Here’s the story of how London let go of who she was to become who she is.
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July 8, 2021 4 min read
I had a long, successful career in television. It began with my show What Not to Wear in 2003 and ran strong for 15 years. Then I got older. I reached menopause, and my perspective changed. Instead of talking about style, I wanted to talk about aging — to alleviate the shame and embarrassment so many women feel. So I did what I’d done many times before: I pitched a TV show about it. And it did not go well.
Networks told me the idea was unsexy and that nobody would watch. I felt like they were talking about me as well — that I was now past my prime. I felt worthless and stripped of my long-held identity as a public personality. But I clung to it anyway; I couldn’t let go of this old idea of who I was. And as a result, I nearly missed the chance to transform myself and reveal a new passion as an entrepreneur.
This experience taught me something important: You have to let go of who you were to become who you are. I used to say that to people all the time. Then I discovered how hard it is to do, but how rewarding it can be, too. I became the owner and CEO of a company called State of Menopause, which makes products to help women manage the symptoms. It’s the mission I wanted to bring to TV — and now I know that there is more than one way to fulfill a mission.
Here’s how I nearly passed up this opportunity, and what carried me through.
State of Menopause was created in 2019 and initially asked me to be a beta tester. I was so thrilled that this brand paid attention to the symptoms I’d been suffering, and I developed a real passion for it — so much so that in 2020, when its parent company decided to sell the brand, they asked if I wanted it.
Image Credit: Courtesy of Stacy London
I hesitated. Then I thought about it a lot during the pandemic, when I had the time to sit with myself and ask questions. I don’t want to be that person who holds on to an old version of themselves, I told myself. But I struggled to let go…until I asked myself the question that changed my perspective. It was this: What is my kernel of truth?
In other words, what did I already have that I could bring to this new identity? Being CEO would be new. Owning a business would be new. So what wouldn’t be new? It was my need to tell a story that, while personal, is also universal. I was going through a massive personal change — and so are State of Menopause’s customers. I can relate to them and serve them.
I realized that change doesn’t mean fully abandoning what you were. It just means taking the best of you and putting it all to new use. That’s when I was able to say yes, and to become CEO.
My hope is that women my age also see new chapters and possibilities for themselves. Yes, there is a secondary grief in saying goodbye to youth. But as we live longer, we will be “older” for a lot more time than we’ll be “young.” You can call it transformation or change — but whatever it is, it can be a time of infinite possibility. I say, lean into the existential crisis. What feels like a midlife crisis can become a midlife renaissance, so long as you can look at things like success, failure, adversity, and luck as all the same thing: experience.
Taking on this company meant leaving a version of me behind so a new one could exist. But the way I see it now, I’ve already had a few careers in my life. Why stop growing?