You Can Stand On Your Own Two Feet//Up Close & Personal with Gina Thompson Venturini
Immediately after High School I moved out of my parents and moved in with my soon-to-be husband. Seemed like the perfect plan at the time. Fast forward to years later finally finding the courage to leave a relationship I did not want to be in for several reasons and living on my own for the very first time in my whole life. Whoa. I kept soo busy at first filling my life with things and obligations and plans so that I didn't have to feel lonely. I think I was in shock, maybe. I had forgotten what it was like to be alone. People love to be busy, they feel they do not exist unless they have a million things to do and I found myself right there with all the frantic busy people. I was like a small child constantly needing distractions. And then gradually I came to my senses and discovered that I actually enjoyed the solitude. I enjoyed taking the time to figure out who the f i was. I had started learning how to play the guitar (which was amazing but short lived, I am terrible at it) and I discovered that I actually really do love exercising and reading.
I went to my first movie alone...solo, yes I did it and you know what? I loved every second. No waiting on someone else who was late, no figuring out where to sit in the theatre because I always just go along with where the other person wants to sit when truth be told. I didn't want to sit there. I also began eating alone in fancy restaurants and it became my new favorite thing in the world. I even attended Mavericks games alone. I was no longer afraid and knew in whatever future relationship I found myself in, I would never forget that i can in fact stand on my own two feet. I was offered a job in Tulsa, Oklahoma and had only one week to relocate. Scary, yes. Crazy, maybe. But I had to stretch my wings and do it ! I had to continue my solo journey of doing tough things and close all the other chapters in the book...hell even burn that book and start a new one!
I worked for a French hair care company headquartered out of Los Angeles for a while where Gina worked as well. She was the amazing rock star who helped us in the field. We naturally became Facebook friends and have kept in touch over the many years. I am so intrigued with her story. She is incredibly talented and has been the perfect prime example of someone who can stand on their own two feet and even through divorce, you can find the silver lining and rise up! I was so honored to interview her. I love that my blog has become a platform to share the places I visit and the people I have met along the way. You will see that Gina and I have so much in common and everything happens for a reason. If my time at Prive was just to meet Gina..then it was worth it ! I mean we both can rock the maxi dress like no other !!
GINA VENTURINI INTERVIEW:
-You were born in Nebraska?! How long were you there?
Yes I was born and raised in North Platte Nebraska and left at the age of 24 after I graduated from the University of Nebraska in Lincoln. I then moved to Minneapolis for about a year and then got a job singing on the road where I had met a man, fell in love and ended up following him to California. We had lived in various areas from San Diego to the San Fernando Valley. I moved to Austin TX in 2013 for a couple of years and then moved back to LA a year ago. Living in Los Angeles had always been a dream of mine since I was a little girl.
-Austin is one of my favorite places on earth! Tell me about this ATX adventure !
Through my job with a luxury Bohemian fashion brand, I was offered to go open and co-manage their first store in Texas. With trying to move my life forward after my separation, I decided to accept the job. I had never been to Austin or Texas other than a one time lay over in Dallas years prior. I had moved with my 2 dogs into a 1 bedroom apartment that I had selected via the internet and phone. I had only spoken to my co-manager over the phone so everything was very new to me. But it was a journey that needed to be taken in order for me to gain back my independence after being in a 21 year relationship. And It was also the first time I have ever lived on my own in 47 yrs. After about 1 month of being there, I had to send one of the dogs back to LA to my ex. And it was just Bruschi and I. He and I spent a lot of time exploring the trails all over Austin and outside of the city. We went on adventures and built this very strong bond.
Austin became a re-awakening for me, and a chance for my heart to heal and completely let go of my past. The unfortunate part is that Bruschi who became my life, ended up getting a spinal cord injury so I had to put him down in March of 2015. I feel that he was there to help me adjust and get me through until I could grow wings of my own. Within 3 days of his passing I got a call from my company asking me if I wanted to come back to LA, and I immediately accepted. Granted, Austin was a short lived two years, It gave me so much and I have met some pretty amazing people through working with Johnny Was and getting involved with this passion platform called #besomebody. I met people who will be forever friends, so it was worth taking the plunge into the unknown.
-What is your occupation and tell me about each one..a day in the life if you will (singer/songwriter and Johnny Was)
I’m a co-manager for a Bohemian chic fashion brand in Santa Monica as well an artist in different mediums singer/songwriter, jewelry design and writing (poetry). A typical day in retail involves coaching and assisting a team to sell and style our clients that come into the store to shop. Also educating women on our brand and showing them several ways how to wear our clothing and scarves. As well, tending to the operations of the store. Right now, I have taken a break from music and jewelry design to focus on my writing.
-Speaking of writing you recently wrote a book? What was the inspiration around this?
The journey to Austin and the awakening of my heart ironically from a Nebraska man who was building our store inspired me to write a poetry book “Calling Love Home.” When I was driving to Texas from LA, I had in the back of my mind that the distance from me and my ex would help heal our marriage and possibly bring us back together. But then I arrive to Austin, walked into our store and saw two guys building the store. So I walked up and introduced myself and find out that they were from Nebraska. What are the chances? Anyway, I could feel this strong energy from one of them as he came up to me and started having a conversation. We ended up having dinner and spent some brief time together. And although it was a very short period of time, he awakened my heart that had been shut down for so many years. To the point that I fell head over heels immediately for him. They finished the store and left back for Nebraska. And although nothing more came out of it, that profound connection and memory of him inspired a lot of poems for a small book, and I will also be coming out with a second book very soon. It’s crazy how life works. And still to this day, I think of him day and night, and my heart will always hold a special space for him. It’s just the kind of loyal heart we Leo's have. Purchase Gina's book here!
-(Happy Moon) What is your favorite song to perform from that album and why?
Wow that is a blast from a past. I had recorded the Album with a band called Genius girl. My favorite song was a song that I co-wrote with Guitarist/Songwriter Sean Stratton called “Back To You” That album was recorded in 2005 and the lyrics still bring such significance to my life at this present time especially with the connection of Nebraska in Austin. After we recorded the album, we decided to take different paths. Then I partnered with singer/songwriter Jimi Yamagishi to form a band called Valet. I sang a lot of great songs, written by him and Amanda Best, but unfortunately we were not able to get any recorded except via live performances. If I do go back to singing, I would like to get back into Jazz. I love singing with Jazz big bands and small quartets.
-Tell me about your fabulous jewelry line?! And the partnership with your rings in Cali Johnny Was locations?! How did that happen !! (so cool)
I had a jewelry line that was first called Genius Gewelz to coincide with my band Genius Girl. Then I ended up changing it to Gina Venturini Designs. I designed and hand made everything using semi-precious stones and Swarovski crystals. When I started working for Johnny Was in 2010, there were only 3 stores and they were adding jewelry. The VP was gracious enough to have a meeting with me to show her pieces I had designed to go with the clothing. It didn’t get accepted, but then I was able to get a meeting with the owner of Johnny Was to get some advice on a leather line that I wanted to create, which by the way is still a dream of mine. And he ended up seeing the stretchy ring I was wearing. He liked the idea and asked me to make some samples for them. The samples got approved and they ended up buying 3 different styles of stretchy rings from me to sell in their first 3 stores. Now up to 14 stores, they have their own designers. And I ended up closing my jewelry business down in 2013 right before moving to Austin TX. Now I just design for fun and to make gifts.
-You are such a great stylist..can you recall your best styling moment in Johnny Was where you changed someones's life? Tell me about this in detail !
Well Thank you! I I feel that I’m truly blessed to have a job where I get to work with such beautiful clothing that is designed for real women to wear. Our sizes run from XS to XL and fit generous. I do remember working at the Grove and had a customer come into the store who was a size 16. She had told me that she loved the clothing but there was no way, she would ever be able to fit into them. So I asked her to just allow me to try and she did. We ended up finding her several tops that day and she became a loyal client. I have worked for the company for 5 yrs now and have become very familiar with different body types and how our different divisions fit. You might have a customer come in with a certain vision in her mind. And sometimes that vision doesn’t work, So it’s up to me to find one that does. And as for me, I have grown to love mixing and matching various styles of prints and go for bright and bold colors. I’ve become a huge fan of Biya and Johnny Was Maxi dresses paired with colorful converse high tops.
-How do you balance working retail, making music and performing and creating jewelry ?
Retail is the priority as that is what pays my bills. When I was performing and doing the jewelry business together, I would design into the late hours and on my days off, and rehearse and perform after work. Writing is much easier as I don’t have to depend on anyone else. While living in Austin, I would pretty much spend every night writing and now I sometimes get my inspiration while driving on the 10 freeway, and write when I get home, and first thing when I wake in the morning.
-Your must have item for Spring/Summer?
Currently my favorite piece for Summer is the Maxi dress. I especially Love the new Johnny Was Aymetrl “LOVE” Maxi dress in the 2 prints. How perfect is that name for a poet like me? I am actually considering wearing it for my cover of the second book.
Since I just got home from hot Yoga. I am wearing my JWLA embroidered leggings and a black Pete & Greta A –line cut, long sleeve Tee. It’s an oldie but still one of my favorites. (both divisions of Johnny Was)
I do believe that living a life of Passion and Positivity helps give you a youthful spirit and refreshing look. I try to get at least at least 7 hours of sleep a day and 5 days of hot Yoga .I drink 3-4 16 oz bottles of water per day that is mixed with apple cider vinegar, honey, lemon juice, and cayenne pepper. I use 4 Love of Aloe products on my face.I make sure I wash my makeup off before I go to bed and moisturize day and night and never leave the house without sunblock.
-Best advice you have ever received?
No matter how difficult things may get, Stand your ground.
-Worst advice you have ever received?
You are too old and should just give up.
When I get some time, I have been reading pages of “The seat of the Soul” by Gary Zukav.
-Your ideal Sunday?
I actually sleep in until around 8am, and then I get ready to be to the store by 10:30 am. I work Sundays at Johnny Was.
-Your fave place to travel? and why?
I’ve travelled through most of the US, Mexico and Canada. And they all hold beautiful experiences and memories. My dream is to start traveling more and on my bucket list is Hawaii, New Orleans, Melbourne, Sydney, Spain, New Zealand and more of Mexico.
-Advice to the girl going through her divorce ? How do you find that awesome independence you so exude Gina?! You have seemed to stand on your own two feet so well and know now exactly what you need!
Well, my advice would be first don’t lose yourself in a relationship. It’s a bad habit we women tend to fall into when we fall in Love. I’ve been independent most of my life. Divorce is not easy on any of the people that are involved. Especially after 20 something years together. Don’t do what I did and live under the same roof for 3 ½ years in a non -existent relationship. It’s not healthy. Get yourself out there and start making and surround yourself with very supportive and loyal friends. There will be times within the legal process where you are getting bullied in order to give up, and that is when you have to stay strong and stand your ground. You can’t allow other’s opinions of you to fill your head with self doubt otherwise you will start believing all the negativity. Remember that it takes two to make and begin a marriage and also takes 2 to end a marriage. Two people may be great on their own but not necessarily together. You just have to keep moving forward day by day. And don’t be so hard on yourself as there will be some really tough days that involves a lot of crying and questioning what you could have done to change things. Both parties have to be wiling to change things. You have to allow yourself time to grieve, forgive the situation and most importantly you have to forgive yourself. After 6 years of trying to come to a dissolution, I’m still awaiting a final agreement, and I can no longer get caught up in the emotion of it and allow it to control me. All I can do is trust that things will work out as they are meant to be. Keep working on me, making myself better, and hope this soon will pass. I only wish the best for the other party and may he find the happiness and the love that he deserves.
-Someone has a weekend in LA (48 hours) where would you send them?
This is of course after they have shopped till they dropped at Johnny Was? Ha! I would recommend the Santa Monica, Venice, Malibu area for some beach time and good food. In addition, The Abbot Kinney area to shop. And then to Mid Wilshire to LACMA for some art and Latin Jazz on the weekend. If they are into adventure, I would suggest Universal Studios or some of the beautiful trails at Griffith Park.
-What's next for Gina?
Getting my second book “The Color of My Heart Is You” published and released by end of July and continue to write.
And now I need a West Coast adventure !!!
Shop the story here.