Michele Lopez is the type of person who commands attention with her presence. I had the opportunity to sit down with the rising celebrity image expert to discuss her journey. From being an 18-year old single mother and pharmacy technician at K-Mart to a celebrity image consultant and mentor to hundreds of young women, Michele continues to prove that with perseverance and passion, your dreams can turn into a reality.
Born in Washington, DC, Michele grew up in a toxic environment. “My mother raised me up until the age of 12 … she had a very abusive boyfriend. My father got custody of myself and my older brother and moved us to Fairfax, Virginia,” stated Michelle. She goes on to say, “Because of that, my grandmother, which was my Father’s mother (my beloved Nana), moved close to us … so that she could help my father. She basically was my everything, she was my mom, my best friend, everything that I wanted to be, I really looked at her life and who she was and sort of gleaned from her.”
Michele’s middle and high school years weren’t easy. She reflects upon them vividly, “I was a terror in high school, but I’m always amazed that the biggest struggles I had are what God used to create a platform for me.” Through it all, her grandmother showed unwavering, unconditional love which moved Michele deeply. Her last year in high school, pregnant and wanting to be independent, she became a pharmacy technician. Since her co-workers took notice of her hard work, they encouraged her to enroll in school.
As the years passed, Michele got married, had two more children, and began her new job as a receptionist for doctors in Fairfax, VA. It was Michele’s unfortunate divorce that led her on a new path as a mortgage lender. For a while, as a single parent of 3, she would work from 6am-3pm at a cosmetic surgery center in Bethesda, Maryland, drive to Baltimore for a finance class, then return to a lender to learn the mortgage business. “That’s why I always say, if I have done this, anyone can win. Nothing special except I decided to change my mind,” says Michele.
Michele excelled at the mortgage company while holding on to her job at the surgery center. “My first month that I did mortgages, I was the top seller, and I think my cheque was over $10k,” said Michele. It soon dawned on Michele that if she put all of her energy into the mortgage business, she’d be successful. Michele eventually pursued the position full time before cultivating the skills and contacts needed to launch her own mortgage company. She soon realized that her success meant success for her family, as she was able to take care of her loved ones and fulfill her dreams.
Michele not only experienced many highs but lows as well. Michele goes on to explain, In 2008, “The market began to crash, and hence I crashed with it. I was not prepared. It was very, very scary.” She not only lost everything but experienced depression during this troubling time. Despite the struggle, Michele remained optimistic and persevered. Soon after, Michele found another job in what she knew; the medical industry. She was hired to run a medical staffing facility in Maryland.
Forever the hustler and feeling boxed in at the medical office, Michele applied for a seasonal retail position at Saks 5th Avenue. She was offered a job in handbags, selling over $100,000 of merchandise in just three weeks. A VP asked her if she’d come aboard full time and she accepted. Michele hated punching the clock, but genuinely enjoyed her work and wanted to advance. The head of HR laughed, doubting Michele when she inquired about the prestigious personal shopping service Saks fifth Avenue Club offers elite members. This was only motivation. Michele’s new goal was to hit $1million in sales. By the fulfilling this requirement , she would be invited into this prestigious club. After a chance encounter with the energetic owner of the posh Jefferson Hotel, she accomplished the goal. The proceeding month, the same HR rep that doubted her extended Michele an invitation to the club. “When she made the announcement, she cried. I spoke to her later, and she said she was glad to have met me,” said Michele. It was through connections in the 5th Avenue Club at Saks that led her to her first celebrity client; Iyanla Vanzant.
After her encounter with Iyanla Vanzant, Michele’s career as celebrity image expert took off. A large part of Michele’s time now is spent empowering young girls in Baltimore City Schools through The Heart of Her mentoring program. When asked why she started this organization, she said, “if I can do even a small part of what my grandmother did for me, which was poured into me and believed in me, when I never even believed in myself; If I can expose them to what I’m doing now and what I’ve become now as opposed to how I grew up; If I can do this, you can do this. What it takes is a shift in your thinking. You can do it no matter (the) circumstance or situation.”
On success: “I don’t know that I’ve arrived. When I look back, I realize that I’ve paved a great path but there is still so much more to be done. I’ll know that I’ve arrived when I take my last breath and I’ve left a legacy of helping other people.”
On self-image: “I’m dope because I choose to be. It’s a choice to bet on yourself and to work hard and to bet on God beyond what other people are telling you.”
Favorite quote from her grandmother: “What you compromise to keep, you lose.”
Reading recommendation: In the Meantime Time by Iyanla Vanzant
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