BY: Ally Bogard and Allie Hoffman, Forbes.com NOV 1, 2016
Mikaela Reuben is a culinary nutritionist and chef. She’s not an ordinary chef: she cooks for the stars – from movie sets to private villas off cliffs in Rio, her life appears to be a delicious, glamorous adventure.
But what is even more interesting about Reuben is that she’s seemingly been through it all – and she shared her journey with us: Her family has struggled with addiction disorders, and she grew up in a tumultuous home. She says that she’s always had to operate without a safety net, and despite that, she’s made the kinds of risky decisions that put her in intense financial jeopardy, but have ultimately paid off.
Today, her business is thriving; she’s leading in the nutrition/wellness space with a well-followed digital presence and more client work than she can possibly take on.
Hers is perhaps our most vulnerable interview; she’s the first to talk so openly about being sexualized and objectified on the job and the first to break open the deep financial struggles she’s faced – and lets be honest – most of us face this in some form.
A: I had been so scared to leave my masters program, even though it was so apparent that I was going the wrong way; the fear of disappointing everyone held me back.
I walked in that first day, and I got a call saying there was actually five people coming for dinner. I’d never cooked for that many people. It was the entire cast of the movie. Five minutes before they walked in I sliced my finger on my new mandolin, because I’d never owned one of those. I held a paper towel in my right arm behind my back the entire time as I was serving dinner, because I was pouring blood. That was my first day of being a professional chef.
A: Self-doubt. You have to tell people what you charge or what your time is worth. I never really know when to just own me, to put myself first, or not try to hustle.
There’s the self-doubt that keeps coming in saying, ‘You won’t ever be there, no matter how hard you try. You might as well keep trying, because you’re not going to get there.’
The self-doubt for me, it takes up so much energy. I say something and I immediately think: ‘Oh, that sounds dumb,’ or, ‘Ugh, that’s not how I wanted to come across’, or ‘that’s going to be misinterpreted’. It’s like this constant dance. It takes up hours.
This one time, for a job for a film, my agent pitched a number, and I lost the job because it was too high. I beat myself up for it for a month. The agent was like, ‘You deserve this number.’
I let the doubt consume me. I went behind her back. She doesn’t know this yet, but I emailed the client that wanted me, and I was like, ‘ I’m really sorry. I’ll do private business with you next time if I asked for too much,’ and then sat there after like, ‘What was that?’
‘What was that?’ I did it. I always do it. I still do it.
A: I had a professional contact – a guy who had been very supportive and had gotten me a lot of different jobs. I really, really, really thought he believed in me until he tried to have sex with me. I literally thought he was a mentor. I cried. I cried so much, because I was like, ‘Oh my God, I actually thought someone finally saw me for me.’
When you have a staff and people are working for you, what do you wish they’d know about you without you having to tell them?
That my work ethic is very high and I’m very serious about what I do, and being short and blonde with curly hair isn’t going to change that. I have a lot of people that come to work for me, and they make jokes. People right away are like, ‘Aww.’ They do these things that make me feel like I’m dumber and less strong, until they get to know me. People judge me and then I prove myself, and then it is fine, but I am tired of trying to prove myself.
It doesn’t mean that I can’t be a strong career woman. I’m constantly trying to prove that I have experience enough and that I’m good enough and that I deserve it.
A: I wish I would have learned the value of money – what it was worth, what it meant, how to save it, how to spend it.
When I dropped out of my masters degree, I was $100,000 in debt. I had all these amazing jobs lined up in the US, but my visa entry failed and I was banned from crossing the border. All of a sudden, I was paying $2000 a month in interest, had to give up all the jobs I had worked so hard to get because I was stuck in Canada.
Suddenly, I was a college drop out with major debt; I had to start working three jobs; even though there was so much opportunity in the US on film sets, I had to stay in Vancouver and bartend because I needed fast cash.
The interest was destroying me. That’s when I was like, ‘I think this is going to be what kills me.’ I didn’t understand. I never had rules around money. My mom had been on welfare.
I learned quickly. I learned the value of money really quickly.
A: I wish I had been aware of the fact that there’s no such thing as a right way. There’s only my personal way. I feel like I’ve spent a lot of time in my life asking people what I should do and asking for advice.
I would literally survey my 15 closest peers on every big decision I had to make in my life. I would take the general consensus, and without feeling my decisions, I would cognitively bundle them up and go forward. I think that that has really harmed me along the way because I haven’t stayed true to decisions that aren’t mine authentically.
I eventually learned that my path will be unique to me, and my decisions are only going to feel right if I make them on my own.
It’s about knowing that you’re the only person that can protect yourself, love yourself, teach yourself, and believe in yourself. I’m still working on it.
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