I first met Marzenna Almendro when her surname was different and we were both trying our hand at community radio. She has always been a go getter. A person who just had that spark. Someone who walks to the beat of her own drum. It’s no wonder that she is breaking the mould as a mom, wife, entrepreneur and now… beauty queen. Here is her story.
Roxy: First things first, and I must be completely honest here, I’m not the biggest fan of traditional “beauty pageants” so I have to ask why you decided to enter Mrs South Africa?
Marzenna: I’ve never been a ‘beauty pageant’ kind of girl; when I learned that Mrs South Africa was so much more than a beauty pageant, I did a little bit of digging. I looked at their values, the past winners, and I found such a synergy between the Mrs South Africa vision and my own. Mrs South Africa gives average women a platform to do amazing things. What’s interesting is that the ‘average’ South African women are Superwomen in their own right. She is a wife, a mother, a home-maker, a career women, a friend, a mentor, and many times the glue that holds her family together.
As an entrepreneur, a mother, a wife, a voice over artist, registered psychometrist, author and blogger, I related to this South African woman. I too wear many hats and juggle many tasks… but I consider myself just one of the “average” women. However WE are anything but average. We are brave, ambitious, powerful women who many times don’t give ourselves the credit, nor allow ourselves to (in Sheryl Sandberg’s words) “lean in”. Look at business and politics; the number of women in leadership roles are grossly disproportionate in comparison to our male counterparts.
My wish is that I can motivate and inspire South African – no matter their background, education or scars – to be unapologetic in recognising ourselves as massive forces in society. To come forward and take on those leadership roles. To teach our daughters to be fearless, and teach our sons to respect our women.
Roxy: You’re all about self-love – have you faced any struggles along the way that helped you get to the point where you are today?
Marzenna: #TruthTime: Once upon a time I was the young girl who had a perfectly proportionate body (in fact, I was a rather skinny girl) who hated the reflection I saw in the mirror. I was 11 years old the first time I tried to purge my food. I look back now and I can’t wrap my head around the fact that such a young girl could be so disgusted with herself.
I was probably around 8 or 9 years old when I started self-harming – something that carried on into my young adulthood. It wasn’t a cry for help; it was certainly not suicide attempts – these are some of the misconceptions people may have with self-harmers. I was hurting inside; unhappy with who I was, and it was my outlet to turn that pain into something I could see. And if I could see the pain by inflicting pain on my flesh, I could see the healing. But the feeling of relief never lasted.
It may make sense why I’ve been involved with SADAG (The South African Depression and Anxiety Group) for the past 9 years now, and am an official ambassador for them. It was only through true self-acceptance and self love that I’ve managed to truly put the demons of my self-loathing to bed. Self-love is not a destination; it’s a constant journey; a constant work in progress.
Together with a healthy eating plan, moderate exercise, supplementing with Omega 3, taking my medication religiously, therapy and daily affirmations, today I can say I 100% accept myself for who and what I am. After carrying my child and birthing the most perfect human, I’ve come to realise our bodies are the most majestic, incredible things ever! I’ve learned to love the stretch marks that remind me of this truly beautiful time. I adore the dimples in my skin – it reminds me how authentically human I am. Thigh gap? What thigh gap – I have ‘mermaid thighs’ (you know, when you have NO thigh gap haha) and I love that. More importantly, and the older you get, the more grateful I have become to have my health. Our bodies are SO much more than what they look like.
Roxy: What do you hope to achieve with Mrs SA?
Marzenna: What I’ve mentioned above is pretty much the most candid I’ve ever been. I’ve always had this deep yearning to motivate others. People always say to me “Wow you’re doing so well… you’re so successful…” Sure it appears that way I’m sure. But people often don’t realise the other ‘stuff’ you’ve got going on. I’d love to finally have a mic, a platform, a stage… to tell others just how human I really am; about my own personal experiences, and show them that we truly are capable of INCREDIBLE things – irrespective of our pasts and challenges.
Roxy: What is your message to other women who may want to do something outside of their comfort zone?
Marzenna: As women we are so critical of each other – but I’ve learned that our greatest critics are ourselves. The good news is that being critical is a learned behaviour; we can build new neural pathways (true story) and retrain our brain to process information differently.
Let’s use a Rational Emotive Therapy (RET) example; the typical way we think is that A (Action) causes C (Consequence).
Let’s say I decide to wear that bikini on holiday that I’ve been too terrified to rock since having my baby. I may believe the act (A) of wearing this cozzie will make people look at me in disgust (C) given all those extra rolls and dimples.
The truth is that this manner of thinking is flawed. A does not cause C; A (The Action) leads to B (my Belief) which causes C (Consequence).
SO in actual fact, if I decide to rock that bikini (Action), I realise that it’s my own flawed perception (Belief) that I look like a giant whale squeezed into a cozzie which I THINK people will find revolting (Consequence). But I can CHOOSE to CHANGE my belief. I can instead acknowledge and BELIEVE that I have lovely curves, extra rolls, and overall a gorgeous, strong, beautiful body. And then rock that bikini haha!
The above simple exercise can be applied to just about anything in life. Our minds are so incredibly powerful. Whatever hurts or challenges you have faced, you can rewrite your destiny. Use the above method to challenge and change your belief system, and step out of your comfort zone – WHATEVER that is.
Roxy: How has your outlook on life, and being a working mom changed, since you had your son?
Marzenna: I think once you become a mother (or maybe it comes with age?) you literally get to a “I don’t give a shit” point in your life. You realise what really matters in this life – and just how short our journey on this planet is.
I was a pretty cautious person before – planning ahead and avoiding big risks (nothing wrong with that, mind you). However after even just falling pregnant, I experienced a shift in the lens I saw my world through. I wanted something bigger out of this life. I have never experienced the most spiritual, out of this world experience, after having Ethan. It’s no wonder I gave up my secure, full time job and started my business. I remember the fear initially was paralysing; fast forward almost three years, and there is literally very little that scares me today. Ethan has given me a completely new perception of life, and has taught me the rawest most beautiful kind of love… ever.
Roxy: Where to next?
Marzenna: Besides running Holistan (my psychometric consultancy), I have also been a part of the inception of i-choose2, a venture that offers employee wellness workshops. I also have a third business on the cards for this year – for now it’s called Project X.
However, what would really make me so deeply happy and gratified, is embracing this opportunity to inspire and motivate others. Whether that be doing more school and corporate talks, write more inspiring content, being able to offer more of my time to volunteer work, or even connecting one on one with others. I know it sounds cliche, but I want to make a difference. That would make my soul smile 🙂
Special offer: I will giving away a copy of my e-book, “Chasing the Dream: A Guide to Practice Management in the South African Context” for everyone who rallies behind me in support. Simply follow me on social media (handles below), and SMS Marzenna Almendro to 35959 (SMS’s are R 3 each / free sms’s don’t apply). Take a screen shot of the response you get after sending your SMS and email this firstname.lastname@example.org you will get your e-book FREE. This offer is valid until 28 April 2017.