“How does she do it all?” This Pride Month, we spoke with the self-proclaimed “bisexual female Mr. Rogers” on what it means to be a resilient human, especially in the face of adversity.
House of Wise went live on Clubhouse with Fiona Dawson, an Emmy-nominated and award-winning director, producer, writer, and host. She’s the creator of NOW with Fiona, which shares LGBTQ+ stories of kindness and courage.
Our head of content, Maria West, spoke with special guest Fiona Dawson on Clubhouse’s audio-only platform.
About the series
Our monthly series interviews successful women who seemingly have it all together. We want to know what’s going on behind the scenes. Here are our favorite highlights from our Clubhouse interview with Dawson.
Born to shine (and help others sparkle)
Dawson applied to an Oprah Network “host your own show” contest in 2010 with the idea to share positive stories and kindness in a sea of media negativity. Although that door closed (without a new car key under her seat), she decided to follow her dreams anyway. She quit her corporate social responsibility job and created her show, NOW with Fiona, that she still runs today.
“I didn't know how I was going to make it happen, but I just knew I had to,” she said. “I would rather take the risk and end up doing something else or ‘failing’ than have never tried in the first place.”
Then two years later, Dawson started documenting stories from transgender people banned from the US military. Her project got picked up by The New York Times, which commissioned her first documentary film, Transgender, at War and in Love (2015). But that wouldn't be her last project on the topic.
A proud, magical moment
When asked about her proudest moment, Dawson described standing on stage at The Castro Theatre in San Francisco when her second documentary, TransMilitary (2018), opened the Frameline Film Festival. The film took nearly seven years to make, but she never once felt the pull to give up.
As an independent filmmaker with insufficient funds raised, Dawson danced between financial management and working on a passion project. It was nerve-wracking to be creating a feature documentary with such significance, but it was worth every moment.
“When you find something in you that makes you tick, you can’t not do it,” she said.
She has a tattoo that reads verum ad te which means “be true to yourself” in Latin.
How Dawson practices self-care
Dawson says, “Self-care is being able to block your time and not be constantly distracted, especially with social media.” This means turning off notifications and being in control of when she checks email and social media. “Those are the things you get into your head.”
She also preaches this self-care tip we can’t hear enough: “Take care of your face!” Dawson turns to Clarins and has maintained a routine since she was 14 years old. She’s in her 40s and looks barely over drinking age, so it must be working.
Besides practicing A+ digital boundaries and tricking time, her self-care routine includes exercise, meditation, journaling, and reading.Must-reads:
- “Peace Is This Moment Without Judgment” by Dorothy Hunt
- The Miracle Morning by Hal Elrod
- Things Fall Apart by Chinua Achebe
She’s now working on a book of her own, Are Bisexuals Just Greedy?, which will cater to people who want to understand sexuality and gender better. The target audience also includes clueless but curiou people and family members of the LGBTQ community. It conveniently comes out right before the holidays on October 11, National Coming Out Day.
“Out of the lesbian, gay, and bisexual community, more than 52% of us identify as bisexual, but frequently we're assumed to be straight or gay depending on who we're seen with,” she said. “So as a bi person, you've got to be even more vocal of coming out of your identity. I see how the world is beginning to break away from this binary understanding of gender and sexuality.”
Your definition of “having it all” isn’t static
A house, money, nice cars — this is what Dawson used to think it meant to “have it all.” But with the help of meditative practices, she realized it’s about what’s inside her: “I choose to have it all today, regardless of what’s in my bank account. For me, that means peace inside and appreciation for the people and things around you.”
For the LGBTQ community, “having it all” is more about having fundamental rights. We’ve still got a far way to go with laws in business, housing, healthcare, and many more.Where to find Fiona Dawson
For updates on our next “How Does She Do It All?” audio interview series, follow House of Wise on Twitter and Instagram (@house__of__wise).
About Wise Women Wednesday: We ask: How does she do it? Every month we interview women who are juggling it all. This is our space for real access and insights into women who juggle kids/careers/life/advocacy . . . you name it.