Chatting With Camila Alves McConaughey About Her Women of Today Community
Living well takes a village
It's no secret that 2020 changed some plans, but Camila Alves McConaughey is utilizing this year of grinding gears to home in on priorities and make positive adjustments that she hopes will benefit not only herself and family, but the entire Women of Today lifestyle community she's been building since 2015.
On the recent shifts, Alves McConaughey, a proud Austin resident with her husband Matthew McConaughey, told the Chronicle, "We had a whole plan for 2020 but we had to scratch everything. So we approached the situation with different eyes: What do people need right now, what are they trying to learn right now? What's going to be helpful?" Health is paramount, so WoT has all-level exercises like yoga, stretches, and advanced; stress is high, so they share meditation techniques and sound baths. There are date night meal ideas, inexpensive recipes (even for beginners), and immune boosters; there are chefs and stylists. "We are not trying to sell anything to anybody right now – it doesn't feel right in our heart. We had all these big projects lined up and I said, 'Not right now.' People need time. So we had to restructure everything, but there were some really beautiful things that happened."
Things like an impromptu community "therapy session" after an Eighties workout on Zoom. Alves McConaughey, who has three children at home, said refocusing has been challenging but it's important to find constructive ways to adjust – something she's been doing awhile. Born and raised in a big Brazilian city in a big family of farmers, Alves McConaughey said that when it came time to support herself she worked hard. "We were raised 'Yes ma'am, no sir,' very similar to Texas. We listen to country, Brazilian country music, and half of my family is farmers, like they are still farming today. But I moved to California when I was 15. I came to visit my aunt with my mom and when I got on the plane, I said to my mom, 'I don't think I'm coming back,' and my mom just looked at me and said, 'I don't think you are.' And the rest is kind of history."
Alves McConaughey signed with an agency soon after but didn't start modeling until 19. "My dad always said, 'You can be the king, you can be the queen, but you need to know how to take care of your own home.' So I started cleaning houses. I didn't speak the language [Portuguese is her native language], but I was taking English classes at the high school, and cleaned during the day. As I started learning the language better, I got into working at restaurants and stores, making my way until I started modeling. Then I moved to New York City, and then I lived all over the world – Italy, France, Greece, Africa, Israel – working as a model."
But it wasn't her time working in restaurants or experiencing exotic meals that inspired her to launch Women of Today: It was building her own family. "Matthew and I were building a family and I felt responsible for other beings. I needed to understand what we were putting into our bodies. People say all the time, 'You are what you eat.' But the reality is, we also have all sorts of environmental things we can't control." So, she said, it's more about understanding how things you can change – food, skin products, breathing, etc. – affect you and try to find a balance. "If I can be good 80 percent of the time, then my body can recover from the 20 percent that I'm not. Life doesn't work 50/50. Life isn't black and white. So I think 80/20 is something we can all try to achieve and hey, if you get there, try for 90/10."
Traveling the globe also shaped her intention to build a diverse community that wants to learn from each other, and not just women: "It is very well-rounded because we know, too, that having a great man, a great friend, a great partner is so important. So yes, it is a story about women, but we have all genders, all backgrounds in there. It is a safe space."
Alves McConaughey, who stepped away from her organic baby/kids food line, YummySpoonfuls, to focus on the blossoming WoT initiatives, said, "Some people ask me what the business plan is and I just say, 'Listen, this is a community space, so the community is going to tell me.' We share a lot of what they're doing, their recipes, their tips and tricks. I talk with you, not to you. It's a conversation. We listen."
Providing ways for people to learn how to take care of themselves enables them to better care for others, and despite her success, she fully acknowledges the reality that not everyone has the money to build a home gym, or even buy groceries right now. It's why she focuses on things like budget- and family-friendly recipes while also creating campaigns to donate to those in need (already to the tune of thousands of meals, and tens of thousands of masks). Perhaps it's a fun cooking demo for how to make delicious beans that last the whole week, or coleslaw with a mandolin option or a simple knife version; maybe it's a live show with a famous hairstylist that also includes a homemade mask how-to for under $5 with household items.
There's plenty of style to be sure, but real people are at stake, so Alves McConaughey aims for more achievable change. She said it "pisses her off" and upsets her stomach when she sees platforms solely focused on sales. "We're dealing with a major situation nationally and worldwide, and we're all going through so much – everybody, on different levels – but some people are going through it in a way that is unbearable. We can't just cut the umbilical cord and think about how to look hot in a picture. We should take this time to reassess. People have power. What are you giving numbers to on social media, and with your time? What are you giving numbers to with your votes? I'm not talking one side or another. People have so much power as individuals that when recalibrating what you're giving your numbers to, ask is it beneficial? If your answer is yes, then continue. But if it makes you pause and think, 'What am I really getting and giving out of this,' you might want to reassess.
"Little steps grow to medium steps, to big steps" she added.
During pandemic, WoT launched a new chef series where big names in food like Kristen Kish of Arlo Grey at The Line Hotel, share recipes and cooking demos. And throughout September, Alves McConaughey will be hosting "Sugar Talks," challenging her viewers (and herself) to reduce added sugar. She will discuss the science behind the mission, tips to fight cravings and inflammation, retraining the palate, and share recipes and alternatives. Naturally, at the end of the month there will be a Zoom chat to talk it all out. If you missed her contribution to the 30th Annual Hot Sauce Festival, be sure to check out her demo for making a "Smoking Gun" cocktail in Chronicle Cooking. While you're at it, make one for a friend, too.
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