A Strong Sense of Self: You are the center of your life! And knowing who you are, what you value and desire will help you create a compass navigating you from the inside out. You will be resolute in yourself no matter the circumstances that surround you.
How does a successful, strong, and powerful woman navigate work, employee relationships, love, and life in a world that still feels uncomfortable with strong women? In this interview series, called “Power Women” we are talking to accomplished women leaders who share their stories and experiences navigating work, love and life as a powerful woman.
As a part of this series I had the distinct pleasure of interviewing Angela Gentile. Angela Gentile, founder of the Sweat Remix wellness brand, motivates you to start and sustain physical exercise, guides you towards greater self awareness, and provides keeping it real life coaching. With an undergraduate degree in English from Fairfield University and a graduate degree in Educational Leadership from Western Governors University, she traded in her decade long teaching career to launch a business helping folks change their body, mindset and life through movement, meditation and mental health coaching. If you’ve been stuck and feel ready to move and grow, this trailblazing 40 year old creates opportunities for folks to live strong, authentic and EPIC lives. Follow her and join her community at https://www.sweatremix.com
Thank you so much for doing this with us! Before we dig in, our readers would like to get to know you a bit more. Can you tell us a bit about your childhood “backstory”?
For sure! Thanks for having me and letting me share my story. Picture it: Sicily. Kidding! I grew up pretty humble and middle class in a small Massachusetts city; then, after my parents divorced and my mom remarried, we moved to a small tobacco farming town in Connecticut during my adolescence. And as a result, I think my childhood was vibrant with a variety of experiences. Truly, it was a combination of regular run of the mill experiences of bike rides, beach vacations, a Disney trip mixed in with addiction and familial trauma.
Growing up, I LOVED school and it’s connection to achievement, mostly because that is where I felt seen and valued, especially in a household riddled with abuse and chaos. In high school, I was a star student, super involved in clubs and activities and a varsity athlete. Since I always felt like an outsider in my own house, It was by throwing myself into school and activities where I realized how capable I was and how valued I could be, a toxic pattern I would have to dive into later on life, but more about that later! I had big dreams of something outside of that small town. I always just wanted more, for myself, for life. I mean, as first woman in my family to have a college degree and a passport to boot, I was trying to carve out a path for myself that I couldn’t even see from anyone around me, let alone was it even valued. I just felt it in my bones.
Needless to say, I have so many awesome memories of my childhood and was very fortunate to go to dance classes, soccer games and have sleep overs with my friends while unconsciously navigating abuse and family trauma, none of which I had the words for at the time. I don’t think I was fully aware of how much my childhood impacted me until I was in my 30s, repeating patterns, getting stuck until I sat down to really hash out what happened and why. It really is a combination of experiences where I get to fully embrace my own wisdom and hard lessons as power.
Can you tell us the story about what led you to this particular career path?
Well, it is NOT a straight line, that’s for sure! I started my professional career in radio when I was only 19 years old. I quit college to pursue rubbing elbows with celebs and getting free CD’s. I know. I am a dinosaur. It was an extremely fun job, but I felt disconnected from something meaningful amidst the vacancy of the entertainment industry. So, going in a completely different direction, I went to college to be a high school teacher. I know, it doesn’t seem fitting, and to be quite honest it never was. I really did not know what to do with my life beyond wanting to help, inspire and create all while being bold and in charge. So, what was presented to me was something so standard, passed down from women who didn’t share my vision because “teaching makes for great mother’s hours” said a counselor. So, without any reason or connection to teaching formalities, I embarked on a journey into education. There, I felt so stuck, like feet in concrete stuck, battling between who the system wanted me to be, demanded I be, and who I was called to become. Over time, I just became more broken and angry, resentful and depressed, manic and disconnected. I knew it wasn’t the right fit, I just didn’t know how to get out, how to move, ya know?
So, I started teaching fitness classes at my school as part of my graduate thesis, out of a need for me to workout more and an opportunity for me to be less angry. By the end of grad school, I was running three school fitness programs while teaching full time AND I STILL WAS NOT READY TO LEAVE THE COMFORT OF MY MISERY IN THE CLASSROOM.
Then, because the universe is not short on wake up calls, she hit me hard with a serious right hook: my father died suddenly from an aneurysm and my entire life changed. I got hit hard with grief and loss as a way to shake me up and change course.
After my dad passed, I got real honest clarity within myself and began branding and building Sweat Remix. I used my experience in suffering to create a process to help people move out of that stuck-ness and into their own calling. Sweat Remix is a way to change your body, your mindset and your life.
Now, Sweat Remix is thriving virtual fitness and wellness brand that reaches people all across the country!
Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you began your career?
Absolutely! I met myself. Probably not the most glamorous answer, but its’ the truth! Learning how to love yourself is the JAM! Traveling through grief and pain and my own inner suffering has helped me to better understand how I show up in life and in business.
When you look back on former version of yourself and how ill equipped you were to handle where you are now, there is an overwhelming sense of gratitude that shows up for each and every low point and lesson. It is powerful to be here comfortable in my own skin. I am much better equipped to negotiate, run analytics and create a marketing strategy and…there is a ton more empathy. And man,
I ran into a former colleague from my teaching years and she said: You look so young! And you look happy!
And to me, that was it. That’s when you know you are on a path: when you are radiating.
You are a successful business leader. Which three character traits do you think were most instrumental to your success? Can you please share a story or example for each?
Willingness to grow and evolve: In life, you will be challenged to meet parts of yourself that need healing and can either lean into it or run away. Business is no different; in fact, it is a constant state of vulnerability! Being able to meet challenges and grow through them means that when you elevate so will your business.
Empathy: fail, learn, get back up and change course is the constant rollercoaster of success, especially in entrepreneurship. Being able to give yourself grace and empathy for your shortcomings and lessons of growth through perceived failure means you will be able to give that to others as well. No one is perfect and is figuring all of this out as they go, one lesson at a time. Leading with compassion and empathy is a strong skill for success.
Gratitude: We toss this around so fluidly that I think it often gets overused and misinterpreted. Gratitude isn’t really about making a list of 10 things everyday you are thankful for but rather a constant practice throughout the day where you get to check in with yourself. Being aware that you have a life that is YOURS and living the dream and opportunity is freakin magical! Aligning all your actions to appreciate and grow from there is highest form of BEING grateful.
Ok, thank you for that. Let’s now jump to the primary focus of our interview. The premise of this series assumes that our society still feels uncomfortable with strong women. Why do you think this is so?
Without giving you a collegiate dissertation on the patriarchy? I’ll try. I mean, society and its systems have been designed to maintain an elite subculture and the folks designed to benefit from the white heteronormative do and will keep on keepin. When a woman asserts herself with strong will, direction and masculine energy and let me be clear, that masculine energy isn’t a gendered thing, but the warrior type energy needed to get sh*t done is what I am talking about. It is the energy that creates PhDs, writes books, wins gold medals and keeps the kiddos alive. So, when a woman has a strong warrior energy, it can inadvertently require those around her to level up. And by no fault, she can force out insecurities in others by her simply being what they are not. Her “difficulty” is a backhanded trigger response to someone else’s insecurity. So, rather than level up because being competent, assured, confident and outright great requires high levels of work that most folks are unwilling to do, It is way easier to tell a woman to “tone it down.” It is misogynistic manipulation to put blame on her for being great and holding her responsible for the inadequacies of others: she has to meet you where you are rather than you level up and meet her on her level. Being less makes everyone and everything else also…less.
Without saying any names, can you share a story from your own experience that illustrates this idea?
Oh man, how I want to name names. But really, there are so many instances in my life from the time I was a kid where it was always: “Angela, stop being so intense.” And “Why are you so difficult?” And “Oh, man look at you with those heavy weights making us look bad.” And to that I just…keep moving. Even engaging in narratives that want me to be less than I am is a waste of my energy. What I can mention is that if it wasn’t for a particular boutique gym in Boston calling me difficult, I would not have left and started my own virtual studio. When you know you worth, you just get tired of asking and seeking to understand. Eventually, you just see how people are moving, what they are capable of and decide to make a move when it is not in alignment when your needs. And for the last “you’re being difficult” I say “thanks!”
What should a powerful woman do in a context where she feels that people are uneasy around her?
I think it is important to really address that question. I tend to think that if people feel uneasy around you, it is simply information. You can’t be responsible for how someone feels, right? If I could MAKE someone feel some type of way, I would have MADE Justin Timberlake fall in love with me years ago! Just sayin. So, we all make our own choices to respond or react to what we are presented to. You can, however, be responsible for how you show up and where you show up. If you are in situations where you are questioned, uneasy, or asked to compromise yourself, use that as information: how did you get here? Are you bringing in toxic energy or is this just a mismatch of energy? Do you even feel comfortable? Is this where you want to be in the first place? Asking questions about what is happening will help you get clear to adjust accordingly and make moves that honor and respect yourself.
What do we need to do as a society to change the unease around powerful women?
Maybe there isn’t anything to “do”, but rather to “be.” The shift starts with each woman living a life on her terms, simply being and existing as she sees fit! Imagine just living above the noise and unbothered with all the expectations?? You don’t want kids? Great. You want to have 13 children? Neat. And, champion your sister for doing what is best for her, without judgement and criticism. We can start shifting away from that “living unapologetically” noise because even saying it, we are operating under the fallacy that we, as women living against the grain or even being bold, is something to freakin’ apologize for in the first place! When we start truly living authentically, we not only widen the path for women to walk, we pave it. We solidify it.
In my own experience, I have observed that often women have to endure ridiculous or uncomfortable situations to achieve success that men don’t have to endure. Do you have a story like this from your own experience? Can you share it with us?
That is a hard question! I don’t have a specific story and I can also say this: women tend to navigate situations from a variety of angles, attempting to micromanage the outcome. We have been conditioned to be responsible for situations and behaviors that are outside of us and beyond our control We have to be acutely aware of how we show up and play our cards strategically, which is maddening and exhausting. I tend to live wholeheartedly in myself and lay everything out, show up as myself and what doesn’t stick, doesn’t stick. That wasn’t for me, ya know?
In your opinion, what are the biggest challenges faced by women leaders that aren’t typically faced by their male counterparts?
There is also this weird societal pressure to raise a family, want marriage, want kids and want to settle down. As a result, women carry the burdens of so much unpaid labor, mostly surrounding care taking roles within the family, that struggling to manage all of it can be all too much. Some of us women don’t even want that in the first place. Quite frankly, it seems like a really shitty and underpaid gig that would rob me of the things I love most about life. So, choosing not to participate in that is a choice as valid as any other. Can that option and lifestyle be championed by both other women and men and also with the same esteem as a bachelor for life lifestyle?? Why can’t I, as a woman, strictly want to build an empire without a partner, kids and the whole Hallmark Movie? I can’t wait to take my entire tribe across the globe on a private jet! Having to field those questions and compartmentalizations is outdated and tiring.
Let’s now shift our discussion to a slightly different direction. This is a question that nearly everyone with a job has to contend with. Was it difficult to fit your personal and family life into your business and career? For the benefit of our readers, can you articulate precisely what the struggle was?
Oh hell yes. Once you have such a strong sense of purpose, you recognize other people may not share that same connection and passion. It is challenging to be a single, child free 40 year old woman and find circles who want to talk about things other than home remodeling, husbands and daycare. It is important to seek out friends and supports who share your lifestyle, have similar freedoms and are on a similar journey. Having friends who support my goals and are equally driven to their own passions is necessary. I love being around my tribe of people who share the same values and making time to connect with them is on the schedule just as it would be any other important meeting or appointment.
And know that connection and intimacy com in various forms, not just with physical. It is hard to date long term because I know how much time my business needs right now to grow and thrive. And, I know what kind of partner I am looking for and how I want him to show up. I also know that I can’t give what I am asking for. So, I know I don’t have any business asking for it. I get a lot of my connective intimacy with my incredible friendships. Those humans are my soulmates. Everything comes in time and maybe balance isn’t about having everything all at once, in fractions on the same plate. Scraps ain’t it. But rather living a balanced life happens over time. And everything will always come at the right time.
What was a tipping point that helped you achieve a greater balance or greater equilibrium between your work life and personal life? What did you do to reach this equilibrium?
I wouldn’t exactly say a tipping point, but rather a full out collapse. It was one of those life lessons where if you weren’t going to slow down and listen, the world was going to send something your way to force you to do so. In early 2019, I had enough. I was so exhausted from working 7 days a week. And. I was also grieving multiple compounded losses, including the loss of my father a few years earlier, a traumatic romantic break-up, and the loss of my fur baby of 14 years, that it all just got stuffed down into my work, as a distraction. But, when the bill came due it wasn’t pretty. It was painful and difficult to show up; I struggled to manage my emotions. I was super depressed and burnt out. This emotional upheaval forced me to take a break, get back in therapy, go on vacation, not open the laptop or take calls and cry my heart out, purging all this pent up pain and grief.
COVID was another opportunity to get quiet and make even more changes and shifts away from the hustle. It taught me that I do no like getting up at 6am to do anything, quite frankly. So, it caused me to get clear on what lifestyle I wanted to live, what was going to be put back into my life post COVID and what was definitely going to stay as is: late mornings and lots of time with my new rescue doggo.
Now, I leaned out my life: people, places, stress, all of it. I focus on one main goal at a time and remember that you can’t till, plant and harvest all in the same season. Everything comes at the right time. So, take a break and enjoy this life you are creating for yourself.
I work in the beauty tech industry, so I am very interested to hear your philosophy or perspective about beauty. In your role as a powerful woman and leader, how much of an emphasis do you place on your appearance? Do you see beauty as something that is superficial, or is it something that has inherent value for a leader in a public context? Can you explain what you mean?
There’s so much emphasis on looking the part and woah do women truly get the long and short of these criticisms. I work in an industry that for all purposes, preys on unhealthy body standards. I do not promote a direct number on the scale, percent of body fat or a specific jean size. Wellness to me isn’t about how it looks, because sometimes what can lead to someone looking trim, slim and ripped is actually making them quite unwell. But rather, working out is about how it feels between the mind, body and soul. Working out is a way to love, honor and respect the self.
Being beautiful is a personal choice that is completely unrelated to anyone’s damn opinion. And what is the most beautiful to me is a person who just doesn’t even care to define it in the first place.
How is this similar or different for men?
First of all, do men even get asked this question? No, for real? Does anyone ask a man powerful in business about his self esteem and it’s connection to limited beauty standards? And well, there’s your answer. And what makes matters worse is that we don’t offer up space and permission for men to have these open and honest conversations. It is what truly builds walls for and within the patriarchy in the fist place.
Ok super. Here is the main question of our interview. Based on your opinion and experience, what are the “Five Things You Need To Thrive and Succeed as a Powerful Woman?” (Please share a story or example for each.)
- A Strong Sense of Self: You are the center of your life! And knowing who you are, what you value and desire will help you create a compass navigating you from the inside out. You will be resolute in yourself no matter the circumstances that surround you.
- A Support System Who Champions Your Growth & Success: Being great and having success of any kind requires lots of setbacks, honest and trials, over and over. Being able to surround yourself with folks who give you permission to be anything and everything that you are is beyond necessary. Those are the folks who see you and your messiness and beauty as one in the same. And, these are the non-contingent and simultaneously reciprocal friendships that truly build long lasting empires.
- A Self-care Routine That Promotes a Deep Connection to the Self, Refuels and Inspires: Your life mask on first, ok? That’s a non-negotiable. Caring for yourself goes beyond bubble baths. Finding ways to ignite your dynamic soul will keep your tank full so you are In a state of abundant creation and success.
- EMPATHY: We all mess up. We all fail. We all date that one guy, ya know? Showing up with self-criticism can keep you stuck on a shame and hate loop, limiting your ability for success. Looking back at your past, for example, with love, compassion and empathy, maybe even a dash of humor, for a former version of you who did the best she could with what she had will create lots of freedom! This space you carve out by letting go, shaking your head and keeping it moving will lend itself to so much more better aligned for you.
- An Unwavering Vision: Trust yourself on this one: you know what you are called to do. When you silence the noise and expectations and heal the trauma, and you listen to that inner knowing, you feel it with electricity in your bones. Maybe it even moves you to tears. Knowing that only YOU know what you are called to do is important for there will be lots of opinions and unsolicited “should’s” being thrown your way. But remember: turtles will never understand the giraffe’s view.
We are very blessed that some very prominent names in Business, VC funding, Sports, and Entertainment read this column. Is there a person in the world, or in the US with whom you would love to have a private breakfast or lunch with, and why? He or she might just see this if we tag them.
Oh my god! Oprah, Brene Brown, Iyanla Vanzant, Mel Robbins…holler at cha girl!
Thank you for these fantastic insights. We greatly appreciate the time you spent on this.
About The Interviewer: Ming Zhao is an immigrant, third-generation entrepreneur, and mother whose daughter, Ember, is the same age as her company, PROVEN Skincare. PROVEN applies Artificial Intelligence and data to create personalized skincare products. The Stanford scientist team at PROVEN create customized skincare systems for individuals based on more than 47 factors about them, including their gene expression, external lifestyle, environment and skin concerns. PROVEN is the winner of MIT’s AI Technology of the Year award. Check out PROVEN at www.provenskincare.com