Social Impact Heroes: Why & How Deborah Alessi of Face Forward & Beverly Hills Wellness Is Helping…

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Social Impact Heroes: Why & How Deborah Alessi of Face Forward & Beverly Hills Wellness Is Helping To Change Our World

Don’t allow fear to stop you from achieving your dreams- I could never have taken a small grassroots charity to an international scale, nor could I have built my wellness and aesthetics brand if I constantly feared it would fail.

As part of my series about “individuals and organizations making an important social impact”, I had the pleasure of interviewing Deborah Alessi.

Deborah Alessi is the CEO/ Founder of Face Forward International, a survivor lead non-profit helping transform the lives of women, children and men who have been victims of domestic violence, human trafficking or other cruel acts of crime. As an entrepreneur she is also the founder Beverly Hills Wellness and Aesthetics with locations based in Beverly Hills, Dubai, Maldives and the UK.

Thank you so much for joining us in this interview series! Can you tell us a story about what brought you to this specific career path?

Well, I am a survivor myself, and when doing these types of interviews, I always get asked “why” I started Face Forward. Truly I think Face Forward found me. It’s truly been my baby, and labor of love for 15 years. What started as just an idea, and a motivation in my gut as a survivor to help others, turned into something much bigger and greater than I ever could have imagined. Running a non-profit was not in my professional background, I had worked in sales, aesthetics and private aviation prior to starting the charity. My skills were different, but my heart and dedication for wanting to help others is truly what was the driving force for me to start and grow the charity which was once a small local non-profit to know an internationally recognized organization with patients, doctors and partners all around the world.

Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you began leading your company or organization?

I don’t think there is one thing specifically that is “most interesting”, as I’ve done a lot of living in these past 15 years. When I started Face Forward, I was married and living in Beverly Hills with my now ex-husband, we separated last year. But back in 2019 I had already begun creating my own brand called Beverly Hills IV Therapy, which also began small in locations in Beverly Hills and at Niyama Private Islands in the Maldives. The response was so great, that despite the world pandemic that happened shortly after, I was still able to continue growing and expanding that brand further and have now created a full health and wellness clinic in Dubai called Beverly Hills Wellness and Aesthetics. I now have multiple locations in the Maldives, and in California, two additional locations opening soon in Dubai, as well as an upcoming launch in the UK. When the world went into lockdowns, I was busy navigating ways to keep pushing forward, both for the charity, and for building a business empire to help secure my future. And since my business was already expanding rapidly in Dubai, I decided to move there and keep it growing. I now have a network of surgeons and specialists globally who are also willing to step up and support the charity by providing pro bono care to our Face Forward International survivors. So I guess you could say I’ve had more than my fair share of big life changes with interesting stories along the way for sure.

It has been said that our mistakes can be our greatest teachers. Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lesson you learned from that?

Not sure how funny it is…. but in hindsight for me, thinking that I was going to do my first ever charity event on my own without a team is comical looking back. Throwing a gala event, with 50 people or 500 people require a lot of effort and attention to details, and I realized very quickly that you really need a team to do it well. That’s when I also learned the importance of recruiting strong Board and Committee Members who could help with tasks like selling tickets or soliciting auction items. I tell them all the time it takes a team to get to the top of that mountain.

Can you describe how you or your organization is making a significant social impact?

Face Forward International is truly changing lives, one survivor at a time. We don’t just help them find a doctor willing to give them free surgery and send them on their way. The goal is to help survivors heal inside and out, with surgical care and emotional support services, not only through therapy or counselling, but also peer and community support. We are often the final piece of the jigsaw of their healing. Many of our patients have lived 5, 10, 20 years with scars or broken bones that didn’t heal correctly because they weren’t able to get proper care when in their abusive situation. We are helping them come full circle in their healing physically, while also supporting them and encouraging them to give back to others. They sign an agreement that in exchange for free surgery, that they will give back in their own communities, that they will do great things in their lives and be advocates for change to help other survivors as well. We have had patients go on to start their own non-profits, write their own books, become public speakers and more. It’s truly beautiful to see each of them transform through their healing.

Can you tell us a story about a particular individual who was impacted or helped by your cause?

Saundra was one of our very first patients and has been in ongoing care with us pretty much since the beginning of Face Forward. Her ex-husband beat her to pulp and left for dead in the street. She later developed gangrene, and it destroyed most of her face. She wore a mask for years, not because of a pandemic, but to hide her face because the injuries were so severe, and she didn’t want to scare her own children. Her physical transformation and recovery over the years has been an amazingly beautiful journey to be a part of. She is now not only an amazing mother, but a doting grandmother, and a member of our Patient Advocacy Board, where she donates her time to help make new Face Forward survivors feel welcomed, loved and supported during their surgical journeys. Saundra inspires me personally every day.

Are there three things the community/society/politicians can do to help you address the root of the problem you are trying to solve?

I think in general raising more awareness about domestic violence, learning the signs of when someone is being abused at home, and believing victims when they speak their truth.

A better realization that human trafficking, is not just something that happens in third world countries, or is children being snatched up at the borders, but is literally happening in almost every city in America.

And as a society overall, to just learn to be kinder to each other and more accepting of each our own unique differences, be they physical or mental differences.

How do you define “Leadership”? Can you explain what you mean or give an example?

Leadership is not just someone in charge, but someone who leads by example, and is also open and willing to learn new ideas. You can’t just start a business and think you know everything and can do everything all by yourself. You have to know your own strengths while also recognizing your own weaknesses. Then you can build a team to help fill the voids where you know you’re weaker and then work together sharing new creative ideas to help excel as a whole family unit.

What are your “5 things I wish someone told me when I first started” and why. Please share a story or example for each.

Never feel a mistake is failure- You there is always something to be learned to help you improve.

Don’t allow fear to stop you from achieving your dreams- I could never have taken a small grassroots charity to an international scale, nor could I have built my wellness and aesthetics brand if I constantly feared it would fail.

Never Give Up- We all stumble sometimes; we are all human and make mistakes. The importance is how we get back up and push forward in the face of adversity.

Take Time for Yourself- Especially when you feel overwhelmed, because that is when you make mistakes. You always need a good work/life balance.

Surround yourself with positive people- The energy you surround yourself with is a reflection of you.

You are a person of enormous influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂

The world has so much diversity and so many countries and cultures with beautiful histories to share, but I think that most people aren’t able to leave the small bubbles of the town they grow up in, and are never given the opportunity to see what all the world has to offer, which often leads to a lot of limited beliefs, and prejudices. Most people aren’t exposed at a young age to the cultural richness, diversity, and lessons that can be learned from each other that comes from traveling. A lot of that of course may be because of lack of financial means. So, I would love to see more educational resources spent providing youth the opportunity to travel more of the world and explore, learning about each other and hopefully leading to more peace and acceptance of each other culturally.

Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?

That “this too shall pass” ….even on the darkest of days, when it seems like everything is going wrong, there is always light on the other side. You have to stay focused on the good and not get lost in all the bad that is out there in the world. We all have moments of sadness, or tragedy in life but the fact that we have to focus on the fact that we survived to be able to share our story with others.

Is there a person in the world, or in the US with whom you would like to have a private breakfast or lunch with, and why? He or she might just see this, especially if we tag them. 🙂

Donald Trump for many reasons, and not politically or to cause any sort of controversy.

Ultimately because he has just always been an extremely interesting businessman to me, long before he was ever President.

How can our readers further follow your work online?

@deborah.alessi or @faceforwardla or @beverlyhillswellnessaesthetics

This was very meaningful, thank you so much. We wish you only continued success on your great work!

Social Impact Heroes: Why & How Deborah Alessi of Face Forward & Beverly Hills Wellness Is Helping… was originally published in Authority Magazine on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.