Jessica Ciencin Henriquez is a Colombian-American writer and editor. Her personal essays and narrative journalism have appeared in the New York Times’ Modern Love column, Self Magazine, Cosmopolitan, Teen Vogue, Time, Parents among many others. Her essays have also been featured in multiple anthologies, most recently: Oprah's Little Guide to The Big Questions (Flatiron, 2018).
Jessica holds an MFA from Columbia University as well as a bachelors degree in elementary education and child studies from East Carolina University. She is also the author of the forthcoming memoir: If You Loved Me You Would Know.
1. Who and what is foremost in your heart?(Who and what in your personal life is most important to you?)
The most important people in my world are my family—the family I was born into, the family I gave life to and the friends that I’ve chosen to make my family. These people are everything to me: my support system, my cheerleaders, my inspiration and my reason for doing what I do. I consider my son in so many moments, I ask if what I’m doing is setting a strong example for him, I ask would he be proud to have this woman as his mother? It’s hard for me to be away from so many of these core people, especially during this crisis, but I’m grateful for all of the ways we’ve found to stay connected.
2. How would you describe your work? How does the work you do impact consumers/environment/world?
My work is story telling. I write non-fiction (feature, essays, and memoir) and I also design writing course for women. One is my passion and the other is my purpose. To me, storytelling is necessary for connection. The things we’ve each lived and experienced are capable of giving others hope and healing, but only if we share. What I do is validate and value women’s stories until they can value and validate them on their own. And I’m one hell of an editor.
3. What are you most proud of?
Honestly, I’m proud of so much (being a mom, a partner, a business owner) but what I’m most proud of is starting before I felt ready. As a recovering perfectionist, I have missed out on so many beautiful pieces of life because I allowed doubt to infect my doing of the damn thing. I became a mother before I felt ready. I published writing before I felt ready. I started teaching before I felt ready. This next chapter is no different, I’ll step forward while my legs still feel shaky.
4. Which is one cause / organization you want us to know about? What would you like to see happen?
MomForMoms is an organization that really works to impact women and families. Single mothers make up a significant piece of society and yet 45% of them are living under the poverty line. I have been a single mother since my son was 1 years old but I have been blessed with endless resources (a supportive family, work flexibility and a wonderful, present co-parent.) Single mothers are some of the strongest women I know—they show up for their kids and sacrifice so much to do it all. MomsFormMoms helps give these women a hand when they need it. I would like to see communities step up for single moms, remove the stigma and show up for friends, to offer encourage and help to the single mamas in their lives.
5. What are you most passionate about sharing with others at this time?
SPACE. I’m an introvert in extrovert’s clothing, so this whole self-isolation is really cozy for me but I see a need for connection more than ever before. What I’m happy to hold is space for others, to create opportunities for connection whether by courses or free-writing sesssions or podcasting.
Getting To Know You, the GoddessName – Jessica Ciencin Henriquez
Nickname – Jess
Hometown – Coral Springs, Florida / Barranquilla, Colombia
Current Location – Day 22 of Quarantine in Ojai, California
Vocation – Writer
It’s 3:30pm, what are you drinking? Jamu (an Indonesian elixir that is great for boosting immunity)
Favorite place you’ve visited? Yao Noi island, Thailand and Eleuthera, Bahamas
Currently Reading – Bad Moms by Nora McIrney (out April 14)
Currently listening to – Gap in the clouds by Yellow Days
Favorite Sustainable Fashion Brand – Brother Vellies—everything Aurora James creates is just pure gold and gorgeous.
Next destination on your list? New York City. As soon as its safe, I can’t wait to go back and squeeze all of my friends and family and wrap up all my writers in a big hug.
What is one of your superpowers? I can make people open up to me almost instantly because they can sense pretty quickly that I’m fully listening and feeling what they’re saying or trying to say. Oh, and I make amazing popcorn.
What was your first job? Or what was your most random job? My first job was in high school, as a receptionist at my dad’s car dealership. After college, I was the assistant for the CFO of MySpace. I was also Annie Leibovitz’s nanny for about 15 seconds when I first moved to New York.
Who introduced you to your industry? Oh, no introduction. I barged in, uninvited. The second I found out that you could make money writing, I started sending my writing to editors until they finally agreed to publish me.
Best advice you’ve been given? If the door doesn’t open, it’s not your door.
Best advice you give? Don’t compare yourself to anyone else—only compare yourself to who you were and what you were capable of 2 years ago, 5 years ago, 10 years ago.
Current pleasure? Writing letters. It’s something I’ve done throughout my life but now that I’m spending so much time at home, I make a habit squeezing some fresh orange and grapefruit juice from the trees in the backyard and writing a letter to someone. Sometimes a stranger, sometimes a friend. It’s one of those few gifts that benefits the giver and the recipient.
What is something or someone you’re coveting at the moment? Literally anyone with cooking skills right now—I AM SO JEALOUS! Every meal I make has a 50% chance of being terrible or being amazing. I think it's my distaste for following directions.
What is one sustainability practice you incorporate in your work/life? I refuse to buy things I don’t need. It started two years ago when I stopped buying clothes and it’s really has extended to every area of my life. I have to seriously consider something before I buy it. Can I borrow it? Can I find it used? Can I do without it? Most of the time, I find I don’t need it. I finally just bought a Vespa because I need a way to get around in California.
Who is a thought leader you admire? Brianna Weist, Alex Elle, Reema Zaman, Stacy Flowers—these are all women who have something to say, who have really sharpened their voice and their message. Everything they write or post raises me up.
What / who represents Beauty to you? Evidence of life is beautiful to me. Stains on clothes. Laugh lines. Stretch marks. Freckles. Wrinkles on jeans and wrinkles on foreheads. All of these things are evidence of use, movement, motion, living.
What does Beauty mean to you? Beauty means acceptance. Beauty is what happens when we stop fighting what is and accept what is.
What is one Self Care practice you enjoy? Putting my phone away for the day. Sometimes we forget that phones are not limbs, we don’t need them like we think we do.
What is one change you hope to see in the world that you make an effort to embody? Empathy. I’m searching for and seeing so much empathy right now because of this shared struggle. Empathy is the necessary ingredient for any of the changes we need in the world right now. In order to take care of others, we need to acknowledge they need care.
You’ve been given a magic wand, what is your first spell? I’d cast a spell that allowed everyone to see themselves like their best friends see them. Then people would walk around, proud, happy, loved and aware of the magic they’re capable of creating.