The Visionary’s Manifesto in association with Heart of Cool Presents Dana Renee (Creator of a dynamic skin, body and hair rejuvenation line called “Beneath Your Mask”)
“You can do the impossible, because you have been through the unthinkable” a quote by Christina Rasmussen. I searched high and low for something to give a perspective and perhaps a touch of humanity to this week’s candidate for The Visionary’s Manifesto and believe me there were very lengthy inspirational verses on how to look at adversity and ultimately triumph but the above quote by Christina Rasmussen in its brief prose spoke volumes of what Dana Renee, creator of Beneath Your Mask rejuvenation product line has experienced. Diagnosed at the young age of 30 with Systemic Lupus Erythematosus, she stands before us today as a woman of vision and strength. During my time with this courageous, creative individual I was given a glimpse of how we all struggle in our daily lives against unforeseen circumstances and come out the other end, if we’re bold enough, to take charge of this precious gift called life and utilize it to elevate, educate and heal others. “In my own journey to truly heal I must let my guard down and remove my mask, the mask that protects me from judgement and other people’s expectations. The mask that presents me as polished, beautiful, successful and having it all, sharing what I’ve gone through where I’ve come from and having to relive those memories seems more than I can endure. At times it appears it would be easier to walk away from my future than to write about my past.” A personal entry from the bio of Dana Renee creator of Beneath Your Mask.
HOC: Tell us about where you are as far as the mental and spiritual healing of your present self.
DR: In regards to my present self, that is an ongoing process. I think that when you’ve been far and away and lived a thirty-year journey which was the age I was at when this all happened. It’s a constant struggle to not be that person. I would say the realization of the person I was before is like a cliché where I tell people, “I’m so glad you didn’t know me before it all happened” as I was constantly battling between who I was and who I wanted to be. When I first got sick (diagnosis of SLE) I thought am I a bad person did I do something wrong for this to happen to me? Part of my healing was accepting who I was and that there were certain things about me I needed to change and some of those things I still work on to this very day. Literally every day I’m praying for direction and checking myself on my thoughts and patterns on how I react to things and being in control because that’s still a part of my personality. Noticing those particulars is the biggest difference with me now and allowing myself to let them go and the things that I’m obsessing on and having to consciously think about because to be in the business that I’m in now there is a level of perfectionism that comes with the territory that to me is not entirely healthy and so I’m constantly working against everything having to be right. So mentally and spiritually I’m on the right path but it’s still a journey and I wouldn’t say that I’m one hundred percent where I want to be but the Scorpio in me probably means that I’m going to be evolving for the rest of my life which I’m ok with (laughter).
HOC: What is your take on the concept of “forgiveness” as it applies to yourself and others?
DR: It’s so ironic that you ask me about forgiveness because this is one of the topics that my guru centers on with me and we work at on a deep level. I don’t really talk about this much in my personal bio but when I was younger my brother was killed. I was 15 years old and he was 23, my brother and I were very close and after that tragic event I put up an emotional wall and because of that it has been maybe too easy to walk away from people because my thought process was that if I could live without my brother, with whom I was so close, then I could live with the loss of anyone and that translated to not worrying about forgiving anyone because I could live without them. Forgiveness is absolutely important because it’s better for you to be able to allow yourself to forgive than simply doing it for the other person. It’s like a kind of closure. My thought is that you can’t tell a person how or when to forgive it’s a process where you don’t have to necessarily let the person know what they did to affect you and I think that sometimes we feel the need to let the person know how much they hurt us and for them to feel that hurt. Forgiveness is more an acknowledgement of self.
HOC: My next question centers around depression and the fact that you experienced a deep depression due to your severe diagnosis. For people who experience depression or who are unclear about what the signs are how do they begin to cope and or deal with the issues? What life lessons have you learned from the experience of depression?
DR: The takeaway is that it can always get worse and the realization that there is someone going through a deeper level of the illness. For me right now I don’t allow myself to sink into that dark place but I do allow myself to feel the emotion and release tears yet I don’t dig in too deep and plant myself there. The hardest part of my business was sharing my story, exposing the other side of what I’ve been through because I couldn’t see it while I was there. The journey is getting to the other side of the issues surrounding the depression and finding a place of comfort and beauty. Don’t stop at the beginning of the onset of depression because you feel you cannot deal with the healing process. Remember there is beauty on the other side of any journey.
HOC: Let’s delve into your product line, which seems to be a result of your struggle and how you continue to evolve. Your rejuvenation product line seems to embody the good and not so good, the beauty the other side of what we deem as not beautiful that really make us value the concept in a unique and defining way. Can you define your intentions as you created the concepts for the product line that heals whipped skin?
DR: I wanted my brand to not just be about beauty but to also exude an urban edge because it’s a reflection of who I am. For me to be a girl with a luxury brand when some of the people I grew up with on the south side of Chicago are still surviving and trying to thrive in that environment is amazing. I’m proud of where I come from and it’s such a part of who I am now. I love the black bottles that represent an urban edge, the simple insignia of the “B.” Initially I created this product for myself and wasn’t thinking about the marketing aspect due to what I was experiencing physically related to my illness and the need to heal and combat the issue of trauma to my skin as it expanded due to the one hundred pounds of water weight I gained while in the hospital which stretched my skin to the point that my mother had to administer powders to alleviate the burning sensations. My product was conceived as a healing agent, made with natural herbs and fragrances sourced from their original regions around the globe. I then began to share it with co-workers and friends and the feedback encouraged me to go further in the development and marketing aspect.
HOC: Where do you see yourself positioned five years from now?
DR: I really see Beneath Your Mask growing as a lifestyle brand such as home sprays and even revolving around the vegan lifestyle with recipes. I’m going to change the perceptions of what healthy foods are in association with amazing taste and I intend on being pro-active with a diffusion brand which gives everyone access to that pure element associated with my product line. I continue to center my efforts around a therapeutic element, with indigenous ingredients.
HOC: With you being from Chicago what advice would you give to other young women from those sides of town where life seems a bit more challenging?
DR: What resonated with me was that there were certain people in my journey as a young woman who I saw as doing positive things and walking a good path so exposure is probably the number one element associated with that type of encouragement to do better once they see it. Having access to people like myself and other women who have chartered a career path for themselves. This is key for not only young women but the young men as well, there is too much of a confinement factor associated with their given neighborhoods and having the opportunity to visit the sites in our city that offer up such a beautiful skyline yet which few of our young people have ever had a chance to really visit and see someone like themselves operating in that space successfully. To see me now and the images associated with my business you wouldn’t know from the onset that I was one of those young people who through self determination, exposure, positive reinforcements and support am now able to stand in my highest self and give back from within.
HOC: What final thoughts would you like to relay to our audience about life and its challenges, how to be happy and successful?
DR: I always say that those terms and or labels are relative and we have to differentiate how we define those things that add intrinsic value to our lives and the lives of others as opposed to how the people around you may attempt to create that narrative for you. I use the term relative so much because in the social media sphere people live their lives to gather likes from creating unnecessary distractions such as photos taken from every aspect of a persons life and then posted for all the world to see and most of it is not positive. Get into the mode of creating a positive dynamic within your journey and hold fast to the belief that the more you give from a creative and positive platform, the more you’ll get in return from within.
To learn more about Dana and the skin, body and hair rejuvenation product line please visit her amazing and creative website at www.beneathyourmask.com