I love people. I love connecting with them, listening to their stories, and learning from their experiences. There are some amazing humans out there who I really would like to get to know better.
So this year I thought I would do an interview post once a month, with people who inspire me. People who have amazing skills, knowledge and experience to share. People who are not afraid to talk about their own struggles and challenges. Real people like you and I. Most of them are my friends, people I come to admire, and people with interesting stories to tell. I hope there is something in each post that makes you think, ponder, or better yet, take action. We’re all in this together.
For our first interview post this year I’d like to introduce you to Jess. Jess is a skin and gut survivor, wellness writer, and founder of In The Ra — a personal blog that shares raw and real stories of how to love the skin you’re in and heal yourself with wholefoods.
I got to know Jess through a Mastermind Group called The Pack run by George Siosi Samuel. I still remember being super impressed by Jess when she did a Tough Mudder (a popular mud and obstacles run in Australia), after a 16-day water fast! Not only is she an expert in juicing and fasting, she is also a talented copywriter, photographer, and a kickass interviewer. I’m just so honoured to have Jess sharing her story here on this blog.
In this interview, we talk about Jess’ personal stories, her gut and skin journey, and her growing community In The Ra.
Hi Jess, what did you have for breakfast this morning?
A chocolate banana smoothie.
[Thought I’d share this choc smoothie bowl recipe Jess posted on Instagram so you get an idea of the type of ‘smoothie’ she’s talking about] ⇩⇩⇩
Sticking with chocolate tradition this Easter Friday. This chocolate smoothie bowl is more of a choc Macca moussey bowl. She’s yummy! Let’s have choccy for brekky! This recipe combines banana, cacao, macca and avocado to make the ultimate hormone balancer and mood booster! 1 frozen banana 2 tbsp cacao 1 tsp cacao nibs 3 medjool dates 1 tsp macca powder 1/2 avocado 2 tsp chia, psyllium husk and flaxseed meal (each) 1/2 Apple (Yes that’s a lot of fibre! #howweroll ) 1 tbsp coconut yogurt 1/2 cup coconut water 1/2 cup non dairy milk (I used organic soy today) Blend until moussey smooth. Then top with your choice of fruits, nuts and seeds. At the moment I’m drawn to pumpkin seeds, Brazil nuts, apples and berries (all skin loving). And today I also added my “choc dirt” 😉 It’s sooo good! I was hoping to have a healthy chocolate hot cross bun recipe (vegan and GF) ready for you guys but couldn’t find a recipe even close so it was a total experiment. And I’ll admit it failed in a way…They turned out like chocolate rock cakes but delicious as a crumbly chocolate over icecream and mousse 😍 (see my instastories). Anyway…maybe next time 😜 Enjoy your moussey smoothie bowl breakfast for tomorrow 😋🤤 #eastereats Xx Jess
My full name is Jessica Robin Anwyl. There’s a funny story behind my last name. An uncommon name in Australia, but very common in whales. It’s Welsh and is often obscure enough for people to ask me how it’s pronounced. I pronounce it softly and the way my father first told me.
Though recently when I was in Pai Thailand I met a Welsh girl. I told her my last name, but she said she’d never heard of it. I was shocked! So I insisted she knew and repeated it. She gave me this deadpan look, and I went silent — a tad disappointed.
“How’s it spelled?” she asked.
“A-N-W-Y-L.” I said.
“Oh! Anwyl! I know that name.” She said it back to me, but it in a way that was completely unrecognisable, and quite frankly painful to my ears.
That was the day I realised I didn’t know how to say my own name, AND I’ve been correcting people INCORRECTLY for 25 years!
Now when people ask me “how do you pronounce your name?”
I tell them the truth, that “I don’t know”.
I totally sympathise, until I was 11 years old I had been incorrectly correcting my name to Karen. It wasn’t until I told my mother that her spelling of my name (i.e. Keren) was wrong that she showed the verse in the bible where my name was taken from to show me that my name is in fact Keren, not Keren!
Now, tell us something about you that most people might not know?
This is a hard one as I try to be transparent under the small limelight I’m in. One surprising thing people might not know about me is I’ve had 3 close calls with death in the last three years and I’m only 25. First, from an acute illness, then a chronic illness and more recently in an accident.
If you had a superpower, what would that be, and why?
The ability to communicate with anyone. Not just to converse in their language, but to connect on a level where each person felt understood. I feel that that’s a real a superpower. Because it’s the way we’ll change the world.
What is your earliest childhood memory?
I had two sisters growing up (now I have three) and in the early days we didn’t get along. Until we had an important reason to band together, i.e., to steal my dad’s shoe horn. Let me explain…
Back when it was okay to hit kids, my dad kept this plastic, yellow shoehorn on top of the fridge. That’s what he used to hit us with. I don’t remember being hit with it, only the point where we were sick of it. I remember my sisters and I going on this brave mission, and making this elaborate (at the time) plan to distract my dad and construct our own ladder to retrieve it, and a plan to dispose of the shoe horn. We even made sure we corroborated our stories. It was the wildest fun! My dad was furious but, us sisters, we bonded over it.
It’s been a year today since I first spoke publicly about my skin struggle. Before ‘in the Ra’ I wrote “How I learnt to appreciate what I hate.” Now be read through the link in my profile @in.the.ra #comealongway #flashback #1yearanniversary xx Jess
I was not keen on school. I liked to socialise, play sport, write, but on my own terms. I was stubborn, but if I had to choose a subject, it would have been biology because I loved my teacher.
Where is your favourite place to travel, and why?
Anywhere with fresh produce! Haha. This may seem childish but what makes me happiest is when I see people coming together, growing, selling and connecting out in nature over fresh food.
What does a typical day in your world look like?
Different places, different spaces. The thing that stays the same and smoothies, me and my laptop. I’m a writer, so I write and it doesn’t matter where.
Green smoothie-licious bowls for beauty. Wow, I whipped this one up real quick. I know what was in it but didn’t put down proportions 😩 #notrepeatable Next time I’ll do it so I can properly share it with you. This bowl is really fresh, cleansing and delicious. It’s got all the good stuff! #skinglow Ingredients list: Banana Apple Pear Pineapple Cinnamon Ginger Cucumber Spinach Coconut water Coconut yogurt Macca powder Chia And medjool dates Topped with raspberries, coconut, cocoa nibs, pepitas and brazil nuts 😍 One of my favourite ways to get the greens in 💪🏻 Xx Jess
Well, about 15 months ago things were looking pretty dim in my world. I had been diagnosed with a severe and rare skin condition called Rosacea Fulminan (RPOB), SIBO (a gut condition) and couldn’t eat anything without having a severe reaction. It got to a point where I was so allergic to food that I had to stop eating altogether. I lost a lot of weight, weighing in at 44 kilos.
If not eating wasn’t bad enough, the skin on my face was also debilitating. Completely swollen and unrecognisable, with black scabs all over my face. If wet, it was like an open wound and the skin would literally wash away — it was no longer a barrier. The skin was so dry and painful, I couldn’t smile, pluck my eyebrows or bathe. I looked like a monster, so I didn’t go out in public for 3+ months.
In my vulnerable, desperate and scared state, I reached out to my specialists one last time. To be told I was a complex case and that I would never get better.
But I couldn’t accept that! So I decided to leave all my health practitioners behind and heal myself naturally. And as I improved (scary as it was) I was called to show my face, share my story, and my healing journey, in real time. That’s when I started The Ra.
I have to say that I’m a big fan of your blog Jess, even though I don’t have a skin condition. The issue with shame and not feeling good enough with your own skin is so relatable on so many levels. What are some of your goals and vision for In The Ra?
In The Ra started off as a safe place for me to be seen. Now In The Ra is a story sharing platform to help others be seen and have the courage to see themselves.
It’s specifically tailored to those suffering with skin and gut conditions, but I know the messages resonate with a wider audience, because we share fundamental and timeless truths.
I feel that In The Ra message has a lot more to give. Soon, we will be working in collaboration with The Genyus Network to help women with skin conditions connect and share their stories as a community.
Eventually, I hope to be speaking and spreading this message, story and inspiration with courses, books and more.
I love how your blogpost is always so beautifully written and captivating, what are your top tips for people who want to write better.
There are two ways I write, when inspiration strikes, and when a topic is requested.
When inspiration strikes I just go for it. I get everything down on the page. When you’re in flow, go. You can always edit it after. Once you’ve got it all out, think about who’ll read this. How can this help them? What might they glean from your writing? After answering this read it over again and shape it for them. No one likes anything that’s too me, me, me. Your story is powerful, but only when it’s shaped for the reader.
When a topic is requested or I’m writing an A to your Q, I first write the purpose of my post.
For example: This post will outline how to succeed on a juice fast.
This is your north star. It will keep you focused and on topic.
Then I write down all the key points and ideas, write them out in order of why (the reason it’s important), what it is and how (if there is a practical element) to do it.
Quick tips would be:
- Keep looking back at your north star to see if you’re on point.
- Allow yourself to do a shitty first draft (without judgement)
- Ask yourself, could this be said simpler? How can I make this point more succinct and powerful?
- Back up what you say with science a story or a quote.
I’m so amazed at how confident you are with your videos and stories. And you do it while battling with your skin condition! How did you cultivate this confidence and how can we be more confident with the skin we’re in?
Such a great question! It’s interesting, because before my skin condition I was terrible in front of the camera, I hated it! Now I look back at those photos and videos and think, “what the heck? You were beautiful!”
The truth is, now I’m confident on camera because I’m allowing myself to be seen. Before, when my flaws we’re not physical, I was worried about showing myself, making a mistake and being judged for my internal flaws and insecurities. I was holding back.
Now I’m all good because I’m all in. My flaws and me are all on show so there’s nothing to hide or be scared of. At first though, it was scary, but like anything, the more you do it the more confident you become.
Plus, When we hide we cultivate shame.
That’s why being seen applies to overall confidence as well. The more we get out there and be seen doing a particular skill, sharing a particular view, or a particular side of ourselves, the more open and comfortable we become with that part.
Allow yourself to be seen and through this courage, your confidence will come.
If you could invite 3 people (historical or current) to a dinner party who would they be?
- Socrates, because wisdom.
- Matthew Hussey, because he’s a great communicator and thinker
- Marie Forleo, because she’s my female crush.
I love that you have Matthew Hussey on the list!… And what would you serve?
Is it naughty to say I’d get Uber eats? I feel Socrates’ mind would be blown. It’s a sure way to win him over! ;)
You are going to be stranded on an island and could only bring three things with you, what would they be?
- For beauty — an aloe vera plant! Says any girl with a skin condition.
- To write and create — my laptop with a solar charger.
- To read for mental strength — Man’s Search for Meaning By Viktor Frankl
What is your guilty pleasure (if you have any)?
Books! Haha, when I say I’ve been on a bender my friends know I’ve just spent half my day buying books. It’s excessive…
What’s the most influential book (or books) you’ve read to date?
This is a tough one to answer. Some of the first books I ever read are ones that changed my life, but do not at all resonate with me now.
Here are my recent inspirations:
- Unmasked By Turia Pitt – This book made me feel completely understood. It also gave me the courage to travel on my own with a severe skin condition.
- So Good They Can’t Ignore You By Cal Newport – A key read for creatives who want to become successful. It debunks the passion hypothesis — the idea that you need to be passionate to be successful — instead proves that passion follows hard work, and often won’t precede it. It’s mind-blowingly thorough, well structured and practical. It’s close to becoming a “re-readable”.
I RARELY read books more than once. I may reference them, but for me to re-read an entire book is rare, it means they’re very valuable.
Here are my timeless “re-readables”:
- The War of Art By Steven Pressfield – This taught me about resistance — that real art takes hard work. That “your calling” doesn’t always feel good, and that inspiration isn’t the only sign you’re on the right path. It’s one of those books you can open at any page and find an insight and inspiration to keep you going.
- On the Shortness of Life By Seneca – Written by a stoic Italian philosopher in ancient times, but reads as if it were written today. Except for the random slave comment… This book hits some hard home truths. One is, “life is long if you know how to use it…it is not that we are given a short life, but we make it so…we are not ill supplied, but wasteful of it.” He goes on to explain how he thinks we can make our lives long.
Both these books are incredibly short, but powerful.
Every single person who has reached out to me through this blog has such a beauty about them. Every. Single. One of you! Yet you, and me too… have deep insecurities. Whether it’s about our skin or our story. But when you hit the layer of self doubt and insecurity keep digging. Keep going. Keep being seen. Only then will people, including you, notice more of that goodness shining through. #lovetheskinyourein #marcusaurelius Xx Jess
I am excited to be ghostwriting a book, but I also want to write my own. It’s been a crazy-wonderful, dark, but delightful journey that needs to be shared. Hopefully it will have the similar effect on people that Turia’s ‘Unmasked’ had on me.
For In The Ra , we have interviews with skin, gut and health experts, as well as sharing raw and real stories of inspirational wellness warriors.
I’m not a massive visionary. I feel for the long-term and only can see in the short term. I know that if I follow my intuitive ideas and make the most of today, what I want will come.
I hope you enjoy this interview with Jess as much as I did. If you’d like to stay up-to-date with Jess and In The Ra, learn to love the skin you’re in, get inspired, heal yourself with wholefoods, or connect with Jess, sign up for email updates at www.inthera.com.au.
You can find Jess on: