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The Hot Girl: Navigating Personal Branding, Workplace Attire, and Self-Worth in a Modern World
I am often asked to conduct workshops for corporate clients to teach their staff the ins and outs of personal branding and styling. They call me in when they realise that some, or most of their employees, need help understanding the link between their individual conduct and the reputation and brand of the company they represent. I will then create content that brings about self-awareness, situational awareness and change depending on the situation.
The secret here is to understand that whatever happens on the outside starts from the inside. And to start working on people’s insides is like getting lost in one of those ancient intricate European labyrinths. As soon as you think you’ve found the light at the end of the tunnel, you are challenged by yet another crossroads.
And so it was with The Hot Girl. She was why I was called in, and this blog post is titled “The Hot Girl” because she told me in so many words that that is precisely what she aspires to be. The Hot Girl was so hot that all the other girls had to sit in and learn why it’s best to wear a bra to work and keep your cleavage for other occasions.
Call it the generation gap or difference in upbringing or whatever you like – it needs to be demystified if ever we want to move forward with healthy self-esteem in place. These types of situations leave me somewhat uncomfortable at best. I mean – I am not your mother?! Did your mother not teach you the ways of the world? And then I realise, no… she probably didn’t. She might not have been there or aware, or peers and media might have influenced you. And what you see in the world and what you read, who you surround yourself with, how much attention you need, and ultimately how much love you need will inevitably come out in how you package your soul – in the clothes you wear.
It’s a concerning state of affairs. The other day I was on the Gautrain on my way to Johannesburg. Next to me, there are 3 young, beautiful ladies. All 3 have very long nails (a traditional way of showing a higher class, but seriously these days, completely out of context.) The one lady directly opposite me was wearing a lovely summer dress. Unfortunately, subtle and elegant have escaped her wardrobe, with half her well-rounded torso open for display. Call it the difference in how sexy and acceptable is perceived, but the bottom line is – when you dress like this for a day on the town, do you understand that your boss or a colleague will see you and what that advertises about you? Don’t get me wrong, the way we dress shouldn’t be an excuse for any violation or reaction. We are then teetering on the edge of a bottomless abyss indeed. It is not entirely about that, although the human race is not yet enlightened that how we dress has no bearing on what people think of each other. It is about the proper attire for the proper occasion. Just because some red-carpeter in Hollywood thinks it is stylish to wear lovely little nothings and get away with them doesn’t mean they are seen as successful and professional.
Now, let me share something else with you cause I am certainly not someone who ever wants to think I have it all figured out (I’m just really old with lots of life experience through mistakes made and lessons learned). One evening long ago, when I was young, firm in all the right places, with curves in all the right places, I attended a year-end function for work. I wore a gorgeous Marilyn Monroe A-line dress with a low v-neck, and my cleavage was unmissable. The company’s CEO (a few drinks strong) walked past me, and I heard him say, “Hier is die lekker girl” (Translation: Here is the slutty/sexy/tasty/racy/titillating girl). Those words made me feel violated. But was it his fault or mine? Did I elicit that response, or was he being inappropriate? I know both now that I am much older and hopefully much wiser. The fact that I remember the incident and how it made me feel at that moment is perhaps something I am not alone in sharing. The big thing is – I took the lesson and realised that how people see you is, by and large, up to you – especially in a work environment. So – to The Hot Girl – What kind of attention are you so desperate for? Do you want people to admire your mind and capabilities or your body? If we as women want to change the behaviour we elicit (wrongly or rightly), it is up to us to rise up and show our minds and our abilities. And it is not just ladies. But The Hot Guy will be another topic…
So, dear, desperate Hot Girl. And every single other Hot Girl out there. And every single Hot Girl who thinks she’s not a Hot Girl. Your external appearance is such a tiny part of your identity. Yes, I completely understand the pressure of looking a certain way. As a ridiculed redhead, it was so significant that I turned it into a career and a business. If you want to talk to a thought leader about exterior looks, that would be me. I have worked with them all, from international superstars to cleaners, from blue-collar workers to teenagers fighting to figure out their individuality. Do you know that who you are on the inside is far more important than what you look like on the outside? And I would much rather work with a beautiful, humble homemaker, never sitting in a boardroom or singing on stage, than a sparkly, narcissistic superstar. And that’s where everything in this world – what we see on social media and in the press is entirely wrong. Just wrong.
How do we bring back mystery and respect? How do we teach women that by not showing everything, you hold your power? That this power is something sacred. Mystery, intrigue, intelligence, a wicked sense of humour, adventure, and zest for life – when did those things disappear to be replaced by lips filled with filler, very long nails, “tits and ass”, and when did women become so desperate for attention that they use their bodies in such a desperate way? Why do you hide your beautiful mind behind your exterior? Refrain from thinking for a moment you can compartmentalise your need for attention so well that what you dress like for a day on the town does not spill over (pardon the pun) to your work wardrobe.
Deep inside that Hot Girl, who uses her external assets to get what she thinks she wants, she still needs to discover that RESPECT tastes much better than attention ever will. She is perhaps unsure of her abilities or brought up in an environment where a woman is an object. Then let me add my voice to the revolution—the revolution of showing off our minds and abilities. If I must use my platform to spread awareness, then so be it, I am certainly not an angel, and my experience and motivation around why I do my work are reason enough to tell the stories. Because I am no angel, I know all about The Hot Girl. And I know enough about the motivation for hiding your mind behind your body.
Caring for what you look like is an art; self-care and self-love are critical for well-being. But is sporting the outfit you saw in a fashion magazine (even if it does not compliment your type of figure) the way you want to care for yourself? It is through stories that we touch people’s insides, and it is through honest, authentic and “I don’t think I am better than you” but “I want you to become better than you think you are” stories.
Have I got your attention?