Michelle Natalia

My life has been anything but straightforward. There’s been a series of events that have transpired and led me to be where I am today, in NYC working as a Fashion Blogger.

 

Well, it’s not my full time job yet but it’s my plan to change that. Right now I am working in an Investment Bank as an office manager attending the Fashion Institute of Technology studying Fashion Merchandising while also looking to break ground in Product Development. I already know what you’re thinking – why is a fashion blogger being caught anywhere near an Investment Bank? I actually love the people I work with but I will be honest, I do feel as though I am dying a bit creatively with each passing day. It was not my choice to be here, but rather a result of the journey I have had to take thus far.

 

I recently relocated here from Jacksonville, Florida. While I was there, I was working as a fashion stylist for four years. Sure, it wasn’t a fashion capital by any means - but you can find people passionate about fashion just about anywhere.

 

Styling was something I kind of fell into as a result of some of the work I was doing in promo modeling which I was doing to make some extra money for school. Through modeling, I met a bunch of photographers who happened to show me their work with other clients that were looking to get into modeling that needed portfolios. I was shocked at what I saw. So many of these girls did not know how to dress! Their chances of being noticed were already decreasing before they even got a real shot. I thought it might be a fun idea to help people like this and style on the side to express some of my creativity and advice. Over time, I was really able to start making a name for myself out there, getting involved in everything from fashion shows, to online tutorials and all kinds of one-on-one experiences.

Things were going great, until the divorce.

One thing I don’t think many people know about me is …I am not young anymore! I am 38 years old with two kids at home. I had both of my children at a very young age, with that - I had to grow up very quickly. The both of them were truly an inspiration for me to keep pushing and working hard. I was married in a relationship that can only be described as emotionally abusive. Things started taking a shift for the worse the same time my work in fashion started taking off. He was kind of the controlling type and didn’t seem comfortable that I had something that was my own. There was this overwhelming sense of jealousy and fear of my independence that really began spilling over into all other aspects of our lives. We were with each other for 16 years when I left him. As you can imagine, it’s not the easiest thing to do when you have been with someone for the majority of your life.

 

I tried to keep it going as long as I could but I could tell the emotional abuse was beginning to take a toll on my family. It was at that second I decided enough was enough.  I knew it was going to be a huge ordeal so I needed to plan everything out accordingly. I sent my daughter away for the summer. I wrote this huge long letter explaining to him why this didn’t work anymore. I even got his mother involved and met him together in our house to explain what was going to happen. I told him I was at a point where I was having difficulty even looking him in the eye, I didn’t like him as a person and when you get to that point I think it’s time to move on. I went away that weekend to let him deal with it and digest all that was discussed.

 

Things did not go well. He repeatedly called my entire family. He threatened suicide. He threatened me (to the point where I needed to get a restraining order). As this was all happening I was staying with some family trying to figure out what to do and it was then when one of my cousins suggested I just pick up and leave for NYC. It was something I always wanted to do and now seemed like the perfect time, to get away from it all and chase my dreams. I would have to quit my job and get up and leave without a plan, which was something I never had done before. I was nervous, afraid and uncertain but I agreed it was time for a fresh beginning. And so it was decided, I was going to move to NYC. But not without a rocky start.

 

Before actually leaving, my ex broke into my house and went through my room that was filled with clothing – some of which belonged to me and much of which didn’t that was issued for shoots from designers or PR firms.  He took every last piece and threw it in a U-Haul. Whatever he didn’t have space to take; he bleached or cut into pieces. He literally left me with nothing more than a pair of panties. I had nothing. On top of that I had to pay back all of the designers for all the clothing that was either lost or destroyed. Did I mention I was breaking a lease to move as well? So yeah, was off to a rough start.

 

Once I got to NY, things weren’t any easier. I wasn’t used to having difficulty finding a job and it took me about two whole months before landing something. I was staying with my mom, my kids, uncle and two dogs cramped into a tiny one-bedroom apartment so the pressure was on. I eventually landed a temp gig with a big advertising firm, JWT and then went on to take a job with ROSS. Soon, I was able to settle in and find a new place in the city. But right when I started to feel comfortable, I was laid off. Nothing like this had ever really happened to me so I was definitely in a bit of a panic, especially after feeling a little bit of normalcy. Immediately after, I got right back to the hustle and started interviewing about 5-7 times a day. That’s what led me to the office manager job at the investment bank that I am at now. I started off in lower level roles but have been able to work my way up the past couple of years even though it’s not something I was super passionate about.  The one thing my job is great for is the amount of vacation time I am able to take.

 

I love traveling and really have been able to take advantage of that while being here. To the point where I am almost wondering if my blogging should be centered on much more than fashion but towards lifestyle and exploration. This year alone I have been on 7 vacations traveling all over the world to places like France and Thailand.  Unfortunately my travel blogging is out of my own pocket for now but the dream is to be able to do this for a living. I love seeing things from different perspectives and embracing new cultures that is not of our own. Seeing the history and being fully immersed outside of your comfort zone is an experience everyone should have so I love sharing what I have encountered. Growing up my parents had their fair share of issues as it relates to alcohol and other things so travel was never really top of mind. That’s probably why I want to do it so much now and give my kids an opportunity to see things I didn’t.

 

Before travel though, fashion was always something I was most passionate about. The way I blog now is very different from how I started way back then. I used to style top Brazilian supermodels and their styles were very exotic. I strayed away from that from my personal aesthetic because I didn’t feel like it was relatable. More people were commenting and liking regular old mirror OOTD pictures with things I wore on a daily basis. So I went on craigslist and bought a camera for about $100 and recruited my daughter to start taking my pictures. There was something about the authenticity that really stuck with people. Eventually I even got recognized by Latina Magazine and was featured by them twice! A lot of people ask me how can someone stand out when it comes to fashion blogging. The answer is it’s really hard. I started in time where blogging wasn’t the fad that it is today so it’s so much harder to really find that niche that’s needed to separate you from the crowd.

 

My style is based on mixing highs and lows. Not everything I wear is designer. I will certainly throw a few pieces into my outfits here and there but it’s important to me to stay accessible to every day women. Women love to shop but not everyone has tons of money to throw around for high-end clothes. Good news is they don’t need it. I really feel that’s where some of my styling background gives me a bit of an advantage in the sense that I know what pieces can work together regardless of price point. I know so many people who freak out when they have to dress up for a particular event or function – dressing up simply doesn’t come natural to everyone. I want to help make this process easier for people, to give them ideas, to give them confidence. That’s always been key for me.

 

With some of my past experiences as examples, I feel women often lose themselves in relationships. I definitely did for a long time. And with that comes the loss of confidence. We tend to put our own needs aside for others. I especially feel this within the Latin community. From such an early age we are told over and over, that you have to get married, you have to take care of your husband, blah blah – what about you? Shouldn’t you be happy too? Fashion is what makes me happy.

 

Overall, the reason I want to share fashion is because it’s been instilled in me from such an early age. My grandmother was a dressmaker and she was making dresses in the 50’s and 60’s. It runs deep within my blood. This is not something I do because I think Fashion is “cute” and “fun”. Clothing is all about confidence and the way it makes you feel and the statement it presents. Almost the first thing you notice about someone when you first meet him or her is how he or she is dressed and the message it sends you. It speaks before you do. It sets the tone and can express who you are as a person. It enables you to be whoever you want to be. I think my personal style is all over the place but that’s what I love about it. I can be whoever I want to be for any given day. My hope is to share this with others so they can too.