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Style: Steel Magnolias

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To my surprise and delight, my company was asked to participate in Art in Bloom, the annual springtime celebration put on by the New Orleans Museum of Art.

shoptalkTypically, the museum enlists floral designers, garden clubs and interior decorators to create scenes and arrangements with plants and flowers. How we, as stylists and personal shoppers, were selected to partake in the stunning affair is still blurry, but I am very proud of our design and the story we told.

“Steel Magnolias” was the inspiration for each contributor’s design. I had to keep my overactive left brain in check in order to make a literal assessment: what and who is a “Steel Magnolia?” I thought of all the women in our community who embody this dichotomy of strength and beauty. Many women that have beauty, style and maintain successful careers, but I believe that in order to be truly powerful and stunning, a “Steel Magnolia” must also possess inner beauty and grace in all circumstances. As my partner and I labored over our Art in Bloom installation, a theme began to emerge: each woman who fit our definition of a “Steel Magnolia” was also a mother.

Against the Odds
Melissa Fos Daigle is one of the most remarkable young women I have ever met. Unfailingly full of laughs, she is the powerhouse in her family, which includes four-year-old Eliza, two-year-old Libby and her husband Burt. When I asked her what makes her feel beautiful and sexy, she replied, “My husband! He truly appreciates everything I do to keep this household in check. He makes me feel like a pretty person.” Daigle also credits her little ones with making her feel lovely. “I simply put on a dress and make up and they’ll say: ‘Mommy looks pretty.’”

Two years ago, at the age of 32, Daigle was diagnosed with Stage 4 breast cancer that had moved into her bones. She underwent radiation, removal of her ovaries and a lumpectomy. Presently, she receives hormone therapy and screenings every three to six months. When asked what gives her strength, she stated: “If not for my babies, I would still be crying over my situation. I had two little ones who needed me to be a mom. I am a better wife, mother and person because of cancer.” Melissa’s frank and humorous perspective is one we should all aspire to. “Life is too short to obsess. If your child wants to eat gummy bears at 10:00 a.m. and wear a Cinderella costume every day, so be it!”

Balancing Act
Kay Morrison is the Ari Gold (Entourage) of New Orleans; she is 24/7. As CEO and brainchild of her organizational service, The Occasional Wife, she handles the logistics of wedding planning, estate sales and closet and home organization, among many other responsibilities. She founded her company in New Orleans, and currently assists in organizing homes and businesses across the U.S., with offices in New York, Los Angeles and the Gulf Coast.

Morrison is mother to Flynn, 12 and Annabel, 11, and wife of Cam. She brings home the bacon and fries it up, all while wearing a sassy dress and drinking a martini. While she unloaded her enormous pick-up truck with shelving to be installed in a client’s home and simultaneously responded to emails and texts, she told me what makes her feel pretty: “Getting my eyelashes put on!” When I asked her what makes her feel strong, she said: “Oh my, honey. Putting my feet on the floor every morning!” When Morrison finally stops moving at the end of each day, she finds time to snuggle up on the couch with her family to watch movies.

Muscle Momma
Thirty-six-year-old psychiatrist, Lakisha Mamon, requested my assistance two years ago to help her dress her post-pregnancy figure. Dr. Mamon was learning to tackle her newly acquired “assets,” from needing to feed her baby to getting back into professional attire, yet she still wanted to feel like a “hot mom.” I was amazed by her ability to balance her workload, care for her newborn and even manage to squeeze in exercise. “I take CrossFit classes and there is no better feeling than knowing I have completed more reps or lifted heavier weights than the week prior.”

Besides finding time to work up a sweat, a real treat for Mamon is having her makeup done by the artists at The Makeup Lab. “I can have on just a pair of jeans and a t-shirt, but feel as slinky as Eartha Kitt as Catwoman.” As a busy career woman, sexy wife and wonderful mother, she epitomizes a “Steel Magnolia.”

These women are merely a sample of the astonishing females thriving in our city. A true testament to motherhood and womankind, these sisters, wives, leaders, friends and most importantly, mothers, set the bar so high it would be a small feat to accomplish half of their achievements.

Happy Mother’s Day to all the stylish and graceful women of New Orleans.