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The Journey Behind the Braid

By Danié Gómez-Ortigoza

November 7, 2017

One thousand Instagram posts ago, I was a very different person. As I welcomed my first child to this world, I found myself torn between the absolute desire to build a profesional career, and the beginning of my journey through motherhood, while being a nomad with no roots, fully dependent on my husband’s work opportunities, and living in Sweden.

At that time, I was in love with advertising, and was admitted to Bob Isherwood’s Creative Academy in Cannes, as part of the Cannes Lions Festival. It was incredibly exciting. My baby was eight months old, and my mother in law, who lives in the South of France, close to Cannes, was willing to take care of him while I enjoyed the conferences.

On the last day, after a week of the most inspiring conferences ever, 95% presided by men, I approached Bob Isherwood –our guide through that week, and the advertising legend admired by many — and asked him if he thought that women, and specifically mothers, had a chance of building successful careers, given that none of the speakers were mothers. He looked straight in my eyes and said coldly , ‘In all my years in this industry, I’ve never seen it happen’.

I can’t even explain to you what I felt. The little hope I had in doing something with my life was shattered to dust in less than five seconds. I had been fighting post-partum depression, since my son was born, and the only thing that kept me afloat was the drive to build something in the future, dedicating every second my son slept to educating myself through different online platforms and diplomas that, in my mind, would become valuable tools once the time came to go back to my profession.

The meaning of a journey is not dependent in WHAT happens to a person; it depends, and grabs meaning in relation to WHO it happens to.
You see, I was born to a crumbling marriage of two beautiful individuals who were not meant to be together; they had one daughter, and were taking all the precautions they could not to have any more children, yet against all odds, I silently happened.

My mother wanted to be a painter; my father wanted a wife and a mother for his children. There was no middle-ground. In their perception, a choice had to be made. My mom chose art, and me and my sister grew up with my father who juggled his profession with nannies, drivers and help.

So there I was, about to take the train from Cannes to Aix to pick up my son, inspired to the core, yet thinking that I would never be able to do anything with all the things I knew, because I was a mother. There was no middle ground, right?

The years went by. I continued working, but always keeping my expectations low. After all, in my eyes, I was just a mother. I had a second child, and a couple of months later, moved to Mexico close to my father, while my husband lived in New York and prepared his next career move.

That’s when Jean Christian Agid, one of my husband’s best friends, asked me for help building a delegation with the top 50 women in Mexico. These women would be invited to Deauville to the Women’s Forum, and the delegation would be presided by Salma Hayek. At that point I had no idea of the meaning that this experience would have in my life.
Stories are embedded with instructions, which guide us in regards to the complexities in life. As I went to Mexico, and interviewed all these fantastic women, I became inspired by their approach to life.
We then took them to Paris and Deauville, and I familiarized myself further with their struggles and their life situations. I finally understood that my past didn’t have to define my future. It was up to me to decide who I wanted to be.

At that point I braided my hair in different ways. One of the braids, similar to the one I use these days, but without a scarf, grabbed the attention of these fabulous women, who asked me to braid their hair the last day. For me, it was a powerful statement mixing union and ‘womanhood’ with Mexican tradition.

The day after, as I was having dinner in Paris with my husband, JC and a friend from my childhood, JC gave me a beautiful Hermes scarf, which later became the first scarf I used for the Floridian Frida look.
Every time I braid my hair, as I tie the final knot with the scarf, I think of a woman I can push forward in some way that day. It has become a habit that has made me realize that by helping others, you always end up helping yourself. Specially when it comes to women. We need to realize that we are not competing against each other. Life is not a telenovela. When we work together towards a common goal, nothing can defeat us.

So now, one thousand posts after, I’m in the plane headed to ‘The Women’s Forum for Economy and Society’ where I will be a speaker. The theme? Parenting and guilt.

Every big scar is a door, and I know my story might heal others, the same way I was healed by the women that were part of that first Mexican Delegation at The Women’s Forum for Economy and Society in Deauville.
Plus, even though every day I encounter new struggles, I have realized that actually, there are no absolutes, if you lean into others. My husband is as much of ‘a mother’ in the traditional sense of the word, as I am, giving me the space to thrive professionally and heal my demons, as we do everything in our hands to give the best of ourselves and our time to our two children, as a team.

I am so very grateful to those who have believed in me, and also to those, like Bob, who didn’t. And this is only the beginning…

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