The Fierce Me: An Immigrant's Journey of Self-Empowerment

By Mahal Hudson

This story starts in the year 2000, when I decided to impulsively restart my life in the wake of a broken relationship. I was naive but full of promise, and this opportunity turned out to be a “Golden Ticket” to travel into a world of great possibilities and opportunities—one that I could not even fully imagine at that time. You see, I came from a third-world country. I didn’t’ really fully comprehend what it meant to live in the Western world. “Disney World truly does exist!” I gasped, upon arrival.

I came to Canada from the Philippines 13 years ago to heal my broken heart, but I now know that this event was simply the catalyst to send me into flight—and I have soared high into a whirlwind of magical failures and awesome adventures. Along the journey, I came to understand that the world is truly vast, and this new, overwhelming perspective is a gift that I must continuously acknowledge and appreciate.

How did I gather the courage to leave my homeland? I did not let fear consume me….I kept home in my heart….I stayed grounded, and I never allowed “mediocre” to rule the day. Today, I am consumed with excitement for my life. Really! Every day I wake up knowing the world is my oyster.

Business Success from Humble Beginnings

I remember in my first year in Toronto. I struggled to fully express myself. I used to translate Tagalog in my head before any English words came from my mouth. At first, there was an internal pause button so that I could rewire my brain to avoid embarrassment—but I kept practicing. I worked hard, and I was nice to people. I remember the time that, because of my naivety, I did what I honestly thought should happen after I made an error in my job, even though it was a small infraction. I wrote a letter of apology directly to the director of the company. Management took notice of my conscientious nature, and my heart knows that this integrity has helped to propel my corporate career. I was later promoted to the company’s nonviolent crisis intervention and prevention trainer.

My corporate journey proved that anything is possible if we embrace the opportunities our business world offers with persistence, passion, and a code of ethics based on sincere honesty.

Love Knows No Barriers

I never thought I would marry a Canadian. A mixed marriage! I didn’t believe I could fall in love with someone from a “foreign” culture and background. Being a conservative Filipino Catholic made this “new world” difficult to navigate, especially when it came to relationships. (It was difficult enough back home!) Plus, we have different native languages….But I said to myself, “I’m on life’s joyride, a rollercoaster of experiences: from understanding the culture to learning a new language of love to embracing spirituality and true compromise in a partnership. We both decided that loving each other is a conscious choice every day. Growing old together is a gift and an adventure.

Finding the right partner made me realize that multicultural relationships do not limit our world through differences—they expand our horizons through diversity.


Entrepreneurship is not “All About the Money”

I grew up watching my parents run a family business, learning about entrepreneurship at a very young age. Money, people, transactions, the rewards of success, and the downfall of an empire—I lived it and I saw the suffering of loyal, hardworking people, whose jobs vanished into thin air. I and my four other siblings witnessed the highs and the lows of a businessman and the destruction of relationships. From debts to fear to anger to loss. But—oh, yes, there’s a big but—along with the ugly side of business came the seeds of possibility—seeing that people could build themselves up from humble roots. My uneducated mother managed to close thousands of deals. She taught me how to leverage my strength by treating others with respect and honesty–the two qualities she believes are essential for success. My father taught me to be meticulous; his trade carpentry was truly a work of art. He said, “Do the right things on the first try,” and, “Treat your job with passion and pour your best to mold a masterpiece—no matter what it is.” And so I did.

When my husband and I found ourselves struggling financially, I called upon the gifts of wisdom that my parents ingrained in me: I leveraged my strength and passionately treated my work as a masterpiece. In this new foreign land that I now call home, I become an entrepreneur. I started my own wedding planning and consulting business. It was so successful that I closed it eight years later—by choice—so that I could pursue other adventures.

Learning from the experiences of my parents—including their failures—revealed that we all have opportunities to grow through entrepreneurship, and the fruits of our labors are not always measured in dollars.

Live Your Life with Purpose

When I’m asked the secret of my success, I say it’s my sister Marilag. Her life taught me how to persevere. I took care of her; as the second eldest of five, I became my mother’s second hand and looked after my siblings at a very young age. Marilag could not speak, lived with seizures, and was dependent on others for care. My family was her voice, and I enrolled in college for pre-med because I wanted to find a cure for her. I didn’t become a doctor, but I continued on to master’s studies in clinical psychology, again to find that cure. I found myself travelling thousands of miles way to give her life a voice through work with children who suffer from intellectual disabilities. Through these efforts I found my true purpose in living: to foster the belief that nobody deserves a mediocre life. I stood firm and worked hard to take this message to as many people as possible and to live by this doctrine. It was not easy, and there was a language barrier. At times I was even stereotyped as a foreigner who does not know much. But I persevered.

From Marilag I learned that with purpose we can defeat fear, forge ahead in life, and find our true voice. It is from this place that our journey truly becomes a joyride!



Mahal Hudson is a leadership coach and entrepreneur. She immigrated to Canada from the Philippines at 25. Her first time in a foreign land, she saw this as her opportunity to honour her parents’ values about hard work and integrity—mediocre was not acceptable for Mahal. Her sister Marilag, who suffered from a life-long disability, has been her inspiration and fuels her passion about advocacy for youth with intellectual disability.  Mahal worked from the front-line to senior management in 13 years and later launched The Avant-garde Company, a global coaching firm that aims to invoke courage to break free from barriers and reach an optimum level of life. Visit

This article is a chapter from the book Transform Your Life! written by 60 real-life heroes and experts and available at,, and all ebook formats.

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17 Nov 2016

By Mahal Hudson