It wasn't just her hug that engulfed me; it was the sweet smell of roses. It may sound a little cliché, but the best way to describe AMMA, the hugging saint, is by categorizing her with purity and serenity. Sure, the rose petals kept in a bowl beside her may have contributed to the aroma, but I would like to think it's her passion for helping, curing and healing the world that influences her presence.Today the hugging saint embraced me. Richmond Hill's Sheraton Conference Centre was filled with throngs of eager attendees awaiting “darshan” (hug) from the ultimate inspiration. AMMA has raised over $48 million to "provide food for the hungry, homes for the homeless and hugs for the lonely," and continues to spread her mission while touring the globe. It was an emotional experience to be embraced by someone so passionate, whose only religious affiliation is love.
I wasn't the only media-loving AMMA fan in the audience: Kelly Cutrone was on hand as well. That's right - the head honcho of fashion PR firm People's Revolution, star of reality television series Kell on Earth and The City and author of New York Times Bestseller If You Have To Cry, Go Outside, was standing next to me. I should have been star-struck, but instead, all I could think about was how down to earth Kelly is. She greeted me warmly, recognizing my name from Twitter, introduced me to the Swajimi (AMMA’s helper) and proceeded to bring me into AMMA's embrace. After exiting the room with my token gifts from AMMA (an apple and Hershey kiss), Kelly and I chatted about People's Revolution and the hugging saint, social media and life.
While Kelly's spirituality is evident from her book, I wanted to hear firsthand how the PR maven connects her fashion PR Company to the hugging saint. Kelly explained, "fashion to me is really about art and beauty and it's about making a statement and communicating it." The connection to AMMA comes via Kelly's well-made connections in the media world. Rather than leave AMMA's publicity to niche spirituality publications, Kelly wants to bring her to the forefront of mainstream society. A PR girl with a true penchant for charity – we’ve found our match, ladies!
We also had a chance to chat about social media. As an avid Twitter personality with nearly 68,000 fans, Kelly said that social media has been really fun and an "amazing experience for me." She also noted that her employees thought of her as "grandma in the back on Twitter." By making her own social media presence, Kelly was able to remove the middleman and speak directly with her fans and followers. If you aren't following @peoplesrev yet, I suggest you do.
The inevitable reality television question could not be avoided, but Kelly and I didn't talk specifics. Instead, she told me that she does not regret making her life so public, even calling the decision to star in television shows "a really smart thing."
Kelly's appearance in pop culture television has contributed to her personal brand: mainly, her black on black wardrobe. Employees and fans have come to expect and treasure the black ensemble, and when she adds in a lighter shade, things get awry. Example: after returning to the office from a meeting with AMMA in a white shirt, employees and the crew from The City were absolutely shell-shocked.
My time with the spirits of today had to come to an end. Work was calling, and my journey to the peace and serenity of AMMA and her biggest fan, Kelly, was not able to last forever. I did take away two very valuable lessons. The first, just as the Swajimi told me, is to love. Throw out your preconceived notions and embrace the energy surrounding you. Donate your time and engage with others. The second lesson is that Kelly Cutrone is my ultimate female idol. She’s a mentor, a friend and an all-around joy to be around. Forget about what you’ve seen on television – in real life, she’s just like you and me, only cooler.
From Kelly to all The Hip & Urban Girls: Be Yourself. You’ve gotta be yourself.
Thanks again to Alanna Glicksman, reporting for The Hip & Urban Girl's Guide.
Please visit www.AMMA.org on how you can donate to one of the Relief Programs.