BUFFALO, N.Y. (WIVB) — “When I said it’s my life’s purpose to heal, to inspire and to connect, that’s so true,” said Tiffany Lewis. “And it hit me one morning at 3:33.”

Lewis grew up on the East Side of Buffalo with big dreams. She lived with her single mother and older brother.

“Seeing my mom as an educator in a marginalized community showed me resilience,” she said. “It showed me that through all of life’s challenges you can still be a woman of influence.”

After graduating from Hutch Tech, Lewis attended Erie Community College and transferred to Ashworth College in Georgia. She went on to work in city government — private investigations, real estate, and later in life, became the first woman of color in Western New York to earn an esthetics license.

“Skin, right, is the largest organ of the body,” she said. “And with that being said it’s not just about skin, it’s the overall health and wellness of a person’s body. So over 10 years ago, I decided to get into esthetics because I always wanted to help others.”

Shortly after, Lewis got into a bad car accident and couldn’t perform a lot of skincare services for the time being. She started speaking to youth about inner beauty, and it was during an event in Niagara Falls she discovered her calling.

“A young lady came up to me and said, ‘I need you to come back,'” Lewis recalled. “She never said, ‘I wanted you to come back,’ she said, ‘I need you to come back.’ And that to me was a call for action”

That’s when Confident Girl Mentoring was born: a safe space for young girls to talk about trauma — including domestic violence, abuse and food insecurity.

“It’s important that young people have someone that they can trust, and I’m fortunate to be in that position that youth can trust me to be a guide or a role model,” Lewis said.

The programs are inspired by what the girls are interested in talking about.

“It reminds me of something that I didn’t have growing up, you know — that voice, right? And to hear those stories from young girls, even when I’m out in public and they’re running up to me, ‘Oh, Miss Tiffany,’ I’m like, ‘Wait, hi!'” she said. “So the reward in itself is seeing a young girl to say, ‘Hey I thank you, I appreciate you.'”

Lewis also started National Youth Confidence Day back in 2017, with hers being chosen out of 18,000 applicants. It’s celebrated on Oct. 20 across the country.

She’s trained with Michelle Obama’s esthetician and worked with the Buffalo Bills. She’s also the chairwoman for the Erie County Commission on the Status of Women, and her list of accolades go on and on. Moving forward, Lewis says her work is unlimited, as there are always more opportunities to help others succeed.

“The sky is the limit,” she said. “And once you’re connected, you do have access to unlimited opportunities to be your best self and to keep pushing and to keep growing. And for me I figured out my life’s purpose is to heal to inspire and to connect.

I’m not a carrier of my wounds but I am a carrier of wisdom because of the trauma that I’ve went through.”

Kayla Green is a reporter who has been part of the News 4 team since 2021. See more of her work here.