Ileana Rontea Of Empowered Women Now Enterprises OU On How Authenticity and Vulnerability Pay Off and Help You Win Personally and Professionally

An Interview With Maria Angelova


Being authentic also allows me to normally detect when others are not, which is very helpful in every area of life. I can then distance myself from these people.

Being vulnerable and authentic are some of today’s popular buzzwords. It may seem counterintuitive to be vulnerable, as many of us have been taught to project an air of confidence, be a boss, and act like we know everything. In Brene Brown’s words, “vulnerability takes courage.” So is vulnerability a strength or a weakness? Can someone be authentic without being vulnerable? How can being authentic and vulnerable help someone grow both personally and professionally? In this interview series, we are talking to business leaders, mental health professionals and business and life coaches who can share stories and examples of “How Authenticity and Vulnerability Pay Off and Help You Win Personally and Professionally.” As a part of this series, I had the pleasure of interviewing Ileana Rontea.

Ileana Rontea is a speaker, trainer, writer, Women’s Empowerment Coach, human resources professional, entrepreneur, world traveler, and Co-Founder of Empowered Women Now Enterprises OÜ ( Ileana and her business partner create and deliver unique and transformational training and coaching courses for women at the workplace.

Ileana has worked as an onboard Human Resources Manager on cruise liners, where she provided soft-skills training, as well as coaching and counselling to staff and management. Her “superpower” lies in her keen ability to see the sometimes-hidden potential in others and guide them on their transformational journey.

Thank you so much for doing this with us! Before we start, our readers would love to “get to know you” a bit better. Can you tell us a bit about your childhood backstory?

There is so much to tell because I didn’t have a “typical” childhood. I am a TCK (third culture kid); by the time I was 12 years old, I had lived in 4 different countries, with 4 different languages, although I only spoke 3 of them. Having to adapt to so many cultures, people and places was a double-edged sword, especially as I was an only child. On the one hand, I had to start over as an “outsider” and make new friends at ages when children are still quite sensitive. On the other hand, I learned flexibility early on in life and a taste for adventure, which has carried over into my adult life. I have now lived in 13 countries and traveled to countless more because of my ability to adapt and my love of exploring new places.

Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?

This is my favorite quote by Guillaume Apollinaire:

“Come to the edge,” he said.
They said, “We are afraid.”
Come to the edge,” he said.
They came.
He pushed them…and they flew.”

I love this quote because it is how I have lived most of my life — taking more risks than most, walking a less-trodden path and still making it work. I find that too many people live in fear and choose to lead lives of “safety”, which might appear less hazardous, but are also less rich and diverse.

Is there a particular book, podcast, or film that made a significant impact on you? Can you share a story or explain why it resonated with you so much?

There are at least 3 books and one film that have deeply influenced me at different points in my life. However, I will share the most recent one. It is a book called “The Surrender Experiment” by Michael Singer. The book is about “allowing the flow of life” to guide your actions, as opposed to trying to force things to happen. It tells the story of the author and how his life unfolded in such synchronistic ways as to allow for positive outcomes that he could have never even have imagined. The first time I read it, it drew a profound emotional response from me and I was inspired to look at my own life and to realize that the same had been true for me, but I had not paid that much attention. It was truly life changing because I now try to live from that place of trust in Life/Universe/Spirit (whatever you might want to call it), rather than from a controlling and forceful ego.

Let’s now shift to the main part of our discussion. Let’s begin with a definition of terms so that each of us and our readers are on the same page. What exactly does being authentic mean?

To me, being authentic is being real, genuine, without an agenda and artifice. It means showing up in life as my true self, without wearing a mask or portraying a particular image of what I think others might want to see. It also means operating from my heart-center, which is rooted in compassion and kindness toward others. This way of being translates into interacting with others from a broadminded and expansive place, instead of a rigid and narrow attitude.

From my perspective, being authentic also means knowing who I am and having a degree of self-assurance in my own “beingness”. This comes from having self-awareness, understanding and acceptance of myself as I am. The self-compassion is there even when I am working on changing some things because I am not doing it from a place of “lack”, but from a desire for self-growth and self-actualization. I want to become “the best version of myself”.

What does being vulnerable mean? Can you explain?

Being vulnerable is closely tied to being authentic because when you do NOT wear a mask or pretend, you will get those who will judge, reject, bully, troll or react against you; there will also be those who will find your authenticity extremely threatening and will respond harshly. Vulnerability is showing your soft underbelly to the world, in a way. But it takes a lot of courage to show up in the world in this way and not to be daunted by the nay-sayers.

Having said that, vulnerability should not be confused with being naïve or feeling that every detail of your life must be shared with others. Understanding healthy personal boundaries, knowing when to say things and to whom is a highly valuable skillset that cannot be overestimated. I can still be authentic and vulnerable and not share every detail of my personal life on social media. These are important distinctions to understand.

What are the positive aspects of being authentic and vulnerable? Can you give a story or example to explain what you mean?

In my view, being authentic and vulnerable creates a bridge between me and the other person. This invites the other to trust and feel safe in my presence. In my work as an onboard Human Resources Manager on cruise ships, this ability was vitally important as I had both crew and officers ask for my assistance with work situations, as well as complex personal issues. I was thus able to help many people because I had no ulterior motives, “political” agendas, or any desire to manipulate or control anyone. People sense when someone is “real” and has their best interest at heart and will normally respond accordingly.

Are there negative aspects to authenticity and vulnerability? Can you give a story or example to explain what you mean?

Sometimes, we can trust the wrong people and create problems for ourselves. When you are living from your authentic self, you sometimes forget that others don’t, and this can create a blind spot. Although I normally have a very good radar for spotting insincerity, there are people who are masters of deception. Sociopaths and narcissists are especially skilled at mimicking authenticity and sincerity and are skilled manipulators. When I worked on cruise ships, I once had a superior try to destroy my career because I took a stand against him in a matter of crew welfare. Having discernment and being able to read people is very important, as I mentioned above.

For many young people, being authentic and different will sometimes make them a target to bullies; this is speaking from experience. They automatically become vulnerable because of walking a different path, whatever that may be. And they are often punished daily for it. I want to encourage everyone to stay the course and get help to get out of the negative situation. Don’t allow the bullies to win and make your life miserable! You can only be who you truly are by nurturing your authentic self and shining your light to the world.

From your experience or perspective, what are some of the common barriers that hold someone back from being authentic and vulnerable?

As with most things, I think it is the fear of being judged and rejected by others. We are conditioned from infancy by our families, culture, religion, media, etc. to be a certain way, and that is NOT to be authentic. Women especially have a hard time with this because they are also taught to be pleasing to others and to always accommodate. When you are authentic, you will not always accommodate others as a matter of fact. You will be aware of who you are and what your needs and wants are, and honor those. It is a matter of balancing what you give to yourself and what you offer to others. This means that others might be unhappy with you and not “like” you, which is very difficult for many women to handle. You might then open yourself up to possible ridicule, rejection, disapproval, and even enemies.

In addition, our culture does not encourage vulnerability, which is associated with the feminine and is seen as implying weakness. We are taught that “only the fittest survive”, to “keep a stiff upper lip”, and to “fake it until you make it”, none of which are compatible with being authentic or vulnerable. Women in particular are fearful of appearing vulnerable because we are already disadvantaged by our size and our typically more fragile physicality. We fear physical attacks, emotional manipulation, and outright intimidation, which most of us have encountered at one point or another in our lives.

It took me a long time to understand that only by being vulnerable could I truly connect to another person in an authentic way. But as I said before, discernment is necessary at all times.

Here is the central question of our discussion. What are five ways that being authentic and vulnerable pay off, and help you win, both personally and professionally?

1. When I speak in public, I connect to my audience from my heart. This makes my message more inspiring and “real”, drawing people in and helping them get to understand the essence of who I truly am.

2. Being authentic also allows me to normally detect when others are not, which is very helpful in every area of life. I can then distance myself from these people.

3. For me, authenticity and vulnerability are qualities which also open me to others, be more accepting and understanding (except if I detect any form of duplicity). This is why I am told I make a very good coach!

4. When I conduct our online women’s empowerment training Program, being authentic and vulnerable means that I share with them personal experiences that show them that I have struggled with the same issues they have. This creates a deeper rapport with the 16 participants, allowing them to feel that they are in a safe container where they can also be authentic and vulnerable.

5. When I speak to prospective clients about empowering women and the Program we have, my passion, which is grounded in my authenticity and vulnerability, comes through and often motivates the prospect to have a lengthier conversation, book a presentation call with me and eventually possibly bring us on board to work with their staff.

You are a person of great influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be?

As you can see, women’s empowerment is very dear to my heart. In many countries around the world, women are still not treated as equal partners with men at the table of life. They have reduced opportunities, are often not allowed an education, and are sometimes viewed as property. I would like to inspire a movement to free ALL women from around the world from their chains of child marriage, male domination, and religious oppression. I would like to see every single woman be free to choose her own destiny and not fear for her safety, her health, or her life. This would be a paradigm shift in our world, but perhaps the time has come for that.

Is there a person in the world whom you would love to have lunch with, and why? Maybe we can tag them and see what happens!

It would have been RBG, but she is no longer with us. Michael Singer, author of “The Surrender Experiment” would be my next choice. It was a life-changing book for me, and I would love the chance to meet him.

How can our readers follow you online?

Our company YouTube channel —

My online FB Women’s Group can be found here —

This was very inspiring. Thank you so much for the time you spent on this. We wish you only continued success.

About The Interviewer: Maria Angelova, MBA is a disruptor, author, motivational speaker, body-mind expert, Pilates teacher and founder and CEO of Rebellious Intl. As a disruptor, Maria is on a mission to change the face of the wellness industry by shifting the self-care mindset for consumers and providers alike. As a mind-body coach, Maria’s superpower is alignment which helps clients create a strong body and a calm mind so they can live a life of freedom, happiness and fulfillment. Prior to founding Rebellious Intl, Maria was a Finance Director and a professional with 17+ years of progressive corporate experience in the Telecommunications, Finance, and Insurance industries. Born in Bulgaria, Maria moved to the United States in 1992. She graduated summa cum laude from both Georgia State University (MBA, Finance) and the University of Georgia (BBA, Finance). Maria’s favorite job is being a mom. Maria enjoys learning, coaching, creating authentic connections, working out, Latin dancing, traveling, and spending time with her tribe. To contact Maria, email her at To schedule a free consultation, click here.



Maria Angelova, CEO of Rebellious Intl.
Authority Magazine

Maria Angelova, MBA is a disruptor, author, motivational speaker, body-mind expert, Pilates teacher and founder and CEO of Rebellious Intl.