You may have seen the reports that while I was at BlogHer ’12, I was in a fashion show.
I know, I know. Stop laughing – I’m serious!
When I was first contacted about participating in the first ever BlogHer fashion show, I almost wondered if I was being punked. Except the email was from Elisa and I know she’d never do that to me. She had noticed me discussing BlogHer fashion on Twitter – of course, I was discussing why my jeans are perfectly acceptable conference wear, since that’s how I dress in real life. My jeans are practically my brand!
I’ll admit I went through a lot of emotions on the subject. First, I was completely flattered to be asked – what an honor that my name was considered to be in such a big event! I’m not a big name blogger by any means, and fashion is not a topic I generally write about.
Another emotion was giddy. Never before in my life have I considered being in a fashion show. Ever. While some little girls dreamed of being a model, I dreamed of being an astronaut. And as I got older – and heavier – it simply wasn’t on my radar. When you’re presented with quite possibly a once-in-a-lifetime experience like this, it’s easy to quickly add it to your bucket list.
But then the fear set in. Me. On stage. Dressed up. And walking. Being on stage I can handle, even being on stage and dressed up. But add in walking or talking and I suddenly fear making a fool of myself in front of a crowd. I have lost a lot of weight, and I’m ready to celebrate that, but I’m not model perfect.
Would people make fun of me? The big girl on stage wobbling in her heels? When I was younger I was the fat, ugly girl, a message I internalized after so many others had declared it to be true.
I didn’t want fear to win this time, so I quickly accepted before I could talk myself out of it. But even in the days leading up to it, that nagging voice of low self-esteem kept filling my head with doubt. Even at the fitting it was hard to accept a compliment from anyone. And being unable to fit in the first dress I tried on just provided ammo for that little voice that I would fail. I anxiously awaited Saturday night.
Then the magic happened.
I was still feeling like an ugly ducking as I sat down for makeup just hours before the show. I joked with the Elizabeth Arden team that my usual makeup regimen was face wash and a moisturizer with sunscreen. For special occasions I’d switch to a tinted moisturizer. Rebecca Restrepo, a woman who deserves the title of world-famous makeup artist, took her time and provided tips on how to use makeup to highlight my own natural beauty. She took my own makeup habits into account and created a look that was natural and simply luminous. I glowed.
Next, the Paul Mitchell team took control of my hair. My stylist asked what I’d like, and I showed her a photo of my outfit and gave her free reign to do what she thought best. The finished result was stunning.
We had to wait to get dressed, and I remember going into the bathroom and just staring at myself in the mirror.
I was beautiful. But my hair wasn’t drastically different. And my makeup wasn’t that heavy either – hell, she used a tinted moisturizer as a foundation! So with the changes being so minor, why did I feel and look like a different person?
It wasn’t until my dresser had helped me into my outfit (jeans! imagine that!) and I turned around and found myself face-to-face with a different me in the mirror that suddenly it all made sense.
All of this fuss to make me look beautiful for the runway also made me feel beautiful on the inside, and what was reflected in that mirror wasn’t just makeup, hair and clothing, but also an inner beauty and self-confidence that had been hidden for most of my life. A simple trick of prettying the facade had convinced my self-esteem that I really was beautiful now, but logic also kicked in to say look closer – it’s still the same you. You just never noticed.
We were then lined up and prepped backstage for our big moment. The nerves were still there, but they were partially mixed with excitement. I had made a last minute decision to keep my phone with me, and even though we hadn’t rehearsed it, I was going to photograph the crowd at the end of the runway. This was a blogger fashion show, right? Well, that’s what this blogger would be doing in this circumstance!
The walk was a blur. I remember taking a deep breath right before I climbed the stairs to the stage. I remember the cheering and hearing my name, although I couldn’t see out into the crowd because of the lights. I remember letting those cheers fuel my walk as I strutted to the center of the stage.
I remember lifting my sunglasses and giving my best surprised act – omg! look at all of you out there! how ya been? – at the end of the runway. I remember my sunglasses falling low on my nose as I tried to take a photo of the crowd (it didn’t turn out – too bright) and fumbling with my phone as I tried to get it in my coat pocket.
I remember walking back towards the main stage and seeing friends in the front row, yelling and cheering me on, and then as I neared backstage seeing Kelly standing in her row of chairs and whooping as loud as she could. And as I stepped backstage, I remember thinking wait – it’s over? No! I want to go back out!
Now I had all of the confidence in the world. I was unstoppable. I sat backstage while others took their turn on the runway and couldn’t stop smiling.
And after? I felt like a new person. It was amazing. I felt beautiful. Powerful. Worthy. I happily jumped into photos with friends at the CheeseburgHer party. I even photobombed a few folks, too.
I didn’t want to go to bed that night, mostly because I didn’t want to wash off the makeup. I took self-portraits in my hotel room bathroom before pulling out the face wash, sad to remove this pretty face. But you know what? I still woke up beautiful. (Well, aside from the bedhead and lines on my face from the pillowcase.) Taking off the makeup didn’t remove what I had discovered the night before.
Thank you, BlogHer, Kathryn, Darlene, Sheila, 6pm.com, Elizabeth Arden, Paul Mitchell, Petsmart, all of the other fantastic blogger models, and everyone involved with the fashion show, for giving me the experience of a lifetime, and helping me find my inner beauty.
You helped this 36 year old mom, who has never in her life considered herself worth a second look, much less a fashion show walk, blossom into the swan I always wished I could be. It was there the whole time, but I couldn’t see it until now. Real beauty is feeling comfortable in your own skin, accepting who you are, and loving yourself.
(And a special thank you to two lovely women I had never met before who approached me at CheeseburgHer to tell me how fantastic I was in the fashion show. You have no idea how much your kind words meant to me!)