Friday Feature Female – Shirley Sze

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    If you head on over to LinkedIn, you’ll read Shirley Sze described as an award-winning jewelry designer whose mission is to disrupt the fashion jewelry industry with pieces that stand for socially responsible change. Her designs are stunning and a percentage of proceeds of each sale at her company C.J.ROCKER help rescue victims out of the sex trade and then support them until they are self-sustaining.

    In 2017 Shirley hosted her first fundraising gala with a lofty goal of raising $10,000 in support of  Covenant House who have helped transform and save the lives of more than a million homeless, runaway and trafficked young people. As she dove deeper into the cause, her commitment grew and Shirley devoted hours upon hours to learning about the cause. Since then, Shirley has gone on the raise over $50,000 for domestic and global charities, such as One Body Village Canada, assisting girls exploited by sex trafficking and sexual exploitation. 

    Shirley Sze is far more than a rad jewelry designer on a mission. What she has accomplished in her life is a direct reflection of who she is as a person. She is kind. She is adventurous. She is full of grit, and she has a sense of humor that will leave you laughing out loud. 

    We are so proud to call Shirley one of our own here at, and we are thrilled to feature her today. 

    I got to ask Shirley some questions that you won’t find in your typical interview. We hope you enjoy getting to know this amazing person even better.

    If you instantly became an expert at one thing, what would you want it to be?

    Shirley: At life. Just how to maneuver the ups and downs of life. I feel like after almost 40 years, I am still, I wouldn’t say an amateur but I am still finding myself thinking, ‘what the EF is going on. What is this, I think especially now in 2020. I don’t think “life” is something that anyone can ever be an expert on, but if I could just figure a lot of things out earlier, that would be helpful. It would be like keeping things in perspective. Not going down that dark spiral sometimes where you think, I’m not good enough, I can’t do this. That started when I became an entrepreneur. When I was working 9-5, I thought, I got this. And when I became an entrepreneur, I didn’t know how to do anything and you start to question yourself and your insecurities flare up. It’s been 4 ½ years and I still wonder if I am doing this right. Maybe it’s not an expert per say but just trusting the process a little more.

    And that .. is LIFE. 

    Keep some room in your heart for the unimaginable – Mary Oliver (RESPOND)

    Shirley: Oh – I just got goosebumps. I guess because it kind of leads me to my first answer – We don’t really have control. I think about my days and you know, what they look like. The daily routine, considering I don’t leave the house. But the unimaginable is next year. I got excited again, just last week about what 2021 will look like. I know that some people think the year was amazing because they got creative, took some time for themselves, gained perspective, and that is all wonderful, but no, it has not been the best year. 

    2020 has been a year of reflection. It’s almost like planning for next year. I don’t know what it’s going to bring, and that’s the “unimaginable”. Also, working with puts you into a happy place, so that has been a difference in thinking bigger. I think people’s hearts are bursting and they are ready for change and more love. And that will be 2021.

    What are the best traits you inherited from your parents?

    Shirley: My dad; kindness. He’s never been angry at me . I was a good kid. But even when I made my mistakes, my dad always cheered me on. He’s such a simple man. He doesn’t ask for much. Maybe for a banana each day. That’s all he wants to make him happy. Or ice cream, or a cookie. 

    My mom is literally the strongest person I know. She has endured unimaginable hardships for her family and for herself. When we were growing up my mom wasn’t super soft. She was the one who would say “toughen up!” She wasn’t the one who would pat me on the back telling me it’s ok while I cried. Instead, she gave that to me in this no nonsense, don’t F around kind of way. If anyone tries to F with you, you give it right back. And I gained a little bit of an attitude with that. She tells me that I am meaner than she is now, that she created a beast because I can’t sit around when I feel something is wrong with the way someone is being treated. (Author’s note – we have yet to see Shirley be mean.) 

    It’s a balance between super, super kind everything is fine/sunshines and this powerful, strong Vietnamese woman.

    Describe your perfect day.

    Shirley: It’s going to be a mishmash of things and it’s going to extend beyond 24 hours – more like 72. Half of the day is going to be a hike, and there is definitely going to be a nice bottle of red involved, a picnic and some body of water. Top it all off with a good restaurant with good company. And I am going to throw in shopping. That’s making me happy these days. 

    Or … it could be anything in the south of France. I would just wander with cheese and wine.

    What is the most amazing true story you’ve heard?

    Shirley: How my parents met. My mom was fleeing Vietnam with her family from the Vietnam war. My grandfather packed them up and took them on a boat and left Hanoi for Laos. My mom grew up in a concentration camp run by the British, I actually just learned this. When the British left the country, it became pretty fearful and unliveable. When the British ran the camp, my mom had food and could have an education. It wasn’t ideal but at least they were treated like humans.

    My dad grew up in Hong Kong but left when he got a job working for American Airlines, a commercial airline that was actually a front for the war. Their aircrafts were war crafts, but that wasn’t released to the public.  He was an aircraft mechanic, ensuring the planes were safe to fly. Shortly after he moved to Laos, he would meet my mom. When they met, they didn’t speak the same language, but they had war-riddled lives that intertwined. When I ask my dad what it was that made him know that my Mom was “the one”, he says, “She was so beautiful.” My dad taught my mom how to speak Cantonese and that’s how they learned to communicate through language. They both had pasts that were war related. They left that and found each other. Crazy, right?

    If you had a warning label on your body what would it be?

    Shirley: (laugh)

    Oh my goodness.

    Kind but feisty.

    And there you have it. A little bit of dad and a little bit of mom, woven together to become Shirley Sze.

    We are thrilled to highlight Shirley Sze today. She is a remarkable human and we are lucky to have her on the team.

    If you are interested in supporting local, small businesses this holiday season, C.J.ROCKER is currently offering 25% off and free shipping for purchases over $50.

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    1. A beautiful story about a beautiful woman written by a beautiful woman!! You guys are simply awesome and awe-inspiring.

    2. I really enjoyed reading this interview. Shirley sounds like an inspiration and a remarkable woman. I would like to learn more about how I can get involved with helping sexually exploited victims. Perhaps another article?

      • Hi Lisa,

        Thank you so much for the kind words, they truly mean a lot. If it’s okay to contact you directly, I can pass on some information on how to get involved helping survivors of sex trafficking. And we appreciate your feedback on additional articles related to the topic, we will keep that in mind for the future!

        Stay well and awesome,

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