Embracing Autism: Lisa D. Valerio’s Jean Journey
Honoring Autism Acceptance month this April just days before Mother’s Day, gives us the opportunity to build awareness about autism AND to recognize an incredible mother, autism activist and Democracy Clothing jean lover, Lisa D. Valerio. We’re proud to share Lisa’s story of autism acceptance in her own family and of co-creating the Fenixia Foundation and the Punta de Gloria Resort to bring resources and opportunities to thousands of autistic and special needs children and their families in both the Philippines and the US.
As a brand founded on the principle of Curve Equality and Size Inclusivity, we recognize the importance of embracing people for their differences and helping to elevate their confidence. Lisa embodies the Democracy values so completely, showing visionary leadership as a mother who has embraced her child’s differences and taken action to help him and others with special needs to thrive.
There is much work to be done in the area of disability acceptance and creating a world in which all people can reach their full potential. We hope the comfort and confidence Lisa gains from wearing Democracy Clothing can play a small part in supporting her mission and that we can help amplify Fenixia Foundation’s message to “Help Every Flower Bloom”!
See what Lisa has to say about her life and journey:
Where do you call home?
Palm Desert, CA & Davao City, Philippines
Tell us some things about you!
I’m a Philanthropist and Advocate with a focus on children's welfare and education, as well as the rights of individuals and families touched by autism. Most importantly, I’m a mom to an autistic son, Nathan, wife, daughter, sister, and friend – all of which give me drive, inspiration and passion in life. During my downtime, I love to travel, cook, entertain and spend quality time with family and friends.
At Democracy Clothing, we’re all about looking good and feeling good while doing good. What’s the “good” you’re doing in the world?
I’m on a mission to help autistic and other special needs children access resources so they can thrive. My passion to provide a livelihood for those with all abilities, including my son, inspired my husband and I to build the Punta De Gloria Resort in Samal Island, Philippines. We’ve also leveraged the resort as a venue to provide outreach services to underserved families with special needs in partnership with the Fenixia Foundation, which I founded. It’s literally a dream come true!
The Fenixia Foundation’s mission is to help children realize their potential, help families support their kids, and help caregivers and educators develop their capacity to make a positive difference in children's lives. My work with the Autism Health Insurance Project helps ensure that families and individuals get medical coverage for autism-related healthcare services. Additionally, I bring my personal experience as a mother and advocate as a volunteer for Wings Learning Center, a school for children with autism.
What pearls of wisdom do you have for other change-making women?
Let the passion in your heart and the fire in your belly lead you. Surround yourself with those who love and support you, but are willing to provide honest and sound advice.
What’s your biggest challenge when it comes to finding clothes that look good and feel good?
I’m 5 ft and 3.5 inches and long-waisted, with short big legs, a small waistline, and thighs. I have struggled for years finding jeans that fit. But then I discovered Democracy Jeans and couldn’t be happier. FINALLY, I have jeans that look good, feel comfortable and I can wear all day without counting the minutes until the end of the day to get out of my clothes and into something more comfortable.
What’s your favorite Democracy jean and what do you love about it?
I can’t pick one favorite - I seriously love all the items I’ve purchased from Democracy. But, I do tend to gravitate to my “Ab”solution Colored Ankle Skimmer Pants and my “Ab”solution Ankle Skimmer jeans with destruction.
Democracy's core values are to embrace who you are, enhance what you got, elevate your confidence, and evolve your personal style. What advice do you have for becoming more comfortable and confident with who you are? How have you embraced who you are at this stage of your life?
For me, confidence has been an evolution over the years becoming comfortable with the unique shape of my body. When I’m wearing clothes that fit, I always feel more comfortable in my skin and a boost to my confidence. There’s nothing worse than needing to shift or pull at your clothes throughout the day because they don't fit.
I’m now 51 and have grown and developed tremendously these past 30+ years in my career and personal life. The age of 45 was pivotal for me. It is when I can truly say I embraced who I am as a person and knew what I wanted to accomplish in the years ahead. Since then, I have been able to more easily adapt to change. I’m better at being in the now and I’m not constantly worrying about what the future holds.
What are you most proud of?
I’m most proud of my son Nathan. He’s opened my heart and mind and given me the opportunity to view people, places and things in such a way that I had never seen before. He has taught me to realize what really matters and is truly important in life. His energy and smile drives me and gives me the passion in my heart and the fire in my belly to help others like him and their families.
Where do you hope your jean journey will take you next?
Growing Fenixia Foundation globally, building an adult program for my son Nathan and others, providing more services and opportunities for our guests at Punta De Gloria Resort, traveling and spending quality time with family and friends. I can't wait to proudly wear Democracy jeans throughout this journey.
There is so much empowerment and comfort in being accepted for who you are, just as you are. Lisa’s work is a shining example of how a mother’s love can transform a community and make the world a better place. We’re so excited to watch what she does next to enrich the lives of autistic children and other children with special needs and are delighted she’ll be going on more adventures in her Democracy jeans.
If you’d like to learn more about Lisa’s autism acceptance work with Fenixia Foundation and about the Punta de Gloria Resort, check out their websites and follow them on social media (handles @fenixiafoundation and @puntadegloria).