There are those rare moments in ones life where you meet someone very casually. You never have a very intense conversation, but that person impacts you greatly, and you develop an admiration for them from afar. This happened to me when I met Erika Bearman AKA OscarPRGirl while interning at Oscar de la Renta.
The VP of the department I worked in invited myself and my intern partner to accompany her to a speaking engagement where she would be introducing Erika. My intern partner, who has become one of my closest friends, and I shot each other a glance as to say “oh shit we get to meet her!” Via her Instagram handle we had a mutual admiration for the Director of Communications for Oscar. Living vicariously through her enviable closet, shiny job title, and Instagram photos, she seemed like a celebrity. We had both seen her so many times gliding through the showroom in heels that made her even more the model she appeared to be. At first glance I assumed she was one of the many fit models there for market week, but because she was actually clothed unlike the models, I should’ve known she was someone else. She would flash a quick smile while hustling to dress a socialite or celebrity for a red carpet, but there was never any dialogue, because I dared not to speak. The VP of the department (who shall remain nameless here) introduced Erika, and she began giving the audience a brief overview of how she came to be OscarPRGirl. I was a tad disappointed to find that she worked her way up in fashion via a meeting set up by her parents. Fashion was never her initial goal, she told us, she had gotten a degree in Art History. I’m always a little disheartened when I find out that people I admire in fashion didn’t struggle to get where they are. It makes it seem like my goals are that much further away. Not to say those people didn’t/don’t work hard or are undeserving, it just makes me wonder if anyone went through what I’m going through to start a career in this industry. She sat indian style in her Prada platforms, oversized navy pants with off the shoulder black shirt and talked very matter of factly. She even told us about how Oscar teased her when she dyed her hair blonde, which was met with quite a bit of controversy in the office.
One thing she said stood out to me: if I have to slave away at something for the rest of my life, fashion is a pretty good way to go out. I felt those words as if she had literally hit me with them. That statement came at a point in time when my friend and I were feeling overworked and under appreciated and praying that it would all be worth it. We had both been praying to get through the rest of the semester successfully, and those words gave us the second wind we needed to press on. After taking time to answer questions, and then to pass out business cards and converse with the audience, my friend and I were left alone with her. The team we worked for left to get drinks and told us to let Erika know where they were headed. Perfect! We have a reason to talk to her. She was so pleasant. Her grace, the way she carried herself, her confidence, her style, her advice all of those things stuck with me. We never communicated beyond “hi how are you?” and casual pleasantries, and I am certain that if I ever saw her on the street she would have no idea who I am. But I must admit that I feel privileged to have met her and to have observed her work ethic. There are times when I am beyond tired and I just want to go to the safety of my southern home, but I always remember what she said that day in that auditorium and I push forward.