Karen Bordador on Staying Positive Even in Prison, and Dreaming for Both Self and Others

Karen Bordador on Staying Positive Even in Prison, and Dreaming for Both Self and Others
Karen Bordador was enjoying a thriving career as a radio DJ, host, and model until a fateful day in 2016 when she and her partner were caught up in a buy-bust operation. During our interview with her during the #YouGotThis: Rewrite Your Story summit, she recalled that she had even won an award for her online business just the night before.  

"Everything was going great, life was good and I was so busy, and then suddenly that thing happened,” Karen recalled. “They weren't looking for me, it just so happened that I was in the vicinity at that certain time and things just spiraled down [from there].” 

Karen was told that she would only be interrogated and she would be able to go home that same night, but she ended up spending five years in jail. In June 2021, Karen was cleared of her charges and released from prison. She hasn’t shied away from telling her story and on her new website, karenbordador.com, she wrote, “This is a celebration of my REBIRTH.” She has also begun vlogging on YouTube. 

When we caught up with her at the #YouGotThis summit, Karen held up her 2021 Everything Is Possible Planner that she had even bedazzled with rhinestones spelling out her name. “Can you believe I had Belle de Jour planners every year [I was in jail]?” she said. “I really write diaries, so I have a planner and I have a diary where I can write longer.” 

She also showed her diary, which she had also decorated with rhinestones. “This year, I put ‘HOME’ [on the cover of my diary]. I really declared it this year—home. Even if there have been so many delays, and it’s a pandemic so going home seemed impossible, I really declared, ‘Lord, I’m going to go home this 2021.’” 

Karen’s positivity bled through our screens during the interview, and she revealed that she had to fight to maintain her sunny disposition. She brought up the Dementors from the Harry Potter book series. “You know, the ones that take away the happiness and the joy of someone? It's so true; in jail it's the same,” she said. Even though she was a jolly person and there were also a lot of other happy people in jail, “your hopes and dreams really get sucked out when you're in a dark place where you feel like there's no tomorrow.” 

She added, “There are so many hurdles just to get home, so the happiness and joy, you have to work on that daily.” 

For Karen, staying positive took discipline. Aside from devoting those five years to self-development, she spent tons of time praying with her fellow inmates “just to be with family once again, just to get back to that career we once had, just to be out there to see the sun,” she said. “We’d pray for those simple things." 

There was plenty of crying, too, both together and alone, and for many different reasons. But through it all, Karen was able to hold on to hope. She said, “I'm not a cynic. Even if I was imprisoned, I was wrongly accused, I was bullied, I will never be a cynic. I fought to continue to have that [jolly] personality.” 

It wasn’t easy, she said, because she was surrounded by negativity. “Even people around me would be mad about what happened to my situation and I’m always the one telling them to see the brighter side of it, because look at me, I’m still all right,” Karen shared. “You move on, you move forward. It’s how you step up, that’s what we focus on.” 

She added, “I have so many hopes and dreams and I will never ever have none. I always think, one day I will achieve all of them. My mindset is: The harder the suffering, the bigger the greatness of whatever is to come.” 

One thing that Karen learned in jail was to dream not only for herself but for other people, too. She wants to shed light on the stories of people in jail and to promote aftercare because ex-inmates typically have a difficult time re-entering and reintegrating into society after they’re freed. “For the first time, I included other people in my hopes and dreams,” Karen said. “I have written plans for others in my planner.” 

Karen believes that her purpose is “to inspire people and make them happy,” and that’s what she’s aiming to do from now on. “Now that I’m out, I aspire to inspire others because I know we're in this pandemic where things seem like they're falling apart and they're not. As long as you wake up each day, there's so much opportunity. Your hands are not bound. You can do so many things when you open your hands to the world.” 

She added, “I just feel like I’m guided in all the things I’m doing. I planned it out inside, like ‘these are the things I want to achieve’ and I’m just following everything I wrote down on my dream board. Whatever I imagined, whatever I visualized, now I’m just following it and I always pray. And so far, things are moving in that direction. So you just have to keep in mind that whatever you want, even if you’re in the worst situation, you will also achieve it. You got this!”

Karen’s optimism during her talk, titled “Find Courage in Catastrophe: Journaling to Gain Clarity, Progress, and Peace in Tough Times,” was truly infectious. To hear more about her experience and her learnings, watch the full video here. (You can start at the 29:30 mark.)