From criminal defense attorney to private investigator, motivational speaker to model, Karen Nance is an example of living your life to the fullest, breaking down all the boundaries, reaching to your true self and doing what you want and love. Some years after having her first child, she knew that she would want a second child, so she decided to adopt. She was 46 then, when she was told that she can’t adopt a child as she is “too old”, when children everywhere in the world are in need of a home. Karen didn’t accept this label thrown upon by society mostly on women, so she flew to Ethiopia and didn’t return until she had a beautiful lovely baby. She felt invincible!
Helping hundreds of people and children in her career, Karen has brought so much light and peace into many lives. Now at 60, her strength is even greater and her love for life and people has pushed her to do more, to break more boundaries, in becoming a public speaker and launching the exciting project “Stilettos at Sixty”
What made you change from a criminal defense attorney to a child support attorney and then a private investigator? Was there any particular case that influenced this path?
Karen: I transitioned from practicing law as a criminal defense attorney to a child support attorney because I wanted to have a greater, more positive impact on people’s lives. I worked for local government and represented criminal clients who could not afford an attorney. Due to the large volume of cases, it was extremely frustrating trying to establish a rapport with clients with limited resources.
Throughout my legal career, the most impactful cases I have advocated were the ones in which I advocated for juveniles and adults who had been charged with crimes as well as those cases where parents had lost custody of their children based on allegations of abuse and neglect.
On one occasion, I represented a mother whose child was removed from her custody based on allegations that her boyfriend had sexually molested the child. The mother was not born in the United States, did not speak English and did not understand what she was required to do to have her child returned to her. Due to her failure to participate in the reunification process, her parental rights were terminated, and the child was adopted. The mother was understandably devastated. She was inconsolable. I was assigned the case at the last minute and had no prior contact with the mother. I could not maintain my composure and broke down and cried.
The benefit in transitioning into child support law provided me the opportunity to reinforce stability for children who did not have both parents in the home by obtaining court orders for their financial support. However, studies show that many times these court orders negatively impact low-income families in that the parent owing support does not have the means to pay. Financial stresses often exacerbate tensions between parents which have a devastating impact on the children. I became a certified mediator to assist in resolving disputes and strengthening relationships.
Since I enjoy interviewing people and searching resources to uncover clues, I decided to obtain my private investigator license as it is another avenue for me to problem solve. Helping people is always in the forefront of any endeavor I undertake which is why I am now pursuing a career as a Restorative Justice Facilitator. “Restorative justice brings those harmed by crime or conflict and those responsible for the harm into communication, enabling everyone affected by a particular incident to play a part in repairing the harm and finding a positive way forward.” (Quote from the Restorative Justice Council).
I am currently volunteer with the Insight Prison Project in San Rafael, California.
How did you become a public speaker?
Karen: I have always wanted to share my story with people with the hope that it would offer inspiration to others to pursue their dreams. I also wanted to become a public speaker to shed light on the injustices in the world with the hope that they can be eradicated.
What determined you to start “Stilettos at Sixty” and please tell me more about this fantastic project!
Karen: I started Stilettos at Sixty because I wanted to make a bold statement! I wanted to turn heads; for people to take a second look, to wonder:
Did I read that correctly? Stilettos at SIXTY? What does that look like? Who would do that? If she can do THAT at 60, I can do “x” at 20 or “y” at 90.
I wanted people to stretch their image of themselves, to believe there are absolutely no limits.
I had my first child at 35 and expanded my family at 46 through adoption.
I married the first time at 40, divorced at 50 and remarried at 57.
I am embarking on a public speaking career and want to simultaneously pursue a modeling career at 60.
The success is stepping into your dream. I play dress up. Yes, at 60, I play dress-up. I’m that little girl who prances around the house in high heels and gorgeous outfits from TEYXO and pretend I’m that famous model from the magazine because to live it, is to be it. I want that just as much for others as I want it for myself.
How do you feel about women’s empowerment today?
Karen: Women’s empowerment is a communal effort. Women are confronted with a mired of challenges and oftentimes we carry our burdens in silence. Many of us disguise our pain and sorrow behind foundation, lipstick and mascara – or we strut in our stilettos hoping our heightened stature will boost our self-esteem or at least our mood. In order to reach higher, we need to reach back and lift up others along the way. We must actively engage the women we come in contact with in our daily lives and ask questions:
Do you need help with your child who has Autism? How was your visit with your mom with Dementia? I know your rent increased, do you need financial assistance? Do you need a babysitter?
99% of us are dealing with these situations alone and are either ashamed or too overwhelmed to reach out and ask for assistance. When we support individual women with their day to day challenges we become stronger as a group and make changes that benefit humanity as a whole.
What advice would you give to the 20-year-old YOU?
Karen: I would tell my 20-year-old self-three things:
- Read “The Third Door” by Alex Banayan, the quest of an 18-year-old to uncover how the world’s most successful people launched their careers because: “It is better to be prepared for any opportunity and not have one than to have an opportunity and not be prepared.” (Whitney Young)
- Write in a journal because: “It reminds you of your goals and of your learning in life. It offers a place where you can hold a deliberate, thoughtful conversation with yourself.” (Robin Sharma)
- Travel because: “Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things you didn’t do than by the ones you did do. So throw off the bowlines, sail away from the safe harbor. Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover.” (Mark Twain)
Who is your fashion icon?
Karen: Lara Roxana Popa! You are by far, my fashion icon! I adore your style, originality and I look marvelous in your outfits. I also admire Iman and Cher.
If you could have a superpower, what would it be?
Karen: If a could have a superpower, I would be a healer of prejudice and bigotry.
How would you define happiness?
Karen: Through my favorite quote:
“Happiness cannot be traveled to, owned, earned, worn or consume. Happiness is the spiritual experience of living every minute with love, grace and gratitude.” (Denis Waitley)