Last night Jenna Lyons took home one of the Glamour Women of the Year Awards for being a powerhouse in the fashion world as Chief Creative Officer of J.Crew and she attributes it to being awkward when she was growing up. she said in her acceptance speech. From Fashionista:
“You see a polished girl with a fancy title, but my start was not so fancy,” she said, recounting her start as an assistant to an assistant, working in a hallway without a proper desk. She spoke about wanting to make women feel special because she felt awkward and “ugly” growing up. “Nothing worth having is easy,” she said.
Having those humble beginnings can help a lot. Jenna said in a recent interview, “One of the benefits of having started at the bottom is that I’m not afraid to push the brand. I’ve seen so much change, and I feel like I truly know where the brand came from. To me, it’s about evolving slowly.”
Jenna knows what works and what doesn’t for the company. She also has worked in so many different departments that she knows the ins and outs. “They can say, ‘Oh, I don’t think we can do that,’ and I’m like, ‘Oh, yes we can.’ I’ve done it!”
And she certainly has done it. Jenna has doubled the sales of J.Crew in the last seven years resulting in a company valuation of $1.7 billion and has been the visionary force behind what has become known as the “cult of J.Crew“, (of which I have been a proud member since 1995). Anna Wintour said in a video at the awards, “J.Crew is a force to be reckoned with, and anyone who tells you otherwise is insane.” Those are some big words coming from arguably the most important woman in fashion.
As for those awkward years contributing to Jenna wanting to make women feel special, well we couldn’t be more thankful. She told Forbes:
“The most rewarding part is not what it does for me but what it does to other people. Having grown up not being so attractive and awkward, I know what that feels like. I know what it feels like to not be sure of yourself. I know that when you feel good, it helps your confidence and makes you feel better. To me the most rewarding part is when I meet someone who says “I got married in your dress and I felt beautiful” or “I got my first job in your pencil skirt and sweater” or seeing Michelle Obama wear the clothes — those kinds of things, when someone else feels beautiful about the clothes.”
She has made so many women feel special. As fellow Woman of the Year Lena Dunham said at the Awards show, “By the way, Jenna Lyons, you’re the reason I’m comfortable wearing shorts and it’s not going very well–so thanks a lot.”
So it may pay to be popular, but it can also pay off big time to be really awkward and tall for your class.