This week, we have the multi-talented Victoria Gracie in the She’s Trending interview corner. Victoria is a former professional model, actress, and dancer turned full time mother and Mama mentor. During her former professions, Victoria would receive applause from everyone around the world, but when she became a mother for the first time, the new mother did not receive a single clap. Her journey and experience as a mother led Victoria to create My Kind of Mama. As the founder of My Kind of Mama, Victoria is now utilizing her journey to help mothers to find their kind of motherhood.
Q: Who is Victoria Gracie, what do you do, and why?
A: I am a professional dancer, model, and actress who took some time off from performing to become a mother of two beautiful girls. During that time, I became a certified Doula and the Founder of My Kind of Mama. I am also one of the lead female instructors of the women's self-defense program called, “Women Empowered” at the Gracie Academy Headquarters. What I do, literally, is juggle what I love and who I love with very little time to do it. I created MyKindOfMama.com because I personally felt the lack of support and information in a realm of parenting I feel strongly about. I made it my life mission to deliver it in a way that every woman could attain the information without having to read the hundreds of books that exist on the topic, like I attempted on little to no sleep. MKOM, as it's known for short, has also delved into the realm of birth. I had a home birth and wanted to learn about ways to support mothers during the birthing process. Additionally, I offer dance classes specially designed for mothers to get their sexy back. We don't lose the sexy, it just hides away under the sweat and food stains we get daily. I like to bring the sexy out of women and revive it for myself. When I teach women's self-defense, I get a whole other level of vulnerability in having women tell stories of their experiences or their fears and then feel energized being able to equip them with tools to approach even the most scary and difficult situations. Overall, my goal and love is to empower women in any realm I can and after seeing the movie Wonder Woman, I've never been more confident that this was possible.
Q: Tell me more about your background. Where did you grow up?
A: I grew up moving over twelve times before I was twelve years old and finally settled down in La Canada Flintridge, Ca in fourth grade. I was lucky to have moved around so much as the different areas of Southern California allowed me to be exposed to a myriad of cultures as well as knowing the geography of my state very quickly at an early age. I was definitely a talker and never afraid to approach a new person and introduce myself. This practice of talking to random humans and moving around a lot helps make sense of my immense interest in how people communicate and loving to tour the world. I must thank my parents for this hidden gift that led me to who I am today.
Q: We read that you went to La Cañada High School. What type of student were you?
A: Depends on which teacher you ask... Haha! I was a good student in that I was a people pleaser and really wanted the teacher to be proud of what I did. The hard part is that I tried to do that with every teacher and coach. While I had great grades, I definitely didn't hit perfection. That was a lesson in itself. Also, I was a captain of the cheerleading squad, captain of the basketball team, positioned in the student body yearly, and even did drama productions. I literally played in my varsity basketball games, wiped off the sweat, changed into my cheerleading uniform, and then cheered for the men’s game that followed. I received the Principal's award at the end of my high school term. This was an award that didn't exist before me, which applauded my accomplishments in leading more activities and teams than anyone he's seen in his time as a principal. Basically, I had a lot of school spirit. Still do, go Spartans!
Q: From touring as a backup dancer for music artists like Rihanna, modeling for brands like Oakley, and being featured on blockbuster movies like Iron Man 2, you have accomplished some amazing things. Who were some of the people that inspired you to chase your dreams?
A: Great question! My best friend, Goose. I really believe that people go farther when they do things together. We met in a dance class in college while I was studying computer science and her outlook on life was unlike anyone I had met before her. She believed the best in people and I feel like she even saw things in me that I couldn't see in myself. She was incredibly grounding and knew how to keep me sane throughout the whole process. She's still my best friend and I am lucky to have her. Also, my first agent, Lisa Coppola, was a powerful force in making me realize what was possible as a single human. The fact that she was female and always spoke positively and matter-of-factly in a way that made me feel that we could do anything was pivotal. I'm not even sure she realizes how integral she was, but she was a heavy reason for continuing and embarking on that journey.
Q: April 12, 2013 marked a special moment in your life. You gave birth to your first child Valyn. What was this moment like and how did that experience change your life?
A: Well, my water broke while I was alone in the checkout line of target about 45 minutes away from my home. I finished checking out and rushed to my car and drove home as safely as I could. I called my husband on the way home and because he was filming, I just left a message to have him call me back. I didn't want anyone to know I was in labor. We wanted to keep it a surprise, so I acted calm. I awaited his phone call and just tidied the house until he called and then told him to rush home. It probably wasn't as kind as that though, haha! He came home and we prepped, took a long walk at the park across the street, and awaited our newborn. It was an empowering birth with just my husband and my two midwives. It was magical and it made me passionate about this being an option for anyone who wanted it. While this may be her birth date, I sometimes believe it was also a day I was reborn. It's the beginning of my renegade ways, at least outwardly. You see, I was steadfast on having a home birth. That did not sit well with many of the people I surrounded myself with. I was well researched in how I wanted to mother, but even this garnered tradition based resistance. It was the birth of my daughters than brought into my own. They taught me that if I don't stand up for them, who will? If I don't stand up for my wants and beliefs, who will? If I don't make it a purposeful parenthood, then I will have lost all the gifts that came from creating life. Both of my kids have brought that out of me and I am eternally grateful for them.
Q: You are the founder My Kind Of Mama (MKOM). MKOM is a platform where you help mothers find freedom and confidence by providing resources and guidance for mothers to have a better motherhood. What inspired you to create My Kind Of Mama?
A: It was truthfully my lonely journey of being a mother without simple and quick resources, options to choose from, and a tribe to empower me to simply do what works for me. It's the overwhelming force of judgement and expectations of mothers to be expected to do everything. It's the unrealistic pressure to take on this role without any teachings and watch us spiral in a whirlwind to find our footing. It's the lack of maternity leave that haunts mothers in the early parts of their motherhood. It's watching horror story after horror story of women not being given or educated on their options in the hospital. I created it because I wanted to empower mothers to find THEIR kind of motherhood. I created it to make an effort to give our new babies a chance to dissolve some of our generational issues by bringing alternative options in parenting.
Q: In one of your videos, you mentioned that when you became a mom, you didn’t even get a clap. This led me to do some research and I came across the “After Birth Party” also known as a “Sip and See!” This type of party allows guest to see the baby and celebrate the fact that you just became a new mom. If you had the opportunity to plan an “After Birth Party,” Where would you have it? What would it look like? What type of food and drinks would be served? Who would be invited?
A: Fantastic that you asked this question. I have a blog post drafted about this very idea. I call it a “Postpartum Party.” I would have it in my home so the child would not have to travel anywhere. It would be close friends and family with a potluck of dishes that would then be saved for reheat on those tough sleepless days. It would consist of telling the birth stories and assisting the parents in processing the good or challenging moments. I have to add here that I am actually not an advocate of passing around a baby for the sake of people wanting to meet them. I somewhat feel like there is a small sense of objectifying this new human and more often than not, they are happy laying down and seeing a face interact with them. This will be a future video with more info on why and how to handle that, of course. The main goal is to support the parents during a time of little sleep and lots of adjusting. If more parties supported new parents, we'd have some amazing memories of the loved ones who were there during the difficult time, as well as a different spin on how hard parenting is or isn't (It's still hard).
Q: In addition to being an actress, model, entrepreneur, and dancer, you are also one of the head instructors of the Women Empowered program at the Gracie Jiu-Jitsu Academy. Were you involved in practicing Jiu-Jitsu before you met your husband? Also what is your favorite Jiu-Jitsu move/technique?
A: I didn't even know what jiu-jitsu was before I met my husband. I, like many, could not discern the different martial arts options. It was an incredible gift to have met my husband, Ryron Gracie, and been able to see the power of this special martial art through his eyes. I also feel very fortunate to have my sister-in-law, Eve Gracie, with me on the journey. She has been a huge player in my being a part of this program and we basically never get enough of each other. My favorite technique is a close tie between the elbow escape and the guard get-up. They could be used back to back if the opportunity presents itself.
Q: You have toured all over as a backup dancer for many great artists. We did a deep dive and found out that you attended a Beyonce concert on July 1, 2013. Is the Beyonce experience real and should we all add “must attend a Beyonce concert” to our bucket list?
A: Beyonce is an epic mother and performer who will take you through a series of emotions when you watch her show. You will never regret inviting her into your concert life. Team Bey all day.
Q: Let’s go back to the days at La Cañada High School, when you wore the #11 jersey and played for the girls basketball team. What was your basketball game like?
A: Oh man. I have so many fond memories of my basketball days. I was known for braiding everyone's hair before a game. We were heavy on the heart and even league champs. As for my part, I was good at two, and only two things. Running really fast down the court and getting rebounds... most of the time they were my own. I definitely had a hard time making any baskets, but ran up my stats with rebounds because of it. I'd insert so many emojis right here if I could...haha!
Q: If you were to have a best out of 10 free throw contest against Ryron, who would win?
A: We'd both lose. He might win because he's just good at everything, but I definitely wouldn't win.
Q: On MyKindOfMama.com you list some of your favorite products. As a new mother what product were you most thankful for and why?
A: My favorite late find product is the Pura water bottles. They allow you to transition from the newborn nipple bottle, to a sippy, to a straw, and then to a wide mouth by just changing out the mouthpieces. The bottle stays the same even up to adults. This is incredibly helpful for children who become attached to the bottle but you'd like to wean the nipple. This is also amazing for the environment because you're causing less waste in throwing out every stage of their life bottles and sippy cups. They are also shatter, break proof, and have insulated and non-insulated options. They are one of the few, if not the only, plastic-free bottle. Even many of the glass or other stainless bottles use a plastic top. They are made out of stainless steel and silicone, only. I'm pretty passionate about these, clearly.
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Q: We really love what My Kind Of Mama represents and your involvement in the community. What type of services do you offer?
A: As a certified Doula, I do offer my doula services, but I rarely publicize this as I found it hard to manage such an on call type of service while still having little ones. I offer one on one consultations via phone or Skype as well as an in home visit for families who need a more hands on approach. When a group forms, I lead a group of mothers for our Calm Mama Collective through the early stages of their journey. This one can be gathered by request if the mothers all came together beforehand. I also have weekly dance classes for women of all ages and dance abilities in the Torrance area. I offer speaking engagements which I really enjoy and I am most excited about an offering that is nearly done; I will be offering an eBook series where you can download separate guides on finding your best motherhood directly from my site.
Q: Fatherhood is extremely important as well. Do you offer any services for men?
A: Interestingly enough, I would say that I have had an equal amount of male inquiries on my services for men. I do offer what I call a Papa Power Hour. Sometimes, mothers are too busy trying to make things work and sometimes drowning in their attempts that a father reaches out on the family's behalf. Other times a father has difficulties knowing how to contribute best or support their families in a way to create a harmonious working machine. There are tools and approaches that help and fathers are major players in the success of a household, so I am happy to help them whenever they seek me out.
Q: With all of our interviews, we like to sign off by saying thank you! We know you’re trending, which is why we chose you to be one of our featured guest. In honor of our tradition we would like you to finish the sentence…I’m trending because…
A: I’m trending because I believe in building others.