It is an honor to share your beautifully brave and courageous story here, and a pleasure to call you my friend. Thank you, and may the year bring you continued success and happiness!
Who are you and what do you do for a living?
As a personal fashion stylist, I empower women to show up in full alignment with who they really, authentically are, so that they can be unleashed in making their mark on the world. I teach women how to dress the bodies they have (not the bodies they once had or wish they had), using style as an access to self-acceptance and self-love. I quit a stable, comfortable engineering career to follow my passion and purpose with the intention that through my work, body dysmorphia and eating disorders will one day cease to exist.
Tell me about your family, if applicable.
I was born in Saint Petersburg, Russia. My parents split up when I was five, and my mom left me with my grandparents for close to two years while she went to America to set up her life. I would see my dad, who traveled a lot internationally for work as a geologist, on weekends. On January 2nd, 1995, my mom brought me to New York. I grew up in Brooklyn with her and my step dad, Stuart. When I was 13, my mom was diagnosed with brain cancer. When I was 15, she passed away and I moved to Lakewood, Colorado to live with my dad, who had set up his own life by then with my step mom, Irene, and stepbrother, Alex.
What is your story?
If you had asked me three years ago what I’d always wanted to do with my life but never saw as possible, I would’ve told you “something in fashion.” I have an engineering background and was working at an engineering company. I’d consulted friends and family on their wardrobes and provided shopping guidance for as long as I could remember (I was that one friend who would take you shopping, bring you ten items, and you’d walk out with all ten, leaving behind whatever you had brought in), but it had never occurred to me that I could turn that into an actual—never mind lucrative—career. I also wasn’t raised in an environment that supported that kind of thinking; I came from a family of engineers and scientists and had followed in my stepbrother’s footsteps to receive an Engineering Physics degree from one of the top engineering schools in the country. (Problem was, it was never quite a fit for me; I was just pretending.)
Then, in December 2014, I read about a website called Keaton Row on one of my favorite blogs (Refinery29) and was intrigued by the idea of regular people signing up to virtually style women across the nation—and getting paid for it. I signed up, despite that voice in my head telling me, “What the hell are you doing? You’re an engineer!” I proceeded to style eight clients over the next six months, until the site began to work with only NYC-based stylists. Defeated, I thought, “OK, guess that was too good to last. Back to reality I go.”
Right after my tenure with Keaton Row ended, in May 2015, I had a tonsillectomy, which involved a much more difficult recovery process than expected, and left me depressed and resigned about my life. I was in a career I despised and a crap relationship, and I would cry myself out of bed in the morning and drink myself to sleep every night. I was a total victim of my circumstances, seeing no way out of the dark tunnel I had found myself in. And I could totally see my life continuing to go that way.
But I took an unreasonable action: on a friend’s recommendation, I took a personal and professional development course called the Landmark Forum in June, and over the span of its 3.5 days, my perspective shifted 180 degrees. I saw that I no longer had to be at the whim of my circumstances and could actually create the life that I wanted. I realized that I deserved to be happy and could do whatever I wanted with my life. So I signed up for Thumbtack (an app that connects service providers with customers) and took on personal shopping clients. I took the Stylist and Personal Stylist certification courses at the School of Style in LA. I shared my passion with anyone and everyone, which landed me front row at the Nolcha Shows during New York Fashion Week in September.
Through continuing to participate at Landmark and taking on its 7.5 month long leadership program, I discovered my “why”: that around me, people are empowered, confident, and loving themselves. Through style, my goal is to empower people (and especially women) to accept and love the bodies they have, not the bodies they wish they had, so that body dysmorphia and eating disorders one day cease to exist.
I tried my hand at another corporate job, transitioning to an engineering sales role in March 2016, thinking that the skills that I learned would support building my business on the side. Who am I kidding? My heart wasn’t in it and six months later, I was let go. I took that as a sign from the Universe that it’s time to stop f*cking around and take on my business full time. And so it was, no financial safety net, no prior business experience, and I was running my own personal fashion styling business.
What have you overcome to get where you are today?
Oh man, can I just make a list..?
Parents split up when I’m 5.
Mom leaves me with grandparents while she goes to America and I only see dad on the weekends because he travels for work all the time.
Grandma is paranoid and overprotective, to the point of heating my ice cream on the stove and writing doctor’s notes, excusing me from gym class after every minor cold, for a grand total of 2 gym classes over the course of the entire first grade. (Funny ‘cuz it’s true.)
Mauled by a monkey at a zoo (that’s a story for another day; ask me if you’re curious about it).
Moved to America speaking no English. Got to be the “weird foreign kid” through all of third (and maybe part of fourth) grade.
Mom diagnosed with brain cancer when I’m 13.
Mom dies when I’m 15.
I’m moved halfway across the country, away from all my friends and the life I know, to suburbia, halfway through Junior year of high school.
I take on some really self-destructive coping mechanisms and land myself in some pretty unpleasant circumstances.
I get diagnosed with thyroid cancer right before my 17th birthday.
I fall into a deep depression while working on my Masters in Electrical Engineering because I hate it (and it’s so not what I’m meant to be doing).
I quit grad school, my depression lifts, but my relationship falls apart, and I move back into my parents’ basement.
I move to San Diego for an engineering job, not knowing anyone here. I loathe said engineering job after a few years and fall into a depression again.
Borderline-alcoholism, totaling of cars, binge eating, and other shenanigans along the way.
I start my personal development journey, which, even though it’s so worth it, can be such a bumpy ride sometimes.
Starting a business while in credit card debt and with no financial safety net.
What has been your greatest struggle in life?
I used to have this story that “I’ve been dealt a shitty hand in life.” Looking at the list of challenges above, all of those experiences have made me who I am today. The one that’s had the biggest impact on me, however, was my mother’s death and the two years leading up to it.
I had idolized my mom. She was everything to me. I used to watch her meticulously put herself together every day, from her makeup to her style to how she carried herself. She was an amazing cook (I still have a book of hand-written, off the cuff recipes of hers that I attempt to recreate to celebrate her life). She was gorgeous, poised, deep.
Over the last two years of her life, I watched her spirit deteriorate. The cancer affected the emotional center of her brain, so she would be my brilliant mother one moment and like an irrational child the next. It was hard to be with. I had to switch off between playing the role of daughter and mother to someone I had idolized. I was never told that the cancer was fatal. Even when she went into a coma, I fervently believed that she would wake up and live a full life. And she did wake up, but not for long.
After she was gone, I took on grief as a badge of honor and thought that I was honoring her memory by taking on her suffering. It took 16 years for me to fully get complete and realize that the best way I can honor my mother’s memory is by creating and living my best, happiest life possible. My happiness and success are her true legacy.
Did you ever feel like giving up? When you felt like giving up, what did you do?
Apart from the dark period following my mother’s death, these last 1.5 years of running my own business have not been easy. I’ve had several recurring thoughts of “what the hell am I doing?” or “how the hell am I going to pay my rent this month?” but I wouldn’t trade it for anything.
What are some of the tools and resources you have used to work through and overcome those struggles? (books, counselors, workshops, programs, coaches, etc.)
When I have those moments of wanting to give up, I lean on my tribe, heavily. (Mine happens to be a tightly knit group of badass boss ladies who won’t listen to me as anything other than my greatest Self. I couldn’t show up small around them even if I tried. Y’all know who you are.)
I meditate. (Transcendental Meditation seriously saved me from chronic panic attacks.)
I journal. (Quieting the emotional noise in my head so I can listen to my intuition.)
I call one of my coaches (shout-out to the amazing Chloe Harlow and Marisa Alejandra).
Recently, I’ve started tapping (EFT- look it up!) and that’s been tremendously helpful for releasing the stuck energy around my effusive emotions.
I lean into gratitude.
After all, I get to do what I love for a living, and the difference I can see on a client’s face when she walks out of the fitting room in something she never would’ve tried but feeling more like herself than she has in years, that’s everything!
What do you want other women to know who are feeling lost, and/or experiencing their own tragedy and/or struggles?
They say “when you’re going through hell, keep going.” That’s honestly the best advice because the worst thing you can do when you’re suffering is stay there and wallow in it. I know because I’ve totally been there. There have been days when I just cried and the greatest accomplishment for the day was getting out of bed or putting on clothes. Allow yourself to be human, just don’t let yourself stay there incessantly. It’s when you allow yourself to feel the depth of your pain, and move through it, with the help of all the tools I mentioned above (or whatever else helps you process), that you know your true power and come out on the other side stronger than you ever imagined yourself to be.
What is some advice you would give to women who are healing?
Give yourself some grace, and keep putting one foot in front of the other. Sometimes that looks like two steps forward, one step back. Sometimes it looks like no movement at all. But as long as you’re looking ahead, you’re on the right track.
Anything else you’d like to add?
I want to ask you something: what are those things for you? The things that bring you the most joy and have you show up as the greatest version of yourself? Who are the people you lean on when you’re feeling less than your best? What can you do to get yourself back into alignment with who you truly are?
You can find Anna at: www.annaneimark.com
Anna is offering:
Complimentary 30-minute discovery calls for anyone whose style needs a little revival. If you stand in front of a full closet with nothing to wear every morning or hate how you look in clothes, isn’t it time to do something about that? Let’s take the way you show up in the world to the next level! After all, you have a mark to make on the world. Dress accordingly.
Thank you again, Anna, for sharing your story with us. I deeply appreciate what it took for you to open this way. Keep doing what you’re doing, girl. You are a bright light helping women to rise.