Insider's Guide to Spas
Liz Ratcliff


Spa’s Wild Child: Liz Ratcliff

Mary Bemis

Insider’s: What does spa mean to you?

Liz Ratcliff: If you’re not in the spa industry, most would say spa is a destination where one goes to relax, reconnect, etc… for me it’s more of a lifestyle than anything. Being mindful and loving of the connection to my body, my spirit, and my crazy monkey mind. When I have those things in balance I feel spa-like, present, connected. How do I create that balance…daily meditation of gratitude, a regular bikram practice, clean eating, loving—loving heals everything—and laughter, lots of laughter.

Insider’s: Do you have a favorite spa experience?

LR: After being in the biz for over 15 years, I have had incredible spa experiences all over the world. However, two years ago on a little getaway in Mexico with my partner and our puppy Parker, well this was a different story.  We arrived to the Tides Rivera Maya, a very bohemian couples-only small beach resort. It’s super-sexy, you are nestled in this tropical jungle, yet on the beach.  We had a gorgeous weekend, yoga, spa, margaritas, fish tacos, repeat…they even built Parker his own cabana, how cute?

On our last evening there, my partner surprised me and booked a couples massage in the spa suite, which I found odd because we would typically have massages on the beach or in our room. We arrive to a beautiful rustic outdoor space and our massages begin.  Afterward, I sit up and notice hundreds of white roses and candles all over the suite and look up to find him with a clipboard in his hand. I said, ‘Baby are you doing some sort of standards testing?’ [Her soon-to-be-husband is CEO of operations for Jumeirah Hotel Group.]

He laughed and asked me to please sit up, he wanted to share something with me—and he began to tell me why he fell in love with me and how he couldn’t imagine his life without me (and it was really long, too. Of course I was in tears, as it was the most beautiful thing I had ever heard a man say to a woman.) Then he kneels on his massage table (hilarious) and asks me to marry him. I said ‘Yes!’, he puts this masterpiece on my finger, and we skip back to our villa to celebrate with Parker and some lovely pink champagne!

…for me spa is more of a lifestyle than anything. Being mindful and loving of the connection to my body, my spirit, and my crazy monkey mind. When I have those things in balance I feel spa-like, present, connected.

Insider’s: You’re known as a bit of a wild child. Care to expand or enlighten us?

LR: Yes, it’s called LIVING. I really love my life, and I celebrate it as often as I can. To me it’s my way of saying, ‘Thank you God for this beautiful life you have bestowed on me. I promise not to take it for granted!’

I would say that I’m a bit crazy, too. I don’t play by the rules; I take risks. I speak my mind, and I’m a strong woman. I’ve made tons of mistakes and don’t regret a single one of them. I wouldn’t be who I am today if I played it safe and colored inside the lines.  Eleanor Roosevelt said it best, ‘Well-behaved women seldom make history.’ I want to be an inspiration for younger women. I want them to know that it’s cool to be different, and you should strive to be your authentic self.

Insider’s: What drives you?

LR: When you have energy like me, anything and everything can inspire you.  I can be driven by a conversation with a stranger, or a simple cuddle with Parker.  My spiritual practice—when I have a bad-ass bikram class and nail all 26 postures, and women supporting women—that really inspires me.

Insider’s: You recently moved from LA to Dubai. When and why? Was it a hard move, and have you acclimated?

LR: I moved to Dubai a year and half ago. My fiancé had been in talks with Jumeirah Hotel Group, we came out for the interview, and they of course offered him the job. He is the CEO of operations for Jumeirah Hotel Group. I had low expectations and many of my friends said, ‘I give her six months.’ Nice, however I proved them and myself wrong. I absolutely love Dubai. The culture, the opportunity, that there are 20 different nationalities living in a Muslim country and we all get along. I love hearing the call to prayer every day, it’s so calming and I think it’s beautiful. I have girlfriends from Jordan, Palestine, Lebanon, London, Russia, and South Africa. Not to say that I didn’t have that in LA, but this is not LA.

I love that I have the opportunity to see this part of the world. In Dubai, you have access to so many other places. A few of my favorite getaways are the Maldives, Italy, Hong Kong, Thailand… all doable flights. In Dubai, you can totally retreat from the craziness of the city, and I find that very peaceful.

Insider’s: What are the five things you always have in your handbag?

LR: Tom Ford lip glosses in every color; Kinara Intense Moisturizer; Arcona Triad pads; My iPhone 5; love notes from my  fiancé—he’s so romantic and poetic—seven years and he still leaves them for me every morning.

Insider’s: What would you never be seen wearing?

LR: Birkenstocks! They were all over the runway this season! It’s like a Birkenstock revival, but I will have to say no.

Insider’s: What do you pack for a spa holiday?

LR: More magazines than you can imagine. My new obsession is PORTER. I think Natalie Massenet is brilliant! Soleil Organique sunblock, it smells so yummy, with notes of cinnamon. I love it. Also ea jumpsuits and kaftans from my second collection. Many pairs of Tom Ford sunnies. Coconut oil to keep my hair hydrated—it gives the sexy beach hair look. Red carpet facial kit by Kinara. I live by this facial, sometimes I don’t even use the mask. The peel packs a punch and leaves my skin looking so fresh. An obscene  amount of toiletries because I love to take baths, and really pamper myself on spa vacays. I also make playlists based on where we are traveling. I need music around me all the time.

I would say that I’m a bit crazy, too. I don’t play by the rules; I take risks. I speak my mind, and I’m a strong woman. I’ve made tons of mistakes and don’t regret a single one of them. I wouldn’t be who I am today if I played it safe and colored inside the lines.

Insider’s: What’s the biggest difference between spas of Dubai vs. spas in the States?

LR: They are segregated. You can’t even have a mani/pedi with your husband. We have lots of our services at our villa, so convenient, and we can enjoy our time together. Other than that, the spas are fabulous in Dubai, and there are lots of them.

Insider’s: Favorite restaurant in Dubai? Favorite scene? Favorite place to chill out, and where do you go/what do you do for quiet time?

LR: Le Petit Maison in DIFC is my favorite restaurant in Dubai. It has an LA feeling to it, light and airy. The buratta is to die for.  I don’t really go out in Dubai, but I have tons of red carpet events that I have to attend with my fiancé. Dubai Film Festival and ART DUBAI are my favorites. I chill out in our villa. It has the most amazing energy, and of course nothing beats a glass of wine and cooking an extraordinary meal to unwind.

Insider’s: Your latest project is LA edit. Tell us what it is and how it came to you.

LR: Think LACMA meets Barneys Apothecary. A gorgeous gallery/showroom that curates four installations a year, all while telling the story of the brands I represent from LA. Think of  me like an agent for all things Los Angeles—beauty, fashion, wellness, art, and music.  I moved to Dubai, and I assumed I would have access to everything. This was not the case, while there are amazing products and brands in Dubai, I felt a disconnect to LA. And the more I thought about it, the more I realized I wanted to do something about it. (Mainly for selfish reasons, I missed my LA brands, but I also know a good thing when I see it.)

I started The LA edit with the intention of distributing LA brands in the Middle East. Interesting, chic, niche brands that I believe represent the “LA vibe.” However, during this process, I realized I wanted to do something bigger, different—design a platform to showcase the best of LA,  but in an art form.  I felt if I have an interesting space to bring people together, fierce talent, and exclusive products to showcase, this would be more like hosting a really cool party—and I’m very good at that. I’ve signed five brands so far, and I’m in talks to commission a group of up and coming young artists from LA to work with The LA edit.  I need to be creative. It feeds my soul. We plan to launch e-commerce in 2015, and roll out our first set of brick and mortars by 2018.

Insider’s: Future dreams?

LR: To bridge the gap between the East and West, to empower women and to raise the vibration of feminine energy here in the Middle East.  I’d like to start a charity that’s dedicated to providing assistance to women in need and raise awareness in the U.S. that women in other parts of the world are still oppressed—and it’s not okay.


Mary Bemis

Mary Bemis

Mary Bemis is editorial director of She is an award-winning spa journalist, honored with Folio's Top Women in Media Award, and the distinguished ISPA Dedicated Contributor Award. In 1997, she launched American Spa magazine, and in 2007, Mary co-founded Organic Spa magazine. A pioneer in the sustainable spa and beauty worlds, Mary is co-curator of Cosmoprof North America's Discover Green Pavilion. She sits on the board of Wellness Warrior, is a Global Wellness Day Advisor and a co-founder of the Washington Spa Alliance.