I believe we are all born with the same inherently pure mindset, free of the damage inevitable pain inflicts. As children untouched by trauma, our innocence is a magic of sorts, empowering us to believe that anything is possible. Somewhere along the timeline between childhood and adulthood, a shift in that untainted mentality begins to happen. The person is then left with a crucial decision. Will he/she fight for light or succumb to darkness?

My family moved to Texas from the Philippines when I was 6 years old. I have always been proud of the loving home I grew up in. Both my parents were very dedicated to me and my sister, teaching us the gravity of our self value and worth. One of the biggest misconceptions is that since a person grows up in a loving home devoid of trauma, he/she will not experience major issues with self love or identity. From personal experience, I can attest that the external forces that affect one's heart, mind, and soul are far more complex than that.

I had an identity crisis in elementary school when I was bullied for my quirky sense of style. My bright pink hair extensions and metallic purple bell bottoms were shrugged off by others as "weird". However, my desire to express myself through bold fashion outside the norm of my hometown only grew as I entered middle school and then high school. Oh, how mean girls can be. The years of snickering comments and menacing side glances took a heavy toll on my self esteem and I became desperate to fill the gaping hole in my heart.

I quickly learned to distract myself with men, longing to find validation in an string of empty, senseless relationships. I found that each devastating breakup only left me more insatiable for love and before I knew it, I was "on to the next". It was a drug and I couldn't see I was addicted. If I am perfectly honest, even then I knew in the beginning of those relationships that those men regarded me with little if no respect and honor.

It was the same old pattern. The deterioration was first verbal long before it escalated. I believe that people stay in bad relationships because the situation gets worse only little by little; by degrees over time. It is said that a frog will jump out of a pot of boiling water. But place him in a pot and turn up the heat very slowly, and he will stay until he is boiled to death. Those who inflict abuse know this very well.

From 17 to 22 years old I was sexually abused by 3 men. Within those relationships, it happened weekly, often several times a week.

As you are reading this you may notice the temperature in your own body drop a bit. The reason that may be is I believe there is a chance that you may relate to this very subject I am sharing- whether it be verbal, emotional, sexual, or physical abuse. 

The word “abuse” in the Oxford dictionary is to “use an object for a purpose for which it was never designed.” And for 6 years I was used for a purpose for which I was never designed. It became impossible for me transition into different stages of development in a healthy manner. There was major developmental wounding that manifested in many various forms of defense mechanisms. They looked like shame. They looked like guilt. They looked like indifference. They looked like anger. They looked like unforgiveness. But what happens with these defense mechanisms is not only are you keeping other people out to protect yourself, over time you are keeping yourself in a prison. So that even after you are out of that abusive relationship and think you are free, the reality is you are still in a prison of your own building. 

Before I move on I need to stop and say that I firmly believe the reason I (and many men and women who have experienced abuse) allow this perpetual pattern to continue is because we do not fully grasp our inherent value as human beings fearfully and wonderfully created. We are empowered beings crafted with a purpose but have made something someone has done to us bigger than that truth. And until we make that truth shine brighter than what someone has done to us we will never walk in full freedom. Even if we are no longer in that physical bondage, we won’t be free from the battlefield of the mind, heart, and soul. 

In attempt to find freedom from my own bondage, I hopped on a plane to New York City. I graduated college with the highest honors, landed my dream job at Barneys New York and moved on to work for incredible fashion companies. For the first time in my life the very thing I was bullied for became a point of celebration. I felt my heart begin to open up every time a kind stranger would compliment me on the street. I'll never forget the time a woman told me that my outrageous style made the sidewalk look like a runway show. I was overwhelmed with joy and felt like I could breath for the first time in a long time. I embraced my unique style with joyful abandon, which jump started me on a path towards freedom from validation, specifically from abusive men. 

I have always said that fashion is a conversation to the world about yourself. Yves Saint Laurent said, “Over the years I have learned that what is important in a dress is the woman who is wearing it.” I believe fashion is a reflection of the unique blueprint created within you; and there are no duplicates. You are the one and only original copy. A one of a kind Mona Lisa. Priceless beyond measure. 

While working in corporate fashion, I started this blog in the hopes of empowering women through fashion. I prayed that through my story, I would play a role in ushering women towards the same freedom I found. As authentic engagement grew, so did my passion and commitment for the blog. I then decided to take the biggest leap of faith and quit my job to pursue the blog full time. Above all else, through my work I seek to promote a revelation of worth in the hearts of women. It is important to note that worth is not based on your past wounds, failures, or fears. You cannot purchase or merit worth. The inherent truth is that you are worthy because you are worthy because you are worthy because you are worthy... do you see? You are worthy just by being created. That’s where it begins and ends. In the Constitution it says, “We hold these truths to be self-evident that all men are created equal. That they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights, that among these are life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.” The truths are: You are chosen. You are royal. You are holy. You are special. You are light.

1 in 3 women have been physically abused by an intimate partner and every 9 seconds a woman is assaulted or beaten in the United States. These statistics are not mere numbers to me because my name and my face is on that data. It is personal. I believe we are the 100%. This means that even if you have not personally been a victim of abuse, there is a 100% chance that you already have encountered someone else who has. As women I believe we have been empowered to reach above and beyond ourselves to extend that power on behalf of our brothers and sisters. To stand by one another in our individual stories intertwined in a much larger meta narrative. We are the 100%.

This year I partnered with an incredible non-profit called Reveal, committed to helping women recovering from domestic violence and sex trafficking through strategic partnerships with local women’s shelters and safe houses. Reveal offers monthly workshops at local women’s shelters to provide women a safe space to learn about self care through fashion, beauty, health, and career counseling to name a few. The mission is to support the healing process by celebrating beauty and dignity. 

I have two simple promises that I challenge myself with every day and I pray that you join me as well. The first promise is: 1) I promise to actively stand in the truth and reject the lies. You are fearfully and wonderfully created by God. When I realized this inherent truth, everything about my life began to change. Although I may never understand why those terrible things happened to me, I am empowered by a force much higher than anything on this planet. I am not a workmanship of abuse. I am a workmanship of LOVE. And no matter what story you stand in today, I am living proof that no assignment from hell and no person on earth can disqualify the plan and purpose God has for your life. Plans to prosper you, not to harm you. Plans to give you a hope and a future. 

Many of us here are still doing laps around the same old mountain again and again. Someone once told you that you are ” ugly, stupid, that you’ll never amount to anything." And for too long you have been letting those lies define you rather than stand in the truth of who you really are. But your history does not need to define your destiny. When the memories of your past begin to haunt you and play in a never ending loop in your head, you have been given full authority to say “NO. You are not welcome here.” You have been given a brilliant mind of power, love, and self-control. What happened to you is NOT you. But what it will do is tell a story of beauty from ashes.  A story of life winning over death. Which leads me to the second promise.

2) I promise to stand in the gap through my story. One of the most freeing realizations I have had is simultaneously that not everything is about me and that I have an irreplaceable role in an epic journey. Never underestimate the power of your voice through your story. How do YOU tell your story? For me, it’s through fashion. For you, it may be through education, hospitality, or medicine. Whatever your story is, shout it from the rooftops loud and proud, flaws and all. Look to your brother and sister and say “I stand with you in the mess!” There is nothing more liberating than being known to the bottom and loved to the skies anyway.

Marianne Williamson, in one of my all time favorite quotes, said, "Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness that most frightens us. We ask ourselves, Who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, fabulous? Actually, who are you not to be? You are a child of God. Your playing small does not serve the world. There is nothing enlightened about shrinking so that other people won’t feel insecure around you. We are all meant to shine, as children do. We were born to make manifest the glory of God that is within us. It is not just in some of us; it is in everyone. And as we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same. As we are liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others."

Spoiler alert...Light wins over darkness every time.

So my question to you is this: What are you going to do with your light?


Xoxo, Diwa Doll


In partnership with Reveal NYC


Multi-color Faux Fur Coat by SheIn


Photography by Denton Taylor