We are so grateful to talk to Michele Wilson, a truly inspiring and wonderful woman. Thank you for all your incredible work and for partnering with Dignity.
Tell us a bit about yourself.
Ko Michele taku ingoa, Ko Tainui te waka, ko Ngaati Paoa he hapu, Ko Waiti te Marae. Kia ora I’m Michele, mama of 2 girls, lover of fishing, gardening, being in the bush and all things Periods & te ao Māori. I am currently learning to speak my language alongside my daughters and am studying the link between our menstrual cycle and the Maramataka (Māori lunar calendar) I am also an entrepreneur and love starting businesses and seeing them grow. I founded Kawakawa skincare brand Frankie Apothecary and am now working on New Zealand’s first underwear brand AWWA. I am a proud Takatāpui and have also recently become a vegetarian (pescatarian).
What does Dignity mean to you?
Dignity to me is having the freedom to be unapologetically who I am without judgement and to feel respected in all of my choices in life by both society, my peers and whanau and having access to anything that I need to thrive in life.
What was your experience with your period?
It was a non-event. I got my period when I was 14 and remember staying in the bathroom as my mum gave me instructions on how to use a tampon. It was terrifying because I had zero experience with things down there. Needless to say, it didn’t work looool and I ended up being a pad user until I developed AWWA underwear. I didn’t tell any of my friends that I had my period and remember constantly going to the bathroom and being self-conscious that my pad was visible through my uniform skirt. I never wore pants because I was sure that everyone would be able to see my pad and if they saw that, then they would know I would have my period and oh the shame!!! It was not until I studied Rongoa Maori that I found out that my Tupuna never felt shame when they had their period. Quite the opposite, when your ikura arrived, Māori celebrated because they viewed their ikura as an ancient river linking generations women together. It connected you to your tupuna and atua wahine. It promised the continuation of hapu and whanau and therefore whakapapa. Learning this gave me a whole new appreciation of my period and now instead of feeling shame, I feel connection.
What is the best thing for you about being a woman and menstruation?
Hands down the best thing is being able to grow life and become a mother. The absolute light of my life is my daughters.
What makes you feel empowered/comfortable in your skin?
Authentically living my truth.
What would you like to say to anyone getting their first period?
Welcome, you are now connected to your Tupuna and Atua Wahine, generations of women who have come before you now run through your veins and you are very special indeed. Now when your period arrives, take time out for yourself, think about who you are and what sets your heart alight. Do not push away all of these big feelings that you have, feel them through and go easy on yourself.