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 Packrun 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] ⇩⇩⇩
A post shared by Jessica Anwyl (@in.the.ra) on Now, I believe there are some fun facts about your name Jess. Do share.
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.
A post shared by Jessica Anwyl (@in.the.ra) on Tell us about your journey with In The Ra
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?