Don’t give up. In today’s world, people are so quick to move on, change careers, or just quit. Bridals by Lori became a nationally-recognized megasalon with hard work, determination, and perseverance. If you have a passion and a vision, stick with it, even when it gets hard.
As a part of our series about Inspirational Women In Hollywood, I had the distinct pleasure of interviewing Lori Allen.
Lori Allen opened Bridals by Lori just two weeks after graduating from the all-female Columbia College in South Carolina. Four decades later, she is one of the world’s foremost experts on bridal couture and the central figure of TLC’s reality show Say Yes to the Dress: Atlanta, filmed onsite at Allen’s bridal salon and shown in more than 120 countries. Her multidimensional platform as a bridal couture expert, successful female business entrepreneur, TV personality, and breast cancer survivor has made her a sought-after speaker and top-tier media voice for outlets like CNN, ABC’s Good Morning America, NBC’s Today, and the Wall Street Journal. She resides in Atlanta with her husband, Eddie, not far from her daughter and her husband, son and his wife, and three grandchildren.
Thank you so much for doing this with us! Our readers would love to get to know you a bit better. Can you tell us the story of how you grew up?
I was born in Chattanooga, Tenn. to Jean and Carroll Burns. The little sister to an older brother, my family relocated to Fairfield, Ohio for my father’s insurance career. My mom, who is now 87, was a stay at home mom. We were the stand-out Southern family in Ohio! I was always the feisty one of the family with big hopes and dreams. I loved fashion, and my mom and I would go shopping after school every Friday to try on new outfits at a little boutique called Florence’s. We still go shopping every Wednesday to this day.
Can you share a story with us about what brought you to this specific career path?
My mom’s twin sister, Aunt June, who I talk about in speeches and in my book, Say Yes to What’s Next, owned a successful bridal business in Birmingham, Ala. I always loved to visit and was fascinated by her growing business. In college, I decided to major in business and minor in fashion merchandising so that I could follow in her footsteps. I worked at a bridal salon while in school and modeled bridal gowns. I’m fortunate that I knew exactly what I wanted to do with my life. Upon graduating, with a small loan from my parents and uncle, I started Bridals by Lori in Sandy Springs, Ga. — not far from our location now.
Can you tell us the most interesting story that happened to you since you began your career?
After being in the bridal industry for 40-years and filming Say Yes to the Dress Atlanta for 11 seasons with my bestie Monte Durham, the stories are absolutely endless! However, getting the call to film the pilot for TLC’s Say Yes to the Dress Atlanta has to count as the most life-changing and interesting moment of my career. Also, the call that landed the book deal for Say Yes to What’s Next is right up there as well!
Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lesson you learned from that?
When Bridals by Lori first opened in 1980, it was 1,000 square feet with about 25 gowns and tacky lattice wood walls. When our first bride decided to place an order, my mom and I were thrilled — but we had no idea how to actually place the order for the gown! We had to call my Aunt June for instructions. We still giggle about it to this day, such a fun memory.
None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story about that?
Bridals by Lori has truly been a family business. My mom worked alongside me in the store for 30 years before she retired.My father, now 87, is a CPA and retired CEO- he still helps with the financial side of the business today. My husband, Eddie, has grown the business with me every step of the way and handles back-end operations of the store and our 25,000 square foot building in Atlanta. My son, Cory, worked in the business for several years, and my daughter, Mollie’s, business handles our marketing. My daughter and I actually co-wrote the book. It truly is a family affair.
You have been blessed with great success in a career path that can be challenging. Do you have any words of advice for others who may want to embark on this career path, but seem daunted by the prospect of failure?
My advice is simple: Don’t give up. In today’s world, people are so quick to move on, change careers, or just quit. Bridals by Lori became a nationally-recognized megasalon with hard work, determination, and perseverance. If you have a passion and a vision, stick with it, even when it gets hard.
What drives you to get up everyday and work in TV and Film? What change do you want to see in the industry going forward?
TV and film has provided such a great platform to share the story of my business, of our brides, my breast cancer journey, and so much more. I challenge the industry to keep showing strong female entrepreneurs, and especially women over 50. We have so much to offer and are just getting started.
You have such impressive work. What are some of the most interesting or exciting projects you are working on now? Where do you see yourself heading from here?
The most exciting project I’m working on now is launching my first book, Say Yes to What’s Next. The book is about empowering all women, especially women over 50, to embrace their lives and take control in areas like marriage, self-care, finances, and friendships. It’s part memoir and part life guidebook.
We are very interested in looking at diversity in the entertainment industry. Can you share three reasons with our readers about why you think it’s important to have diversity represented in film and television? How can that potentially affect our culture and our youth growing up today?
Diversity and, most importantly, inclusion is paramount to the success of both Bridals by Lori and Say Yes to the Dress Atlanta. We are a business based on love and acceptance, and this has been communicated in the show — we highlight all types of couples and that makes me proud. It’s important for our youth to see this modeled in a positive light.
What are your “5 things I wish someone told me when I first started” and why. Please share a story or example for each.
1- Success doesn’t happen overnight. It’s taken Bridals by Lori 40 years to reach her full potential.
2- Don’t quit. Even during challenging times like 9/11 and COVID-19, see it through.
3- Look your best. Take great pride in ensuring your appearance represents your business.
4- Have fun. Although our team works so hard, we make sure to laugh a lot.
5- Be flexible. Things change, and you’ve got to roll with the punches.
Can you share with our readers any self care routines, practices or treatments that you do to help your body, mind or heart to thrive? Please share a story for each one if you can.
In the Self Care is the New Black chapter ofSay Yes to What’s Next, I dish on the importance of self-care and not feeling guilty about it. I take time every morning to do a devotional, enjoy my coffee, workout, spend time with my puppy Chloe, and just breathe. My life is crazy busy, like many of you, and before I share myself with my staff and film crew and everyone else, I need to just be quiet for a while and that’s okay.
Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?
This quote is in the opening of my book: Each time a woman stands up for herself, without knowing it possibly, without claiming it, she stands up for all women. -Maya Angelou
You are a person of huge influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be?
Aging women are seen in today’s culture as being irrelevant. Although Baby Boomer women have more discretionary income than any other demographic, very few brands and media serve up products and content to this audience that doesn’t come across as insulting or “for old people.” This has to stop! Aging women are more healthy, successful, and energetic than ever before. My hope is that this book helps move the needle and inspire a resurgence among aging women — and our culture at large.
Is there a person in the world whom you would love to have lunch with, and why? Maybe we can tag them and see what happens!
Absolutely! I’d love to have lunch with Reese Witherspoon. She is just darling, and I absolutely love everything she is doing to bring awareness to strong women in business and aging women in entertainment.
Are you on social media? How can our readers follow you online?
This was so informative, thank you so much! We wish you continued success!