A Mother’s Day Tribute to Elsie Whitmore

by Jacqueline Whitmore

Mom and me in 1985.

Mom and me in 1985.


There was no better place in my hometown to get primped and pampered than Lucille’s House of Beauty. That’s where my mother worked and where I spent a majority of my time when I was growing up.

The beauty shop was always buzzing with cackling women, many of whom shared their most intimate secrets with my mother as she cut and styled their hair. Mom was a master at permanent waves and finger waves, but she was superior at keeping secrets (especially her own).

The shop’s proprietor was Lucille Hunt — a heavyset woman with big breasts and fire-engine-red fingernails. Her hair was dyed light blond and teased so high it looked like cotton candy. Lucille purchased a two-bedroom, one-bathroom house on top of a hill on South Tenth Street, and eventually she converted it into one of the most popular salons in the small town of Haines City, Florida.

The beauty shop had four orange Formica shampoo stations — complete with mirrors, porcelain sinks, and black vinyl chairs that swiveled back and forth, and also went up and down. As a child, I loved to climb in Mom’s chair when she wasn’t looking and spin as fast as I could until I got dizzy.

Posters of stylish women sporting the latest 70s hairdos hung on the yellow stucco walls. Cat Stevens, Roberta Flack, and the Moody Blues played on the transistor radio in the background. The competing scent of permanent wave lotion and Grand Finale hairspray wafted throughout the salon.

The sunroom, which was also known as the dryer room, was located on the east end of the beauty salon. This room housed six orange hairdryer chairs. After Mom washed and rolled her customers’ hair, she’d take them to this room where they’d sit under the dryer for about 45 minutes and read the latest issue of Ladies Home Journal or take a nap. Their heads bobbed up and down as they slept and their cheeks turned beet red from the warm air blowing out of the clear acrylic dryer hoods.

I frequently watched Mom gently take her elderly customers by the arm and escort them all the way from the dryer room to her styling chair on the other side of the salon. Some of her customers were so frail they could barely walk without assistance. They held on to my mother’s arm and slowly shuffled across the room. I rarely saw any of the other beauty operators go to such great lengths to assist their customers the way my mother did. Her customers always appreciated her kind attentiveness.

When I turned eight, I was old enough to help Mom whenever she got busy. I’d sweep up the hair around her chair or greet her customers when they walked in the door. “Go say hello to Mrs. So-and-So,” she’d say. Or, “Jackie, please take the rollers out of my customer’s hair.”

I eagerly hopped up from my chair and did as I was told. I didn’t mind touching the customers’ heads. First, I removed the pink plastic picks from the rollers, then I carefully unrolled the brush rollers and placed them in the wicker basket that sat on the customer’s lap. Mom occasionally glanced over from her styling chair across the room to make sure I kept each curl in tact. She smiled with approval.

As I removed the prickly rollers, the customers would often ask, “Do you want to be a beautician when you grow up, Jackie?” Before I could answer, Mom usually chimed in and said, “No, I want Jackie to go to college and get a degree.” My mother was adamant that I get a good education so that I wouldn’t have to stand on my feet all day long like she did.

Sometimes I’d tell the customer what I really wanted to do with my life. “I want to be a model when I grow up,” I said softly.

In my mind, I already had my whole career mapped out. I wanted to travel the world, wear sequined dresses, appear in magazines and perform on television. I wanted to be just like Miss America 1973, Terry Anne Meeuwsen, and stand next to Bert Parks, sing He Touched Me, watch the audience cry tears of joy and give me a standing ovation. I didn’t want to be a beautician. Instead, I wanted to be famous.

I learned how to carry on a conversation with adults while working at Lucille’s House of Beauty. Mom’s clientele was mostly comprised of little, blue-haired ladies who paid $5.00 a week for a shampoo and set, not to mention an earful of local gossip. Most of the time, her customers tipped an additional $1 or $2, and then they’d tell her to “just keep the change.” On a good day, Mom would usually bring home $15-$20 in tips, which allowed us to get a Happy Meal at McDonalds or, sometimes, a nice dinner at Morrison’s cafeteria.

My mother’s job was far from glamorous. Most days, she was too busy for a proper lunch, so she’d eat Lance Peanut Butter Crackers whenever she took a break. Her fingernails were stained with hair color and she had corns and callouses on her feet from standing for hours. Her lower back was always sore from leaning over the shampoo bowl and washing other people’s dirty scalps all day long. At night, Mom would lie on the floor while my brother and I took turns walking on her spine. She took Tylenol and Doan’s pills regularly.

Despite all her aches and pains, Mom never called in sick, nor did she complain. She adored her customers and they adored her. They were extremely loyal and would have followed her anywhere. Although she didn’t have a college degree, she had excellent people skills. She instinctively knew what her customers wanted; they wanted to look beautiful.

Although she was not rich, she did manage to find a career that she truly enjoyed. She cared about her customers and took great pride in making them look their very best.

In retrospect, I’m not sure if any of my mother’s customers knew how broken she was or how difficult it was for her to put a smile on her face each day, especially since she struggled with alcoholism. But because Mom knew how to pull herself together, no one ever suspected what was hidden beneath her artfully applied make-up and stylish polyester pantsuit.

Behind it all was a kind, caring, vulnerable woman who managed to make ends meet, to keep her wits about her, and make sure that her children felt cherished and safe.

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It’s National Teacher Appreciation Week

by Jacqueline Whitmore
IMG_1525

Mrs. Patsy Capps in 2015

 

It’s National Teacher Appreciation Week and I’d like to give a special shout-out to my third-grade homeroom teacher, Mrs. Patsy Capps. In 1973, Mrs. Capps helped me find my true passion in life.

Mrs. Capps looked a lot like Jacqueline Kennedy, but she spoke with a sweet Southern accent. She had dark brown hair, teased to perfection, and cherry-red lips. Each day she would ask me to help her sharpen pencils or clean the blackboard and erasers. I was always more than happy to oblige, and was careful to do everything just right. She knew she could count on me, especially when all the other third-grade kids were goofing off.

Mrs. Capps was kind to all her students, but especially to me. One day, she announced that our class was going to perform the play, Hansel and Gretel. Much to my surprise and delight, she cast me in the role of the wicked witch. It was my job to kneel behind the bookshelf in the corner of the classroom and wait for Hansel and Gretel to cross my path. When they approached, I had to jump out in front of them and frighten them with a wicked laugh. (To this day, I can still recreate that same laugh.)

Mrs. Capps and all my classmates loved my performance. I happily absorbed each and every one of their accolades. At last, I had found something I was really good at. I finally gained a newfound confidence and, unlike most of my classmates, I seldom got nervous when I was in a school play or when asked to speak or read. Most of all, I loved the fact that I’d found something that set me apart from all my other classmates, and made me stand out in a good way.

Life Lesson…

Instead of critically focusing on the things that you can’t do, focus on what you can do well. I found out in the third grade that it’s easy for me to sparkle when I’m on stage. Fortunately, Mrs. Capps saw something in me that I couldn’t see in myself, and she was able to bring out the best in me. She knew that I had a talent for speaking in public, as well as a desire to help others.

Think back to your early successes and times of great enjoyment. Don’t be afraid to dredge up memories that go far back in the past. Ask close friends or relatives about what they regard as your talents. Oftentimes, others see our strengths much more clearly than we do.

To discover which talents are worth nurturing, try several. Then concentrate on the ones that give you the most pleasure. You’ll know you’ve chosen the right one when you lose track of time while pursuing the talent. Some experts refer to this state as “the flow” or “being in the zone.”

When you nurture your talent, you’ll eventually find a way to put it to use it in your everyday life. In my case, I became a professional speaker and a certified etiquette expert. Each time I step “on stage,” I experience profound joy because I get to share my gift with other people.

Everyone has a gift, and it’s worth your while to discover what yours is. It may take a while, but when you finally find it, embrace it and let it take you to the top. No matter how old you are when you discover and develop your hidden talents, you’ll find greater fulfillment, personally and potentially economically, as well.

 

 

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An Interview with Etiquette Expert Jacqueline Whitmore

by Jacqueline Whitmore
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Jacqueline Whitmore gives a table setting demonstration at Bloomingdale’s in Palm Beach Gardens, Florida.

 

How did you become an etiquette expert?

I never expected to become an etiquette expert, much less own my own business. I went to college in hopes of becoming a news anchor. Unfortunately, my dreams were shattered when a college professor told me that I would never get a job in the industry unless I lost my southern accent. As a result, I pursued other interests and I’ve had an extremely colorful career. Prior to starting my etiquette company, I was a special events director for a Walt Disney World Hotel, a flight attendant, an entertainer, and an assistant director of public relations for an exclusive hotel in Palm Beach.

What sparked your interest in this field from the beginning?

I attended a week-long business etiquette course when I worked at The Breakers Hotel in Palm Beach. I liked it so much that I decided to take a more extensive course and teach etiquette to the hotel employees in my spare time. In 1998, I got laid off from my job and decided to open my own etiquette company. I guess you can say I turned lemons into lemonade.

How do you define “beauty”?

Beauty radiates from within. A person is beautiful if he or she has a kind heart. A beautiful person is someone who thinks of others first and who freely gives of himself or herself without any expectations in return.

What are some of your greatest achievements?

My marriage is a huge achievement. I’ve been with my husband for nearly 21 years. We put a lot of effort into making our marriage work each and every day. He is my best friend and biggest supporter. My second greatest achievement is my business. It’s sometimes difficult being an entrepreneur. It takes patience, passion and perseverance to make a business work, especially with so much competition. I am happy that I get paid to do what I love. My third greatest achievement is publishing my two books. It takes a lot of discipline to sit down every day and write. I’m grateful that I get to help so many people by sharing my personal stories and advice.

What are the most important qualities in a person?

The most important qualities in a man or woman are honesty, integrity, dependability, authenticity, empathy and sincerity. I also admire people who are self-motivated.  Read More…

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My Serendipitous Meeting with Bernard Maisner

by Jacqueline Whitmore
IMG_1136

A delicious lunch and stimulating conversation with master calligrapher Bernard Maisner.

Last October, I attended my friend’s wedding in Laguna Beach, California. It was one of the most elegant events I had ever attended.

During the reception I was fortunate to sit next to Bernard Maisner, an internationally renowned master calligrapher and stationer.

Bernard designed all of my friend’s wedding invitations, place cards, menu cards and more. Each piece was a magnificent work of art.

If you were in New York over the holidays, you might have seen his work in the windows of Bergdorf Goodman.

As the night went on, Bernard and I got to know each other fairly well. I told him that I would love for him to one day design my stationery. Little did I know that day would come sooner than later.

Last December when I was in New York for a television appearance, I made an appointment to stop by his home to look at his portfolio. He and I sat in his living room together reviewing hundreds of designs and styles. He showed me stationery samples that he designed for some of the most famous and prominent people in the world.

After our meeting, Bernard treated me to a sumptuous luxurious lunch at Lincoln Ristorante at Lincoln Center. We talked quite a bit about our backgrounds and discovered that we had a lot in common. Both of us came from humble beginnings, yet shared a love for the finer things in life. We quickly became good friends.

Since then, he has been busy working on a custom engraved calligraphy design especially for me and I received a proof last week. It’s gorgeous and I can’t wait to show it to you. When it’s finished, I’ll be sure to post it on my Facebook author page.

If you have a special occasion coming up or if you just want your very own custom stationery, I highly recommend Bernard Maisner. You can see a short documentary on his work here.

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7 Tips to Writing the Perfect Thank-You Note

by Jacqueline Whitmore

My personal thank-you note caddy.

My personal thank-you note caddy.


In the era of electronic connections, thank-you notes may strike some as relics. But I’m a big fan of writing notes.

When I was a little girl, my mother insisted that I sit down and write a note to my grandparents who always gave me $5.00 for my birthday. As I got older, I kept up the practice and now I try to write at least one or two thank-you notes a week.

A thank-you note can have a big impact because it’s more personal than an e-mail or text and it takes some effort on your part to write one.

Here are 7 tips to writing the perfect thank-you note.

Keep it simple. The note doesn’t have to be more than four or five sentences.

Be specific. In one short sentence, tell the giver how you plan to use the gift. For example, “The teapot will look beautiful in my new kitchen and will be used extensively this winter.”

Write by hand. What deters a lot of people from writing thank-you notes is their handwriting. If your handwriting is poor, print. I recommend practicing on a piece of paper before you write on the note.

Send it promptly. Try to send your note within 24-48 hours. Don’t let the passage of time keep you from sending a note at all. If you forget, send it anyway when you remember because it’s better late than never.

Make letter writing a fun exercise. It helps if you have personalized stationery. Invest in stationery with your own name on it. It’s much more fun to write a thank-you note if it reflects your taste and personality.

Buy nice stamps. The stamp helps customize the envelope, plus it makes it more attractive.

Finally, just do it. When you write a thank-you note, it shows that you care enough to express your gratitude and you create something that will last on paper and in a person’s memory.

These tips previously appeared in my interview with The Pueblo Chieftain, “Saying thank you in writing can have big impact.”

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Why Shoes Are Your Most Important Accessory

by Jacqueline Whitmore
Photo credit: Luke White

Photo credit: Luke White

Long ago, footwear was an indicator of one’s prosperity level. People who could afford to regularly repair or reheel their shoes were considered “well-heeled.”

Even today, good-looking shoes can help you step up and stand out, so don’t hesitate to buy the best shoes you can afford. (Yes, this may be the best news you’ll hear all day — buy shoes; buy good ones.)

You have a wide selection to choose from, but when shopping for work shoes start with one or two pairs of classic and comfortable basic black leather pumps with a moderate heel. From there you can branch out to more specialized designs.

To choose the perfect statement shoe for Spring, begin with a simple outfit. Basic clothing such as an A-line black dress or a black or navy blue suit are easy canvases for a statement shoe to match, says high-end shoe designer Mary Alice Malone, who is based in London. “In a corporate setting, pair one with a very masculine pantsuit and you look amazingly chic,” she says.

An eye-catching shoe—one with a dramatic color like hot pink velvet or feature like a ’70s-style disco platform—“just adds a different texture that’s a little unexpected,” she says. “We tend to focus heavily on clothes, which cover big portions of our body, and a lot of times the shoes get lost,” she says. “When you start adding in a statement shoe, it gives your ensemble this whole other level of consideration.”

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Barbara Corcoran Shares Business Lessons at Entrepreneur Magazine’s Growth Conference

by Jacqueline Whitmore

IMG_1240 I just returned from a glorious trip to Miami where I attended Entrepreneur Magazine’s 7th Annual Growth Conference. Boy, was it AMAZING!

My main reason for attending was to network and meet all the people with whom I work. As many of you know, I am an Entrepreneur.com contributor.

But the best part of the day was meeting keynote speaker, bestselling author, business icon, and Shark Tank star, Barbara Corcoran. She inspired the entire audience with her story about how she borrowed $1,000 from a friend and turned it into a billion dollar empire.

One of the biggest lessons I learned from her was to “keep your blinders on and ignore your competition.”

I believe that there is enough business for all of us. You don’t have to spy on your competition to get ahead. When you come from a place of abundance instead of scarcity, you will always have enough and be enough.

I also liked what Barbara said about her failures in life: “Every single big thing that happened in my life happened on the heels of failure.” I concur with this statement. If I didn’t fail, I would not be doing what I’m doing now.

If you view failure as an opportunity and not a dead end, you will learn, grow and eventually move forward. Barbara also added, “The difference between the successful and the not-so-successful is how long they take to feel sorry for themselves.”

My mom always said that I had a way of turning lemons into lemonade. My positive mental attitude has gotten me through a lot of rough patches in life.

If you’re going through some tough times right now, don’t be afraid to ask for help. Seek the advice of those who have “been there, done that.”

Give yourself permission to move at your own pace, but don’t get stuck in a rut. Life’s too short not to pursue your goals and dreams.

If you would like to grow your business, nurture your aspirations, and tap into my best business advice, I invite you to schedule your complimentary 20-minute Business Breakthrough Session with me. Just send me an email at info@etiquetteexpert.com to make your appointment!

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Dating Etiquette: 7 Ways to Engage in Intellectual Foreplay on Valentine’s Day

by Jacqueline Whitmore
Photo credit: wallscorner.com

Photo credit: wallscorner.com

Nothing is sexier than a person who projects intelligence and confidence. Either consciously or unconsciously, we tend to make judgments about a person based on first impressions. And the best way to make a positive first impression on a date is to embrace uncommon common sense.

If you want to seduce and impress your date with your intellect this Valentine’s Day, practice the following seven tips:

  1. Talk less, listen more. A conversation is like a tennis match. It’s more stimulating if you keep the ball going in both directions. If a conversation is one-sided and you focus more on yourself and your accomplishments and less on the other person, you might come across as an egotistical snob. True intelligence entails attentive listening and responding in a way that shows understanding.
  2. Focus on the positive. No one likes a Debbie Downer. Resist the urge to talk about gloomy subjects including the ex who got away, your annoying co-workers, your impending layoff or your financial troubles. Optimism is an aphrodisiac. Keep the conversation light and upbeat. Also stay away from controversial topics that might instigate a heated debate. An intellectual discussion is healthy but an argument can leave a nasty taste in everyone’s mouth.
  3. Be interested and interesting. Practice your conversation skills by talking about a variety of subjects. You run the risk of being a bore if you focus only on what you know. Ask engaging questions. Start your sentences with phrases like “Tell me…” and “How do you feel about…” Respond thoughtfully to your partner’s answers. Respect his or her ideas and opinions, even if you don’t completely agree.
  4. Maintain good eye contact. One of the strongest and most accurate signs of intelligence is looking at someone when you are speaking to them and when they are speaking to you. It shows respect and lets the other person know you are listening. And don’t forget to put away your phone. Act as if there is no one more important in your life than the person in front of you.
  5. Smile. The smile is the most beautiful curve on the human body. A study in the European Journal of Social Psychology found that smiling makes you more attractive to others. It makes you appear more personable and tells people you are willing to talk and interact with them.
  6. Speak clearly and simply. A positive first impression may be shattered as soon as you try to impress your date with your massive vocabulary. Pretentious language will only interfere with the other person’s ability to understand and communicate with you. Stay away from annoying filler words including, “like,” “you know,” “umm,” and “ah.” You’re better off being silent than using filler words. They can give the impression that you’re hesitant to express yourself or you’re not sure what you’re talking about.
  7. Don’t be a Know-it-All. If your date asks you a question and you don’t know the answer, admit it and say, “I don’t know.” Someone who is honest and authentic is more appealing than someone who thinks he or she has an answer for everything.

For more etiquette tips and articles, “like” my Facebook page or follow me on Twitter.

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Snowstorm Etiquette

by Jacqueline Whitmore

Photo credit: shutterstock.com

Photo credit: shutterstock.com


As I sit outside today enjoying my lunch in the warm Florida sunshine, I can’t help but think of those around the country who are less fortunate.

A historic snowstorm blasted its way through the Northeast Monday, wreaking havoc in several states. Heavy snowfall and blizzard-like conditions are affecting millions of people. Thousands of flights have been cancelled, schools are closed, and many people are staying home from work because roads are too hazardous and public transportation has been suspended.

A snowstorm can bring out the best and worst in people. Whenever Mother Nature rears her ugly head and makes life challenging, it’s even more important to keep your cool and mind your manners.

In my most recent Huffington Post column, I share my top six snowstorm etiquette tips.

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R.s.v.p. Etiquette: Is it a dying art?

by Jacqueline Whitmore
Photo credit: istockphoto.com

Photo credit: istockphoto.com

Here’s a simple lesson in R.s.v.p. etiquette.

R.s.v.p. is an abbreviation for the French phrase, “Répondez s’il vous plaît” meaning “Reply please.” And when you respond and accept an invitation, it is your responsibility to show up. When you fail to show up to a party after accepting an invitation, it’s not only rude and inconsiderate, it can also be costly to the person hosting the party.

Such was the case when a 5-year-old boy from Torpoint in Cornwall, England, was invited to a friend’s birthday party last month at the Ski Slope and Snowboard Centre in Devon. While he initially told his parents he wanted to go, they realized that they were double-booked on that day. The boy was scheduled to visit his grandparents. In the end, the boy and his family chose to visit the grandparents instead of attending the birthday party.

But that’s not the end of the story.

Sometime later, the boy received an invoice from the birthday boy’s mother in the amount of £15.95 ($24.13) for the “Child’s Party No-Show Fee.” This was a gutsy move on her part and one that made headlines all over the world.

Unfortunately, when guests don’t bother to R.s.v.p., the burden of following up falls on the host’s shoulders. When guests don’t bother to show up, the host may also have to absorb any food and beverage expenses.

I can relate. Several years ago I hosted a book launch party at a posh hotel in Palm Beach. The hotel charged me $50.00 per head. Two of my guests called a few hours before the event to say they needed to spend time with their ailing mother. Their absence cost me $100.00.

If you host parties, it helps to know how to increase your chances of getting a better response rate. Here are some tips:

  • When you issue an invitation, include a response date on the invitation. Example: “Please respond by January 31, 2015.”
  • Never put “regrets only” on an invitation. Doing this will not guarantee an accurate head count.
  • It’s best not to send an invitation via the Internet unless your event is extremely casual. Just know that a virtual invitation may wind up in your intended guest’s spam filter.
  • If a guest does not respond by the deadline date on the invitation, it’s best to call or send an email to make sure your guest is not coming.
  • If a guest confirms but doesn’t show up, make a courtesy call after the event and express your concern. It’s bad form to send your guest a bill. If they have a valid excuse, forgive and forget. If they don’t, you’re better off not inviting them again.

Is it okay to bill your guests if they fail to show up at your party? Let me know your thoughts.

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