JEANNIE MAI: Yeah. After I found my faith I’ve never been discouraged like, I don’t think that there is hope. If anything, I get into my ‘hell no’ mode. It’s the mode where I’m like, hell no! This is not going to happen. I don’t get violent, I don’t get negative, if anything, I roll up my sleeves and take off the heels turn on the flats and I get in there to make things happen.
I can’t think of any times that I got that frustrated in the last seven years. Even times like, let’s say my network says I should do things that I completely disagree with… that Maria Shriver thing is actually an example. They wanted me to wear something that was very, very tame and much more average to present on the Maria Shiver stage. That was the one time I remember taking off my How Do I Look? clothes from when I was shooting and scheduling my lunch earlier so I could change into that exact outfit and drive over there, walk into that office and say, this is exactly what I was taught in that kindergarten experience; this is exactly what I am going to bring; if you want me to speak this is the way that I am coming!
Before that, the only other time I remember feeling that way was with my mum. I found out that my mom cheated on my dad at a very young age. I dismissed her entirely from age 16 through to about 25 when I found faith. That was very frustrating, to be so angry and at the time to hate your mom so bad. It’s your mom and you’re always going to think about her and you’re always reminded about her because of all the things you’ve learned from her and you love her but, you’re not ready to forgive—that was frustrating!
Have you ever had to forgive yourself for any big mistakes?
JM: Yes. There will still be times now where I’ll think of things I’ve done in the past and think, oh that’s not good! Why did I do that? The only way that I can actually feel ok to say I forgive myself, is to make some type of amends first with the person that I have hurt, you know, by saying something to them. Otherwise it just keeps eating me. Whether they forgive me or not, as long as I say something to them and authentically share with them whatever it was that just bothers me so much about what my actions were, I’m much better at forgiving myself from that point on but it doesn’t just happen immediately like that.
I love your Prayer Box Project (where people can jot down their prayers on little pieces of paper and put them into the box) that you’ve put up at Runyon Canyon. It’s such a lovely idea.What is one of your favourite things about it?
JM: My favourite thing about the Prayer Box is that it is exposed. I love that it is as easy as a little slot that says ‘pray it forward’ and you can put anything in there that you want. You can pray for your dog, you can pray for your loved ones, you can pray for a country, you can pray for your future. I don’t think prayer should be something that’s just for someone that is religious or Christian or whatever. I think that it should just be something that you do. The word ‘pray’…it’s so weird how you do the same thing when you pray physically: you talk, you utter words, you communicate but, the word ‘pray’ symbolises that you are opening it up to one other being to receive what you’re saying; somebody that is not just human, something else that you’re having faith to believe in. That’s what I think prayer is. I love it when they fold that piece of paper and they put it into the box there’s this childlike spirit in them hoping that someone will hear their prayers. Not realising that if someone retrieves that piece of paper or not, you’ve just sent your message.
Knowing all that you do now, what advice would you give to a young Jeannie Mai?
JM: To the young Jeannie Mai I would say… I actually don’t regret anything so I wouldn’t change anything. I would definitely say, ok the philosophy that I have now, I would try to instil it upon her a little bit sooner. I would have looked at my body differently. Growing up I would have looked at my body and not been so judgemental about it. I would absolutely say that I was made with purpose and that if I just take a second to breathe and receive the things that are actually happening for me – not to me but for me – I would pick up on what I mean by that.
I know that you love when people have dreams and wishes and that you love helping them see the best in themselves. I wanted to ask, right now, what are your biggest wishes and dreams?
JM: I would have to say I want to create some type of event or organisation that can live on beyond me, where women are taught the tools that they need to move forward in life: finances, relationships, health. To have a women’s conference. I would also like to host a network of shows in the area of fashion that would not only be entertaining but also very empowering at the same time.
*Photo credits: courtesy of The Style Network.