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I started in college after one of my friends pursuing photography asked me to model for him. I had no idea what I was doing but decided to go for it. Once I started posting those photos on Instagram, I began to grow a following and quickly realized that it is a business more than anything. I became really passionate about it and started investing a lot of time into developing my audience, then joined a content group in Huntington Beach called AMP. From there, I focused more on YouTube and started growing other social media channels and I fell in love with content creation. By taking a leap of faith, I ended up leaving college and quitting my job with -$30 in my bank account to pursue this newfound passion and give it 100%. I'm glad I did because it changed my life.
It's been an exciting transition. At first, I was nervous as it's been a big step to leave the comfort of a group and go out on my own, but it's something that I wanted to do. I don’t want to look back one day and think, "well, what if I had tried it out?". I'm okay with the idea of failing as long as I know that I tried. So I moved to LA, left the group and it's been a great experience.
I'm standing on my own two feet, figuring things out and I have so much more time to invest in getting to know myself and my content better. It's been exciting and I'm excited about the future.
This year, I aim to dive back into acting and work on music. I also plan to travel more, work on my wellness brand Hugz and create more exciting content.
Growing up, my family didn't have the means to travel; we were focused on food, shelter, and necessities. So now, having the opportunity to travel more and document those experiences have been incredible and I've been lucky to have visited many places that have taken my breath away. The first time I went to the Maldives, I sat outside with my jaw on the floor. I didn't know how to process the fact that it was real and I was there. I've learned so much from every place I've visited and I'm grateful.
As a junior in high school at age 17, I ended up in the hospital and spent my entire summer there recovering. The long recovery process triggered panic attacks for the first time, which became a new mental health issue I had to learn how to handle. The experience made me think I should live with my mom for the rest of my life and never leave the house again. I soon realized that was my anxiety and I had to push past the fear and work through it. I found therapy and coping skills that worked well for me and started accomplishing my dreams. Being that close to death opened my eyes to the fact that although we all plan for our future, time isn't always guaranteed.
Since then, I have tried my best to live life to the fullest and learn from every experience so that one day I can look back and be proud of my life and everything I've accomplished.
I have struggled with depression, OCD, anxiety, and panic attacks from a very young age. I was severely bullied in high school, so my parents had to move me for safety concerns. For the longest time, there was such a stigma around mental health and I was afraid to talk about my struggles with friends because I felt like they would think it was weird and would distance themselves from me. Looking back just 5 or 10 years ago, people almost looked at mental health as though it were contagious. When I was young, no one I looked up to was talking about it, which made me feel like I was the only one struggling. It created this very isolated and lonely feeling which I think was more dangerous than anything else. So for me, it's very important to talk about to help destigmatize the conversation around mental health. Hopefully, talking about my story can help give strength to someone else struggling to hold on and follow their dreams.
One of my friends gifted me a weighted blanket a few years back and I noticed that it impacted me in a very positive way. I dove into the research about how weight calms your parasympathetic nervous system which has many health benefits such as reducing stress, anxiety and improved sleep. Unlike medication there are no side effects as it's a natural way to calm your body. Since a weighted blanket isn't very portable, I wanted to create something that was travel-friendly, affordable and cute. Expanding on the idea of being cute, I felt a stuffed animal would help to destigmatize the conversation even further and could be an emotional support friend. Each Hugz weighted stuffed animal has a birth certificate so that you can name it. We also worked very hard on the packaging to add to the experience of receiving one.
For every Hugz sold, I donate a percentage of proceeds to a Children's Mental Health Foundation in the hope to make a positive impact and give back to those in need.
Absolutely. For me it was trial and error to see what works best. Going to the gym is something I do to feel good and I've noticed I have way less anxiety when I’m consistently working out. Even going on a walk with my dog, putting headphones on and listening to music has significantly impacted me. I also have a mental toolbox for moments when I do have panic attacks where I practice deep breathing. I also love to place my Hugz weighted stuffed animal on my chest and let the weight calm me down.
For more follow Lexi on social media @lexihensler or visit the official Hugz website!
This interview has been edited and condensed for clarity.
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