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Lessons in self-esteem; an evening of laughter

By ERNEST HOOPER, Times Columnist

© St. Petersburg Times, published March 15, 2003


As a former department store buyer and fashion coordinator, Jackie Walker can dispense advice about dresses, skirts, blouses, jewelry, shoes and hair accessories.

She is, after all, nationally known as the "doctor of closetology."

Yet what Walker really gives women in her motivational speeches and seminars is more valuable than discussions about pearls, blazers and pumps.

"My mission is to teach women self-esteem, and clothing is just the vehicle," said Walker, author of the upcoming book I Don't Have Anything to Wear: The Psychology of Your Closet.

Walker, who lives in Tampa but gives seminars around the nation, helped kick off Friday's annual Dress For Success drive at International Plaza with her unique perspective on fashion.

The drive, which runs through March 21, is aimed at collecting gently worn, dry-cleaned, two-piece women's suits, which are in turn donated to low-income women to help them enter the work force. International Plaza general manager Aj Jemison presented 20 Ann Taylor suits to start the drive.

Since 1999, Dress for Success Tampa Bay has helped more than 2,200 women become employed.

"A woman told me with tears in her eyes she got a job because of the suit," Walker said. "But I knew the suit just gave her self-esteem, and it was the self-esteem that got her the job."

The bulk of Walker's message was aimed at helping the nearly 300 women in attendance dress themselves from the inside out. When she went from a fashion coordinator to a human resources director for Federated Department Stores, she saw a parade of well-dressed applicants who looked good on the outside, but were unhappy inside.

"I learned that if you don't feel successful in your heart and mind, you're not going to be successful on the outside," Walker explained to a group that included Lenda Naimoli and twin sister Glenda Young.

Using her fashion psychology, Walker has five internal fashion personas that help women identify who they are on the inside: classic (hard-edged jackets, loafers, plaids and stripes); romantic (lace, drop earrings, prints and pastels); natural (doesn't like to shop, doesn't care about makeup); dramatic (animal prints, large jewelry) and mood dresser (every persona, can't put an outfit together).

The idea is to identify your inner persona and then bring it into harmony with your fashion choices.

People are typically a combination of the different personas, so it was no surprise that a number of women lined up after the seminar to get Jackie's personal assessment. She was peddling self-esteem, and people were ready to accept it.

In case you were wondering, I'm a classic-romantic.

* * *

When Jack Espinosa, former spokesman for the Hillsborough County Sheriff's Office, starts spewing his one-liners, only the rim shot is missing:

"I swore I wouldn't say any more French words. I buy fries and french them myself.

"I have a consulting business where I teach cops how to deal with the media. You've heard of the untouchables? These people are the unteachables. When the eraser wears out before the lead, you know there's something wrong with you."

You see, long before the 71-year-old Espinosa was a spokesman, he was a standup comedian. He developed jokes and pantomime skits and toured Cuba in the 1950s.

"That was 1950 B.C. -- before Castro."

Tonight at 7, Espinosa joins a list of longtime local entertainers at the Performing Arts Center's Ferguson Hall for the Fifth Really Big Shuu... "A fifth is also what I drink to do this show."

WTVT-Ch. 13 anchor John Wilson, Sammy Arena, Michael Chillura and Charlie Schiandra are among the acts set to join Espinosa in the old-fashioned variety show.

Espinosa says there's something wrong with the people who have been laughing at his jokes for 55 years. But that's not right. There's only something wrong with the folks who don't laugh.

That's all I'm saying.

-- Ernest Hooper can be reached at 226-3406 or hooper@sptimes.com .

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