At nineteen years old, I had a bright light inside. I could feel it guiding me even though growing up in Ukraine in the late 90s, my career options were limited. I was given two choices: go to the university or work in a factory. Since I didn’t have enough money to attend the university, my choice was made for me. I’d always been interested in textiles and how fashion was created, so I worked in a factory that focused on making fabrics. I had no idea that working there would change the fabric of my life.
Becoming a model
One day at work, my boss asked if I’d like to model some of the factory clothes. I was tall and had model-like features, so maybe I’d be good at showing off the outfits for a company coming to approve them. Of course, I said yes. I put on my red lipstick, fixed my hair and pretended I knew what I was doing. I’d never modeled anything before, but I heard it whispered throughout the building, “You have professional models in your factory?” That’s when I knew—I wanted to try modeling as a career.
Soon after, my mom helped me enter a beauty competition, but I didn’t win. However, I did win something better—a new job! I began modeling in Ukraine and that led me to my big next step—moving to Paris. I was so lucky to have that opportunity because that’s where my modeling journey truly started. I was able to travel the world, help my family out, and live in The City of Light for almost twenty years. Paris is where I met my husband and then together, we moved to The Big Apple. In New York City, my inner light shown bright fueled by all I’d achieved and the love my husband and I shared—until that light went dark.
Crushed family dreams
Now that I’d found my husband, I wanted to build a family. We tried to get pregnant, but it became clear that I wouldn’t be able to without medical help. I spent three years trying to have a baby and it just wasn’t happening. With each failed attempt, my disappointment grew like a dark hole. I let my relationship with my husband become so very fragile because I didn’t know how to talk about all I was experiencing— and then, I was diagnosed with breast cancer.
It was like I was watching a movie of my own life—I was at a distance from everything happening to me. My body had betrayed me and all of those worries and fears I had, I kept to myself. Thankfully, I beat the cancer, but my husband and I separated because we’d grown too far apart. Since I’d lost interest in connecting, my husband and I lost our intimacy in the bedroom too. I thought something was wrong with me and stopped searching for help. I did try to rebuild our relationship but it was too late. That bright light I once had faded away.
Rediscovering my inner strength
I needed time to recover so I went home to visit my family to take some time to heal. I happened on a class called “Intimate Muscle Building” and since I was on vacation, I had plenty of time to see what it was all about. The women that took the class radiated such feminine beauty. I wanted to feel that beautiful again—and I was shocked to discover that after a week I did.
It was incredible. After all my body had gone through—the fertility and cancer treatments and just the sadness and depression of divorce I’d found a way to heal myself. Through this class, I could feel my energy start to shift. My body felt so different. I could feel this amazing sexual energy I hadn’t felt in years rising inside of me. I came back to New York a totally different person. So different, in fact, my ex-husband noticed—it was that huge a shift. This is why I had to bring this process back to the women here in the US.
All of that led me to start my company Feminine Revival, which is focused on bringing empowerment through intimate health. At first, I had no idea how to start this kind of business—or any business for that matter. So, I turned to my best girlfriends for help. We had a great result when it came to trying out this technique of pelvic floor perfecting that we all decided I needed keep moving forward.
Never having started my own business from the ground up, I wasn’t sure what steps to take next. That’s when the relationship with my ex-husband became a supportive friendship. He saw my passion for this project and helped guide me on the right business path.
The same women who come to me for help can also be so fragile when talking about their feminine health and sexuality. It can be challenging to get the word out about the positive effect of my classes because of the embarrassment and shame inherent in this topic. This is an obstacle to trying to grow my business and I try to overcome it by being open and talking about what I teach.
When we’re in class, I wish women to hear how this process brings them a better understanding of their bodies and therefore a greater love of themselves. This class is way more than just Kegal exercises. I also want my classes to give each of my clients freedom in the bedroom, help with low sex drive and pelvic floor dysfunction, and educate about our female bodies. I’m trying to help the same way as I was able to help myself.
My company’s vision is to continue to expand and be able to offer retreats and seminars. I’ll also be able to offer virtual instruction too using video conferencing platforms. Not stopping there, I want to promote positive and healthy sexual education for young people. It’s a priceless knowledge that we never get in school.
It’s wonderful to see my business beginning to flourish in ways I never envisioned. When I started out as a 19-year-old factory worker, I couldn’t have imagined the path my life would take. It took overcoming obstacles like cancer and divorce to uncover my true life’s passion. So, one thing I know is true: You need to radiate from the inside out and become your own revival.
By Tonilyn Hornung, who has been writing essays and articles for over 15 years in publications such as The Washington Post, HuffPost, Cosmopolitan, Good Housekeeping, Elle, Harper’s Baazar, and others. She is also known for a self-help humorous book “How to Raise a Husband”