Driven and intrepid, Wendy Nguyen is using the massive platform spurred by her style blog, Wendy’s Lookbook, to speak out about the foster-care system, sexual abuse, and CBD’s therapeutic benefits to affect change, initiate difficult and crucial conversations — and even improve lives.
I had three jobs in high school. I worked in the school cafeteria from 5:45 to 7:45 a.m. every morning, at Jamba Juice on the weekends, and as a weekly math tutor from 6 to 9 p.m. at a local community college. But I’ve been in love with fashion since I was 8, when I held my first fashion magazine. After college, I worked in finance but always looked at fashion forums at night. After five years in banking, I left; soon after, I started my blog, Wendy’s Lookbook. I’ve been a content creator for almost 10 years now, and I love every minute of it.
How did you build your immense following?
My YouTube channel grew mainly because one of my videos went viral. “25 Ways to Wear a Scarf” has more than 40 million views, and my YouTube channel has over 94 million views. This jump-started Wendy’s Lookbook. As more social media platforms popped up, my audience joined my journey on Instagram, Pinterest, and so on. Currently, I have more than 2 million readers and viewers across platforms.
You’re candid about your hard childhood. What compels you to share about that?
I was placed in foster care at around 15 years old, and truly feel that the foster-care system is broken. People are generally not familiar with it. I was teased in high school for being a ward of the court. Even at the beginning of my blogging career, whenever I mentioned foster care, I had comments from people thinking I was a bad kid or a runaway. The foster care system does not adequately prepare young people for emancipation. When I was in the system, my social worker said, “30 percent of you will be homeless, 30 percent will be incarcerated, 30 percent will become pregnant, and 10 percent will maybe make it.” These figures are unfortunately the reality for many foster-care youths. If we dig deeper, we can see why young people are placed in foster care; abuse, neglect, and abandonment are the main reasons. I try to contribute to the larger picture and share my experiences of being in foster care in hopes of spreading awareness about these issues.
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Hi 👋 from Artemis. This is literally our second home. We’ve met so many incredible people, and just a couple of days ago Congresswoman Murphy @repstephmurphy came by to see us. We shared with her our hopes for the cannabis & hemp industries, and chatted about the many impactful community programs she’s spearheading in her home state. Life is funny eh? I never thought I’d be in this field but I love it. Sometimes you just have to take a detour to find your multiple passions ❤️
Has there been meaningful feedback about how vocal you are on these difficult topics?
The reason I was placed in foster care was because I was sexually abused by my cousins, and physically and verbally abused by my parents. I actually shared this about two years ago, and was extremely afraid of the feedback. I honestly thought people wouldn’t believe me. Growing up, my abusers constantly reminded me that if I said anything, no one would believe me. The fear of sharing, shame, and guilt all came back at once. What really helped me was reading and listening to other women sharing their own experiences and offering support. Their stories, rawness, strength, and shared trauma gave me a sense of purpose, and for once in my life, I didn’t feel so alone.
What was the impetus for your CBD boutique, Artemis?
It started out as a pop-up, mainly because we didn’t know if we could financially support the concept for longer than that. We opened in May 2019 and thought we would do it for three months, which turned into six months, then six months turned into a year, and now we’re staying much longer. The birth of Artemis was a natural extension of Colin [Gardner, Nguyen’s boyfriend] and my passions: Colin’s love of biochemistry and my love for problem solving when it comes to health issues.
The CBD market has really blown up. How did you strive to differentiate Artemis?
Artemis is a premier CBD shop, and our approach to this market is very specific and different. We carry about 20 brands, and have an extremely detailed curating process. Curating by lab tests only, we request all lab testing to see the cannabinoid and terpene values, pesticides, heavy metals, microbials, and residual solvents levels. Products are cross-examined to ensure their claims are true and correctly labeled. We also provide a complete 360-degree approach to client care. Our products are all hemp-derived with less than 0.3 percent THC dry weight, so some clients find they might need a higher amount of THC to treat their medical conditions. We help facilitate the whole process, from getting a cannabis medical card to visiting a cannabis dispensary by working with a network of medical professionals. We’re also the only CBD shop in Manhattan with a medical adviser, Dr. Junella Chin, a world-leading integrative cannabis physician with more than 15 years of patient care.
How did you first get acquainted with CBD?
Because of my past and due to the sexual abuse, my pelvic floor was damaged. I was also diagnosed with depression and PTSD at age 15. I saw countless doctors and specialists, who prescribed antibiotics. I was also on a cocktail of other medications for 20 years. I get about 24 pelvic spasm episodes and bladder infections a year. Because of the long-term antibiotics use, I get horrible stomach aches, and overall felt unwell for long periods of time. I was just sick of feeling sick all the time. One day, I was watching the Vice network, and they featured cannabis and its potential health benefits. That thought never left my mind. I started exploring, and became curious about CBD. Coupling CBD with other anti-inflammatory supplements, I went from 24 to two pelvic spasm episodes and bladder infections last year. With my depression and PTSD, CBD has helped significantly to improve my quality of life. My own experiences with CBD fueled the fire to start Artemis, creating a safe space for women and men to share their struggles and experiences, and get the help they need.
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