I admired Shala Monroque's style for years before I realized she was a writer. I had no idea who the woman was but I felt so drawn to the intelligence and discipline with which she approaches fashion. I always loved her choice of garments of course but, more importantly, I felt like the items she had chosen seemed to be telling a story– of a mood, of a time, of a place– and were extremely respectful of the people who had created them.
Today I came across this really touching memory of her getting her start in fashion (and life) and I felt so moved by her story of home, growing up in St. Lucia, and learning to be American but also just learning "to do the best with what we have".
In some ways I suppose I was discovered by Mary Ellen Mark. She scouted me out of hundreds of girls for a story that she was shooting for Seventeen magazine, whose whole point was to discover who the “New All American Girl” was. As part of the vetting process I had to explain why I thought I was the New All American Girl and I remember part of what I wrote was that, though I wasn’t born here I felt American because I had consumed so much American culture, through television and even the books that I read. By the age of 18 I’d read all of Toni Morrison’s books, was head over heels out of my mind about Maya Angelou, wanted to marry Tupac Shakur, watched Elsa Klench every Saturday morning, was stunned into immobility the first time I saw Audrey Hepburn’s face in Sabrina, dodged a couple of Mormans and even read the first few chapters of L.Ron Hubbard. That last one I gave up quite rapidly. That my island was right off the shore of the American continent and that growing up, I basically ate apples and cornflakes along with my mangoes, guavas and chicken backs. I suppose growing up in the Caribbean in the 80′s with the introduction of cable; CNN and John Wayne, I was both psychologically and biologically already pre-American… And though I may be “All American” I’m all Caribbean, All African, All European, All Amerindian too… the thing is I was taught All these stories in school, it was not a single story sort of education because we didn’t have a single blood running through our veins. So whilst I was reading Shakespeare in Form 2 I was also reading Pamela Mordecai and Paul Keens Douglas, and Derek Walcott and Ernest Hemmingway. It is just too bad that we don’t have a proper college and university and that not everyone has access to a full education because all the good intentions are there. But we try and we try to do the best with what we have.
Please support my blog by becoming a follower, subscribing to the RSS feed or following me on Twitter.