Dr. Michele Cooley-Strickland at the 2016 Pioneer Woman Awards in Los Angeles

Dr. Michele Cooley-Strickland is a clinical psychologist who has made it her life’s work to figure out why we get in our own way on the path to success. 

Along with her faculty research and teaching duties at UCLA and Johns Hopkins, she’s a therapist, life coach, elected community official, and a founder and CEO.

In 2016, the City of Los Angeles Commission on the Status of Women honored her contributions to improving the lives of the city’s women and girls with the Pioneer Woman Award.

This her beauty story.

“Where are you from” is a bit of a complex question for me. I was born in France, but am mostly from Virginia. I’ve lived in Maryland, Pennsylvania, and South Carolina as well. I’ve been a resident of Los Angeles for over a decade and love it. 

I’m fortunate to have earned degrees that afford me lots of flexibility so I’ve done – and I do – a lot of things that make my life fun, meaningful, and interesting! I try to embody what John Wooden said, “Don’t measure yourself by what you have accomplished, but by what you should have accomplished with your ability.” I believe doing so leads to an enriched, joyful, and beautiful life.

First, I’m a wife to a very supportive husband and mother to two beautiful daughters whom I adore. Second, I’m a licensed clinical psychologist with my own private practice, Real Optimal Living. What’s unique to my practice is that after the initial in-person session, I “meet with” my therapy and life coaching clients over the telephone or Skype. It’s perfect for folks with busy lifestyles who want support in becoming their Best Selves.

Third, I am the founder and CEO of a company that mentors professional women. Fourth, I’m a Research Psychologist in the Department of Psychiatry and Biobehavioral Sciences at the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA). Fifth, I’m an Adjunct Associate Professor in the Department of Mental Health at the Bloomberg School of Public Health at Johns Hopkins University. Sixth, I was elected as a Residential District Director for my Neighborhood Council. Lastly, I volunteer as a Sunday School teacher at my church.

One of my earliest memories about applying makeup was at my grandparents’ house. We were visiting and became bored, so my sister and I snuck into my grandparents’ bedroom (strictly off-limits!) and started snooping. My sister was enamored by my grandmother’s jewelry, but I was drawn to her makeup. She had so much to play with! I don’t know what I looked like when we emerged from that sacred place, but I loved the transformative experience of looking different…and in my young opinion, prettier! 

“Beautiful” is different from “pretty.” Pretty to me is surface, but beautiful involves the whole person. Beautiful people are charismatic and engaging, confident, and invest in making the most of themselves, physically, emotionally, and spiritually. It takes effort, but is not laborious.

Michele Cooley-Strickland

I try to keep my beauty regimen simple. Honestly, I usually put my makeup on in the car, so there’s necessarily not too much to apply. I love plenty of sleep (a key to beauty!), so my nighttime and morning regimens are simple as well. Thanks to my mother, I’ve always believed that good posture is essential to appearing and feeling confident thereby beautiful. But since Father Time erodes one’s posture, a few years ago I started practicing yoga. I now consider yoga an integral part of my beauty and fitness regimen.

A few months ago, I lightened my hair…significantly! It’s been fun and flirty, and I’ve loved seeing a different “me.” I’m thinking of going back darker because of the toll the full-head highlights has taken on my hair. Although I love the color, it’s not worth having dry, damaged hair. When it comes to beauty, healthy trumps everything else.

Michele’s parents, Robert and Ruby Cooley, on their wedding day.

The most beautiful person I know is my mother, even though she now lives in heaven. She epitomized beauty in both appearance and character. She was the homecoming queen of her college, never left the house without doing her hair and applying makeup, kept up with fashion, and maintained control of her weight all through her life. Plus, she started practicing yoga way before it was a thing.

Even when she was ill and we had to put her in a nursing home, my mother told us to make sure her hair was done and she “looked nice.” From childhood on, I was always proud to bring my mother anywhere because I knew she’d look beautiful, and vowed that I wanted to be that type of mother to my children.

Although I hate to admit it, I’ve been considering trying dermal fillers, not all over but just at my smile lines. I was shocked to learn that several of my friends have already had fillers and injectables…and they look so fabulous, I couldn’t even tell! I haven’t done it because I’m afraid it’ll hurt and – more importantly – I wonder if it will lead to becoming one of “those” women who didn’t know when to stop going back to the cosmetic surgeon. 

My one “must-have” beauty product is Lancôme Hypnôse Drama Mascara. Although I have naturally long lashes, Lancôme mascara makes “good” much better. Plus, the eyes are said to be windows to the soul. I like my “windows” to be open wide so my soul can shine through.

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