Liz Hernandez never thought about the power and impact of words as much as she did when her mother lost her ability to use them. The E! News host had built an entire career on her impressive communication skills. Starting with a degree in Psychology and Communication, the American-born Mexicana racked up a series of impressive bullet points on her resume relatively quickly. At different parts of her career she worked for SíTV and MTV interviewed icons like the Jennifer Lopez and Sting, and even received a nomination for an Emmy Award.
Still, none of these experiences could have prepared her for her mother’s painful diagnosis.
In 2013, the radio and television personality learned that her mother, only 65 years old at the time, had been diagnosed with early-onset Alzheimer’s disease.
CREDIT: Credit: Liz Hernandez
The progressive disease, which ultimately wipes out a person’s mental function, stole her mother’s ability to speak over the course of just a few years. Today Hernandez says that her mother has lost about 90% of her verbal communication skills.
“My mother she’s my insides she’s my rock and the person I confided in for all things,” Hernandez explains in an interview with FIERCE. “So when she got sick it was a rude awakening because I thought this was a disease that happened to other people not to my family.”
The effects of the diagnosis devasted Hernandez and her family as they watched her mother’s memory quickly diminish.
Yet, amidst all of the heartbreak and challenge of navigating new and never foreseen territory, her mother’s ability to hold on to two key phrases “thank you” and “I love you” gave Hernandez a sense of optimism.
“I realize every time she says those words to me specifically it made my heart just burst and I thought gosh you know what I would give to have a conversation with my mom, a real conversation. Her words were so powerful and I don’t have them anymore,” Hernandez shares. “It made me realize that we just talk sometimes just to talk that we don’t put any relieve in behind what we’re saying or we forget sometimes to tell the people in our lives why they’re in our lives what they mean to us.”
Hernandez’s realization led her to explore the ways in which people are oblivious to how essential words are to forming and reinforcing human connections.
CREDIT: @lizhernandez / Instagram
The moment of sudden enlightenment revived in her an initial interest that had innocently propelled her to pursue her impressive career in entertainment news. Through her devastating experiences with her mother, the television personality was brought right back to the days in which she had pursued a degree in Psychology and planned a career in working with at-risk youth and battered women. The days that, she says, came just before an internship at a radio station, that had been required to complete her degree, drew her into radio and television.
“When I was watching these things happening with my mom I just felt more present,” Hernandez observes. “My sadness was stronger, my compassion was stronger, my love was stronger my forgiveness was stronger, I could really feel all of my emotions and it was a sense of vulnerability but I thought how beautiful if I can speak about these things and connect with people because at the end of the day I think that’s the other part we forget too, is that we are all connected and that’s what we crave the most. We want to feel a connection we want to feel that we are appreciated and want to know that we are heard.”
So came Hernandez’s idea to generate conversations that prompt people to take a deep dive into the meanings behinds the words we use.
Wordaful is a series that features Hernandez as she breaks down the power and meaning behind familiar words to viewers.
CREDIT: @lizhernandez / Instagram
So far, the Latina’s passion project has published 31 videos, garnered thousands of followers, and tackled words like “love,” “connect,” and “mother.” For each episode, Hernandez defines the meaning of a word in ways that are far more personal and arresting than any Webster’s Dictionary interpretation.
“Little by little I feel with each Wordaful episode I can chip away at starting the conversation,” Hernandez shares. “I hope [viewers] take away a little bit of compassion for themselves, I hope [viewers] take away relatability to understand that we are all on this journey together… and most of all I want people to walk away with hope. Hope that we get to wake up tomorrow and try again and do better.”
Check out a clip from Liz’s WORDAFUL project below.
Keep an eye out for more Wordaful videos by following @fiercebymitu on Instagram!
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