Entrepreneur, mother of two and real “housewife” of Bravo TV show, Real Housewives of Orange County, Lydia McLaughlin of Monarch Beach, is an absolute aberration to the orthodox trophy wife and conventional stay-at-home mom.
“I am a normal mom. I am just a businesswoman,” she said. According to McLaughlin, she first said “no” to being on the reality television show, before deciding that she wanted to redefine the housewife image. She said, “I am not a stereotypical housewife, but I think that is what makes it fun. I do not want to be. Why would I want to fit in when I was born to stand out?” she asked. “And that is one of the reasons why I wanted to do the show.”
In addition to her luxury, marketing agency, SKYLAB Media Group, Inc. and SKYLAB Modern Art gallery, Lydia and her husband, Doug, also founded and currently manage Beverly Hills Lifestyle Magazine, a high-end publication replete with celebrity interviews and refined elegance.
“We are a really good balance for each other, definitely. We are complete opposites…I am really good at starting it and the big picture, and then he is really good at details and making it perfect,” she said of her partnership with her husband.
Her experience with Beverly Hills Lifestyle Magazine motivated her to take on projects of her own. “With the magazine—I have always just loved fashion, and getting to be on the photo shoots, and being around all different jewelers and meeting everybody in the field. You start actually believing in your dreams because you see other people who are doing it and being creative…”
And about two years ago, Lydia achieved her own dream by launching her exclusive jewelry line, LYDIA M Jewelry, comprised of delicately handcrafted, braided gold pieces adorned with Swarovski crystals. The pieces range from $70 to $400, she said.
“I found a lot of times jewelry—especially rings or earrings—they are so heavy and you cannot wait to go home and take them off,” she explained. “I really wanted to make something that was lightweight but still did not compromise the bling or the beauty.”
Lydia’s personal philosophy is “to be a light—to show that sometimes it pays to be good, and nice and sweet. And that does not mean that you are going to finish last.”
That is part of the reason why she gives 10 percent of proceeds from her jewelry line to iSanctuary, an organization that rehabilitates survivors of human trafficking—the transportation and sale of human beings, often for purposes of exploitation in a $32 billion industry—through providing them with marketable training, empowering them with necessary skills for sustaining themselves and pursuing better futures filled with tangible options and facilitating their reintegration in communities as valued members.
iSanctuary partners with human rights rescue agencies working with local authorities around the world to rescue victims of both oppression and slavery. Legal and investigative professionals garner evidence of forced slavery and work with the agencies to physically remove women and girls from their particular situations of abuse and exploitation.
“When people go through hardships or something horrible happens in their lives, we are all called to help one another,” McLaughlin said. “So anyway that I can help, I am humbled and excited.”
The organization “started its efforts in India, where the needs of trafficking survivors are exceedingly great,” according to iSanctuary. “As a member of the Orange County Human Trafficking Task Force Coalition in California, iSanctuary partners with other organizations to provide resources for survivors. In November of 2010, iSanctuary began a program providing employment, life skills and mentoring relationships to survivors rescued in the United States.”
“They are really helping to not just get these women off the streets, but they deal with women who have already been taken off…” McLaughlin said. Sex trafficking is the second largest source of profits for international organized crime just behind drugs. That is why, “a lot of [women and girls] go into human trafficking again and they become enslaved again,” McLaughlin continued. “[iSanctuary] is giving them another option: look you do not have to do that; you can do this. That is why its [tagline is] purchase with a purpose—it is giving them a purpose, plus you a purpose.”
According to iSanctuary, “Leading authorities estimate that more than 800,000 people are trafficked every year, adding to the figure of 12.3 million people around the world presently living in slavery. 80 percent of trafficking victims are women and children. Victims of sex trafficking are most commonly forced, deceived, abducted or sold by their families, transported and then sold into slavery.”
“Especially being a woman, and being in Orange County, you always think, oh it happens over there. I would not know anybody. Even more shocking is that if you do research, it happens here—all the time in Orange County…There are women that are discovered and protected and rescued in Orange County,” McLaughlin said.
Human trafficking is a global issue. Contrary to popular belief, according to iSanctuary, Americans are trafficked within the borders of the United States, while approximately 14,500 to 17,500 people—primarily women and girls as young as five years old—are trafficked to the United States each year.
McLaughlin added, “It is not a fun thing to talk about or get educated about because, if you do, then all of a sudden going to the mall is guilty for you, because you are ignoring something that is happening in your backyard.”
iSanctuary cofounder, Wendy Dailey, was one of the first people McLaughlin said she met when she moved to Orange County over 10 years ago. “So I have always had a passion for jewelry, it was kind of just a no brainer to give back to another jewelry line…The first step is getting everybody educated, so that’s kind of what I am trying to do.”
In managing her eventful Orange County lifestyle and the lives of women around the world, McLaughlin said, “You just have to prioritize what is important to you. I am driven—I spend my day doing stuff. The first 20 minutes of my morning are just doing quiet time and journaling, reading the bible or reading an inspirational book that I am in or a character study…so that I can be inspired and then I can feel focused. And then I am a better mom, and a better businesswoman; I am a better person and I have a better life with my husband.”