Sonia Velasquez is one of the best examples of overcoming adversity you will find. After the loss of her left eye to family violence, this beautiful woman embraced a career as a model, as a well-respected journalist, and a successful producer. Her passion for helping others has shaped her brand of philanthropic journalism and social activism.
Although we all know stories of famous people overcoming adversity, Sonia’s case is unique for the in-your face contrast between what happened to her and her generosity of spirit. Born in Colombia, the host of Extreme Makeover Home Edition Latin America spends her time between Colombia, Miami, and Argentina.
Many successful stories begin with overcoming adversity. But when you are actually experiencing it, it’s not always easy to find a way out of it. When you think back about the time when you lost your eye, could you tell us what kept you going? How much influence did the mentor who introduced you to the eye patch have in your ability to pursue your career dreams?
What kept me going was faith. I am convinced the universe brings you angels in the path. I was 18 and needed a push to move forward. My mentor at the time, was an incredible woman named Irma Airstizabal. She is a talent manager and a visionary who lit up my career. She knew something was missing… and she suggested that I wear an eye patch and introduced me to Adriana Eslava, who also wore one. They gave me the confidence to wear it. It was a leap of faith.
You’ve never been a traditional journalist and as the industry experiences dramatic changes, your style seems to be perfectly suited for the present. What kind of decisions do you make on a daily basis that challenge the way things have been done in your industry in the past?
My philosophy is based on social responsibility and the importance of our actions. The question: “How can I help others” is a way of thinking that makes many people uncomfortable.
Overcoming adversity is obviously in your DNA. What are some of the biggest challenges you face in your job and what strategies do you have in place to overcome them?
Everyday I deal with very skeptical people. For me the main challenge is their lack of hope in a better world. The way I balance this is by responding with understanding. Sooner or later they realize that everything is possible.
What do you find the most satisfying part of your work?
Trying to alleviate the pain of others by listening to their needs and helping to build their homes and dreams. I also have the need to connect with vulnerable women sending messages of hope and empowerment by sharing my story.
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What advice do you have for other women who have unusual career goals?
Connecting with the spiritual world no matter what beliefs you hold. By doing this I have found the strength I need it.
Give us an example of how you’re currently helping other women advance professionally or fulfill their career goals?
In Extreme Makeover Home Edition Latin America we help to build houses in which women are in charge. Beyond the material aspect, we send a powerful message of faith: You are not alone; we recognize the importance of your life, we recognize your challenges and your suffering. We send messages of love and recognition to people in similar situations.
I also work for the More Peace Less Aids Foundation, creating awareness about prevention and digging deep into the real causes. AIDS is not a medical issue but a social one who affects the vulnerable women population.
For more on Sonia Velasquez:
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and, of course, visit her page! www.soniavelasquez.com