We had been trying to connect with Millana for a while when the universe brought us all together via a torrential downpour that kept us prisoners in a Greenpoint coffee shop. It was a total synchronistic moment because Millana lives in LA and we are hardly that far north. We just so happened to be there talking about vibrators with boss lady Alex Fine and somehow we got to chatting and realized who each other were. And we are so glad we did because this Project Runway winning model, Reiki healer and entrepreneur has some pretty exciting stuff in the works; namely SereneBook, a new tech platform that connects wellness practitioners with wellness seekers and helps them accomplish a specific goal or intention each month at an affordable rate. Think Class Pass meets AirBnB but with massages and craniosacral therapies instead of lofts and cycling.
Here's Millana on what it feels like to be pregnant with an idea, the magnitude of the 9 month landmark in her own projects, the importance of acknowledging your own creations even when no one else cares, and the benefits of being "freakin' crazy."
How were you born?
I was born in Denver, CO at Rocky Mountain Hospital. I was actually birthed with midwives, which I was shocked about, and I had no idea that my mom didn’t use any drugs, which I thought was pretty epic as she is not really the most natural kinda person, ya know? She doesn’t even buy all-natural products or anything. But it’s the one thing she took a real stance on and I was really surprised.
Do you know why she went that route?
She told me that she had heard it was safer and wanted to go the safest route. She had spoken to a few different friends who had their children with midwives and it was what they had recommended. So it wasn’t an ethical, moral, spiritual or lifestyle choice. It was just her belief that it was the healthiest, safest thing for us.
what comes to mind WHEN YOU THINK ABOUT BIRTH?
Yelling at your husband. Pulling at everything around you. Screaming “Get it out of me!”... I think of the actual process of being really painful and horrible and then maybe there are a few flashes of some beautiful woman at home having a water birth and it just seems really easy for her.
sounds like a movie scene?
Yes! I think it all comes from movies and TV. I’m so glad that you asked that because it just made me think that’s total programming. I actually just realized I have never seen a live birth so the only ideas that I have of it come from movies and television. I think they feed a lot of our belief systems about how life is supposed to be.
Did learning your birth story change your thoughts on birth at all?
Yes. Actually, I have to be honest, you guys have made me think about birth a little more. The few times I’ve talked with you, you've said things like, “Yeah, you can talk about and learn about these things way before you are even ready or want to” and so I have. And I think connecting the story of how I was born and my interest in the whole process as possibly being a future mom, has really given me a lot of courage more than anything. Because my feelings were that even though I wanted a “natural” birth I was so terrified of the pain. But if my mom could do it without any drugs, then I can do it.
Where is your family from?
On my Mom’s side, my Mom’s Mom is from Buffalo, Oklahoma, a really small town and they are part Cherokee, part French. And my Mom’s Dad’s side is half British and half Oklahoman/Kansan/Texan. And on my Dad’s side, they are all from Panama but have a mix of Spanish, Chinese and African blood.
I think about the blood I carry a lot and just the DNA that runs through my body. Especially with my Cherokee blood because I found out that they survived the Trail of Tears and I just think, "Oh my gosh, that’s so cool that I get to have that kind of bravery in my DNA. It’s so neat!"
BB: Yes well you definitely have a lot of bravery! You transition in and out of multiple roles, from actress and model to entrepreneur to Reiki healer, and that certainly takes courage. It's almost like you've had a bunch of mini rebirths in identity!
What have those transitions been like?
I’m so glad you referred to it in that way because, well I obviously don’t know what a physical birth is like, but from everything that I understand and from what I have experienced as a Reiki healer, and feeling the energy of it, each time something new is coming through it feels like a birthing process. I've actually even noticed that the 9 month mark tends to usually signify when I can look back and see that something major has happened... so it’s almost literal actually. And as a Reiki healer when I'm working with people, I can sometimes feel energetically that they are pregnant with an energy or with a project or something they are creating. It feels like a pregnant tummy, like their tummy is popped out when it's not... it's hard to explain and it’s very weird, but cool and that’s how I know if they are in the process of birthing something. I can kind of tell what stage they are at too, energetically, and that gives me an idea as to how much more time it will take until they start seeing some physical evidence of what they are working on.
But for myself, with these different transitions -and I keep the thread of many of them, I still model and act- but it's the expansion of becoming an actress and model that is also an entrepreneur what's the most challenging. The birthing of it has taken a lot of patience and sometimes more courage than I realized I had.
BB: Must be that Cherokee blood ;)
MS: It's especially challenging when we are doing things that are pure creation -things that have never been seen or physicalized before or birthing versions of ourselves that we have never physically seen before. It can be very scary, but I realized a while ago that all I had to do was see a vision, make a choice to just believe that vision was true for me, and just commit myself to making that a reality in my physical world by each day chipping away at it. When I started Serene on my own as Serene Social about 4 years ago, it was the next step for me, I just knew that I had to bring more positivity to the world and bring more authenticity to my work. Modeling at the time, the way I was doing it, was very shallow and about being a certain body type that I couldn’t even maintain. Serene Social came out of a real need from my spirit and from there I started to just move on it and act on it and it took a few months for things to happen and a few years for anyone to actually care, but I always saw it and that's how it’s always been. Have a vision and keep working on it until it becomes physical. And even then, you probably wont have acknowledgement from others. It's all about acknowledging yourself for your own creation.
And so what are you currently birthing?
We can finally talk about it now, which is exciting! We are birthing SereneBook, a sister of Serene and a tech platform that connects wellness practitioners to users on a subscription based model. My partners Tegan Bukowski, Jordan Daly and I have been working on the gestation for a while and plan to fully launch in October.
so exciting! What has the labor been like?
You know, it's so wild. I think it was 9 months ago that this project was "conceived." And it's actually been really smooth. I can't believe how something so massive has had so much ease built in to it. I think it started to manifest so naturally because allowed ourselves to be freakin’ crazy. We knew we wanted to make a model for wellness but we hadn’t seen anything like this before. So we just started throwing some crazy ideas on the wall to see what stuck and allowed ourselves to dream really big. Shortly after we were able to raise money internally and then raise enough money as a company to pay for it ourselves and things just really flowed from there.
Emotionally though, it’s been really tough. This is something we feel called to do and that's really scary because it's much bigger than us and will last longer than us. And that’s very emotionally difficult to grow into... the vastness of that kind of expansion is intimidating but luckily there are three of us working together, the power of three, and we are just sticking together and emotionally supporting each other just as much as we do from a business perspective.
It really has been like a birthing process in that we have had to really allow things to work on their own. Then we just did what we could do, ya know? You can’t make an embryo grow, it just happens.
BB: Exactly! You really do just have to allow labor to happen with you and for you. Of course you do what you can to help; eat well, exercise, take vitamins, read books etc. but at the end of the day we always joke that you are preparing yourself to be okay with being totally unprepared. And that the quicker you can give in to this force, the easier it will be. But even though it may feel like this force is so big and something separate from us because we have no control, the thing to remember is that actually you are that force. That force is you. And so it's all about rebuilding that trust with the deepest part of ourselves.
MS: Yeah. There’s something divine at work when the creative process happens for sure. It's a dance. Its like, yes you can work and work and work and do and do and do and be the "best" model or "best" pregnant mom-to-be, but there is something to be said about walking that line of allowing. I find with work and relationships in general that when I stop trying to do what I can not do, that’s when there is new levels of flow that I could have never worked to get. Similar to how I could never work to make my baby grow a hand. That has to happen outside of my doing, but it’s still tied to me.
Any favorite #brilliantbits?
The creative process truly is the birthing process! Creation is creation in every respect. So yes, you can end up with a business or a baby, but there’s always a gestation, a birth, a conception... there’s always the doing and the allowing... The processes mirror each other and all are creation in its purest form.