Being Authentic

It all started when I gave a speech last month to a group of local women entrepreneurs. Whenever I speak to an all-female group, I feel comfortable sharing one of my “secret weapons,” as women seem super-interested and open to it.

And that is my color palette.

I’ve written before about how I have been working with a colorist since the early 1980s. Jennifer Butler’s expertise is in helping people look their best by wearing the colors, patterns, and textures that make that person look their best. In her studio in Los Angeles, she has more than 10,000 color swatches that she uses to select the perfect colors and textures to match a client’s eye color, hair color and texture, and skin tone.

Over the years she has also added the dimensions of personality and energy to her color consultation, which give insight to her clients about their season. (In personal color analysis, people are often assigned a “seasonal” color palette, meaning a particular group of colors related to that season.)

For the last seven years (since I last had my color palette done), I’ve been a “Tawny Spring.”

So, after my speech, I thought it might be a good time to revisit Jennifer to see if there have been any changes to my color palette. That Saturday morning as I was getting ready to drive to her house, I had second thoughts. Maybe there was no reason to see her. I was certain that there really hadn’t been any major changes in my coloring. But I did have a gnawing feeling about the fact that during the past couple of months, each time I went shopping and tried on colors and styles that were on my palette, they no longer felt good to me.

So I walked into Jennifer’s house a few minutes before our consultation. She was just concluding a workshop with other clients, but I saw her when I walked in and smiled at her. I could tell from the look on her face that she didn’t recognize me. Once I said my name, she caught herself and said, “Welcome.” After we chatted for a few minutes, we moved into her studio. That’s when she shocked me.

“Karen, you have become a Summer,” she said. “And actually I did not recognize you―you have changed so much.”

Now that may not sound like a big deal, but when you have been dressing like an energetic, cheerleader-type Spring for a long time, hearing that you are now a “twilight, full of grace” Summer is quite a shock.

For the next three hours, I watched Jennifer select an almost completely different color palette for me. My eyes had darkened. My skin was pinker. She encouraged me to darken my hair back to its original color, so it would complement my skin and eyes.

Here is my former palette, when I was a Spring. You can see that the colors are brighter.

Here is my new, Rose-Bronze Summer palette.

As she selected my new colors, Jennifer noticed a few hairs around my face were a bit curly and asked me about that. That’s when I reminded her that I have naturally curly hair, but have been straightening it and blow-drying it straight for more than 30 years. I told her that when I was a young girl, people made fun of my curly hair; they called me names. There were no happy memories associated with curly hair.

That’s when she made a life-changing comment: “It seems that you are in a period of personal transformation and authenticity. Perhaps you might want to consider wearing your hair natural.” That was a pretty heavy thing to hear. But since my divorce was final seven months ago, I’ve felt like I’ve been in a period of self-reflection. And I could not get the thought out of my head about what it would be like to be the real me. Curly hair and all.

So, I took a deep breath on Monday morning and went to work with my naturally curly hair, dressed in colors from my new palette. People in the office did not recognize me. They asked me what I did to my hair; my answer was “Nothing. This is my natural hair!”

As a matter of fact, since all three of our summer interns have naturally curly hair, we had a Curly Hair Day in the office. It was empowering for all of us as we gathered for our photo!

It’s been more than two weeks now since I decided to be me. The real me. The authentic me.

I’ve had friends comment: “You look fantastic, happy, and like a different person.” Other friends, when they see me, say nothing. (I think they are in shock that I have dared to go natural.) Just this morning, several of my work colleagues commented that I look so happy, thinner (that was a plus!), and more calm, like a totally different person.

Are you asking yourself, “Am I wearing the colors and styles that make me look my best?” Or are you thinking, “I can’t afford to have my colors done. I’ll have to get rid of so many of my clothes.” I encourage you to check out the videos, before-and-after photos, and information on Jennifer’s website.

While it can be scary to buck fashion trends and peer pressure, finding out what your palette is and dressing accordingly can be an amazing thing for your self-esteem, your personal confidence, and for your success in your career and personal life. Being authentic in how you present yourself makes a phenomenal difference.

Left: Me, dressed as a Spring, being someone who I am no longer. Right: Me, dressed as a Summer, my authentic self.