The Early Hours: Empowered Aging Ambassador Karen Williams

It was the undeniable poise that first struck me about Karen Williams, as if a certain wisdom only granted to a select few (Michelle Obama, Grace Kelly, and Oprah come to mind) had always been present in her bones. She dripped in self-assuredness, a quality I could feel through the phone as we conversed back and forth throughout the course of her interview. I was mere days into my new role as Managing Editor of Bleu, and where my voice danced awkwardly with nerves and hesitation, Karen’s moved with a buttery ease that made me all ears to whatever she had to say — details from her past, advice to future generations, her grocery list — I was fascinated. I’ve encountered a handful of people in my life that I would consider truly and absolutely special; Karen Williams is one of them.

“I really admire your stance as an aging ambassador,” I voiced through the line. A statement which Karen responded to with genuine graciousness and further explanation of the projects, past and present, that she has been working on to spread her message. Now, months later, with all of our hard work on Bleu finally out into the universe, I am so pleased to share Karen’s passions (taking the fear out of aging, practicing wellness for mind, body, and soul, and celebrating genuine change) and to give you a look into her inspiring mornings at home.

What time do you typically wake?  “Around sunrise.”

How many times do you hit snooze?  “Never. I don’t use an alarm.”

Do you sleep in on the weekends?  “My natural body clock wakes up early. If I’m tired, I’ll go back to sleep.”

First thing you do when you wake up?  “Tune into my breath and give thanks.”

Bedtime uniform?  “In the summertime, I prefer cotton briefs and a camisole or tank. As the temps get colder, my bedtime attire gets heavier, but always something made of natural materials.”

Thread count?  “It has to be soft, 100% cotton, and made of ethical, natural fibers.”

What’s on your bedside table?  “A statue of Christ I got in Haiti almost 30 years ago, a Buddha statue from China that was a gift from one of my best friends, a lavender-filled eye mask, and an essential oil that I’ve created; the mixture depends on what my body and spirit needs.”

What book are you currently reading?  “An American Marriage by Tayari Jones, Dare to Lead by Brené Brown, and The Sun Does Shine: How I Found Life and Freedom on Death Row by Anthony Ray Hinton.”

What does an ideal morning look like for you?  “I open my eyes, tune into my breath, give thanks, look out the window, and see the sun coming in.”

What about a realistic one?  “I open my eyes, tune into my breath, give thanks, look out the window, stretch, then go to the bathroom.”

Coffee or tea?  “I prefer a homemade brew with lots of fresh ginger, turmeric, cayenne pepper, apple cider vinegar, and a dash of raw, organic honey.”

Breakfast or brunch?  “Both!”

What’s on your plate?  “I like a veggie-forward, heavily plant-based plate of clean, organic, whole food. The largest portion of food is comprised of different-colored vegetables, then a source of carbohydrate that comes from the earth. Finally, a clean, high-quality, organic, hormone-free source of protein.”

What about breakfast on-the-go?  “I love an organic green juice with lemon, apple, and lots of ginger, or an organic green juice smoothie that has a healthy fat, nut or seed protein, and a small amount of fruit to sweeten.”

Karen's morning workout practice: a combination of yoga, qigong, pranayama, and meditation.
Karen's morning workout practice: a combination of yoga, qigong, pranayama, and meditation.

What does your workout routine look like?  “The morning is reserved for my personal ‘practice’ — a combination of yoga, qigong, pranayama, and meditation. I try to fit some form of cardio in daily even if just walking throughout the day. I also try to do some strength-training a few times a week whenever my schedule permits.”

Favorite workout wear?  “No favorite label, but comfort is key! When I’m doing my own early-morning practice at home, I’m usually in my pj’s, or comfortable, loose-fitting lounge-type wear. If I’m running, walking, hiking, or exercising outdoors and it’s cold, I’m in warm layers. At the gym, I wear tights or shorts.”

Baths or showers?  “I take daily showers. But, I prefer baths when I want to really relax, soak muscles, or decongest.”

What’s in your shower?  “Organic shea butter, an organic lavender-eucalyptus shower gel, loofah gloves, pure and organic essential oils of the highest therapeutic value, and at least one organic carrier oil like coconut, almond, jojoba, or sesame.”

What does your morning skincare look like?  “Qigong self-massage, then I apply organic, cold-pressed rosehip seed oil followed by an organic moisturizer. If it’s the summertime, I also apply natural aloe, preferably from the aloe plant.”

Step-by-step beauty routine?  “I manage my stress, eat healthy, exercise because sweating is so good for the skin, get enough sleep, and hydrate with lots of water, freshly squeezed vegetable juice, and coconut water. I also cleanse with a gentle, natural cleanser and moisturize with simple, natural, preferably organic, unscented products. My beauty routine is very minimal and takes less than a minute. I believe that less is more. I only wear makeup for a shoot, and even then, I try to wear minimal foundation if any. I’ve never had a professional facial. Growing up, cousins teased me about my ‘shiny nose and forehead’. As I’ve gotten older, I’ve appreciated the natural shine, and I’ve also noticed my skin becoming a bit drier than it was in my 30s and 40s. Keeping stress at bay, maintaining proper nutrition, exercising, sleeping enough, hydrating, and moisturizing helps to maintain a healthy glow.”

Keep it casual or dress to impress?  “It’s really dependent on my mood and the occasion.”

Heels or flats?  “Again, mood and occasion dependent.”

Who are your favorite designers?  “I don’t really have a favorite. I admire mastery and genuine talent, but I’m neither a big shopper nor a clothes hoarder. I prefer repurposing what’s in my closet. I definitely commend labels like Mara Hoffman, Tracy Reese, Eileen Fisher, and J. Crew that have a more inclusive appeal for diverse body types and use diverse models for advertising. I wear quite a bit of outdoor, athletic, and yoga gear and seek out brands like Patagonia and Prana whose commitment to environmental and social responsibility has been consistent. Brands that are transparent about their fair-trade supply policies are also capturing my attention.”

What’s your stance on aging?  “Aging is a privilege and ‘anti’ aging is anti-living. I’m on a quest to learn and share through public conversations and media platforms what ‘Empowered Aging’ means; that is, how people ages 50 to 100+ are living and thriving and, in doing so, disrupting fear-based associations with getting older. I’m also probing how society can better respond on multiple levels to the changing needs of an aging population.”

Any advice on taking the fear out of aging?  “Connect with and get to know women in their 50s, 60s, 70s, 80s, 90s, even 100s, and notice the many ways in which they debunk outdated notions about getting older. Mature women are incredible guides since they’ve had to navigate life’s challenges and learned how to embrace change. After decades of experimenting and reinventing, they truly reflect what I term ‘Empowered Aging.’ Beauty and style are ageless, and they have very little to do with clothes or makeup. Happiness, vitality, inner strength, self-confidence, swag, inner peace, empathy, originality, kindness, soulfulness, curiosity, and a slew of inner qualities make someone truly beautiful. Women over 50 are just as stylish and sexy as their younger counterparts. Worldwide, even some major fashion and beauty brands, advertising and media outlets are beginning to acknowledge this by featuring older women in their campaigns.”

What do women have to look forward to as they approach their fifties?  “Of course, every woman is unique, as is her experience. To me, and from what I observe with my girlfriends, colleagues, and acquaintances, we seem to be more anchored and confident in our own power. We know who we are; we’re not striving to be someone or something else. We’re busier than we’ve ever been, but we’re also more patient with life and we’re not as easily frazzled by it. We’re still ambitious, but without the same degree of angst and self-doubt that often stymied our younger selves. We’ve done the juggling and multi-tasking act enough that we’ve become incredibly efficient with our time and our resources. We’re not afraid to ask for what we deserve, to fail, to get rejected, to lose everything, to admit that we don’t know something; and to have to start again or to reinvent ourselves for the umpteenth time. It’s not that we lack fear. Time and experience have taught us how to be bold and lean in to fear which then removes a huge amount of emotional and psychic weight. So, many of us seem more internally secure, emotionally balanced, unencumbered, and carefree than we were in our 20s, 30s, and perhaps even 40s.”

Can you explain to our readers a bit more on the video project you’re currently working on?  “Photographer Angelika Buettner’s I AM book project features beautiful, untouched nude photographs of diverse women ages 40+. These are women that mainstream media too often ignore. I had the great honor of having and recording intimate conversations with 15 phenomenal ladies featured in the project. I AM is a project by a woman, about women, for women. And the videos of my conversations offer profound insights into the unique experiences of women at different phases of life.”

What’s one active step you practice to overcome the stigma of aging daily?  “Thoughts are extremely powerful. I don’t perceive aging as a negative, so for me there is no stigma to overcome. Each day I wake up, I give thanks, I pray, I look out the window to dream, and I ask the universe, ‘How can I serve?’ These are the active, daily steps that empower me to live my life mindfully, passionately, and with great purpose.”

Any words of advice on celebrating change, not fearing it?  “Write a love letter to yourself listing your greatest self-discoveries and gifts. Focus on ways to align these gifts to something that you’re passionate about. Channeling energy into your soul’s passion lights a fire on all aspects of your life. It literally can help to destroy fear. Also, spend time in nature really noticing the dynamic signs of spring, summer, autumn, and winter. Just like nature, our lives have different seasons. Change is necessary, inevitable, and ought to be celebrated. If and/or when fear arises, simply remember that we, like nature, are reflections of timeless beauty and grace.”

Three things you do before you head out the door:  “Give thanks, pray or meditate, and brush my teeth. I’m a dentist’s child.”

If you had an extra 30-minutes to yourself in the a.m., what would you do with it?  “Pray or meditate longer, and spend more time dreaming and creating.”

Written by: Tiana Gidley

Tiana Gidley is a 20-something Contributing Editor at The Bleu. She binge-watches reality TV on Bravo, throws a mean murder mystery party, and makes her bed every morning.

1 Comment

  1. Bre Robbins

    April 1, 2019 at 5:17 pm

    Wat a riveting read. So beautifully written. Such helpful advice for any age.


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