Power Women: Author Christine Handy On How To Successfully Navigate Work, Love and Life As A Powerful Woman

An Interview With Ming Zhao

Ming S. Zhao
Authority Magazine
Published in
14 min readJan 16, 2022


In the recent past, I believe many women felt they had to work harder, longer hours and with more diligence than their male counterparts. I believe it was a society burden that put that on women. I don’t think that is behind us, but I believe it has altered. As a writer, women are being sought after. As a speaker, the same thing has happened. It is not to say men are not higher up on the pay scale in either industry, but I don’t see it in my life now. I also don’t see the need to prove myself to a man to do the same job. Do men have it easier, definitely. Do I want to see more change, yes?

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 (Christine Handy.

Christine Handy is a Model, Motivational Speaker, a mother and a humanitarian. Christine is also the author of the best selling book Walk Beside Me, currently in production to become a film. In Christine’s spare time, she is studying to get a Master’s degree in Literature and Creative writing from Harvard University.

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”?

I was raised in the St. Louis, Missouri. I have three amazing sisters and parents who taught me to be fiercely committed. I left St. Louis to study in Dallas at Southern Methodist University for college. I loved Dallas so much I stayed for over twenty years to raise my two sons. Now I reside permanently in Miami, Florida.

Can you tell us the story about what led you to this particular career path?

My Modeling career started very young. I worked through high school, college and for years into motherhood. But unplanned stages of illness prevented me from modeling after 35 years old. After those harrowing seasons of my life, I found a way back to modeling but I also added other careers along the way. I was diagnosed with breast cancer in 2012 and went through chemotherapy. When I was healthy enough to work again, I wrote a novel based on my life called Walk Beside Me. The novel was well received and then quickly was written into a screenplay. At this same time, I started speaking about my difficulties, illnesses and other issues. Believing at this stage I had great wisdom and knowledge on survival, added with a history in front of the camera, I took those expertises and became a motivational speaker. I often say that my modeling years prepared me for a career as a professional speaker.

Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you began your career?

I have so many. My modeling career has honestly only gotten better and I am fifty years old. Even after chemotherapy and the excavation of my chest, I still have a flourishing career. In February, I am representing notable brands by walking in New York Fashion Week spring shows. It doesn’t get much better than that. Early in the pandemic, speaking gigs came to a halt. So I shifted my focus into speaking in interviews. This allowed me to continue to inspire and lead others. Last year alone, I was interviewed over sixty times. There is always purpose in pain, and my story is a reflection of that. But we have to be willing to share the stories and find creative ways to contribute in confusing times such as a pandemic. Just like my modeling career had lots of twists and turns, so has my speaking career. Adjusting to circumstance and resiliency are critical when professional doors close on us.

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?

My success is, without question, a result of my grit and determination. It is also a result of letting go of pride. Most people that read my story of physical and emotional pain, chemotherapy and 23 non-elective surgeries, would say that the only way I am still alive is because of my determination. They don’t imagine a thriving model, motivational speaker, humanitarian and a woman on the board of two non-profits. It was that grit and persistence that ensured my success. But maybe more importantly it was getting rid of my pride and ego in a world that worships external beauty and accolades that propelled my speaking and writing career. After my beauty altered, and my body showcased its scars, most would have hung up the modeling pursuit. Not me, I dove even more into it with purpose. If I could flaunt my concave chest in magazines and on the runway for all the women who needed to see that, wouldn’t that give them courage as well? There are too many women who feel shame or embarrassment with that physical alteration. I want to show them the truth, that without a chest, we are strong and beautiful. In addition to modeling, I added author and speaker to my resume after all of the trauma. With my ego in check and a strong self esteem, relying on that physical perfection I once sought after was out of my way in order for me to continue to flourish.

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?

It goes back to pride and self esteem I believe. There is this misconception that men are more powerful. I beg to differ. Emotionally, I am more powerful than any man I have ever known. I have gone through more fires than most and came out stronger. But that is a choice. That is where self esteem comes into play. When my self esteem was low, I believed I had to be a dependent and could accomplish very little. After tremendous inner work on self care and self love, I realized I could do almost anything. It was after this introspection that I rose in all the industries I longed to be in. The modeling world, being a motivational speaker, a social media influencer and a humanitarian all depended on my strong self worth. If I didn’t believe in me, who would. When our self doubt and misjudgments about our worth change, we become unstoppable. I cheer myself on every single day. I do not need societies acceptance or accolades, I need my own. To be a strong, unstoppable woman, I believe it starts from the inside.

Without saying any names, can you share a story from your own experience that illustrates this idea?

Women are rising. It has been a process I have seen in my life. I have tried to gain my own footing in a world where I believe I can make as much money as my male counterpart. My speaking fees are a reflection of how well I speak in front of an audience. We all have different stories to tell. In my industry, maybe a man has a better chance at getting in the door, but with my courage and self esteem, I have an equal opportunity to get the speaking gig.

What should a powerful woman do in a context where she feels that people are uneasy around her?

Self talk is critical. Remind yourself you are worthy and unstoppable and that insecurity will fade. Remember it’s the other person’s issues not yours. If anyone makes you feel like they are ‘better,’ ‘more qualified,’ more powerful, it is reflection of their ego. Power starts within and because it starts within, nobody can take that from you. When I felt intimidated, it was a result of my own lack of self-esteem. Now, when others are uneasy around my strength, I know it is their insecurity not mine, and I don’t let it affect me in any way.

What do we need to do as a society to change the unease around powerful women?

It is changing. It has been shifting for a while. I don’t see that forcing an issue changes an issue. I believe women banding together and showing up with and for each other will change that unease. When we realize, as women, we aren’t in competition with each other, there is plenty to go around, then we are changing the stigma. When women pull each other down, we all lose. So cheer each other on, know there is no ceiling to what any of us can accomplish. Then the walls and barriers break down. Nobody can stop a group of women fighting for each other.

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 happens far too often. It can ignite such anger and frustration. I do believe we have more power when we can control our reaction. I try to head into those disparities with grace versus anger even though it’s difficult. In my life, I have had to fight many Goliath’s. I have had to endure and disable too many bullies in the modeling industry, the speaking industry and the writing field. On some level, I used to believe that men had more power. I don’t believe that anymore. While we all have power, I don’t believe it’s gender specific. When my stance changed, nobody could intimate or bully me any longer. I did not allow it in my life. The people around me in all of the industries I am a part of, recognize that inner prowess, they respect it and have subsequently stopped treating me less then. In essence, I took back my control. We are not what others label us as, we are what we label ourselves as.

In your opinion, what are the biggest challenges faced by women leaders that aren’t typically faced by their male counterparts?

In the recent past, I believe many women felt they had to work harder, longer hours and with more diligence than their male counterparts. I believe it was a society burden that put that on women. I don’t think that is behind us, but I believe it has altered. As a writer, women are being sought after. As a speaker, the same thing has happened. It is not to say men are not higher up on the pay scale in either industry, but I don’t see it in my life now. I also don’t see the need to prove myself to a man to do the same job. Do men have it easier, definitely. Do I want to see more change, yes?

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?

I started over at the age of forty-five. I went out on a limb and wrote a book, then set out to be a speaker. That is not easy to do at any age, much less untrained, under qualified and later in life. But I believed in myself enough to pursue it and accomplish it. It has taken me around six years and almost no social life to get where I am. I sacrificed many personal relationships. But I set out to inspire and change lives with my book and speaking skills. I knew deep inside that my personal mission was worth the sacrifice. It is only now that I am trying to rebalance my life. I am addicted to working and it is difficult to step back and add personal time. I am also getting my masters degree at Harvard. Between work, my non-profit board positions, school and multiple careers, it is a challenge to merge a social life. The only individuals I will always put in front of any job are my two sons, but they are in college and that allows me the time to focus on various careers.

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?

Only recently has this shifted for me. Two things happened that propelled me to gain more balance. After non-stop working for five years, I had reached a level of success where I felt I could take a step back. Also, at the onset of the pandemic I had another major health setback, which forced me to slow down and rely on others in my businesses. This compelled me to hire a few women to compliment what I was doing. It wasn’t that I didn’t trust others to do the work I did for myself, it was this idea that I could do it better. I knew I was my biggest cheerleader, who would work as hard as I would for me? When I hired my manager, it became very clear that many hands did make for lighter burdens and I sure needed that. I have since healed from the trauma I went through early in the pandemic, but kept the women I hired who now give me the flexibilty to start pursuing a personal life.

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?

This is a question I feel I am an expert to answer. I have been a working model for now forty years. My career for much of my life depended on my external beauty. It was when I was diagnosed with aggressive cancer that my physical facade changed. When that happened, I felt total despair. Of course because of the diagnosis and burden of that, but also in the loss of what I had depended on for so many years. I was convinced that without my beauty I was worthless. That fleeting feeling, fortunately, corrected itself. But it only shifted after doing tremendous self examination. I had to fight the self doubt and insecurities. I ultimately changed the thoughts in my head from saying, you aren’t good enough to you are unstoppable. I also surrounded myself with women who poured into me with the certainty that they loved me, not for what I looked like, but for who I was. That is really what my book is about, the fictional depiction of my life and the transformation from that external dependency to becoming a leader in teaching women what self love looks like. I have had over twenty-three non-elective surgeries. Ten on my right arm, which is now fused, and all the others related to breast cancer. I have never had plastic surgery. But, this year, I am treating myself to an eye life. Not because I feel insecure about my appearance, but it is something I have yearned to do for many years, but was unable to because of the traumatic surgeries. Beauty comes from within. I have a concave chest and I wear fitted clothing, meaning I do not cover it up. But when I come into a room, people see my inner beauty, my soul. I have a peace about me now and that is the greatest beauty.

How is this similar or different for men?

I have a hard time speaking for men because I often don’t often understand them. But from my career experience, there seems to be less physical vanity but a great deal of professional vanity in men. I don’t wish to speak too generally, only from my experience.

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.)

The Five things you need to thrive and succeed as a powerful women is first and foremost, work on your self esteem daily. Make it a practice like exercising, you need to practice self care daily. One great way to do this is to paste affirmations around your workspace. For example, I am worthy, I am smart, loved, sought after, capable. When my self esteem was low, I accomplished very little. When I started to build it up and truly believe in myself, I went after my goals and succeeded.

Second, let your pride and ego go. We often get caught in competition with others, men or women. But doing your best and not allowing your ego to get in the way will impact your day to day life. In other words, doing your best doesn’t guarantee a promotion, but doing your best eliminates any fear or concern that you are in competition with anyone. I was terrified to publish a book. I used to say to myself, what if it’s not successful? Won’t I feel embarrassed? But then I realized something. Who cares if it’s not successful. Then I reminded myself, that I actually wrote a book, that is already the definition of success.

Third, don’t quit. The saying is true that most people quit in the middle. The beginning is exciting, the middle can be draining, the end is the reward. It is the individuals who stick it out in the tough times that ultimately succeed. Becoming a speaker was daunting. I was untrained and I had no reputation in this industry. I would speak at small events, sometimes in garages. But once I got some footing, some experience and a reputation for being good at it, I pitched myself to some speaking agents and they took me. It was a long, arduous process. If I had quit in the middle, I wouldn’t be inspiring so many people through my speaking career now.

Fourth, welcome failure. If I had not failed, I would never have had the drive to pursue bigger and more ambitious goals. Failure taught me what it takes to succeed. I was ravished from chemotherapy. I remember being on my bathroom floor too sick to get up. It was in those darks moments that I said to myself, if you survive, you will use this pain to help others. There was no way I was quitting after I fought that battle.

Fifth, balance is critical. Take time off before you get burnt out. Time away from work is a rebuilder, use it as such. When you come back, you are fresh and energized. I have often gotten in my own way by working too much. I am realizing now, that by taking a solid day off each week, the pause invigorates me. I often have creative thoughts during those quiet days as well which end up helping my work.

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.

I would like to have lunch with Jennifer Lopez. We have all seen extraordinary women succeed, she is one of the greatest. She has incredible grit and determination.

Thank you for these fantastic insights. We greatly appreciate the time you spent on this.



Ming S. Zhao
Authority Magazine

Co-founder and CEO of PROVEN Skincare. Ming is an entrepreneur, business strategist, investor and podcast host.