Victoriah Bech is an activist, humanitarian, entrepreneur and vegan influencer speaking up daily, through her constant openness to learn and be the change she desires. Through her non-profit, “Starts With One Today” (SWOT), she is working daily to embody the mantra, “Actions Speak Louder than Words.”
When L.A. STYLE Magazine asked Bech what makes her do all that she does, she said it’s the drive to treat others with compassion and empathy “because everyone is someone’s someone.”
Since Bech’s early days in Denmark, she exuded that same sentiment. Traveling from dance shows to TV shoots to rehearsals to studios, Bech always tried to come from a place of love. Soon, she found herself on the cusp of receiving a record deal in Denmark. However, one trip to America would change the course of her future.
Bech traveled to America alongside her mother for a vacation and decided to stay and give up her music career in Denmark. She didn’t know what life would look like on the other side of the pond, but it’s never been about the “how” for Bech.
When Bech endured a near fatal facial infection, which caused a loss of vision and hearing for an extended amount of time, her entire identity shattered and she discovered why she was placed in America. She was no longer Victoriah the entertainer, but she went back to what she always knew: love and compassion.
Here, she began her nonprofit “Starts With One Today” (SWOT). The nonprofit focuses on the concept that everything starts and ends with one single action.
This passion for SWOT stems from her individual situation. Bech’s father left when she was two years old and passed away from a heroin addiction. She understands that his story is not an exception, but that many people can follow in those same footsteps, and she wants to change that. Her mother was also an inspiration and driving force. Her mother began one of the largest rehabilitation center overseas, Egeborg Treatment Center, which was the first AA center in Denmark. When she saw what her mother was doing, Bech knew she needed to follow suit.
Now, through SWOT, tens of thousands of homeless people in Skid Row have been fed and clothed by donations (500 people per week on av-erage). There have been numerous events for Christmas, Easter and children’s birthdays that have been facilitated in struggling Los Angeles communities, as well as visits made to jails and juvenile detention centers in an attempt to mentor inmates. She hopes to reopen the preschool she founded in 2017 which was also located in Skid Row, alongside a teen and youth program. In addition, Bech and her team stand against animal cruelty and advocate for Veganism. Bech hopes she can one day say SWOT changed 1 million lives for the better.
LASM: Tell us about your experience in your line of work.
Victoriah Bech: When I moved here (from Denmark), it took me a very short time to realize that there’s something systematically very different about being Black in this country. Right away I felt an urge to do something. So, I started off first educating myself, reading a lot, watching documentaries, asking uncomfortable questions and really making sure I wasn’t just that White person walking into a Black community thinking I knew everything.
When you start educating yourself, which is why education is so important, empathy follows. Because then you start having empathy for what people have been through, [you understand] what their history is.
Then I started inserting myself into areas and communities that I wasn’t always welcome in. I also understood that I’m the one positioning myself here. These people had deeper wounds than what the immediate racism, the reverse racism or mistrust might be that I was experiencing. So, I kind of just had to form my own empathy, just keep reminding myself to hold space for them. I understood that what I wanted to prove to them was that not all White people are the same.
I want to prove to people that they are worthy of my time and everyone’s time. And I overall just want to make sure they feel seen and heard, whatever it takes. And it’s in this moment. It’s not about how I feel, because I can leave the shelter. I could leave Skid Row. I have all my privileges, but still they can’t leave. They’re stuck in that situation.
A great example is when I started my preschool in Skid Row. I only had a couple of Hispanic kids, and most of them were Black kids. And for the first three or four months, not one single parent spoke to me. They would just kind of push their kids to and close the door. And not ever once would I be acknowledged. Every single time we had lunch, I would write little report cards for the kids. And instead of going with the staff to have their nice catered lunch, I went downstairs to eat with them. I would sit with them, and I would just continue to show them the report cards, show them how their kids were developing, what they have learned and just keep talking and engaging even when they were rude, even when they were disrespectful or didn’t even acknowledge me. I just kept doing it because I knew in my heart that this is the right thing to do.
Eventually there was one time when we went back upstairs and this leader of all the moms, who had eleven kids, goes, “Ms. Victoriah, we need to talk to you.” Right away, I was nervous. I thought, “What did I do?” She started off by saying, “We owe you an apology. We completely misjudged you. And we haven’t given you the respect that you deserve, but you were the only volunteer who showed up consistently. You remember every single kid’s name, you remember their age, their grades, you remember what they tell you. You don’t have your phone out, taking photos of us. You come in here and treat us like human beings. And for that, we just want to apologize.” And from then on, they all spoke to me. I even had a mom who had never spoken to a White person outside of government offices. She ended up actually, instead of going to her social worker and her case manager, she ended up asking me to help her assist in choosing where she should live now that she was being housed, because she wanted my opinion and she wanted my perspective. She told me, “I’ve never, ever had a relationship with a White person.” So these little victories are what make it so worth it. And it makes me always just say, you know what? “They haven’t experienced better, but you know what, God put them on my journey for me to show them differently.”
LASM: Do you have any words about the inequality that has been brought to light from your perspective?
Victoriah Bech: I think it’s important to start by saying that “I will never understand what they’re going through” or what they have been going through because I am never on the receiving end of that type of systematic racism. So, it’s hard for me, honestly, to have an opinion or justify how I feel about the way they [Blacks] go about stuff, the way they choose to show up, the way they choose to demonstrate, because I have not experienced what they have experienced. And as much as I personally believe in showing up in love, I can also understand that they’re at this point very, very angry and frustrated and very fed up. And if you feel you have tried showing up in love and you’re not being heard or seen, eventually people may act out. So, I’m very careful about having an opinion about what they do, and how the Black Lives Matter movement shows up. I almost feel it’s not up to me to have an opinion about it. I make sure that I’m participating as much as I can in what’s the right thing to do, but it’s not really my place to have an opinion about it. Why would I even kind of waste my time to have an opinion about [it]? I’m not experiencing it. It doesn’t matter what I think about it.
My job is just to make sure the Black community feels supported.
I did a video on my social media account asking because though I personally feel like I’m doing a lot to support the Black community, I still ask, “Is there anything else I can do?” Because at the end of the day, if I am not, quote, speaking your love language, and my support isn’t being received, let me know because I’m here to learn.
As much as I always said, I am not a racist, I also learned that I now have to say I’m an anti-racist and my actions have to show that I’m an anti-racist.
So, I think no matter how much you feel like you are doing something, it’s like, make sure your support is being felt by the Black community and not just you’re feeling like, “Oh, I’m supportive.”
LASM: Your position is to not have an opinion in this because it’s so delicate, right?
Victoriah Bech: Right. And I feel a lot of times in today’s society, people think that everyone has a right to an opinion. Well, not really. You don’t have to have an opinion about everything. Do what’s right. Show up in love. Support people, but you don’t have to have an opinion about every single thing. People think, “I need to be putting my energy and my effort into having an opinion and making sure my personal opinion is being voiced and heard.” It’s not my time right now.
LASM: Are there any resources you want to share?
Victoriah Bech: Yes. Definitely without making it too difficult, everyone has to do their best. There are a ton of documentaries on Netflix about systematic racism, about how the justice system is just so messed up. There is “The Kalief Browder Story.” There is “13th,” the documentary. There are so many documentaries that you can watch on Netflix. If your whole being as a person is not completely shaken up and you are not shaken to the core, something is wrong with you. Do you know what I mean? It’s so easy for you to really learn. I always encourage everyone to start educating themselves on Black history because you would realize how much of what we are doing today is just so wrong.
Look at documentaries on Netflix. That was how I got started and that set me off and then started getting me to look into other things.