Lee Miller & I

Lee Miller & I

by marlies|dekkers

Are you afraid to bluff? Don’t be! Sometimes, in order to fulfill the potential of all your amazing talents, you gotta fake it till you make it. (Just like the boys have always shamelessly done). Finding inspiration in the bravura of the legendary, multi-talented Lee Miller, I learned from the best.

LA, 13 years ago. After days of relentlessly calling Rihanna’s management, I finally got through. « We love your stuff, but Rihanna is shooting in New York tomorrow, » I was told. « Such a coincidence; I’m traveling there today!« , I heard myself say, as I frantically started looking for last-minute plane tickets. My bluffing paid off: Rihanna fell in love with my spider set and rocked it on the back cover of her ‘Rated R’ album. The perfect poster girl for my fun, fearless brand of feminine feminism.

Long before Rihanna, there was another fun, fearless feminine feminist: Lee Miller. A typical ‘polymath’, she excelled in many different areas; something not so typical for a woman at the time. And so, when I learned about Lee during my art school years, it wasn’t just as a surrealist icon and a Vogue cover girl, but also as an innovative art photographer and a legendary war journalist. Wow, here was a woman who dared to to embrace and explore all her talents! In one of my favorite stories about the spunky American, she traveled from New York to Paris in 1929, hoping to make photographer Man Ray her creative mentor. « My name is Lee Miller, and I’m your new student, » she declared upon meeting him. Ray explained that he wasn’t interested and besides, he would be vacationing in Biarritz the next day. « So am I, » Lee bluffed. The rest is (art) history: after three years as Ray’s student and muse, Lee became a masterful photographer in her own right. My kind of bravura, I decided.

Like Lee, I am a woman of many different talents. Besides being a designer and entrepreneur, I publish my own magazine and produce my own shows. I’ve been both in front of the camera and behind it, shooting my own collections. And you may never have guessed it, but I know how to conduct an orchestra and build a beautiful garden. To master all these different areas – many of them male-dominated – I’ve often had to bluff, both to the world and to myself.

It’s something men have always been good at: saying ‘I’ve got this!’ and then figuring it out as they go, not afraid to stumble and fall along the way. Women, on the other hand, tend to be more careful; afraid to make false claims, afraid to fall. Well, I’ve learned that if your aim is true, the end justifies the means. And fear of falling? I have fallen so many times! The trick is to have a good cry and get back on your horse. Stronger than before.

I may make it all sound so easy, but believe me, I know how lonely it can be for a woman to fully commit herself to her ambitions. And I can barely imagine how hard it must have been for Lee Miller. To give you a time reference: not until 1919 did women get the right to vote! Lately, I have been sharing my knowledge and experience by coaching a new generation of feminine feminists. And each time I look out over a sea of women during an event, ready to unlock their potential together, I think of the badass pioneers who made this kind of sisterhood possible. Women like Lee Miller, who refused to stand on the sidelines and let the men have all the fun. Who will be standing on your shoulders? Embrace your bravura, for them and for yourself. Dare to manifest your dreams. Again and again.

 

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