Fashionably Tardy isn’t interested in telling one dimensional stories. Hosted by Melissa Lomax and Natalie Trevonne, The podcast is dedicated to shining a light on incredible individuals in the fashion industry, beyond the glitz and the glam. Only on air for a handful of months, the show already features an array of high fashion designers and professional models. But beyond this, it spotlights the unsung heroes, passion fueled creatives who have faced crippling adversity, everyday people starting quiet revolutions and making a difference in their communities.
No more do you find this passion and determination than in the show’s co-host, Melissa Lomax. Identifying as a ¨professional encourager¨ and an extreme volunteer, Melissa has dedicated her life to mentoring students and the accomplishment of social change. Growing up around poverty and gang violence, being black and being blind, her experiences have shaped her into a person that cares and connects deeply with all of her students. Following a career as a manager in blindness youth services, she is now spending her quarantine juggling so many responsibilities it doesn’t quite seem humanly possible. In addition to holding down two jobs as a career advisor and project coordinator, she is a co-facilitator of Walk Women, creates content for the podcast, writes advice for college students, and is currently raising a foster child. Busy as she is, I was able to sit down with her for an interview.
Shawn: Can you tell me about how you and Natalie met, and how the podcast got started?
Melissa: Okay, well, we met because she worked for me when I was the youth services manager at Blind Industries in 2018. The podcast actually came from a place, it was a journey. So at first we were just enraged because there was this interview that came out on The Breakfast Club, where they were just getting on this young blind woman, for her desire to have employment to be a babysitter, and they’re just talking about how blind people can’t babysit or be a parent. And we were enraged, we wrote a letter, we contacted the right people, did everything, and we’re just like, we can’t just sit with this frustration. We need to make a podcast. And so our initial podcast was called the Blind Diaries. However, that didn’t work out for a number of reasons. And one day during quarantine, Natalie told me, you know, I’ve been on LinkedIn just connecting with people in the fashion industry, and I just want to tell their stories and I want to make it a blog. And I said, okay, girl. I’m down. She doesn’t have to ask me for help if she’s presenting an idea. I’m usually like anything you do I support. That blog became a podcast, and the rest is history.
Shawn: That’s awesome. So do you have any tips for anyone who’s listening to this, or reading actually, if they wanted to up their fashion game?
Melissa: The biggest thing is for people to find their own style. Because honestly, you can buy the latest and greatest fashion pieces and they could just look horrid on you. Like when people say things are “in style,¨know that there’s a good number of things that are in style. There can be so many trends happening at the same time so you don’t have to catch one to fit in there. There may be some other ones that might actually work with who you are. I trust and believe that if plaid took over the world and everyone said we need plaid, I will be set for life — like put me in plaid because I know how to make that work for me. But, by all means, you have to know that for you, because I tell people, you can make something cute look ugly real quick.
Shawn: So coming back to the podcast, what are some of your favorite episodes or favorite interviews?
Melissa: Well, the one that’s going to come out on Wednesday, is one of my favorite ones, [it´s] called ¨Answering the Call.¨ It’s like I don’t tell my closest friends about every episode, just my absolute favorite ones. And this is hands down one of them. These two stories blow my mind every time I hear them I’m just like, how. It’s insane.
Outside of that, I have a few favorite interviews. This girl, Bell, she’s Mexican- and Ethiopian, and she’s a fashion stylist and she’s a blogger and she actually has a prosthetic eye so I felt like I related, you know, being blind. And then this guy named Ezra, his story about feeling absolutely hopeless, feeling like he got to the bottom of everything and nothing was going well. And he pushed through and he’s still to this day, he’s our most encouraging person, he texts us to ask if everything’s okay.
Shawn: Yeah, that was my next question. Do any of these people stay in touch?
Melissa: Yes, absolutely. We have a decent number of people. That’s what Natalie and I really love about it. Because we look at some people’s instagram accounts, like Bell, and she’ll have 43,000 followers and yet she only follows 2000 people. And so why she chooses to follow us? She’s a fan, she wants to meet us and we’re just like, why us? And it’s not like, Oh, you’re so cool, can we meet up? It’s like, when will you be in New York? Because a lot of them are in Brooklyn. And so we tell ourselves all the time when Covid stops being a problem, we have so many people to visit in Brooklyn. It’s a community, and we really do feel the encouragement from our community.
Shawn: That’s awesome, because I really do feel like you guys are doing something amazing here.
Melissa: You know, someone asked me the question, and they didn’t mean it maliciously, but they said, how do you think you’re making change with the disability community in the fashion industry if all you’re doing is interviewing people and telling their stories? And I could take their question as a negative, but because I knew their heart was behind the question. It’s just that you don’t know the power of connections. When you connect with people, when you listen to them more than you talk, they have a better understanding of you and it’s crazy to say that, like how is it that someone who just listens to you can understand you more? But that’s how we feel because now that they know us, now that they know how much we value their story and their contributions. Now you have a relationship. So if they’re going out there making inaccessible websites or products, we can lay the foundation and say hey friend, can you consider us when you do these things?
Shawn: There’s one more thing I wanted to talk about. In one of your episodes, you were talking about how one of your eyes is smaller than the other one and different colors and you used to try to hide it as much as possible, until you realized that your comfort was more important than other people’s discomfort. And when I heard that it really struck me, because you know, I’m the same way. My eyes aren’t completely normal looking and I guess I’m more insecure about that than I realized. I just thought it was so vulnerable of you to talk about on air. I think it’s so very important, right, because as blind people and any person with a disability, we can stand out so much sometimes. And we all have things that make us different from anyone else, disabled or not. Was that hard for you to share?
Melissa: I think it was a lot easier for me to share it than it is for me to live with it daily. So for the most part, I do have that feeling about the public, where I want to be comfortable. I don’t want to wear sunglasses. I don’t want to hide, just for other people to feel comfortable. But then there are times when I feel like my appearance matters. Like when I was connecting with a student for the first time yesterday, and I knew that he looked to me for a lot of support and a lot of guidance, and I met up with him in person just because I knew he could use that extra encouragement to know that I’m on his team. And I just was like, man. These eyes, man.
Even though I have strong feelings, that doesn’t mean that just instantly takes away the insecurities. They creep in. And it’s a constant battle. Did I get better over time with this student? Yes, I actually talked about it with him. I feel like when I talk about it with people, it just puts me at ease, more than them, because I can say, hey, you know, these eyes are what these eyes are and I am aware of them. I can do nothing about them. And just something about being open about it takes away a lot of that insecurity.
The podcast is available on Apple podcasts, Spotify, and via most major streaming platforms. Join the conversation on Instagram and Twitter @FTOnTheScene and on Facebook at Fashionably Tardy. Melissa herself can be found on Twitter, @lisalomax.