Woman Wonder — meet the women that inspire us. I am every woman is not a cliche, it is the way we are connected. We are all the same but different. We all think similar thoughts, feel similar feelings, experience similar experiences. I want to connect the dots between women. Let’s really get to know each other and recognize the greatness within each one of us.
I've known of Mercedes first way back when (around 2015-16!). She seemed like a tough cookie to me from the get-go and with time I got to know her as just that. She is a devout mother, an independent beauty journalist, an intellect with with a PhD in Sociology and damn good taste in music. She is eloquent, strong in her convictions, thorough and insightful. Over the last few formative years she has become a confidant. Ladies and ladies, meet Mercedes.
Please, introduce yourself.
Talk to us about you. What is special about you?
Hello! So happy to be answering these questions and sharing a bit of myself and my life with Gressa readers. My name is Mercedes and I’ve been making content (videos, blog posts, podcast) on eco-beauty since 2014. I named my website/youtube channel L’Amour et la Musique because I became a huge Francophile in graduate school, and I started djing house music years before that. I spent a lot of time in school, flirted with the idea of an academic career and ultimately decided it was not a good fit. I had my first baby in late 2018 and have been a full-time mom since then (baby #2 came along in 2021), while also continuing to work on L’Amour and staying up far too late most nights doing so! I also produce a podcast (Your Purpose is Beauty) and run an engaged Patreon community where I’ve gotten to connect with many amazing likeminded women. It’s honestly what’s kept me going in this space, and in this digital landscape. I have amazing connections with women who’ve been following my beauty work for years and that’s invaluable to me.
What does connection mean to you?
Compassionate attunement. I learned about the concept of attunement through parenting (but of course). And attunement is a prerequisite for connective parenting (which is an actual philosophy). I would also say “unconditional love” is essential for connection, because the minute you withhold your love (which nearly all of us do unconsciously because it’s very much the norm), you disconnect. So I think maybe our generation (older millennials or millennials as a whole) have started to recognize this, albeit through a lot of pop psychology and online therapy. But now that we’re all having children, it’s coming to the surface – at least that’s what I’ve observed.
What has been your proudest moment in your career or personal life to date?
Birthing my two children (in 2019 and 2021), no meds, no interventions – one with midwives in a hospital and one at home. After that, you feel like you can do literally anything. I also earned my PhD (in sociology) in 2013, and that was the culmination of many years of hard work. Even though I’m no longer in academia, I’m still proud I saw it through, and looking forward to where it may still eventually take me.
How do you balance your work and personal life?
I don’t do this very well right now! I’m at home with my kids, and I work for myself, so my “personal life” really bleeds into my work and vice versa. Truthfully I’m ok with it because I get to continue working on something I love (L’Amour) while getting to be with my kids while they’re little – very much like GRESSA! After I had my second baby I came fully to terms with the fact that this is really a very short season of life (the intense baby/toddler/preschool years) and it’s allowed me to just be where I’m at.
What female role models do you look up to and why?
My top role model since I discovered her work in 2020 is an independent researcher named Alison McDowell. She’s based in Philadelphia and writes a blog (wrenchinthegears.com) and gives talks on her YouTube channel on issues around AI, blockchain/digital ledgers, impact investing, and digital empire building. These are THE most important issues facing us and very, very few people are talking about them in the way they need to be addressed. I try to keep up with her work, and share it with as many people as possible. My biggest health role models are…the Pasta Grannies. Seriously. I hope everyone reading already watches them on YouTube but if not, get thee over there! Living into your late 90s or beyond, making and eating homemade pasta, plenty of espresso and wine and dessert, sunshine, family, being in Italy. I mean, hello. I can’t believe how wrong we have it here in the states with respect to health and wellbeing. So much more we could go into on THAT topic, the rampant and oppressive medicalization here. Lastly, Sarah from the Terminator – mother to the resistance. There’s a role model.
What key learnings would you like to pass on to the next generation of women?
Read and know history, it’s far too easy to forget. Your body is not for sale for anything, ever (if anyone wants to talk about surrogacy, we can do that). You don’t need a $1500 bassinet that swaddles and rocks and sings to your baby, your baby JUST NEEDS YOU. Protect the next generation, whether you have children or not, from educational technology and living life online – it’s packaged in pretty language but it’s moving us farther from the things that really matter. Cultivate discernment, it’s one of the most important things you can do.
How do you champion women in your personal and professional life?
I grew up having something of a challenging dynamic with my mother (a Gemini and a Taurus, explains it all!). After the birth of my second baby I experienced a huge personal healing in my relationship with her. So I champion my wonderful mom, and the maternal lines on both sides of my family. In day to day life I give my business to small, independent women-owned brands, and through L’Amour I’m able to use my platform to share about these brands/products/experiences. I also have some women’s rights activist stickers (You Were Made By A Woman) that I carry around in my wallet, to put up in public places to counteract so much of the absolutely blatant and insane misogyny everywhere.
What is something that used to challenge you but doesn’t anymore? What challenges you now?
I never had any awareness that this was an issue for me, but I struggled a lot with boundaries – particularly emotional boundaries. I was the kind of person who would really take on EVERYTHING, the emotions of the people I was talking to, that kind of thing. I thought this was a “good” thing because wasn’t I so empathetic?! No. It’s not supposed to be like that! I used to think if I wasn’t overextending myself emotionally, then I wouldn’t be able to show that I care, that I’m invested. But now, I focus on compassionate neutrality. One of my main challenges now is how perfectionism (and ergo control issues) have reared their heads in parenting. Look parenting children is just HARD no matter how you slice it, and even the most patient person will lose it sometimes. But when things start to feel TOO out of control for me I can feel those perfectionist tendencies creeping in, and I have to really fight the urge to helicopter around my kids. Logically I know I want them to get messy and learn by doing and make messes and not feel constrained, but in practice I do struggle with letting go.
Quick fire: (short answers are encouraged!)
What is your favorite city (anywhere)?
I had to think about this because the cities I would want to say here (Paris! Maui!) I haven’t spent enough time in to answer the questions. This is a wild card but let’s go with San Antonio, Texas – my mom is from there and I’ve spent a lot of time there since childhood.
When you’re in your favorite city:
Your go-to restaurant:
Hotel Emma, which has a couple restaurants in it, because my husband Kaveh and I got married there! Absolutely beautiful.
Your favorite tea/coffee/smoothie shop:
Bakery Lorraine in the Pearl District
Your favorite neighborhood to wander:
San Antonio is full of sprawl, but they’ve been reviving their downtown neighborhoods
Favorite hole in the wall:
lots of places to get amazing tamales
Where do you go when it rains:
It never rains in Texas lol
Advice your auntie/mother/grandmother gave you:
Don’t be in such a rush to grow up – my mother always told me this, and she was SO right. My grandmother always used to say, “the truth hurts.” And if this isn’t applicable in today’s world, I don’t know what is.