Recently, I shared a story of growing up poor and learning to see my way out of poverty. When I wrote the piece, I was working with Dress for Success on a fundraiser. One of our tasks as members of the planning committee was to secure donations for the event, specifically hats for the auctions.
Despite being born and raised a Kentucky girl, I have little experience with hats, because as a rule, my head is too big for most. The last time I wore a hat, I was invited to the Oaks Brunch and had lunch with Nigel Barker (from “America’s Next Top Model” and “The Face”) and his wife. Instead of feeling fabulous or fancy, I felt like Miss Celie in “The Color Purple” when she was at the juke joint being serenaded by Shug Avery. I felt a bit out of place, old, and the hat presented a barrier to my usual chatty nature. When you wear a Derby hat, you are in the hat. There is no option to take it off and put it aside. So, I was in the hat, trying to eat and converse with Barker and his wife while wanting to chuck my rather groovy hat across the room. I challenge a hat designer to fit my big head properly and change my mind.
Despite my chapeau shortcomings, I do know a couple of things. One, the hats at the royal wedding were equal parts stunning and avant-garde. Two, I enjoyed the hats in the movie “Marie Antoinette,” despite my lukewarm feelings for the flick itself. This was all I needed to do something ridiculous in my bid to satisfy my committee responsibility. I decided that after my local search for donations, I would track down the designers of these infamous hats.
I found the name of Philip Treacy’s sales director on his website and sent him an email. Treacy is the designer of the now infamous Princess Beatrice fascinator among others from the wedding of Prince William to Kate Middleton. He has designed for Lady Gaga and Alexander McQueen and got his start by designing a fascinator for the tragic but intriguing Isabella Blow. The same night, I sent an email to the milliner of “Marie Antoinette,” Laëtitia Mirault. Mirault is French, and I had to translate my email using my horrible French skills and Google Translate.
I never heard back from Mirault. I’m assuming because my email translated to something along the lines of: “Please send me feathers of a prostitute” (S’il vous plaît envoyez-moi des plumes d’une prostituée) or something equally terrible.
I did, however, hear back from Treacy’s PR person, who said Treacy would love to donate a hat.
When I say the world started spinning like a Spike Jonze video, I mean it. I also released a litany of fine language in disbelief. “Holy shit, he said yes!” My next thought was, “He could send us a giant vagina hat.” He did not send a vagina. He sent us something chic and appropriate.
My life has repeatedly taught me a couple of lessons. One being that you reap what you sow. If you put real effort into something, likely you will get great rewards. This inspires me when I feel like quitting. I know that at some end, there will be a payoff for diligence.
The other thing life has consistently taught me is to ask for what I want — whether or not it seems ridiculous. The worse that can happen is that someone says no. “No” will neither injure nor kill. “No” will only make me more determined to find the yes.
When my parents taught me to dream, coincidentally, they taught me to think bigger than myself. It taught me to try to do everything greater than I think possible.
This has led me to some amazing and unique circumstances — hosting a music festival, being a part of an arts group on the precipice of the art scene breaking open, and asking for a $1,500 hat to be donated for a charity event with the understanding that the person donating would get no tax benefit.
Ultimately, what I know is that, in life, you just have to try. Think of something ridiculous and do it. Ask for something ridiculous and get it. The worse that will happen is that life will remain exactly as it is.