"Who's going to read what you have to say? You don't have a college degree."
My father was a Rocket Scientist at NASA in Cape Canaveral, Florida during the Apollo Moon Project. This resulted in my literally growing up with Astronauts and their families. (A bit of insight - our adorable beach town of Cocoa Beach, Florida looked nothing like Hollywood's version on I Dream Of Jeannie with Captain Tony Nelson. It was more like The Endless Summer surf movie. It was an amazing environment to grow up in.) Anyway, back to my father - while he was assisting our Government in putting men into space I was watching the endeavor in awe. And then that miraculous day arrived - watching Neil Armstrong in 1969 taking man's first steps on the moon was nothing short of mind blowing for me as a ten year old. It hit me then that if we can put men on the moon then we can certainly expect miracles on earth. That became my motto for myself as I grew up.Flash forward to 1985 in Chicago, Illinois. During that era I was the Vice President of Elite Chicago (now called Factor/Chosen) and had already discovered countless beautiful men and women including Cindy Crawford and had been working successfully within the international fashion industry for five years. Scouting, coaching, developing and launching the careers of models, actors, hairdressers, make up artists, photographers, clients and fellow agents was something that I did on a daily basis. I found myself repeating a great deal of information because I spoke to a great deal of people. This gave me the idea to write a book (more on that later). My professional level by then had been attained by my ambition, dedication, common sense and working in integrity - not by any traditional college.
While attending school in Florida my Dyslexia and A.D.D. were major challenges for all involved. I had not excelled in academia and was considered to be a behavioral problem for the teachers because I could not sit still, keep quiet and stay focused. And due to my being tested at a 'lower learning potential' I was placed in several classes for children with 'special needs'. Most of my friends were in the 'higher learning' classes. The testing results not only drastically affected my self-esteem but it also became the forgone conclusion by my counselors that I would most likely not attend University. And I was satisfied with that speculation because sitting in classrooms were generally boring for me. However, for my militant, highly educated Southern father this approach was unacceptable and he would continually remind me, "You won't rate in my eyes without a sheepskin." In his opinion the sun rose and set on this earth around a person's education. Needless to say he didn't appreciate his right brained creative thinking, artist daughter not entering into college, nor did my having been tested at a 'lower learning potential'. I was a continual source of disappointment for him.
Back to my naive book idea - one day later that year I divulged to my father over a phone discussion about my idea to write a book on how to become a model. In my mind it was just a common sense solution to my repeating myself daily. To him the idea of me having a book published was preposterous and he told me so, "Who's going to read what you have to say? You don't have a college degree." Tearing up, speaking as controlled and respectfully as I could rally, I spoke up for myself for the first time in our twenty-seven year relationship, "Dad you believe what you believe and I believe what I believe and I'm going to get this book done". He was quick to reply, "Kid you've got your arms around a comet and stardust on your shoes and you're going no where". It suddenly hit me that he knew he could put men on the moon but he had no belief in his daughter to write and publish a book - he clearly didn't know me or my tenacity very well.
His all too familiar words crushed me. However, those discouraging words are what actually kept me pushing forward to prove him wrong over the challenging three years of trying. And as it turned out, thankfully he was wrong! It was not an easy or inexpensive venture however, my first book, MODEL, The Complete Guide To Becoming A Professional Model was published in London, initially in 1988 and then subsequently around the world. Cindy Crawford graced that cover. Sadly my father died of Prostate Cancer a couple of months before its first printing.
I guess the moral to my story about my father and me is that each of us decides what is worth fighting for in our lives. If we allow anyone else to dictate our limitations or capabilities in pursing our passions, we'll live a very oppressed and unfulfilled life. Please don't allow anyone to crush your dreams. However, do try to listen to another person's opinion as a 'reality check'. Sometimes their challenging words can act as a Litmus Test that will help us either decide to pursue the endeavor or to hold off. IF YOU KNOW IT'S YOUR CALLING you won't be discouraged.
The experience with my father was heartbreaking on many levels but if it weren't for him I can honestly say that I doubt that I would have fought so hard for my first book's publication. I knew in my heart of hearts that he wasn't being intentionally cruel he was just sharing his point of view as he saw it. He was very left brained in his thinking. His powerful words that day changed my life - I decided to stop allowing people to squash my creative pursuits. He inadvertently challenged me, not discouraged me. I'm a rebel that way. Being told that I 'can not' do something drives me nuts! I don't even need a double dare to get me all mustered up - a simple dare will do. LOL ;-)