When I was a teenager I had two passions: History and Magazines. I used to love to read magazines; fashion, beauty and celebrity magazines specifically. I would go with my mom on her endless shopping trips and make a beeline for the magazines. I would always manage to find a bookstore if we were in a mall. (I know, bookstores what are those?) I sat there absorbed for hours gazing at the beautiful people on the glossy pages. I lounged in B. Dalton bookstore until my mom and rest of my family found me. If I wasn’t at the Library I was at home cutting out of magazines making collages of pretty things and pretty people.
I spent all my paper route money on magazines like Teen People, J-14, Essence, Vogue, Us Weekly, and People Style Watch. I fantasized about being one of the perfectly styled people strutting through those pages. But it seemed like no matter what I did, I never felt like I looked like any of them. Call it jaded but by the time I was in my 20s I hadn’t picked up a magazine in years and I didn’t compare myself to those unrealistic beauty standards. I instead expanded my mind with hardcore, no picture, real books.
I had entered Wayne State University, a place of scholarly light, a learning beacon and I was “discovering myself”. I wasn’t focused on how I looked, that’s not what a scholar would do. Academia was much more exciting than my teenage routine of daydreaming about things that would never come to be. My daydreams turned into realities that I was living, I started setting real goals and realized I had the power to actually do things. There was a lot less introspection going on and I had real lasting friendships. I took dance classes, worked out, learned new languages and started traveling the world. This was a pivotal point in my life. At Wayne, for the first time in my life, I was engaged and present…no more dream world. Now, I was after something tangible.
It was sometime later that it dawned on me, I might have developed style. People would tell me during my time as an undergraduate that I was stylish. I didn’t believe them, my older sister was stylish and I got close to her level of style when I stole her clothes and thought I was doing something. Keeping it elegant was my only rule to style. One historical figure I always idolized, Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis, she was American royalty. If anyone kept it elegant it was her. I read history books about her and books that talked about her signature style. Jackie’s was a timeless chic. I read about her time living at Georgetown as a young senator Kennedy’s wife. She wore classic black turtleneck sweaters paired with tan trench coats and kitten heel shoes or simple flats. As First Lady, she was styled by Oleg Cassini in elegant figure-flattering designs from pea coats to pencil skirts. Her wardrobe as Jackie O. combined tweed trousers and boots, the equestrian look. She wore blazers in colors that would either add life to a look or make it look expensively authoritative. She was intelligent, spoke several languages and championed causes. So I would go to the Salvation Army looking to copy Jackie O’s style. Grey slacks, olive turtlenecks, black berets, white and navy striped boat neck shirts, tan “equestrian pants” and tweed blazers. I thought it might be hard to pull off Jackie’s signature string of pearls circa 2008 so I wore one pearl on a dainty golden chain. When I got my ears pierced at the tender age of 22, I wore my mom’s small gold hoops and never wore anything else, unfortunately, she’ll never get her earrings back.
Towards the end of undergrad and during graduate school I started working for MAC cosmetics, I worked with people who looked like the beauties in the magazines. I was learning to transform, myself and others, starting with mindset. Women cried when I showed them how to feel embolden and empowered with one mighty swipe of mascara. My clients said they had never felt pretty until I applied a dab of concealer, pop of lipstick and dollop of confidence. I gave mini makeovers to boys in their teens and early twenties who nervously poked around pretending they weren’t bursting with a million questions about wearing makeup. Thereby giving them permission to release their inner diva.
In teaching my customers to embrace their inner beauty, I learned how to be truly beautiful in addition to how to do a mean cat eye liner. I learned that beauty was the confidence you felt on the inside. To me, smart and beautiful didn’t have to be separated. This is why I liked the TV show “Suits”. It featured strong, smart and elegant female figures who were as sharp as tacks. They were lawyers, jet-set badass bosses and two of them were black. One was Meghan Markel, she dressed like a more polished version of the way I dressed as a college student with dreams of working for the State Department. Her character was brilliant and had test-taking anxiety too. I loved the show and binged on it whenever possible.
When I was 11 one of the glossy figures I gazed at longingly was a redheaded 12-year-old boy who had just lost his mother in a car crash. In magazines, I watched him grow up, his older brother was “the dreamy one” who was featured on the cover of People, J-14 and had a full spread poster. But I liked the little gangly looking ginger with gap teeth. Posters of him were harder to find. But I started telling people I was going to marry him. Mostly because he had red hair and was kind of nerdy looking (My kind of guy!) I wrote stories about characters that looked like him, imagined our life once he moved to the US and I became Vice President of the United States. I would be glamorous and he would adore me. That boy/man was Prince Henry Charles Albert David of Windsor aka Prince Harry aka my future husband. People thought I wanted to marry him because he was a Prince. Maybe, but that wasn’t the only reason, he was a soldier and a humanitarian. He loved to visit African countries like Lesotho, Zimbabwe and South Africa, my first trip abroad was to South Africa. And I always wanted to be a soldier (until the USAF dashed my dreams of being an Officer because of my AFOQT scores, but that’s another story for another day). I strive every day to give back to the world by being involved in the revitalization of my community, providing for the homeless and providing educational opportunities for children. See, Harry and I were meant to be!
Every time Prince Harry would be rumored to be dating someone, I would feel a white-hot anger, got green with envy when he dated Zimbabwean socialite Chelsey Davy. But I was happy to see that he had a crush on Halle Berry and had posters of her in his rooms at Eton College. Well, at least she’s half black, I would muse. My dreams of marrying Prince Harry eventually became more of a joke. My little sister, fully believing I would still marry him, asked me how would I ever marry him if I had never even been to the UK? Oh, I had always wanted to go to London and indulge in my obsession with British history at museums and visit historical sights. I had become obsessed with the British Royal family by that point and could trace their lineage to William the Conqueror in 1066. But I was on the path of creating a real future for myself. The dreamer was growing up and getting realistic. I could go to the UK and meet Prince Harry anytime.
So when my future husband was rumored to be dating that sophisticated half-black actress from that show Suits I once binged on. I flipped! She’s American, classy, smart, a humanitarian, well traveled and the personification of inner beauty and radiant style. Essentially she’s a modern era Jackie O: American royalty. Attending the wedding was imperative! Not long after their engagement announcement, I booked my flight to the UK. The now iconic pictures of her in that green dress and white coat in an English garden made me proud, I had to give my blessing!
I tell this whole story because somewhere along the way I became who I wanted to be when I was reading those magazines as a teen. I still have a long way to go on the journey of life. I have learned to dress well, flawlessly execute makeup and acquired the knowledge to become a person who is becoming her best self. I said I would write a blog that is an homage to Meghan Markel’s style and go out and buy things that looked like things she wore. However, when I looked into my closet many of my pieces were eerily similar to hers already. From her forest green dress and white pea coat. to her black turtleneck and tan skirt with black boots. On the path to emulating someone else, I became my truest self.
So I will still share my fashion tips soon on how to dress like Meghan, but I think what makes the Markle Sparkle is her genuine inner beauty, desire to keep growing, evolve and try to change to the world. That’s what really resonated with me. I see a bit of myself in her. I may not know her and she may not genuinely be any of the things I imagine she is. But I am more than happy to give my husband away to her. It’s just a feeling that she went on a similar journey to arrive at a destination of confidence. Nevertheless, it has little to do with the clothes and makeup you wear, but they certainly help you to wake up and take action. Dreaming has to stop at some point and make way for something tangible. Being your best self in the moment and creating a style your own.