From the time I was born until I was eight we moved seven or eight times. Finally, we moved to Lake Roesiger, in Snohomish, Washington, where I grew up and went to school until I was 17. I got my first sewing machine when I was nine years old. I started making my own school clothes when I was 12, for I remember it well. I was in seventh grade and BOY, did I get picked on! Nonetheless, I still wore them. Halter tops, smocks, psychedelic patterned velvet dresses, just ordinary stuff.
By the time I was in high school I was making some pretty cool stuff. Actually things that are in style now. Jean skirts, swirls skirts, and now, the smocks are back in! My first bathing suit I made for myself I was about 9, but the first one I made to sell I was almost 16 years old. I made a few of them and sold them to some gals on a hippie commune my dad lived at.
Now I am of German blood, therefore I am a potentially big gal. And in the seventies that was NOT cool. Not to mention I was smoking weed, and taking a good amount of serious LSD. I remember a lady named Tricia (Ironically she was the age I am now) at the commune that scolded me about being so young and not respecting my body. She was always beating health food recipes into my head, and she would always get up and do yoga after jogging in the morning. So I started following her lead. Geez, back then we were making the “sliders”; banana, wheat germ, yogurt, soy powder, and honey, and I think OJ, or milk... I can’t have any of that now.
Then it was the usual salad stuff with tuna. And for munchies it was always those ever so calorie laden health bars, which back then were typical granola bars. So I still had this soft body.
Buy the time I turned seventeen and was suppose to go into my senior year of high school I quit and got a job at a sewing factory that made ski wear. At that time I was going out with a local rock musician so I also started making clothes out of satins and silks for these guys, with trippy embroidery stuff on the legs and arms. That was my first work with guys and I was intrigued. At the factory I got to work on everything from the machines, the floor work, and the cutting room. At this time I was living with a bunch of coke head rock musicians that I had NOTHING in common with. I would wake up at the time they were all coming home, coked out and I would have my little satin jogging suits I made at work on and out the door jogging at 5 am. I had my own weights at the house so I would always pump iron before I went to work. I worked there until I was 19 and then I wanted to work in the city. Something office oriented. So I left there and got my first desk job at a Company that was India based and they made men’s wear. A little strange because I was the only American, but to this day Indian food is my favorite. At that point I was extremely interested in men’s wear. I got to spend time at the trade shows and loved the men’s suits.
I got my first try at that when a friend of my dad’s asked me to make him a suit for his daughters wedding. I said “NO PROBLEM”. So we went to an upscale fabric store downtown Seattle and bought some incredible Italian wool pinstripe fabric, lining, buttons, etc...
When Mr. Roth put that suit on... it was something I will never forget my entire life!! IT JUST DID NOT FIT AT ALL! He was very cool about it but boy, did that ever put me in my place.
I had such a fascination with suits now that I got a job at an investment firm, locally based called William P. Harper and Son. They hired me as a receptionist, and I started to shop at Brooks Brothers, where anyone with fascination of suits would be in heaven. I would spend every penny I had on these suits and shoes and when I wasn’t working I was picking at the suits.
At this time of my life I still had to work out so I found a “Jack LaLane European Health Spa” downtown Seattle. I joined that and went faithfully Monday through Friday, again making my own workout clothes.
On the flip side, I got incredibly involved in the stock market work. I ended up working on stock transfers at the reception desk, where they moved me to operations and had me do everything from balancing the stock record to being in charge of safekeeping at the banks. Also Tender offers, rights and warrant expirations and bond and t-bill roll overs. YIKES!! I spoke to New Yorkers all day long and couldn’t get enough of them.
At one point this one company screwed up a trade and I won a bet on this and got a free trip totally paid to NY and that is how that love came to be.
Now with all of this going on I was still dating my coke/rock and roll boyfriend, so three or four nights a week I would take off the suits and sweats and throw on my “Betsy Johnson’s” and go mix sound for his bands. I invested in the sound equipment so we had to pay for it and if he was too messed up to work, I took his place. Not a good thing.
And that... is what led me to move to NYC. Yes, it was that bad, and my fascination with the most awesome city in the world was calling my name. I ended up working for Dean Witter Reynolds, in the 5 World Trade Center. I lived on 97th and Park. The culture was incredible. If I was not in my business suits, I was either in my baggy fatigues, skating in Central Park, or in the local YMCA working out.
Here is where I got fascinated with the muscular bodies. Out skating there were so many people with beautiful, muscular bodies.
One day I was walking around on the West side and discovered the Fashion Institute of Technology. Perfect! I signed up and mainly focused on men’s classical tailoring. Then I started making suits for certain favorite male workers at Dean Witter. It was everything I thought it would be. Constructing a suit is such a fine art. I also took foundation and garment design, which is where the spandex knowledge comes in.
I forgot to mention I was going to the NY Institute of Finance, by request of Dean Witter.
In 1984 I had the opportunity to go to Belgium and apprentice with an interior designer from England named Idonia Chance. I loved my job (and mind you, to THIS DAY, my Dean Witter peeps are still there as my friends. I love them still!) but, I have never turned down an opportunity to experience anything. The worse thing that can happen, is it would not work out and I come home.
So I left Dean Witter, the most secure job I had, and probably ever will to this day, and headed overseas. The experience with Idonia was amazing. We were working on houses that were castle’s. Curtains the size of regular house walls! Piping, ruffles, linings, pull tape, strings... and if it was all done and we climbed up on ladders to hold them up and there was the slightest crinkle... we would have to take it apart and fix it! Idonia would say “Fiddle, fiddle, fiddle! That is all it takes! You must be patient!!”
Now there I joined a gym called the Golden Club. Europe, at least back then, had cocktail bars in their health clubs!!! People would get off work and put on their work out clothes and go in the bar and drink and smoke!! My American boyfriend and I were the only ones that were pumping iron.
In the early part of the day I would jump rope in the aerobics room. I had a few women totally intrigued with this, so every time I was in there jumping these Belgian women would come in, and even though I spoke no French or Flemish, I managed to teach them to jump. It was great.
But Europe is nothing like America and it is VERY slow, so after six months I HAD to come home.
This is where everything changed for me. I loved Dean Witter, but I am an artist in my soul. I first got a job with an Italian shoe and purse designer in the Trump Tower, “Madeleine”. It was a gas. The Trump Tower was a GREAT place to work. I think I was working there for almost a year before the investors (Brooklyn Italian awesome people) found out she was totally ripping them off. And also at that time I joined my first (and only) women’s health club. A “Spa Lady” on 59th and Park and again I was doing my thing pumping iron and jumping rope. I had so many women asking me about my workout wear and my training techniques that the manager asked me to get certified and teach aerobics and train. So... I did.
I was teaching aerobics (Mind you, back then, HIGH IMPACT, VERY COOL, with no injuries at all), personal training, AND selling a line of my own workout wear. I found this great spandex place in the Empire State building and they just loved when I came up with my bike and went through the piles of samples. Minimum purchase had to be a whole 3 yards. The owner, Sid, always told me “You know you can’t start a successful business with no money in the bank”). Okay he’s right. Let’s see that was almost 20 years ago, yea, he is right. I am still struggling.
Okay, there is just too much in my life here. I just remembered at this time one of the girls that worked at the Spa Lady was Dominican and she had a cousin who lived in Florida. So when he came up at Christmas we fell for each other and so for me to go down there I hooked up with a club in Miami called Prince Athletic Club. I would go down there for a week every month (back when plane tickets were $99 round trip and you picked your own seat because it was always more than half empty!) And teach aerobics at the club so the trip paid for itself. This is back before they fixed up South Miami Beach. I loved it.
Jumping off the pier with the Cuban kids was my favorite thing to do down there.
Working at the Spa Lady was tough because I couldn’t work out! So one of the other employees took me downtown to work out at Natural Physique. This gym was owned by Nicole Bass and her husband Bob Fuchs. Now this was a REAL gym. Bodybuilders everywhere. Nicole use to fondly joke about my little tights and g-string leotards. Then she approached me about making posing suits. That... is where all this started. I made her suits, then, I started making suits for other bodybuilders. Keep in mind I was NOT a bodybuilder. In fact I ended up teaching aerobics in 15 different health clubs and apartment health clubs before I moved back home. The bodybuilders back then terrified me. They were so big and I just didn’t understand the concept at all. Nonetheless, I loved working out around them and REALLY loved making their suits. And I definitely watched from the corner of my eye how they were training. I was lucky because I had a few guys watching me and telling what NOT to do. I have never had an injury in my life to this day. Nicole hooked me up with some very old school names like John Terilli (VERY cool guy), Adrianne Foster, and believe it or not, Robin Parker, who just got her pro card at the 2005 Collegiate and Masters Nationals this year!! And I was there!! (That I will discuss on my contest page... ahem. So I made suits back then for those type of bodybuilders. Nicole, even though we no longer speak, is the reason I am so picky about my suits. She would beat into my brain what was wrong and why a suit wouldn’t fit her. She had me on my toes constantly. You wouldn’t think that something that small could need so much thought, but believe me it does! At this time, the Olympia was held in NY. I had a large group of female bodybuilders come to me every year for this event to make their dresses. They were all going to be sitting roughly in the same area so they knew I would make each girl their very own look. It became quite a deal with each girl wondering what the other would be wearing. So much fun!!
I needed extra money to make ends meet, so I hooked up with a very interesting woman on the upper west side, Victoria Rosenthal, who made these very cool canvas totes and tapestry handbags. She would go to festivals all over the place as far as Philadelphia, and out in Montauk to set up a tent, and every place she went people were waiting for her. They just LOVED her bags. So Victoria is the reason I got into the tapestry. I made tapestry coats and people went nuts over those. She had two dogs, and I forgot how awesome it was to have a dog. I always ran in Central Park by myself on the running path that was right on the road with the traffic.
At this time Victoria also hired a woman named Anna Rosa, from Brazil. She did not speak any English and I taught her as we became good friends. It turned out her boyfriend was going to NYU on a Fulbright scholarship for directing. So... I helped Anna do the set design and clothing for an off Broadway Brazilian Play called “The Third Bank of the River.” I still have the play book. To this day, Portuguese is my absolute favorite language to listen to... so romantic.
So... back to the dogs. I went to ASPCA and got my first dog. That is when I started running at 5 -6 am on the horse trail in Central Park and became addicted. But it is so hot in NY in the summers that I started bringing my dog home from mid June to September. Bringing my machines with me, I joined a really fun hole in the wall gym with LOTS of bodybuilders. They let me hang up my suits and workout clothes. So for three summers I did this, until I finally decided to move home because my nephew really needed a mommy figure. And of course he melted my heart. I moved home, and rented a wood stove heated cabin on property my mother owned, simply paying bills with the income from my suits, some custom interior work, and some auto and boat upholstery jobs.
Now when Fitness came in the late 80’s it was so exciting because I finally got to put crystals on competition wear for the NPC. I had already been doing it for the Aerobic competitors. But this changed everything for the female competitors in the NPC.
I lived in that cabin from 1991 until 2000, heated only by a wood stove. I met my husband, David December of 1995. He is a captain in the Alaska King Crab Fleet. He also fishes Cod, and in the summers he tenders Salmon. Wonderful, nutritious, REAL NATURALLY PINK ALASKA SALMON. (A whole nuther topic that is very serious) We married in March of 97 and bought the property I was renting and now we have a beautiful Victorian house that I will forever be working on. He has been behind me and my work 500%.
When Figure came into the picture I was a little skeptical. No one really knew what they were looking for so there was everything from super muscular to T and A, wet t-shirt type girls. Who could take this seriously?
Now they have a set standard, and since I compete in both bodybuilding and figure, I will say that for the time on stage, the figure is definitely much more difficult to do. Diet wise, I still think the bodybuilding is excruciating and dangerous if you are not already a healthy person. I love them both, for I love the discipline and suffering. As an artist myself, I always think of Van Gogh cutting off his ear while I am painstakingly working on suits, or training... good way to stay centered.
We have just built a 750 square foot building exclusively for my work so I can be in my own world and create even more than just the suits. I want to get back into the dazzle wear so that the Pro competitors can have to extra exclusive outfits for the after party’s, as well as getting back into some real couture work, like wedding gowns, which I didn’t even get into.
If anyone has even taken time to read all of this, I am now an open book. I live in the woods in my own little paradise. I get up at 5 and run with my dogs in a place where there are no humans or cars, only bear, coyote, cougars, lynx, deer, you name it if it’s wild. I eat food out of my mother’s garden and my husband’s boat. I train at least 3 hours a day five days a week at my awesome gym. And I will do this until I die.
This is why I do what I do. And don’t worry my little tail coat riders, I will always come up with new ideas for you to copy. I realize now it is my duty to set the standards.