Tuesday, June 4, 2013

New Hat, New World

I was invited to give a talk at the Launch Your Creativity event in April. Unfortunately, I did not make the event, which I feel might have disappointed some of the ticket holders. I did write my speech though, and have posted it below so that if you wanted to hear me speak, this is what I would have said. Please feel free to leave me any questions in the comments section and I am happy to answer. My apologies to the wonderful Sharon for not attending. Sharon, thank you for always believing in me.

I have attended a couple of these events before. Never as a speaker though. I usually sit where you’re sitting, amongst friends, happily sipping and nibbling and just absorbing the many wonderful words. The takeaway I seem to get from every LYC is that this event is about women helping one another. In fact, it was at Launch Your Creativity two years ago that I met Jacqueline de Montravel, the editor of Romantic Homes. We established an instant connection and I continue to work with her and admire her very much. Tea and talk are very nice, but the ability to make a connection is what makes this gathering truly special. It creates opportunities for us to help each other out.

In fact, the topic for my speech, New Hat, New World, came about with the help of the other women up here, Sharon in particular. Had they not suggested it, I probably would still be thinking of a topic. I wish sometimes that they had helped me write this speech too. We met up a few months ago at Lidy’s house and I wore a new hat I had purchased. I am not someone who wears hats all the time, so buying a felt black, rhinestone brimmed hat was a big statement for me to make. And the ladies took notice. I revealed that I had purchased the hat on one of many mini shopping sprees that I had indulged in to celebrate landing a new job.

But to me that purchase represents so much more than a new job. I would argue that the world we live in requires us all trying on new hats. Think of all the hats we have to wear daily: woman, wife, mother, daughter, employee, freelancer, friend, sister, client, mentor, etc. I am constantly looking for better ways to juggle being an editor at a printmagazine about nails, a writer/editor for an online magazine geared towardyoung professional women, a columnist for a print magazine about d├ęcor, a freelancer, and a writer for my blog and my own pieces. It can be exhausting, but it is also fulfilling. I like keeping busy. And sometimes the toughest work you can do is finding a better job for yourself.

I started out five years ago at Stampington  & Company as an assistant editor. That particular publisher produced craft magazines for the consumer market. I learned early on at my job that publishing was a good fit, but crafting was not. When I began an extensive search in the job market two years ago, I learned some startling truths. Chief among them was that magazines were changing. Many were folding or not being released in print anymore. And very few are made in South Orange County, where I live. I didn’t know how bad I really wanted another job until I found myself being OK with the fact that I might have to start over in a new industry, new type of media, with a new title, and new location. Once I was OK with all of this, the right job found me.

I am still an editor and I still work for a magazine, but this time it is on the business side in addition to the consumer. It requires a lot more social media usage, publishing online, and comes with an hour and a half commute. But I am still OK with these things, because I know that no one will ever get what they want out of this life by never trying anything new.

Sometimes your work has to function as your dressing room mirror. You have to be willing to look yourself up and down and see if it accurately reflects you and your style. You have to ask if this is how you want to present yourself to the world. The troubling thing is, women are sometimes so bent on judging others or picking themselves apart that they lose sight of what they want, how to get there, and who they really are.  But once you take others out of the equation, it all becomes so simple to focus on what really matters to you. Not everyone will be able to pull off the same style of hat. But that’s OK, because personal style is not about looking exactly like someone else, it’s about embracing who you are through what you put on. No, your significant other won’t always like or get everything you are wearing. My boyfriend always tells me he thinks I look best in baseball caps. I would not be caught dead in a baseball cap, especially if I am not at a baseball game. But you cannot dress to appease other people, and likewise, you cannot live your life or do your work to appease others as well. One of my favorite style icons, Carrie Bradshaw, wore a peculiar hat in one episode of Sex and the City. While she didn’t look bad, it was something I know I would never chance. In the episode, her boyfriend Jack Berger, points out her hat and picks on her for wearing it when they get in a fight. But in true Carrie fashion, she takes off the hat and yells back at him “It’s fabulous, you’re just saying that to hurt my feelings!” We all need to have the confidence to stand up for what is right, and what we believe looks right. We all deserve to look and feel fabulous every day, no matter what hat we may be wearing at the time.

When I quit my job at Stampington, it was not entirely easy to do. I had gotten to know so many wonderful artists and understand the passion behind their work. I felt possessive over the two magazines I had run from the get go: Jewelry Affaire and apronology. To this day, I don’t look at them in the bookstore, because it is too painful. I could have stayed where I was and looked at jewelry and attended more art retreats and driven only 10 minutes to work. I could have stayed where things were comfortable and familiar. But I had long outgrown those things that once looked good on me. I knew I needed to change things up.

I learned that we need to invest in the things that we know will work for us. For many of you here that might be this very event, another workshop, a class at a local school, or a new suit. These investments require sharp doses of honesty. Sometimes we can con ourselves to buy into what’s not right for us. How many times have you tried something on or eyed something in a case and thought “Well, if I ever go to a ball, that would be the thing I would need…” But more often than not that occasion never comes. We have to be realistic with our needs. You have to keep trying things on until you get the look you want. I applied for so many jobs, some editorial, some not. I would get so discouraged because the jobs I really wanted were in New York or Los Angeles and they never seemed to call me back or send me an e-mail. All the connections I made never seemed to come up with any positions for me to fill. But I never stopped trying things on. I kept looking. I kept convincing myself that I could fit in a marketing department, at a bridal blog, and eventually I really did feel that a nail magazine was a good fit for me. And now I am breaking myself in.

My job goes hand in hand with making decisions. An editor cannot be indecisive. They have to know when to cut, when to pull, when to add, when to get a new idea etc. While oftentimes we look fine just the way we are, sometimes it is best to step back and ask “what if I added that hat?” or “What if I piled on the jewelry?” Asking these questions can transform your appearance from just fine into memorable moments. When it comes to being professional and balancing the many hats we wear, we need to not be afraid to edit ourselves. Sometimes this means saying no to a particular job, declining an invitation, or losing some sleep. These are some of the sacrifices I have to make in order to achieve the life I have envisioned for myself. 

One of my favorite TV shows is the Rachel Zoe Project. I love Rachel Zoe, not because she is a good dresser who is not afraid to wear a huge hat, but because she is a business woman extraordinaire. She styles celebrities for the red carpet, photo shoots at huge magazines, and recently became a fashion designer as well as a mother. Every week we watch as she works long hours, makes tough decisions, and squeezes in time for her family. She talks a lot about the “Everything Woman,” a woman who has it all and works hard for it. Rachel never admits that she is that woman, but when I hear her use the term “taking my styling hat off and putting my designer hat on,” I know that she too struggles with having multiple jobs, working constantly, and striving to be her best self. Despite having many assistants, a nanny, and a makeup artist, even the most famous of women can have to wear many hats. And they do so because they care about their work. They care about their legacy. They have a vision that drives them. And while some argue that women can never have it all, I argue that we each have the potential to have it all – or at the very least make it look like we do. We can all make the choice to look our best in order to feel and do our best. I wake up for work at 4:30 every morning, in hope of leaving my house at 5:45 and be at work by 7. While this never feels good, it is necessary for making sure that I look as I would expect an editor at a major magazine to look. I never know who will be coming by our offices, what business lunches or beauty brands will call. So while I might not have a full night’s rest, I need to look like I did, because how you look can affect your business. I sometimes fall into the trap of thinking that editors and writers live cozy lifestyles because they are behind the scenes. They are always a byline to their readers or one monthly picture on a masthead. But as I said earlier, real business is about making connections, and putting your best face forward.

I read an article in the New York Times recently about Margaret Thatcher, titled “For Margaret Thatcher, Wardrobe Was Armor.” It eulogized the Iron Lady through her choice in clothing. And while she was perceived as tough due to her policies and leadership, she didn’t wear spikes or leather or pantsuits. The article describes her as wearing long skirts, timeless pearls, furs, and even bows. The piece argues that in the '80s male dominated world of political power, her clothes sent out a message about who she was. She is quoted as saying, “Please don’t use the word ‘tough.’ People might get the impression that I don’t care. And I do care. Very deeply.” We should always look like we care. The picture that accompanied the article on Baroness Thatcher shows her wearing a big blue hat, and she is tipping it slightly, smiling. We are blessed to have the ability to wear and choose between so many hats. We are lucky to live in a society where our heads needn’t be constantly covered. We live in a world where women can be made of iron yet wear bows, run countries, fashion empires, or magazines, and write and speak the truth about how tough it is to do all these things successfully. But as long as we have the support from one another and the ability to connect, new worlds are possible.