JEANNIE MAI: Clothing is clothing and you can always get another that will mean just as much. I think if anything, I do really love this cross that my mom gave me. She bought it and more than just the symbol of the cross (it’s not really that) it’s the fact that my mom isn’t that spiritual at all but she knows that I am. For her to go and get the cross for me as a gift, it really blessed me, and won my heart that she acknowledges something that is very important to me. Even if it doesn’t have to do with her per se, the fact that it has everything to do with who I am makes her acknowledge that and respect that which is huge!
Your mum was one of your earliest inspirations for style wasn’t she?
JM: Completely! My mum came here from Vietnam as a young girl. She grew up and raised me here (after having lived here for two years) she thought immediately that she was an immigrant and she didn’t speak English, didn’t standout like she saw the American blonde haired, blue eyes, bright, woman next to her. She really taught me that the way that you present yourself, when I say present I mean exactly like a gift, when you hand them the gift you don’t just hand them the gift. You wrap it, you wrap it so that it’s just the way you like it, whether a little boy wrapping it with clunky tape all over the place or you wrap it pristine with a bow right on point; you wrap yourself so that you present yourself in just such a way that you are saying: I am so worth opening. I’m just so full of amazing goods that you are staring at me because you’re dying to know what is inside. That’s exactly the way my mom taught me to present myself.
I watched a clip of you on YouTube where you were on stage speaking at Mira Shriver Women’s Conference. You were recalling your first day of school and said that you wore a purple tutu and shirt that said ‘Jeannie’ and of how kids made fun of you. You told the audience that you got into the car in the afternoon when your mom came to pick you up and you said to your mom, why did you let me go out dressed liked this?
JM: It was a crazy situation that led me to my understanding that what I did in that little uproar with my outfit, no matter if it was good or bad – we’re tossing that aside we’re not judging if it’s a good or bad outfit – it just brought attention to my name and who I am. In one day of school when a teacher has twenty-five kids and I didn’t remember any of them and they don’t remember anything else but my name, then I did exactly what I had been taught to do.
As a host now, do you miss being a make-up artist?
JM: Not at all because whether it is behind a brush or a clothes hanger I’m going to get you feeling good about yourself. It doesn’t really matter. I’ll figure out one way or another to make you see yourself the way that you should. Those are just tools: make-up and fashion.
I read that a pet peeve of yours was being discouraged whether that’s allowing yourself to be discouraged or having others be discouraging; is there a particular time in your life you can think of where you were super discouraged about something?
(continues over page)