Not Cool Kids
Imagine you walk into a work event, you’re on show, you know that not everyone here is your ally, but hey its work not play. confidence levels are about a really average 6, you dint really like what you are wearing but it was the best that could be produced on that day. In my case this is quite a glamorous event which is packed to the rafters with the beautiful people, 50% of which are the most beautiful women in London, i look around when we arrive and my confidence sinks a little lower. sometimes i wonder why if its so awkward why i put myself through it, i guess i think one day im going to break the pain barrier like wearing in a pair of shoes - and its part of ‘work’ – the fear of being out of sight out of mind keeps you going back lie the test lab rat.
The first people i encounter are two journalists from The Sunday Times Style, whom ive worked with on and off, but im tentative as im still smarting from appearing at the bottom of Style’s Barometer with a ‘Fashion Faux Par’ because of looking awful in a photo at The Elle Style Awards. Devastated and in some lame defense i tweeted Style jokingly that ‘ Yes i had in fact been going down a lot recently as i was trying for a baby” trying to point out the fact that i had my mind on other things than what i was wearing. Which was true, but probably more true was the fact id got so stressed about being invited to the Elle Style Awards for the first time and got myself in such a tizz about getting it ‘right’, about second guessing and chopping and changing, not listening to my instinct over what to wear, id confused even myself. Being a stylist and dressing someone else to a brief, is a whole different bag of cats than when it comes to yourself, add little emotional baggage here and pocket of low self esteem there and it can all get a bit battered out of shape. There’s a reason people stay behind the camera it has dawned on me (duh)
So what i was i walking into as i decide to make conversation, were they friend or foe? we exchange fashion greetings which usually involves compliments/comments/thinly disguised insults on what is being worn tonight – to me “Oh you look really, sparkly” – after Barometer roasting of course ready that as ‘…really, hideous‘ Deep breath, it would be really odd just to back away at this point, on we go smiling, until the male journo says
“So Grace your not going to go any do anything like having kids any time soon are you…” said like was i planning on having a smelly shit on the carpet any time soon. i immediately assume, dangerous i know, this might have been related to my former baby tweet knowing he is one of the STS tweeters, I squeak “No” before than i could take a breath and think. denial it seems is easier that the much more complicated truth. Yes im dying to start a family, i have been for ages, and have had to make some pretty tough calls on this in the last year or so, career vs baby, its actually been a bit of a personal minefield.
After a few breaths I did manage to come to my senses and say “why would you say that? especially when your editor has tons of kids” to be fair to him he did back peddle by saying something about having a Peter Pan syndrome and whilst others are settling down he feels like the last disco boy in town, i guess a pitfall of his job reporting on the party pages. But i was surprised that someone who works for for a magazine that runs stuff all the time on ‘cool’ lifestyles with kids – i would guess because the editor Tiffany has been going thought that herself, that a major part of the team was intoning it was like a punishment or at least un-Stylish for a woman of my age to be thinking of having kids. Perhaps it was some odd flippant banter, but rightly or wrongly it seemed to compound my fear that having kids and being successful ‘in fashion’ dont go together.
Do women struggle with mixed messages like i am - have kids, have a great life-style, have a career, be attractive, be well dressed etc etc because in reality i dont think you can do them all, so which one gives? For me its been kids, but ive got to a personal breaking point and i think something in me has changed along the way, undoubtedly its a good thing. Maybe im shedding my own Peter Pan outfit….constantly running up fashions hill which for me is how i earnt a crust so not so easy to just grow up and change path. From working behind the scenes in fashion, you dont have to sign up to being responsible for anyone feelings let alone be responsible for your every action. Naively what i didnt realize when i took the out of the blue offer of being on TV that my whole self would be open to scrutiny not only by everyone else but by myself as well. More laughably now i realise i wasnt entirely clear to me when i naively wanted to become a stylist is that its not just about clothes and nice photos - its hugely about female representation, much more political and as it turns out a while lot more interesting
Part of this change i think is becoming more empathetic and more responsible, maybe came about from the acute thought of bringing kids into the world, do i want them affected by some of the stories i learn in conversation with girls on twitter, crashingly low self esteem, self harm, eating disorders, confusion over what ‘the right dress size is to be to be ‘right’” and by me being on a show like Top Model seemingly endorsing this. Do i regret doing Top Model, no because it forced me to open my eyes. i grew up with a mother with multiple eating disorders, which has taken it toll on both of us, and its taken till now, got a place in my career that i can stop and review my actions and motivations rather than just keep pushing at achievement and recognition. I think my mother was the root of wanting to get involved with women’s representation in the first place i just didnt have the perspective at first.
Part of my DNA is being creative and so my hope that me seemingly pulling my head out of of the sand, as i think is many peoples fear in the industry, is that if you dont tow the you’re not spreading the party message so to speak. I will always continue to love clothes, they represent us which had always been my fascination, though now im more concerned about actually representing myself as i woman i would respect
So where does that big realisation leave me, career, personality and nerves all in tatters? Yes a bit. But you gotta tear down some stuff to build some new stuff. Now where’s my rhino skin apron.