Introducing Oliver Zak & Selom Agbitor, The CEO’s & Founders Of The Very Successful Mad Rabbit

Oliver Zak and Selom Agbitor are the CEO’s and founders of the very successful Mad Rabbit. The East Coast EY Entrepreneur of the Year finalists, Oliver and Selom, appeared on “Shark Tank” in March where they met Mark Cuban and accepted a $500,000 offer for 12% of their company. Cuban also recently took part in their closing of $2M Seed Funding Round Led by Acronym Venture Capital, along with NFL star Stefan Diggs.

Oliver and Selom, who earned finance degrees at Miami University, started the company Mad Rabbit, which produces natural solutions that help keep tattoos looking vibrant, as a side hustle in college, mixing batches of their first balm in Oliver Zak’s apartment.

Mad Rabbit reported more than $2.8 million in revenue in 2020 and is on track to hit eight figures this year. “We look forward to reaching a larger, more inclusive community of tattooed consumers with our products,” stated Oliver Zak. “Our vision for the brand is that it will someday extend far beyond skincare.”

Global Elite Media Group recently had a one on one interview with the 2 CEO’s and here’s what they had to say:

Could you please tell our readers a brief background about yourself and how you started your business? 

Selom: After moving from Ghana to the U.S., I was always driven by the sacrifices my parents made for me and my family. Seeing their strong work ethic motivated me to work hard and create my own story.

Oliver: I grew up watching my father transition from a surgeon to an entrepreneur after an unfortunate life-altering event. I was inspired early on by his drive to succeed no matter what the odds are and found myself pitching in entrepreneurship competitions in high school.

What are you currently doing to maintain/grow your business?

We’re working on new products and new packaging, to tell our story that we think our customers will really love.

What form of marketing has worked well for your business throughout the years? Influencer marketing.

What social media platforms do you usually use to increase your brand’s awareness? Instagram.

What is the toughest decision you had to make in the last few months?

We appeared on Shark Tank in March and were lucky enough to receive two offers from two sharks. One of the toughest decisions was choosing between Kevin O’Leary and Mark Cuban. We chose Mark Cuban in the end who invested $500,000 for 12% equity.

How has your business been affected by the COVID-19 pandemic?

When Covid hit, many companies decided to stop or reduce ad spending, but we decided to at least double our ad spend, which was a big risk but ended up paying off because it catapulted us into being the top brand in the tattoo aftercare space

How have you adapted your business operations in response to COVID-19 and its associated impacts?

We have increased our influencer marketing and social media operations to have a direct channel to consumers and hear their voices.

What have been some of the most important lessons you have learned because of this pandemic?

With a startup, roles are fluid, walls can be non-existent, and cross-functionality is expected. The downside is that nobody is good at everything, and it is our job to place our people in the best positions to succeed. Creating jobs and growing our Mad Rabbit Tattoo family is one of the most exciting parts of our jobs as co-founders. The fact that we’ve been able to increase hires during the pandemic is an exciting accomplishment for us.

What do you hope to see happen in the near future for small businesses all over the world?

Inspire people to innovate and provide a solution to an underserved market. Conditions are always changing, and this can be good or bad for a business. When Covid hit, many companies decided to stop or reduce ad spending, but we decided to at least double our ad spend, which was a big risk but ended up paying off because it catapulted us into being the top brand in the tattoo aftercare space.

What advice would you give to a newbie Entrepreneur setting up a new business in this pandemic?

Don’t try to do it alone. Starting a business solo drastically increases your chances of failure in the early days of launching a startup. Not only is it important to hire quality employees, but it might be more important than those employees are in the right roles. With a startup, roles are fluid, walls can be non-existent, and cross-functionality is expected. The downside is that nobody is good at everything, and it is our job to place our people in the best positions to succeed.

5 Simple Ways to Boost Your Self-Esteem

10-year old Nyeeam Hudson wasn’t wearing the ‘right’ shoes at the park one day. He was wearing Fila’s and as result, he got bullied for it. But the New Jersey boy wasn’t going to let his tormentors off the hook that easily. His response to them saw his Facebook video go viral with millions of views. Nyeeam tells of his encounter: “I just wear FILAs because I like the color and I think they are cool. They might not be what’s popular today, but that’s what I like. So I told the kid, it’s not about what I have on my feet, it’s about what I have inside my head. No matter what I’m wearing, no matter what I have on, it’s about my information, the knowledgeable things in life. These sneakers are not even going to fit you in 20 years from now. So it’s about what you have in your mind. Your wisdom. Your knowledge. The power to inspire others. And parents, please don’t raise your children like the materialistic type…they are going to feel like they need the gold or the Jordans or the cool stuff, the popular stuff, to make them feel important.”

Nyeeam’s video highlights a link that psychologists have long known about. That is, between self-image and materialism. While the intensity of the link peaks in teenagers, it is not confined to it. It becomes a vicious cycle where when self-esteem lowers, materialism increases. But as materialism increases, it creates low self-esteem. But there is hope, increasing self-esteem will break that cycle and not only will your wallet (or your parents’ wallet!) thank you for it, so will your physical, mental, and emotional well-being.

1. THINGS DON’T LAST FOREVER

As Nyeeam says in his video, he won’t be able to fit in his shoes in 20 years and the same is true for whatever it is you buy to fit in. Trends change and things wear out. But who you are – mind, body, soul – and the legacy you leave behind will never go out of style.

2. REMEMBER: SOME PEOPLE HAVE IT WORSE THAN YOU

I grew up in the Philippines and I had daily visual reminders that I was a lot luckier than most children. I would see children begging in the streets with barely any clothes on and wearing flip-flops, if any at all. Children in first-world countries don’t have that daily reminder. Sure, you see the commercials on TV but it’s much easier to dismiss than being confronted with a child with his hand out asking for help. Keep in mind, the next time you ask for a new pair of sneakers (and you already have 3 or 4 barely used in your wardrobe), a parent in another country probably made those shoes just so their child can eat. They can only dream of bringing home those shoes they’re making.

3. CHOOSE THE RIGHT CROWD

Establishing your self-esteem with your own negative self-talk hammering at you is hard enough, but then you surround yourself with a crowd who seem to be unable to say anything good about you is a recipe for mental and emotional disaster. My high school inner circle comprised of a group of strong, independent young women who didn’t give a hoot what anyone said about them. They, we, weren’t the ‘cool’ group but we were respected – not just by our peers, but by the teachers as well. And that, I tell you, is a far more important thing to possess than any latest accessory.

4. WHAT YOU SEE ISN’T ALWAYS WHAT YOU GET

What better illustration of this statement is there than any one of those makeup video tutorials on YouTube?? You see the ‘before’ and ‘after’! If your self-esteem is rooted on the ‘YOU’ before the makeup goes on, then you’re good. But if it hinges on the ‘AFTER’ look, then you’re in big trouble. Same as if you compare your life with what you see people share on social media. Unless your phone instantly uploads and shares any photo you take, the social media projection of your life is heavily edited. You, yourself, would choose only the best pictures to put on Facebook, right? Then what makes you think other people don’t do that?? So, if you’re envious of the travel they’re doing, the experiences they’re having – use it as inspiration instead and go and do them yourself.

5. STOP MAKING COMPARISONS

Consider this (and every time I do my mind gets blown away): the current world population is just under 7.5 billion and in that 7.5 billion, there is only one YOU. Only one individual has your set specific set of DNA. Only one individual has your specific set of experiences and circumstances that made you and your life the way it is. Only one individual’s journey saw you take the step after step after step that finally led you to reading these words right now. How unique and special are you then! So stop comparing yourself to others! Figure out how to be the best version of yourself. Sure, you’ll get it wrong sometimes, but learn from those lessons and use them to grow even more. Grow, learn, live until you can look at yourself in the mirror and can truthfully say: “I like everything about me, flaws and all.”

Photo by Vlada Karpovich from Pexels

Meet The Superstar Behind The Cover Of The September 2021 Issue Of Global Elite Entrepreneur: Gwen Stefani

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By Allison Kugel
 
Gwen Stefani spent her childhood and adolescence in Anaheim, California, a suburban girl living just a stone’s throw from Disneyland. It was her older brother, Eric, who founded No Doubt, the hybrid ska/punk/rock band that would help Stefani make her way into the musical limelight with their 1995 breakout album, Tragic Kingdom. The band’s unique sound coupled with Stefani’s platinum blonde hair, red lips, and punk rock fashion sensibility, brought the singer to Rockstar status in the 1990s.

With lyrics torn from the pages of Gwen’s personal diary about falling in love, breakups, makeups, and mending a broken heart, her music has always drawn in listeners with its raw vulnerability. Her down-to-earth nature and self-deprecating sense of humor helped to seal the deal with fans, making her one of the most successful female recording artists of the past twenty-three years.

Her first solo album, 2004’s Love. Angel. Music. Baby. and L.A.M.B. fashion label catapulted her into the music and style icon stratosphere in the early 2000s. Follow-up albums like 2006’s The Sweet Escape and No Doubt’s 2012 reunion album, Push and Shove capped off two decades of non-stop recording and touring for the Grammy-winning artist, as she focused on raising her three sons with then-husband, Bush lead singer, Gavin Rossdale.

In the summer of 2015, the California girl experienced a seismic 8.5 earthquake in her personal life when her marriage to Rossdale imploded amidst a cheating scandal. An unexpected romance came in the form of country crooner, and Gwen’s The Voice costar, Blake Shelton, whom the Hollaback girl began dating later that same year. Gwen then did what she does best, pouring her emotions into her most personal music to date, with 2016’s This Is What the Truth Feels Like album and a subsequent tour.

From October 22 – November 6, the hitmaking mom of Kingston, 11, Zuma, 9, and Apollo, 4, is preparing to embark on her Las Vegas Residency at Zappos Theatre at the Planet Hollywood Resort & Casino. It’s called, what else? Gwen Stefani: Just A Girl – an homage to her first single to make the Billboard Hot 100 Chart and her own personal anthem that she says still holds true today. I sat down with Gwen to discuss this new chapter in her life and career.
 
Allison Kugel: Was this Las Vegas Residency a family decision? Did you sit down with your three boys and say, “Mom’s going to perform in Las Vegas instead of touring. What do you think about that?”
 
Gwen Stefani: Honestly, my kids don’t really have too much of a say on what the schedule’s going to be. But as a mom, if you look at my touring for the last ten years, I haven’t really toured. In the past, I did tours for seven years. It’s hard with the kids, because they’re in school and I’m not homeschooling, and you can’t pull them out. It’s not fair on them. I did my last tour because I had this unexpected life crisis and then the music came pouring out of me from that. I didn’t even plan on making any music. It was such a lifesaver and a beautiful moment for me to be able to write again. I put that tour on at the last minute (referring to her “This Is What The Truth Feels Like” tour) and went on a summer tour with the kids. It was so much fun for them. They love touring, but it isn’t realistic. So, I’ve been thinking about doing the Vegas show for a while now. The Las Vegas Residency will really work for me as a mom, because it’s these little chunks of time where you can fly in and out, and it’s workable.
 
Allison Kugel: It’s a shifting of priorities.
 
Gwen Stefani: Yes. After that last tour, I felt like, “God I’ve toured a lot in my life!” I love it, but it takes so much out of me as far as being able to focus on the rest of my life with the kids. I have three kids and it’s a big deal! Any parent would probably go, “How does she do it?” It’s almost impossible to do and it’s a lot of balancing. The Las Vegas Residency is just perfect for where I’m at right now.
 
Allison Kugel: What does performing live give you, personally and energetically?
 
Gwen Stefani: Being on stage for me, I always forget how much it’s a part of who I am. I’ve done it for my whole life, pretty much. I always think I don’t want to do it. I always think it’s fine if I never do it again. Then when I get on stage, even when I’m sound checking, I’m like, “Oh My God, I love this!” I love my music, I love being up there, I love the attention and I love being able to share that love with people and get that exchange. I don’t understand why I like it so much.
 
Allison Kugel: It feeds your soul. You’re connecting with the source and you’re in a zone.
 
Gwen Stefani: It’s my gift. It’s what I’m here for. I’m obviously at the end of my journey of being a musician…
 
Allison Kugel: Why would you say that?
 
Gwen Stefani: Well because of my age, and I’ve been doing it for thirty-something years. It’s perfect for me to be able to do a Las Vegas show, because not only does it work for me as a mom, but it also works creatively. It’s a new challenge. It’s going to be a way to express myself and do my whole catalog of music that defines every single period in my life; all the crises and all the joys. Creatively, I couldn’t have done it any sooner. I had to have all these songs. It just feels like the perfect next chapter for me.

Gwen Stefani, April 12 2018, Photos By Denise Truscello

Allison Kugel: You’re taking the audience on a journey of your life, and to do that you have to have lived.

 
Gwen Stefani: Exactly! And I also think people who are going out for that weekend in Las Vegas, it’s so different from, for example, if I’m performing in Philly and it’s about Philly culture, and the audience is just coming out for that one night and getting a babysitter. You know what I mean? This Vegas show is a bigger commitment for people. They’re going for the weekend and they’re making a memory. You’re competing with the Las Vegas nightlife, you’re competing with the gambling, the partying, and with the hotels and all the expenses. It’s a big commitment for people, and they’re coming to me from all over the world.
 
Allison Kugel: And they’re going to get a more intimate experience with you than they would in a stadium setting.
 
Gwen Stefani: It is a much smaller audience than I’m used to, under five thousand people. It’s going to be so different and that’s something I need. When you’ve toured for however many years I have, it’s super awesome, but let’s do something new! That’s why even doing The Voice for the last couple of years was so inspiring for me. I think everybody wants something challenging and new to look forward to.
 
Allison Kugel: You went to see Jennifer Lopez’s Las Vegas show, All I Have. I’m assuming the two of you discussed her Las Vegas Residency. Did she give you any advice?
 
Gwen Stefani: Me and Jennifer, I’ve always looked up to her in the sense that we’re exactly the same age, and I remember when No Doubt was coming out and she hadn’t done Jenny from The Block yet, but she had that song out, Waiting for Tonight. At the time I was working with Prince and he started comparing me and Jennifer, and at that time I didn’t even see how I was in the same category as her. She was Jennifer Lopez and I was in a band called No Doubt (laughs). But nowhere we both are doing these residencies all these years later, and we’ve known each other through the years. She’s always invited me to her kids’ birthday parties and things like that. She is a crazy worker. I cannot believe how much she works! I know I do, but I look at her and I’m like, “Wow!”
 
Allison Kugel: It doesn’t seem human, right? Multiple television shows, Las Vegas Residency, albums…
 
Gwen Stefani: I know. I don’t understand it. Going to see her, and I’d never seen her do a performance live, I was studying the production of her show. The show was incredible, and she works so hard on stage. I admire her a lot and it was so inspiring to see… and scary! When I came backstage to talk to her afterward, she comes out of the dressing room looking like a Barbie Doll. She was breathtaking on stage, but when you see her up close, it’s like, “What?! It’s not possible. You are so gorgeous!” She was just so glamorous. We talked for a while and she was like, “Yeah, I’ve just done 100 shows…” And I’m like, “Whoa, that’s a lot of shows!” (Laughs) And she still has forty more to go. She’s really enjoyed it, but she said it is challenging.
 
Allison Kugel: I think you’ll find it challenging, but one of the best experiences of your life.
 
Gwen Stefani: It is challenging, and as performers, we have a completely different perspective on doing a concert than the audience. The challenge isn’t about us. We’re going to be us every time we get up there. We may have that one night where we’re off because of whatever might be going on. A lot of times, you just never know what you’re going to be like on stage. But at the same time, we’re pretty much consistent. It’s really about the audience. What are they going to be like and are they into it or not?
Allison Kugel: What are you presenting to the audience, artistically, with your Just A Girl Las Vegas Residency? You’re also a fashion designer and you have a strong aesthetic vision. Between the sets and the costumes, how will everything tie together on stage?
 
Gwen Stefani: I’ve really tried to put together a show that has a nostalgic feel. The show is full of hit songs that are recognizable and take you back to that time period in your life. And of course, the real reason for doing Vegas is the costumes. I’m working with Rob Zangardi and Mariel Haenn who I’ve been working with now for, I don’t know how many years. They are just incredible. They did Jennifer [Lopez’s] show, and they’ve also worked with Jennifer for years. They really get me. I think there’s going to be about five costume changes, which is a lot for me considering that with No Doubt I never did any.
Gwen Stefani, April 12 2018, Photos By Denise Truscello

Allison Kugel: I remember. With No Doubt, it was just you out there with your cut-off t-shirts (laughs).
 
Gwen Stefani: (Laughs) Yeah. But now I’m working with designers to see what they come up with. There are different chapters as far as what I want to look like, and I basically have it all worked out. Now it’s just putting it all together.
 
Allison Kugel: The title of your Las Vegas show, Just A Girl, is the title of one of your biggest hits, but it has a double meaning for you. You’re always saying, “I’m just a girl from Orange County…” Is that your way of keeping yourself grounded?
 
Gwen Stefani: Honestly, I think if you really knew me or saw my family and how I grew up, I am 100% the same person I have always been. When I wrote that song, Just A Girl, I was twenty-five years old, going to college, still living at my parent’s house, and I was very naïve. I had a boyfriend at the time that lived at his parent’s house. I was driving one day and I’m thinking, “Wow! I really have a different position in this world, being that I’m a female.”
 
Allison Kugel: Did something happen that made you stop and think, “I’m going to be treated a certain way because I’m a girl.”?
 
Gwen Stefani: It was just more of a realization that I had. I think we all do as females. I’m walking down the street and some guy just whistled at me? What does that even mean? Suddenly, you’re aware of your sexuality and that you’re ascribed a certain value because of it. It was when that hit me, that I wrote the song, Just A Girl. Nobody was paying attention at the time. Nobody was ever going to hear the song. I didn’t even know how to write a song. It was just so naïve. I guess I wanted to figure out a way to say, “This is my DNA.” And really, my DNA is I am just a girl from Anaheim [California]. I’m just me, and I’ve never been anything else. I know that’s what got me to this point, by being honest, real, and sharing my story with people. That’s all we can do in this life, and I’m nothing more than that. But at the same time, by using my gift, being aware of it, trying to respect it, and being confident in it, I’ve gotten this far. Music is so powerful, and for a song like that to still be relevant twenty years later? In a way, it’s even more relevant now. We have so much going on with female empowerment and what’s our place? When I read the lyrics of that song I think, “My gosh, that must have been a Godsend,” because I know I didn’t think that up on my own. I always thought it would go out of fashion, or I’d be too old to say “just a girl” but it still works.
 
Allison Kugel: Has Blake had any creative input with this Las Vegas show?
 
Gwen Stefani: Obviously he’s my best friend, so I’m bouncing stuff off him all the time. He’s one of those people in my life that’s super supportive and gets me motivated. There’s a whole bunch of songs about him in the show, so that’s fun. Like anybody with their best friend, we share everything together. I’ll tell him, “I picked my dancers. There were 500 girls that tried out!” And I’ll send him videos. Just things like that.

Allison Kugel: Did you choose Planet Hollywood as the venue?
 
Gwen Stefani: I feel like they chose me, and what’s really cool about it is that Planet Hollywood is also the Zappos Theatre now, and the Zappos team is just incredible. They’re taking over the theatre with their creativity and it has a very futuristic feel. I also give $1 of every single ticket sold to the children’s charity, Cure 4 The Kids Foundation. It’s going to add up to be a crapload of money! It’s something I’m going to be really proud of. You get very motivated about giving and helping, and making a difference, but you really don’t think as one person you’re ever going to in your life. I feel that to be able to get up there and share my story, and then make that kind of money to give away is amazing. I feel so proud of that.
 
Allison Kugel: What’s your routine before you step out on stage? Do you pray? Do you meditate? How do you gear up to give your best performance?
 
Gwen Stefani: I don’t meditate. I’m a prayer. I pray, but first I do my makeup (laughs). My makeup is huge for me. I have this song called War Paint. Putting on my makeup and getting ready, there is a kind of meditation in the preparation. Makeup is art, and it’s like getting into character when I put it on. I’ve always done my own makeup for shows. And praying for me is really important. We do a group prayer circle. In the last few years, and when I toured for the last show, the payer is not just before, but also during [the show]. When I think about how ordinary I’ve always been, and to think that I’ve created all these songs, I don’t know where they come from. I always think that it’s got to be a channeling and it just comes through me. It’s a spiritual thing that has been given to me to share. When I’m in the music, the music takes me right back to those moments in my life. And some of those moments are sickening, you know what I mean? Certain memories are upsetting. That’s why I say this is not just a show for me, it’s my life. It’s real for me and I think that’s why I’m very anxious about it.
 
Allison Kugel: It’s going to be a tremendous spiritual, emotional and physical undertaking.
 
Gwen Stefani: And I’m very lazy (laughs). I like to not have to work out and not have to be committed to something. And I love to be with my children, of course. But it is such an amazing opportunity and they don’t just hand them out to everybody. I feel really honored to be able to do it. I’m thrilled to see who’s going to show up and it’s going to be a lot of fun. I’m going to look back on this and say, “I can’t believe I did that!”
 
Allison Kugel is a syndicated entertainment and pop culture journalist, and author of the book, Journaling Fame: A memoir of a life unhinged and on the record. Follow her on Instagram @theallisonkugel.
 
Photo Credits: Yu Tsai, Denise Truscello

Meet The Woman Behind The Cover Of The September 2021 Issue Of GEQ Magazine: Michelle Walker

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Michelle Walker – Katz is a beauty queen who hails from Sydney, Australia. She originally grew up in Bondi and spent most of her youth at Australia’s most famous Bondi Beach. Her parents are from the entertainment capital of Ukraine called Odessa, but they speak Russian at home. She grew up watching Russian concerts and all sorts of Russian programs due to her mother’s love for them. When her parents migrated to Australia, they moved to Sydney’s Eastern Suburbs, where a Russian community had formed. Similar to New Yorks’ Little Odessa in Brooklyn. She graduated with a Bachelor of Arts majoring in Public Communications from the University of Western Sydney as well as a Masters In Media from Sydney University. Nowadays, she’s based in Sydney’s Hills District (North West of Sydney) with her family, two beautiful daughters, and husband and they’re working on hopefully completing the family soon. She’s also an entrepreneur – three years ago she started her boutique recruitment agency called Katz Recruitment. She’s a career recruiter who has worked in the industry for the past 17 years and she felt that it was finally time to make her dreams come true and become a full-time entrepreneur. At the Curves & Curls International Pageant, she was lucky enough to be awarded two titles; Brand Ambassador 2021 and Best Interview 2021.

Michelle’s favourite activities consist of going to a disco, watching a movie, and game nights with her family. Although Covid lockdown has dampened a little of her social butterfly efforts, she still meets with business friends and acquaintances regularly online to stay connected. GEQ Magazine recently caught up with Michelle to discuss her journey in the pageant world and here’s what went down:

How did you get into the pageant industry?

Earlier this year, I noticed a friend of mine posted about The Curves & Curls International Pageant. I have come to a stage in my life where I’m very comfortable with my curves and felt it was time to share them with the world. My friend had introduced me to the wonderful founder Maxine Simmons, and the rest is history. Maxine is the founder of Curves and Curls International Pageant and she has been very inspiring and supportive of my journey and I really appreciate that.

Photographed by: Sarah Keen/Truthfully

How were you actually ‘discovered’?

My discovery was destiny, I believe. When I came across the post about The Curves & Curls International 2021 pageant, I was just drawn to reach out and get introduced to the person who made all the magic happen. I had reached out late at night on Facebook, and at 5 am in the morning, I had a loud ping on my phone. Maxine, the founder, messaged me to let me know that I was in and had three weeks to get ready for I was a late entrant. I believe that sometimes the universe makes things happen. For me, this was the opportunity I had been waiting for.

What do you like most about being a beauty queen?

I love being a beauty queen because it allows me to express my gratitude for myself and how far I have come with loving myself and my body image. Being a curvy beauty queen provides me with a platform to inspire and encourage other curvy girls to love and embrace themselves. Growing up as a curvy redhead, I always felt invisible, but who would have thought that these days as a grown woman, makes me different and stand out from the crowd. I never imagined that I would be in the beauty industry, but why not. We’re all different and must make the most of what we have. In some ways, I feel like I’m part of a beauty revolution, something I never thought I would see in my lifetime, where plus-size women were encouraged to join a beauty pageant. When I had won a few titles, I seriously had to pinch myself to make sure I wasn’t dreaming. I’m hoping that my gorgeous daughters, who are 6 and 7, won’t experience feeling less of a person because of their physical attributes. I want to do my part in keeping the changes coming so that my daughters and other women can go out into the world, aim high and do what their hearts desire.

Downside to being a beauty queen?

I don’t believe that there are any downsides to being a beauty queen. I honestly believe that we should have beauty schools that all can attend. Being a beauty queen teaches one to be confident in how you walk, talk and present. It also teaches you discipline, organisation, and how to smile on stage. These are skills and attributes that are important in all areas of life. In my business life, I run a recruitment agency. These elements are so important throughout one’s career life and even within one’s personal life. My dad always said to me that when people first meet someone, they judge them by their appearance and then take the time to get to know the person’s brain. This doesn’t mean that one needs to dress in the most expensive brands (it would be nice, of course). It’s more about being neat, tidy, and making the best of what you’ve got.

What has been the most memorable experience of being in the pageant industry so far?

Earlier this year, at my first pageant, my 6-year-old daughter Valentina had surprised me and had run out on stage to me while I was strutting my formal wear. She was being very cheeky and wouldn’t go back down to join the rest of the family. I told her that if she doesn’t go back down, she’ll have to walk with me and listen to my instructions. Valentina was fantastic. She listened to everything I told her to do and did a fabulous job. The crowd and judges were impressed by her natural ability. I’m sure she helped me score a few extra points because I kept the catwalk rolling and embraced the beautiful hiccup. I’m sure we’ll have some more pageant queens in our family in the future – both my daughters Rochelle and Valentina are excited to get involved in pageants in the future.

Who have been the most interesting people you’ve met so far?

To be honest, the women in the pageant industry that I have met so far have all been extremely inspiring and empowering. Always so patient with newbies to the industry, sharing their skills and knowledge with us – it has been a beautifully heart-warming experience.

What has been the most valuable lesson you’ve learned while in the pageant industry. This can be about the industry or yourself.

One of the most important lessons pageants teaches us, just like the entertainment industry in general; is that no matter how nervous you are or whatever is going on in your life or your head – You need to collect yourself, smile, and keep moving forward. This applies to all areas of life. Sometimes you need to take that first step and keep going. Small steps become leaps and bounds. The pageant industry has also reminded me to be proud of my femininity and not be afraid to share it with the world.

Photographed by: El Earl Photography

Working in an industry whose only emphasis is on the outside characteristics of a person, how have you stayed grounded?

I’m very new to working in the beauty industry. Growing up with curves and red hair, I know that focusing on just beauty can be very superficial. I must admit I love getting dressed up and getting my hair and makeup done too. Whenever I walk down the runway, I feel like a million bucks. In my real life, I run my own business. Most recently, due to lockdown in Sydney, I wear activewear every day (at least from the waist down) with my children fighting over my mobile phone under my desk. I’m lucky to be able to have my beautiful children, my own business, and my beauty queen opportunities – the juggle is real, and it’s not always easy. But just like when it’s your turn to work down the catwalk, I smile and keep moving forward.

Is your family supportive of you being in the pageant industry?

My family is extremely supportive of everything I do, especially my handsome husband; my absolute rock, as well as my mother, sister, and niece. My mother is a beauty queen in her own right. Now in her early 70’s, she still presents immaculately and always made an effort to look her best, especially during her social butterfly days on my fathers’ arm. Unfortunately, in 2006 my beautiful father, Roman Katz had passed away from cancer. My father had originally founded and opened Ruski’s Deli in Bondi and would have customers come from far and wide. I’m sure I have my entrepreneurial flair from him. I’m also sure he’s with me every day, supporting me on my journey and proud of all my achievements.

What are your future plans? Inside pageantry or out of it.

I want to continue my journey in the pageant industry and with my boutique recruitment agency based here in Sydney. I feel that both worlds complement each other, and I enjoy and love both. It would be nice to see my daughters join the pageant industry so that I can share these special memories with them too.

The ‘LIGHTNING FAST’ Round:

1. Last good movie I’ve seen: We recently watched ‘Isn’t It Romantic, starring Rebel Wilson and Liam Hemsworth with our daughters. We all enjoyed it – it was fun and light-hearted.

2. What do you consider beautiful and why? I consider our children beautiful. It’s so magical that my husband and I were able to create something so perfect. Our beautiful family.

3. What haven’t you done yet that you wish you could? Something I wish I could do is travel more. I would love to see more of Europe. Unfortunately, due to Covid and the lockdown, it’s impossible. Still, I’m happy to wait until my children grow up some more so that we can experience it together. Hopefully, the world will be in a better place then.

4. Complete this sentence: “If I had no fear, I’d…” walk down the catwalk in a bikini (laughs). As much as I love my body, I don’t feel ready for that yet.

5. What is the one “flaw” you wouldn’t change about yourself? To be honest, I’m filled with flaws, but I wouldn’t change any of them. They all add up to make me, and I’m proud of the woman I have become.

Meet The Rising Star Behind The Cover Of The September 2021 Issue Of GEK Magazine: Sam Pio

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At such a young age, Sam Pio is multitalented and living out her dreams as a singer, actress, and model. She is set to release a cover album of faith-based Christian Gospel songs such as Amazing Grace and O’Lord, as well as a solo album with originally written Christian songs later this year. The goal of her music is to bring an angelic, spirit-filled message of hope, love, and light after the tumultuous time the world experienced.

Sam booked her first baby modeling job at the age of 1 with OshKosh B’gosh and later with Vertibaudet Fashion Kids which inspired her to become a rising star and pursue additional passions. By age two she was singing, making up her own songs, and if there was a stage in sight, she wasn’t shy and made her way to perform. Sam has appeared in commercials, theater production, television series, independent films, and has graced main stage events across the country. The independent film she stars in, “Little May,” is out at award-winning film festivals, and her 26-television episode “Love at Work” series is scheduled to premiere on the Hope Channel (date TBD). In this production, Sam is the youngest of 15 singers in this musical, based on the ten commandments of the bible, alongside Whitney Phipps, Yolanda Innocent Palmer, Neville Peter, and nine others.

In December 2020, Sam performed alongside Goo Goo Dolls’ John Rzeznik for Amazon Prime’s first augmented reality movie musical called “It’s Christmas All Over with the Goo Goo Dolls.” A true philanthropist at heart, Sam has used her talent and performed to help raise money for the Los Angeles Food Bank and the families in need.

Sam studies with some of the leading coaches and trainers in the industry and although she works hard at developing her craft she still finds time for her favorite activities – play dates, baking, swimming, board games, and reading the Bible.

Global Elite Kids Magazine recently caught up with Sam and here’s what went down:

Can you tell us about BE BLESSED and your upcoming album featuring originally written Christian songs?

BE BLESSED is a Christian cover album of contemporary, classic hymns, and worship songs like Lauren Daigle’s “Oh Lord,” Toby Mac’s “Everything,” Sinach’s “Way Maker,” and John Newton’s “Amazing Grace”.

My next album is all original music where I get to tell everyone how much God loves them. I am excited to share the visions he has given me. I just can’t wait! We have already started recording and we hope to have the album out by the end of the year. We are working hard to do so but you can’t rush the process. I am in the studio most Friday’s either laying down tracks with my engineer or recording with my vocal producer.

What sort of person is going to love this album?

Anyone who loves uplifting music.

What inspires you to be creative?

God always inspires my work. He gives me a vision; I write it down and turn it into a song. My team is also a huge help with turning my vision into an album.

Is there anything special that you do to get into a creative mindset?

I pray and God answers by giving me a vision.

What message, if any, do you try to put into your work?

My message is about faith and love. How much God loves everyone.

What has been the most memorable experience of your career so far?

My baptism, because Jesus is such a huge part of why I do what I do. He gave me my gifts and without Him, I would not even have a career.

Do you ever find yourself unable to express your creativity to the fullest? What kinds of things inhibit you?

When I need to write a song right away but God hasn’t given me the vision yet.

Who is your greatest influence?

Everything I do is influenced by my faith and relationship with God.

Do you feel that you chose your “passion,” or did it choose you?

Both because God asked and I said yes.

If you hadn’t chosen to be a singer, actress, and model, what would your career path be?

My singing, acting, and modeling are second to my relation to God and my ministry. I plan on touring around the world as a missionary giving back to God all that he has given. I just established my own company called Live For Jesus Ministry.

What are your future plans? Inside your career or out of it.

I dream of touring around the world and being a missionary, singing praises to God, and helping others get to know the wonderful life they can have through a relationship with God.

Photo credit: Bobby Quillard

5 Interesting Facts That Might Surprise You About Self-Motivation

The link between self-motivation and success is undeniable. Both go hand in hand just like bread and butter. The reality is that with positivity, focused attitude and courage – you are bound to achieve great milestones in life. There is a lot that is said about self-motivation so we have put together an endless list of some interesting facts that might amuse you about self-motivation.

1: It is harder to believe in yourself than you think

It is really easy to read a few motivational quotes and vow to believe in yourself. Acting so is an entirely different story. Self-motivation is highly dependent on how much you believe in your own self; your potentials, skills and abilities. But it is not easy to have the unmoving, undying faith in you. It takes time but it will eventually happen.

2: With continuous efforts, you are bound to get better

Self-motivation makes you believe in the power of continuous efforts. Fact is that with continuous efforts, you are bound to get better and emerge as an unstoppable force. Another fact is that when you make the conscious efforts to improve yourself – everything around you automatically uplifts too. So self-motivation not only helps you to develop personally but helps to improve everything around you too.

3: It is hard to discourage a self-motivated individual

Another fact is that it is almost near to impossible to disappoint or discourage a self-motivated individual in life. It takes a lot for a motivated person to become disheartened. A person who is continually striving to achieve the greater and pursue the better in life is hard to bring down. Even the biggest sorrows and hardships cannot deflate the spirit of a motivated individual. This is indeed the true spirit of self-motivational driving force.

4: A self-motivated person is the most humble

Self-motivation gives you a great sense of confidence but that does not mean it would give you any false pride. In fact, a self-motivated person is the humblest person alive. He is never driven over the roof because of his confidence but is sane and self-assured enough to hold his head high against all odds. So even though self-motivation brings unparalleled success – it never drives to the head of the person and neither does failure. Self-motivation introduces great balance to the life of any individual who manages to achieve it.

5: Setting up Goals is Crucial

A lot of people think that setting up goals is a cliché but the fact of the matter is that without goals there is no point in getting yourself motivated. Once you have a goal in mind, everything would fall into place, and you will be able on the right track of life.

How to Use Social Media for Small Business: 4 Surefire Tips

Social media marketing has exploded into the online marketing industry within the last few years and has completely redefined it. With well over 3 billion active users, the figures are set only to rise, and many companies have already begun to capitalize on its valuable assets, influence, and connectivity.

We have outlined 4 secrets below to growing your business with social media and ultimately improving your revenue and audience.

 1. Promote your e-commerce store

This point may sound obvious at first, but it is critical that this is executed correctly. Ensure users can easily find your store by linking to it in your profile descriptions, posts, stories, and tweets; However, you must keep in mind that consumers do not want to be ‘sold’ to. Some businesses swear by certain ‘content to hard sell’ ratios, for example, 5 posts of purely unique content and inspiration that your followers will value, then 1 post with a hard sell and direct link to your online shop or service.

 2. Content is King

Little and often, an age-old saying, but one that reigns true in the world of social media. Your customers and followers do not want to be bombarded every hour, they can quickly grow tired of your content, no matter how unique or engaging it is. You have to leave them wanting more.

In terms of what your social media posts should contain. Content really is king. The videos, photos or text that you post cannot be repetitive or flat. Some of the most popular types of posts that have gone viral include humor and creativity. Ensure though that you keep your target audience in mind when creating content and keep it relevant.

3. Influencers and Bloggers

Once a very misunderstood industry. Businesses are now understanding the vast potential influencer marketing has for their business. Influencers are everyday people from all walks of life, who particularly inspire a group of individuals who idolize or respect their values and opinions. By expertly selecting influencers who match your product or service values you have the ability to reach a very niche but widespread target audience.

4. Communication

Social media is a means of communication after all. It is important to engage in conversation with not only your followers but other businesses and brands too. Being polite, witty and friendly when interacting with others on social media is key.

However, you must ensure that any awkward or abusive comments and interactions from users are dealt with professionally and calmly. If you have an employee who controls your business account, it is of paramount importance that they understand this too. The world is watching, and social media has the power to spread rude or abusive reactions from a business very quickly. In the past it has even helped to completely destroy the reputation of brands, so count to 10 and reply with consideration and respect.

 In conclusion, social media incorporates a huge number of target markets, although different platforms appeal to different types of users (for example Snapchat appeals to ages 18-25, and Facebook pre-dominantly ages 18-45), social media as a whole is used by almost every culture, age, and nationality on Earth. As long as you are providing enriching content and utilizing appropriate marketing techniques like influencers or adverts, you will begin to see positive growth in followers and engagement on your social accounts, which should transcend to sales and profit for your business.

Beauty Queen Spotlight: Get To Know The Beautiful Kaanchan S Farkiya

Kaanchan S Farkiya is the reigning Miss WorldClass and Ms. USA 2021. The World-Class Brand was established in 2016 by Derek Tokarzewski in Chicago, Illinois (USA) with a focus to empower, educate, and inspire. Miss WorldClass is an International virtual pageant that caters to established and experienced queens from around the world giving it a truly global reach. What she loves about being Miss WorldClass is the mentorship program which was established to help individuals focus on personal and professional growth through platform development. There are 3 core areas of the program: guidance, encouragement, and awareness which she enjoys doing. She’s thankful to those people who offered encouragement and supported her throughout her journey. Joining the pageant made her think deeper and connect with her core.

GEQ Magazine recently caught up with Kaanchan to discuss her journey in the pageant world and here’s what went down:

How did you first get into the beauty pageant scene? 

When I was a teenager someone from the television industry asked me to participate in a state-level pageant in India. I was not sure about whether I was ready to join a state-level competition at that time so I tried out in my first pageant just for fun. However, when I passed the selection process and the pageant team informed me that I did well in Miss Madhya Pradesh preliminary competition. In the final competition, I was placed as Miss Madhya Pradesh 1st runner-up as the first Princess in India. Since then, my new adventure of modeling and acting in television started. It was really an interesting experience. All in all, the support of my wonderful family and believing in me, made me think of participating in my first pageant. Working for something that I love to do and earning respect and support from people at a very young age was very invigorating.

What has been the most memorable experience of being in the beauty pageant industry so far?

In 2016, I have earned five subtitles as Mrs. Role Model of the Year, Mrs. People Choice, Mrs. Elegance, Mrs. Congeniality, and Mrs. Cultural of the Year along with Mrs. Asian San Diego 1st runner up.

In the same year, I went to Las Vegas for the Ms. Asian North America competition where I spent one of the best weeks of my life. I still can’t believe that I was the winner of Ms. Asian North America 2016 and the most rewarding aspect is giving pride to my country. It was exhilarating and my reign was so significant and laden with meaning and admiration with my vision to fulfill all my responsibilities as a queen. 

What has been the most valuable lesson you’ve learned while in your journey for Miss WorldClass Ms. USA 2021? This can be about the industry or yourself.

During my journey of Miss WorldClass, my dad passed away. My dad, who has been my source of inspiration. He taught me to never give up and he always had a positive outlook and to work hard towards my goal. That’s why I decided to dedicate my title to the memory of my dad. As I have learned so many life lessons from his life this year, faced all kinds of emotions of grief, but his guiding force kept me motivated. Some valuable lessons are as follows:

• Heath is the most important part of our life and we should start taking care from now.

• Surround yourself with people who uplift you. 

• Mental health is as important as physical health.

• Have patience and perseverance whatever you do.

Who is the biggest cheerleader in your journey to becoming a beauty queen?

My mother and my family members are my biggest cheerleaders who always motivated me for everything I do. My sponsors and some close friends always supported me directly and indirectly during my journey to becoming a beauty queen.

What was your reaction when the host announced that you were crowned for Miss WorldClass Ms. USA 2021?

It was a dream come true and surreal! I was beyond happy at that moment. For a moment, I wasn’t expecting at all that I was the title holder for this prestigious pageant as Miss WorldClass Ms. USA. I am extremely grateful for having received such an eminent and unique pageant system of Miss WorldClass. I am beyond thankful that I have been getting enormous love and appreciation from friends and fans around the world.

If you could go back in a time machine to when you were just getting started, what would you do differently?

I have worked as an actress in state-level tv serials and ad commercials in India. It used to telecast in the morning and prime time television every week. During that time, I was a science major student doing my bachelor’s degree, where I started working for tv. It genuinely took up a good amount of my time, but I felt as though dipping my toe in the water for so many other extracurricular activities along with studies had let me gain insight into other experiences and outlooks for life. 

If I could go back in a time machine to when I was just getting started, I would take my acting career more seriously, and I should have made a plan to balance both my studies and acting career. However, I believe that God always has a plan for you and whatever happens, it happens for a reason and today I am happy about all my decisions.

What is the best advice you have ever been given?

The best advice I have ever been given that mindset can change the way of handling things in your life. With a positive mindset, it’s possible to view an obstacle as an opportunity. A new mindset works wonder and everything on the outside will change along with it. I applied this valuable advice and worked for me.

What are your plans/responsibilities for Miss WorldClass Ms. USA 2021? 

I think being a representative of Miss World-class is a responsibility and leadership opportunity to drive change. Currently, working as one of the board of directors of MM Town Council reinforces the positive outcome in my community. My dedication towards Miss World-class is based on humanitarian work and to work based on my platform. Since last year, people around the world have been suffering from pain, losses, and financial challenges. This has certainly affected the morale of the people around them who have been negatively impacted by the pandemic. For this, we organized a global prayer for world peace through devotional songs, and the purpose of this program was to encourage those who have been struggling to regain the last breath of their lives in hospitals. I am working with few organizations where I will be helping in food distribution to needy people in hospitals and orphanages. I am also planning to help and support people who are suffering from mental health around the world through video conferencing. In addition, as a member of the Global Executive Committee and IATB President of California, I support, promote and help talented artists to realize their worth to reach new heights. Together with this, I am going to create virtual visits to the hospitalized children and I will provide an avenue for them to feel connected through my storytelling events. I will also be a part of hosting a video talent show to give the young and adults the opportunity to showcase their singing talents and share their stories of inspiration. Currently, my reach is for helping people on local, national, and international levels.

What advice would you give to the girls who are thinking of joining the competition?

I would like to say that no matter who you are and where ever you are in the world, you will know to some degree that you are unique and you are special. To all women – no one is like you and you never know that people are lookup at your story that you have overcome what you are going through now, and it could become part of someone else’s source of inspiration.

The Lightning-Fast Round: 

Last good movie I’ve seen: THINK AND GROW RICH: The Legacy 

What do you consider beautiful and why? I consider all feelings of giving is beautiful because it generates expression and feelings of joy, love, care, and dedication. Moreover, it gives inner peace and contentment that must be felt with the heart.

What haven’t you done yet that you wish you could? I have so many to-do lists that I haven’t done. My pageant director Derek Tokarzewski says “Dreams do come true” and I believe in dreaming and keep working towards it. 

Complete this sentence: “If I had no fear, I’d…” hug all wild animals who need love.

What is the one trait you wouldn’t change about yourself? One trait I wouldn’t change about myself is being an empathetic person.

Buckle Up, Australia: The 2021 Australian Golden Sash Awards Is Set To Hit Sydney In 4 Weeks!

The AGSA (Australian Golden Sash Awards) is a ceremony aimed at showcasing Australian beauty queens who have made the most outstanding contributions to the pageant industry during the year.

To provide integrity in the judging of the categories, National Directors are typically invited to nominate beauty queens who have competed in their respective pageant systems in the specified categories.  

This annual event is the first of its kind in Australia. The ceremony is brought to you by MS Entertainment Network in collaboration with StarCentral Magazine.

Unfortunately for 2021, biosecurity measures and travel restrictions have been put in place to help prevent the spread of COVID-19. Thus, Australia’s borders are closed and sadly, other National Directors and beauty queens from interstate and overseas are unable to join our 2021 celebration.

Since we have COVID-19 restrictions in place, this year for AGSA, we have not opened nominations and there will also be no voting open from the pageant community; for 2021, each National Director can nominate their own champions from their respective pageant systems and they can award their champions during the AGSA ceremony. The National Directors who are unable to attend AGSA will be able to nominate their respective champions and AGSA certificates will be issued to their chosen winners.

On the day of the event, the attendees will be able to vote for special titles such as AGSA’s beauty queen of the year,  international beauty queen of the year, role model of the year, and humanitarian of the year from within the attendees present at the event. You must be a National Director, a titleholder, or a beauty pageant contestant to be eligible to vote on the day and the nominated person must be present at the event.

On a happy note, we look forward to seeing the pageant community celebrate with us again! 

What: The 2021 Australian Golden Sash Awards

Where: Dockside Darling Harbour (2 Wheat Rd, Sydney NSW 2000)

When: August 1 (11 am to 3 pm)

Tickets: $95

Beauty Queen Spotlight: Get To Know The Beautiful Diana Omuoyo

Diana Omuoyo is a Sydney-based IT professional and the recently crowned Ms. New Zealand World Universal 2021.

Diana has a keen interest in socio-economic initiatives around quality education and reducing inequality in communities and spends her time supporting global and local organizations that promote STEM and education programs. She has been recognized for her achievements professionally, personally, and as an instrumental contributor to communities around the world. Her mission is to continue to be a catalyst to change and a global advocate for women and under-represented communities. GEQ magazine recently caught up with Diana and here’s what went down:

How did you get into the pageant industry?

A few years back, I was having a conversation with someone at a community event and they asked me what I wanted out of life. I explained my goals and ambitions in working with a foundation and/or starting one in the future and their advice was to join a pageant that year. Having never been in or ever imagined myself doing a pageant before and my lack of knowledge of the industry, I was surprised by that recommendation so I graciously declined. Thankfully, we had a few follow-up conversations and I did a lot of research about pageantry and gained a better understanding of the industry. When the opportunity to join the Ms. World Universal came up, It was an easy decision for me. The platform’s mission and vision are in alignment with my goals, passions, and values. The rest, as they say, is history.

What do you like most about being a beauty queen?

The beauty queen is a title that is synonymous with leadership and service to others. As Ms. New Zealand, I am privileged and excited to now have a platform that I can leverage to amplify my voice and those of others to promote causes, spread awareness and impart change. I also enjoy having a forum where I can share my life experiences, journey, and passions. Pageantry has also afforded me great opportunities to participate in the community, charity, and social events where I have met like-minded individuals. Throughout this journey, I continue to grow and learn a lot about myself as I interact and share with people from all walks of life.

The beauty queen is a title that is synonymous with leadership and service to others. As Ms. New Zealand, I am privileged and excited to now have a platform that I can leverage to amplify my voice and those of others to promote causes, spread awareness and impart change. I also enjoy having a forum where I can share my life experiences, journey, and passions. Pageantry has also afforded me great opportunities to participate in the community, charity, and social events where I have met like-minded individuals. Throughout this journey, I continue to grow and learn a lot about myself as I interact and share with people from all walks of life.

The downside to being a beauty queen?

full-time job, personal/community commitments, hobbies, family/friends, and the pageant. But because this role is very important to me, I always make time to be present and committed which simply means multi-tasking and better time management. Another downside that I experience is that, while pageants continue to gain popularity, there is still some lingering stigma about beauty queens and pageantry. So, I find myself constantly debunking myths and educating others about the platform – and even when I fail to change the perception of others; I find that it is important for me to continue to believe in myself and what I stand for as a beauty queen.

What has been the most memorable experience of being in the pageant industry so far?

I have had a lot of monumental experiences – the biggest one being crowned Ms. New Zealand 2021. I hit a lot of milestones along the way and had a lot of amazing moments that culminated in that glorious moment. One of the most memorable experiences I have had on the journey so far was a time when, at an event, I met and had a chat with mothers from a minority group. They expressed their utmost faith in me and were hopeful that their daughters would be inspired to dream big
after seeing someone that looks like them on a stage like this. At that very moment, I knew that my decision to vie for the title was the right one.

Who have been the most interesting people you’ve met so far?

● Robbie Canner – Ms. World 2018/19, Director, Ms. World Universal
● Sue Turner – Businesswoman, beauty queen, and celebrated humanitarian
● Other title holders including former Miss USA
● The other pageant contestants, directors, and judges

Is your family supportive of you being in the pageant industry?

My decision to join the pageant world surprised a lot of people but I am lucky to have had a lot of support from friends and family along the way.

What are your future plans? Inside pageantry or out of it.

I will always support and promote the Ms. World Universal mission and vision during and long after my reign as Ms. New Zealand. My ultimate goal and ambition is to have a seat on a board of a charity organization/foundation where I can leverage my experiences and passions to continue to support Education, Equality, and STEM initiatives on a local and global scale. I believe that education plays a key role in socio-economic wellbeing within our communities. However, Education is not limited to textbook/school learning but also includes knowledge sharing around cultural & societal issues. It is important to continue to create awareness around the dangers of exclusion, discrimination, single-story, and bias.