Portrait of a Woman

Cindy Sherman Artist Untitled Secretary
Photograph: Untitled (Secretary), 1978 via Artsy

For decades, Cindy Sherman has created captivating photos that are an odd mixture of beauty, mystery and peculiarity. Cindy began creating her works as an artist in the 1970s in New York City. What began as dressing up at home and playing with makeup, turned into the beginnings of her career as an artist, and our invitation as viewers to explore the ideas and identities presented in her work.

Though they appear to be self-portraits with Cindy in front of the lens, we never truly see the real Cindy. Each image is instead a glimpse into the world of the character she has created. 

Cindy Sherman Artist
Top Photograph: Untitled #410, 2003 via Christie’s
Middle Photograph: Untitled #465, 2008 via MoMA
Bottom Photograph: Untitled Film Still #14, 1978 via The Whitney Museum 

Clown. Debutante. Secretary. Washed up film star. Centerfold. Career girl. Housewife. The list of characters explored by Cindy is seemingly endless. Women have been subject to labels assigned by society and the culture of the given time period. By presenting these various types of women in their sometimes cliche or caricature-like forms, Cindy offers a critique of female identities and stereotypes. 

Summer Power Dressing

Summer power dressing

Bows. Prints. Sneakers. Florals. Tweed. Metal. Using a variety of prints, colors, textures and styles, the Spring 2020 collection from Tory Burch offered a fresh take on work ready clothing. 

No longer are women confined to the 1980s definition of the power suit in order to walk into the office with a boss persona. Now women can embrace femininity alongside powerful details, whimsical prints and athleisure ready accessories when creating a workwear wardrobe. 

Tory Burch has made a name for herself with her all-American brand. This collection did not disappoint as it remained true to her clean and classic aesthetic. 

Summer power dressing

What if Catherine the Great had a LinkedIn

LinkedIn profile writing tips
Original painting of Catherine: Portrait of Empress Catherine the Great by Fyodor Rokotov, 1763 via Daily Art Magazine

What if Catherine the Great had a LinkedIn? How would she represent her array of accomplishments like empress, politician, education advocate and writer in a way that would be both credible and approachable? 

What is LinkedIn & Does it Matter?   

Each section of a LinkedIn profile provides an opportunity to tell part of your story. LinkedIn allows users to connect with previous and current coworkers, companies and leaders in every imaginable job field. 

If you don’t already have a profile and you’re asking yourself whether or not you should bother investing in another social media platform, the answer is YES. It’s one of the first places employers look to post jobs, search for potential new employees and screen candidates. 

When thinking about your personal brand and the 7 Ps of marketing, LinkedIn is a must in helping share your story (positioning) and ensuring your professional information is accessible (placement).

The Leading Lady
Before diving into the how-to of Catherine’s hypothetical LinkedIn, let’s meet this leading lady. Catherine ruled the Russian empire from 1762-1796. She remains the longest reigning female in Russian history. Her time as Empress made such an impact that it is often called the Catherinian era and is considered the Golden Age for the nation. Even actress Helen Mirren points out that Catherine “rewrote the rules of governance by a woman, and succeeded to the extent of having the word ‘Great’ attached to her name.” 
Catherine the Great style collage
Catherine continues to inspire with Helen Mirren portraying the leader on HBO and Elle Fanning on Hulu. Painting of young Catherine via History.com

What’s amazing about Catherine is that she wasn’t born into riches and wasn’t even born in Russia. Though born a Prussian princess, Catherine was penniless and given away in an arranged marriage. But circumstances, including having a drunk and idiotic husband, did not dampen Catherine’s ambition. 

Once in power, she led Russia into the European cultural and political scene, expanded the territory, created new cities, spearheaded vaccinations, started a girls school, championed the arts and even wrote artistic works of her own. 

However, Catherine was not without her weaknesses and critics. When married to Peter III, she was unable to provide an heir for nine years. This put her at risk for time in jail, a nunnery, or even exile. Later, a cloud of suspicion hung over her ascension to the throne since Peter’s death followed her strategic coup and his absence allowed her to reign without rival. 

Her collection of lovers may seem like an early illustration of feministic freedom, but the revolving door of boy toys incensed many whispered judgments about the scandalous nature of her relationships. Additionally, she had an ongoing list of great ideas, but some said she did not succeed in truly implementing enough positive changes or systems, including a true education system. 

When creating her LinkedIn, Catherine would obviously leave out any of the criticisms or unflattering portrayals of her character. The goal would be to underscore her strengths and the great things she did accomplish. 

LinkedIn profile writing tips
Original painting of Catherine with her husband Peter III via History.com 

So now that we understand who Catherine was, we can imagine her reclining on a chaise lounge in the Winter Palace with her iPhone, considering how to craft her LinkedIn profile. The brisk Russian weather is offset by a blazing fire nearby, while Vasily Pashkevich’s “Fevey” is playing softly in the background. Letters are on her desk awaiting her review from Grigory Potemkin on the military front, as well as her friend Voltaire. But those can wait, because nothing stands between Catherine and taking action to help her career. 

The Glitter Plan

Juicy Couture brand history collage
Oceanside in luxe terry cloth track suits and smelling like couture. Candy colored ads like these became synonymous with the brand. 

Once upon a time, in a far-away land called Los Angeles, there were two girls that dreamed of fashion in the sweetest of colors. It was fashion that felt luxurious, fit like a dream and delightfully came in every color of the rainbow. 

It was Juicy Couture. 
Juicy Couture brand history collage
Dreamy ad campaigns that included oversized perfume bottles, pastel pups and stylish grannies were captured by photographer Tim Walker. 

For designers Pamela Skaist-Levy and Gela Nash-Taylor, they didn’t need a business plan. They needed a glitter plan. As they created a world full of terry cloth tracksuits, California style and casual luxury, they didn’t follow the rules. Instead, they embraced a “specifically female, punk-rock style of entrepreneurship.” And in the process, they reshaped the fashion landscape and created a global brand. 

Their story is told in the book, The Glitter Plan: How We Started Juicy Couture for $200 and Turned it into a Global Brand in a tone that is funny, approachable and authentic. The book gives insight into the evolution of their entrepreneurial journey from maternity wear, to t-shirts, to the famous track suit, to a global empire. 

Juicy Couture and Marie Antoinette
The brand often played with historical references to famous figures like Marie Antoinette. Sky high hair, luxurious fabrics and decadent details made the way for modern-day Marie Antoinette style. Painting: Marie Antoinette in Court Dress by Elisabeth Vigee-Lebrun, 1778 (via Wikimedia Commons).

Queen of Rococo

Marie Antoinette blue gown at Versailles
Marie Antoinette, played by Kirsten Dunst and directed by Sophia Coppola in 2006. Marie entered Versailles in a classic Rococo style pastel gown in a soft shade of blue.

Versailles. A place of luxury, dreams, politics and romance. The palace served as the heart of the French court for over 100 years during the 17th and 18th centuries. 

It was within the palace’s shimmering walls that Marie Antoinette made her home as the Dauphine and then the Queen of France. Ruling the cultural and political scene in the years before the French Revolution, Marie Antoinette became a fashion icon. 

Marie Antoinette Queen of Rococo Fashion
Pictured in collage: Marie Antoinette style on the Thom Browne Spring 2020 runway; Kirsten Dunst as Marie Antoinette; Marie Antoinette 18th century painting by Jean-Baptiste Andre Gautier d'Agoty; interior view of Versailles.

During the Rococo era, Marie Antoinette embodied the stylistic notions of the movement by embracing the romantic details, ornamentation and light hearted spirit in her fashion choices. Rococo fashion often included pastel shades, ribbons, bows and an air of frivolity. 

Marie Antoinette Queen of Rococo
Pastel confection with luxe layers, feminine details and sky high hair.

If Marie Antoinette was still alive and reigning from the palace of Versailles, she would surely be dressed in Thom Browne’s Spring 2020 collection. The designs were dripping in romance and whimsy. 

Embrace Ambition

Female Entrepreneurship Tory Burch
Tory Burch wearing a power suit in her brand's signature shade of orange. 

“Am-bi-tion,” noun: A strong desire to do or to achieve something, typically requiring determination and hard work. 

Ambition has long been treated as a taboo or dirty word in relation to women. Though men can make goals, seek promotions and reach for new heights of success, the same actions in women are often viewed in a negative light. And it’s not only men that look down on ambitious women. Other women are just as guilty of making judgments and harboring this gender bias. 

Research has shown that men and women can have the same credentials and produce the same results, yet be perceived differently. A study was conducted at a university where students were given the same case study, but some received a case about Heidi and others about Howard. Though both cases showcased the character as a successful Silicon Valley venture capitalist, Heidi was perceived to be less likable and less likely to be hired, by both female and male students.  

Negative perceptions of women in power and leadership persist like those from the case study, as well as more tangible disadvantages such as lack of mentors and access to key networks. Knowing this, Tory Burch has stepped in to help close the “ambition gap.” 

Original photo of Tory in her office via toryburch.com

Girl, Make Your Move

Girl stop apologizing book review
Original book image via Amazon

“It’s time to stop apologizing for who you areIt’s time to become who you were made to be.” 

These are the final words of Rachel Hollis in Girl, Stop Apologizing. Though used as a conclusion, they also serve as the perfect start to the journey with her book. 

Rachel speaks to the reader as a friend, sister and mentor. The words are at once open and honest, as she lays out key mindsets, actions and skills that are needed to help you reach your full potential. Whether you dream of becoming a CEO, a hairdresser, an event planner or mom of the year, the book is full of insights ready to help you soar. 

“I believe deeply in what you’re capable of. I think you can achieve anything you set your mind to, but you’ve got to set your mind to it. You’ve got to be relentless in your pursuit and flexible in your methods.”

The Sparkle of Success

Kendra Scott CEO, designer and philanthropist
Kendra Scott's power suit includes a white blazer with jeans and an accent of animal print.  Image of Kendra via Forbes.
Her first business failed. She was pregnant and on doctor’s ordered bedrest. The circumstances did not hint at the success that was to come if only approached with passion, grit and determination. Kendra Scott refused to let past failures or current obstacles shape her future. Instead, she gleaned the lessons she could from any trials and used them as seeds of knowledge in her new venture. 

Confined to her bed during her first pregnancy, Kendra used the time to act on a long held passion of jewelry making. After having her first child in 2002, Kendra hit the pavement with her toddler in tow to convince local Austin, TX boutiques to carry her handmade jewelry. Business thrived, that is until the financial crisis hit in 2009. 

As sales plummeted by 40% and the boutiques carrying her jewelry closed their doors, Kendra had a choice. She could have either accepted the downfall as the end of her dream, or as an opportunity to evolve and continue pressing forward. Thankfully, she chose to continue moving forward. 

With her mind set on opening her own boutique, she refused to let the numerous turndowns from banks regarding her loan application deter her. She continued to approach banks until she found one willing to say yes and lend her the money for the first Kendra Scott boutique.

Kendra Scott Entrepreneurship

Before opening her store, Kendra recognized how women shop for other products in stores. When going to a department store or boutique for a new outfit, you expect to be able to touch the clothing, try it on and interact with the products. There is an emotional connection when women get in the fitting room and try on the right bra, shirt or dress. That is where you find the right fit, fabric and style. 

Kendra Scott Color Bar jewelry making

Knowing this, Kendra chose not to use glass cases or packaging that would restrict customers from interacting with the jewelry. She also included a Color Bar like the one above that would empower customers to design their own unique pieces. 

Her bold choices to open a store in the midst of a recession and reimagine how the store would be configured were well worth the risks. Over the years, Kendra’s brand has grown from her original $500 investment in her spare bedroom, to a company with 100 stores valued at $1 billion. Talk about a great return on investment! 

Kendra Scott Entrepreneurship
Kendra Scott leads the way in a stylish neutral colored power suit. The silky fabric adds a touch of glam to the classic style. 

Even as success has multiplied, Kendra has remained true to her core values of Family, Fashion and Philanthropy. Some of the amazing programs the company embraces include a Buy One, Gift One program to give jewelry to breast cancer patients, as well as the in-store fundraising efforts through the Kendra Gives Back program. Philanthropic investments are not limited to funding or products, but will also include leadership development through the UT Austin Kendra Scott Women’s Entrepreneurial Leadership (WEL) Institute starting in Spring 2020 to help develop female leaders. 

Kendra’s journey shows us that nothing is impossible and that though failures or setbacks can feel like the end of a story, they are merely a part of a chapter. As the chapters unfold, lessons are learned, strength is gained and positive change becomes possible. 

Image Sources
Original Images of Kendra Scott & Kendra Scott jewelry via Instagram @kendrascott

Sources and Further Reading

Girls Who Run the World

Girls Who Run the World by Diana Kapp and Illustrated by Bijou Karman
Who runs the world? GIRLS. 

Beyonce confirmed this fact in her 2011 song and author Diana Kapp proves this again in her recent book, “31 CEOs Who Mean Business: Girls Who Run the World.” With colorful illustrations from Bijou Karman and insightful writing from Diana, the book introduces readers to 31 women changing the face of business. 

Girls Who Run the World by Diana Kapp and Illustrated by Bijou Karman
Jenn Hyman from Rent the Runway

With women from industries that include fashion, food, science, technology and companies like Stitch Fix, Spanx and Farmgirl Flowers, the profiles are presented in a relatable and insightful story format. Readers get to know more about these amazing women through a question and answer section, before diving into stories of starting up, floundering and find their way to success.