Top photo: Top row, L to R: Vicki, Anna, Manda, Nicole, Julia, Alyssa; Bottom row, L to R: Amanda, Melanie, Millie, Callie.
VINA success stories are empowering, comforting and honest. After all, where would we be without our loyal girl gangs to uplift us through the bad times and encourage us through our good times?
One of our vinas, 27-year-old Manda, knows what it’s like to go through a rough friendship patch. Originally from New Jersey, Manda moved to St. Louis, MO, but found how hard it was to make meaningful friendships.
“Before Hey! VINA, finding friends was tough,” she tells us. “I became best friends with a girl at work and we hit it off immediately. She later left the job, but we remained friends. Then, out of no where she ghosted me. I let her have some space, but she had told me about mental health issues she had, so I remained firm trying to reach out. I even contacted her husband.”
But when Manda did hear back from her, she was shocked by the response: “I finally get a text from her that I’m ‘too much’ as a friend and she didn’t think she can keep up with my eagerness to be friends. She had a lot going on in her life at the time—and unfortunately, she couldn’t give attention to our relationship. It killed me. How do you deal with that? I was too much of a friend? … So starting over and trying out VINA was a real jump for me. I was scared that I was going to be a failure or left after making a great relationship.”
First, Manda tried a website to meet friends. “Meet up groups were good, but it was a collection of people that would then take in a bunch of people, and they would pick and choose who they wanted to keep around,” she recalls. “It was almost like a casting call. I had made the cut with this one group and all was great. We had game nights, jacuzzi and hang out nights, and the main guy who hosted all of this was looked up to as some amazing leader. Except he made sure everyone knew he was in charge… and that he could kick them out at any point.”
But things took a scary turn for the worse when this so-called “leader” showed his true colors to Manda. “I’ll keep it brief—we were all drinking and things got weird,” Manda opens up. “I ended up in an uncomfortable situation with the main guy and his friend, where I was sexually assaulted and nearly raped. I finagled my way out by persistence and went home crying to my husband. I never went beck. I felt I had lost my voice, my ambition to find my niche—and I couldn’t believe that someone I trusted, who led this group of women (and men), did this to me.”
After that scary situation, Manda understandably took some time for herself. When she was ready to meet new people, she found Hey! VINA. “Since VINA was all women, I felt SAFE,” she says. “That’s why I want to tell my story, because VINA made me feel SAFE.”
Manda met one person on VINA and since then, has formed a powerful girl gang through VINA. “That safety is why our group has started,” she shares. “My vow was to make sure every girl feels heard and safe enough to tell their stories. And that I wouldn’t make it all about me–it’s about them, it’s about all of us, because they might have stories like mine. My past problems led to something beautiful and their problems led them here and I’m so grateful for that.”
Olivia is one of the vinas who Manda instantly connected with. “When it comes to tough times, these vinas have the perfect remedy for being there for one another through out it all,” Olivia says. “When I first joined the group, it was pretty established. One of our vinas was experiencing some very tough times, had a situation where she lost her belongings and the vinas pulled together and sent her money, food, etc. When I was dealing with a big change in my life, just spending time with the vinas and having their emotional support was so comforting.” As Kayla says, “It’s like all of the girls come together as a support group to help the best we can.”
Support systems you can count on … with girls who also just wanna have fun! Manda hosts some of the best get-togethers, but hosting brunch is a favorite: “Having everyone tired and hungry and being able to play music and entertain as they talk to each other and learn more about each other is rewarding. We drink mimosas and they make connections and relationships with each other and it’s beautiful to watch. There’s also a lot of potluck-style great food!”
Creating memories for a lifetime is the best part of Hey! VINA. Julia, who joined VINA to try new things and make new friends, says, “Taking a road trip to Manda’s wedding was my favorite and most memorable VINA experience so far.” Manda was touched by her vinas at her side on her big day.
So if you’re feeling nervous about meeting friends through Hey! VINA, you shouldn’t be. In fact, all the girls have words of advice for you.
Alyssa says to remember that you’re not alone: “There are plenty of girls who are searching for their socially awkward counterpart, just say hi!” It only takes one step!
Kayla encourages you to just go for it: “I’m not the greatest at making friends. The hardest part for me is probably saying hi, but VINA has made that easier. It takes the hardest part of finding friends away because everyone there is looking for friends, too!”
Katie’s tip? “I think everyone feels nervous when first reaching out. I remember thinking, ‘I’m so weird. They’re going to think I’m so weird.’ But everyone on VINA is feeling the exact same way—scared, anxious, vulnerable. But if you take the risk, you won’t regret it! I have awesome friendships now that I think would have taken years to build without VINA.”
Take it from Vicki, who was pretty nervous for her first VINA date at Manda’s game night, but was so glad she went. “It took a lot to get me to that first meeting, but it got easier after that. I now enjoy the game nights, bar hops, concerts, karaoke, and going out with our vina group!”
Nicole had a hard time moving, starting a new job and meeting friends, but VINA changed that all around. “As long as we’re together, I’m having a blast!” Nicole smiles.
Doesn’t get better than spending genuine time with genuine-vinas. Share your story, share your tears, share your laughter with women just like you! It’s never too late to make awesome vinas and even better memories, so what are you waiting for? Join VINA today and start swiping!