For the second installment of our The Junoesque Interviews Series, I interviewed Anita Smith, founder and CEO of WE-XIST INC, a tall fashion brand that also works to empower tall women. Keep reading for with my interview with her!
How tall are you?
6ft since I was in the 5th grade.
Did you play sports? Why or why not?
I played basketball since the 6th grade and truthfully I didn’t like it. I was always considered the “big girl” because I was tall. My summer coaches would tell me just to stand there with my hands in the air. I did really well in high school. I was offered the opportunity to play for Kansas Jayhawks and Albuquerque, New Mexico.
Do you have any funny tall-related anecdotes to share? Any bad pick up lines?
First, I hate when guys reference anything towards my height. Especially short men who say,”I would love to climb that tree!!’ Like really I hate it with a passion. I even had a rule that I wouldn’t date a guy shorter than me. Thankfully my boyfriend is an inch taller than me.
Sometimes it is awkward to be so different from everyone else. How did you become comfortable in your own skin?
Wow it took me until I was like 20 to really embrace my height. Growing up being teased because I was tall or just being a tomboy because I was tall was not easy. Then in college I realized that most of the guys loved the fact that I was tall. I think it was hard for me to embrace my height because people always thought I was older and treated me like such.
It is tough growing up tall. Do you have any advice for your 16 year old self? Anything you know now that you wish you knew then?
I would have told my 16 year old self to “work it.” I think I would have pursued modeling and fashion at the age but I was already into basketball something I only played because I was tall and eventually became good at it. I would tell all tall girls to love the skin that they are in because the world looks up to you. Which is true. Everywhere I go people make me feel like a celebrity. Always asking questions like do you model or play basketball. Or they are just in awe that I’m so tall and they wish they were my height.
Why did you start WE-XIST INC? Was there a straw that broke the camel’s back? A moment where you said enough is enough?
Well I started WE-XIST because I couldn’t take it anymore. Every female loves to shop and there’s nothing like walking into a mall looking for the latest styles and not being able to rock it. If everyone see me as a model then why is it so hard for tall females to shop? I just got fed up walking out of the mall empty handed and feeling embarrassed and desperate to find something to wear that was trendy.
What is your inspiration when designing the collections? Did you go to school for fashion design or are you self-taught?
Truthfully my inspiration is my past experiences. I just think of the season and things that I just was never able to wear because it was not made for tall females. Since I am from NYC I want to offer the customers of WE-XIST INC a youthful, urban, hip and trendy clothing line. I went to the Art Institute for fashion design and I hated it. I am more business minded within full of ideas therefore WE-XIST INC is currently looking for a fashion designer to work exclusively for us.
You were telling me about the Tall Girls Gala. Tell me more about that.
Well the Tall Girls Gala is a spin off of our 1st Tall Girls Convention that we just had in April in South Florida. The purpose of the event was to gather tall girls and their supporters on one special day with guest speakers, fashion show, food, and music and giveaways from our sponsors. We would like to do this all across the country to help bring awareness to the world that tall girls exist. So we are having a tall girls meet up in August to build up the buzz around our Tall Girls Gala in NYC in December 12, 2012 I am not sure why a Tyra Banks or Kimora Lee Simmons didn’t beat me to it but here we are.
Anything else you’d like to add?
My ultimate purpose for WE-XIST is to offer them quality affordable clothing and building their self esteem at the same time. I realized that my family is tall and my children will be tall so I can’t keep going with the flow.