Being in PR, I meet a lot of people. Bloggers, editors, producers, and stylists. Meeting new people is what I love most about my job; it keeps it exciting and fresh. For 2009, I made a vow to start going out more and networking on behalf of my clients. I don’t mean by way of being pushy and salesman-like, but its important that I reach out to people who write about fashion for a living, and introduce them to my designers, in a casual, social setting. My genetics have set me up so I want to be in bed by 9pm, but sometimes I gotta just push through.
Felicia Sullivan is one of those bloggers I met this year, and its been a wonderful thing. Felicia initially found out about Objets d'Envy and wrote about the fabulous Lavaliere necklace. She loved it so much, she bought one and I’ve seen her wear it, she rocks it. So through this initial e- meeting, Felicia and I started to get to know one another, and I also learned about her memoir, The Sky Isn't Visible From Here.
I recently read this book and five pages in I wanted to go over to her house and give her a hug; she's been through a lot. But as the book goes on, you get to know about Felicia and what makes her the amazing and extremely talented person she is today. They say pain is the touchstone to growth, and I truly believe that, especially in this case. Through the book, Felicia talks about her journey through childhood with an addict mother and weaves it into her life as an adult. Even with the obstacles that she continuously overcomes, she is growing and building a terrific life featuring hard and high paying jobs, a wonderful education, and a life that she built 100% on her own.
I thought people would like to learn more about Felicia and her experience writing this and also know about what she's up to these days. So, following is an interview:
Kate:OK, your book blew me away. I wanted to give you a big hug, some cookies and milk. I don’t know, cookies and milk just seem to make it all better, no? You are a great writer and clearly this is the profession for you. But writing this memoir must have been a challenge, was it hard to figure out where to start?
Felicia: First off, I will never refuse a cookie. Milk, maybe, but cookie endowments are always welcomed, encouraged, and appreciated.
I wrote the first ten pages of Sky in 2002. It was the first chapter, “Fighting Shoes,” and I had originally wrote the piece as a stand-alone fiction story because I needed a tremendous amount of distance from me and the characters. And then I started writing scenes and incidents, and the chapter evolved into a beautiful mess of a map and I spent a few years assembling the map and myself, I guess.
K: You really put yourself out there and I admire that so much. I think a reason why the book is incredibly moving, is that you are so real and you lay it all out for us to see. Was there something therapeutic about writing this? I mean, having to hash up really uncomfortable stuff must bring up some feelings.
F: Writing Sky, committing these painful memories to paper was cathartic, but I always tell people that writing a memoir is not akin to journaling. I had to work out a great deal of my issues before coming to Sky because I needed the characters to be sympathetic and myself not portrayed as a victim. I needed distance from what I had experienced and perspective. I always needed to be fair and compassionate in terms of how I portrayed my mother because while she was an incredibly flawed women, she was at times extraordinary, and this is what makes it all so heartbreaking.
K: You are sober two years (congrats!), and a big part of the book is your journey down a road filled with alcohol and drugs. Your friends even try and get you to slow down, but it takes you a while to come to that stopping point yourself. As you know, I am sober as well and talking about our pasts and “war stories” can be painful, but also amazingly beautiful because it’s a part of growth. Were you sober when you began this book? If so, was it painful to recall those memories? If not, was it part of a realization that maybe you needed to remove all substances from your life?
F: This is a terrific question, and I wish more people had asked me this. While writing about my childhood was relatively easy, while I was writing Sky I was coming to terms with the fact that my drinking was becoming a serious problem. I was in an unhealthy relationship for over a decade, and I found that ending this relationship, while trying to write about me in the present, was the hardest part of writing the book and living though writing it. As you know it’s rarely one experience that ignites the sobriety light, rather an accumulation of bottoms. A year before my
book would be published, I had attempted several “breaks” from alcohol and I was failing miserably. And when I grew tired of being helpless, embarrassed, and sad, I realized that this couldn’t be my life. There is something better. Looking back, I regret nothing…well, maybe I regret that I hadn’t stopped drinking sooner.
K: Any thoughts on how being sober has helped you to accomplish such amazing tasks?
F: It’s no coincidence that a great deal of auspicious things happened in my life after I stopped drinking. Alcohol was this terrific crutch, it was a salve for fear and I was walking around anesthetized and frightened of living my life. And when I got sober and the band-aid ripped off, I had no crutch, so I decided to start making proverbial leaps of faith. Because honestly, anything was better than living a life in a perpetual fog. And suddenly the world seemed less scary and there were so many possibilities.
K: The response to the book has been so positive, and you have been out and about doing readings all over. You often talk about how much you love your publicist; she’s working really hard for you and getting great responses. So, from a PR standpoint, what do you think makes her so amazing? (I love getting the view from the client.)
F: I adore my HarperCollins publicist because she’s willing to try anything. She’s honest with me and sets realistic expectations, but doesn’t condescend at all. It’s a nice collaboration, because we talk about blue-sky ideas and how we can make them real and workable. I think the best relationship you can have with a publicist is if the two of you bring ideas and work to the table.
K: Where will you be reading this summer?
F: Check out my events here!
K: You do a lot with your life, you also have a blog, www.feliciasullivan.com, and you just launched the Fashion For All clothing drive. Tell me a little about how FFA came about?
F: For the past few months, I’ve volunteered for New York Cares and it’s changed me in ways I hadn’t imagined. There is something truly gratifying about placing your needs aside and helping someone who really needs a meal, shelter, and companionship. These are basic needs that people have that are not being met in today’s economy. A great deal of my volunteer work has been in meal service, and I was inspired by providing dignified, “white glove” meal service to those who are homeless or simply struggling to make ends meet.
Combining my love of fashion and style and need to give back to the community in which I grew up, Fashion For All was born. The mission of Fashion For All is to provide an annual day of dignified shopping for residents in low-income communities across the country. Our partnerships with local community activist and outreach organizations, as well as prominent fashion and beauty brands, enable us to provide a day of luxury shopping and white-glove, personalized service for residents in low-income communities, as well as access to local organizations and programs, which provide educational, career, and parenting resources.
During these very difficult economic times, regardless of one’s financial situation, everyone deserves to be treated with dignity and respect. With the Fashion For All Shopping Experience, women, who, tirelessly struggle to provide for their families will be rewarded with not only a day of indulgence, but convenient access to community outreach programs. So whether she’s seeking career counseling, professional attire, or terrific parenting programs, we hope to offer community residents access to the resources they need. What hopefully will kick off as an annual event might dovetail into a non-profit. I hope to take this idea and scale it nationally.
K: What have been the biggest challenges getting that off the ground? I know you had to approach sponsors in addition to spreading the word so people could donate the clothes!
F: I don’t think any one task stood out as terribly challenging. I think all the minor logistical details provided to be a bit of a workable nightmare. For the most part, the event was easy, just detailed.
I hope you can join me in wishing Felicia the best of luck on her journey to grow Fashion For All and all of her fabulous future endeavors! Check out her daily blog posts at www.feliciasullivan.com!