Like The Phoenix, I Rise Above The Ashes
By Wendy Crystal
“Like the phoenix, I rise above the ashes,” a sentence that rings truer for me than ever before. Who knew at 40 years old I would decide it was finally time to get a tattoo? Many may see this as juvenile for my age, saying, “Did you not go through that at 17?” I always wanted one but knew it had to be the right one. At 40, it was the right time. I wanted to be reminded that every time I find myself on the ground, burned and broken, what emerges is bigger, better, and stronger. A reminder that the opportunities in life often lie in the challenges we face. Like the phoenix that rises from the ashes, I tattooed that down my left arm, including an image of the infinity sign (for strength and belief in myself). For the first time, I felt exceptional in my own skin. My tattoo tells my story; it reminds me of the many roads I’ve walked and hoops I’ve jumped through to create the person I am meant to be! There is a light inside of me that burns bright, and it is there to inspire, motivate, and captivate people. It is no wonder that at a young age, I fell in love with the camera. I used to tell my mother the release of artistic expression is monumental. I knew I had something to share.
I grew up the only daughter to a single mother of three. My childhood was not one filled with a lot of love, emotional support or the freedoms that finance brings; we were poor. The trauma I endured as a young child could have landed me on the streets as a drug addict and prostitute. I can safely say neither of these outcomes is where I ended up. I was born a survivor, moving forward and believing the obstacles I faced were paving the way for my future. I always remind myself that we are given challenges to unfold the opportunities that hide within.
At 12-13 years old, I started modelling. I worked on several movies and was offered contracts to work in Taipei and Milan. Any young model’s dream come true, right? Well, not really. If you do not have the necessary parental support needed to travel abroad for months at a time, then it does not happen. So, I watched my modelling career fizzle just as it was about to start.
The determination to be something that came from nothing burned inside me. At 18 years old, I found myself on the doorsteps of Jenny Craig. I started as a consultant and moved my way up to director, running two very successful locations. This is where I found my passion for counselling people to help them change their lives. However, after a few years, I would find myself staring out my office window and wondering, “Had I stayed in modelling/acting, where would I be? What would be different?” All too often, we sit in the ‘what if’ in life. In a fleeting moment of motivation, I picked up the phone, called my boss and gave my one month’s notice. I was not going to let the light of life burn out. I knew my self-worth. I knew if I could do what I did by age 22, what else was out there for me?
At just 23 years old and feeling old in the modelling industry, I ascended on the agencies like a bird, looking for the right one to represent me. I flew to Miami and enrolled in a modelling competition where the winner would get a contract with one of the world’s top agencies. After several days of competitions, they announce the winners. Suddenly, I feel a bright light on my face and see myself on the screen, “It’s me, I actually won!” I became a Ford model and was blessed with opportunities to travel. I lived in Hamburg, Germany and South Africa for months. These trips were life-changing on so many levels, especially on a spiritual level. The opportunity to immerse myself in different cultures, climb mountains (literally and figuratively), and have new experiences shaped my being. I became one of the top hand and foot models, did a lot of catalogue work, landed a few great campaigns, and became the face of Fashion Television circa 2004.
This led me to love the art of cosmetics and the transformation it has. In 2008, I started a cosmetic company called Inspire Cosmetics. I was driven to help women see the true beauty they possess with an easy ‘Drab to Fab in 5 Minutes’ natural cosmetics line. I built a consultant team and travelled around many national women’s shows. I ended up landing the Argo’s cheerleader contract for several years and customizing their iconic look!
From there came the life-changing decision to try and have a baby. Having faced medical issues that directly affected my opportunity to get pregnant, I wanted to try. After many failed months, I finally got the great news that I was having twins! However, after miscarrying one of the babies, I was put on bed rest. Fast forward a few months, an opportunity to audition as a national television host at a place I always wanted to work at presents itself. It was my dream job. So, I strolled into the audition wearing Spanx to hide my baby bump, and I did my ‘thang.’ Two months go by, and I finally get a phone call; they have decided to offer me the job. After 45 mins, I’m asked, “Is there anything you would like to ask us?” I respond by revealing, “I’m 26 weeks pregnant. Does that change anything?” Crickets and another two months go by. I get another phone call and it’s them, “Okay, we want you,” they say. At eight months pregnant, I went on Live Television for the first time. I mean, if I sneezed, I would pee or worse! I spent the next seven years doing a job I loved. I excelled to prime-time hours and had the honour of doing a seasonal fashion show with Jeanne Beker. I created a special show celebrating Barbie's 60th anniversary with luxury, unique collectibles. I have met and worked with some of the most amazing celebrities, CEO’s, and inspirational people. I lived, slept, and breathed for this job. It was everything to me.
Feeling like I had finally made it, COVID-19 hits and changes the game. Everything I knew went upside down. For the first few months, many of us were just trying to wrap our heads around what was happening and what this “new normal” would look like. During this time, that fire from within started to burn again, along with the need to connect, support, and entertain. I created a social media show called “Girls Nite In,” where I invite you in and share some of my favourite fashions, cosmetics, skincare, home décor, and a little cooking in the kitchen, sending the message that we are in this together! With all the changes that none of us saw coming, we must embrace the uncomfortable feeling of the unknown. We have been given this opportunity to realize who we are meant to be and the time to make it happen. Here’s to my next chapter—I will rise once again like the phoenix!
Facebook: Wendy Crystal TV Personality