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Counselor Senior Editor Michele Bell's slanted view of the world.

Making “Her”story

Filed under: Travel

Hi Everyone!

Hope you’re doing well and enjoying the last fabulous days of summer!

I wanted to share with you something I was asked to be a part of in the industry that really gave me pause, because I think it’s so, so special.

A few months ago, the lovely Kim Laffer Nick with the distributor Motivators, reached out to me and asked if I would collaborate on a book written by some select women in the industry. It was to be individual essays written on topics like “My Biggest Mistake” (mine are voluminous), “My A-Ha Moment,” “From One Generation to the Next” and “The Importance of Mentorship,” among others. The book would be produced in conjunction with PPAI and given out at its annual Women’s Leadership Conference this year in San Diego.

First, I was flattered to be included among such women I admire, respect (and love like sisters — looking at you, Natalie!), like World Wide’s Kim Newell, Prime Line’s Paula Shulman, DDI’s Bonni Sandy, CPS’s Kippie Helzel, Boundless’ Cindy Goldsberry and Moisant Promotional Products’ Teresa Moisant. I was even more humbled when I found out later that my pal Mary Ellen Nichols from Bodek and Rhodes was the one who suggested my inclusion and that the fine folks at PPAI agreed. So gracious…

The book, which Jo-an Lantz (who was, incidentally, my first female mentor when I started in the industry 16 years ago and is someone I consider such a special friend) compiled for the PPAI event using Geiger’s printing resources, was given to every woman who attended this year’s Leadership Conference and every woman who wrote an essay for the book. Not sure if there are any left, but hoo boy, is it inspirational. (You can e-mail Tina Filipski, the editor of PPB, to see if there are any copies still available: TinaF@ppai.org; next year’s PPAI Women’s Leadership conference, incidentally, will be held in Denver from 7/28-7/30. I’ve been to one of them and it was fantastic — loved, loved, loved it!).

You know, there’s that famous quote from former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright (recently co-opted erroneously by Taylor Swift) in which she said, “There’s a special place in hell for women who don’t help other women.” I’d like to alter it just a little to say, “there’s a special place in whatever heaven you believe in for women who mentor other women.”

And with that, here’s the essay I was asked to write for PPAI’s book, What I Wish I’d Known Then, in which “Me” of today gives 29-year-old Me some advice. Enjoy!

Cheers, and more soon from ASI’s Power Summit in Park City, Utah from September 15-17. (www.asicentral.com/powersummit)! Be-yond excited!

— M

Dear Twenty-Something Michele,

Please put down your cocktail for a quick sec, because I have something important to tell you. Sixteen years from now, you’ll still be in the promotional products industry and will still love the people in it, but some of them will – despite the fact you’re in your mid-40s – always think of you as someone who never met a party she didn’t like. But that’s not all you’ll be. You’ll win journalism awards, manage and mentor young staffers and be the caregiver for your aging Mom. You don’t realize now that being known as a party girl will be the way many people define you. Be who you are but know that perceptions, like tattoos, are hard to get rid of.

The upside is that as you get older, you’ll become more comfortable in your own skin, and not crave approval, attention or validation. You’ll know that there will always be someone younger, prettier, and smarter, which is freeing in that it alleviates the pressure to be the “It Girl.” But your past, like a pesky flu, will be tough to shake and the Shedonism you revel in now will take on a life of its own.

Because lest you think you’ve turned into a hectoring harpy who doles out buzzkill lectures, know that you will get e-mails during the 2013 PPAI Show in Vegas, from industry people saying they heard you “held court” at Eye Candy, and how much fun you were.

Which will amuse you to no end, since you were in Europe at the time.




  1. Kristy Tantillo Says:

    What a great story. I love the letter to your twenty something self, and the last part about “held court” was very funny.

    Thank you for sharing.

    Monday August 26, 2013
  2. Michele Bell Says:

    Thanks so much for posting, Kristy! The same thing just happened at the SAAC Show in Long Beach earlier this month. I got calls from friends of mine in the industry saying they heard I was buying shots one night at the Dubliner. For the record, I was in Philly at the time. Basically, I’ve gotten to the point where I don’t even NEED to go to events anymore — people swear I’m there anyway. LOL!

    Monday August 26, 2013
  3. Lisa Says:

    I’ve always suspected you were home in bed with a good book at 9:30. :)

    Monday August 26, 2013
  4. Herstory – Octagon Merchandise Blog | Octagon Merchandise Blog Says:

    […] posted here: Herstory […]

    Tuesday August 27, 2013
  5. Dale Denham Says:

    Great story. I’ll read anything you write though. And I heard you held court in SAAC…

    Tuesday August 27, 2013
  6. Bobby Lehew Says:

    Shedonism. Fiefdoms. Cocktails. Your persona’s spectacular but your James Thurber-esqueness is exquisite.

    Thursday August 29, 2013
  7. Michele Bell Says:

    Well, THAT unbelievable compliment, coming from someone I think the world of like you, just made my day and gave me miles of smile! Thanks so much, Bobby!

    Friday August 30, 2013
  8. Lisa Horn Says:

    While you and I have held court together (albeit I was only a mere handmaiden) and your propensity for (and recovery from) Grey Goose festivities is admirable, what’s always been–and always will be–most impressive about you personally is your sincere friendship and professionally your command of the written word. Girl can write like no other–with or without a drink in her hand. Congrats on being included in the book. Well deserved, my friend.

    Tuesday September 24, 2013
  9. Michele Bell Says:

    Awww, thanks so much for the kind words, Lis — you made my day! ; )

    Wednesday September 25, 2013

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