August 4 is a day I will forever remember as the day I lost my mom to cancer in 2001. Today marks 18 years without her kick ass presence I still remember so vividly and it marks the awakening fact that I have now officially lived more than half of my entire life without her (I was 17 when she passed away). On the 15 year mark of her passing, I wrote a post dedicated to her labeled ETERNAL STYLE, which in 2016 focused on some of her key styles, and in 2018 I added to the post by recreating some of the looks.
This year, I wanted to focus on sharing more about the ways that she impacted my life through beauty, perception, and confidence. I also wanted to recreate one of her looks as I loved recreating her looks last year, and I find its a way for me to honor my love for her. The image I decided on this year is one of my mom that sits on my desk at home and its been with me everywhere the last 18 years. Its been with me to college, to Europe during my study abroad, to all my apartments, and currently lives in plain sight at home to remind me to keep striving to accomplish what I’m passionate about, as she was the biggest striver I’ve ever known.
I recreated this image of my mom that was taken probably around 1998. She was working on the hill at the time and this was taken either at the White House or at the Capitol. In my recreation, I'm wearing a blazer dress from ELOQUII, and accessoried it with her exact same purse from the original photo and one of her Hermes scarves.
Its funny how although she has not physically been with me the past 18 years, I still feel close to her. In a way, I feel like I am following in her foot steps through my blog. As she used her newspaper, El Sol, to relate to and positively affect the Spanish community in my hometown of Richmond, VA (read all about this in ETERNAL STYLE), I am using my blog to relate to other women by promoting confidence, style, and body positivity. Its taken me 18 years of growing to really understand her and understand the method to her being I didn't understand when I was younger.
As I've grown up, I've realized certain behaviors or traits in myself that I saw in my mom. Today I'm sharing some of the things she taught me that live with me daily.
Like Mother, Like Daugher:
What my mom taught me with only 17 years together.
She taught me to appreciate the power of lipstick. I still remember how she would apply her lipstick at home or in the car before going somewhere and would look at me and announce “MUCH BETTER!” at her newly colored pout. One of my most needed beauty items to this day is lipstick, and I think subconsciously, she is why.
She taught me to work hard. As a kid, my mom would take me with her everywhere. She brought me to events, she took me with her to deliver newspapers across the state of VA, she took me to work with her on the Hill and actually put me to work in the office. I grew up seeing first hand how hard she worked, all to follow her dreams through both El Sol and working on the Hill.
She taught me the power of red and pink nail polish. My mom always had her nails painted, and in part I think this is why I am so invested in my nails, too (and why red and pink are my go-to colors). She would paint my nails and then paint hers at our kitchen table and forever had a collection of red and pink nail polish in her bathroom.
She taught me to never accept less than. In high school, I was given an assignment to write an essay on the women's suffrage. Since it was a topic she cared about, she helped me write it. Note that she was a writer and wrote for a living through the newspaper. When I received my paper, I was given a C. She was so infuriated, she made me take the essay back to my teacher and ask him to read it again because I wasn't happy with the grade given the work and effort I had put in (I left out the part that she helped me a great deal, lol). Low and behold he gave me a higher grade. It wasn't an A+ as it SHOULD have been, but it was a higher grade. Now I think about it, that teacher was a huge asshole, LOL.
She taught me about the perception of beauty. When she was diagnosed with cancer, the doctors found it through swollen lymph nodes in her neck that needed to be removed. The removal resulted in a huge scar on her neck. To avoid questions about her scar as it was healing and even after as it was still visible, she would wear silk scarves. While she was wearing them to hide something, I - as well as others- saw her wearing these beautiful Hermes scarves and thought she looked glamorous and classy. Now I’m older I realize something I thought was glamorous was all stemmed from an insecurity about her neck scar.
She taught me to be open and accepting of all people. My mom was extremely open of all people and all genders. She taught me to respect others, regardless of their wealth status, sexual orientation, or what they did for a living. I still remember when she taught me about drag queens. To Wong Foo and The Birdcage were some of our most watched movies together.
She taught me to not care what others have to say about my body. Now that I look back on it, my mom was the original body positive figure in my life. At 5'11 she towered over others but she owned it and was proud. She used her height to her advantage, but she was bullied about it as a kid. She also didn't take shit from others when they had something to say about her. At 711 one time, a guy told her she'd look so much better with a tan and told her to come into his new tanning salon. She in turn told him that she loved her pale skin, and showed him a recent (and very large) scar on her arm where she had melanoma removed. He ran away so fast, I don't even think he paid for his 711 coffee on the way out the door, lol!
Heres to memories, and to following in her footsteps. I know she is with me every moment, and I am lucky to have had 17 years together with her.
Photos by Arielle Lewis Studios.
Blonde in the District