Olivia Mai is one powerful woman. Not just because she's mai mom, but because she taught me how every single woman in this world can channel that power, too.
Mama Mai’s daring, playful, and unconditionally loving personality were three qualities that taught me being attractive has nothing to do with good looks- yet everything to do with great style. Growing up was a show with Mama Mai- and not for anybody else but us. We glittered it up for grocery shopping, gave makeovers to friends who stopped by, and had fun with style to stay current because of creativity, not money or trend. Mom believed looking good said two things- 1) I care about myself and 2) I want you to care about you. It’s very weird how it works that way – taking intentional time to dress yourself builds a confidence to feel good, therefore making you give your best to everyone. People seeing your positive energy through your style will think about the way they look, and by being confident with love you invite them to celebrate themselves without saying a word. Style is powerful.
For the first few years of mai life, everything was cupcakes and cashmere. I had no problem being me, and had the most enjoyable time decorating mai moods each day. It was the first day of school where I had no idea I would have to learn how to stand (out) on my own two feet.
All month Mama Mai and I had been preparing for the first day of school and I had everything set the night before to walk in and make some new friends. I had decided mai first day color had to be a powerful purple, and sprung outta bed that morning ready to throw on my purple and grey plaid jumper with my fave tee underneath that spelled “J-E-A-N-N-I-E” in bold black letters, funky fresh pink fishnet stockings, and glossy purple rubber galoshes that mai mom had purchased for rainy weather. (It was 74 degrees and sunny that day.) She helped me with the finishing touches of sparkly bangles to my wrist, gave me a wet kiss on my cheek, (careful not to smudge mai glittery Wet n' Wild lipgloss), and walked me into school for mai very first day.
The moment I walked into mai classroom and took off my coat, every single kid stared. Parents, too. Mom saw Mrs. Clark, my new teacher, and left mai side to say hello. Immediately I felt the eyes all over the room pan head to toe over mai outfit. Several of the parents raised an eyebrow, while many of the kids pointed and laughed. For the first time, I felt the emotion of insecurity. Scarier, I felt like I’d rather be anybody else but me. I saw that everyone else had slicked smooth hair, barrettes, matching dresses and socks, appropriate sandals and shoes. I sat down wishing I could take off mai galoshes and hide.
By midday I was known as Jeannie Weenie Wild. (Thanks Tory Millen.) At lunch nobody sat by me, and at the end where new friends waited in pairs to be picked up, I waited by myself. When Mom rolled up, I lunged myself in the backseat, kicked off my boots and headband, and slouched low in my seat. I didn’t even wait for Mom to ask what was wrong. Through tears I wailed about why she let me go to school looking like that and why didn’t she buy me clothes like the other kids and why did she name me something that rhymes with Weenie.
At that moment Mom immediately pulled the car over, took off her seatbelt, and turned around with the most thrilled elated expression of joy that I wondered if I was in the right car. “They already know your name?? The kids??? What did they say?? That’s WONDERFUL!!”
I sat there dumbfounded like, “Did you hear what I said?? NO!! I don’t want them to know mai name! I hate school! I’m never going back!! Everybody is too mean- they called me Jeannie the Weenie!”
The next words Mama Mai said I never forgot: “Con”, (which means my child in Vietnamese), “this is the best day. I raise you to stand out. I don’t care what they’re saying, as long as you are noticed and unforgettable, you are my daughter and I am so proud. You are not da weenie, you da winnah!”
Those words changed mai life forever. That very second her words slipped into mai ears, I understood the difference between “owning it” and “being owned,” a philosophy I advocate today when adopting new styles. Never again, would I let anybody else tell ME, who I was. She had spent those years teaching me to celebrate myself, and now was mai turn to learn how to make a statement. And its built the wall of protection I have in this business for anything said against me- because I know as long as mai actions come out of love and a fun spirit, I’m a “Do” all the way.
Thanks Mama Mai, I use that confident foundation to stack the rest of my personality upon to influence others through mai personal style.
How are you "winning" in your own life? Share your break thru moment in life- I wanna hear it.