Ardre Orie, Chicago-based mom and filmmaker, challenges senseless standards of beauty

Ardre Orie 2
(Photo courtesy of Ardre Orie)

“My purpose is to remind society that beauty is the culmination of a solid value system that nourishes self-worth,” says author, film director, and self-worth advocate Ardre Orie. A survivor of childhood domestic violence, Orie earned both her undergraduate and master’s degrees in special education at Florida State University and later earned her specialist degree, an Ed.S in educational leadership. During her tenure as assistant principal in the school system, Orie recognized the need for etiquette training and self-esteem management to empower students and their families. The program evolved to a community-based program that she founded, the Pink Wish Foundation — a 501(c)3 organization that provided mentorship and advocacy to families in the southern regions of the U.S.

She’s penned Consciously Beautiful: I Am Enough (2014) and A Heroine in Heels (2015). In her role as a playwright, Orie wrote and directed two theatrical productions: “Lipstick Monologues” and “The Heart of a Man.” Her documentary, I Am Consciously Beautiful, examines the effects of pop culture and mainstream media on Black women’s self-worth, while uncovering the internal and financial struggles women face. A wife and mother of two daughters, Orie currently resides in Chicago. Read what else she has to say.

How did you arrive at this career choice? Was it a deliberate decision or a gradual and natural evolution?
The art of evolution has become the guiding principle of my life. I went to school for education and earned three degrees in this field. After working for several years as an assistant principal, my husband received a job that would move us from Florida to Georgia. I had a brand new baby and we had no friends or family there. I decided to resign from my job and the rest is history. From day one, it was a relentless grind. I would take online entrepreneurship classes while holding the baby in one hand and typing with the other. Every evening, I attended classes and workshops to learn what I didn’t know. I have never experienced so much success and failure in my life but evolution allows you to appreciate the journey.

What separates you from others in your field? What is unique to the experience that you create?
There are two reasons:
1. I understand my “why.” I discovered the greatest gift ever when I stumbled upon my reason for existence. I operate from this place in everything that I do. I don’t do things because they are popular or because I am advised to. I do them because God told me so. Every film, every book, every play was a vision from a higher calling, so I answer.
2. I can write anything. It is not conceited to know what you do well. We must all know this to operate at our best. On the other side, my husband is the one that the girls go to for help in math. Writing, speaking and telling stories, these are gifts. Not only do I embrace my gifts but I intend to unwrap every one of them before I leave this Earth.

For those considering entering this arena, what skill sets do you recommend mastering? What traits are most conducive to success?
Storytelling and networking.

How do you stay at the leading edge of your craft?
Not only am I in competition with myself, but I also practice daily. I will never believe that I am at the top of my game because I’m one of those people who views the glass as half empty. Although extremely challenging, this mindset keeps me hungry and free from complacency. I train daily to become better in my field and be happy with the work that I give to the world.

Do you think there are any widely held misconceptions about what you do? If so, what are they and how do you work to dispel them?
I would say that the biggest misconception is that the only ones who will be successful in his career are men. Media has been a male dominated field for many years, but now I see some new generations of women who are just getting started.

There are lots of women populating the writers’ room, but they have a harder time moving up the ladder. Forty three percent of producers, which is a lower-level TV writing position, are women, and 25 percent are identified as staff writers are women.

How do you map out your goals? How do you measure your success?
Although, not completely traditional, I set my goals based on the visions that God gives to me. I feel like anything that I can clearly see has the ability to manifest. I measure success by completion. We all have so many ideas in our heads of what we want to do but I believe that completion is the ultimate manifestation. I also know that if you complete a good product, people will support it. I of course create financial goals, socially-driven goals and those are the driving forces of success in the traditional sense.

Who do you consider to be your peers in your field? Who do you see or use as examples to emulate?
Come on Shonda Rhimes. Come on Mara Brock Akil. I see these ladies as examples not to emulate but to learn from. The art of storytelling cannot be duplicated because it is retold from the eyes of the storyteller. There’s only one of each of us. It is just flabbergasting to see their storytelling comes to life.

Queen Latifah is also killing the industry. She is such a silent force whose presence is felt in so many pieces of media.

Name two of your top role models: one from your industry and one from outside of it.
This is not directly in my industry but many of the role models that I admire are athletes. LeBron James, Serena Williams, Kobe Bryant; I watch the work that goes into the final product and it is blood, sweat and tears baby! This, the pursuit of a dream ain’t for the faint of heart but if you want it bad enough, you will stop at nothing to achieve.

My role model outside my industry is my husband. I have never seen such a consistent person. He is a marathon runner of life and I admire that so deeply. We want everything now and have a hard time dealing with delayed gratification. He demonstrated effortlessly the art of repeatedly engaging in an action for intended results. He’s a boss in that regard.

Name three books, works, performances or exhibits that changed how you view life and/or yourself.
1. Maya Angelou’s I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings changed my life forever. After reading her book, I fell in love with the art that words combined could create.
2. The Great Gatsby was also a game changer for me. I was forced to read it during high school and fell in love with the elements of hope, romance and the will to rise above one’s current circumstance.
3. DOVE’s study on self-esteem in women and girls they reveals the tremendously low percentage of women who feel beautiful. I knew that I had to do everything possible to make an impact in this field. As far as I am concerned, women have infinite power. We can give life, run the country and bake cakes if we want to but if we aren’t confident, none of those things can happen. The world needs us.

Why do you consider continued learning important?
I recently sat on a panel for Verizon in which the topic was education. At the time I stated, “We need education like we need air.” No matter what happens to us in life no one can take away the information that we have stored in our minds. Furthermore, education is often the difference between success and failure.

If you look at all the greats in their respective industries they are constant students of their craft. The ability to learn means that we can be empowered to walk in our fullest potential.

What affirmations do you repeat to yourself that contribute to your success?
“I am.”

All of my social media begins with “I am” although it has nothing to do with me introducing myself the letters “I am” is an acronym for I always matter. All we ever want to know as people is that we matter, that our existence has meaning, that we are important to someone in this world. My works remind women and girls and everyone who reads, watches sports, that they matter. When we know we matter, we in turn recognize our worth and when we recognize our worth, we pursue at the level of our potential.

What role does technology play in your day-to-day life? How do you utilize it?
Technology is insight into the world. It has allowed me to connect with people in places that I would have never dreamt of meeting. In my inspiration and empowerment weekly blog, I have readers from all over the world. I was blown away when I found out that I have readers in Japan, Canada and Mexico as well as throughout the United States. And while I want to believe that I will be a household name internationally, one day I can’t say that technology has not allowed me to connect with audiences more quickly.

What software, app or other technological innovation has made the biggest difference in your life and/or career?
I have this little joke that I tell everyone that states that I am a rapper inside. I am always writing my lyrics. You can find me at any given time with my phone in my hand and I am writing something. I am inspired by the people I meet, the places I go, the things that I see and the sounds that I hear every day and I would be foolish not to take advantage of the creativity that is sparked as a result. Before cloud-based technologies, writers would often lose work if it were not saved or process the right way however cloud-based technology is everything for me I absolutely love Google Drive and Evernote. These allow me to save my work in real time and I couldn’t be more thankful. I couldn’t live without either of these.

Please define your personal brand.
I exist to create social change that redefines beauty goals for women with emphasis on self-esteem, education and financial literacy.

Through advocacy and the creation of impactful media, I will be the voice of women that empowers, educates and redefines what it means to be beautiful.

What is your favorite vacation destination and why?
Anywhere with my husband. We had children at the beginning of our marriage and we are a very close-knit family. Most of our anniversary trips were spent as a family so any time that he and I can get away, it’s a party y’all! We are best friends so we enjoy each other.

If you could change one thing about the world, what would it be?
I would change the way that we define beauty. There is so much emphasis on how we look that are judgments become clouded. Recently, I posted a photo of First Lady Michelle Obama on my Instagram page after President Obama’s final State of the Union address. The world had to stop and pause at how beautiful she was.

However we have watched her over the years. We knew that she graduated from Harvard. We knew that she was a writer. We knew that she was an attorney. We knew that she was the First Lady of United States. All of these factors came together to embody the beauty that we saw on that night. all of the aforementioned factors had absolutely nothing to do with the way that she looked. her achievements are still significant that they radiate through her skin. I wish the world would help women to see their beauty through the eyes of their achievements.

If you could change one thing about yourself, what would it be?
I would consider following the rules a little more. I have always had this sense that rules did not apply. I always found it more interesting to find the ways around things. It feels like problem solving. This has worked to my benefit in a creative realm but really isn’t that great practically for everyday living.
Otherwise, I am really at a point when I love my flaws more now than ever. They make me who I am and give me a vantage point. I work really hard to be a better version of myself. I try to be less selfish and more giving of my time, talents and treasure, that’s why we are here on earth anyway. When we stop doing that, there is nothing left to do.

What does it take to be iconic? In your estimation, who has achieved that status?
I believe that when your work proceeds you, you are iconic. What would be a list of icons without Oprah Winfrey right? Tyler Perry, Spike Lee, Ava DuVernay, Steven Spielberg, George Lucas, these are all people that need no introduction. And although the world might never know, I believe that staying true to your “why” adds an element of iconic nature to each of us. There are so many persuasive factors and people offering advice but the only true path towards freedom is working your “why” from every angle. That’s my idea of iconic.

What keeps you inspired?
My children. They can “read”, that’s a southern term for “telling you about yourself” like nobody’s business. As the mother of two daughters, they check me daily. We have this saying in our house if someone responds with this slightest bit of an attitude, we say “ooh, nasty”. That means, honey, check your attitude at the door. It helps us to recognize when we need to be kinder or show a little more love and compassion towards one another. Sarcasm in our house is always at an all time high as well. I expect nothing less, it makes us a pretty witty bunch. I am also inspired by people. My family gets aggravated because I am the last one in the church parking lot talking and meeting and greeting. People give me life. I love people genuinely. I have never meet a stranger and it keeps me fueled. I recognize that every face has a story and that peaks my interest.

What Scripture(s) are you leaning on?
Lord, every single one in the Bible. I need it all. It is amazing how many times I can read a scripture and not understand and then in the midst of a trial or a happy time, it will come back to me and all make sense. I try hard to live by 1 Corinthians 13: 8. It is like music to my ears. I want to be remembered for sharing love, teaching about love and serving as the embodiment of love.

How do you stay connected with fans?
Aside from social media and hosting events regularly, I write to my readers. Most people develop a business-to-customer relationship with their clients fans and supporters however each of my readers are like family. When I write to them they actually write me back and I respond. I believe the best writer builds one reader at a time and that’s always my goal.

What’s on your playlist?
Ha! My playlist is mixed with so many genres of music because I have an appreciation for the creative process. I listen to a great deal of soul. Artists like Earth Wind and Fire, Frankie Beverly and Maze and the Isley Brothers. When my girls are doing their homework, we play classical music and smooth jazz to keep things light in the house. I also love gospel and what we referred to in the south as ratchet music. I recently saw a quote on Instagram that said, “I love God and trap music,” which would be me!

Where did you vacation this summer?
This summer my family and I spent our summer relocating from Atlanta to Chicago. We were able to make a few trips and explore the amazing city of Chicago so it felt like we were on vacation. We were together for well over 60 days and it brought us all closer as we set out on a new journey together. This coming summer we are hoping to do Vegas as a family; say a prayer for us!

Yvette Caslin
Yvette Caslin

I'm a writer, image architect & significance marketer. Love photojournalism, creative expression & originality.

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