Diversity is a word that has always defined me. Why? Because I didn´t have any of it around me, only in myself, the reflection of the mirror. Latina but not Latina enough, too tall, too fat, my eyebrows too thick, my look too “exotic," too much of many things. Being called ugly and a monster from a toddler stage is something that has been extremely hard. Since I didn’t want anyone else to go through this, I´ve set myself the goal to work hard, to make feel others better, to show what we are as the human race: diversity, and that is what I´ve been doing for the past 25 years of my life.
"This is not a favor someone is doing to us; this should be the norm, as the world we live in: diverse. "
Going through my daily readings of fashion magazines, trying to have my work as a magazine editor on point, I cross paths with this interview of designer Tom Ford in WWD.
In the interview, WWD asks Ford about body diversity on the runway, his less than eager response shows his flippancy towards the subject, shrugging it off as an issue of the models needing to fit into sample collection rather than seeing it as an issue he can help with.
The more I read the interview the more I roll my eyes. How can a designer give such a lame excuse to not include plus-sized models? I had higher expectations for such a talented designer as Ford.
“This is an industry thing. Whether we all decide to start making all of our clothes in the next size up, that’s a different thing. But there is practicality, there’s a reason models are a standard size.” If we settle on everything because 'that's what everyone else does', many of us wouldn’t be here, standing up for our rights, the way it should be. At that very moment while I read I swear I could see a big, gigantic dinosaur waving at me. I felt like I was in the cave era. How is it 2018 and we are still having this conversation?
I had to read the entire interview, and in all honesty, so many things were wrong there.
So I´ve tried to figure it out, how could I send a strong message of discomfort with all that Tom Ford said and I did it the best and most respectful way I've found: recreating on my amazing size 24 an outfit from the 2017 Tom Ford collection with things in my closet. What was the idea? 1. Giving certified information on how terribly negative and dangerous the “one size” message is, from body dissatisfaction to eating disorders and beyond. 2. Proving that he was wrong, as I knew he was. I could easily recreate that look without any hesitation or effort. So if someone like me could accomplish something so powerful and diverse, how come he couldn't?
I´m the first Latina plus-size model worldwide and editor in chief of Belleza XL the first and only plus-size Latino oriented magazine in the world, which gives me a huge responsibility for every single thing I say and do. That´s why pretty much I couldn´t just ignore this, it is way too serious, as the pioneer of this industry I had to say or do something. This nonsense needs to stop and I'm doing my part.
The conversation of diversity (on beauty and sizes) in fashion must be discussed at every opportunity. This is not an issue that belongs singularly to the plus size industry anymore. There are many conversations to be had about negative messages attached to people who are not white, or tall and skinny (consider this to be the perfect, average and ideal in the fashion industry).
The fashion industry is growing and evolving, the fact that we have plus-size models, models from all races, models with Down's Syndrome and other characteristics is a clear manifestation of how things are going on.
Fashion should be for all, pretty simple. This is not a favor someone is doing to do us; this should be the norm, as the world we live in: diverse. We are not all the same size, height, race, etc. so why should we accept being treated like soldiers of the same army?
We are not a one size world, and everybody needs to understand this. We need visibility and representation. Diversity matters.
More companies, brands, designers are expanding their concept of beauty and that is something amazing that I can´t thank enough as a costumer and plus size model. The body positive movement, (which has nothing to do with fashion, but has helped tremendously) is a most on every single aspect of our lives. Discrimination is not normal, is not ok and we shouldn’t remain in silence every time it happens.
Having nothing to wear is a big form of discrimination, the message we are getting is: “you don’t exist, your existence is not worth, the market is not interested in your size or shape” and that is absolutely wrong, cruel and despicable.
So I´m sorry Mr. Ford, but no, I can´t take your excuses. Do not underestimate us, please. If you don´t like us, go and say it, or don´t, it's your right, as it is my right to not remain in silence and claim my space.
' This is not an issue that belongs singularly to the plus size industry anymore.'
As I´m writing this I´ve read about four new different clothing lines size inclusive all over the world. On every story, there are two sides: the one that causes the problem and the one that fixes it. And I refuse to cause any problem. Which side are you?
In many ways I am a shining example of the American Dream. I was born in Hungary during the Communist era, and my family fled to Israel before coming to the U.S. in pursuit of freedom and safety. When we arrived, I was just a young, shy girl who couldn't speak English. After my childhood in Hungary, New York City was a marvel; I couldn't believe that such a lively, rich place existed. Even a simple thing like going to the market and seeing all the bright, colorful produce and having so many choices was new to me. I'll never take that for granted. I think it's where my love affair with color truly began.
One thing I had was a strong work ethic. I worked hard in school, to learn English, and at jobs including my first job at Dairy Queen -- which I loved! Ice cream is easily my favorite food. From there, I moved into the garment district where my brother-in-law's family had a business. During this time, I was able to see how a business was run and began to hone in on my eye for aesthetics and willingness to work hard at any task I was given.
Eventually, my brother-in-law bought a dental supply company in Los Angeles and asked me to join him. LA, a place with 365-days of sunshine. How could I say no? The company started as Odontorium Products Inc. During the acrylic movement of the 1980s, we realized that nail technicians were buying our product, and that the same components used for dentures were used for artificial nails. We saw a potential opening in the market, and we seized it. OPI began dropping off the "rubber band special" at every salon on Ventura Blvd. in Los Angeles. A jar of powder, liquid and primer – rubber-banded together – became the OPI Traditional Acrylic System and was a huge hit, giving OPI its start in the professional nail industry. It was 1981 when OPI first opened its doors. I couldn't have predicted our success, but I knew that hard work and faith in myself would be key in transforming a new business into a company with global reach.
When we started OPI, what we were doing was something new. Before OPI came on the scene, the generic, utilitarian nail polish names already on the market – like Red No. 4, Pink No. 2 – were completely forgettable. We rebranded the category with catchy names that we knew women could relate to and would remember. The industry was stale and boring, so we made it more fun and sexy. We started creating color collections. I carefully developed 30 groundbreaking colors for the debut collection -- many of which are still beloved bestsellers today, including Malaga Wine, Alpine Snow and Kyoto Pearl.
There is no other nail color brand in the world that touches the totality of industries the way OPI does.
With deep roots in Tinseltown, we eventually started collaborating with Hollywood. Our decision to collaborate with the entertainment industry also propelled OPI forward in another way, ultimately leading us to finding a way to connect with women beyond the world of beauty, relating our products to the beverages they drink, the cars they drive, the movies they watch, the clothes they wear – even the shade they use to paint their living room walls! There is no other nail color brand in the world that touches the totality of industries the way OPI does. It also propelled my growth as a businessperson forward. I found myself sitting in meetings with executives from some of the top companies in the world. I didn't have a fancy presentation. I didn't have a Harvard business degree. I realized that what I had was passion. I had a passion for what we were doing, and I had my own unique story that no one else could replicate.
Discipline, hard work, and passion gave me the confidence to grow from that shy immigrant girl to become the person that I am today
Bit by bit, I grew up with the business. Discipline, hard work, and passion gave me the confidence to grow from that shy immigrant girl to become the person that I am today -- an author, public speaker, and co-founder of OPI, the world's #1 professional nail brand.
I learned quickly that one can be an expert at many things, but not everything. Running a business is very hard work. Luckily, I had someone I could collaborate with who brought something new to the table and complemented my talents, my brother-in-law George Schaeffer. My business "superpower," or the ability to make decisions quickly and confidently, kept me ahead of trends and competition.
Another key to my success in building this brand and in growing in business was being authentic. Authenticity is so important to brands and maybe even more so now in the time of social media when you can speak directly to your consumers. I realized even then that I could only be me. I was a woman who knew what I wanted. I looked at my mother and daughter and wanted to create products that would excite and empower them.
There's often an expectation placed on women in charge that they need to be cutthroat to be competitive, but that's not true. Rather than focusing on my gender or any implied limitations I might bring to the job as a female and a mother, I always focused instead on my vision. I deliberately fostered an environment at OPI filled with warmth. After all, at the end of the day, your organization is only as good as its people. I've always found that being nice, being humble, and listening to others has served me well. Instead of pushing others down to get to the top, inspire them and bring them along on the journey.
You can read more about my personal and professional journey in my new memoir out now, I'm Not Really a Waitress: How One Woman Took Over the Beauty Industry One Color at a Time.