Fashion designer, blogger and influencer Galia Brener has a message for everyone:
Before you can love others, you have to learn to love yourself.
And paying attention to your outward appearance isn't about being fake or shallow or vain; it's about being confident in your skin (and clothes) and radiating confidence.
Why? Because confidence is beauty.
Galia, founder of the popular "Yes, No, Maybe?" blog, also has a weekly column in the well-respected German magazine Journal Frankfurt, and she often talks about relationships, lifestyle and dating in addition to fashion. She even has her own online shop, which began with the Galia Brener Luxury Accessories line back in 2010. Her "G Bag" - shaped as you might expect - has been worn by celebrities like Paris Hilton and Inga Humpe and she's got a lot of great options in her store for both women and men.
She speaks 5 languages, has been a successful entrepreneur for over 10 years, and currently collaborates with major fashion and lifestyle brands all over the world. But it began in Canada, where she went to high school and kids teased her for her bad skin, calling her "pepperoni pizza." ...yeah, a long journey between then and now. ;)
GaG: We see a lot of conflict over young girls wearing makeup; some say it makes a woman “fake” while others vigorously defend it. What do you say to these girls?
Galia: “Well, to be honest, I used to wear makeup more than I do now. I’ve actually started wearing less makeup because for me, it actually makes me look older.
Makeup is about self-expression, though I know some people think it’s like hiding behind a mask. I wouldn’t say it makes you fake; I don’t agree with that at all.
It’s like an art form and for some girls, it can definitely enhance their beauty.
Here in Europe, we’re not really into the smoky eyes and contouring and really, I hate this whole contouring trend, anyway. Like the Kim Kardashian look and girls doing these fake cheekbones and all that. That really is fake and it’s not necessary; just a little mascara, a little eyeliner, a little pink gloss, etc. Just don’t overdo it. Makeup can be great in other ways, too: It’s perfect for covering up pimples and other imperfections, for example. I never leave the house without concealer now. ‘laughs’ Plus, makeup makes you look a bit more feminine.”
GaG: Do you think fashion is more important for women than men? Or should both genders be equally invested in their outward appearance?
Galia: “Both. Oh my God, definitely both. I think fashion is a statement, your own personal statement. As sad as it is, fashion is a look and the look helps make the person. I did a little experiment about a month ago:
I went out wearing just t-shirts, glasses, a cap and flip-flops, not sexy or even especially feminine. Nobody recognized me and I didn’t even get any attention from anyone. The next day, I went to the same place and this time, I wore a nice dress, heels and makeup, and it was a whole other story. I got lots of attention; people coming up to talk to me and all that. It’s just incredible how different clothes make you, so it’s important to invest in fashion, though you shouldn’t go too crazy.
Don’t do the thing where as soon as a new trend comes out, you have to do it. Have your OWN look and try to stay stylish in a way that makes you feel good and happy. And by the way, the men have to make the effort, too! They have to keep up their end of the bargain, so those guys better buy some nice stuff to impress us. Here in Europe I see more guys buying stuff from my online store, and I think men are becoming more interested in fashion. North America seems to be catching up as well.”
GaG: You recently did an article on getting into a relationship with yourself. Why is this so important?
Galia: “I think it’s important because at the end of the day, it’s just you and God. If you get sick or someone dies or you’re single, or something bad happens, you have to cope with being alone. You have to be happy with yourself; if you love and respect yourself, you can transfer this love and respect to your loved ones. If you’re complete and happy, only then you can give this completed self to others.
You’re not dependent on anyone and if a friend or partner hurts you, it’s not as drastic because you’re your own support group. Respect and love yourself and hear that voice from inside; you should be like a one-man show.
I remember that famous quote from ‘Jerry Maguire’ (‘you complete me’) and I remember asking my dad, ‘why is that guy saying that? Why would you put your happiness completely in someone else’s hands?’ Only when you’re happy with yourself can you enter into healthy and good relationships with other people. We all need to get stronger and love ourselves more, especially women. We just don’t love ourselves enough.”
GaG: Lots of people these days seem unsure of whether they’re dating, in an actual relationship, or just “hanging out.” What’s your advice?
Galia: “The most important thing is body language. You can tell right away if a guy is into you. A few of the funniest things to know is that if their feet are pointed away from you, or they’re leaning away from you, they’re not into you. Another good point: If the person you’re seeing brings other people – like friends – to the date, it’s definitely just a buddy-buddy thing. On the other hand, if he picks up the bill, makes an effort with his appearance, or if he's obviously a little nervous, he’s into you. It’s all in the body language and flirtation and you can sense it.
If he or she is paying a lot of attention, asking questions about you, not always looking around the room, gives you a little body contact; that’s all good. Then the goodnight call or text after the date, of course.”
GaG: Experts say how we present ourselves to others affects our attitude, mood, and even our personality. Would you agree?
Galia: “Yeah, absolutely. That goes back to my experiment where I wore that Homer Simpson t-shirt to the fancy bar and nobody talked to me. Fortunately and unfortunately, appearance is really important in our society.
People do judge us on how we present ourselves, and I feel more confident when I’m wearing something nice. I just feel better.
And it really affects how people see you; there’s nothing like making an effort with our outer presentation. If I look good, I feel good.
But what you shouldn’t do is try to look good for others. You should feel that you look good yourself and if you can do that, others will catch on to your energy and confidence. We all judge; everyone judges. Even the girls who feel insecure, they judge also. At the end of the day, there’s just no denying this; even my 92-year-old grandmother judges.”
GaG: What would you say to girls who feel overwhelmed with the concepts of self-image and self-esteem?
Galia: “That’s a very good question and I can answer this really well: In high school, I used to be called ‘pepperoni pizza’ because I had these awful big zits. It was horrible and it scars you. But you know, throughout life, the older you get, the more you realize that it doesn’t matter. You grow out of your pimples, you get more in touch with yourself. If you find pieces of yourself, if you can improve your relationship with yourself, you can get more in touch with yourself. Find peace and respect. That’s the whole point. It’s like having a partner with love handles; if you can accept that on your partner, you can accept the same thing on you.
You’re never going to be perfect. You have to learn to compromise. It’s really hard to do sometimes but you have to do it, and it comes from having a healthy relationship with your inner self.
There are ways to improve your outer self, too; there are treatments for your skin, for instance. You can target the problems, the things you don’t like about yourself. But do it in a loving way!
Live a little lighter, a little easier, chill out a little. Try to be easygoing and happy because in the end, it’s all about your health.”
When all is said and done, she's right. Our appearance does matter; not merely to others but to ourselves as well. If we can manage to find peace with who we are, and if we settle into our own style and present it confidently and unapologetically to the world, we will be confident. Further, we'll be ready to form healthy, rewarding relationships with others. As Galia learned, it all starts with you. ;)