With mother Maria Shriver as inspiration, Katherine Schwarzenegger has always known that women do it all. This past May Katherine embarked on a road trip across the country. She met and interviewed over 500 women in collaboration with T.J. Maxx, aiding their mission in highlighting women who live life on their own terms. After three moths of traveling across 16 cities, Katherine finally headed home with a head and heart full of inspirational stories.
We caught up with Katherine to chat what she learned from the collab, how her mom helped her prep, and the six common traits she found in every single woman.
You just finished up the “Road to Real” 16 city tour where you were interviewing real women about living life on their terms. What was the most surprising part of the journey?
When I started the Road to Real tour, I didn’t know what to expect. But I think the most surprising part of this journey was how open and honest each woman was, and how their stories have truly made an impact on my life, and how I want to live life moving forward. The purpose of the tour was to show others that you don’t have to look far to be inspired. And what I have learned and hope others have too, is that everyone has a story to tell, we are all on this journey of life, we are all doing our best and that inspiration really is all around you – it’s in our friends, family, neighbors, and even the woman shopping next to you in a T.J.Maxx store. When you hear so many amazing, real and inspirational stories each day, you cant help but walk away changed. So the next time someone yells or snaps at you for no reason, just know that you never know what’s going on in peoples lives; they could be going home to a sick child or parent, they could’ve just lost a loved one, they could be going through a divorce. Bottom line is, we are all just trying to do our best so the most important thing is treat one another with love and kindness and the world will be a much better place.
Your mom is a journalist, did she share any tricks to getting people to open up before you embarked on the tour?
My mom helps me with everything and she is definitely my number one supporter. When I first learned about the Road to Real tour, I was so excited and I told her right away. I grew up watching her interview people in her professional life and personal. She used to interview everyone around us, even in the line at the coffee shop, and that all rubbed off on me, so this experience felt very natural to me. I am a very curious person and I ask a million questions, but before the tour launched, she did help to coach me on my interview skills and gave me advice on talking with people I didn’t know. The most important thing she taught me was the importance of listening and on this tour I realized that one of the greatest gifts you can give someone is listening to them. We don’t realize how many people just don’t have someone to talk to or to listen to them, and a really good listener is a huge gift. Every time I finished a interview, most women would thank me for listening to them. I was so surprised by this because for me, to be able to listen to their stories was such a gift, and knowing that just sitting and listening to them made a difference, was so rewarding for me.
How did the collaboration initially come about? What was the conversation?
T.J.Maxx actually approached me to be a part of the Road to Real tour, and I was immediately obsessed with the whole concept of the tour. When I learned more about the campaign I couldn’t say no – to have the opportunity to travel the country (to some places I had never been before), and connect with real women and hear their inspiring stories is what really peaked my interest. I love talking with people, asking questions and learning from others so it was a natural fit. I am always eager to learn and to grow and I knew this tour would not only be an amazing career experience, but it would be a life changing experience that I wouldn’t be able to get anywhere else. I am all about talking to people, learning from their life experiences, and being able to take a nugget of wisdom from each person I spoke to. Plus, the fact that my website is all about “living life on your own terms” was a natural tie to the brand and the Road to Real campaign.
It’s easy to see the Road to Real as an internal journey we all take as women. What has your own road to real looked like?
I think my Road to Real is a journey that I am on and continue to be on and one I am very excited about. We are all on this journey of life; sometimes it’s great, other times it’s more challenging, but as long as you look at life as a growing and learning process that never stops, you will be able to live a fulfilling life. This tour has completely changed me; I am not the same woman today, than I was when I started this tour in May and I will forever be grateful to T.J. Maxx for allowing me to be a part of this experience. I learned so much about life, about myself, about how I want to live my life moving forward, and how I deal and interact with people. This tour was a journey for me in my personal, spiritual, and mental well-being; I went out of my comfort zone, traveled to new places, met new people, formed new friendships, and experienced new things. I laughed with strangers, I cried with strangers and I listened and learned from them. These are the kinds of things you only learn by having the kind of experiences I was lucky enough to have on the Road to Real.
What parts of your journey as a business woman and entrepreneur are you most proud of?
What I’m most proud of is that I have had the opportunity to work on projects that I’m truly passionate about, like my two books and website. I’ve been able to do so many amazing things, and I always want to try to make a difference and do work that I’m proud of. That said, I am definitely proud of my partnership with T.J.Maxx, because the Road to Real campaign speaks to something I truly believe in, which is that women are living life on their own terms, in their own unique way. I feel lucky to have worked on such a meaningful campaign by celebrating women all over the country, and by sharing their inspiring and amazing stories with the world.
When are you your most real/authentic version of yourself?
I try to be real and authentic all day every day because that’s just how I want to live my life. It took me awhile to get there but I have come to realize that whenever I am not my real self, nothing good comes from that. It’s much easier said than done but staying true to who you are is the greatest gift you can give yourself and you only get there by going through the ups and downs of life. I still haven’t mastered it and I do make mistakes of course, but I always try to remind myself the importance of being YOU because there is no one else like you.
You spoke with over 500 women. How do you process that amount of information? That number of stories?
Throughout the course of the tour we visited sixteen different cities and spent two days in each store location, so I spoke with about 15-20 women per day, sometimes more! The experience was amazing but at times the conversations lead me to feel overwhelmed by my own emotions. The women really opened up to me and some of the stories shared were extremely personal, open and raw. It’s crazy to believe that each story was more inspiring then the next, but it’s true. Although I talked with over 500 women, there was a commonality among the stories I heard, like the strength to persevere and live life on their terms, and just an overall sense of the women wanting to do good, and give back to others. I would be lying to you if I said that I wasn’t overwhelmed by some of the stories I heard, but I decided to look at this experience like I wanted to take at least one nugget of wisdom from each person I spoke to and be able to grow from their stories.
Why do you think storytelling is important?
I have always been interested in learning and hearing from real women, it helps you to not only grow and learn as a person, but to see things from a different perspective. I think storytelling is important because it connects people everywhere. Everyone has a story to tell and inspiration is all around us. We just need to take a moment to open our eyes, maybe ask a few questions and really see the people around us.
What was a universal truth among all of the women you spoke with?
After speaking with all of these women, I learned that strength, perseverance, courage, love, kindness and the desire to do good, lives in the women walking amongst us daily. Every woman I spoke with, no matter her background or personal struggle, wanted to help those in need and leave the world a better place. It can be easy to focus on negativity, especially with recent events our country has faced, but you have to remember to never lose sight of what’s important. The need to love one another, treat each other with kindness, compassion, and understanding is what every woman agreed our world needs most.
"Strength, perseverance, courage, love, kindness and the desire to do good, lives in the women walking amongst us daily."
The tour culminates in a gallery event this fall in NYC. What do you hope people see in the work?
The stories that these women shared both touched and influenced me, not only in the way I view life, but in the way that I want to live my life each day moving forward. So my hope is that this same raw emotion, these inspiring stories of struggle and perseverance and vulnerability, are conveyed within the gallery portraits. I hope people see that women are playing many different roles in their lives and that no matter what, they make it work in their own way. I hope that these pictures impact people in the same way that I was impacted.
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