I’m fortunate to have many inspiring women in my life, but I’ve always had a special connection with my grandma Rosalie (aka Mema). As a child, I remember being in awe of her style and unapologetic glamor—IRL and in pictures taken way before my time—from her perfectly blown-out hair to her red lips and long lashes. People always tell her she looked like Elizabeth Taylor, and they aren’t wrong. Mema is still the epitome of class and what I aspire to be, and not just because of how damn good she looks at 86 (that’s only part of it!), but because she’s shown me what it means to work hard; that it’s never too late to start over; and that dressing up and putting on a little makeup, just because, never hurts.
Mema immersed herself in the fashion world and started working in the New York Garment District when she was only 17. Being around so much color and beauty made her love for style—from the clothes and the makeup to the hair—really take off. She was able to express herself through these things and found that the more she dressed up, the more confident she felt, which helped her find a place in fashion at such a young age. She excelled in almost every facet of the industry, starting at a men’s and boys’ clothing manufacturer before transitioning to a women’s sportswear company, where she assisted one of the fashion designers and managed showroom sales. Eventually, she met my grandpa, got married, and started a family. Even though she stopped working at 24, when she became pregnant with my mom, and went on to have three more kids, she didn’t let her responsibilities as a mother keep her from her love of fashion and personal upkeep. Fifteen years later, she put all of her previous experience to use and returned to the workforce to start her own accessories and jewelry business. And she didn’t stop there: She went on to work at an iconic department store for another 20 years before retiring at the ripe age of 75.