Success does not happen overnight: Don’t compare yourself with others, success takes time. You may not see the results as quickly as you like but trust me you reap what you sow. My success seemed to take longer than some of my peers. It seemed like some of them did have it overnight but as time went on they became one- time wonders and when that instant success seemed to slow down they fell off the train. I, on the other hand, planted my seeds every day whether I felt like it or not. Some days bigger ones, some days smaller ones, but I always did. Yes, it did take me longer but trust me when you plant so many seeds over a longer period of time you will also reap much more when it is your time.
Many successful people reinvented themselves in a later period in their life. Jeff Bezos worked in Wall Street before he reinvented himself and started Amazon. Sara Blakely sold office supplies before she started Spanx. Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson was a WWE wrestler before he became a successful actor and filmmaker. Arnold Schwarzenegger went from a bodybuilder, to an actor to a Governor. McDonald’s founder Ray Croc was a milkshake-device salesman before starting the McDonalds franchise in his 50’s.
How does one reinvent themselves? What hurdles have to be overcome to take life in a new direction? How do you overcome those challenges? How do you ignore the naysayers? How do you push through the paralyzing fear?
In this series called “Second Chapters; How I Reinvented Myself In The Second Chapter Of My Life “ we are interviewing successful people who reinvented themselves in a second chapter in life, to share their story and help empower others.
As a part of this interview series, I had the pleasure of interviewing Traci Jeske.
Traci Jeske is the director of En Vogue Stylist, an internationally certified personal stylist, who helps women 50 and beyond up level their glamour game to unapologetically create and live their best and most stylish second act ever.
Blending her Canadian background to her Italian stylish, stiletto sharp brand she takes her personal life and knowledge of over 30 years in the fashion industry to have women all over the globe find their unique style, be bold, stand out in a crowd looking and feeling absolutely fabulous in every season of their life.
Traci has been featured on Fox, CBS, and NBC.
Thank you so much for doing this with us! Before we start, our readers would love to “get to know you” a bit better. Can you tell us a bit about your childhood backstory?
I grew up in a small town in Red Deer, Alberta, Canada. I was the youngest of 6 so the baby of the family. I had a beautiful childhood. I grew up at a time when there was a boom in the economy and life was just so much fun and easier for so many people. We traveled a lot, we often flew to Hawaii for summer vacations in the 70’s before it became the place to travel. I remember my parents flying many times to Las Vegas in the period for long weekends-they didn’t see Elvis perform but my aunt and uncle did. My father loved country music and literally had every instrument you can imagine. We even had a stage in our house where all of us siblings and my father would get up and play musical instruments together and sing. We are a very close family and have so much when we all get together.
As a teen I was very insecure, I gained a lot of weight in high school and literally hated everything about me and my body. There was so much pressure at school to be pretty, thin, smart and I continually told myself I was none of that. All my friends were skinny, beautiful, had good grades and cute boyfriends. I was constantly comparing myself to them wanting to be them! I was extremely hard on myself and can still remember throwing brushes at the mirror yelling at myself and crying. Nobody, not even my family knew at the time the struggles I was going through. I always used my style in high school to help me feel better about myself and even if I didn’t think I wanted to be seen I obviously deep down truly did. In my first year at University due to my insecurities and self -hate I developed an eating disorder which followed me for 20 years until I was almost 40.
Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?
“Style is a way to say who you are without having to speak” Rachel Zoe.
Moving to Italy 24 years ago I literally felt like I was put on mute from one day to the next. Not knowing a word of Italian other than ciao mamma, pasta and pizza I couldn’t converse with anyone, I couldn’t understand what others were saying around, why they were laughing, at times I thought they were laughing at me. This made me feel stupid, embarrassed, invisible and not worthy to be noticed. To make matters worse I had to have my husband speak for me, take me everywhere, I couldn’t even buy groceries myself for the fear of somebody asking me something I couldn’t understand. For a woman independent like me this was extremely frustrating and a real sink or swim moment for me. And I chose to swim! I started to use my style to speak for myself, I started to up level my own glamour game and elevate my style to create the life I wanted. Guess what happened? I got noticed. Women started getting curious about me. They started coming to me to try to talk to me — I in my terrible Italian and them in their terrible English. I started making friends. My clothing empowered me to go out, to talk to others, go out on my own, follow my dreams to start my own styling business, start working with clients even if I didn’t speak Italian perfectly and so much more. It literally made me the woman I am today. I never realized even if I worked in the industry for many years how powerful your personal style is until that period in my life. Never underestimate the power of a good outfit on a bad day!
You have been blessed with much success. In your opinion, what are the top three qualities that you possess that have helped you accomplish so much? If you can, please share a story or example for each.
My faith in God- I know God has an amazing plan for me and I have learned throughout the years that his timing is much better than mine and he knows what’s best for me. I am exactly where he wants me to be. He guides me with his wisdom, when it’s the right time those doors/opportunities will open and come to me with ease and grace.
Courage- You need courage to build a business and follow your dreams as many people around you will try to keep you where you are. It was very difficult for my husband and I as I have changed so much over these past 12 years. I am much stronger, more determined and focused than before. I know he is proud of me and tries in his Italian way to understand and support me as much as he can. With both of us having our own businesses it’s sometimes difficult to get our schedules to match. But we do find time and make the most of what little we have together. I don’t believe it’s the quantity of time we spend together that matters but the quality.
Determination-Your business doesn’t grow overnight it takes time and resilience. I have tried many different things in my styling business. I have had many rejections, many no’s and many times no clients! Yes, there were times when I said that’s it I’m done, times when I had literally no money in my bank account and thought I was crazy for going after my dream. But after a good cry, a good bottle of wine and a good night’s sleep I always got up and kept going. I always make myself plant one seed every day and it does not matter how big or how small or if I feel like it or not. You just never know, maybe it’s today that God is going to open that one door for you that will change your life forever! Imagine because of a rough patch you quit and miss out on the biggest adventure of your life! I missed out enough with my eating disorder I refuse to anymore.
Let’s now shift to the main part of our discussion about ‘Second Chapters’. Can you tell our readers about your career experience before your Second Chapter?
I always loved playing dress up from the time I was a little girl-and still do today-and knew that somehow this is something I would be doing when I was older. I got my first retail job at the age of 17 at one of the very first Gap stores that came to Canada and this was the beginning of it all. I quit University to start my career, becoming assistant manager then store manager of Gap and Gapkids. At the age of 22 after losing my father to cancer and struggling with my eating disorder I decided to quit my job, pack my suitcases and moved to Australia. I had no job, knew nobody there but I had to get away. Within a month I found my apartment in Surfers Paradise. I got a job in the fashion industry there and lived there for 4 beautiful years. Coming back to Canada to renew my visa my girlfriend introduced me to this Italian boy that was working in Canada at the time and to make a long story short I never went back to Australia but moved to Italy. We got married in Italy after 3 months and have been living here ever since. I became a mother to two amazing beautiful kids and not knowing the language that well, being a mom, my eating disorder, my career in fashion was put to the side a little even if I still worked but obviously not that much.
And how did you “reinvent yourself” in your Second Chapter?
I always dreamt of having my personal styling business, creating my very own brand and in my 40’s that calling became even stronger and I just knew that it was now or never and that I was ready. I started studying with a famous celebrity stylist here in Italy in her academy. I literally took every course she had, I went to the academy every weekend for a year learning everything I could from her- in Italian of course which was not so easy for me at the time. I eventually became one of her ambassadors which meant I would go to events all over Italy helping her style guests that she would pick from the audience. But this was not enough for me. I wanted more. I went to New York to study and become a certified international personal stylist which definitely made me stand out in a crowd of many personal stylists. I then got myself a mentor who was a celebrity stylist in Dubai to guide me and give me tools on how to build my business as she did hers. This then led to collaborating with her in Dubai and working with clients there. To this day I have never stopped learning in my styling profession and in my business. To run a business, you need to have a successful mindset and continue to grow. Every day I read 20 pages of a motivational book, right now I’m reading The Big Leap: Conquer your fears and take your life to the next level by Gay Hendricks which I recommend to everyone. I take courses on personal styling to keep me updated and I always have a mentor which has been fundamental for me in growing my business, getting new ideas, getting out of my comfort zone and having to be accountable to someone. If she asks me to do something and I know I have a call with her and she is going to ask me how it went it’s obvious I’m going to make sure I did it.
Can you tell us about the specific trigger that made you decide that you were going to “take the plunge” and make your huge transition?
After finally breaking the chains of my eating disorder when I was 38 I was finally free, the woman that little girl dreamt to be but was too afraid and insecure to become, finally came out. Looking back now I know my eating disorder was a way for me to keep myself hidden and small as I was afraid of me and my dreams. I was going against who God destined me to be and when I got to my 40’s I literally made a promise to myself that I would never hide again and fear or no fear I would do what it takes to walk into becoming and being that woman. It was stepping up to the plate, stopping to please and making everyone around me happy but me. Working already in the fashion industry for so many years but never being seen, it was time for me to become known, stand out in a crowd, be that bold woman I was, have my center stage moment and start creating my very own successful personal styling business. Not only transforming women’s wardrobes but their lives as well. I want to inspire them to be all they can be and look absolutely fabulous doing so! Age is just a number and should never define how we dress, look or feel
What did you do to discover that you had a new skillset inside of you that you haven’t been maximizing?
Women were constantly coming up to me asking me for help on their style and what they needed to do to look and feel fabulous. What I thought was something so easy and simple was a real struggle for other women and they really looked up to me for advice and help. They were extremely confused on what they should or should not wear and the fear of being invisible was very real to most of them. I had women come to me in tears loathing their bodies, their look wanting to be and look like someone else. Exactly the same way I felt when I was younger these women were experiencing it at an older age. Having so many women asking me for help I realized that this was my calling. Everything I went through with my eating disorder moving to Italy feeling invisible was to now give back to other women helping them find their unique style and to sparkle and shine and feel good in their own skin.
How did you find that and how did you ultimately overcome the barriers to help manifest those powers?
Imposter syndrome was a huge factor as I often felt like I was never qualified enough to help other women and always felt like someone else was better than me. Being a perfectionist I wanted to have everything absolutely perfect in my business and thought I had to know everything when it came to personal styling before I could work with someone. That feeling of “who do I think I am” was constantly in my head. It was not easy to let go but this way of thinking was holding me back and not having me move forward in my business. It had me stuck and to make matters worse it was holding me back from helping those women who needed me. I had to come to terms with the fact that nobody is perfect, nobody knows absolutely everything, my mentor always says better doing than waiting to be perfect- as we know that day will never come! I have always had a vision of how I want my life to be but if I didn’t start putting myself out there and start working that vision would never come true. Through prayer, journaling and starting to believe and trust in myself I let go of wanting to be perfect and start doing! Little by little I built my confidence, started believing in myself. I am always looking for opportunities or ways to break out of my comfort zones. If I don’t know or I’m not sure about something I tell myself just like Marie Forleo “Everything is Figureoutable ‘’ and like Gabby Bernstein “The Universe has got your Back ‘’ which in my case would be God and it is so true trust me.
How are things going with this new initiative? We would love to hear some specific examples or stories.
I cannot tell you how amazing this journey has been. Yes, it was not easy. Yes, at times I felt like a horrible mother and partner doing something for me. But my children are my number one fans. They push me to do more and inspire me every day to go for whatever makes my heart sing. I am such a fulfilled and much happier woman now than I ever have been in my whole life. I literally have to pinch myself at times to see if I’m dreaming. I thank God each and every morning, afternoon and evening the strength and courage he has blessed me with along with my dreams, I have always wanted to work travelling around the world and never dreamt I would have worked in Dubai and many other beautiful cities. I have met so many amazing incredible women in my journey and know I have touched and changed the lives of so many of my clients and the women I have come across and in return mine as well.
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?
That would be my mother. She has always supported me in everything I do telling me to always go after my dreams no matter what they are. She has been such an inspiration to me from her amazing style even at 90 she never leaves the house unless she looks perfect. People to this day still stop her everywhere she goes telling her how beautiful and stylish she is. She definitely stands out in a crowd and has done so from the time I was a little girl. She is incredibly strong she lost my father who absolutely loved and adored her to cancer when she was 63 and being a housewife and mom, she found herself not only without her partner but trying to understand with the help of my siblings the business side of things. We are very blessed that my father left her with more than enough to live an incredible fulfilling life. She has an incredible love for life, she is always laughing and smiling and is adored by all she meets. She is extremely competitive at cards even to this day, she loves to win! She loves her children and Grandchildren and Great Grandchildren and is so present in all of our lives and gives so much to each and every one of us. She is a huge reason why I am the woman I am today. She has inspired me, pushed me and loved me through thick and thin.
Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you started in this new direction?
When I think about the woman I was before starting out on this adventure and the woman I am now I always get extremely emotional. When I think about that woman I was, that little girl inside of me, who had a dream but was so afraid of going after it, my insecurities and fear of how amazing and how big I wanted to become had me on such a self-destructive pathway to hold me back. Hurting myself and my body everyday telling myself how ugly I was, how fat I was, how unworthy I was, what a failure I was, that I didn’t deserve to live and then the incredible transformation of the woman I am today full of confidence, self- love, following my dreams and stepping into that woman I was destined to be is such an incredible blessing. I thank God all throughout the day for the blessing and favor he put on me and my life as I know that if it wasn’t for him I wouldn’t be here today I wouldn’t be the amazing, strong, determined woman I am today. I know I had to go through what I did to help other women to show them that no matter what their past is, no matter where they come from it is NEVER too late to live the life of their dreams, that they can and will have their center stage moment looking and feeling fabulous doing so. Age is just a number and does not define how we dress, look and feel.
Did you ever struggle with believing in yourself? If so, how did you overcome that limiting belief about yourself? Can you share a story or example?
I am my biggest critic so yes there were many times especially at the beginning of my career I would let negative comments about me really upset me, I am the type of person who wants everyone to like me, and hearing negative comments, giving value to other people’s opinions and comments was a way to crush my self- esteem and my dreams at the same time. Living in a small village in Italy can have some amazing pros but at times can have a lot of cons. Everyone knows you, your family and your business and everyone loves to talk about you and it seems like they are just waiting for something to go wrong to be in their glory to talk about you. When a situation came up in my personal life everything according to them was a result of me starting my own business as I wasn’t home as much, I was neglecting my kids and family traveling around the world, I was more worried about posting beautiful photos on Instagram than my family. Which was so hurtful as it was so not true and if there is someone who lives and breathes for their kids it was and still is me. Probably the most hurtful part was that this was coming from people I thought were my close friends. Friends that I thought would ask me if I ever needed anything, if they could help me instead they just disappeared and worse yet talked badly and judged me without understanding the total situation. It was very hurtful and had me doubting everything that I was doing and having me lose my confidence and power. After a lot of praying, meditating, journaling and the love and support from my family and amazing REAL friends I realized that other people’s opinions are not facts. I am the most important person and the only opinions that matter are mine and my kids. I forgave these people as I am not a person to hold grudges or be bitter. I have learnt over the years to give no value to other people’s opinions or ideas as it is a waste of time and energy. There will always be haters in the world, no matter how good you are and often the better and bigger you get the more these kinds of people will go against you. It’s important to not listen and not give weight or importance, remember your why, live your purpose and stay close to those who really do love you and have your back no matter what.
In my own work I usually encourage my clients to ask for support before they embark on something new. How did you create your support system before you moved to your new chapter?
I surrounded myself with people who had similar dreams and goals as me who had maybe even more experience than me having them push me out of my comfort zone. Having a mentor was a must for me. I needed that support and help from someone who had a successful career and could show me how to build my business and support me and celebrate with me along my journey.
Starting a new chapter usually means getting out of your comfort zone, how did you do that? Can you share a story or example of that?
In the beginning I tried so hard not to get out of my comfort zone as it literally terrified me. But once I started and saw the growth and the results in me as a woman and in my business, I was absolutely amazed! That incredible feeling of adrenaline and excitement mixed together with fear is such an amazing feeling one that I love! If you ask me to do something today and it doesn’t scare me, and my first reaction isn’t “I can’t do that” I know something is not right.
Being on stage for the very first time in my life with my Italian mentor, an important celebrity stylist and having to speak in Italian- which I didn’t really know or understand at the time- to a crowd of people not making a fool out of myself but most importantly not making one out of her was probably one of the most challenging scary things I had to do at the beginning of my career. I felt like an imposter, that I wasn’t good enough and of course I thought that people would laugh at me for my accent and how I spoke Italian. And as a result of all that negative thinking I froze and got total stage fright!! I forgot Italian completely, I could hardly breath, then I took a deep breath, closed my eyes and just started speaking English and Italian mixed together. I thought I made a total fool out of myself, but it was quite the opposite. I got so many compliments as I gave that international flair to the evening. The biggest lesson I learnt from that was I didn’t die, no one killed me, I could have done better, but it’s all part of growing up. We learn from our mistakes, they make us stronger and inspire us to keep improving. As one of my mentors told me, better doing than waiting to be perfect.
Fantastic. Here is the main question of our interview. What are your “5 things I wish someone told me before I started leading my organization” and why? Please share a story or example for each.
1) You can be a good mom and have a career at the same time: In the beginning I felt like a horrible mom wanting my own career and not staying home with my kids 24/24. But I have realized and seen first -hand that your kids want you to be happy and you want to be happy with your kids and being fulfilled and following your dreams is the best way to achieve that. I know in my case I was not only doing it for me but to lead by example and to create a better future for them. I was criticized and looked down upon by many other moms around me, people were talking behind my back, I got some nasty comments and Dm’s on my Instagram telling me I should be at home with my kids and yes it hurt me a lot. It was and is my kids that push me and keep telling me to go, they are my most important and biggest fans as I am of them. We have such an incredible and special bond that even if I am busy or away they know I am with them and when important matters come up I am always the first to drop EVERYTHING and run to them. I am and always will be their mom who will fight all their battles and celebrate each and every one of their wins.
2)Success does not happen overnight: Don’t compare yourself with others, success takes time. You may not see the results as quickly as you like but trust me you reap what you sow. My success seemed to take longer than some of my peers. It seemed like some of them did have it overnight but as time went on they became one- time wonders and when that instant success seemed to slow down they fell off the train. I, on the other hand, planted my seeds every day whether I felt like it or not. Some days bigger ones, some days smaller ones, but I always did. Yes, it did take me longer but trust me when you plant so many seeds over a longer period of time you will also reap much more when it is your time. And that is what happened to me. The first 2, 3, even 4 years were very slow, almost nothing, getting just a few bites back from what I put out there and it was frustrating as I saw my peers having success and could not figure out why not me. But I kept on planting, never giving up, and then with total ease and grace it just started happening to me too, I started getting my dream clients, opportunities of a lifetime kept coming to me, doors bigger than I ever could imagine started opening for me, the right people started crossing my path helping me get to where I needed to go. Don’t get frustrated because it hasn’t happened yet if you like me keep going, keep planting what you put out will come back to you 10x fold.
3)Surround yourself with those people you would like to become-There is nothing truer than you are the people you spend the most time with. Successful people only hang out with successful people. There is so much power in this and should never be underestimated. If you want to up level your business, your life, your career you need to surround yourself with those people. I have had to let go of a lot of people in my life that were not helping me get to my next level. I found their comments and constant doubting me and boring gossip just brought me down and had me doubting myself. I have always been very selective in my life and never had a crowd of friends and now that I have my own business the few I had has become even less. Today I have only 4 girlfriends that I count on for everything, we have the same goals and dreams. Our businesses may be different but we all want to reach out and help as many women as possible and be successful at the same time. I love having these women in my life as they understand me, they push me, they inspire me. When I need to be pushed they push me when I need a hand they guide me and help me. I know in my heart they want only the very best for me and I for them. Sisterhood is a very beautiful and powerful thing.
4)Have a morning routine: How you start your morning sets the tone for your whole day. The most successful people have one and so should you. I was not a morning person at all so the thought of waking up early to do all these things seemed impossible to me. Before having a morning routine. I used to wake up feeling groggy, feeling blah, unmotivated trying to motivate myself without much success and as a result my business was reflecting how I was feeling. After reading so many books and listening to so many famous, successful people speaking about morning routines I made a commitment to have my own. And thank the Lord I did as I know it has made me so much more productive, inspired, focused and energized than any energizing drink could ever give me. Now my morning routines are a total non-negotiable for me. I do not care if I have an early meeting or an appointment. I am up at 2 hours before so if that means getting up at 430/5 in the morning then I do it. When you open your eyes in the morning thank God or whoever you believe in, for blessing you with another day. Nothing is to be taken for granted each and every day is a true blessing. Set your intentions, get clear on where you are going today and what you want to achieve and journal it. I always suggest writing down in a diary and not on your computer. There is something very powerful about a pen and paper. Exercise or move for 30 minutes, sing out loud while having a cold shower to your favorite upbeat song, listen or read something that inspires you for 20 mins. Do all of these and I guarantee you, you will be on the way to success.
5)Drop being perfect: You do not need to know everything before getting started, you do not have to have the answers to everything. The perfectionist syndrome will hold you back and stop you from doing things. Trust me you know more than your clients, and nobody ever expects anyone to be perfect or know everything. One of the best pieces of advice I ever got was Doing is better than perfect. We all start somewhere and it’s that starting somewhere that is the beginning to it all. My Instagram account was so far from perfect at the beginning and still is but it’s much better than it was and even if it’s not perfect it’s where I have gained credibility and become known. My first styling packages were far from perfect and less professional then they are now. Everything in my business has evolved and gotten better over time as I have evolved. Nothing is perfect nor would I want it to be how boring that would be. With experience comes knowledge and with knowledge comes learning and growth.
You are a person of great 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?
It would be the movement of sustainable fashion. If there is one thing the pandemic has taught us is that we do not need all the clothes we have in our wardrobes, they do not serve us. And all this buying fast fashion which costs next to nothing is creating an incredible amount of waste and pollution in our environment. I am constantly pushing my clients to invest in higher and higher quality garments than pieces that will last only one season and then need to be thrown away. We have to remember and become so much more conscious when buying clothes, if a sweater costs 5 dollars imagine the person or even worse yet child in that terrible factory with terrible working conditions, being exploited, earning next to nothing risking his or her life everyday going to work. It’s an extremely sad and horrible situation that we as consumers have the power to stop.
We are very blessed that some very prominent names in Business, VC funding, Sports, and Entertainment read this column. Is there a person in the world, or in the US with whom you would love to have a private breakfast or lunch with, and why? He or she might just see this if we tag them. 🙂
My dream breakfast is such an easy question for me. It Would definitely be with Oprah Winfrey, it has always been my dream to meet her. She has been on my vision board for so many years and I do believe that somehow, someway I will meet this incredible, beautiful woman who has inspired me more than she could ever know since I was a teen. I still remember running home from school watching The Oprah Winfrey Show at 530pm every day in the 80’s and 90’s. I never missed an episode. This woman is such an icon and my idol in so many ways. She is loveable, strong, sensitive, she created her empire from nothing even if the odds were against her. She came out a winner, she showed us that she too struggled with her weight and accepting and loving her body for how it was. Oprah is such a generous beautiful soul and everything she did in life she did and still does with such elegance and grace.
The second would be Kris Jenner as my kids tell me we are so alike. I admire and love how she has created her empire and a bigger one for each of her kids which is my dream. I love her courage and strength, her laugh, how easily she cries if I see myself in someone it is definitely her. And, of course her incredible style and lifestyle she has.
How can our readers further follow your work online?
Thank you so much for sharing these important insights. We wish you continued success and good health!