By Nick Christophers
Shalhavit-Simcha Cohen was blessed with a gift that she did not realize until a later time in her life. She grew up in her sister’s shadow believing that the ideal woman needed to be thin with straight blonde hair. Shalhavit had darker skin and was not tall; she seemed to have taken after her mother. Even though she was led to believe this was factual she found a way to escape. Her escape mechanism was her expressive art which would be a blessing in disguise.
Her thoughts and desires were soon turning into paintings and photos as she found color therapeutic. She also buried herself in books. In addition, her continued conversations with adults expanded her knowledge. Most of her experiences found a home in her videos and story-telling.
“I was always fascinated by wisdom and being shy I tended to be alone a lot and used my time by reading and painting. I felt inferior to the look my sister had. This made me feel insecure and put a lot of my thoughts into my video and photography.”
She would soon attend Harvard where she is still studying as an Instructional Designer & Research Fellow. Her accolades are too many to mention. Shalhavit put her speaking and representative skills to work. From 2005 to 2009 she wore a few different hats. In her native country, Israel, she took part in a couple of educational endeavors: Introduced projects on Positive Psychology to the Israeli government educational system and private companies and was a leader and event director at the University Bar Ilan for the overseas student program. She was an educational representative of the Jewish Agency and directed and hosted programs like “Israel by Choice” and “Birthright”. The seminars were meant to improve Jewish values.
Currently, she is has founded her own project through Harvard called Educational Wellness Videos. These videos are focused on the field of Positive Psychology. She has already completed five treatments and pitched TV networks like Harpo and MTV. This is of course an ongoing project.
All this work was due to her desire to improve other people’s lives and promote positive thinking.
In 2011, Shalhavit was named Miss Fitness Israel and later that year checked herself into a medical rehabilitation program for anorexia. Over the last few years, she has fought to overcome this eating disorder and has learned how to embrace the fullness of herself. A model who allowed her curves to grow as she mended a relationship with food, she thought she’d never work with a photographer again. During her journey in repairing her self-perception, she found many behind the camera who sought her as a subject for their lens. With her body, she began to tell a story. What began as a collaboration for a One Billion Rising event in Pensacola, Florida this past February has turned into a collaborative show as Shalhavit and Sheridan (pen name of Jessica Nieto, Harvard ’13 graduate), curated a series of images to which Sheridan wrote poetry based on Shalhavit’s journey.
The idea behind this show was born from a mutual passionate yearning between the two to share their art as a means of expression and inspiration for healing. As news of the show traveled through the circles of those acquainted with the pair, the exhibit was invited to become a part of the World Fashion Parade in NYC September 24th–a fashion show for world peace being hosted during the UN general assembly, with guests like the Ambassador of Nepal.
Two individual journeys in self-healing combined to act and inspire locally; in the process, their minds and visions are growing global.
“The photography was due to my collaboration with twelve different photographers. They worked well with Sheridan and me. The shots that were taken were via my ideas.”
Her gift for speaking publicly has also proven valuable as she devoted her time to being a public speaker. She has been lecturing since 2010 at Universities like Baruch College of NY, Tufts University, MIT, Harvard-¬Smithsonian, University of Vermont and more. She was also a key note speaker at the One Billion Rising Pensacola at the Hadassah 100 Year kickoff event.
This is one woman that has a serious mission in mind. Her time and energy has been spent on educating the public on living a better lifestyle. Using herself as an example whether via her poetry, photographs or lecturing she has left a mark.