Photo: John Swain
Great style is all about self-expression, so the easiest way to look and feel fabulous is by simply being yourself.
Sometimes, being authentic is easier said than done. We’ve all flipped through magazines or seen someone attractive on TV or walking down the street and thought, “I love her hair, her figure, her outfit!” Mimicking someone else’s look might be gratifying in the short-term because it provides instant validation with minimal effort. But over the long-term, comparing yourself to others can wreak havoc on your self-worth, not to mention the ability to create a signature style that expresses your truest self. You were born with a unique fingerprint, hair, skin and eye color, along with a point of view that makes the world more interesting with you in it. So why be anyone else?
If being authentic is new to your style vocabulary, try these tips to get moving in the right direction.
1. Keep it simple. Beauty doesn’t have to be complicated. If you were stranded on a deserted island, what single item could you not live without? A great read? Tinted mascara? Your yoga mat? Your answer to this simple question could help hone in on your most basic values: a great foundation for creating an authentic personal style.
2. Don’t fight mother nature. Learn to go with the flow of what God gave you. If your hair is fine, don a face-flattering pixie cut instead of spending hours teasing up longer hair. Kinky? Ditch the relaxer and rock a ‘fro, braids or a twist-out. If there’s a body part you don’t like, play up your assets. Just think, some of the most successful actresses wear A cups (think Jennifer Aniston and Keira Knightly) and having a tiny booty is no longer the international beauty standard (need I mention J-Lo or Kim Kardashian)?
The same goes with age. If you’re 65, what’s the point of trying to look 25? You’ve earned every wrinkle and gray hair on your body with hard-won wisdom, so as long as you’re young at heart, it’s fine to act your age. Sadly, plastic surgery and chemicals won’t make you more lovable on the inside, they just create scar tissue — both physically and emotionally.
3. Wear Your Colors. Like most little girls, I grew up wanting to be a princess. Of course, all princesses wore pink. And not just any pink. Bubble gum pink, a rosy shade that looks great on most white people. But it washed out the richer tones of my chocolate skin. Sadly, that didn’t stop me from wearing it religiously for the first 30 years of my life.
And then I got my colors done. My color therapist at the time, Jennifer Butler (whom I met in LA when I started working on-camera) didn’t just look at my skin tone. Over the course of two hours, she studied my eye color, hair color and bone structure in natural light. She asked about my life, passions and personality. Pulling from a treasure chest of thousands of color swatches collected over decades as a painter and stylist, one by one, she held up colors that made me shine. Wearing my authentic colors not only changed how I saw myself (as more beautiful), it changed how others saw and related to me.
Eventually, these swatches became my color palette, which I swear by to this day. I know exactly what shade to wear on any occasion: my relationship color with friends and family, romantic for date night, power color in the board room, and the perfect shade for everything in between. It helps me pop on-camera, makes shopping and dressing a snap, and causes total strangers to come up to me on the street just to say hello.
4. Keep it Real. Great style isn’t just about clothes, it’s about wearing your heart on your sleeve. If you’re sad, do you pretend to be happy? If you’re hurt, do you pretend not to care? Being a fake is never attractive, and somehow, other people can spot it a mile away. On top of that, being inauthentic prevents you from confronting and resolving deep-seated issues that may be crimping more than just your personal style. When was the last time you inventoried your strengths, weaknesses, and dreams? Telling the truth to others can be easy, but only if you’re willing to be honest with yourself first.
5. Be courageous. Authenticity can take a tremendous amount of courage. The courage to be vulnerable. Courage to follow your unique spiritual path. Courage to let go of trends and beauty standards that don’t measure up to who you are. Courage to be seen and heard; to walk to the beat of your own drum even if nobody else hears it. Though being rejected is harrowing, there’s nothing scarier than looking in the mirror and not knowing who you are. After all, no matter how much time, money and energy you invest in looking like someone else, deep down, those around you know who you really are. Most importantly, you do too.
6. Have Fun With It. Many of us have developed such a phobia of being judged by the “fashion police” that we play it safe and stay stuck in a style rut. As a little girl, I have fond memories of playing dress up in my mother’s closet, sporting her dresses, shoes, accessories and make-up. No matter how clownish I looked, I had so much fun playing with the textures and colors in her wardrobe, like paint on an artist’s palette. Today I’m all grown up, but I approach fashion in the same way: like a fun game of dress up that’s fresh every day.
So don’t take yourself too seriously. Each outfit is a chance to experiment with your personal style, unleash your inner child, and express your soul. Screw the fashion police. Go ahead, make yourself smile: wear stripes with plaid, mismatched socks, a frivolous hat or even a colorful wig the next time you have a big event. I dare you. Playing it safe will get you nowhere. At best, you’ll discover a new part of yourself you didn’t know existed. At worst, you’ll be remembered.