Post second annual FCD Unconference taking place in New York City, Launchmetrics connected with panelist, Mary Alice Stephenson, to gain an understanding of how she is driving change through her love of fashion.
Coming from a traditional fashion editor role to building a digital platform to drive social change, we’re excited to present to you our third panelist from the second annual FCD Unconference. By driving social change through fashion and beauty, Founder & CEO at GLAM4GOOD, Mary Alice Stephenson, is truly empowering and impacting thousands of lives while helping raise awareness for many real social causes. Today she joins us at Launchmetrics to share with us her journey and her advice to those who are inspired and want to make a difference in their communities.
Can you tell us a bit more about Glam4Good and your role at the foundation?
I am the Founder and CEO of GLAM4GOOD. After 15 years of working in the fashion and beauty industries, I started GLAM4GOOD as a way to use my love for style to honor courage, raise awareness, bolster self-esteem, dress people in need and empower women and girls. What began as a personal mission has now become a thriving movement, community, empowerment platform and 501 (c)(3) that creates and celebrates fashion and beauty making a social impact. In just a few years, whether through our self-esteem enhancing initiatives, #shoppingspree4free pop-up shops, or confidence building makeovers, GLAM4GOOD has helped over 20,000 disadvantaged women and girls and raised awareness for a large group of diverse causes.
My team and I have used fashion and beauty to empower women who have lost children from gun violence, lost limbs at war, lost breasts from cancer, lost their homes from a natural disaster or lost their way because of substance or domestic abuse. We have witnessed first-hand, the tremendous healing power fashion and beauty has to shine the human spirit, promote wellness and effect positive change.
What was the transition like from being in a traditional fashion editor role to becoming the founder of a fashion platform based on driving social change?
It was a brutal transition only because I had very little money and a tiny team. Sometimes following your heart and your truth takes a lot of courage. I have come up against many obstacles and there were times when I thought I would not be able to continue GLAM4GOOD. There was a day I remember thinking there is no way I could continue doing out empowerment initiatives. This was before I was a 501(c)(3) and was able to accept donations and grants. I had sold my jewelry, my clothing, and my art to continue to do GLAM4GOOD initiatives. I remember sitting at my desk trying to get people to donate clothing and accessories for 200 girls in need and thinking why does this have to be so hard. Why don’t I just go back to being a fashion director or editor-in-chief and do something that has more stability and financial rewards. Then the doorbell rang, it was a massive shipment of jewelry from Dana Lorenz of Fenton Fallon. When I opened the boxes there were 100’s of beautiful pieces that I knew would make the girls we were empowering so excited and happy. There was so much joy in those boxes. I just stood there and cried like a baby. Somehow I knew at that moment that even when I had doubts, and felt frustrated that I did not have the tools I needed for the amount of people reaching out for help, that the universe would deliver something like this package of treasure and give me the faith to keep on track. There have been many moments like this where the universe says…. “Girl you have to keep going with this!!!”
There have been times when I was in a shelter, in a hospital room, in a domestic violence safe house and a woman or a girl came up to me with such a look of happiness, relief, and love. The looks on their faces when they feel pampered, validated and most importantly, good about themselves, is worth it all. Clothing, toiletries, and beauty products are essential in life. GLAM4GOOD provides the tools to help people feel confident to go get that job, to fight that illness, to start a new path, to empower courage to go after their dreams, to help their kids. The fashion and beauty industry has the ability to change lives with the excess it produces and the platform it has to raise awareness. I will keep going with GLAM4GOOD because at the end of the day, what is truly important in life but service? People told me I was crazy when I started GLAM4GOOD because what I was doing would take away from my life. Yes, I have made sacrifices to GLAM4GOOD, but what I have gained in my life and what my son has learned about love and service is far greater than any sacrifice. The lives that the GLAM4GOOD Foundation as touched and the incredible organizations we have been able to support makes it all worthwhile.
Glam4Good empowers individuals through harnessing the healing power, joy, and attention that fashion and beauty can bring. How has Glam4Good empowered yourself personally and what is your biggest takeaway so far, since starting the organization?
GLAM4GOOD has worked with over 20,000 women, girls and families in need and distributed over 1 million donated products. And we have just gotten started! There are many unfortunate reasons women and young people often connect self-worth with how they look, but when people are given the tools to permit themselves to feel and look their best it propels their confidence, bolsters their self-esteem and that often helps them deal with far more serious things. At our GLAM4GOOD events, we have witnessed teens battling life-threatening illness get up from their wheelchairs and hospital beds with recharged resilience. We have worked with women to reclaim their femininity and re-enter civilian life after serving our country, and had them say, “Today was the first day I feel truly feel beautiful and it’s liberating.” We witness impact at every event we do but it’s most evident when GLAM4GOOD does initiatives in hospitals, homeless and domestic violence shelters. In these initiatives, we style, pamper and create wardrobes for women and girls for a variety of reasons. Whether we are inspiring hope, health, second chances or a confidence or moral reboot, we see the meaningful impact of our mission in many ways every day.
How would you describe your overall experience working with First Lady Michelle Obama?
I did not “work” with the former First Lady, GLAM4GOOD and I were honored to be a part of Mrs. Obama’s #JoiningForces initiative and co-host an event with the former First Lady to pamper and celebrate military families at an Army base in Italy. I also had the honor of being a part of the former First Lady’s design summit at the White House and President Obama’s Social Impact Initiative, South by South Lawn. I respect the way in which Mrs. Obama has, and continues to, use fashion to draw attention to far more important issues. During the beginning of her time in office, people would often tune into Mrs. Obama’s empowerment campaigns, and learn more about them, because initially they were drawn in by what she was wearing and how great she looked. Fashion and beauty grab people’s attention and Mrs. Obama seems to understand that power and has always used style to lead people to other issues that matter more than fashion!
What would your advice be for those who want to start a career in social entrepreneurship or make a difference in their communities?
I have so much advice, some of it I have learned from successes, some from my failures and most from doing this work day in and day out. I have tried many different formulas but the below are three truths I feel have helped me grow GLAM4GOOD both within the communities we are supporting and the people helping to support us!
LIVE YOUR MISSION: Eat, breathe and do the work every day. Over and over. If you don’t truly feel it is your purpose…DON’T DO IT. Success takes total commitment. Go big or go home.
SHOUT IT FROM THE ROOFTOPS: People can’t help you if they don’t know what you need. Let people know in every way, every day, how important your work is to you and how and why they can and should support you! Remember, if you don’t care nobody else will. People can’t get behind something if they don’t understand and see it. Show them.
MAKE IT MATTER: Emotion, honesty, spirit, purpose. When it’s real, people feel it and want to support it. If what you are doing makes them feel good they will come back for more. A community will rise around your work when there is an emotional connection with them. So tell your story, your brand’s story, or the stories of the people you are helping in an authentic powerful way. Don’t fabricate, don’t amplify, don’t pretty it up. Be real, be raw and knock em alive. The truth is your best marketing tool.
How can people get involved with Glam4Good?
People can reach out to us at info@GLAM4GOOD.com
Donate money and products at https://glam4good.com/donate/
Lastly, how did you get involved with FCD?
I love and greatly respect Simon Collins the founder of FCD. He is an incredible human! I think the conversation he has created with FCD is an authentic platform not driven by advertiser influence with some of the smartest thinkers/disruptors in our industry and that is a conversation I want to be a part of!
For more from Mary Alice Stephenson, follow her on Twitter or check out GLAM4GOOD on Instagram, Twitter, and Facebook. In case you missed the second annual FCD Unconference, make sure you visit www.fashionculturedesign.com to find out more and stay updated!