Dana Buchman is a name recognized around the world. With sales of more than $150 million a year, her clothing line is one of fashion's biggest success stories. By age 35, Dana, a self-professed perfectionist, had her own label, a husband and a baby girl named Charlotte. "I had it all," she says. "That's exactly what I wanted."
Shortly after Charlotte's birth, Dana realized that her daughter was developing more slowly than other children. After a series of doctors' appointments, Charlotte was diagnosed with neurological, spatial and motor skill disabilities.
When Dana heard the diagnosis, she says her heart sank and she burst into tears. "I had no idea what learning disabilities were," she says. "I just knew it meant Charlotte was different and that was a red flag to me that things weren't going to be easy, perfect like I had imagined."
Dana threw herself into her clothing empire. For years, she kept her shame and embarrassment about her daughter being different hidden from the world. "I thought I always had to look good and be in control," she says. "In fashion, of course, that's what we do. We look good."
After years of pretending everything was perfect, Dana's facade finally cracked and she had a terrifying panic attack. "What it was, was my body finally, after 47 years, saying, 'You can't keep living like this,'" she says.
Dana realized that she needed help and began seeing a psychotherapist. "I wanted to be able to admit my fears, my anxiety, my shame, my failures. It's a much richer way to live," she says.
In her book A Special Education, Dana writes about juggling a career in fashion, family and a daughter with special needs, all while never asking for help or sympathy. "People I had worked with for 20 years said, 'Dana, I had no idea.'...I was really good at holding it in," she says.
These days, Charlotte is a college coed, who Dana says is having a blast. "What's ironic is [Charlotte] was always okay," she says. "She wore her weaknesses and vulnerabilities on the outside and was fine with it. It was through her example, someone who couldn't hide behind this perfectionist façade, who taught me that maybe it's okay. You can have a very rich, full, maybe fuller...definitely fuller life if you just bring up whatever is there."
Oprah: What advice would you give to your younger self?
Dana: I would tell myself that you can have it all, but the "it" might not be what you think it is.
Sheryl: Loving yourself—I think that's so key and that's really what love is. It begins inside. Also to be gentle on yourself. I think we have so many expectations put on us and so many projections. It's important to be really gentle and forgiving.
Ellen: Well, Edna Rae Gillooly is still alive in me. I talk to her all the time and I tell her that I won't abandon her now. When she needs attention, I'm going to give it to her. The past was the past, but I don't want her to suffer now what she suffered in the past.
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