I have been a victim of bullying for the majority of my youth. I was bullied by all kinds of different people, from my peers to my high school counselor. No one believed in me. People began by critisizing me for the way that I looked, dressed and acted. When I lost weight and started grooming myself better, people spread rumors that I was a dirty girl. My high school counselor said that I would not even have a shot at community college. In 10th grade, when I had to leave the state because I was not able to cope with bullying, my former classmates convinced each other that I dropped out because I was pregnant/had AIDS. Clearly, these were all crazy, ridiculous rumors. A little overweight, awkward as hell, and poor fashion sense (I used to want to be a clothing designer and would sometimes make my own outfits and wear them to school), I was an easy target for bullying.
The only way that I found myself getting through the bullying in high school was by getting good grades and focusing on my future. By the time senior year came around, I was accepted into every university I applied to, and of course enrolled in my first choice school, Virginia Commonwealth University into their art program, which is ranked as the #1 public art school in the country. I love to paint and I love art, and my original plan was to get a degree in interior design (things changed, after being inspired by the Campaign for Liberty movement I changed my major to political science). College gave me a fresh start and I was eager to take on leadership roles in my community. I was extremely involved on campus and held at least one leadership position every semester until I graduated. Some people from my high school who also went to VCU did try to bring me down the first few years while I was at school, but I was already focused on so many other things that it didn’t even matter to me.
Everything in college was great until my junior year, when I woke up one day and decided I wanted to make swimwear for women. I started by making them quietly for myself, but I saw the potential for it to be something more. In less than a month, I had incorporated my line (with the only person who believed in me at the time, Franz Orban) and created my first collection. I am not exaggerating when I say NO ONE supported me on this. My parents said it wouldn’t work, my friends (all of them) laughed at the thought. The only thing their doubt did for me was fuel my desire to succeed and prove them wrong.
None of these things came easily. I have faced so many challenges and fallbacks on my way to success. I am not successful yet, and I am still growing…but I know that I am much better off than my peers.
However, I know that I have succeeded in proving others wrong. To me, it doesn’t matter anymore if I proved them wrong. I have to design my next collection, fulfill orders, prepare for Swim Week and my next fashion show, and make sure I am ready for my hosting job on Japanese TV tomorrow. I have NO interest in addressing my former bullies. I don’t remember their names anymore, and I could care less. Sometimes, I see a someone from my high school pop up on my news feed, excited about graduating from community college after 5 years, or posting photos of their kids that they had when they were 17. I’ll think to myself, who’s laughing now? and keep scrolling.
I want to emphasize how challenging it was for me to get to where I am today. I did not come from a wealthy family. I had to work 4 jobs at a time to help pay for my degree. I have put my life into Vizcaya Swimwear and have worked extremely hard to get my brand to where it is today. Don’t fool yourself and think that it’s easy to start your own business at the age of 20. I might make it seem easy but I only share with the public the best of what I have done. There are a lot of things in this process that I don’t share with the public. Even today, I face challenges and still struggle to reach my goals.
In September 2013, I created Lady Code to help women who may be facing similar challenges that I faced. I want to inspire women and help them through challenging points in their life. The purpose of Lady Code is to inspire and empower women to be active in their communities, and work to only love and empower other women rather than bring others down. I wanted to share my story with you today to let you know that I did not come down an easy path to get to where I am today. If you are feeling discouraged or alone, keep going, and keep working toward your goals!
If you are reading this and you are a victim of bullying, or if you are struggling with people who doubt your aspirations, ignore them, and keep pushing. My drive to succeed was fueled by those who put me down, and by those who said I couldn’t.
So, to those who said I couldn’t…..
THANK YOU!!! And, have you googled me lately?