The Self-Love Radiance
We all know what it’s like to feel stressed, drained, overwhelmed, and downright dull—in other words, the opposite of radiant. In fact, while I was writing this book, our entire world was experiencing a life-changing pandemic that forced us to spend countless hours alone. Like it or not, this gave us a plethora of time to examine ourselves, on the inside and out.
So tell me: do you like what you see and love who you are?
I’m Angela Jia Kim—a retired concert pianist, beauty entrepreneur, single mom, and New Yorker. I’ve written the book you’re holding in your hands because I’ve come to believe that the blending of inner and outer radiance—a new and improved version of self-care—is the greatest act of self-love that you can practice. Self-love starts with knowing who you are so that you can radiate your authentic beauty, brilliance, and balance. Perhaps you’re successful at work, have a loving family, or think your partner is ideal; but without self-love, factors like burnout, stress, and the daily blues can sabotage your best intentions.
Enter: Radical Radiance.
Why do I call this Radical Radiance? People always think “radical” means “extreme,” but the word actually comes from the Latin word radix, meaning “root.” We are going to go to the root of who you are and do deep inner work on your soul’s essence for a visible vibrant glow. My own discovery of radiant self-love began with skincare, but it goes further and deeper than that. My Korean mother taught me to treat my skin like the most expensive silk on earth, which is a beautiful first step toward teaching self-love. The skin needs exfoliation, detoxification, purification, and nourishment—as do the deepest and most sacred parts of your soul. The good news is, my experience and research with thousands of women have shown me that everyone has the ability to discover inner and outer radiance. When you illuminate your most authentic self that shines from every pore of your being, you create a magnetic force that’s irresistible and attractive. Together, we’ll nourish your glow to bring about all the abundance, love, and joy that you not only crave, but deserve.
I have been studying radiance my entire adult life as a performer and now as the founder of a skincare and spa brand. I teach thousands of women the Korean philosophy of always going to the root cause of their skin issues instead of heaping on makeup to cover what they perceive as flaws. It’s the same process with your soul, but because it’s invisible to you, it’s easy to ignore root issues and cover blockages with self-sabotage. We think our inner energy is invisible to others even though it’s in and around us, but it affects the way we live, how we manifest, and how we connect with ourselves and others.
To get to the root, then, we need to prioritize self-love and cultivate rituals to nourish our inner radiance. In this book, we will carve out time for self-love adventures, self-care sabbaticals, exploration playdates, inspiration getaways, creativity excursions, and frequency equilibriums. We will also use everyday emotions to remind us to nourish our inner radiance with self-love. When we feel down, irritated, upset, angry, stressed, or anxious, this serves as a reminder that our soul craves love as much as the body needs water. Self-love is not selfish, nor is it vain. It’s the most generous act of care that we can do for ourselves, our lovers, families, and friends. In the warmth of self-love, our authentic being lights up and kindles love for others. This ultimately allows us to give from a cup that overflows with a lit-from-within quality.
A Bit About Me
So how did my personal philosophies and teachings come to be? At my foundation, I absorbed the traits I admire most in my parents. My dad, who passed away when I was thirteen years old, epitomized productivity and came from a long line of ancestors who manifested tremendous success in Korea and the United States. My mom had four sisters, all of whom embodied “skincare is self-care,” a Korean beauty manifesto. Together, I managed to marry Dad’s drive and Mom’s beauty philosophies to create a multimillion-dollar business called Savor Beauty + Spa, based in Manhattan.
Though I was groomed to become a concert pianist from the age of three, it took many more years to stumble on my true calling as an entrepreneur and women’s thought leader. One of my “Aha!” moments happened while on tour before a piano performance; I put a “natural” lotion on my body and broke out into horrible hives in front of hundreds of people. It was a humiliating experience. After the recital, I saw that the ingredients were full of chemicals. As a fun hobby and antidote to my problem, I decided to start making creams and beauty oils in my kitchen. As I’ve mentioned, if my dad’s family taught me work ethic, my mom taught me to love skincare. She was always using beautiful face creams sent to her from Seoul that were made from pigeon poop, silkworm cocoons, and gold flecks. I knew, however, that there were a lot of toxic ingredients in these formulas. Because I was concerned about possible carcinogens and overall health, I wanted her to use antiaging skincare that was effective and organic.
Making creams in my kitchen turned out to not only be healing for my skin, but also for my soul. For the first time in my life, I was allowed to make mistakes without serious consequences. All of my life at the piano, I had my teachers around me, correcting my errors and coaching me to play with perfection. During my solo piano career, I spent countless hours practicing passages over and over to be “perfect” on stage. If I did not perform optimally, I felt that too much was on the line: audience disappointment, criticism from all directions, and a dip in my self-worth.
Creating skincare, however, felt freeing. I could mess up, clean up, and start over. Being a concert pianist taught me dedication, perseverance, grit, and to strive for excellence—traits I applied to my skincare process but without the added pressure. After about a thousand tries (seriously), and with my mom as my muse, I began giving my creations as gifts to friends, who then bought them as gifts for their friends. My mom also gave them to her sisters, who loved the creams. As it turns out, I’d concocted the perfect face cream that even a Korean woman would covet!
As I became an “accidental entrepreneur,” I simultaneously burned out from the pursuit of perfection as a pianist. While pregnant with my daughter, Sienna, I gave my last performance, closed the piano lid, and realized that I craved rejuvenation. One month after I gave birth, I felt a sudden surge of creative energy. I opened a little holiday pop-up shop to showcase my skincare in Bryant Park, and while breastfeeding, I learned my very first business lesson: how to sell. At first, it felt humiliating. I was used to being courted as the star of the show, and now I was the cosmetics girl who was being rejected over and over again. There were many days that I’d retreat into my little kiosk and cry while hugging my little one-month-old daughter. I was lucky to have the support of Marc, my then husband, who encouraged me to keep going even when I felt like quitting. Ultimately, with a lot of perseverance, support, and determination, I eventually sold around $40,000 in creams that season, which gave me the confidence to open my first retail store and, eventually, a boutique spa in the West Village.
Going from pianist to entrepreneur proved challenging. With not enough money to open my first store (I put $60,000 on my credit cards), zero connections, and barely any experience, I felt just as lonely as I did as a solo musician. Only this time, I had mounting bills and new stresses. I didn’t have the proper funds or the time to go to business school, so I decided to gather other women in the same boat so that we could learn from each other. I put a post on Craigslist for a gathering in my living room, and women from all over New York City came and exchanged ideas, thoughts, and support. The group kept growing, and eventually it became a business organization called Savor the Success, which had hundreds of members, support circles, and virtual content to help women grow their businesses. These were women who wanted to launch their own businesses, and they wanted to learn from me, as they saw my beauty business grow from a hobby to a small company.
The skills I learned as a pianist—going from the practice room to the performance hall—took vision, discipline, courage, and resilience. These were the transferable skills that helped me launch my skincare business. I possessed a positive, upbeat, and inspired creative energy that other women were attracted to, and they wanted to learn the manifestation process from me. This is how I began hosting hundreds of manifesting workshops and conferences, and created a popular planner (now called Savor Beauty Planner: My Next 90 Days) that reflected many of the manifesting philosophies taught to me by my dad. This planner has helped over one hundred thousand women use their creative force to dream up and accomplish goals. The organizer was and continues to be the first of its kind to also help women focus on planning self-care every day.
I reached a point where I was spreading myself so thin, however, that I soon realized that I’d lost myself again, and I did not know how to handle the pressure of running two companies with employees and members—plus being an attentive mom to my young daughter, who needed me. My work ethic had turned into “workaholism.” I fell into a people-pleasing trap, and the familiar signs of burnout dimmed my light once again. It looked from the outside as though I was on top of the world. It seemed so glamorous and successful, but something felt very wrong. It was again clear that I needed to make a significant lifestyle change. So in 2018, with a thriving business and substantial platform under my belt, I made the heart-wrenching decision to let go of Savor the Success, the women’s entrepreneur organization, and focus solely on Savor Beauty and my employees. I knew that I needed to give back from a place of more authenticity and less approval. Like most scary decisions, I didn’t know what would happen, but I took small steps, listened to my intuition, and the right answers revealed themselves. I then began to focus more on myself and my own needs, through daily self-exploration and self-love rituals. I found that feeding myself and my soul in these ways gave me the balance and nourishment that I’d been craving all along.
The self-love rituals that you’ll find in the following pages are a collection of a lifetime of research, formulation, and trial-and-error experimentation. They are a culmination of everything I learned as a musician, entrepreneur, mom, lover, and mentor to teach countless women how to authentically access and celebrate their inner and outer beauty.
In 2020, I faced a triple whammy of challenges: the pandemic, a divorce, and the mandated shutdown of my spas for nearly six months. It was devastating to be stripped of the things that, years ago, I thought made me matter, the images that I thought made me worthy, and the happy wife / successful entrepreneur labels that I thought made me shine. What I discovered through the beauty of self-love (the new and improved version of self-care), however, is that I was okay without all these labels and masks. The miracles that came from consistently nourishing my radiance helped our e-commerce business to flourish and the divorce to end amicably (my ex is one of my good friends, to this day). And even though I found the shutdown one of the most lonely times in our history—as it was for many—I continued to feel whole and radiant.
When the pandemic began, New York City became a ghost town, and as a newly single mom, I stayed home like everyone else. I decided to create the twelve-week self-love program in this book. I even added to the soul-care rituals I’d planned to include, since I was now using and tweaking them to help me navigate my new reality with gratitude and grace. I hope the end result helps you through a revealing, transformative, and fun process that allows you to radiate an inner and outer beauty that is authentically you and yours.
How to Use This Book
Radical Radiance is dedicated to three months of self-love rituals and divided into twelve themed weeks. In my experience, after having led hundreds of women through my ninety-day Savor Success Circles programs using Savor Beauty Planner: My Next 90 Days, I’ve learned that we can focus on anything for ninety days. This is long enough to make a difference and short enough for you to change course, if needed.
As you work through the chapters, I recommend that you go in consecutive order since one week builds on the next. Each week also includes a few rituals for you to practice when you feel inspired; feel free to infuse one or two (or all) of them into your day and build from there. You can also customize the rituals to support your unique needs. Practice makes progress!
As you read through the book, you may also get the impression that I have everything pulled together, wrapped with a pretty, polished bow. One of my friends even called me the other day and said, “What am I doing wrong? Did I pull the short straw, or am I praying to the wrong gods? You seem to have it all figured out. What are your secrets?” Trust me, I have my fair share of down days, whether it’s navigating business challenges (the spa rebuild post-COVID has been as daunting as the mandated shutdown) or family growing pains. The answer to my friend was that in times of trouble, I always return to the bite-size and doable rituals in this book. You can do one of them, do all of them, come back to them, repeat them, curate them, customize them.
PRO TIP: I like to do most of my rituals at a beauty altar to feel uplifted and inspired. Rebecca Casciano, founder of The Sacred Beauty Collective, teaches how to create a designated space to practice inner and outer beauty rituals. Rebecca says, “To set up a beauty altar, you need a mirror, tabletop area, and decent lighting. Then add sacred objects, such as crystals, shells, and favorite photos of yourself, a family member, and/or your beauty muse. I like to have plants, flowers, candles, and incense on the altar or nearby, which I light before my makeup application. I believe that applying our makeup with intention can elevate it from a mundane beauty routine to a gorgeous self-love ritual!” I couldn’t agree more, and I also like to say empowering affirmations, listen to an inspiring talk, or just meditate and be.
Finally, I’d like you to prioritize self-love by planning to do the rituals rather than haphazardly squeezing them into your hectic day. Bake the rituals into your schedule by creating GCal reminders or using a planner of choice. Make yourself a priority. If you’d like to use the Savor Beauty Planner: My Next 90 Days as a complementary organizer to this program, you can find it at savorbeautyplanner.com. You will also notice that many of the rituals ask you to use optional beauty products, accessories, crystals, sticky notes, and pens. The ones you choose are entirely up to you and your preferences. You can find a lot of these products online and some of them at savorbeauty.com.
Ready to get started? Let’s roll up our sleeves and get to work, beauty!
Week 1. START WITH YOUR SKIN
There’s an old saying that goes, “As above so below, and so below as above.” Throughout time, astrologers have used this adage to explain that the stars and earth are inextricably linked in more ways than we could ever imagine: everything is interconnected. And in ancient Korean times specifically, the body and spirit were also considered one; it was believed that inner happiness was reflected on our faces and bodies. This may explain why Korean women have been working on their skin’s radiance from as far back as AD 918, when natural concoctions from safflower, apricot, and peach oils were used to remove age spots and add a glossy sheen to the skin.
My Korean mom was my muse when I began making lotions and potions in my kitchen as a hobby, before it turned into a bona fide skincare business. At seventy-something years old, Mom is proof that following a skincare regimen for long-lasting results is a marathon, not a sprint. After I created Savor Beauty’s signature Truffle Face Cream, she said, “Angie-ah, now my skin needs a syrup to put under the cream. Can you make one?” She meant “serum,” of course, and she would massage the potion I made onto her face, neck, and décolletage. Without knowing it, Mom was teaching me how to layer love onto my skin. Whenever she walks into the Savor Beauty spas in New York City, the entire team stops to get a glimpse of her radiance. The aestheticians study her face under the magnifying lamp and admire her skin’s youthful elasticity, refined pores, and smooth luminosity.
Copyright © 2022 by Angela Jia Kim