Up until the #MeToo movement broke the internet in 2017, women had consistently been discriminated against, taken advantaged of, and silenced by abusive people in their respective industries and communities. The collective voices of women who fearlessly fought for equality, inclusion, and diversity paved the way for the revolutionary transformation that we are seeing today. While there is still so much work to be done, being a woman today means having the power and voice to lead, inspire, and induce positive change in society.
The new Netflix reality show, My Unorthodox Life (2021), has taken the world by storm as it takes us into the glamorous life of fashion mogul and previous member of the Ultra-Orthodox community of Monsey, Julia Haart, who bares her explosive past and shares her inspiring journey of making a name for herself in the competitive world of fashion at the age of 43.
Wearing the Pants
In the suburban town of Monsey, the heart of New York’s Ultra-Orthodox Jewish community, there lived a homemaker named Talia Hendler. For over 40 years, she lived a life of devotion to her religion, four children, community, and her students when she worked as a Judaic Studies teacher. While it seems ordinary on the outside, people who belong to this community are required to follow an extremely conservative and fundamentalist way of life. This entails being shut off from the rest of society and following a particular set of rules from the way you dress, what you eat, how you treat the opposite sex, how you think, and the purpose you serve in the community.
The stringency of the religion sparked distress in Talia’s life, oftentimes affecting her mental health and forcing her to question her beliefs. This discomfort grew exponentially to the point where she contemplated committing suicide. However, what kept her from taking her own life was her children and how the community would jeopardize her family’s chance of building a life of their own in the future. The last straw for Talia was when she saw her younger daughter going down the same path and being shaped into the person she refuses to become. She couldn’t let history repeat itself, so she mustered up the courage to go against all odds and permanently left the Haredi community along with one of her daughters in 2013.
The last straw for Talia was when she saw her younger daughter going down the same path and being shaped into the person she refuses to become
Unlike most, who end up becoming addicts in the streets after leaving the community, Talia was an exception and living proof that it’s never too late to start over and forge their own path in their 40s. Along with her newfound freedom, she decided to take on a new identity as Julia Haart, signifying the beginning of becoming the independent, fierce, and successful woman she always wanted to be.
Her passion for fashion compelled her to start her own shoe company, which aspired to create comfortable and fashionable high heels. In just a span of three years, she made a name for herself in the fashion industry and was appointed the Creative Director of the Italian luxury brand La Perla. She had the privilege of designing looks for supermodels such as Naomi Campbell, Sasha Pivovarova, and Kendall Jenner. Not to mention, she later married La Perla’s CEO and Fastweb founder, Silvio Scaglia.
Her undeniable charm, keen eye for detail, and grit catapulted her to greater heights and landed her a huge role as the CEO and Co-owner of Elite World Group, a leading international talent media company that manages the biggest names in fashion, media, entertainment, sports, and music. While Haart made it seem that building an empire was a walk in the park, she had to overcome a number of challenges, culture shock, as well as learning how to navigate the basics of surviving in the real world.
You Win Some, You Lose Some
For anyone who has been in a situation where they were oppressed, abused, lost, hopeless, and afraid of what the future holds for them, Haart’s journey truly serves as an inspiration and she is the epitome of a strong and independent woman in the 21st century. However, her withdrawal from her beliefs and community burned bridges and painted a negative image of her to her own family and friends. She is no longer on speaking terms with her parents and siblings, except for one of her sisters and her ex-husband who chose to look past their differences and continue to maintain a loving relationship with her. Also, the show chronicles how she rekindled her rocky relationship with her older children who had a hard time understanding their mother’s decision to abandon the beliefs she instilled in them growing up.
Today, all her kids are forging their own path in the modern world alongside their mother. Batsheva is a Tik-Tok influencer who got married at 19; Shlomo is an aspiring lawyer; Miriam is a coding genius who is also a proud member of the LGBTQ+ community; Aron is a student and remains to be the most spiritual and conservative among the siblings.
What makes this reality show a head-turner, aside from the impressive and unparalleled journey of Haart, is its educational aspect that introduces its viewers to a world so foreign and isolated from the rest of society. The show also imparts positive messages and serves as a reminder to be open-minded and empathetic to how different cultures, religions, and individuals choose to live a certain lifestyle.
Haart is the definition of an empowered, selfless, brilliant, loving, and resilient woman who continues to uplift and create positive changes in society and better the lives of people who have been in her shoes.