Accessories editor and publicist Beth Thomas Cohen has quite the reputation in the fashion industry—for being incredibly nice and down to earth.
Both of which are rare qualities at the top of any business, but fashion especially. So how, you might wonder, did she managed to stay a happy, well-adjusted person? Lucky for you, she’s written a whole book about it. Drop the Act, It’s Exhausting!: Free Yourself from Your So-Called Put-Together Life, hit shelves this week, and her no-bull sh*t life manual offers straightforward advice on how to lighten up—and enjoy yourself along the way.
The author, who did time in the fashion department at Oprah magazine before starting her own public-relations agency, says she learned plenty about life from those years toiling in the sartorial trenches. She recently sat down with Yahoo Style to share some of that wisdom.
Yahoo Style: In the book, you say: “When you decide to drop the act, speak your mind, tell the truth, listen to others without judgment, open up dialogues, and even welcome a little debate, it changes your entire look!” When did you first come to the realization that being authentic can transform a person not only emotionally, but also physically?
Beth Thomas Cohen: I realized from an early stage that I wasn’t going to be the quintessential looking fashion editor. This was circa 2000: Kim Kardashian’s voluptuous figure was not the norm, and lucky for me I have her body type! It took a while for me to settle into my own skin, to stop trying to keep up with the pencil-thin look. I pinpointed which designers, styles, and silhouettes worked for me and quit shoving myself into sample-size dresses. I had the pleasure of working at Oprah magazine during that time, and her general message aligned with who I was as a person. I started dressing to reflect my personality, and not thinking so much about what everyone else in the fashion industry was wearing.
Do you think people in fashion are too image obsessed?
Without a doubt. And I would hope anyone who’s been in the business long enough would admit it, too. There is a big difference between someone who works in fashion and someone who lives fashion. I was never going to be the latter because as much as I love what I do, it doesn’t define my entire life. I always wanted to balance my real life and my fashion life. When those lines get blurred, people sometimes put emphasis in the wrong areas. I don’t think there is anything wrong with having a great clothing and accessories wardrobe as long as those things don’t define who you are as a person. I really try and surround myself with friends who have more than just brands going on in their lives.
You say that accessories can be a “powerful tool.” How so?
So many people hide behind their clothing and accessories. Once you figure out your own sense of style, you seem more authentic. You don’t want to become a clone.
We’re all so inundated with images of what is “cool”: the latest bag shape, the latest shoe silhouette. How do you weed through the clutter in order to find your personal style?
You have to remember that even though something might look amazing on the runway, in a magazine, on a celebrity, or your best friend, that same look may not be right for you. My suggestion is to pay attention to the brands that have worked for you in the past; chances are they’re not going to let you down now. Once you determine those brands you can incorporate pieces into your already existing wardrobe. It’s always nice to venture out and find a new brand that you end up loving, but don’t sacrifice the things that already work for you to keep up with trends.
This interview has been edited and condensed.
Drop the Act, It’s Exhausting!: Free Yourself from Your So-Called Put-Together Life is available to order on Amazon.com.