partner
In Partnership With
A Model, an Author and a Stylist on Letting Go and “Having It All”
09.28.17

In partnership with Tamara Mellon

“Good things require sacrifice” is one of those age-old aphorisms I know is true and yet refuse to accept. Despite my better judgement, I continually behave as if I’m one self-improvement push away from having it all, as if maybe, just maybe, nothing will have to get sacrificed in the process. But “having it all,” of course, is impossible, and for women, it’s an especially dangerous pursuit. The ways in which society defines our success is insulting by its sheer breadth: You have to be considered beautiful, intelligent, popular, generous, wealthy, talented, humble, confident, etc. It’s an uphill battle defined to defeat us. The house always wins!

When Tamara Mellon, the former co-founder and CCO of Jimmy Choo, created her eponymous label, she did so to celebrate the women who thwart this very narrative. That’s why over the next three months, in partnership with Mellon and her shoes, we’re profiling women who may not “have it all,” but who contain enough multitudes to prove that mission unworthy in the first place. First up we have author and public speaker Tiffany Dufu, model Miski Muse and stylist Vanessa Lundy on what their paths to “success” have looked like, and what they’ve had to give up in their pursuit of it. Together they present a version of achievement that’s as inspiring as it is grounding. Screw having it all if you can have this.


Tiffany Dufu

Tiffany lives in Harlem, New York. She is the Chief Leadership Officer at Levo, the author of Drop the Ball and a self-described evangelist of feminism.

Tamara Mellon Fatale Boot in suede styled with a Ganni leather jacket and Tibi dress

Even if most of us recognize that “having it all” is a fool’s errand, the reality can still hit hard. Has that been true for you?

I think it’s important for each of us to define what it means to “have it all” before deciding that it’s not possible. For me, having it all means that I’m advancing a career that’s rooted in my passion and purpose, nurturing an all-in partnership with my husband, raising conscious global citizens and waking up on most days joyful, fit and healthy. I’m worthy of experiencing all of these things at the same time and I do, but it hasn’t been an easy road to get here. My biggest sacrifice was control and my biggest compromise was embracing imperfection. In order to “have it all” I learned that I couldn’t do it all.

Can you think of a memorable crossroads in your path to now? What was that like and how’d you decide what to do?

Oh, absolutely. Ten years ago I was drowning in the swirl of trying to be a good worker, good wife, good mother, good sister…good EVERYTHING. I used to be the type of person who was terrified of dropping balls. But I started dropping them left and right and something incredible happened: The world didn’t fall apart. I decided that I was going to follow the part of myself that was committed to making a difference in the world, and I was going to set aside the part of myself that was obsessed with doing things perfectly and living up to other people’s expectations. It was excruciating because I was stubborn and my ego made it hard to ask for help, but it changed my life.

What are your biggest focuses now when it comes to managing your life? Is “balance” something you think about?

No, I don’t think about balance. I’ve gotten clear about what matters most to me and multiple times a day, especially during moments when I’m overwhelmed, I ask myself my “drop the ball” question: Is doing [XYZ] my highest and best use to achieve [WHAT MATTERS MOST]? If the answer is no, I either delegate it or let it go altogether. There are often consequences, from missed birthday parties to a few parking tickets, but I don’t beat myself up anymore. And I’m not ridden with guilt. I’m doing the best I can, and that is enough.

What does your normal day-to-day look like? Do you feel like you’ve made peace with or mastered the mix?

I’m up early to run (or I lie in bed imagining I’m running). After getting myself dressed, I get my kids off to school and then head either to the airport to catch a flight or to a meeting. I travel a lot as an author and public speaker. When I’m not on the road, I meet with women on Tuesday and Thursday mornings at The Wing. A lot of my time is spent coaching individuals, helping companies to develop strategies that will retain and advance women, or supporting non-profits. I’m on the board of Girls Who Code and Simmons College.

Tamara Mellon Fatale Boot in suede styled with a Ganni leather jacket and Tibi dress

Miski Muse

Miski, a.k.a. MuseGold, lives in Indiana and is a self-described plus-size hijabi model who is an avid believer in self-love.

Even if most of us recognize that “having it all” is a fool’s errand, the reality can still hit hard. Has that been true for you?

Nobody has it all! I want to be more concerned with my overall happiness and meeting my needs. As soon as you achieve one goal, there’s always something else to accomplish, so I try to not stress too much about feeling like I need to have everything together or accomplish everything right away.

Can you think of a memorable crossroads in your path to now? What was that like and how’d you decide what to do?

For a long time, I used to listen to what people thought of me via comments on the internet. Then I woke up one day and realized I will never be able to please everyone, and it’s only right I make decisions for myself. For me, that meant wearing whatever I wanted without fear of what people had to say about my body. I haven’t looked back since.

What are your biggest focuses now when it comes to managing your life? Is “balance” something you think about?

My biggest focus at this point in my life is myself. I like to call this my selfish phase (not literally, but figuratively). I’m putting myself before anything and everyone. I want to make decisions that contribute to my overall happiness and success without the influence of others. I want to live my best life right now and in the future. I’m constantly working on the best version of myself.

What does your normal day-to-day look like? Do you feel like you’ve made peace with or mastered the mix?

My day-to-day is hectic but I’m trying to find the balance in the midst of it all. I’m juggling full time school and work as well modeling. Between classes, assignments, emails, traveling and everything else life throws at me, it can be difficult, but I’m managing. I know life is not going to slow down anytime soon, so I’m learning to embrace being both busy and present in the moment because I feel extremely blessed.


Vanessa Lundy

Vanessa, a.k.a. VanaVain, lives in Boston and is a self-described fashion stylist and style therapist who is an unapologetic late bloomer. 

Tamara Mellon Femme Boot in suede styled with Lirika Matoshi socks

Even if most of us recognize that “having it all” is a fool’s errand, the reality can still hit hard. Has that been true for you?

Oh boy….yes, that’s been so true. You hear a lot about dedication and sacrifice, but to actually go through it is a different thing. It’s like your goals are staring you in the face, waiting to see if you’re going to find a way or make excuses. The road to becoming a freelancer was the biggest career hurdle I’d experienced up to that point. I had the opportunity to work a 9-to-5 that offered financial cushion, but I sacrificed that, along with shopping and a social life, in order to work for myself. I knew if I gave it my all, something would come from it, and it did! Now that I’m blessed to steadily freelance as a wardrobe consultant and assist on commercial gigs, I still have to sacrifice, but now it’s usually time with my family due to long hours or travel.

Can you think of a memorable crossroads in your path to now? What was that like and how’d you decide what to do?

Yes. When I became pregnant at 17, shit got real and suddenly it hit me that I couldn’t move back to New York after high school to attend FIT like I had originally planned. I thought it was more important to take responsibility, be a mother to this child and put fashion aside. It felt like more of a detour, though, than a shattered dream. I knew I’d get back to it, it just wasn’t a priority at the time. Now I am living my dream.

What are your biggest focuses when it comes to managing your life? Is “balance” something you think about?

When I hear “balance,” it doesn’t sound like a goal. More like unnecessary pressure. I say that because when we’re killing it in one area of our lives, the reality is another area is going to get less of our attention and less effort. My daily focus is health, family, work and staying organized. Every day I try and give my all in these categories.

What does your normal day-to-day look like? Do you feel like you’ve made peace with or mastered the mix?

Regardless of what I’m doing that day, I start with prayer the moment I open my eyes, because breath and the ability to see another day is a blessing. Then I turn on my music because I can’t live without it. I help prep my kids for school and then I pick out my outfit to match what it is I’m doing that day, whether it be blogging, meeting a client or assisting on a fashion job. It’s still a juggling act: Some days I master it, some days I don’t.

Tamara Mellon Femme Boot in suede styled with Lirika Matoshi socks

Photography: Maggie Shannon
Creative Direction: Emily Zirimis
Stylist: Harling Ross
Makeup: Regard Tang and Magdalena Major
Location: Special thanks to The Ludlow Hotel!

Get more Collaborations ?
  • Kate

    “I’m up early to run (or I lie in bed imagining I’m running).” The lying in bed imagining I’m doing yoga instead of getting up and going was me this morning/most mornings.

    • gracesface

      TRUTH

  • Alison

    Boots and socks in #3 look super cute! And this is the best phrase I’ve heard today: “self-described plus-size hijabi model who is an avid believer in self-love.”

  • Everything Tiffany Dufu said, especially “In order to “have it all” I learned that I couldn’t do it all.”

  • Abbie

    “Drop the Ball” should be a must-read for any working mom. This book completely changed the way I looked at what were my jobs vs which were my husbands. She is so spot on when she says if a task doesn’t require your touch (and most won’t) you should delegate. Her examples of her husband’s approach to doing some things and it was actually better than hers was eye opening. I stopped caring about my kid having an artisan bento box lunch so my husband makes PBJs everyday and guess what, the kid loves it.
    I am SO glad y’all featured her.

  • Jay

    Yeah, so loved that everyone of them questioned what “have it all” really means. Or what balance is supposed to be.

    Personally, totally agree with Vanessa: If you prioritise one thing, you cant be full on on another. That is priority at its best. It’s not balance, no. And hell, Miski, love that you say out loud that you focus on yourself… like who dares that? I’d never…

    And when it comes to Tiffany… just ordered her book. Feel I can learn a ton. Darn.