Briefly, tell us who you are and where you are from.
I was born and raised in Germany. My father is from Brugge, Belgium and my mother is from Memel, Prussia. My grandfather was French and my grandmother was from the Netherlands. I am the daughter of a “highly decorated” French Foreign Legion soldier. I speak German and French fluently.
How would you describe yourself in 3 words?
I would describe myself as peaceful, positive and energetic.
What is your favorite color? Favorite activity?
My favourite color is blue. I like cooking, swimming, knitting, listening to music, and dancing. The most meaningful times are with people or observing nature.
What is your favorite food?
I love coffee and avocados! I also enjoy Greek, French, German, Indian, Lebanese cuisine.
What is a dream that you have? What is something that you are passionate about?
I want to talk to 10,000 people or more. I want to travel to different countries and help spread kindness and hope. I want to make a difference in this world. I am passionate about people and life.
Tell us your RISE story. What are you RISE-ing from? What are you RISE-ing to?
The pains and hardships in my life brought me peace and self discipline. I lost so much, but I gained so much more. I gained peace, understanding, knowledge and joy. The greatest gift is being my own best friend. As a young girl I was known to be the “Smiling Girl.”
Later in life, I got married and I stayed in an abusive marriage for 16 years. I was beaten, (emotionally and physically abused) and had guns put on my body and head. I suffered from hopelessness and despair. The days were so dark and I didn’t know what the future would hold. Little did I know that these days of severe hardships would not be my saddest ones.
One day, my heart was completely broken when my middle daughter, Jalisa, was accidently killed in surgery. Someone made a medical error and accidently killed her. This was truly the saddest day of my life. I remember holding her dead body, wrapped in a white sheet for the very last time. It was a feeling I can’t describe. Complete sadness and time stood still on this very day. I didn’t want to let go of her, but I had to.
Little did I know that more hardships would follow me. In March of 1998, I was attacked with two large cups of Hydrochloric Acid. It was thrown on my face. On that day, I almost died. I suffered 4th degree facial burns and third degree burns to my hands, arms, and chest. My face was unrecognizable. You couldn’t tell if I was female or male. I was airlifted to a Burn Center and placed in an induced coma. I was on a ventilator, placed under intensive care, and had a tracheotomy. My future seemed questionable because I was declared blind and had a near death experience. I had many surgeries and stayed in a burn unit for almost 4 months. I was released back to my abusive husband afterwards. With time, I left my husband with my other two daughters. My life took a new direction and I became hungry for God.
In March of 2018, it will be 20 years since my acid attack. I overcame rape, disfigurement, domestic abuse, losing my daughter, homelessness, and endured almost 100 reconstructive surgeries. The people who committed this crime to me are free to this day. I never focused on them. I focused on myself and trusted God in my journey.
As I restarted my life as the smiling girl, I can share with you that I enjoy life so much more today. I live my daily life with gratitude – knowing that God has a perfect plan for my life and I trust him. I was once was known as the “Pretty Girl” and now I often refer to myself as “Double the Beauty.” I received a new beauty from God and I am grateful. I am still the “Smiling Girl.”
What would you say to those who think they can’t make a difference in the world?
I want YOU to know to never give up no matter how bad things are or might appear to be. Always know there is a purpose in all the hardships we suffer. These hardships mold us to become greater human beings. Always trust God and try to move forward. It is an investment of character. I personally see it as a privilege given to me.
What does RISE mean to you?
RISE to me means that I can be the light and hand for someone else who needs help in overcoming an acid attack. I am grateful to give back to the best cause possible. RISE means helping an Acid Attack Survivor and bringing hope and a smile to someone.