Loving Yourself First
I have the privilege to introduce your reigning Ms. Woman Alaska United States, Jennifer Aungeligue Cloud.
She is a survivor, an overcomer, a proud mama, and a lifelong adventure-loving Alaskan who strongly advocates for self-love. Her mission is to connect women with resources and create a community where they can find support in overcoming adversities and learn to love themselves first. She accomplishes this mission through her platform, LYF (Loving Yourself First). Every woman has a voice that deserves to be heard. Every woman has a truth she deserves to live. In order to find her voice and live her truth, she must believe in LYF.
Jennifer learned to love herself first after a long struggle to find her own self-worth. It was not a straightforward journey; it took a long time. After overcoming her own battles, she saw how prevalent the struggle for self-love was among other women as well, and she felt compelled to help these women. Everything starts from the inside—you need to love and support yourself first in order to love and support others. The way you love yourself shows others how you would be loved in return.
Jennifer was born and raised in Alaska, and she absolutely loves it. She now lives five minutes from where she grew up and where her parents still live. “My daughter and I love to spend summers camping, kayaking, hiking, and road tripping. Winters are spent snow machining, snowshoeing, traveling, or just snuggled up inside spending time with friends and family,” Jennifer added.
An accounts payable specialist who has been in finance for over 15 years, she also owns and operates a small business, selling clothing, skincare, and makeup. Jennifer loves her business because she is “able to connect and build lasting relationships with women from all walks of life. [She loves] helping them feel beautiful and remind them they should be proud of, compliment, and love themselves every day.”
She is not only a businesswoman but also the mother of a daughter who just started third grade and is in gymnastics three times a week. When I asked about her personal life and advocacy work, Jennifer stated that “Our days are very full, but we’re doing what we love, so we can’t complain. I’m currently recovering from a back injury, so I’m in physical therapy 2–3 times a week. The healing journey is a slow one, but I’m determined, with the help of my PT team and God’s will, to fully recover. I volunteer for Soroptimist International of Anchorage, which is a non-profit organization that focuses on women empowerment and education. We have an annual community baby shower, stocking stuffer event, and other events that we donate items to women in need. We also have several scholarships we let the community know about in order to help women continue their education. I’m an ambassador for Heart Reach Center Alaska as well. We serve our communities through several services such as ultrasounds, education, parenting support classes, and much more.”
When I asked how she balanced all her activities, she explained: “We all have the same 24 hours in a day, but it’s how we choose to use it that matters. I love people and love helping. I may sacrifice sleep at times for that, but to me, it’s worth it. We never get that time back, and any time that is spent serving others is well worth lost sleep. I keep everything scheduled in my phone. If I ever lost it, I’d be walking around like a headless chicken. Thank goodness for technology and the ability to have digital backups! I do focus on getting me time in as well. If I’m not taking care of myself, I won’t be able to help others. I’m also blessed to have the best support team of friends and family who are willing to help when I need. My amazing boyfriend is also great at taking care of things around the house or errands I can’t squeeze in, so I’m able to focus on taking care of myself and others.”
As women, we tend to put others first and taking care of ourselves second. However, it is essential to focus on self-care and chasing our own dreams. I asked Jennifer when did she decide it’s her time to shine? “I went through an emotionally abusive relationship, and it wasn’t the first one. This time was different. I was broken down to a point I didn’t really know myself anymore. I turned to self-help blogs, books, and God in order to start learning my own worth. I am starting [to learn] to love myself again. I made a promise to myself that I would never allow myself to be in such a terrible situation again. I made this promise not only for myself but for my daughter [too]. I made this promise so [that] she would see how strong her mama is, so [that] she could lead a life loving herself first. I made this promise to be a beacon of light for other women so [that] they can learn it’s possible to survive and overcome, that it’s never too late to start again! Pageantry opened my eyes so much. I never knew what it involved until my best friend asked me to do a pageant with her. I said, why not?! I have met so many amazing women through pageantry. It’s opened so many doors [for me] to be able to help others. I gained friendships I never knew I needed and friends that are like family now.”
What did you learn about yourself when you allowed yourself to shine, when you told yourself it was ok to chase your dreams and start a new chapter in your journey? “I learned that loving myself first is the beginning to everything. Loving myself opens doors. Loving myself opens my heart to be able to help others. I learned my worth and that the hateful words of others do not define me. I learned I am not a victim; I am not only a survivor, but I am an overcomer. We may be put in the darkest situations to be able to come out on top and shine our brightest,” Jennifer said. She added, “Once I allowed myself to know my worth and love myself, I learned to speak my truth. I learned that speaking my truth may help others and [that] we should never be silenced. We cannot live in fear of those who try to drag us down and tear us apart. Life is too short, and we need to live and love to our fullest.” What would Jennifer tell other women about allowing themselves to pursue their dreams and how to balance it all? “Do not be afraid of failing. Failing doesn’t mean it’s the end. Failing is a part of succeeding. Make sure to take time to love yourself and take care of you. If you love yourself, everything falls into place. Turn your dreams into plans and your cants into cans!”
Thank you, Jennifer, for sharing your story with me and allowing me to share with others!