Advice From a Model Turned Activist

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I recently had the opportunity to go one on one with Katie Cleary. Katie is an international model, an award-winning producer and an animal welfare advocate who spends her time helping animals across the globe. She is the founder of Peace 4 Animals, a nonprofit dedicated to protecting wildlife and companion animals, and the creator of World Animal News, delivering breaking news to readers worldwide. She is currently working on her second documentary, “We Are One,” which highlights people around the world fighting to protect animals from extinction. I asked Katie about her journey to date, her best advice and how we can make the world a better place. While my interview series in Thrive Global focuses on my conversations with leading CEOs, athletes, celebrities, media personalities and influencers oriented around sharing thought leadership and advice, it is nice to have the opportunity on my blog to share thoughts from those doing interesting things a little more under the radar. Here is our discussion:

Adam: Thanks again for taking the time to share your story and your advice. First things first, though, I am sure readers would love to learn more about you. What is something about you that would surprise people?

Katie: I love playing sports and being active, enjoying the outdoors and nature. Running has always been a passion of mine and being in the ocean paddle-boarding keeps me centered, especially with my animal welfare work, it can get stressful. The ocean is definitely my place to unwind and be at peace with the world.

Adam: How did you get here? What failures, setbacks or challenges have been most instrumental to your growth?

Katie: It has been a long road. I began modeling and acting when I was 11 years old and had to develop very thick skin… there’s a lot of rejection in the business, but my passion was always to help animals and I wanted to use my platform in entertainment to give me a bigger voice for them. I worked on a few movies in Chicago and then moved out to LA and booked a couple shows. In-between work I would rescue animals and became more involved as I began dedicating my time to the cause. I then started my own animal welfare organization, Peace 4 Animals, began producing a documentary about animal welfare, and formed an animal news network in 2012, World Animal News. It’s eight years later and I couldn’t be happier, I’m living my dream of helping animals every day.

Adam: In your experience, what are the defining qualities of an effective leader? How can leaders and aspiring leaders take their leadership skills to the next level?

Katie: To be fearless, many people are afraid to take the next step. They are afraid of failure. If you don’t try then you will never know what could have been, and the answer will always be no. However, if you take a chance, you are one step closer to accomplishing your dreams. Leadership is taking the reins and running with it, having a passion and purpose to make a difference in this world for the greater good. 

Adam: What are your three best tips applicable to entrepreneurs, executives and civic leaders?

Katie: Take calculated risks. If you have an amazing idea that you think the world needs to hear about and you believe in yourself, never give up. You will never know if you don’t try, so go for it. If you are focused on making the world a better place and not on the material aspects of what you can gain, then you will always succeed. 

Adam: What is the single best piece of advice you have ever received?

Katie: Experience everything you can in life. Travel, see the world, live life to the fullest, love, don’t take everything so seriously and have fun along the way. Life is worth living! 

Adam: What is one thing everyone should be doing to pay it forward?

Katie: Everyone should be giving back to something they are passionate about. Pick one thing that you can do to help others, the planet, or animals. Focus on that one thing, and you can make change for the greater good. You don’t need money to make a difference in someone’s life, it’s about putting forth a little effort to help a person or animal in need. If everyone did just one thing a day to give back, this world would be an even more beautiful place than it is now. “Darkness cannot exist in the presence of light”-Jesus. Be the light in this world or in someone’s life. 

Adam: What are your hobbies and how have they shaped you?

Katie: My hobbies are helping animals, caring for, rescuing, finding homes for animals in need, that is what I find most fulfilling in life. I love traveling and experiencing different cultures, trying new and exciting plant-based cuisines with friends and relaxing on the ocean.

Adam Mendler