Hello there 🙂
It hurts to write that. As I sit in my living room in Los Angeles, where the largest population of Armenians live outside of Armenia, 120,000 indigenous Armenians are being displaced from the place where they have lived for centuries. Artsakh, otherwise known as the Nagorno-Karabakh region, has seen just one of the biggest losses in the past 40 days against Azerbaijan and Turkey. A peace agreement was signed and, unexpectedly, much of the Armenian region was given away.
The pain in the Armenian community is palpable. As our hearts break together, I turn to my colleagues in the fashion and beauty industry that I've inspired by giving me strength over the past two months. As many of you may or may not know, Armenians have made a splash in the world of beauty and fashion, and many have started their own businesses. Paint dose? Anna Petrosian lies behind this. The Kardashian makeup artist? her name is Hrush Achemyan, and she's an ass. I am proud of my community, but I am especially proud to be an Armenian woman. Armenian women are revered in our culture: we have Mother Armenia, a monument in the capital, Yerevan, which reminds everyone that the strength of an Armenian woman defeats even our strongest enemy. My colleagues, who, like me, are also in the diaspora, represent this idea of female strength. As a longtime editor at Who What Wear, I feel like it's my responsibility to shed a very bright light on these girls who, despite being a million miles away, have done everything to keep our little nation in the caucuses protect and help them dark time. I'm not going to dive too deeply into the history of Armenia, the genocide we witnessed 105 years ago, and why there is such a large diaspora in the first place (Google can help you with that), but what I want to do is wow you with that Power and beauty of Armenian women who are introducing you to those whose closets you want to steal and recreating beauty routines you want. Get to know my Armenian Kooyrigs (Sisters) here.
What does beauty mean to you right now and does it help you cope with current events in Armenia, especially Artsakh?
I've always believed that beauty is from within. When you are comfortable, happy and safe in your skin, you can see it in your face. This is of course directly related to what is happening in Armenia as it is a difficult time for all of us. I've always tried to convey positivity and a good mood through my social networks.
You are one of the most famous Armenian women in the beauty world, especially in Los Angeles and in the Armenian community. How did you use this following to raise awareness among your followers and to collect donations, and do you have other projects in mind?
It was a moral obligation to use my platform to spread as much awareness and information as possible. I decided to use my brand first to raise funds to help those affected by the war. We raised $ 100,000, but it still didn't feel enough. I decided to do a live tutorial and fundraiser on Instagram to encourage my viewers to donate whatever they can. Four hours later, we raised $ 250,000 which later became $ 500,000. We as a community are always thinking about what to do next to help our country and use our creativity and platform in every possible way. I will definitely continue to use my platform to help the wounded soldiers, the families who have lost loved ones, and the 120,000 families who have become homeless. Unity was our greatest strength in these difficult times.
You had one of the most prominent voices in raising awareness on the Armenian cause – can you share the reaction of your supporters with us?
The overall response from my followers has been supportive, grateful, but it has also increased a lot of curiosity and interest for those who do not know much about the Armenian people. Even before the attacks, I was always talking about Armenian issues. People who have followed me for a long time already knew it was a personal problem.
The response has been supportive to my Armenian allies. I received many messages from supporters who were not of Armenian descent who showed interest in what was going on and asked how they could help. You realize the importance of your voice when someone sends you a message saying they wouldn't even know this happened if they didn't look at my posts. As we kept saying, we had only ourselves and couldn't rely on the media to tell what was really happening. If someone who is not Armenian just lets you know that they are watching, that alone makes a world of difference.
The response from the Armenian diaspora has been incredible. The silver lining, if I may call it that, is how the Armenian community came together through tragedy. I always say that I feel like my family has grown tremendously in the last 40 days. And the messages from supporters in Armenia living under the threat of genocide but still telling you to thank only for your vote are what really keep me going.
Tell us about some of the fundraisers you've participated in and your plans for the near future.
I volunteered for Armenia Fund and One Armenia. The Armenia Fund has been doing everything possible since the first day of the war to raise money for all humanitarian efforts in Armenia. The same goes for One Armenia, which organizes virtual events to raise money and raise funds. Many of us have used the IG Live Fundraiser tool. It was another great way to encourage our supporters to donate. I hosted an IG Live on my site and invited some speakers from these organizations to join me. We were able to raise about $ 20,000 raised by One Armenia. I also had the pleasure of joining other people's IG Lives, where we auctioned off our own bags, shoes, and anything we can. One of them was Diana Madison's IG Live, where we raised a total of $ 70,000 for the Armenia Fund. KTLA 5 news reported this story on his network. I also work with an Armenian jewelry brand, Kirk Kara. The proceeds will go to the Armenia Fund, which is valid until November 30th.
Finally, I'm planning another fundraiser from IG Live with Armenian Wounded Heroes, a nonprofit that funds rehabilitation for wounded soldiers.
I love how you have worked with multiple brands and organizations to collectively raise money for the Armenia Fund. Can you tell us something about what you have been working on?
I never hesitate to help Armenia, even if it can be frustrating to be so far away. When I saw my home country dealing with the economic collapse and COVID-19, I knew I had to do more during this pandemic. Armenia has survived a genocide and is currently dealing with Artsakh, a region of ethnic majority Armenians, potentially stripped of its sovereignty. Given this disastrous collection of events happening right now in Armenia, it is so important to keep mainstream news sources informed. Most people are not familiar with what is going on because the conflicts and the history of Armenia and its people are large and complex. When my dear friend Olivia Jamgotchian asked me if I would become a founding member and advisor to the Armenia Support Fund, of course I did not hesitate to get involved. ASF was founded on the premise of helping Armenians boost the Armenian economy with grants to strengthen small businesses in Armenia. We believe in encouraging companies to make long-term business decisions and empowering them to succeed by promoting sustainable business models and infrastructures. So far, we've given 45 small business grants, but the work isn't done yet. We are continuing to raise funds to provide more help to many business owners in Armenia.
ASF's newest endeavor, Business Shouga, is a virtual bazaar that mirrors the open-air markets of Armenia to support local designers and producers. The aim is to help Armenians sell their goods and to give Armenians and non-Armenians the opportunity to experience Armenia from the comfort of their own home. This will be under the umbrella of ASF. Every time a purchase is made, a contribution goes to those small businesses that need capital to expand their opportunities.
Another project, a collaboration between me and Omnes All (sold at ShopStyleguise), was designed to connect fashion and give something back, because what is the point of creation without finding a way to pass on some of that happiness? A bracelet with the colors of the Armenian flag tells the story of my past, present and future. Armenia is a complicated part of me, and what a perfect way to show off the hues of everything that Armenia is with a delicate bracelet. Also on Styleguise was the Honey collection, a collection of mask, scrunchie and scarf, all in beautiful, rich gold made from 100% raw material. The Armenia Fund received 50% of the proceeds for humanitarian efforts in Armenia.
Another passion of mine is Armenian coffee. It's one of the things that I consider the best where I come from. Working with Henry & # 39; s Coffee who created the ASF blend was a match made in heaven. Coffee is the ultimate balance and brings people together, no matter where they come from. All countries have their own special mix. This mixture was specially intended for this collaboration and 100% of the proceeds went to ASF. We have also created a Homeland Tote, a bag that you can use to take a little piece of Armenia with you wherever you go. The proceeds of the bag were split between ASF (40%) and Armenia Fund (60%) as well as Kooyrigs (60%) and ASF (40%) in our second round to help Armenians create a better Armenia for future generations . With all these collaborations together, we have raised almost 80,000 for Armenia!
How has your platform helped you amplify the voices of Armenia?
As children of the Armenian diaspora, we know how important it is to “never forget”. We grew up over it and over the stories of the Armenian genocide. We have been told our responsibility to ensure that this never happens again. The responsibility lies in where my passion comes from and that's why I try to use my platform to educate about the turbulence in Armenia. My goal is to make the Armenian culture accessible and to highlight the struggles in the Armenian community and in Armenia itself.
I am always so excited when someone says they found out about what was happening in Armenia from me or when they tried Armenian coffee for the first time based on my recommendation. I love showing the beautiful things that Armenia is and at the same time showing the upheavals in the country. Because if people can resonate with a culture, they can take care of their people's suffering. Empathy comes after familiarity. How can you take care of something you don't know about?
At the moment, I just call for peace, kindness and patience in everything that is going on in Armenia and in the world. To take the time to understand where someone else is from. It's hard sometimes not to get frustrated or angry watching Armenia in pain while I'm so far away, but I try to use that emotion to help, as fuel for my fire.
Only time will tell what will happen in Armenia. Things seem to be changing by the minute. However, I know that I will continue to speak for Armenia in any way I can. Armenians cannot and will not be silenced. It is against everything we are as a people. We just can't forget.
As a Diasporan Black Armenian, can you please explain how you used your voice and platform to raise awareness of both causes?
As a Black Armenian woman, I always felt that it was my duty to honor my ancestors and my community through my voice and gifts. As an activist, I have participated in protests and die-ins for black lives and have marched for recognition of Artsakh and genocide. I have also worked within the system, using letters from constituents and advocating for local budgetary justice for the LA City Council and Board of Directors. For the past six months, I have used my social media platform to mobilize all of my communities in support of Armenians and black life, in addition to other movements for indigenous people, the incarcerated and the undocumented. As an artist, I choose to center marginalized narratives through my writing. This triggers empathy and leads to necessary unlearning and important conversations. My presence in theater and film as an actress in and of itself is radical because representation is critical.
Is there a point of sale or activity that you have turned to for self-catering in the past year that you can share with the Who What Wear audience?
I'm not going to lie – I preach self-care and am quite cruel at taking my own advice. That being said, I've found solace in unplugging for a few moments throughout the day and doing something mundane like seeing the original again Twilight zoneListening to ASMR in a dark room or sharing the room with loved ones. I find that writing also helps me process and resolve trauma that can weigh on my mind. As a theater educator, I also recognize the importance of breathing and listening to your body. Taking a nice deep breath may seem easy, but this very moment of pause can help you hold yourself up until you can allow enough time to take care of your body.
How do you currently support other Armenian women and why do you think it is important to raise awareness of what is happening in Artsakh?
In the past five weeks we've learned the hardest ways we can rely on each other. No other country has come to our aid, so it is clear that the diaspora is solely responsible for the future and security of Artsakh and Armenia. For this reason alone, I have focused on supporting my Armenian colleagues in beauty and lifestyle both publicly and behind closed doors. At this point, we all seem to have a new purpose and this mutual support will continue.
Over the past 40 days, how has the Armenian beauty community banded together to help and what fundraisers have you participated in?
I tell you one thing: when Armenian women organize, watch out! We have found, of course, that each of us has a different strength – some of us are stronger at raising money. Others of us, including myself, combat misinformation with accurate material that will help those unfamiliar with the situation understand what is happening. I have been able to offer assistance with live fundraisers run by my coworkers, which are literally donation machines and total over $ 500,000. And we don't stop there. There is much to be done after we learn how much our unity is needed for our future as a people.
If you are able to help, please donate to the Armenia Fund for long-term reconstruction projects in Armenia or to Looys for immediate relief to the displaced in Artsakh.