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Coming Okla-home-a With Ana Berry

August 6

I’m honored to share this stunning photoshoot from the Great Salt Plains of Oklahoma featuring my dear friend, Ana Berry. Ana is a TV personality, media specialist, content creator, social media influencer, yoga teacher, vocalist, and mother. This is the life story of a woman who does it all with her whole heart.

Our friendship continues to bring me inspiration and a greater appreciation for all the beauty a women can be.

Enjoy our photo collab below accompanied by a powerful journey-to-self in the lovely words of Ana Berry:

To understand where you are going, you have to first understand where you have been. 

I wasn’t always proud to be from Oklahoma. Growing up here, I couldn’t wait to move away. During my worldly travels and living in big cities, I felt there was little prestige being from Oklahoma unless I referenced John Wayne or tornados. And when I was growing up, Tulsa didn’t seem to have much city cred unless I referenced the 1920’s oil boom or the Hansons. I was never a big fan of the Hansons. At 18, I left Oklahoma. I left with my nose pointed upwards and shouted to all who would hear, “see you at Christmas!” My ego was almost as big as my career aspirations.

“I’ve seen all the movie stars in their fancy cars and their limousines. Been high in the Rockies under the evergreens. I know what I’m needing, and I don’t want to waste more time. I’m in a New York state of mind” — Billy Joel ‘New York State of Mind’

I got out. I traveled the world. I lived in the biggest cities in the world. I dined with diplomats, dated celebrities, schmoozed my way through Hollywood and the Hamptons, worked for some of the biggest production companies and ad agencies in NYC. I had my face plastered on every national brand I could get and was focused on one thing, in one city: (martinis and) Media in Manhattan.

“I didn’t know love until I met you.” 
I will never forget the day. It was a crisp sunny fall day in NYC. I was leaving an audition walking down 6th ave towards 55th st. As I approached the infamous, LOVE sculpture by pop artist, Robert Indiana, I stopped in my hurried tracks. I felt this overwhelming desire to pray. I had been feeling very run down by the hustle of the city, pressure of my work, the insanity of dating and my overall existence on this planet. As an actress, your instrument is your ‘Self’. Improving yourself, criticizing your self, training your self, crafting your self. That process can make you a little, shall we say, self-centered. I was over it. I was over my damn self. In that moment, I looked at the giant red LOVE art and prayed. ‘Dear God, bring me something to love that is deeper, bigger, better than my self. I want to know real love”
At the time, I am sure I was hoping it would be a partner or a role or a spiritual awakening. But it turned out to be a child. Within 6 months, I was pregnant.
“Love is Real. Real is Love. Love is feeling. Feeling Love. Love is wanting. To be Loved”
— John Lennon

“Humility, that low, sweet root, from which all heavenly virtues shoot” — Thomas Moore
Having Bella was the greatest thing that ever happened to me. But I had to loose almost everything to realize why. I did. I lost so much. My Manhattanite friends, my career, the trajectory of my life, my savings, my city. Plus, being a mother, you give up your body and your freedom to your child. I own every decision I made that brought me to the destruction of what I had constructed. I remember the exact moments when I made each crucial decision. My choice to have the baby, to marry her father, to try to make it work in NY, to realize it wasn’t going to work; the marriage and NY. The hardest decision was to leave NY. It felt like a death. The divorce was easy. Leaving NY was hard. Like the descent of the Sumerian Goddess, Inanna, I had to go through the underworld and be stripped of all my royal possessions. I was de-robed. Humbled, humiliated and broke. I left Manhattan and moved back to Oklahoma.

Life does not define you, it refines you.
There I was, after 14 years away, I was moving back to the place I always wanted to leave. This time, kicking and screaming, licking my wounds and completely lost with what I was going to do with my life. I was forced to face it. I had to look straight into the broken, shattered, tarnished, twisted memories of my childhood. All the unresolved issues I had with my family, my self worth, my hang ups, my purpose. They were all right there waiting for me to see. I couldn’t run from them anymore or dance around them through my fantasies, characters or Jimmy Choo shoes. Living in a different city, it’s easy to not deal with family and childhood issues. But coming home, brought it all back to be seen. It was time to look at the broken windows and see what was inside them and what was inside me. With humility, comes curiosity. In time, I found myself starting to be less critical and more curious. Curious to unravel the blame, shame and bullshit I kept telling myself and I started to see how the experiences I had as a young woman, shaped the artistry of my self. With humility came curiosity and deep compassion. Coming back to Oklahoma is what made me fall back in love with my life.

When I was 21, I got my first tattoo. I found this cool tattoo parlor in West Hollywood owned by a famous tattoo artist, Roni Zulu of Zulu Tattoo. He was a beautiful man with tribal tattoos all over his body and face. I wanted a very simple symbol. The shortest most powerful sentence in the english language. I AM. I wanted it on my left wrist. The left side symbolizes the feminine side, the side of receptivity. I AM is my mantra for all things. When I loose my cool, when I forget my path, when I get attached to people, titles and concepts …. When I want to attract, center and manifest, …. I always come back to the I AM. It’s a place of raw truth. It’s a place of divine power. It’s a statement of humility and strength. It’s a reminder that my thoughts and words create my reality. It’s a tribal marking that when people see it, they either get it or they don’t. Many times in my life, I must drop back to the earth and come back to this mantra: I AM.

Freedom comes when you stop giving a damn.
I’m not there yet. I still care too much. I still want people to like me and I still get hurt when they don’t. But I have found that courage is a stepping stone to freedom. If I have courage to try something new, to step out of my comfort zone, to create art from my heart and speak my truth even though it might not be perfect, that is when I feel freedom. I am more prone to say ‘Yes’ than ‘No’ to opportunities and experiences. I am happy to lead the charge, be the first to try something new and stand up in front of hundreds of people and sing in foreign languages. There is a part of me that believes, the more courageous acts I perform, the more free I will be. And soon, I won’t give a damn what others think of me.
“It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat.” – Theodore Roosevelt, the Man in the Arena.

“What makes you vulnerable makes you beautiful” — Brene Brown
In my youth, my father would always say that my vulnerability was my strongest quality as an actress. I didn’t want to be vulnerable, I wanted to be Ethel Merman. I wanted the scenes of Betty Davis and Elizabeth Taylor. I wanted to be the powerful leading lady that didn’t let anything get in her way. That leading lady often was alone, drunk and mad.
Now, I get it. I don’t want to be alone drunk and mad. I want to be happy and I want good friends. My friends have taught me that it’s safe to be vulnerable. My friends have taught me that it’s ok to not know all the answers and celebrate when I find a clue, to take time for self care when the burden of being a single mom is too much, and to show up as a friend when I am a hot mess or a rockstar. My friends have shown me that I never have to play any part but myself. My raw vulnerable self is what makes me beautiful.

“The flower doesn’t dream of the bee, it blossoms and the bee comes.” — Mark Nepo
It’s ok to be single. If you know me well, you know I love hard and deep. I go deep into a relationship and if it ends, I spend a good time grieving and healing. Healing comes in many forms: contradiction, retraction, repetition, isolation, realization, celebration and integration. When we go through a break up, it is a death. And in other cultures, death is celebrated through ceremony. The process of healing is an art form. In the west, we often don’t grieve and therefore we often don’t heal. If I have learned anything in my years of loving, it is that the experience will keep coming back until the lesson is learned. And each person I have loved has been quite the teacher. It feels good to be solid without a partner. By solid, I mean not swayed left or right, Here nor there. Not giving yourself up for the sake of them. It feels good to be without the exchange of energy, trauma and drama. Even the ecstasy. At times, it feels good to be free from the ecstasy of love. And at other times, it feels so good to be loved. It’s ok to be single and it’s ok to love.

“A Song For You” by Leon Russell 
I’ve been so many places in my life and time
I’ve sung a lot of songs, I’ve made some bad rhymes
I’ve acted out my love on stages
With 10,000 people watching
But we’re alone now and I’m singing this song to you
I know your image of me is what I hope to be
I treated you unkindly, but darling can’t you see
There’s no one more important to me
Darling can’t you please see through me
‘Cause we’re alone now and I’m singing this song to you
You taught me precious secrets
Of the truth, withholding nothing
You came out in front and I was hiding
But now, I’m so much better
And if my words don’t come together
Listen to the melody, ’cause my love’s in there hiding
I love you in a place where there’s no space and time
I love you for my life, you are a friend of mine
And when my life is over
Remember when we were together
We were alone and I was singing this song to you
But I love you in a place where there’s no space and time
I love you for my life, you are a friend of mine
And when my life is over
Remember when we were together
We were alone and I was singing this song for you

You can call me a boomeranger. I am proud of my circular story that lead me back home. This homecoming helped put the pieces of my heart back together. Being human is such a messy experience and I am so often not satisfied with the process. At times I still look myself in the mirror and think, ‘Ana, what the hell are you doing? What is going on and why can’t I figure it out by now?’ But other times, I have a conversation with a certain soul that pierces my heart or I hear a song that brings me to tears, or I eat a bite of food that makes me want to burst out of my skin because it’s so good, or I take a breath. A real, long, deep breath and feel so completely good. When I have a good belly laugh, I get it. Now, I see how my homecoming was necessary. I needed to see the broken windows, cobwebs and abandoned rooms. I needed to have the conversations, the tears and revelations. I needed to breath and have a few good belly laughs. This city allows me to breath and I laugh at the beautiful complexity of life daily. My humility, descent, vulnerability, and courage all were working together to bring me beautifully back home. Home to a city that I love and a family that I love with friends that I love and daughter that I love and more importantly to a few, that in return, love me. Freedom comes when you don’t give a damn but I love anyway. I love you deeply.
— Ana Berry

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