Do you really know me?



Okay, on this rainy day I want to share a blog post with the pure intention of letting you in - sometimes we think we know someone but as we look closer we realize we really have such limited info we don’t know them at all. What we identify in a social media post or a shared photo can be very misleading when in reality what we look like is never the whole story. Images of smiles, colorful surroundings and well thought out presentations create an illusion of security and contentment. Sometimes what is on the surface has no relationship to the passion, deep needs or longing of the individual. To me, saying you truly “know” someone is to understand their driving core values and to see those values being acted upon in some venue of everyday life. This to me is the concrete proof of authenticity. 

Now realistically we can’t and probably wouldn’t even have time to see each other in action on any given average day. We are busy living our own lives and moving ahead toward goals while caring for ourself and the ones closest to us. But in a time when people think they “know” us via social media or by what we say about ourselves, now more than ever we need to connect in authenticity. 
The world is full of information and what we see is often only one piece of the puzzle making up the entirety of a individual. No one will know your story unless you share it and no one will discover the capacity of how their own strength can break through by observing your example until they hear it, connect with see it and watch you demonstrate it, yes, even on social media. 

With this cause, I humbly share just part of my story found in this interview which was featured in Platform Magazine in 2014. And although I do not endorse or find reason to participate in pageants anymore, mostly because I do not agree with positioning women against each other in competition in the name of “beauty” especially when so many of these women give so much to community, volunteerism, charitable causes and the awareness and strengthening of society overall, still much of my understanding of why confidence, graciousness and cultivating the other aspects of being a woman is so important, comes from the high stress female competitions like those found in pageants. 
My true belief is that when only one women’s beauty wins, we all lose as women. This out dated and tired standard of beauty is issued by men who have dictated the measure of a womans’ worth by her height and weight for far too long. Now more than ever we must say no more to this restrictive, life threatening kind of mentality and dictatorship. 
This my friends... is an entire blog post in and of itself and one of which I shall speak on later.... 
until then, read on to understand some of my core values ... Integrity.... Inclusivity... Kindness ....... 
Interview with Lisa Nielson / Mrs. Utah US Universal 2014
Chris Franz / Senior Editor The Platform Magazine
I first met Lisa Nielson a couple of years ago at the Mrs. Utah America Pageant in Ogden, Utah. I was instantly drawn to her genuine and kind personality. Lisa is a soft spoken, strikingly beautiful woman with a heart of gold. She is now the current Mrs. Utah US Universal and she will be competing in June of this year at the national pageant in Rhode Island.
Behind this heart of gold is a story of inspiration, hope, and survival. Lisa suffered through bullying in junior school so severe it led to an eating disorder. She then was almost killed at the hands of her boyfriend at 19.  Lisa is now an advocate for the prevention of domestic abuse and teen relationship violence. She is truly a woman of empowerment and a guiding light. I had the pleasure of speaking with Lisa not too long ago about her goals, her ambitions, and her dreams.
Chris: Lisa, I know this may be difficult to do but can you give our readers the back story of Lisa Nielson and how your journey brought you to where you are today?
Lisa: Sure and although it was difficult to go through it isn't difficult for me to dialogue about since I come from a place of empowerment and strive to be a beacon of hope for others now. 
Basically I, like so many young girls believed my value was in the attention I could get from boys at a very young age and because I had no healthy male/female relationship examples I had a sick perception of what was acceptable. I started modeling at 16 which empowered me in many ways but also contributed to my false sense of worth- solely based on my appearance and only contributed to insincere relationships with men. 
Although I suffered a severe eating disorder which nearly took my life, lasting more than a decade originating mainly because of a brutal group of boys who would torment me over my weight, "mooing at me in class and hallways" as well as calling me names, I am healthy and stronger than ever with five healthy children of my own and a much better body image and self worth. 
Thinking back I taught other people in school how to treat me by how I reacted the very first time they were cruel about my appearance and it only continued from there, getting worse and worse. By then, these peers and I were in a pattern of behavior like a dance of sorts which is much like the relationship I had with my serious boyfriend at the age of 19.
Often times young people will react poorly (or under react) the first time a boyfriend of girlfriend mistreats them by saying, "he was just upset" or "it was just one time, I'm sure it won't happen again". 
When we don't know the warning signs and characteristics of abuse in dating relationships, we are shocked and scared, left without knowledge and a plan to enact immediately which leaves us vulnerable to cope in dysfunctional ways. 
Eventually in my case, there were a few female friends and older women in my life who helped me understand my relationship was not lethal and could lead to my death if I didn't get out of the relationship I was in at 19 but it had sadly already gone on for years at this point and I was 21. 
This encouragement and exit plan ultimately lead to my freedom but not before my boyfriend attempted to kill me on New Year's Eve. 
What I remember about that night was something insignificant and petty setting him off which was the norm. The next thing I knew he was quickly wrapping his hands in my waist long hair to get a good anchor and beating the back of my head into the wall until I was unconscious. When I came to he was standing over me crying and begging for forgiveness.
It's no doubt when something like this happens we are ashamed, scared and terrorized but I deeply desire to let the youth and women know there is hope- even more,  there is a way to teach our youth that they do not have to accept abuse in their dating or relationships or otherwise. 
I truly believe I went through these experiences so I could in time develop to who I am today- a strong public figure with a powerful message of hope, encouraging our youth to understand the warning signs and characteristics of abuse as  well as abusers and to get help should they need it immediately. Despair thrives in isolation and this type of issue can't remain between the couple or it can go on and even lead to death.
The truth is 1 in 4 teens are in a abusive dating relationship so someone you know and love needs help and additionally young teens need prevention programs and examples way before the dating years. 
Chris: Can you tell us your level of community involvement and what you are doing to bring your message to the people of Utah?
Lisa: Great question Chris. I have been working with the youth for about 10 years now as a speaker, mentor and advocate. I currently hold a seat on the domestic violence council in my city. I also have a campaign called Power2Prevail which has evolved into a relationship violence prevention campaign. I am currently and actively speaking out on the importance of healthy relationships and the link to our self esteem. I am a strong advocate of defining ourselves outside of what we look like and how much romantic or sexual interest we get from others. I offer suggestions such as using art mediums as a great way to express emotion and genuinely connect with others as a alternative with my teen group- Art and Soul Girls which I proudly founded. 
As a actress and tv personality, my show Living Life, purposely and passionately speaks out on topics such as teen dating violence, eating disorders, rape and substance abuse, reaching a potential viewership of 300,000 in just the region where I live. 
I am also a member of Sheroes which is a non profit, endorsing and assisting women globally to overcome adversity. 
Chris: What made you choose the US Universal Pageant system and what has being Mrs. Utah US Universal 2014 enabled you to accomplish?
Lisa: I chose this system because I greatly admire its priority on the platform or message of each contestant. In other words, while the contestants are in fact stunning and exceptional in appearance, it is their message or cause and actions taken that influence the total score significantly. Additionally I greatly admire the passion they have to make a difference and leave the planet better than they found it. 
This kind of change happens everyday with strong women who want to instill hope and inspire others- I want to have the greatest impact and reach to do exactly that as Mrs. US Universal and even further as Mrs. Universe. 
Since being awarded the crown last September, I have been a key speaker at a candle lit vigil for domestic violence survivors, acted as speaker and host at a special International Women's Day event, been featured on local television news and talk shows as Mrs. Utah, spoken with congressmen and women about the new bill affecting Utah domestic violence law as well as speak to multiple youth groups and organizations concerning treatment and prevention of teen dating relationship violence. It is a great honor additionally for me to be featured in your inspirational magazine of which I am truly grateful. 
Chris: Please tell the readers more about your television show Living Life and how was that developed.
Lisa: I love this question since Living Life holds a very special place in my heart since it is essentially to a large degree the autobiography of my life - many of the issues we talk about are challenged I personally have overcome and speak out on. I am the sole host and co executive producer along with my mentor Tony Toscano who was integral in bringing it to fruition. 
Living Life enlists a series of guest experts and survivors, offering education, links to resources and a compelling message of real world solutions to whichever women's issue we happen to be addressing. It is a no nonsense approach to the pain and hardest parts of these issues, the likes of which there is nothing out there. 
Living Life can be seen on KDPR Channel 19 the Utah channel as well as through Comcast and Xfinity on demand. 
Chris: What message do we need to take to victims of domestic violence to let them know they are not alone and the need to reach out for help?
Lisa: Chris, survivors of violence in general whether that be domestic or teen dating violence or otherwise need to know there is hope. They need education on the prevalence of this problem and as to the outreach programs a available. They need support from friends and family which doesn't involve judgement or the use of condescending statements like, "why don't you just leave him/her?" because we know it just isn't that simple for all the financial, emotional and myriad of other reasons. 
Instead offering a safety plan and encouraging counseling or another community resource would be of greater value to the victim. 
I can't stress enough the importance of a prevention program and curriculum in our schools for junior high age kids to teach the aspects of healthy dating relationships and the characteristic of abuse personalities. My program Power2Prevail has the potential to do just that. 
If we don't equip our youth with education, examples and encouragement of how to build their own self esteem and identify outside of dating relationships, how can we expect them to avoid the trap of abuse in a culture where the media, music and everyday life endorses it? I think we can make a huge difference but it requires living by example and impacting the youth for good. It also involves getting involved when we see the signs of abuse and being a source of calm in the storm. 
Chris: Lisa, thank you so much for sharing so much of your personal life story with me and taking the time to from your busy schedule to do so. You are truly an inspiration to others. I am so proud to say I know you and more importantly to call you my friend. 
I love you guys, hang in there, your best is yet to come! 

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