I’m obsessed with Donatella Versace.
In case you live under a rock, she’s the VP of the Versace Group, the fashion powerhouse founded by her late brother, Gianni, who was gunned down in cold blood in front of his mansion in Florida in 1997 by a crazed killer. Gianni, an Italian fashion designer, made a name for himself creating “rock and roll” fashions especially when Elizabeth Hurley wore what some consider to be his most iconic dress of all time, Versace’s ‘safety pin’ dress. After Donatella took over the company, many more iconic dresses followed, notably Jennifer Lopez’s green dress, and a short time ago, Angelina Jolie’s wedding gown.
Donatella Versace, the woman behind her brother’s Blonde fragrance, the original muse behind some of his most startling and memorable creations. Platinum hair, pouted lips, chestnut eyes and a smoking hot near-60-year old body running a major Italian fashion house. But who is Donatella Versace? I am always intrigued by her ads in Vogue and Vanity Fair. The models often mimic her very signature look, tan with white hair, provocative poses, grit and grizzle, mingled with extreme luxury. The models all seem to echo Donatella’s look. Fierce, daring, maybe a little scary. But I also see “boss bitch.” That is power.
I read somewhere that it was her brother Gianni who first convinced her to start dying her hair. A lot of what Donatella is today is because of Gianni. She was his muse, his confidant, his critic. She worked with him on his collections; he gave her one of her own, Versus. She helped him make his runway shows memorable. He kept her close, working with him in the fashion world to propel his brand. When he died, she took the reigns and enlisted the help of celebrities and global A-listers to make sure the label stayed cutting edge, couture. She did all that, this tiny 5 foot 5 Italian woman.
Well, she is privileged, you say. She had access to the rich and famous. She had connections. That is true, but when her brother died, she could have left the business, sold the business, or any number of other choices. To continue the business, that was the hard work. She could have settled back on her designer couch with a pile of money and continued taking what I assume were/are awesome beach vacations with her family, her children Allegra and Daniel and her friends. But she didn’t, she worked hard to keep the label alive. She took the brand beyond just clothing and expanded to lifestyle items, furnishings and more.
Donatella is a woman who said in her Vanity Fair Proust Questionnaire that her most overused phrase is “Now!” In a 2012 article on fashion in the Telegraph UK, Versace gives a glimpse of the relentless drive that led to her success, that has also, at times, been a burden. “I’ve always been hard on myself. I still am. In order to be responsible you need some discipline in your life. For awhile, I lost mine. But I’ve got it back now. Maybe a bit too much … I’m so disciplined. I’m so on time. What happened to me?”
I find that comment very human, very endearing. Here is a very powerful, successful woman looking inward at what makes herself tick. And, she sees the good and the bad, the drive and the consequences of being driven. I like that, because as women we all have to deal with that reality. For working women, that reality doesn’t come cheap. There are sacrifices. You drive yourself; you seek success for yourself, for your children’s sake. You want them to have a better future. And maybe you also want to leave your mark on the world, make a difference somehow, and leave this world knowing your journey meant something. Sometimes you lose things along the way. Donatella lost her brother. Maybe she lost a little of herself. I tend to think that if you asked her, she would still say it was worth it.
If I ever get the chance to meet Donatella Versace, I would love to tell her that she kicks ass. And I have one request of you, ladies. When you see those pictures of Donatella Versace in the news, don’t be a hater. She’s your advocate. She’s one of those road pavers. She’s kicking ass and taking names. She can do it, so can we.