Anne Kelly interviews JunoActive's first fit model, Ann Ulrich
Anne Kelly: It’s hard to believe we have known each other over 25 years! You were our first professional fit model, the original “Body of Junonia.” How did we meet?
Ann Tatarelli Ulrich: Wow, 25 years. Love that, Anne! We met through Melpomene Institute, a sports research institute focused on women, back in the early 90’s. They advertised that a new activewear company was seeking an active, plus size woman to try on clothes. Well, I wasn’t sure what plus size was, but I definitely was active, and ready to do something creative in fashion. At that time, it was hard to find great-fitting outfits for workouts, for swimming, for rowing on the Mississippi River. You were creating a market for the woman who maybe wasn’t being as active as she might be, simply because there wasn’t anything for her to go sweat in! I was fascinated. I started as the first garment fit model for your original company, Junonia!
Anne K: Why did our new business pique your interest?
Ann TU: My fascination for fashion goes back many years. I attribute my interest in becoming a fit model to my Mom. She owned a fabric store. During junior high, I stopped after school and loved it so much I came over on Saturdays. Mom paid me a few dollars and a donut to sweep the floor and to keep the store looking great by tightly wrapping each roll of fabric. My Mom taught tailored sewing classes. I saw her re-creating popular patterns for women in her classes, so they could have clothes that fit their own body perfectly, no matter what size they wore! She would teach them to sew their own underwear! and swimsuits! Also tailored blazers and skirts with the fine quality of menswear. All in the back room of her fabric store. She’d explain to women working at home, that at some time they might choose to work at a job where they might need professional outfits that fit well, looked great, and lasted. Seriously Anne, all I wanted was to go buy a $5 tee shirt from Target like my friends! But my Mom insisted my four sisters and I sew our own clothes, wearing custom-fit quality clothes that we felt fabulous in. (Can you hear me repeating how much I just wanted to go buy my clothes at Target, like my friends? Ha! Ah, my patient Mom!)
Anne K: Did you continue to work in your Mom’s shop?
Ann TU: Literally, my first real career goal (other than singing in a rock band) was to be a shop owner like my Mom. I wanted to own a fashion store. So I stopped in the meet the store manager of my favorite at the time, Casual Corner. I shared how I wanted to learn how to run a store, so could she hire me to learn from her? She laughed and said, “How would you like to start as a salesperson, first?” And with that, I left college again, because I had just landed my dream job! Ha! I was the most passionate, the proudest salesperson you could ever meet! I spent every penny I made, except my meager savings, on clothes for myself, my family and my friends. I did eventually own my own business, not a fashion store, but this passion became the root of all that would eventually become my 30+ years of work adventures! So yes, the idea of active clothing for plus size women appealed to me! And the opportunity to help you create a great fit was a beautiful segue from having learned fit while sweeping floors at my Mom’s fabric shop.
Anne K: We were your first fit modeling job, but you had been modeling fashion before, correct?
Ann TU: Yes, I became the professional plus fit model for every leading national brand based in the Twin Cities at that time. And at the same time, became one of the first pioneering plus-size women in fashion shows across the Twin Cities! Major department stores here were featuring plus size women in shows for the first time ever. And with Mall of America opening, live fashion was happening here! Fabulous runway show modeling, informal store modeling, luncheon event modeling, private designer modeling… I loved modeling for clothing designers. A few luxury retailers would invite their elite VIP clients in small groups to preview new designer lines, and I was requested by customers to be the model. Those were intimate, elegant events!
Anne K: You were also building a leadership career in healthcare during this time.
Ann TU: Yes, and during this time I had a pivotal moment - it turned out to be a life-changing moment. My boss and mentor had nominated me for an international award as one of five Outstanding Young Women in Business. I was notified I had been selected, and the next day was told I was disqualified. I could have hung my head, felt “less than”, and would have never known why. But I decided in that moment to get curious, get bold, and find out what had changed, since yesterday! I found the highest level person in the organization, and called them. I asked, “Help me understand why yesterday I was one of five Outstanding Women In Business, and today I am not.” They said that they had discovered that I was not currently working full time in my healthcare leadership role. I stood up for myself. “That’s the whole point. It was exactly the platform that I applied on, and here is why I think that is important: In the future, we will need to be more accepting of the reality that women will be working at higher levels of leadership and employers will need to offer women and men more flexibility. Without this, we will lose our women leaders. My CEO was my mentor and helped open doors for me, including applying for this award. This isn’t new information. In fact, my leading four days a week and being home as Mom of two toddlers the other days is the future of women leading at work and at home.” I was reinstated. I could have walked away, but I stood up for myself instead. From that and many other work & life experiences, I knew I had a powerful message to create and share. My career would grow into keynote speaking. And leadership consulting. And eventually my current focus: WingWoman For Highly Motivated Women! Women hire me for Confidence Makeovers. I realized my gift; to share a message that did not exist yet. And was desperately needed. I received promotions within healthcare that opened doors for me into leadership training and speaking hired by local and national clients with worldwide teams.
Anne K: Is that that when you began BOLD; your executive leadership and training company?
Ann TU: Yes. My first clients were from healthcare, and my business grew by referral from there. After the 2008 crash, corporate training budgets were slashed, I began hearing from women who wanted BOLD for themselves, not involving their boss. They had a hunger to invest in themselves and I wanted to create a response to that. My business was DO 1 BOLD THING and I started public seminars championing new confidence and inspiring bold action.
Anne K: And then you re-invented yourself?
Ann TU: Yes, creating my BOLD business was part of that reinvention. And during this time I continued fashion and fit modeling. I found there was a real need for an exclusive modeling agency to recruit, train and retain top quality, professional garment fit models. It was a different business than fashion modeling, with on-going clients and long-term modeling opportunities. So, I stepped out again to build and launch and lead my fit model agency. I realized I could help companies reduce costs significantly by being the partner that helped fit teams accomplish their goals. Highlight: The day I picked up my office phone and it was a reporter from The New York Times. Yikes! I put her on hold, exhaled so I could breathe again, and I finally said, “Hello!” They had identified me as the agency leader in the national fit modeling industry. Saying that I had created the first exclusive fit modeling agency in America and they needed me as a resource. I has no idea I had created the first exclusive fit modeling agency in America, until the day The New York Times called, and told me so! Everyone has career highlights, right? This remains one of my favorites.
Anne K: What will be the next re-invention of your life?
Ann TU: I start my re-invention process by putting into action for myself, the DO 1 BOLD THING strategies I created for my clients. At 60, I returned to modeling as an active senior lifestyle model. I want to see more women and men over 60 in advertising! Oh, and, were we talking about hair? My favorite subject! Ha! I’m in process of transitioning from brunette to silver highlights. So excited to change my look! Being BOLD is definitely still part of me. I love the energy of this stage, living what I call my Cogli L’Attimo: Grab This Moment! life. David and I are grandparents to 5 adorables with a new grandbaby on the way soon! My current work: WingWoman for Highly Motivated Women, I’m hired by women who crave taking new action on their dreams and goals – or need expert help through a tricky work or life situation. I offer Confidence Makeovers - truly mutually rewarding! Even as confident as we are, now and then we all need a trusted guide, our very own WingWoman! My favorite work yet!
Anne K: What special inspiration would you like to offer to Juno women?
Ann TU: Confidence is your spark that can change everything! Where to begin when you want to build new confidence? Start here: Figure out what dream, what goal, what it is that you crave. This is not about what you want. This is about what you crave. And then take consistent action on it. DO 1 BOLD THING! Big bold steps… and baby bold steps count, too! It’s feels exhilarating to soar! And yes, I can help.
Anne K: Can we reach out to you as you inspire our confidence as we grab each moment?
Ann TU: Thank You Anne, this was fun! And YES. I hope your Juno Women do! Here are a few places to follow or reach me to explore working together:
Instagram Hashtags: #Do1BOLDThing #TotallyTATARELLI