture alive while living in America?
I love dancing salsa and listening to Latin music. We also cook Spanish and Mexican food at home (my husband is also multicultural with Haitian, New Zealand and Mexico roots). We speak both languages at home and my husband also speaks some Creole. Being multicultural is anything but boring.
Does your culture live on through your children? How so?
They travel to Spain often. This summer our three teens spent a month in Spain. I divorced in 2009 and remarried in 2014 so I have a stepson now. Our kids are very interested in their other cultures and traveling to other countries helps a lot. We also visit Haiti (my husband´s mother is Haitian) and the kids love it.
Why is diversity beautiful?
I can't think of any way it is not beautiful. It's what we are hopefully headed towards, a completely diverse world, even when we are witnessing a resurgence of racism, bigotry and even neo-nazism. No race or ethnicity is superior to any other and really we are all the same … we all bleed red blood, we all have a beating heart. I hope our youth continues to embrace diversity. It is really our ticket to a better future.
What is your advice towards those who feel broken with the ongoing reality of discrimination (all types, i.e. gender, race, financial)?
Having been on welfare during and after my divorce, I know what it's like for others to try and shame you. But I also know how good it feels to come through it and be able to be there for others going through something similar. We all need to know we are not fighting the fight alone. Seek like-minded people and join forces. There are always others like us. It has never been more important to stand up for what we believe in and against racism, bigotry, violence. Every one of us can make a difference. It´s normal to feel broken and demoralized but then that can be used as fuel to be the change we want to see in the world. It´s not easy.
What was the purpose of your book ‘I Feel Fat’?
To raise awareness about eating disorders. It was published 24 years ago, when there was little knowledge about these issues in Spain. I wanted to tell my story of bulimia and anorexia and spread awareness. I did.
How can society help break the stigma associated with eating disorders? How can we allow society to take note of its severity?
I don't have the answer to this. For me, it's a matter of speaking about it, just as I also share that I've been clinically depressed at least three times in my life. Self-awareness is a good thing. If you know you have an eating disorder or any other mental illness, find help. And talk about it openly. Maybe not with everyone, but if you meet somebody else going through it, tell them “me too.” Knowing you are not the only one can be a game-changer. Also remember we are all society.
What is your current passion project?
I´m not sure. Meaning I love everything I do. From my website VivaFifty.com to writing for other outlets like NBCNews, AARP, Mom.me and my books … I´m gearing up to promote my next book, “Your Best Age”, published first in Spanish as “Tu Mejor Edad” by HarperCollins. It will be out on September 26. I´m already thinking of my next book after this one.
Why is diversity beautiful?
Diversity is beautiful because it’s what makes us unique. It’s what makes us human. Who would like a world where everyone spoke the same language? A world where everyone looked the same? A world where everyone practiced the same religion? If you ask me personally, that’d just be boring! Each human being has a unique background, heritage, and upbringing which has molded them into the person they are today. We were all born into the same species, but we have expressed billions of different outcomes. Each day I try to remind myself that each person I meet is a teacher. What do I mean by that? Everyone who is different from me has knowledge and experience that I do not. Everyone from the stock trader on Wall Street to the single mom in India trying to make ends meet. That’s diversity at its finest!
What do you love most about your current age?
(answer in comment section)
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