Saturday afternoon we had the chance to sit down with the cheerful yet glamourous Jeannie Mai at Dillard’s Scottsdale Fashion Square during her stop to help valley locals learn just how comfortable yet stylish the latest collection from Rockport is. We discussed everything, from her celebrity crush to her timeless fashion advice.
Jeannie Mai: I would say I started when I was a young, young girl. I think fashion is something that just you feel. The very moment that I was born my mom made it point to stand out in the world. She made me realize that there are seven billion people here and unless you dress yourself up you are going to blend in with anybody else who has eyes, ears and a mouth.
So my mom, not speaking english very well and not having a lot of money, really got creative with fashion from like bedazzling to sequins to going to the fabric store and switching out buttons on tops.
CDT: What is the earliest you remember yourself caring about fashion?
JM: It wasn’t until I went to kindergarten and I remember wearing two different legging pants, because I would cut my leggings down the middle and sew them into different colors, because you know Madonna and ‘Like a Virgin’ was in so I was all into the craziness. So I walk into school looking a little ‘cray’, just colors going out of everywhere, all the kids laughed and made fun of me. It was really hard because I couldn’t believe that five minutes before I walked into the classroom, I knew my name and I was so proud of who I was!
But when I walked in and everybody was judging me for looking different it really, really, really hurt my feelings. So that day I remember at 2:15 I jumped in my mom’s car and I was so mad at her and I went off.
“I can’t believe you let me look like this. I’m so embarrassed. Everybody knew my name and they were calling me Jeannie Weenie.”
Right there she stopped the car and she said, “Are you kidding me? Every child knows your name in that classroom. This is perfect!” And I was like, “Are you crazy? What the heck is wrong with you?” I didn’t get it.
Then she said, ” Jeannie, how many kids do you remember their names?” And I was like, “Actually, honestly I didn’t remember one. Not one.”
She said, “Right now you are a kid, enjoy the way you dress. Go crazy, have fun, wear two different shoes. As you get older never lose that tenacity to want to look different and be who you are and stand out!”
So I felt like wearing glitter lipstick today and I am going to do it! Stand out!
JM: I started as a make-up artist for MAC Cosmetics and then I started traveling with Christina Aguilera and PINK and did some make-up for Cyndi Lauper and Sarah Jessica Parker. As I was doing make-up I realized that I’m doing an amazing job here and then wardrobe wasn’t always pulling out their very best as well. So I just started to help these celebrities like, “Let me go pull this top. Or I think you should show off your waistline.”
Alicia Keys made me really realize in the beginning that women don’t show off their shape enough. Women care more about the trend and not about their body shape. I think shape really screams much more in fashion, to me. So I started dressing celebrities and it just took off!
I just think it is something you feel, kind of like dancing: you either have the rhythm or you don’t.
CDT: Did you ever think about getting a degree in fashion?
JM: I would have loved to go to fashion school, but it’s not a part of me to be a designer and not a part of me to sew.
CDT: Who is your biggest celebrity crush?
JM: I would say hands down my biggest crush, like my husband I tell him that this is my hall pass, is Johnny Depp. It was my very first interview and I was flustered and I had my notes and I was dropping them everywhere and I didn’t look up at the camera and they guy is telling me that he needs to see my face. The publicist was like, “You have 40 seconds, hurry up!”
Johnny Depp took the paper and he put it away and he said, “Give her as long as she needs. Let’s just have a conversation. It’s going to be okay.” And then he touched my hand, and I was like, “Can we go home together?” That was my first question!
CDT: Have you ever had a styling blunder?
JM: One time I was dressing Kate Winslet and she has a very beautiful figure and is amazing in every single way and she had a dress on and she turned to the side and it ripped on the seam. She was about to go on in just a few minutes.
I pretended to sooth her back and I was telling her it was going to be great. And as I was doing that I literally had pieces of double stick tape that I was sticking and rubbing so that the folds came together so that she wouldn’t know it.
At the end she took it off and there was like a mummy-like tape on the back of her dress and she was like, “You’re clever!”
JM: One thing I have always been teaching women is to celebrate color.
I call it ‘wearapy’. I think that when women are feeling down in the dumps or unmotivated they should not put on grey, black or brown. Those are just the most horrific colors and they just feed how you feel. Color being so exploding in Spring and Summer, that is huge to me. Now women are learning to mix colors. I love color!
CDT: What is your favorite item to take a look from ‘pretty’ to ‘fabulous’?
JM: I would say the number one punch to add to any outfit is eyewear! I think it is something that women don’t spend on enough. I think ‘flasses’ [fake glasses] make a huge difference.
CDT: What style tip would you say to anyone looking to improve their look?
JM: I always say that if you don’t have fit you don’t have fashion. I think fit is the one tool for women of all shapes and sizes. Make sure it fits!
CDT: Why did you decide to join Rockport with the launch of their latest collection?
JM: Comfort comes first. I would never encourage a woman to stuff her foot in a shoe that costs a lot and puts them in a lot of pain. So when Rockport started to build the adiPRENE shoe with Adidas I was like, “Wait a minute. You can’t put a sneaker feel into a heel. That’s impossible!” But of course Rockport is the only one that is able to do it!
Cortney Kaminski & Jessica Abercrombie