I’ll admit, it’s easy to be “wowed”by Paola’s accomplishments. She retired at age 55 from a marketing career and traveled to 55 countries to interview women for her 5 books. When I met her at an art show in Northern California a few weeks ago, she was jetting off to Rome, Israel, and Dubai to present a Ted Talk about international women’s issues. She exudes confidence, passion and the power to move mountains to fund her books and philanthropic projects.
Please explain what you do and what you are working toward.
I am a photojournalist and author who has documented women’s lives in 55 countries and had 5 photographic books published about women who are working to make life better for their families and communities. Each book is a philanthropic project that benefits a nonprofit that is working worldwide to solve the issues in the book. My dream is that my book projects will increase people’s understanding of international women’s issues, and inspire others to collaborate to solve the problems that women and girls face everywhere.
What was the greatest challenge you had to overcome?
I had to learn how to do everything from scratch! I was not a professional photographer or writer. This is a second career for me and it began after almost 35 years in business. I had a million frequent flier miles and decided to take a sabbatical year to do only what I loved most (travel and photography) and wanted to learn next (about women in the developing world). That journey provided the content for the first book. BUT! I had no idea how to write a book, find an agent, find a publisher, arrange for a museum exhibit or a book tour. The only applicable expertise I had was marketing; otherwise, my learning curve went straight up!
Where is your favorite place for physical and spiritual rejuvenation?
Walking on Mount Tamalpais (near San Francisco) From my office, I can venture out onto the trails where redwoods and wildflowers grow, birds sing, and the cool air is pristine.
Have you had a woman mentor? What has she taught you?
I have interviewed hundreds of women and from them, I learned how to create an artistic, social and economic legacy. They, who are working so effectively to improve the future, are my inspiration and role models. A woman from Rwanda said to me, “Show people what we are doing. Show them we are worthy of respect. Show them how to march with us.” I hope my work does her proud.