Olivia: Hello everyone, and welcome back to Skin Stories. Heartfelt conversations, empowering stories and a touch of laughter brought to you by tbh Skincare.
Today we are joined by the remarkable Allira Potter. Allira is a proud Yorta Yorta person and their journey encompasses a wide array of talents and a deep rooted commitment to cultural awareness and empowerment. As a trained reiki practitioner, intuitive reader, energy healer, writer, model and empowerment and mindset coach, Allira's expertise spans various domains. Allira’s warm and witty personality, combined with their authentic approach to life, has garnered them a rising profile and a growing following. Their platform is a catalyst for change, advocating for cultural diversity, body positivity and mental wellbeing. Through engaging in educational content, Allira empowers women to embrace their bodies and love themselves unconditionally. In December 2021, Allira released their first book, “Wild and Witchy”, a powerful handbook that explores light, loss, spirituality, and women's intuition. Prepare to be enlightened as we delve into Allira Potter's fascinating journey, uncovering their wisdom, insights, and commitment to creating positive change.
Hello, Allira. Thank you so much for joining me on Skin Stories today.
Allira: What an intro. You look so pretty.
Olivia: You look so pretty. I love your brows. So good. Okay, Allira, gorgeous girl, my first question for you is how would your closest friends describe you in three words?
Allira: Oh, my gosh. Three words. They would probably say loud. They'd probably say annoying, but in the most beautiful way, because I'm just that friend that is always going to be there, pestering them, whether that's the good, the bad, whatever. And then I think, what have I said? Loyal, annoying, and...
Olivia: No, you said loud.
Allira: Loud. I said loud. Well, loyal. Loyal. I'm really, really loyal.
Olivia: Yeah, I get that vibe.
Allira: So they're probably my three.
Olivia: I love these three. And my next question, can you please tell us a bit about yourself growing up? What was your childhood like, and what did you imagine your adult life to be like when you were a kid?
Allira: Yeah. Oh, my gosh. The life that I'm living right now is literally everything that I manifested, but it's just so unexpected. Growing up, I had a single mum. We didn't have much money. It was just me and my sister. My sister has an intellectual disability. Mum passed when I was 17, so I feel like I had to grow up really fast in my teens. So, I think as a child, I was also really bullied as well for being that curvy kid and a person of colour and just all these little factors. So, my childhood wasn't the best. It was pretty challenging. Like most people, we all have those intense lived experiences. So, yeah, childhood wasn't great. And right here right now, I am literally just living the dream because when Mum passed, she was like, you are just destined for something really great. And I was like, yeah, cool, what am I going to do? I went straight into studying at Uni and now I'm this full time hustling boss woman who's just really thriving. I'm like the first person in my family to just sit on this really comfortable lifestyle that a lot of my family never got to experience. Yeah, so, I don't know, like, life's pretty bloody amazing.
Olivia: I love that for you. So proud of you.
Allira: Thank you.
Olivia: Now, today we're here to talk specifically about skin. We all know that our skin is intrinsically linked to our overall well-being and our feelings of self-worth. Can you tell us a bit about the relationship that you have with your skin and the history behind that as well?
Allira: So, we've got some good lighting here. My skin is pretty nice. I'm really lucky because I don't have acne, but what I do have is psoriasis and psoriatic arthritis. So, I have psoriasis that covers pretty much 80% of my body at the moment. And psoriasis, if you haven't heard of it, it's just having an overactive immune system where your body just builds on extra skin cells and those extra skin scales form little scabs and little scars that are pretty itchy, pretty annoying and can be just pretty debilitating somedays. And I also have psoriatic arthritis, so I get arthritis in my joints.
So, I'm in a flare up at the moment. It's really interesting that we're sitting here because I'm in pain, but I'm functioning. So, my relationship with my skin has just been waves. Just one day it's good, the next day it's shocking to the point where I now am on an injection every two weeks, a biologic injection to help my immune system function, because I don't have an immune system. So, if anyone's sort of sick, then I pick up on a bug really quickly because I don't have an immune system to fight anything. My relationship with my skin, it's challenging, but I'm functioning and I'm thriving at the moment in terms of being on this injection.
Olivia: How long have you been taking that? I don't think I knew that you were taking that. Is that new?
Allira: No, I've been on it for well over six years.
Olivia: Oh, wow.
Allira: Yeah. So over the last 12 months – we were talking about it yesterday where I was so burnt out last year that my body just wasn't functioning, it wasn't coping, and my psoriasis just blew up. It was just everywhere. So my GP or my dermatologist said, we're going to change your injections from once a month to every fortnight because your body's not coping. And I was like, okay. And that's just my way of living at the moment. Like, it's not the end of the world, but there are days where it feels like it's the end of the world because I just can't function sometimes.
Olivia: Yeah, it must be challenging.
Olivia: We were saying before how obvious it is when your body's going through something, it shows through your skin. I think it took a long time for me to realise that with my acne that it was so linked to stress. Like you were saying you had a flare, a big flare up when you were burnt out.
Olivia: Do you notice that happening regularly?
Allira: Yeah. I'm sitting here now thinking, yeah, I'm feeling a little bit tired. I can tell. My skin's really itchy on my legs and I just want to scratch it and that's an indicator for me to be like, okay, you need to take a step back and self-care. You need to have a warm bath, you need to put cream on, you need to just chill for a minute. So, if I'm not thriving internally, then my externals say you need to stop.
Olivia: Alarm bells.
Olivia: Can you please share some of the challenges you faced when it came to seeking diagnosis, treatment or understanding your skin condition?
Allira: So, people don't know this. It was a nightmare for me to get on these injections. Initially, when I first got diagnosed with psoriasis, it was right after when Mum passed away. I started experiencing all these little scabs just popping up. And I was like, oh, it's dermatitis. It’s probably a soap that I'm using.
Then it got to a point where my doctor would say try some steroids, like all of those things, and they weren't working. He referred me to a dermatologist, and they said this is psoriasis and it’s probably going to get worse before it gets better. And I was like, “Are you kidding me?” It's already all over my elbows, it's on my knees, all those dry spots. The only solution at the time was, here, have some steroid cream. Try that. And if you know what a steroid cream is, it's not the best thing in the world, because when you stop using it, your body just flares up because it's so used to it. So that was the solution at the time.
It then got to a point where the psoriasis ended up covering about 90% of my body, but not on my face, but everywhere else. So, I was covered up. I was not going to the gym. I wasn't doing all those things because I was so self-conscious of people being like, what's that? What's with your skin? What's happening?
They ended up putting me on oral medication, which knocked me. This oral medication that they give you is the same that they give for people who are going through cancer treatment. So you could imagine, I was taking this tablet and I was knocked out for five days of the week. I had to fail that and I had to prove that it wasn't working to be able to actually go on these injections. So, I had to go on this oral medication, show them it wasn't working and then they were like let's try these injections. I had to go on three different injections over the course of like three years, until I found the right one. So, it has been a journey, but if I didn't go on that journey, I wouldn't be here right now with most of it cleared up with the odd little breakout here and there due to stress.
Olivia: That sounds like a nightmare.
Allira: It's a nightmare.
Olivia: It's so frustrating when someone's telling you to try something that you know isn't going to be right for you, but you still have to stick with it.
Allira: Exactly. Anytime I speak about it on socials, I have some people message and say try this miracle cream, it worked. And I was like, the miracle cream is not going to work because it's an internal thing for me with my autoimmune disease.
Olivia: Isn't it amazing how many experts there are on social media?
Allira: So many experts on social media.
Olivia: We love unsolicited advice.
Now, you have already said that it did, but having psoriasis obviously did affect your self-esteem and did it affect your body image as well? How did you cope with the negative feelings that came with that?
Allira: Yeah. There was a solid two or three years where I would only wear long sleeve tops even in summer because I was so self-conscious. I would always wear long pants, would never go to the gym or anything like that. I just wouldn't show my body because I was just waiting for someone to be like, “what's wrong with your skin?” Or “what's this?”. I would always feel on edge or if I was meeting you for the first time, I'd be like, “oh, sorry, excuse my psoriasis”.
Olivia: You want to point it out before someone else.
Allira: Exactly. I just want to tell you before you bring it up. So, it really affected my body image to the point where I felt like crap. I just didn't feel like the version I am right now. So, it was really challenging and it got to a point where I had to really challenge my mindset. I had to be like, it's okay, you may not be able to change this, you're just going to have to ride the wave and you're just going to have to accept it.
Olivia: I find with acne, when I had it on myself, the way that I spoke to myself was so cruel. But if I saw it on someone else, I would feel compassion towards them and never think they look disgusting. I feel for them because I know how it feels.
Did you find that if you saw someone else with psoriasis, you wouldn't think that they were gross or should be embarrassed, but you feel that about yourself?
Allira: Yeah. Any skin condition I would be like, I get it. I totally get it. The eczema, the dermatitis, acne. I so get it. It's annoying. It's debilitating. It's frustrating because you just have to try and justify to people as well, too. It's frustrating.
Hey, guys. Founder Rach here. It's time for a quick break in this episode because I want to give a shout out to tbh Skincare's incredible mental health partner, ReachOut Australia. ReachOut Australia have amazing online resources. They cover everything from how to deal with acne or confidence problems through to sexuality and other challenges that young Australians face. So, if you're not sure where to turn to, definitely go and check out Reachoutaustralia.com. They've got some really amazing online forums there as well where you can connect with other people who might be going through something similar to you. As part of celebrating the amazing work that ReachOut Australia does, we are going to be donating $1 from every single order in September on tbhskincare.com to this incredible organisation.
Okay, it’s time to get back to today’s episode!
Olivia: Now, I know you said that you've got the injections, but have you also discovered any skincare routines or products that have helped to manage your psoriasis effectively as well? Are there any specific ingredients or practices that you swear by?
Allira: Honestly, less is more. That's the thing that I learned. I think that's what I had to really change my mindset at the start because I always thought lathering myself in so many creams and ointments was going to fix it. But less is more. I have to do things to calm my nervous system so it doesn't flare up as well too. I do the ice baths, I do saunas, I do all those crazy things because they help me internally and externally. I am obviously on the injections and I'm never going to come off them because they help me in every aspect and it gives me the best quality of life. But less is more. I just feel like calming products are probably the best thing, but otherwise less is more, like, literally nothing.
Olivia: It's so interesting we have such different skin and different conditions, but it's the same sort of thing. When I was using too many actives and punishing my skin, it hated me for it. So, stripping it back and back to basics is the way to go.
Allira: Exactly. And you think that all those active ingredients and all those crazy treatments, they're going to work, but no. The other thing that I found useful was doing the red light therapy as well. The light therapy really helps calm down my skin. That’s going to be different for everyone, but that works for me. I also work with a naturopath as well, but that's just like the internal stuff.
Olivia: Well, it's the whole thing.
Allira: Yeah, exactly.
Olivia: What are some memorable reactions or comments from others that you've had about your appearance and how did you handle those situations?
Allira: Oh, my gosh, so many. Is this on a skin level or like a body image?
Olivia: Can be both. Whatever comes to mind.
Allira: I remember with my psoriasis, I remember with one of my friends, we met this new person, and I remember I could hear her saying “oh, she wears her long sleeves because she has psoriasis” to this random person. And I was like, “Why would you say that? Why would you do that?” That's so unfair. Like, what the hell? That really affected me because that's when I realised that, oh, people can actually notice my skin. That’s when I was like, no long sleeves. Now I wear shorts, I wear T shirts. I'm only wearing a long sleeve now because I wanted to wear this top.
Olivia: And it's cold outside.
Allira: Yeah, exactly, it's freezing. But yeah, that was a memorable moment. I've had lots of comments growing up, being a First Nations person as well, where a lot of women in particular, and you'll all be shocked by this, but I've been in rooms with white women who have said, you are so pretty for a First Nations woman or an Aboriginal person. I just remember standing there being like, is this person for real?
Olivia: They really think that it's a compliment saying it like that.
Allira: I just remember speaking to other First Nations women and being like that's the norm. They think it's okay. And I'm like, that's casual racism. We can't do that. And that really affected my body image, too, because I thought I had to look a certain way and act a certain way to fit into whatever society. So, I think those two moments are probably the most pivotal for me. They really affected me. I still cop it now with some people being like, “oh, my God you speak so well for an Aboriginal”, or, “you look so pretty”. And it's like, wow, that really affects someone's overall body self-esteem and just general mental health. It's nuts.
Olivia: You do such amazing work. Breaking the stigma and talking about that as well.
Allira: Yeah, completely.
Olivia: It must be so hard.
Olivia: Now, I'm excited to ask you this question because I know how important self-care is for you. What role has self-care played in your journey with your skin and overall body image? Are there any particular self-care practices or rituals that you find beneficial.
Allira: I love self-care, and I tell everyone you need self-care because if you're not self-caring, you're not going to be the best version of yourself. For me, it's number one. Honouring my boundaries and saying no more than I'm saying yes. I know that's like a verbal thing to do, but it helps with overall self-care. I do my ice baths. I do my saunas. I go to the gym every day because that's a non-negotiable. I have to have some form of body movement. I also journal every single day – anything that I'm feeling, anything that happened, because that's just me releasing my emotions. They're my little self-care things that I do every single day.
Olivia: I love that. And how do you think that that has helped your body image?
Allira: It’s helped keep me really grounded and helped me to accept that I'm an amazing person and I don't need to change anything. So just those little things, they fill my cup a little bit.
Olivia: I love that. Now, you mentioned feeling self-conscious about your skin. How did you go from being in that place mentally with your skin to where you are now? I know we've sort of touched on self-care. Can you tell us a bit more about that journey?
Allira: I just started living for me and not for other people. That's where I got to, especially in my 30s. When you turn 30, you'll know what I mean. It is the best.
Olivia: It's definitely something that comes with age. Caring less about what other people think.
Olivia: It can be hard, though, with social media. I feel like we're often faced with more comments and criticism than your average person. It's just part of the nature of the beast, I suppose. How do you deal with negative comments that you receive online?
Allira: When I first started receiving the comments, I would take everything on board and be like, “oh, my God, I need to change because these people don't like me”. Now I'm at a point where I'm like, that's your insecurities, you're projecting onto me right now. I've done nothing wrong apart from showing up on social media. So, I think when people project that stuff, that's on them. The way that I handle it right now is probably not the best way, but I'll comment back and be like, are you okay? Are you okay that you took five minutes out of your day to write that really mean thing? If you feel good, then great, but I'm going to sleep even better at night because this is not affecting me whatsoever.
Olivia: I love that.
Allira: Kill them with kindness.
Olivia: Love that. What's your advice to people on how they can take small steps to being more comfortable in their skin?
Allira: I like this. So first things first, it's going to be really uncomfortable, but you have to get uncomfortable to get comfortable within yourself and your skin especially. The thing that helped me with my mindset was that I would wake up every morning and you know when you're getting out of the shower and you're putting on your moisturiser and you're brushing your hair, I was having these moments where I was just standing in the mirror and just saying affirmations. Just saying I am beautiful, I am powerful as I'm putting on my moisturiser and I'm doing my hair. I found once I was doing that every single day, I was setting myself up for positive expectations on my body. So that's the best bit of advice that I can give to someone. Just say positive affirmations to yourself because the way that you speak to your best friend, you tell them how beautiful they are and how amazing they are. Do that to yourself. It's going to make you feel amazing.
Olivia: You can sort of trick yourself into believing it the more you say it as well.
Allira: Yeah, exactly. And then when people say “oh, you're so confident”, it's like, yeah, I am, because I just affirm to myself that I'm bloody amazing.
Olivia: I love it.
What do you think your relationship with your skin is like? Can you explain your relationship with your skin?
Allira: Right here, right now, the relationship is really good because we're just co-existing together and everything feels great. Back 10 years ago, different story. I hated my skin, I hated myself, I hated my body. But now we're working together to make sure that I'm functioning as a human being. So, the relationship is really good and I had to realise there's no miracle treatments. I'm stuck with an autoimmune disease for life. Like, that's it. So, that's what I had to come to terms with to be like, we're just going to have to work together on this. There's no miracle cure, and I'm going to have to be on these injections for life and that's okay.
Olivia: So a lot of acceptance and self-love.
Allira: A lot of self-love and a lot of acceptance.
Olivia: What's the best compliment that you've ever received?
Allira: I feel like when people say “you're amazing”, that's enough for me to take a step back and be like, yeah, I am, because I've come from nothing to something amazing. I feel like I'm the best version of Black excellence in my family at the moment. When people say you're amazing, I'm like, “I know”. I'm doing so much and it's so great and it's crazy.
Olivia: I love that. I feel like I've said that after everything you've said today.
If you could go back and give your 16 year old self one piece of advice, what would it be?
Allira: Show up for you. You don't need to go on these crazy diets. You don't need to change anything. And the people that are bullying you, that's a reflection on them. Take it as a grain of salt. I wish I could go back and tell her all those things, but also there's a part of me that's, like, if those moments didn't happen, then I probably wouldn't be as resilient as what I am now.
Olivia: Yeah, that's so true. It's hard. You don't necessarily want to change your experience because it does shape who you are.
Allira: We could be a little bit nicer to ourselves as we were teenagers, but also we could have been nicer to the people around us as well, too. I remember in high school, getting bullied. I have my bullies and I still call them my bullies. They message me on Instagram and say “we are so sorry for the way that we treated you”. I remember I got this massive essay from one of the ‘popular girls’ saying, “I'm so sorry for the things that I called you. I'm so sorry for segregating you from everyone and just being, like, a real mean human being”.
Olivia: Can I ask, is that only since you've had a profile?
Allira: I just sat there and I thought I'm not responding to you. I'm not giving you validation right now. You're a mean person and that affected me. It's since I got a profile that all these people come out of the woodwork to say “I'm so sorry”. And it's like, what are you scared that I'm going to go and talk about it on a podcast? Because I will.
Olivia: Here we are.
Allira: Because it's damaging. So, just be kind to other people.
Olivia: And not for anything else.
Olivia: It's sad. Where were you before you had a profile? Why didn't they apologise to you before that?
Allira: Why didn't you just not be a bully in high school? Simple.
Olivia: It's not that hard.
Olivia: We finish the interview today. You step outside the studio and you find a lottery ticket that ends up winning $10 million. What would you do?
Allira: Woohoo. You would be kidding yourself if you're not going to say that you're going to take some of that money.
Allira: I will probably buy a couple of properties. I also feel like I would give back to my community and give back to my family because I just wouldn't be the person I am today without my community. So, I think 100% I'm taking a little bit of that cash, but also it's to give back.
Olivia: Love that. Thank you so much, Allira. I always love chatting to you. You know that. You've been amazing and yeah, thank you for sharing your journey.
Allira: Thank you for having me.
I can't stay motivated. My parents expect too much from me. I'm really worried about money. What are the signs of depression? I'm worried I'm going to fail my exams. Am I in a toxic friendship? I can't handle any more school pressure. I need to move out, but I can't afford to. I'm worried about my friend. How do I know if I'm having a panic attack? I don't know who to talk to. When life doesn't go as planned, search Reach Out - a safe online place to chat anonymously. Get support and feel better.
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