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Petra Nemcova shows us how beauty, kindness and hope triumph in the face of disaster.

Some of you may remember Petra Nemcova as the cover girl from the 2002 Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Issue. What you may not remember is that in 2004 Petra’s then-fiancé, fashion photographer Simon Atlee, was tragically killed in the tsunami that hit Thailand.

Petra miraculously survived by clinging to a palm tree and waiting for hours with a shattered pelvis, until she was rescued by helicopter – a fortunate but still horrific way to end any vacation.  In the wake of this news, I was forced to ask myself the question “How would I handle surviving the loss of a loved one?”  My honest answer:  Probably not very well.

And yet, in the wake of such tragedy, Petra managed to turn her ashes back into fire.

Today Petra’s great passion is working with the Happy Hearts Fund, a charity she founded to  “rebuild schools and restore  hope and opportunity in the lives of children affected by natural disasters.”   Since it’s inception Happy Hearts Fund has built/rebuilt 85 schools benefiting more than 46,000 children and 490,000 community members worldwide. 

I have met Petra only on a few occasions (we have friends in common) and what I can say from meeting her in person is this: Petra Nemcova is not your typical super model.

She is  authentic, friendly and kind, and travels through life with an unusual and undefinable love for people and life and the things that matter.  She is the beauty pagent queen meets the-girl-next-door who  grew up to become a humanitarian, a children’s rights advocate, and a role model global citizen. So yes, it is possible.

Somehow, against the odds, Petra Nemcova allowed neither fame nor fear to taint her inner spirit.  And therein lies the real power behind her beauty.

So the next time you come up against a challenge that seems impossible or unmanageable – whether it be the trappings of great success, or the devastation of a great loss, remember this:  YOU ARE NOT ALONE!

If you have even the smallest seed of faith, and a willingness to press on and keep loving, no matter how much it hurts, you will eventually find a light at the end of every tunnel.  And within that light resides a new world of possibilities, sitting there patiently, waiting for you to show up and claim it.

But you have to get there first. And no one can walk your journey for you.  And no one can feel your pain for you.

But people can share their their journey  with you.  And they can share their pain with you.  And oftentimes, it comes down to sharing these most delicate and important parts of life that makes all the difference between hard journey…and an impossible one.  Sooner or later we all become wayfarers of the soul in need of help to find meaning, purpose, and a way  forward through the 9/11 events of our personal lives.

Anyone who can inspire themselves to get through a seemingly impossible challenge eventually become the inspiration  for others to get through similar challenges.   And while the pain may not be erasable,  it is always redeemable.  Our pain is made sacred when we embrace it and endure it for the sake of love. It’s simply choice. And it’s the important thing I ever learned from a supermodel.

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