While it's always about what is on the inside that matters (personality), for many, how they look on the outside plays a key role in their own personal self-confidence and self-esteem. Looking a certain way, feeling a certain way, and dressing a certain way can sometimes make or break a person’s day and how they go about it. Impact leader and award-winning author Ellie Shefi, who is the very definition of tenacious and has overcome a lifetime of adversity, spoke to us one-on-one about her plans here in New York, and how fashion can play a role in leadership and in boosting our lives to help accomplish the things we want!
Let’s start off. You are a leader in everything you do. A role model to thousands! How should a leader dress, and why is that important?
A leader sets the example. Whatever the industry, a leader should dress a level up for that specific environment. It’s not to show off status, but rather to demonstrate appropriateness, situational awareness, respect, and effectiveness. Clients, peers, and subordinates sense this confidence and responsibility and are inspired to believe in that leader.
How would you describe your own "look & style" today?
I prefer clean lines, so I would describe my style as classic, sleek, and tailored.
What is your go-to outfit on a regular workday?
Midi-length sheath dresses and pants suits are my go-to outfits. I often wear a pair of drop earrings but otherwise keep my accessories minimal. I tend to wear jewel-colored outfits—they’re strong, yet warm, feminine, and personable. Not only do I appreciate the tailored styles of these outfits, but they accentuate my body shape and I feel comfortable and confident. I wear my clothes; they don’t wear me.
Do you believe that clothing/fashion boost one's self-confidence and self-esteem?
Absolutely! It’s pretty easy for most of us to think of a time when we wore something that looked terrible and then we felt bad about ourselves and noticed all of our perceived “flaws.” That certainly shows the power of clothing. So, it makes sense that, conversely, clothing/fashion can also amplify self-confidence and self-esteem. Hopefully, most of us have had the experience of donning an outfit that not only looked amazing but felt authentic—that’s how fashion can help us feel like we could conquer the world!
At one point in your life, you lived out of your car while you started your own management training business. How did fashion play a part in your life during that time?
I recognized the importance of dressing for the life I wanted, not the life I had. Despite my unusual circumstances, I was still a business leader, and I had to project effectiveness and confidence. And, believe it or not, it is possible to do that on very little income! How? I bought clothes from the clearance section of Goodwill. Sure, there weren’t many wool or silk garments, but there were plenty of options that allowed me to dress in a way that I would be taken seriously.
Do you have any updates that you can share with us on your plans to open a youth entrepreneur center in Harlem?
Definitely! The Made 2 Change the World™ Foundation is currently applying for grants that will facilitate staff hiring, resource licensing, and curriculum development for the youth centers. We are also expanding our network of sponsors, partners, and strategic alliances, which allows us to progress efficiently.
What advice can you share for others who want to tell their stories and make an impact like you have?
First, get clear on your story. What is your objective? Know what point you want to make; what knowledge, skills, or resources you want to share; what transformation you want to evoke. Then reverse-engineer the journey and create a clear pathway to guide them to your desired outcome.
Next, though it might sound overly simple, just start! Someone in the world is waiting for you to share your message, your lesson, your knowledge, and your experience as only you can. Your message matters! Crafting your story will transform you, but sharing your story will transform others.
Last, whether you share your story on a podcast, on stage at an event, in a book compilation like Sisters Rising: Stories of Remarkable Women Living Extraordinary Lives, or in your own book, be real, be raw, be vulnerable, and most importantly, be authentic.
What are you most excited about for the rest of 2021?
By early September, not one, but two, of my forthcoming books will be published! And throughout autumn and winter, my publishing company will release numerous books from our incredible publishing clients. I can’t wait to see their impact on the world. But I’m most excited about my upcoming You Are Not Your Scars™ workshops! Helping women shed external labels and expectations, find their voice, stand in their power, and become the architect of their life and legacy is one of my greatest honors. It’s an immense privilege to impact the lives of the women who participate in the workshops, and I cannot wait to journey alongside them.