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Alex Vailas | Source: Courtesy of Alex Vailas
Alex Vailas | Source: Courtesy of Alex Vailas

Alex Vailas, an influencer and single mother of two. How to overcome tough times and support others

Bettina Dizon
Apr 21, 2023
11:10 A.M.

AmoMama does interviews with women who motivate and inspire us under the "Mothers With Will" banner. And we snagged a conversation with Alex Vailas.

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Decades ago, Alex Vailas didn't think her life would turn out the way it would. However, despite the challenges, she always saw things through and took the best from every situation. Like many, she followed her parents' path for a college education but lived the rest of her life on her own terms.

At 38, Alex is a successful Pinterest creator, influencer, and single mother of two, living in Arizona. She is also a mentor to others on how to overcome tough times.

Alex Vailas smiling while posing on a chair. | Source: Courtesy of Alex Vailas

Alex Vailas smiling while posing on a chair. | Source: Courtesy of Alex Vailas

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Alex works as a senior vice president of brand marketing. When she's not busy working, Alex enjoys writing and sharing her journey as a single mother on social media. Besides her career, Alex is a devoted mom to her seven and ten-year-old kids. She likes to read and is a self-proclaimed foodie who travels the world for food.

Have you done some traveling to taste...And would you say Mediterranean food then has to be the best?

"I think it's the best! I travel, even locally. I'll drive an hour just to try a new restaurant here too, you know, I always look up the restaurants, and everything from a random taco stand in Fresno, California too, you know, a Michelin star restaurant.

I enjoy it all. I think Mediterranean flavors are vibrant and complex. I also love Asian food and Indian [food]. I mean, there isn't anything I don't like, really. But I think growing up with a family that valued time at the dinner table and time in the kitchen together is really what it's rooted in."

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So maybe not just the food, it's the whole, everything surrounding the food? Tell me about you — life before styling and blogging — did you come from a big family? Who are you?

"Yes. I'm actually an only child, so that's a bit shocking. Yes, I'm a child of two scientists. They both have their Ph.D. in the sciences. My dad was a physiologist, and my mom was a dietician, and we traveled and moved a lot from university to university. So I had kind of a unique upbringing with my parents, just being surrounded by academics and always being the youngest person in the room without a playmate. And so I learned to enjoy conversation with adults. So I think that that was pretty unique.

I have a big extended family, Italian on my mom's side and Greek on my dad's, and so I definitely got to experience a lot of that togetherness. And like I said, the love of food and family, but most of my time was spent alone, not just because I'm an only child, but because my parents had such big ambitions for their careers, and research is pretty demanding. So I would think about all the places I'd want to go or the things that I'd want to do, imaginary friends, and so forth, and I think it really spurred creativity in my life."

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"I was always kind of involved in the arts and dance and sports here and there. But then, in high school, I got deeply involved in music. I went to a prestigious performing arts school to study clarinet performance and music theory. I loved fashion as well and took some art classes. So I'd spend a lot of time wandering the stores and just touching all the fabrics. I think that's where my love for fashion began when I went to school.

I studied business, and I started Communications and Business. [My parents] made a deal with me and said: 'Get your business degree first, and then you can go do whatever you want.' So I did that, and I ended up out of school working in the architecture industry, doing PR for architects. I think that's where I picked up my love for interiors."

"I really felt like I had a story to tell, so I started a blog."

A photo of Alex Vailas smiling. | Source: Courtesy of Alex Vailas

A photo of Alex Vailas smiling. | Source: Courtesy of Alex Vailas

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"I remember when I went to a state university. Nothing against state universities, but it's not as prestigious as Ivy League schools. And I struggled because the entire time I was doing these things, [and I thought], 'Why am I learning this? I don't want to spend my time here. I know what I want to do.'

At the time when I was making a career on social media back in 2010, when Pinterest was a new platform and when Instagram was just emerging, and I was monetizing at an early time; they just didn't understand anything that I was doing, and yet, just as they are as researchers, always on the cutting edge of new things, I was too!"

Pinterest is a science as well. It's a completely different science, but it is a science. You do follow certain rules. You have to have a specific approach to it. Every person I've spoken to [this week] has said, 'I studied this because this is what my parents expected, but my passion was that.'

"I'm so glad that I had a degree that I could easily, as someone that owned their own business as a creative freelancer, I could easily transition back into the traditional workforce with a more traditional degree and climb my way up quickly."

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Do you think it was a waste that you were [at university] for four years?

"No, I really don't. It wasn't what I wanted at the time and I felt defeated. It was definitely a tumultuous experience for me as a student, but now, looking back, because that was almost 20 years ago, I see how valuable it was. It's also where I met the father of my children.

Now I'm a senior vice president of brand marketing, and I'm almost done with my book. Well, I've reinvented myself probably five times in my career, and I'm 38 years old, and I plan on probably doing five more different things, at least!"

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“There is one central theme that has carried me through in my life is curiosity.”

Plug us with this book. When can we expect it on shelves? Tell us about it.

"The book is called 'The Diary of an Olive Branch.' It is a memoir and a coming-of-age story in the middle of my 30s. Yes, I've been writing it for five years. It's written in a series of journal entries over the five years that started with the beginning of my marriage ending and starting my life as a single mom and single woman at 33."

Alex Vailas posing sideways. | Source: Courtesy of Alex Vailas

Alex Vailas posing sideways. | Source: Courtesy of Alex Vailas

"So, I graduated college and got married, and there are a lot of things that many people experienced in their 20s that I didn't. And so it was a process of grief and starting my life over, and all of that that made me realize this is more about coming into who I am. I hired an editor to work with me and sort through five years of journal entries to create this book.

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So, I think the next step is actually for me to refine the book, the manuscript, [and] the notes from beta readers, and then to talk with a[n] agent or publishers. So that's where I am with the book."

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You do share some really personal experiences with your followers. I know you've mentioned the anniversary of your divorce; you've mentioned how you felt about it. You mentioned mental health. How comfortable are you with sharing all of this in your book?

"I am very comfortable sharing it because I know I wrote this book for me. I didn't know if I'd even do anything with it. I just knew I needed to write. It was a very cathartic thing for me as I was going through things.

And we all need to, as a human race, tell these stories because it's encouraging and it connects us, and it gives us hope. And hope is probably the most powerful feeling.

And especially as we talk about mental health and we hear about people dealing with suicide. I've been there when you just feel like it's never going to get better, and you just want relief from the pain. We need to have more honest conversations."

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I feel like you've really taken the time to write the book you wanted to read during your darkest hours.

"Those are the moments that I think are important to share, and yet we share all the other ones on social media. And that's why I'm really glad that I don't do social media as an income source at all anymore, I should say, because when you're consuming that content, and you know that the post is sponsored, or you even know that that person makes the majority of their money from social media, naturally that person will post another type of content because it is a business.

And so, to remove that from life and have my sole income through corporate marketing and social media, to return simply to a place of creativity and connection, has allowed people to create that trust with me. And I never, ever want to take that for granted. Of course, I'll have a book, but I purposely even put it on a separate account, which I haven't marketed yet at all. I don't ever want anyone to question my authenticity."

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Tell me about these children. They're absolutely beautiful!

"Oh gosh, my children. My daughter, Noelle, she's ten, and she is me, which is so interesting. Now I thank my parents every day for their patience, but at the same time, I'm able to relate to [my children] in ways that my parents never could. So [Elle] is a musician. She plays the electric guitar. Yeah, she is amazing! She's cooler than I am. She has such an eclectic taste, and her fashion is so like better and on point in her own grunge, cool rock way. She has swag!

But my son, he's seven. His name is Levi. He is the class clown. He is just funny, and he lights up a room. And his laugh, he'll make himself laugh. We won't understand why he's laughing so hard, but then we'll all just start laughing around the dinner table because he's laughing so hard. They're very different. He wants to become a scientist."

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What advice would you give to women listening to us now?

"The advice I'd say, if there is one central theme that has carried me through in my life is curiosity. It's getting curious about myself, about my pain, about what's ahead or what was behind. I think grief, you know, when you're in the middle of it, it's overwhelming. The feeling is overwhelming, and every person should, I mean, definitely focus on identifying what you need, right? But when someone says that, what is the heart of that message? The heart of the message is curiosity every time."

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Through social media, Alex has touched the lives of others, inspiring them to rise above any situation. She does not shy away from sharing her stories of heartbreak and doubt to the world, knowing that her story can help those in similar situations.

Alex has achieved many great things with her grit and growth mindset, including becoming a soon-to-be book author, all while raising two beautiful children.

Because of her strength, determination, and kind heart, Alex is a true embodiment of AmoMama's Mothers With Will.

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