The State Of CEO and former What Not to Wear style star gets candid on what matters to her today.
The pandemic forced the world to slow down, and for many, that meant reassessing life. Do I like my job? What steps am I taking to live a healthier lifestyle? What’s my purpose? It was no different for former What Not to Wear stylist Stacy London, who was floating around during early Covid, trying to figure out her next career move.
“I felt strangled being in this box where I’m known as a fashion stylist. That I make people over and that’s all I’m capable of doing,” London says. “As I’ve aged, my style has become less important — maybe because I know myself more — but the things I didn’t know very much about were the things that started to happen to me as I entered perimenopause.”
After her own harrowing experience with perimenopause (which she calls a “tsunami of batsh*t crazy”), she realized how few resources were available to help women during this life stage. When State Of, a wellness-focused brand that caters to peri/menopausal symptoms (like hot flashes and inflammation), approached London to test their products, she jumped on the opportunity. “The first thing that occurred to me was, ‘I will do anything for you’,” says London. “Because just the idea that this could solve or address some of the issues I was having felt like a really good place to start.”
Six months ago, London acquired the menopause-focused brand and is now the CEO.
“While I thought what they started was great, I saw this unbelievable vision for a menopausal ‘ecosystem’ for this time of life, which requires more than just skincare, supplements, and sexual wellness,” says London. “It needs to be a one-stop shop. And that’s where we’re headed: Instead of taking the easy route and being like, ‘I’m going to make clothing for people in menopause,’ I found a company that I loved and decided I was going to acquire it, and build something from there.”
Below, we chatted with London about her rocky road entering perimenopause, why it’s important to take a pause during middle age, and what she hopes to leave behind for future generations.
KCM: What was your perimenopause experience like?
Stacy London: After I had spine surgery in 2016, I was very anxious and depressed. The first time I saw titanium in my body, I was like, “Whoa, I have foreign material in me.” I thought it was all because of the physical trauma — this seven-and-a-half hour surgery — when actually, I was entering perimenopause.
I started to have pretty bad insomnia, night sweats, and brain fog. My skin got really dry, my nails got brittle, my hair started breaking. I even went to see a doctor because I thought I had early Alzheimer’s. The idea that I could be speaking mid-sentence and forget what I was saying was absolutely bizarre. Then in 2018, my father passed away. And while he was sick, I started to feel these pains that he was constantly feeling — rashes, joint pain, muscle fatigue, newly developed rosacea, eczema.
You can explain away all of these symptoms individually: I’m stressed out, I haven’t gotten enough sleep, I’m worried about my dad, the surgery was scary. But when all of those things happen to you at once, it’s like a tsunami of batsh*t crazy. I not only started to feel like I don’t know who I am anymore, I don’t know what to do. And I started to have this reckoning both with age and with menopause.
What inspired you to take the leap and get into the business of menopause with State Of?
It’s not a leap that’s a natural understanding for most people who knew me in the public eye. When I acquired the company, I was thinking, What is my grain of truth? What is the throughline of all the work that I’ve done? And I realized it’s to help women — and those who identify as women — feel better in their skin. And that’s not limited to clothing.
I used to say, “look good, feel better.” Now I say, “feel good and feel better.” I don’t want you to ignore your style during menopause — absolutely not. But what I want you to think about is that menopause is an incredible opportunity to learn more about your biological and physiological health and to take a pause in middle age, which I think is entirely underrated.
Why do you think it’s important to take that pause?
This idea of a pause is where you step back and say, “Look at my life, where I’ve gotten to, my accomplishments, my family, my friends, the life that I built for myself… Is this still what I want?” And this is the moment to take that pause. This is the moment to think about reinvention. We’re in middle age: It’s the middle of the plot and that’s the best part of the book.
Instead of pushing and fighting and feeling like we’re scratching our way to the top, we can just resign ourselves to sit back a little bit and rest on our laurels. And that’s what makes this idea of a pause so appealing to me.
What advice would you give to people who want to reinvent themselves during middle age?
You don’t have to do that all at once. A pivot is a pivot, whether it takes a few years or takes a day — it doesn’t matter. If you know you want something different, then start building towards it.
When I get frustrated or I’m afraid that this company is going to fail, and I’m not going to raise enough money or we’re not selling enough, I remind myself that we’re six months old. And as my friend told me: When you think about a six-month-old baby, it can’t eat solid food. So you’ve gotta walk before you can run. That’s the advice I would give anybody who wants to pivot. It’s a marathon, not a sprint. Start slowly, build slowly, but build something strong that you’ll be able to step onto and into as you start to leave your previous life behind. And frankly, that’s what we need to do all the time. We evolve, and we have to honor that evolution.
What do you want to tell women who haven’t gone through menopause yet?
This is what could happen, and whether or not it happens to you, knowing that it’s coming is actually a lot easier than not knowing. If a Mack truck is going to hit you and you cannot get out of the way, wouldn’t you prefer to know that it’s coming so that you can suit up in your Mack truck armor? That’s easier to do when you have information and knowledge, rather than walking into something blindly.
I will never sugarcoat the situation and say, “You’ve got this girl! Go girl! We’re all in this together!” Menopause is hard. Aging is hard. But it’s hard because our society makes it hard.
Are there other voices doing work around menopause who inspire you?
Omisade Burney-Scott from Black Girl’s Guide to Surviving Menopause is pushing the conversation forward. Heather Corinna has been really candid about the non-binary experience for menopause; Dr. Lisa Mosconi has been talking about the brain and menopause. All of these people have incredible, eloquent voices. They’re doing the work to spread information and create the community that we need.
What knowledge do you hope to leave behind for younger generations, when it comes to menopause?
Menopause shouldn’t be a question of “What’s happening to me?” Someday, you should be able to have a very natural conversation with your best friend about it, if you don’t want to talk to your doctor. I really believe that one of the greatest gifts we can give to younger generations is to not just normalize — but optimize — this conversation. So by the time Gen Z gets to menopause, buying a menopause product will be like buying Band-aids.