Blaire Kimball of Sparkles and Vintage and I met at a Starbucks on a cold evening in December. My then-fiance and I were six months away from our wedding and our families were driving us crazy. Plus, there was still so much to be done and I had no idea where to even begin.
The first things anyone will notice about Blaire when they meet her is her big smile, her infectious positive attitude and her passion for her work. The moment we started talking, I knew that we would be hiring her. Like I literally went home and told my fiance that I had found “the one” haha. What set Blaire apart from other planners we had met with? She came brimming with ideas and excitement and we knew that with her over eight years of experience in the event planning industry, we could trust her to handle any situation planning our wedding would throw at us--which would end up being a lot.
Hiring Blaire for six month coordination of our wedding was a no-brainer and the best decision we made for our big day. It’s crucial that you get along with your coordinator because they will be the person you talk to the most leading up to your wedding...other than the person you’re going to be marrying. She defused stressful situations with our friends, families and vendors; she helped us find and book affordable, talented vendors; she took our initial idea of a modern Renaissance wedding and ran full steam with it, not missing any detail (even attended the Ren Faire with us for inspiration); she talked me down during a late night freak out about our budget; and most importantly, she made sure that we totally, thoroughly, unequivocally enjoyed our wedding day that all couples spend many months and many dollars planning. She made sure my husband and I had moments alone to connect as a newly married couple, she made sure we ate food and drank water, she made sure we had no idea if anything was going wrong, she stood up to people who needed to be stood up to in the most gracious way possible, and she danced the final few songs with us as this amazing day came to a close.
Even though Blaire lives every moment with zest and sparkle, the journey to get to where she is today was not easy.
“Being a Mixed Chick--Black and White--from Ohio, it was a very, very hard road as a kid,” she said. “I looked different. My skin, hair, and eyes were all different than the traditional cultural norms of Black and White children. Even as an adult, to feel accepted and appreciated was always a striving goal.”
But she kept fighting, being authentic to herself, and persevering to build an award-winning business. In this All WOCs of Life interview with Blaire, she opens up about her childhood and family dynamic, her struggles with identity confusion and bullying, and her hope for WOC in the event industry.
When and how did you figure what you wanted to do for your career?
When I planned my own wedding, we had a lot of not so great things happen in the planning process, as well as with family scenarios. I wanted to make sure that no bride ever felt the way I did, not seen or heard, and was sure there was a career in this somewhere, a.k.a. a wedding coordinator/planner.
What are your favorite and least favorite parts of working in your position and in your industry?
My favorite is getting to be a part of this spectacular time in each of our clients’ lives. The least favorite thing? It’s a very time consuming, intense and emotionally exhausting job! We wear many hats when being a wedding planner and there's a strong emotional attachment to each wedding produced. We work with our clients for up to a year to fulfill their wedding dreams. We know our clients well! And their families, too! Making sure no issues happen is sometimes a bit trying and intense emotionally and physically.
What was your family’s/ancestors’ journeys to come to America? Where did they live originally and what influenced them to come here?
This question is really still quite foreign to me. I do know that my great great grandparents were slaves. But it really doesn't go much deeper than saying that. Talking about family history on both sides of my family always seemed taboo, and to not bring it up. I’m assuming it was painful, so the memories were suppressed and tried to be forgotten.
Do you feel strongly rooted in and confident of your heritage? Do you feel like you had to assimilate to be accepted? Please elaborate.
I feel not very rooted in my heritage. Being a Mixed Chick--Black and White--from Ohio, it was a very, very hard road as a kid. I looked different. My skin, hair, and eyes were all different than the traditional cultural norms of Black and White children. Even as an adult, to feel accepted and appreciated was always a striving goal. To just be accepted was very, very hard.
My childhood was a very dark time of my life. I had identity confusion, as both Black and White cultures didn't seem to accept me. I was either too light skinned for the Black community, but not a White person either. Being bullied was 90% of my childhood, so the memories and moments are things I often suppress and try to forget daily. Even life as an adult has been hard to identify what I am. All throughout college people would ask me, and still do, "What is you, where are you from? No, where are your families from really?” It was a constant battle and discussion, so I had to be very strong at a young age to power through life, even through now, but I know the journey got me to where I am today. And I’m glad that I had an inner strength and light to keep going even when everything and everyone around me assumed me to fail.
Tell me about a time when you experienced racism and/or sexism in either the workplace or school setting.
This was about everyday of my childhood. Legit, I want to say maybe like around age 9 or 10? I couldn't pinpoint it exactly, because I was a kid. I didn't really know what they were doing or saying, I knew there were mean people in the world, but never really understood what they looked like or what they would say. I just knew I was always the different one, mostly because I looked different. My parents were two different colors, kids just couldn't understand that. My hair is the thing that got me bullied to no end. Kinky curly, frizzy black hair on a tiny, light-skinned body. This went on for a while so I couldn't wait to leave Ohio.
How has being a Woman of Color impacted you professionally?
“Please everyone, don't make waves. Do good work, keep your head down, and get out.” That was my mentality up until about January 2020. Then COVID-19 hit. Ain’t nobody gonna take care of me but myself, so my mentality shifted. And then here we are in the middle of a civil rights movement, my theory has never been more true.
What advice do you have for other Women of Color in a similar industry?
Be true to yourself, be authentic. If you don't like it, walk away, gracefully. Keep your head up, there will be another gig, and there will be another group of people who will love you. Just keep working really hard, be so good they can't ignore you.
What changes and/or improvements would you hope to see in your industry and/or the world for WOC?
More inclusivity, more Black women and men in the magazines, blogs, Instagram pictures. I want to see more clients of all colors and cultures showcased on feeds and platforms.
How can others support your work?
Please follow us on Instagram @sparklesandvintage - I love what I do with all my heart, and I love creating magic for people, follow our journey on Instagram!
Editor’s Note: During the COVID-19 pandemic, with weddings in 2020 cancelled, Blaire has focused her time and energy into creating beautiful floral arrangements for purchase. She offers an everlasting collection with dried flowers and a monthly flower club is forthcoming in July.