Business Categories Reports Podcasts Events Awards Webinars
Contact My Account About


Published June 5, 2018
Published June 5, 2018

The Art of Panic

I’ll never forget the first time I felt real panic – that fight or flight, total body takeover, hit by a mac truck, wide-eyed, heart racing, can’t breathe, get me out of here panic. I was in middle school, one of 20 kids in a Quaker classroom’s reading circle. Our teacher systematically made her way around the youthful sphere, asking each of us to read a paragraph aloud. I remember trying to follow along thinking “how do they know all these words?” I tried to skim ahead and decode what I could from the chunk of story that would be mine to broadcast. I panicked. I remember scanning the room for an exit strategy. The bathroom was my safe place. I would ask to be excused moments before my turn and then sit in the stall strategizing, trying to slow my heart while counting the minutes until I could slide my way back in unnoticed and in hopes that my turn would be forgotten until the next rotation, the next wave of panic. For years, I lived on the verge of this horror, treading lightly to avoid confrontation with any situation that might expose my inability. I became an expert at avoidance. Eventually, I found myself in 7th grade. I still couldn’t read and I didn’t know why.

My sanctuary was drawing. I remember feeling confident in my creativity. I would draw my notes. The visuals helped me remember the content and the context of the lesson at hand. I doodled in the margins of reading assignments – my own brand of hieroglyphics to spark a memory of what I had just read. It wasn’t easy, and it didn’t happen quickly, but I got to a point where I was able to feel better about my difference. I told myself that everyone has different strengths and that mine was art. I still didn’t understand why I couldn’t read, but I decided to focus on the positive. I was an artist and became a master at solving problems in my own creative way.

One day I found myself in a room with one glass wall. I was being observed. My differences had been identified despite the borders of defense I had built. I studied inkblots, did my best at reading aloud, and participated in an embarrassing clapping exercise fueled by beeps and syllables. It was uncomfortable to withstand the humiliation, but the results were freeing. I was diagnosed with Dyslexia and additional issues with retaining information. It all made sense. My family was encouraging, telling me that Albert Einstein, Richard Branson, my mother, brother and even my favorite grandfather shared the same learning disability and had achieved such greatness despite their challenges. My school was less supportive. They said they didn’t know how to deal with my challenges and they were unwilling to individualize my education. They asked me to leave, forcing me out of the only school I knew because I wasn’t like everyone else. Luckily, my family and I found The Pennington School. It was the first educational environment in which I flourished – something I couldn’t have previously imagined. Their special learning center encouraged my creative tendencies and together we formulated ways for me to learn more visually and experientially. I felt supported and excited to be learning my way for the first time.

Makeup For The Win

Then I found makeup. Much like art, it came about organically and I felt so much excitement as I realized my talent. It all began on the set of my mother’s regional health and beauty magazine. At a very young age, I started going to shoots with her. I loved being on set watching the hair and makeup teams work their magic. Having witnessed my obsession and listening to my enthusiasm, my mom gave me total creative control over the cover’s makeup. I remember being so excited and terrified that I was going to mess it up. I felt like she gave me the best gift and threw me to the wolves at once. Looking back on the cover, I wouldn’t have chosen a plum lipstick, but then again I was 13 and the assignment pushed me to my limits and set the stage for my endeavors.