What we are doing right now, right here, to help

Two weeks ago, my youngest sister Roxane, a Medical Doctor at the hospital in Sion, Switzerland, asked a very pointed question on our Polla sisters Skype: “What can our beauty businesses do to help during this time of crisis?” I did not have an answer, but I did hear her question. A few days later, I saw on LinkedIn that Mathilde Thomas of Caudalie donated products to numerous hospitals in France. And I thought, well, we also have products that help with chapped hands and irritated faces… 

So I began my week with a donation of products to Medstar Georgetown University Hospital, the hospital that is affiliated with the business school I went to and that is less than one mile from my office. Similarly, in Switzerland, we donated products to my sister Roxane’s hospital (in Sion), the one affiliated most closely with my heart since she works there every day. 

In speaking of this with my sisters and my team, I was amazed to hear about their own initiatives to help and contribute to their communities. Here is what they are doing: 

Angie (NYC): “I gave a donation to New York’s Food Bank last month. This month, I am donating to José Andrés’ World Central Kitchen. I like that some restaurants are feeding healthcare workers and that also helps support the restaurant during these times.”

Emma (Arlington, VA): “I am buying books (used and new) from eBay US sellers instead of Amazon. It makes me feel better that I deal directly with real people and contribute something to them instead from big companies such as Amazon and Barnes & Noble. The sellers that I’ve dealt with so far shipped everything from their house which is listed on the shipping label of the packages that I received.”

Jenna (Reston, VA): “I baked assortments of cookies and sent them to friends and clients to cheer them up. Also, I live across the street from a trauma hospital so every night at 7 pm people in my building and surrounding buildings go outside on their balconies to cheer for the hospital workers at shift change. A small gesture, but it makes everyone (including myself) feel good.”  

Kelli (Charleston, WV): “I have compiled lists of local restaurants offering delivery or carry out and local businesses doing online sales or online classes that I share regularly on social media.”  

Mandi (Washington DC: “I have been ordering food from all of my favorite local restaurants and taking classes from my favorite yoga instructors (some donation-based and some free) and posting pictures to my social media to help build their client base.”  

Rachel (Geneva, Switzerland): “I have been buying groceries for a few older women who are high risk and should not leave their homes, both among my neighborhood and among my Forever Institut teammates.” 

Roxane (Sion, Switzerland): “I have been extra ‘gifty’ to my friends who have had birthdays in the last few weeks, since they can’t celebrate as they usually would. I have been having cupcakes delivered to them (from a brand called Melazic, a business owned by two sisters) as well as personalized cookies with positive messages from the brand Bobiskuit, also a woman-owned brand.” 

There is no right or wrong way to help or contribute. There is no act of kindness too small or too insignificant to matter. And it makes me so proud to be a part of a family, a team that instinctively takes care of their communities, of their world, of our world. 


24 Days and Counting…

I have been on the road for 10 days straight (3 different cities and states). I am not yet done with my Christmas cards. I am not yet done with my holiday shopping. I am behind on my game plan. I have not exercised in five days. I am tired, I feel frazzled, I am trying very hard not to be grumpy. (And yes, I do realize these are First World problems).

On the bright side of things, Mercury in Retrograde ended yesterday. Also on the bright side, my sister Rachel posted an inspiring blog on our Polla Sisters Blog a couple of weeks ago entitled “Keep calm and drink champagne”, (the name itself is enough to want to read it!). She described the feelings that come with this merriest time of the year, which is also the craziest, busiest, and most frenetic. She shared her strategies on making it through this last month of 2018 – with calm and joy. This morning, upon waking, I read it once again as a reminder to myself. And I spent some time in silence with my coffee and pen and paper, reflecting and making my own list of strategies and resolutions.

  • I will be present, mindful, and grateful.
  • I will sleep no less than 7.5 hours per night.
  • I will “Winter clean” my home. I will declutter and organize and create space.
  • I will make my revenue goal for Alchimie Forever.
  • I will get a pedicure.
  • I will finish sending out my holiday cards with pleasure.
  • I will read 4 books.
  • I will unsubscribe from email newsletters I no longer read (instead of just deleting them) and unclutter my inbox.
  • I will figure out at least one thing that I am currently doing that I should stop doing in 2019.
  • I will enjoy finishing my Christmas shopping and find the perfect gift for everyone on my list (here are some ideas if you are stuck)
  • I will exercise ten times before the end of the year.
  • I will make a list of my favorite 2018 moments and accomplishments, and of the many lessons I learned this year.
  • I will be kind. I will act kinder than I feel, if necessary, towards all – including myself.
  • I will begin to daydream about the new possibilities, the new projects, the continued partnerships, that 2019 will bring.

24 days and counting…

It Takes 4 of Us to Make Me Feel Whole

When I turned 40 last October, I asked my sisters for a gift – that they all come to visit me in Louisiana for Memorial Day weekend. And Memorial Day weekend is upon us. I can’t quite describe the feeling of having them all here with me, and I know the weekend is just beginning, but last night’s dinner was perfection. I tried to say thank you… with the following words.

First, thank you to you, Edwin. This weekend would not have been possible without you. You know what I want and don’t want. You knew having my sisters in Louisiana was the best gift ever, and you made it happen. You even bought a new boat and renovated your Hammond kitchen to prepare for “their”’arrival. Thank you. Thank you for loving me so well.

Second, to Bernard. You are the one “plus one” here this weekend, and for this I am forever grateful. Thank you for coming to be moral support for Edwin during the Polla sisters weekend takeover. I am so grateful for you and for how you love Rachel.

Thank you, Stern for being with us, for representing the extended Neill family tonight. Thank you for making the special trip from California just to meet my sisters (J).

To Roxane. You were the first of my sisters to fall in love with Louisiana, a number of years ago. You fell in love with New Orleans. With the boat and the river and the alligators. With Debra’s house which you still think is the most beautiful house you have seen in the world. Thank you for understanding why I love it here. Thank you for coming back. Please tell Guillaume he is missed, but here in spirit.

To Rachel. You host me, us, in Geneva every single time we come. You never say no when I send you my travel dates. You make sure there is champagne and gruyere in the fridge. You always make me feel like I am home. Your hospitality is the kindest and most generous there is. This weekend is a small attempt to say thank you.

To Cyrille. You came back to the US of A. I must admit I stopped believing it would happen. Last time you came to this country it was for also for me. It was to help the Alchimie booth at ISPA 2005 at the Dallas Gaylord (our first ever booth). You hated it. Hated the AC (oops sorry), hated not being able to smoke anywhere, hated working the booth and speaking to people, you hated everything. That was the trade show Edwin and I met at. Thank you for coming for me then. Thank you for agreeing to come back for me now.

Thank you for coming here together so we can show The Polla Sisters to The Neill Brothers. They have no idea what is coming…

Je vous aime. Mes sœurs. Merci.

BeautyView: Rachel Polla, PR Manager, Union Bancaire Privée

In the continuing quest to learn things that I did not know about my amazing sisters , I turned this week to Rachel, five years younger than I am. While she currently works in private banking, she worked with me at Alchimie Forever in Washington DC for almost a year at a time she needed a break from Geneva and when I really needed her help. And, being the only one of the four Polla girls fluent in Swiss German, she still takes care of our beloved Swiss German Alchimie clients. Rachel is, as her answers indicate, a true woman, grateful for her femininity (but don’t let that make you underestimate her!). No wonder when she walks into a room, everyone turns to look at her, and feels a little happier…

AP: What city were you born in? RP: One of the best places to be born in: Geneva, Switzerland.

AP: What city to do you live in? RP: The only one that I’ll always call home: Geneva.

AP: What is your middle name? RP: I was named after Isadora Duncan, the great ballerina.

AP: What is your astrological sign? RP: I am on the cusp of Virgo and Libra, so it depends on the magazine. I’m lucky because I can always choose the better horoscope for the month!

AP: What is something about you most people don’t know? RP: I tend to get what I want even if its not the traditional (or most linear) way.

AP: What is your most prized possession? RP: What I learn from life.

AP: If you could have dinner with the person of your choice, who would it be? RP: It’s difficult to choose one. Perhaps Nelson Mandela to understand how he managed to survive, forgive, and lead a nation into more humanity – although he must be heartbroken to see that his nation still suffers a lot.

AP: Describe your fashion style in three words maximum. RP: Classic, comfortable, sexy.

AP: Do you wear a watch? If yes, what model? RP: I used to wear none; I now have two, that I both love because of what they represent. I met a wonderful man during my 29th year and for my 30th birthday he gave me a beautiful pink Chopard (a 1000 Miglia). And, surprise-surprise, my mother gave me the watch she wore for the last 10 years that my dad had given her, also a Chopard – so I think of both when I wear it.

AP: Diamonds or pearls? RP: I’m such a girlie girl, so I’m going to say diamonds.

AP: What is your #1 beauty secret? RP: I have three… 1.Wear Kantic calming evening cream from Alchimie Forever. 2. Great genes. 3. Being loved by the most wonderful man I’ve ever met.

AP: What fragrance do you wear? RP: It depends… Traditionally, Number 5 from Chanel. I also like CoCo Mademoiselle. Right now I’m wearing Jean Paul Gautltier’s fragrance  for women – a gift from my 2 lovely step children.

AP: Botox or not? RP: Definitely. Because my father is probably one of the best injectors in the world

AP: Hair color: natural or not? RP: Not. To be as blonde as I feel, I have to highlight it…

AP: What are your special diet tips, if any? RP: I would say eat with pleasure, enjoy…

AP: What do you do for exercise? RP: I run. Including after my 3 year old daughter who can be as naughty as she is beautiful.

AP: What are three things that you always have in your fridge? RP: Champagne, orange juice… More champagne.

AP: What is your cocktail of choice? RP: A champagne cocktail (with cognac and angostura) or a cosmopolitan (when it’s well prepared).

AP: What is your secret to work/life balance? RP: Never sacrifice one for the other; it’s all about organization (one of my mom’s best advice).

AP: How many miles do you fly per year on average? RP: Not so many… I would like to travel more and discover some of the world’s treasures.

AP: What are your three top tips for travel? RP: 1. Always take a few necessities in your carry-on (so you can manage a day without your suitcase if it’s lost). 2. Never forget that apart from your passport, you can always buy the rest. 3. If you travel with kids, choose a family friendly place; if you are traveling as a couple, choose the opposite.

AP: 3 songs on your ipod right now. RP: On top of the world from Barbie (my daughter loves it). And lots of Lana del Ray (especially Million Dollar Man and Radio).

AP: What book are you reading right now? RP: The one I am trying to write.

AP: Quote to live by? RP: Most anything Lao Tzu said… he is filled with wisdom (“failure is the foundation of success” and “to lead people, walk behind them” are two of my favorites).

AP: What is your worst pet peeve? RP: People who underestimate me because I’m a kind, pretty blonde – so many reasons not to underestimate me! And people who don’t take responsibility for their own mishaps.

AP: What time do you usually wake up in the morning, and how many hours of sleep do you usually get? RP: Around 6:50 am. I used to get more sleep before I started living with my new man. I need 7 hours and a bit more sometimes.

AP: What is your favorite thing about the beauty industry? RP: The fact that I grew up surrounded by it.

AP: Least favorite thing. RP: False promises. You don’t get Botox-like results with a cream!

AP: Who is your mentor? RP: I am still looking for a professional mentor. As for motherhood, I must say that my Mom was a great example of how to be a good working mother.

AP: Words of advice for young women starting their careers today. RP: Don’t deny the fact that you are a woman, use it well. It is a precious gift. Never forget that life is 90% about hard work and 10% about luck and opportunity. So be prepared to put in the hard work to get what you want.