Today I’m chatting with Lilia Tarawa, a New Zealand Maori woman, #1 bestselling author, speaker and holistic healthy business coach.

Lilia was born into New Zealand’s infamous religious cult, Gloriavale. She broke free when she was eighteen years old.

After leaving the cult Lilia drifted not really knowing who she was. Now she feels she’s found her calling to ’empower people to live meaningful, purpose driven lives that belong to them’.

Lilia’s version of ‘happy’ is dinner with friends, reading books, listening to music, attending concerts, watching sci-fi movies and visiting art galleries. She loves a fridge full of organic food, yoga, travelling and outdoor adventures. ‘It’s about living a life that makes her say, Wow, I’m lucky.

Her life experience compelled her to pursue a career promoting human rights, welfare and personal empowerment.

Enjoy our ramble through the story of Game of Thrones as well as Lilia’s relationship with her body and creativity.

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Things we chatted about in this episode:

  • Game of Thrones – the books and TV show
  • Daenerys Targaryen, born of dragon blood, has the ability to walk through fire and commands 3 massive dragons
  • sold by her brother at 13 years to become wife to the leader of the tribe – went through miscarriage, husband was killed and literally rose from the ashes, birthed dragons, raised an army, sailed the seas, conquered nations and released people from slavery, was able to take back her heritage
  • Daenerys’ story is a beautiful metaphor for Lilia’s life – rising from the ashes to speak their truth, stand in their strength and show the world what they’re capable of
  • when her brother sells her – that part of the story resonated – in the cult she lived in, 16 was the legal age in NZ for marriage, and everything in her environment was created for her to become a mother at a young age, to a man in an arranged marriage
  • Daenerys’ character made her a fair and just ruler
  • feels like she’s 8 years old, learning how to live in the modern world after leaving Gloriavale as a teenager
  • crafting a life as an adult woman in a new culture – spends a lot of time searching for herself – having been raised in an environment engineered to make you a product to serve the system, freedom is heady but also confusing
  • has been spending a lot of time looking for herself and discovering who she is through her creativity and inner child work
  • has been trying to find her way back to the girl who was just happy to climb trees and skip with friends and make art
  • as a woman, trying to be happy, creative, enjoy and love her life
  • loves that in Daenerys’ story, she birthed herself. She made do with what she was in.
  • About Gloriavale
  • 500 people Christian community, no independent households, everyone wears uniforms, the community has a big centre with community events like meals and an on-campus school. Businesses in the community raise money which goes back into the community costs. Women wore headscarves to show submission to men and god, wore a frock designed to hide their bodies. Women were only allowed to hold duties such as cooking, cleaning, raising children, laundry, sewing. Very clearly defined gender roles.
  • relationship with creativity
  • has been creative since she was little
  • loved art, always her favourite topics
  • after leaving Gloriavale, went to art school, loved learning about art history and how artists have created social change
  • creativity has been the one thing she’s always had with her
  • creativity is her lifesource – writing poetry, singing, super musical – plays 5 different instruments- listening to music from other artists helps to understand the world around her as well
  • art on walls, how she dresses herself, everything is creative
  • expressing fashion (especially after having to wear a uniform) through textiles and colours, shapes and styles, what you wear can change your whole psychology
  • feels nature feeds her creativity most of all
  • relationship with body
  • growing up being taught to cover her entire body from the eyes of men, in order to not be a stumbling block to them
  • has learned to love her body after growing up in a mental state of condemnation towards her body
  • becoming comfortable with her body has been a balancing act of learning what she likes to wear, and what not, how much skin she likes to show, learning to be less critical of appearance
  • self-love is something we have to foster and nurture in our culture
  • so many altered images online, so deceptive
  • loves good taste in food, music, fashion
  • learning what she likes to wear and how much flesh to show through trial and error, kept trying things out and renovating her wardrobe till she ‘found my jam’
  • also so happy in her gym gear
  • feels it’s important to never let anyone else dictate what you wear – people will judge anyways – make no apologies
  • used to think her legs were short and fat – LOVES her legs now
  • using affirmations was very helpful in learning to love her body
  • believes self-love is a human rights issue, that religion has a lot to answer for
  • life is messy!