Sarah, Regional Education Manager – West Coast:
"I always say to women and young girls I meet 'never be afraid to fail'. Try different things, take risks, and if you do fail, it’s not the end of the world. Pick yourself up, dust yourself off and try again."
My first female influence, other than my Nana and my mother, was Margot Fonteyne, the world famous ballerina. When I was aged just 2 ½, having become fascinated with seeing Margot Fonteyne dancing on television, pictured in magazines, and appearing on posters, I told my mom I wanted to be a ballerina myself when I grew up. Even though I was so little I could already recognize her as beautiful, graceful, strong and powerful. I wanted to be just like her! Always one to encourage my dreams my mom enrolled me as a toddler in ballet classes and when I was 10, I moved to a ballet boarding school. Leaving home at such a young age, I realize I’m so lucky to have had my mom and Nana pushing me forward. My Nana and my mom were both very strong women, and always said to me “never be afraid to fail”. They encouraged me to try different things, to take risks, and to realize that, if I did fail, it wasn’t the end of the world; I should pick myself up, dust myself off and try again. My very first Saturday job was at Boots in fact, and even as a teenager I beat to my own drum. The store manager realized I wasn’t one to conform, so he put me in the record department - I didn’t need to wear a uniform, my only job was to keep track of the latest top 10 hits, and encourage customers to buy the records. I was brilliant at it! I was a real punk at that time, with pink hair, but I was embraced by the staff and by customers for who I was. My mom taught me to have self-belief, to be authentic, and to live life on my own terms.
When I was at school I developed a huge love of history inspired by my wonderful history teacher, Miss Clegg. Along with my Nana, and my mom, Miss Clegg became another hugely important female influence in my life.
I became intrigued by Anne Boleyn and Queen Elizabeth I, two very strong
women of the Tudor era. Queen Elizabeth
I led England with incredible power, and Anne Boleyn had the
courage to speak up. I loved their spirit and confidence to be independent
women who paved their own paths with passion. After I left school
I did dance professionally for a while but then I did the classic thing
and literally ran away to the circus! I was a dancer and an aerial ribbon
performer and loved every minute. Along the way I met my American husband, and
once we decided to marry and start a family there was going to be no more
flying through the air for me!
When I left the circus, got married, and moved to California I turned to my mom again for advice. What was I going to do now? She told me to find a company that will respect you, and where you can be yourself. Find a job you love.REGISTER FOR THE SUMMIT NOW
One woman who I got to know very well was Jane Lauder, she was so
hard working and so humble, even though she’s so wealthy and from such a famous
family. She always inspired me to treat everyone the same. She didn’t want any
special treatment, and she worked just as hard as any of us. I always remember
when I worked with Chanel that a customer came in looking somewhat disheveled.
Other beauty consultants looked away, and didn’t approach this lady. She was
wearing sweatpants with stains, had no makeup on, and was
very obviously homeless. I approached her as I would any customer, and took
time and care doing her makeover and treating her with the respect I show
everyone. A year later this beautiful woman in a designer suit walked in, and
she asked me if I recognized her. She confided that at the time of being
homeless she had lost everything – her marriage, her home, and even her mental
health. She was now back on her feet, and doing well financially, and she said
to me she wanted to buy one of everything from me as recognition of her
My best piece of advice to any young woman is “Work hard, you’ll have good and bad days, but always stay true to yourself. Be happy. And know that you’re unstoppable if you put your mind to it.”