I went to a Catholic high school in Worcester, Massachusetts. Back then, in the '70s, everybody wore hideous uniforms. To cope, girls would express themselves with massive hair and enormous shoes.
I was a junior in high school when I saw my first pair of crazy tall platforms on a girl. The shoes were loud and proud. But the way she walked in them – without apologies or a hint of insecurity – really burned into my mind. And at that very moment, my brain was filled with possibilities and ideas about shoes. I wanted every woman to feel the way she did. My notebooks began to fill with shoe sketches. On the page itself, along the margins, the inside covers, anywhere that's a blank space. At first, I didn't mind sharing them with my schoolmates, hoping they would see what I saw. But instead, they teased me for having a foot fetish. So I learned to hide my passion.
I'm 40 years older, quite a bit fatter, but that same fire still burns.
Being Irish Catholic, arts and design weren't viable career options. My family wanted me to find stability, so I went to work for the phone company as a mainframe repairman. I was at the phone company for 25 years, but I never stopped sketching footwear – on the back of work orders, napkins, scrap papers. I filled my desk drawers with these sketches. They were my treasure chests.
Do you know how I found love? After being teased in high school, My boyfriend Steve was the first person to see my drawings in 20 years. Not only did he not tease me with them, he sees them for how core they are to my soul. His continuous and persistent encouragement made me who I am today.