I have known Lulu-Lee for several years on a professional and personal level and she always manages to surprise me with more interesting and inspiring stories. There are so many things to love about Lulu-Lee, but what I find so incredible is her honesty and willingness to help as many people as she can. Our interview took over two hours and I have no doubt that we could have spoken for several more as I found her to be one of the most fascinating people I know. How is she able to keep a positive attitude and push forward despite dealing with such difficult challenges? What is her advice to us? Read on for her story.
“Everything that I have gone through helped shape me into who I am today.”
Lulu-Lee is an international makeup artist who lives in Brooklyn, New York and has worked in the different fields of the arts for over 20 years. Some of her work and clients include: Victoria’s Secret Fashion Show, NYFW, HBO, Pattern Magazine, Ralph Lauren, Becca Cosmetics, St.Ives, Fizer, Herbalife, Ricki Lake. and Jo Frost, to name a few. She also serves as a Surratt Beauty National Artist. She’s also a law of attraction coach as well as a Reiki master and she uses all of her traits in a method she calls “Beauty Coaching”, which she uses through teaching mindful makeup artistry in workshops and courses named “Inspirational Beauty”.
Thank you so much for doing this with us! Can you tell our readers a little bit about yourself and what you do professionally?
I am 41 years old and a mother of two. Born and raised in Israel and residing in NY for the past 13 years. I have been a makeup artist for over two decades. I am a lover of life and people and a spiritual junky.
Thank you for your bravery and strength in being so open with us. I personally understand how hard this is. Are you able to tell our readers the story of how you struggled with mental illness/challenges?
The main challenges that I went through began when I was 6 years old, when my dad drove drunk after a holiday party in my house and got into an accident. When I woke up the following day, I had a whole new reality. He was in a coma for two months and stayed in the hospital for a year. My mom and dad were not home a lot and I rebelled when I could. Also, growing up in Israel, I was surrounded by death and at age 23 I developed an eating disorder. Living through the gulf war was also a traumatic experience for me as a child and I developed anxiety and fear of death. It seemed that no matter what was happening in my life, I was waiting for something bad to happened and it was a constant struggle.
How did your life change after this?
I lost trust in life, lived in fear, and experienced tantrums. —Around age 24, I started my awareness and self discovery journey. Then, my mom died when I was 27.
What was the final straw that made you decide that you were going to do all you could to get better?
I was 23 and at the time working as a stripper, I injured myself on stage. I did a wrong movement while I was dancing on stage and I hurt my neck. I had a slipped disc, 4 ½ hour surgery and two metal plates and four screws were inserted in the back of my neck.
At the same time, my sister was doing a self awareness workshop and shared what she had learned with me. Through selling myself short and not valuing my body, I realized that a lot of my self image issues were related to the absence of my dad as a child and In a crazy way, working there actually pushed me towards a greater self love journey for my soul and my body. Many people are going to be surprised to read this, but I am not ashamed of anything that I have done and I have nothing to hide. Everything that I have gone through helped shape me into who I am today.
I know that that the next traumatic experience had to do with your mom. Can you tell us more about it?
My mom got sick with pancreatic cancer and it was very fast, I lost her after 2.5 months…
She was everything to us, she taught us about being true to ourselves and following our heart. After my injury, she came to spend time with me and I shared my work as a stripper with her, she told me I was crazy, we laughed, she wasn’t surprised because I always did crazy things, but she was definitely relieved that I’m no longer doing it. She was concerned about my well being.
In the first year after my mom died, I was broken inside and very sad and did not communicate with anyone. To the outsider, it seemed that I was normal and functioning but as soon as I was on my own I would cry and sadness would hit me. I didn’t want to sink into sorrow and I was working hard to keep normal. I cried a lot when sadness came. My pain was the most important thing and I allowed myself to feel whatever it was that I was feeling.
A couple of years before my mom died, I was going through a spiritual journey where I learned that everything happens for a reason and everything happens as it should and it helped me deal with her death better where I wasn’t playing the “not fair game.” If you believe that life is a blessing and we all come here with a lesson, then once you will master it, you will deal with whatever comes your way much better.
How were you able to be kind to yourself during such hard times?
I knew that my mom was there and guiding me even though she wasn’t physically there. My mom’s lessons were embedded in us so deep. She was 34 years old with three girls and she was dealing with so much at such a young age. My dad was verbally abusive to my mom and the whole family because he wasn’t able to control himself due to his brain injury. As a teenager my relationship with my father was horrible, I felt like I hated him for destroying our lives. After my mom died he realized that life is too short and that’s when the real healing between us began.
Were there warning signs that you wished someone noticed?
People that knew me knew that I was going through a hard time. I was spending money to binge and purge. My roommate was pointing this out to me and I realized that this wasn’t a healthy habit and I needed to make a change.
“I learned that it is ok to be vulnerable and show my weakness.”
What coping strategies did you use to help you overcome your challenge?
I found confidants that I was able to share my thoughts and feelings with—for me, it was my sisters. I was able to establish more coping strategies, like reading wellness books that helped me understand my patterns of behavior.
The first time I allowed someone to love me was Chad who I was married to for 14 years and the father of both my kids. —until then I didn’t believe that I was worthy of love. I dropped the wall with Chad and allowed someone to love me. I realized that I behaved in ways with guys that I didn’t appreciate. I was a player and lived a life that is not built on trust. I remember smoking weed one night, at age 25 and I had a big realization that I couldn’t trust anyone and I didn’t want to live this way again. I realized I was ready for a real relationship and was ready to face my truth and to learn who I was and get better. I was encouraged by my sister Merav to look deeper within and I have decided to stop being promiscuous. Literality, a day after this realization I met him.
What are some things that you learned that helped you feel better?
I did not allow fear to control me. I still had more fears but I had better control over them. I learned that it is ok to be vulnerable and show my weakness.
What are things that you had to accept in order to recover/maintain feeling good and being in control?
One thing that I tried to change about myself for so long was cursing. I’ve done it since I can remember and now I realize that this is what I do and while I am more aware of it, I accept that this is something that might come up in a conversation and it is ok. I had to accept my physical ticks, where I crack my neck, for example. I understand that it is partly related to my injury and my anxiety and than it just became a habit. I also learned to accept that I am bold in the way I express myself. I learned to have better control over what I say but I NEVER compromise the truth and who I am—I am authentic to who I am. My self worth does not depend on others, and while I used to compare myself to others, now I accept that I have my own experiences that helped shape me and define me and it doesn’t matter what others have or achieve, I am who I am.
What advice would you give teenagers who are dealing with similar various challenges?
Meditate, live for the moment, don’t compare yourself, and don’t believe anything you see on the screen. So much of what you see is not real.
And how are things going for you today?
They are wonderful. I am blessed and grateful. Two or three years ago, I made a decision to stop watching the news. I used to observe what I was watching and internalized the negative feelings and my anxiety level was being reflected upon my life. My thoughts would race as to what would happen to my kids and my family and to me. Now, I use writing as a skill that helps alleviate my anxiety and I stopped watching the news and I take better care of myself. I don’t consume my day with negativity. I took myself out of social media for a year three years ago—that helped me realize that I compare myself to other people and it created a high level of anxiety in my life. Now, I compare myself to myself.
Based on your own experience are you able to share 5 things with our readers about how to support a loved one who is struggling with mental illness/addiction/challenges?
Don’t judge and just be there for them. They are not you, and you are not them. Hold space for them. Hug them and try to be available for them.
Mental illnesses are common in the United States. According to The National Institute of Mental Health, nearly one in five U.S. adults live with a mental illness (46.6 million in 2017). Mental illnesses include many different conditions that vary in degree of severity, ranging from mild to moderate to severe. Can you suggest 3-5 reasons why this has become such a critical issue recently?
There is a lot of shame around the topic and people are not always comfortable talking about their challenges. Life is hard and it is ok to ask for help when you need it. I don’t presume to know the reason why people have it, but I can tell you why I think they don’t heal from it. In addition to the shame and the difficulty in asking for help, they live in an environment that contributes to their illness and the cycle never breaks. I also found that a lot of times people don’t even realize it’s not ok to be thinking negatively for so much of their time and it’s normal so they don’t do anything about it.
“I found that a lot of times people don’t even realize it’s not ok to be thinking negatively for so much of their time…so they don’t do anything about it.”
What do you do today that is influenced by your past?
Everything I do was inspired by my mother who was the most important person in my life. She inspired me and motivated me to not just do what I do but to also bring meaning into my work. In my line of work as a makeup artist, I use coaching techniques to help and empower women to use positive self talk and to know their worth.
Additionally, I created the first networking group for Israeli women in NYC over two years ago. This initiative came out of my need to connect with women, especially from my own country—which I realized I missed so much. I created a group that helps and support each other both professionally and personally. We now have over 150 incredible women.
Are you working on any exciting new projects now? How do you think that will help people?
I am working on a full day workshop where I integrate the various coaching modalities that I use including mindful makeup artistry, “Inspirational Beauty.” There will be coaching, meditation, women circle, card messages and other exciting things that will integrate inner and outer beauty!
Any last words of wisdom?
I highly recommend working with a coach 1:1 or in a group that you feel connected with so that you have someone to support and guide you on your journey. I am always happy to serve and share from my experience and if anyone has any questions they can feel free to contact me through my website.
How can our readers follow you on social media?
YouTube: Lulu-Lee’s Inspirational Beauty
If you want to read more inspiring stories, check out last week’s resiliency post.