Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Starving Artist

Ever since I left the world of property management behind me forever last November and embarked on my journey toward making something meaningful and beautiful and artistic for the world with my life, I've honestly never been happier. I'm also broke. I can't say I've never been more broke, because the truth is, I have. I've been broke pretty much my whole life. There really have only been brief moments, a year here and there, when I haven't been broke, and those in retrospect were not my happiest years.

There was a year early in my marriage when things were going pretty well for my husband and I, we were newlyweds, just bought our first home, and were looking forward to a life full of adventures together, then he got sick. We spent the next year and a half going to doctors, getting referrals to yet more doctors, racking up doctor bills and never getting answers. He had what would later prove to be an unnecessary surgery, we went through a cancer scare, and finally we were given the diagnosis of Multiple Chemical Sensitivities and had to come to terms with what that meant for both of our lives. Its tough to look back on that one good year now and even remember whether I had taken the time to savor the feeling of being young and in love and as carefree as we were, all I know is since then things have been more of a struggle and the memory of that time is clouded by the events that changed everything for us.

Back when I was a big shot property manager, sure, I had money to buy clothes and go out to dinner with friends, but I was stuck in a job that was pretty much crushing my soul. Add to that my husband and I struggling to adjust to our changing respective roles in our marriage, and we had bigger problems than just not having extra spending cash. I'm so grateful now that we were able to work through those tough times together. Today our marriage is stronger than ever and I have a deeper respect for Gerrard's sensitivity, his passion for doing good in the world, and his ability to persevere through adversity. Still, I'll take being a little strapped for cash over another year like that anytime.

I did have a supremely happy childhood. I mean truly, Leave it to Beaver cotton candy at the fair birds chirping and rainbows over the dirt lot pick up baseball game kind of crap. We were dirt poor most of the time. My Dad was a wooden boat builder, and is still an amazing craftsman, but the industry took a nose dive somewhere in the early eighties and he was out of work for a long time. Then when he did go back it was grueling, spotty, part time work, swing shifts and graveyard shifts. It was tough on the family. We were on food stamps, went to food banks, and had some pretty sparse Christmases, but we stuck together above all, and we were happy.

My younger brother and me
Sublime childhood summers were spent turning our dirt-hill sand box into a mud pit on hot summer days and playing make believe with my childhood best friend Bonnie until it got dark. We didn't have the fairy wings and Cinderella replica gowns every little girl has now, we made gowns out of sheets my Mom got at garage sales and hung pearl necklaces on our heads pretending to be the Princess in the clamshell bed at the end of The Never Ending Story. Come on, you know you did that too. It was awesome.

My back to school budget was something that first pushed me in the direction of fashion design. Most years I was given a little bit of cash to go to the mall with my girlfriends, but I definitely had to stretch that further than most. I learned to supplement my wardrobe with thrift store pieces which my Mom would help me re-work. To this day Value Village is one of my favorite places on earth.
The guitar Bonnie has there is a nice piece of plywood my
Dad cut for us in the shape of a guitar, and I am using a
free weight for a microphine

I grew up just fine without all of the finer things. In fact, I grew up into a woman with dreams and goals and ambition. I'm not ashamed of being poor, I'm part of the 99%, I'm salt of the earth, I'm a starving Artist. In fact, I'm proud of that monicker, I earn it every time I have to ask the cashier at the grocery store to take off the pack of gum because that was the thing that put me over the amount of cash I have in my wallet. I can honestly say I've been happiest in my life at the times when I've really had nothing. And right now is no exception.

The one major downside, though to being this broke is that I never have anything to give back to the community that has always helped me, to the society that I'm a part of, to the world that I love. I do have my time and my talents, and I try to use those as much as I possibly can to help the organizations whose missions are aligned with my business mission of “Uplifting through Glamour.” I volunteer, I attend events, I make clothing donations to Ruby Room and Queen when I have something appropriate to give them, but I still have a need inside me to give more that I just can't satisfy with a volunteer day or a donated piece of clothing here and there.

This, at the core of it all, is why making Lime Light Fashion House happen is so important to me. It won't just be a store that sells some pretty things and makes me enough money so that I can stop mooching free lunches off my friends and dodging constant collection calls, it will also be my resource to give back. With a permanent show venue I'll be able to host fundraiser events when my charities need, and hold fashion shows for students and upcoming designers to have a place to showcase their work. And with the store concept of encouraging customers to play dress up and work the runway, I will get to spend every day making women feel beautiful and showing people their true potential.

I have to keep pushing no matter how steep the next hill, and I will see it through, no matter how long it takes. Keep your fingers crossed for me readers, while I go through the application process for financing with investor groups, all I need is for one to get it, to understand my passion and my goal and believe in the dream with me, and well, give me the money. Ultimately, I owe it to that little girl inside me who grew up on Rice-A-Roni and Pop Tarts from the food bank playing dress up in garage sale sheets, because the idea to inspire and encourage others through my love of sparkly things never could have come about if that little girl hadn't been as loved and encouraged to always follow her dreams as she was.

Thursday, July 12, 2012

BeDecked! Fashion Show and Auction

So this is my first entry following BeDecked! Fashion show and Auction. This is where you expect to read about the raging success that it was and how it completely springboarded (sprungboard? boardsprung?) my boo-tay to fame and riches, well . . . The stage was set, the talent was booked, the energy came together just right, it was about to go down exactly as I had been imagining, and raise some real start up money for Lime Light Fashion House, then it didn't quite do that. It DID, however, end up being an amazing show. I couldn't be prouder of what we accomplished. As I look over the scores of epic photos from the night, I actually can't believe I produced that event. It looks like something I would have attended, paid for a VIP ticket to even, but the reality of it all being MY show, is like, too much to comprehend.

I had a team behind me of people who all just threw themselves in to making BeDecked! what it became, and I couldn't have done it without their help. Larissa Long, my pageant sister and my friend, provided invaluable support gathering sponsorships and coordinating logistics, Christopher Chapman, most well known as a Photographer, led the effort backstage wrangling models and even leading my rehearsal so I could get my hair done. In retrospect, I realized I probably should have at least gone to the rehearsal so I wouldn't have been standing on the stage at the end of my collection's showcase awkwardly waiting for my models to move while they all looked at me like “why aren't you doing anything?”

Kristen Moores assisted backstage also and helped keep everyone sane, Rhiannon Cups led the hair and make up team and did some amazing work herself, and my hostesses Jessica Riggs and Isis were delightful. I really appreciated having Jessica's calming energy there not just because I knew I could rely on her as an experienced public speaker to make sure the show flowed, but also because she grounds me so much. She's my rock.

I will be forever grateful for the friendship and business connections of everyone who helped with show; the amazingly talented designers who showed, Sailor St. Claire who performed at the show, all the gorgeous models, the fabulous D.J.s, the photographers who covered the event, the bartenders, the hair and make up professionals who calmly executed each designer's vision, the sponsors and the charity partners Ruby Room Seattle and Queen, Its A New Day whose organizations' involvement helped me illustrate my own passion for uplifting and empowering women and teens through the fashion experience.

Yes, BeDecked! was a success. Vivienne Vermillion made her first public appearance (granted, most of the audience had gone home by the time I got the wig on and came out to greet my public, but c'est la vie). The fashion show ran super long and unfortunately being a Thursday evening, people had to get home, so we didn't get to most of the auction or the fun interactive elements of the night, and hence, didn't raise a ton of cash. We did put on a great fashion show, though, and in the end, that's the impression that I think the audience left with. So, I remain broke and at square one when it comes to store funding, but I am not dissuaded. I took a week or so to just decompress after the show, reflect, sleep. Now I'm back to work and preparing to pitch to an angel investment group for funding. Overall, I'm incredibly proud of BeDecked! and have no regrets. Except that I didn't get a cupcake. I hear they were awesome.