I recently read an interview where one of the questions to the interviewee was “Who inspires you?”. And I started to think about how I’d answer that question if asked, especially in the context of my career. I gave it much thought because I like to believe that one day someone WILL be interviewing me and asking that same question. So in playing this whole scenario out in my head, I came up with my answer which includes four women whom I find dynamic, powerful and inspiring. Women whose footsteps I would be honored to follow in.
Jenna Lyons (President/Executive Creative Director at J.Crew): There is a magic at J.Crew unmatched by any other retailer, and I believe the largest part of their success is attributed to Jenna Lyons. I don’t distinguish myself as a member of the J.Crew cult, however I do qualify the company as the Harvard of mass market brands. I’ve worked for many major corporate fashion companies and one of the biggest struggles is placing someone in a high-level, powerful, executive seat who equally keeps the creative AND business strategy in mind. In order to be an effective fashion organization, a leader must drive both simultaneously. Jenna is a perfect blend – innovative, artistic and creative, while also paying attention to the consumer experience. She is cutthroat, but creative. She is strong and steady, yet a visionary. She has worked her way up from the bottom, and landed her role because of talent, not politics which makes her that much more of an informed leader. She’s walked the walk. I value Jenna’s dedication to art, and vision, while understanding the bottom line. She is the epitome of retail genius in my book.
Mary Alice Stephenson (fashion & beauty expert; Founder of Glam4Good): Mary Alice Stephenson grew up in the fashion industry, working for powerful publications like, Vogue, Allure, Marie Claire and Harper’s Bazaar. She is a contributing editor at Seventeen magazine, styles some of the biggest celebrity names in Hollywood and regularly advises women as an expert in fashion and beauty. But none of that is why she inspires me. Mary Alice Stephenson is the founder of an organization called, Glam4Good, which “gives life-changing makeovers, dramatic giveaways and transformative fashion adventures to everyday hero’s and people in need.” Every week that goes by, she is somewhere new, giving back to help empower women to be their best selves. Through the vehicle of fashion, she uses her expertise for a good cause. She also serves as the National Fashion Ambassador for the Make-A-Wish foundation. Mary Alice has done something which I hope to mirror in my career, taking strengths and passions and turning them into purpose!
Leandra Medine (Founder of fashion blog, The Man Repeller; Author): Oh, Leandra. I first learned of Leandra Medine aka The Man Repeller when I began Your Soul Style. I was completely enamored (and inspired) by her style – a bit edgy, mixing high and low, menswear inspired but sexy. I dug it. But as I learned more about her, my fondness went deeper and became more meaningful. Leandra is a feminist, she is a brilliant writer, she is funny as fu*k, she has a strong point of view and most importantly she owns who she is. No one will stand in her way of risk taking and showing up in original, unique ensembles. I watched a segment with her on Style.com recently where she said, “I want to walk into a room, and feel like I will not run into anyone that has thought to do what I did”. She couldn’t have said it better then me. I feel exactly the same, always looking for ways to stand out and define myself as an individual, but don’t always follow through with making the same controversial fashion choices. Leandra is creative, she is smart, she does what she wants. She doesn’t follow rules, she is inventive and she could not give a damn what anyone has to say about it. I strive to be as bold as she is.
My Mama (Founder of The Connecting Hand): I never knew my mom as a non-working person. She worked most of my life and was always an equal financial contributor to the family. From one career to the next, she busted her ass and was able to achieve greatness because of hard work and dedication. Beginning as a teacher, moving to the financial industry and eventually launching her own successful business in geriatric management, my mom is the epitome of following your dreams and reaching them. No one could get in the way of her journey towards success. She was unstoppable. As a budding entrepreneur myself, I realize now how hard it is to create a viable and thriving business. She made it look so seamless. My mom taught me at a very young age that you need to “Find something you love. And then find a way to make money doing it”. I like the order of those two sentences most. The words have never left my mind and I hope to follow in her path of great success.
So who is your inspiration? What drives you? Who is your guiding light? How would you answer that question if interviewed? Would love to hear your answers in the comment section!
Have a think….and a happy weekend. xx jenny
photo via fast company