Credit: Edelman

Women, all across America, and of all ages, love T.J. Maxx. (A store where you can buy inexpensive gym clothes, cute new high heeled boots, a dress for that wedding we’re dreading going to, AND a new spatula cuz the last one broke, and the cost will end up around $100, total? What’s not to like?) When I go visit my mom in Texas, or my grandmother in North Carolina, it’s a safe bet that we’ll end up in a T.J. Maxx at one point. My mother will mention there’s a new one somewhere near my hometown almost every time I go visit. (There’s a building here in New York City that has both a T.J. Maxx AND a Marshall’s inside of it. It’s basically my favorite building on the whole of Manhattan island.) I have never yet met a woman who dislikes being a “Maxxinista”. We love it. We are normal women. Everyday women, living very different, but still everyday lives, but we all love it.

With that in mind, it’s easy to understand why TJ Maxx and Katherine Schwarzenegger decided to team up to meet, talk to, and learn about the lives of real women. “Road to Real” is a 16 city tour for Ms. Schwarzenegger, where she goes to different T.J. Maxx locations and talks with women who are there shopping. “The whole point of the tour is to get a chance to interview women and talk to them about, you know, being a real woman – how they live life on their own terms, what inspires them, what makes them tick,” she said to me, when we sat down on Monday morning. “To just really be able to connect with them and give them a platform to talk about what it means to be a woman.” When I asked how she got hooked up with this tour, she told me that the store had the idea and tour all lined up, and she worked really hard to be a part of it. “The fact that they were going to interview real women about living life, and my website is all about living life on your own terms. I love connecting and talking with real women. My first book was all about body image and connecting with women. Everything I do in life is all about being real, and trying to reach out to real people. For me, the concept of this tour couldn’t have been more perfect. Our messages aligned perfectly. I knew that I had to be a part of it. I was very very lucky when they chose me.

Credit: Edelman
Credit: Edelman

NYC is the second stop for Katherine on the tour. They hit Boston first, where she spoke to dozens of women about their lives, and dreams, and the challenges they face. When I asked if any story was particularly inspiring, she told me about a woman who is a single mother to two little girls – one of whom is autistic – and about talking to her about just getting through her life every day with patience and love, and about how her daughters really taught her how to do that. “The theme that I’ve seen throughout all of these women that I’ve talked to, so far, is their optimism, and faith in society that I’ve thought to be beautiful and just really amazing. I mean, if you sit at home and you watch the news, it’s easy to think of the world as such a horrible place, and then you go and talk and connect with these women, and they’re so optimistic about life, about living, and their futures, and how real and strong their desire is to really help people and make a difference. And that’s just in one city!

Like many women I know (myself, my mom, and my grandmother included) when I asked her what woman, in her own life, she would say was her most powerful inspiration, she said, with no hesitation, “Oh, my Mom. I learned to do what I do from watching her. I think she’s Superwoman, because she’s able to balance so many things, AND be an amazing mom.  When I heard about this whole tour, I immediately had to tell her. I grew up watching her interviewing people professionally, but also, she’s such a curious person. I get my curiosity from her, for sure. Being able to go around and talk to people and ask a million different questions, and get inspired by random people – this is a perfect blend between learning from her, and being able to go out and do it on my own.” It takes a certain kind of personality, I believe, to go and talk to strangers, and Katherine and her mother both seem to have this quirk of personality. “I’m weirdly very comfortable with strangers,” Katherine said, laughing, “I’m constantly asking people a million different questions. For me, it’s really fun, and I’m really looking forward to being able to do it.”

DC, LA, and a dozen other cities across the country are next up on the tour for Ms. Schwarzenegger, and when asked what city she was most excited about, she said, “Well, I’m excited about LA because it’s my hometown, but mostly I’m excited about going places I’ve never been before. Like Kansas City! I’ve never been there.”

I’m sure the women of Kansas City will be just as inspirational as the women all across the country are, and have been, for Katherine. For more information about the “Road to Real” tour, check out their official site.