WAF’s Whirly Girl: Liza Figueroa Kravinsky

Liza Figueroa Kravinsky If you caught Monday’s post, you know that I’m starting a regular feature called Woman at Forty’s Whirly Girls. WAF’s Whirly Girls are women in their 40’s who are innovators, risk takers and who’ve chosen the road less traveled. One of the first WAF Whirly Girl’s I had the privilege of interviewing was Liza Figueroa Kravinsky. Liza’s the award winning filmmaker whose documentary, Beauty: In the Eyes of the Beheld, explores the curses and blessings of being beautiful. She’s also President of the video production company Art Palette Productions, a music composer, and actress. (Photo: Liza Figueroa Kravinsky)

I was curious about Liza’s experiences as a filmmaker and entrepreneur, especially after she responded to a question I’d posted on WAF’s Facebook page about being laid off. Having experienced three lay-offs over the course of my career and trying desperately to “rise from the ashes” I was curious as to how other women handled their suddenly-unemployed status. Liza responded that she’d been laid off twice, but that it “always led to something better.” I wanted to hear more. Here’s some of what Liza and I talked about…

On Beauty In the Eyes of the Beheld and society’s perception of beauty

Liza explains that back in the Philippines her grandmother had been a famous beauty and she grew up hearing stories about how beautiful her grandmother had been in her youth.  In making the film she wanted to explore societal notions of beauty and found that while beauty can get you more – more jobs, more attention – the foundation is often shaky and transient. She found that as women age, the ones who relied the least on their physical beauty were the most secure and happy – they’d learned to rely on “the assets that don’t fade.”  She also found that while women in their 20’s had less of a story to tell, women in their 40’s gave the most interesting interviews, having lived and experienced more. Another fascinating take-away from the whole process was learning that beautiful is a “bell curve with lots of variation.”  Liza wrote about her experiences while working on the film in her own blog post, The Definition of Beauty.

On being fired – twice – and it leading to her doing what she loves

I asked Liza about her response to my lay-off question. She explained that her first firing occurred while working as a graphic designer. She’d been working tons of overtime without getting paid for it and was fed up. When they fired her she saw it as a good thing and began concentrating on her music and studio work. In 1988 she went on tour with Stacy Lattislaw as her keyboarder and later collaborated with artists such as Prince and Trouble Funk. Her music appears on a compilation album, “Octaves Beyond Silence,” which includes works by the Indigo Girls, Ani Difranco and Me’Shell Ndegeocello. Of that time in her life she says, “when you’re pushed off the cliff you’re forced to swim. Your entire life becomes a mid-life crisis.” At 30 Liza tried to “become practical again.” That didn’t last long. She was fired – again – which eventually led to her becoming a music composer for TV and film. She’s worked as a video producer and composer for American Film and Video in Silver Spring, Maryland and assistant editor at Townhouse Post Productions in Washington DC.

On being a woman at 40

At 40, Liza says that despite taking the creative path, she still felt insecure. “My choices weren’t rewarded by society, and my success wasn’t obvious.” But it was at 40, when she’d all but given up on men, that she met the man who would become her husband. Now at 48 she wishes she could be less reliant on her accomplishments to feel happy, but feels confident and realistic about her strengths and weaknesses.

On advice to other women contemplating taking the road less traveled

What advice would she give women at forty? “It’s not comfortable, but it’s worth it.” Choosing to do “it”, whatever your “it” may be might be the greatest challenge of your life, but it’s one worth facing. As for the rejection that’s bound to come with choosing this path, Liza says she isn’t paralyzed by it and quotes one of her favorite books The Artist’s Way“Once you take the leap, the net appears.” She encourages women to move out of their comfort zone. “Make it part of the plan.” And she recommends, “have a practical plan.”

Special thanks to Liza for taking the time out of her demanding schedule for the interview and for being a personal source of inspiration.

To learn more about Liza and Beauty: In the eyes of the Beheld, visit her website www.beautydocumentary.com and check out her blog here. If you’re a Whirly Girl, or know a Whirly Girl who’d like to be featured in a future post, email your information to contribute@womenatforty.com with “Whirly Girl” in the subject line.

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