When I posted on a networking website looking for potential interviewees, Nikoleta was one of the first people who reached out to me. I scheduled our first phone call, as usual, and expected to learn more about her career in entertainment journalism and PR –and hopefully, to delve deeper into who she is as an individual. What I did not expect was for her voice to feel so familiar and for the conversation to unfold so naturally. We discussed her venturing to the United States alone at the age of 15 for school, the winding roads in her journalism career, and her emotional heartbreak & healing following an emotionally abusive marriage. At one point, she mentioned that she used to be more adventurous and fearless. She admitted that for years growing up she felt like she had to fight for who she wanted to be rather than conform to who she was expected to be.
So, at the end of our conversation I think I caught her by surprise when I asked: Who is Nikoleta today? Well, she is many things to many people. She is a daughter, she is a single mother, she is a career woman, and a creative mind. But, she is so much more than that. Reflecting on our talk, I tried to pinpoint what made our conversation feel so authentic. And, you know, it’s interesting. For someone who misses being bold, I think it is exactly her boldness that makes her so real. The courage to reveal herself. The strength to move forward with an open heart. Thank you to Nikoleta for not only your insight, but also your honesty.
Occupation: PR Associate for the Purple Group; Publicist for Low Strung Web Series; Entertainment Reporter for Cypher News; Entertainment/Fashion Blogger
The key to happiness is: Peace & Acceptance
My kryptonite is: My own self
In three words, I would describe myself as: strong, loving, ambitious
I dream of: Living in a wood cabin in the mountains of Colorado
Success to me means: Living your life and making your dreams come true
Define curiosity: The desire to find answers to the unknown
To be brilliant is to be: Thinking outside the average box
To be a Millennial Nomaad means: To be constantly learning and changing
MN: You mention leaving Bulgaria at the age of 15 and moving to America for boarding school. During these formative, adolescent years, how did you adapt to the change?
NM: I moved on my own to the US at 15 and was the first student from my high school to do so. I applied to Fryeburg Academy, got a scholarship, packed my suitcase and left. I was brave, curious and excited to travel. I was also craving change from the monotonous and predictable life I had in Bulgaria. I had always wanted to travel, meet new friends and learn beyond what was expected of me. I was always bullied at school for being smart and a teachers’ favorite, so when I left I showed my classmates that being smart and having good grades does get you places. It all changed after that for them –in a good way. In Bulgaria, I was a straight A student with almost no life, because in Bulgaria being academically successful was the most important thing. In America, I stepped outside the norm and my comfort zone and got involved with theater, sports, and various organizations. For the first time in my life I felt alive and as if I could use my talents in more than just academics. For me, change was not only what I wanted, but what I needed.
MN: What was the most apparent culture shock for you as a young woman growing up in a new country?
NM: At first my culture shock was positive. I was amazed by how friendly people were towards me and one another here. In Bulgaria, no one greets you on the street if they don’t know you and for me to see happy, friendly strangers smiling at me was astonishing. Also, in Bulgaria people tend to care how they look, and girls sometimes overdress to impress. I was shocked that at Fryeburg Academy I could wear my pajamas to school and no one cared. It was liberating to know it's okay to dress down. I didn’t have the pressure to impress with my clothes as I had in Bulgaria. My high school and college years were a great experience where I felt I had the world at my feet –wearing my rose tinted glasses. The real culture shock came years later when I started to truly understand American life and immerse myself in it. I started to see how selfish and shallow people can be, how career came before family, the hunger for power and money. America is a great country with a lot of opportunities, and it is definitely what you make of it. But, I felt like I was missing a compassionate, meaningful warmth –even soul– between its people that I do find hard for me to adapt to still.
MN: As a journalist for nearly a decade, you are quite familiar with the art of communication. How do you think the way in which we communicate has evolved in today’s generation? How do you think people can learn to better express themselves?
NM: In the past, communication was better in that people communicated face-to-face more. Now, the digital platform has taken over the face-to-face interaction, which in my opinion, is essential for us as humans. Don’t get me wrong, technology is great but not to the point where it replaces real human interactions. There is so much social media. I grew up playing and having fun outside. Kids now, including my daughter are immersed in that digital life so much that they do start having a hard time socializing with one another –a phenomenon that I was unfamiliar with 30 years ago. When I take the train I see everyone locked in their phones, and they rarely smile or even look at one another anymore.
When I first started studying journalism in college, we had tape recorders and notepads. We learned how to listen. I think people can learn to better express themselves once they take their eyes away from their phones and computers and just try to hold a real, steady, intelligent conversation for a while. It takes practice to go back to what we have unfortunately lost with the progress of digital media and technology –the art to meaningfully listen to one another.
MN: A portion of your career has been dedicated to interviewing celebrities who live a seemingly “hyperreal” lifestyle. From your experience, what is something you learned about the celebrity world that surprised you?
NM: I have been involved in the entertainment field for over 10 years now. I have interviewed people from all walks of life from the average person to politicians to celebrities, like Mike Tyson, Messi, Rob Schneider, Marc Anthony, Freddie Prinze Jr, Martin Luther King’s son and many more. What I learned is how humble and down to earth successful and so-called celebrities are. In a way, they are more approachable and conversational than the average person and that surprised me in a good way. People often think of celebrities as stuck up, hard to talk to, rich, etc.. In reality, they are so easy to talk to and have so much wisdom, especially the ones who have been in the business for a while. Their experiences inspire and drive me in my career path.
I also found that most don’t like the spotlight and just want to be looked at as normal people. David Schwimmer from “Friends” is a great example. I met him at a theater premier in Chicago and he was so low key with a hat on and just wanted to be part of the crowd. He wasn’t looking for attention or fans. When people came to talk to him, he kindly brushed them off and hid away unseen. What I have noticed with the “average” person is that they are looking for constant attention whether on social media, friends, outside, etc, while celebrities are not. They are just doing their job while trying to maintain a normal life outside of it. I admire that about them and the hard work they do.
MN: What were some challenging moments on your career path? What advice would you give to an aspiring journalist?
NM: There are always challenges in life. In fact, if you have no challenges, then you are doing something wrong. Challenges are what builds character and pushes you to go above and beyond. Finding good internships, proving yourself as a journalist, finding the right opportunities are all part of the fun. Many times I would switch jobs, quit, or even get fired, because I was looking for what inspired me and what I loved doing. I never settled for less. I have been a writer, photographer, editor, copyeditor, publicist, among many other professions and that helped me become a well-rounded media professional. My advice to young journalists is don’t just do one thing -–try and challenge yourself with many different skills and explore the field. You never know where you will find yourself. Don’t stay in the box you are putting yourself in. Explore and the world will open up to you. I didn’t start out as an entertainment reporter. I started out as a hard news reporter, then editor, then photographer. I was open to any opportunity. A lot of young journalist want the money first. Money will come, but first you have to make a name for yourself. Be the brand you want to sell and polish your skills – don’t just settle for a job. Take an opportunity even if it isn’t paid, make connections and you will see many doors will start opening for you.
MN: Love. As we grow older, our perception of love can change but it’s difficult to express what feeling we are exactly searching for. After courageously leaving an emotionally abusive marriage, how would you now define “love”? How is this different than other forms of love?
NM: Wow. I can say so much about this topic, since I have been looking to find that answer for over 32 years now and still looking. When I was young, I read a lot of fairytales, so my idea of love was finding the prince –the one who saves you. The problem with that idea of love is that it lead me to the wrong guys –the ones that needed me to save them. What I should have known is I was my own savior all along. Then, I explored love as a sexual connection. I thought that great sex and electric attraction was love. That’s how I ended up in a marriage that was more devastating to my mental health and character than anything else I had encountered before. When you become vulnerable with the wrong person, they take advantage of that. That’s why it is hard to leave emotionally abusive relationships. Despite it all, you still try to see the good in them because you somehow believe they can change –that love will save them. This is not true. No one changes unless they themselves are ready to make that change on their own terms. Love should never hurt, be shameful or make you feel less than. Love has to encourage you, make you want to be a better person, make you feel happy and protected. Being in the wrong relationship taught me what I should have known years ago –what glues two people together are: trust, honesty, loyalty, respect, support and a common goal that both people are willing to work for. It is not two people pulling in different directions trying to glue the relationship and hoping it will last because they have great sex or chemistry.
Love comes in many shapes and forms, and it’s a beautiful feeling. None of us are exempt from falling in love with the wrong person but we have to learn from it. I learned that to find the right person I have to love myself first. Only then, we will not settle for anyone less because we know our value. Don’t mistake love for just attraction –look beyond that. Look at the person you are with and see if you love and accept them underneath it all. Show that you love them and don’t take them for granted.
MN: Happiness. We are living in the age of “Think and Be Positive” where everyone seems to be searching for a way to find joy? How can someone release negative emotions in a healthy way without suppressing them or allowing them to become consuming?
NM: As far as I remember people have always searched for happiness. Some find it in their loved ones, others in their careers. Honestly, happiness is not that far from reach if you really look at it objectively. For me, being happy is to be at peace with myself, surrounded by the people I love and to do the things that I love. It is that simple. Before I used to think that happiness was some abstract goal that I had to obtain once I achieved something. That never happened. I found happiness when I was still –when I was appreciative of what I had. I found happiness in nature. Sometimes thinking it is greener on the other side brings you more sadness and frustration than happiness. Be grateful for what you have now as tomorrow it might be taken away from you. Being happy is a choice. There are so many feelings inside all of us that today’s society encourages us to suppress. It seems as though we are only accepted when we are happy. That is not only unrealistic, but also absurd. People should be allowed to feel whatever emotion comes their way, acknowledge it and accept it. Then, you can actually start to work on being happy because you are allowed to be human.
MN: Where do you think fear comes from? How do you deal with it so that it makes you a stronger person?
NM: I think fear comes from the unknown and sometimes the known. We fear what we don’t know –it’s cliché but holds true. We also fear what we do know, but we have to overcome it by going straight at it. The way I deal with fear is by looking it straight in the eyes and facing it. Once I get to the bottom of fear, I realize that I am stronger and can do anything. Don’t let fear control you –it’s crippling. You might be afraid to leave your job, live your dream, leave your boyfriend/girlfriend, to be alone. But, examine what you fear and see why you are afraid of it. Then, see what lies on the other side of that fear. You might realize that what you were afraid of is what you actually needed.
MN: During our conversation, you mention that you used to be a bold and fearless person. Why do you think this changed?
NM: In my younger years, I was fearless because I was hungry for adventure, opportunities and life. I had nothing to lose and loved the thrill of the ride. I think it started changing for me when I had my daughter 7 years ago. Being a mother kicked in the protective and survival instinct that I didn’t have before. I started being more cautious, and in a way, I lost that bold, adventurous spirit. It is still in me, but somewhere deep down. I am aware of the dangers more than I was before and being safe comes before play. However, I am fearless now in other ways. I faced my fear of divorce and being a single mother so I guess that still makes me a bold and fearless person!
MN: They say the unique bond between a mother and her child is unlike any other. As a mother raising a young daughter in this day and age, what is the most important lesson you’d like to teach her?
NM: I want to teach her patience, kindness, understanding and love for herself. Growing up, I was never taught how important it is to love yourself, so I was always looking for it in the wrong places. I want her to have a healthy relationship. I was always encouraged by my parents to chase someone else's dreams, not my own and that held me back. I want her to feel free to pursue her own dreams and not have to fight against me like I did with my parents. It is not easy raising a daughter as a single parent, but it’s a work in progress. Balancing life, work and motherhood is a juggling act. But, I have to remember what comes first –and for me that is my daughter. |
Want to know more about Nikoleta? Roam to her personal blog at: http://nikoletamorales.blogspot.com/